The fifth decade of The Queen’s reign led into a new century and the third millennium
Although it was not regarded as an official Jubilee, the 40th anniversary of The Queen’s Accession in 1992 was marked by a number of events and community projects in the UK.
On Accession Day itself, 6 February, the BBC broadcast Elizabeth R, a television documentary on The Queen’s working life. This was shown in over 25 countries around the world.
Other important anniversaries were in 1994 and 1995, when The Queen, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the rest of the Royal Family led the nation in marking the 50th anniversaries of the D-Day landings and the end of the Second World War in Europe.
The Queen continued to exercise her constitutional role as Head of State – opening Parliament each session, holding audiences with the Prime Minister and other ministers, and receiving ambassadors.
The decade saw constitutional history made in the United Kingdom when The Queen opened new devolved constitutional bodies for Scotland and Wales.
In May 1999 The Queen opened the National Assembly for Wales at Cardiff, welcoming it as “a bridge into the future”.
In July of the same year, The Queen opened the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, in a day of ceremony and celebration marking, in her own words, “the threshold of a new constitutional age”.
As the world grew smaller through improved transportation and communications technologies, The Queen paid State Visits to places never previously thought possible, including the former countries of the Eastern Bloc – Hungary (1993), Russia (1994), Poland (1996) and the Czech Republic (1996). History was also made in the reciprocal State Visits of The Queen and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa in 1995 and 1996.
At the same time, an era in Royal travel came to end on 11 December 1997, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned at Portsmouth Naval Base in the presence of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and 14 senior members of The Royal Family.
The launch by The Queen at a London school of the British Monarchy web site in 1997 allowed a global audience to learn more about the role and work of The Queen and the Royal Family. A record number of visitors accessed the site in the first few days, curious to see what a Royal web site might look like.
The decade had its share of sadness. On 20 November 1992, fire broke out at Windsor Castle in The Queen’s Private Chapel, causing damage to apartments. In order to raise money for the restoration, in 1993 The Queen allowed the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace to be opened for the first time to the public during the summer, a practice which continued every year since.
The tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997 caused widespread mourning. The Queen broadcast to the nation on the eve of the Princess’s funeral, paying tribute to her life and work.
On 14 September 2001, The Queen led national mourning at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, following terrorist atrocities in the United States resulting in the deaths of three thousand people. The American National Anthem was also played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, by special permission of The Queen.
The Queen also led mourning in October 2002 following the terrorist bombing of a nightclub in Bali, in which Australians and Britons were among several hundreds who died.
There were also happier times. On 20 November 1997 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their Golden Wedding. A special garden party for couples celebrating their Golden Wedding was held at Buckingham Palace in July.
The Queen attended the official celebrations for the arrival of the new Millennium at the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000. She attended the opening of the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, and religious services at Southwark Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral.