The Queen’s reign was punctuated by an unprecedented number of milestones. Her Majesty’s jubilees and birthdays provided cause for celebration and reflection throughout the remarkable years following her Accession. Such events helped reinforce the Sovereign’s role as a focus for national identity and unity as people across the Commonwealth came together to mark an important occasion for their Head of State.
The Platinum Jubilee
In 2022 The Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. On 6 February – the 70th anniversary of her father’s death and her own accession to the throne – The Queen renewed the promise she made on her 21st birthday:
As we mark this anniversary, it gives me pleasure to renew to you the pledge I gave in 1947 that my life will always be devoted to your service.
New photographs were released and The Queen held a small reception at Sandringham for members of the local branch of the Women’s Institute.
Events took place throughout the year, with initiatives launched to mark the unique milestone, including The Queen’s Green Canopy.
The celebrations culminated in a weekend of events which began with Trooping the Colour, and also included a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a spectacular concert at Buckingham Palace, a pageant down The Mall and thousands of Big Jubilee Lunches held across the country.
The Sapphire Jubilee
6 February 2017 marked 65 years since The Queen acceded to the throne, becoming the first British Monarch to mark their Sapphire Jubilee.
To coincide with the occasion Buckingham Palace re-released a photograph of Her Majesty taken by David Bailey in 2014. In the photograph, The Queen is wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery given to her by King George VI as a wedding gift in 1947.
The Diamond Jubilee
The Diamond Jubilee was marked with a spectacular central weekend and a series of regional tours throughout the UK and Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled as widely as possible across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visiting every region during 2012, whilst other members of the Royal family visited all of the Commonwealth realms (countries where The Queen is Head of State). between them.
Visits included The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the Far East and the South Pacific.
In Windsor, the Armed Forces mounted a spectacular ‘Muster’ made up of over 2,500 troops and a flypast of over 84 aircraft to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Windsor. Watch it here:
The central Jubilee weekend began with The Queen’s visit to the Epsom Derby on Saturday 2nd June.
On the Sunday, ‘Big Jubilee Lunches’ were held across the UK where people were encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant also took place on the Sunday, with around 1,000 boats assembled on the Thames from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled in a specially-designed Royal Barge, The Spirit of Chartwell, which formed the centrepiece of the flotilla.
On the Monday, a host of famous faces came together to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace for a concert organised by Take That singer and songwriter Gary Barlow for the BBC. Performers included Will.i.am, Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones and Kylie Minogue.
Following the concert, The Queen lit the National Beacon – one of a network of 2,012 Beacons which were lit by communities and individuals throughout the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth.
The Diamond Jubilee weekend culminated in a day of ceremonial celebrations in central London on 5th June, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by two receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a Balcony appearance, Flypast, and a celebratory rifle salute “Feu de Joie” by the Irish Guards.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust was set up to take donations from those wishing to present a gift to Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee year. The funds raised have gone towards initiatives such as Queen’s Young Leaders, which supports young people across the Commonwealth who are blazing a trail in their communities.
The Golden Jubilee
A packed programme of events took place in 2002 to celebrate fifty years of The Queen’s reign. Six key Jubilee themes shaped the events – Celebration, Community, Service, Past and future, Giving thanks and Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh undertook extensive tours of the Commonwealth and the UK, leading to an extraordinarily busy year for the couple.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness visited Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia and Canada as well as every region of the UK, from Falmouth in Cornwall to the Isle of Skye.
Watch highlights from The Queen and The Duke’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Jamaica from attending a special session of Parliament at Gordon House, Kingston, to touring Montego Bay.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh attended a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister Tony Blair at No 10 Downing Street together with all the living Prime Ministers of The Queen’s reign, and a session of the Joint Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall at which Her Majesty addressed both Houses.
They also gave a dinner for representatives of the Armed Forces at Windsor Castle and visited the Service personnel in Portsmouth.
Gratitude, respect and pride, these words sum up how I feel about the people of this country and the Commonwealth – and what this Golden Jubilee means to me
The central focus for the year was the Jubilee weekend in June 2002 which began on 1 June with a classical music concert in the gardens at Buckingham Palace, the first time a concert of such a scale had been held there. On 2 June, The Queen attended a Jubilee church Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, while other members of the Royal Family attended similar services across the UK. On the evening of 3 June a pop concert took place, again in Buckingham Palace garden, with performers including Paul McCartney, Bryan Adams, Sir Elton John and Dame Shirley Bassey.
The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display and The Queen lit the National Beacon, the last in a string of 2,006 beacons which had been lit in a chain across the Commonwealth.
On 4 June, the final day of celebrations, there was a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, which followed a Ceremonial Procession from Buckingham Palace to the cathedral in the Gold State Coach.
During a lunch held after the service at the Guildhall, London, on Her Majesty made a speech in which she thanked the nation for their support throughout her reign:
I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you – here in Guildhall, those of you waiting in the Mall and the streets of London, and all those up and down this country and throughout the Commonwealth, who may be watching this on television. Thank you all for your enthusiasm to mark and celebrate these past fifty years
Following the lunch there was a parade of 5,000 commonwealth representatives down the Mall and a balcony appearance with a celebratory flypast, including Concord.
The Silver Jubilee
In 1977, The Queen’s Silver Jubilee was marked with celebrations throughout the UK and Commonwealth.
The actual anniversary of The Queen’s Accession on 6 February 1952 was commemorated in church services throughout that month. The Queen spent the anniversary weekend at Windsor with her family and the full jubilee celebrations began in the summer of 1977.
On 4 May, at the Palace of Westminster, both Houses of Parliament presented loyal addresses to The Queen, who in her reply emphasised that the keynote of the jubilee was to be the unity of the nation.
During the summer months, The Queen embarked on a large-scale series of tours of the UK, having decided that she wished to mark her jubilee by meeting as many of her people as possible.
No other Sovereign had visited so much of Britain in the course of just three months; the six jubilee tours in the UK and Northern Ireland covered 36 counties.
The home tours began in Glasgow on 17 May, with greater crowds than the city had ever seen before. They continued throughout England and Wales, and in Lancashire where over a million people turned out on one day. The tour culminated in a visit to Northern Ireland amid high security.
Watch highlights from The Queen’s Silver Jubilee tour. Click on the playlist on left hand corner to view more.
In the Spring and Autumn of 1977 official overseas visits were also made to Western Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, Canada and the West Indies. During the year it was estimated that The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled 56,000 miles, mostly on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia.
The climax of the national celebrations began in early June. On the evening of Monday 6 June, The Queen lit a bonfire beacon in Windsor Great Park which started a chain of 96 beacons across the country.
On Tuesday 7 June, vast crowds saw The Queen drive in the Gold State Coach to St Paul’s Cathedral for a Service of Thanksgiving attended by heads of state from around the world and former prime ministers of the UK.
Afterwards, The Queen and members of the Royal Family attended a lunch at the Guildhall, in which The Queen made a speech. She declared:
My Lord Mayor, when I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God’s help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.’ An estimated 500 million people watched on television as the procession returned down the Mall.
At Buckingham Palace The Queen made several balcony appearances. People celebrated all over the country at street and village parties. In London alone 4,000 street parties were reported to have been held.
The final event of the central week of celebrations was a river procession down the Thames from Greenwich to Lambeth on Thursday 9 June, emulating the ceremonial barge trips of Elizabeth I.
After leaving the river procession, The Queen opened the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the new South Bank Jubilee Gardens. The day ended with a firework display, and a procession of lighted carriages that took The Queen back to Buckingham Palace for another balcony appearance to a cheering crowd.
The Queen’s 90th birthday
The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday on 21 April 2016 and her official birthday on 11 June 2016, the second day of three days of national celebrations.
Her Majesty’s actual birthday was spent in Windsor where she met well-wishers during a walkabout in the town centre and others celebrating their 90th birthdays, before unveiling a plaque marking The Queen’s Walkway.
Later in the evening, Her Majesty, with The Prince of Wales, lit the principal beacon which set in train a series of over 900 beacons across the country and worldwide to celebrate her momentous milestone.
On June 10 2016, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were joined by members of the Royal Family of a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Prayers at the service were led by people representing aspects of Her Majesty’s life and role. Sir David Attenborough read Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond’s personal account of growing up to be 90.
On June 11 2016, The Queen’s official birthday, Her Majesty was joined by members of her family at The Queen’s Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade, followed by an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with a Flypast,
The following day on June 12 a huge street party and parade took place on The Mall in London. This “Patron’s Lunch” was a celebration of over 600 charities and organisations which The Queen was Patron of.
The Queen’s 80th birthday
The Queen turned 80 on 21 April 2006 and celebrated her official birthday on 17 June 2006. A number of events took place to celebrate the birthday, around both dates.
A unique children’s party was held at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the magic of books. 2,000 children were invited, and a stage performance – during which The Queen made a cameo appearance – was broadcast live on the BBC.
Trooping the Colour marked Her Majesty’s official birthday as it does every year, but to mark the special occasion a spectacular flypast and a celebratory rifle salute or ‘feu de joie’ (fire of joy) were added to the traditional celebrations.
Services of Thanksgiving were held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and at St Paul’s Cathedral, with the latter followed by a lunch at Mansion House in London.
The Queen celebrated with others of her generation who had similarly led a life of service and dedication at a ‘Service over sixty’ reception hosted by Her Majesty.
It celebrated guests over the age of sixty who have made a significant contribution to national life, as did the Help the Aged Living Legends Awards that were held at Windsor Castle. And on 19 April, guests celebrating their 80th birthdays on the same day as The Queen were invited to Buckingham Palace.
The Queen spent her actual birthday meeting the crowds on a walkabout in Windsor before attending a private family dinner at the newly restored Kew Palace, followed by a spectacular fireworks display.
Her Majesty received almost 40,000 birthday messages from members of the public during her 80th birthday year.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary (60th) on 20 November 2007.
Events to mark the anniversary included a Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey.
The couple also returned to the location of their honeymoon – Broadlands in Hampshire, home of Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten. Whilst there, they recreated the photographs which had been taken 60 years previously.
In 2017, Their Platinum wedding anniversary (70th) was also marked with the release of a special series of photographs, though The Queen spent the day undertaking her usual duties, with audiences at Buckingham Palace.
The longest reigning Monarch
On 9 September 2015, The Queen became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
Her Majesty did not wish to mark the day with any particular ceremony. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled by steam train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, where Her Majesty formally opened the new Scottish Borders Railway.
At the opening, The Queen acknowledged the milestone by thanking all of her well-wishers, saying:
Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones – my own is no exception – but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.
In London, a flotilla of historic vessels, leisure cruisers and passenger boats took part in a procession along the Thames and HMS Belfast sounded a four-gun salute.