PRIME Minister David Cameron today led tributes to the Queen ahead of an historic day which will see her become the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch.
At 5:30pm tomorrow, the Queen will overtake the record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.
The Queen, 89, who is currently in Scotland to officially open the Borders Railway, is expected to make a short speech during the day, which will see her take a steam train journey alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. But she will not take part in any formal event to recognise the milestone, having expressed the wish for it to be low-key.
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today, Mr Cameron told his colleagues that the Queen had a “remarkable record” and was “a symbol of Britain’s enduring spirit admired around the world”.
As part of commemorations around the country, normal business will be postponed in the House of Commons for half an hour from 11:30am tomorrow to allow MPs to pay tribute to the head of state.
Elsewhere in London, the BT Tower will display a scrolling message which reads, “Long May She Reign”, while the royal rowbarge Gloriana will join a flotilla of boats in a procession down the River Thames.
Tower Bridge will lift as a mark of respect and, as the procession passes HMS Belfast, a four-gun salute will sound out. The Massey Shaw fireboat will also shoot jets of water into the air. In Edinburgh, visitors to the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, will be able take in a new photographic exhibition charting her years on the throne.
Other figures joined in the tributes to the monarch yesterday, including the Rt Rev Angus Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He spent last weekend at Balmoral and preached in the Queen’s presence at Crathie Kirk. He said: “The occasion had added significance in approaching the time, now reached, when the Queen has become the longest-serving monarch.
“While the Queen herself, in characteristic fashion, wishes to play down the importance of the occasion, and announces ‘business as usual’, it is impossible for us not to pause, to reflect, to celebrate, and to give thanks.”
He added: “The achievements of Her Majesty during her reign, to date, are utterly awe-inspiring. I have no doubt that in future ages she will be recognised as one of the greatest monarchs in the history of our country.”
Rev Ken MacKenzie, minister of Crathie, said: “There is terrific admiration and affection in the community for the Queen who has been so committed and faithful over many years for what she clearly sees as a calling. She has a great love of Scotland.
“The red boxes come here and with new technology she remains very much involved in affairs of state but she is here for many weeks in the year and to some degree she is freed from day-to-day responsibilities.”
Scottish ties helped give Royal family a ‘different image’ to Victorians
THE Queen’s Scottish heritage has been an important part of her life, with her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, hailing from an ancient aristocratic Scottish family.
She is reportedly never happier than at the haven of Balmoral, where the Royal family spend each August and September riding, fishing and walking and where the Queen hosts an annual Ghillies Ball for staff.
The estate was handed down to her through generations of royals and bought for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852. The Queen and her husband are familiar faces in the local area, joining worshippers for services at nearby Crathie Kirk and presiding over the Braemar Gathering, the biggest event in the Highland Games calendar.
Scottish cultural historian Professor Murray Pittock, from the University of Glasgow, believes that this strong link to Balmoral has played an important role in securing her popularity in Scotland.
He said: “You could say the Queen, and Prince Charles as well, are the last representatives of what you might call the Balmoral generations.
“The Royal Family was quite unpopular in the early 19th century, there was a lot more republicanism in 1820 than there is now, but one of the key elements of transformation was first of all the clear adoption of Scotland through the redecoration of Balmoral in the 1850s, but then also the creation at Balmoral of an idealised middle-class family.
“That gave them a different image right from the Victorian period onwards.”