Business as usual for Queen as UK marks royal milestone
History will be made today as Queen Elizabeth becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
She will pass the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who, Buckingham Palace has calculated, reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.
On the day the milestone is reached, normal business will be postponed in the Commons for half an hour, from 11.30am, to allow MPs to pay tribute to the head of state.
"I have agreed that questions to the Secretary of State for Wales should be postponed from this Wednesday until the following week, Wednesday September 16, to allow the House to mark the occasion on which Her Majesty the Queen will become our longest-serving monarch," speaker John Bercow said yesterday.
There had been speculation that a celebratory private event is planned, but it is understood that in keeping with her business-as-usual approach today will be a normal working day for the monarch, with no special dinner party.
At this time of year she is normally taking her traditional summer break at her private Scottish home of Balmoral.
However, on the day she passes Victoria's milestone she will be joined by the Duke of Edinburgh to open the new Scottish Borders Railway and will take a steam train ride on the new €400m railway with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, will also be working.
Charles will be filming a documentary with TV presenters Ant and Dec about his Prince's Trust organisation, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, while Camilla will visit the ITV studios in London to celebrate the organisation's 60th anniversary.
London will enjoy celebrations marking the milestone, with the BT Tower scrolling the message 'Long May She Reign' throughout the day. And 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 and the Massey Shaw fireboat will shoot jets of water into the air.
She will pass Queen Victoria's record and becomes Britain''s longest-reigning monarch at around 5.30pm today.
At this point she will have reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes, but the exact moment she became Queen is hard to calculate as George VI died in his sleep in the early hours of the morning, possibly at around 1am.
Bells will ring out across Britain and Westminster Abbey in London will be among those marking the occasion.
Special prayers, drafted by the Church of England's Liturgical Commission and approved by Buckingham Palace, have also been written to honour the milestone and will be read at services across the country.
One gives "heartfelt thanks for her service to her people", while another expresses gratitude that "you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people, and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her".
She is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and her faith has been an important part of her life.
At Westminster Abbey, where she married Prince Philip in 1947 and had her coronation in 1953, bell ringers will ring a quarter peal at 11.30am for 50 minutes.
Worcester Cathedral will mark the event with a peal of bells starting at midday.
"This is a very significant day on which Her Majesty the Queen becomes our longest ever reigning monarch," said Bishop of Worcester John Inge.
"I encourage as much ringing as possible in the diocese on that day and during the week as a mark of appreciation not only of the length of the Queen's reign, but of her magnificent Christian service throughout it."
The Holy Innocents' Church in Kidderminster is holding a special morning service, followed by the planting of 64 daffodil bulbs to mark the Queen's almost 64 years on the throne.