Today, September 9th, is a very significant day for Her Majesty, who – at 5:30pm local time – will officially surpass her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
The Telegraph clocks Victoria’s reign at “23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes” or 63 years and seven months. Save for an engagement (the Queen will visit Edinburgh, Midlothian and Tweedbank for the Scottish Borders Railway opening celebrations), Elizabeth II will mark September 9th privately at Balmoral, according to reports.
The Daily Mail‘s Sebastian Shakespeare claims that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will join Her Majesty on September 9th for a “private dinner.”
“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be with the Queen at Balmoral on September 9,” a source told Shakespeare. “They will attend a family dinner that Her Majesty will give that evening.”
No official events will take place to mark the occasion, but I’ve asked some of Great Britain’s best biographers to share their memories of the monarch, to which they kindly obliged.
“There’s an experience I describe in my biography of Prince Charles that is familiar to anyone who spends time in Buckingham Palace. The royal residence is a cavernous building, and often the first warning of the Queen’s approach is when her four dogs—two corgis and two dorgis—come trotting along the corridor ahead of her.
In person she is a tiny woman with a huge presence, funny and surprisingly sharp and, for all she’s spent a lifetime putting strangers at their ease, quite terrifying. She exudes the confidence and control that have characterised her reign. She would never think of splashing her emotions about the place or giving confessional interviews. Unlike her son, she rarely reveals her personal opinions.
Her form of monarchy is about dignity and distance. Most of her subjects cannot remember a time when she wasn’t there or imagine a future without her.” – Catherine Mayer, author of Charles: The Heart of a King (Holt, Henry & Company, Inc/Random House).
“Like her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, before her, Elizabeth II was never destined to be Queen. She was catapulted into direct line of succession by the 1936 abdication of her uncle Edward VIII. So perhaps with quiet satisfaction the entry in her personal diary for Wednesday, 9th September, 2015 may well read, ‘Today I became the longest reigning British monarch.’
“The world has changed immeasurably during her reign, but throughout it, she has maintained a sense of continuity and stability often through troubling periods. She has remained stoic in times of crisis, she has led the nation in times of celebration and she has rewarded personal achievement. The Queen is arguably the most recognisable individual in the world, the most photographed, the most written about, the most travelled and many would also say, the most respected head of state in the world today. For that Ma’am, we admire your enduring commitment to duty.” – Dickie Arbiter LVO, former press spokesman for Her Majesty and author of On Duty with the Queen (Blink Publishing, August 2015).
“My favourite memory of the Queen was when she appeared in the James Bond sketch at the London Olympics during the year of her Diamond Jubilee. The stunt revealed her wonderful sense of humour and was applauded across the world.
“I admire the Queen for the fantastic way she has conducted herself over the last half century. She is now well past the age that most people retire yet she still does the job with fantastic aplomb. She has never put a foot wrong and is much loved by people from all walks of life.” – Claudia Joseph, author of Kate: The Making of a Princess (HarperCollins) and William and Kate’s Britain (Splendid Publications Ltd).
“Something that always comes to mind for me, is that the Queen wasn’t actually born to reign. It was only when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated at the end of 1936 that her destiny was set, at the age of ten. What must that have felt like? And when she acceded to the throne at the age of 25, not only was she a mother of two young children who was grieving for her father, but she was very much a woman in a man’s world – making her way amongst the predominantly male heads of state, military, church and parliament.
“She is an incredible woman – she’s informed, she’s progressive, she’s steady and strong, and in a very pure, straightforward way her sense of responsibility to the UK and Commonwealth has clearly been her driving force – without ego or personal agenda. To successfully maintain anything for 63 years is amazing, but what she has done is truly exceptional, and it is unlikely to ever happen again.” – Marcia Moody, author of Kate: A Biography and Harry: A Biography (Michael O’Mara Books).
“A few years ago I was delighted to be invited to attend a ceremony at a new business centre, to be opened by Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip. To hear about her devotion to duty and her interest in everything was one thing: to see it in practice was quite another. I was entranced by the constant and unforced interest both of them demonstrated in everything they were shown. It is wonderful that she has reached this milestone in her reign and long may it continue, enhanced by Prince Philip’s unwavering support.” – Jane Dismore, author of Duchesses: Living in 21st Century Britain (Blink Publishing)
“I think there are several factors [owing to Her Majesty’s successful reign]. For a start, she is a very likeable character with a good sense of humour – people warm to her – and she has demonstrated great loyalty both to individuals and to the country during the years of her reign. She promised to serve and she has been absolutely true to her word; she could never be accused of shirking her duties for a day – even on holiday she works, as everyone is well aware. I think she has also earned huge respect from the public, and the way she has handled all the highs and lows in her reign – the moments of national triumph and disaster – and the personal catastrophes has been exemplary.
“But I think it’s her consistency that has made such an impact. The world has changed dramatically in the last 63 years and so has our social structure; and in the midst of this maelstrom of change, she has been a reassuring fixture. She has changed the way she operates in that time, to keep up with the changes in society – but imperceptibly – so she provides a safe reference point for us all. Politicians come and go, celebrities come and go, but the Queen stays – and I think that makes people feel that all is well with the world.” – Penny Junor, author of Prince William: The Man Who Will Be King (Pegasus) and Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son (Grand Central Publishing).
“[The Queen] has dedicated her life to the service of others. She pledged to the commonwealth when she was just 21 that she would dedicate herself to her subjects and she has done that. She is quite remarkable in her steadfastness and her commitment to the job – because that is what it is – and these attributes have been key to her success.
“[I’ll never forget watching] ‘The Queen’ parachute out of a helicopter at the Olympics; it was so spontaneous, funny and unforgettable. It showed a side to the Queen’s humour very few people get to see, so I think the world was very lucky to be able to enjoy that moment.
“Her Majesty’s reign has been so successful quite simply because she has dedicated her life to the service of others. She pledged to the commonwealth when she was just 21 that she would dedicate herself to her subjects and she has done that. She is quite remarkable in her steadfastness and her commitment to the job – because that is what it is – and these attributes have been key to her success.
“I will be celebrating with Lorraine Kelly on the ITV sofa in London broadcasting a special live report so tune in!” – Katie Nicholl, contributing editor, Vanity Fair and author of Kate: The Future Queen and William and Harry: Behind The Palace Walls.
What is your favorite memory of the Queen? Leave a comment below!