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6th February 2012 represented a landmark for Queen Elizabeth II - 60 years since her accession to the British throne. She is only the second British monarch to reach the milestone of a Diamond Jubilee, after her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years.

It is extraordinary to think what Europe’s longest serving Head of State has witnessed during her reign - Winston Churchill was the first Prime Minister to serve under her, David Cameron is the 12th. She reigned throughout the Cold War, the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain, the Falklands war and the current war on terror. The Paris Treaty, which represented the first steps of the EU coming into being, came into force a few months after her accession, she oversaw the UK joining in 1973. As regards the EU, there was controversy in April last year when it was claimed that she had stated privately that Turkey should not join the EU for a long time.

The Queen has also experienced many ups and downs in her private life : she has seen her four children produce 8 grandchildren between them, and her grandson Peter Phillips, son of the Princess Royal, became a father in 2010, making the Queen a great-grandmother for the first time. But she also had to watch the marriages of three of her children disintegrate, with the accompanying scurrilous rumours in the press, in the same year, 1992, which she later referred to as her annus horriblis. She saw support for the Royal family hit its lowest ebb in Britain for many a year in 1997, with the grief and anger that followed the death of her former daughter-in-law Diana. But she also saw it rise again as we entered the new millennium, culminating in the thousands of people who lined the streets of London and partied up and down the UK to celebrate the wedding of her grandson, Prince William, to Kate Middleton in April of last year.

Although she is now nearly 86, the Queen shows no signs of slowing down - in her Diamond Jubilee speech, she dedicated herself anew to the service of the British people. The speech can be found on this website, along with information about the many parties and events to be held this year, in the UK and throughout its Commonwealth, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, along with facts about the Queen and the history of her reign.

Photo : Buckingham Palace by James Harris on flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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