BRITAIN paid heartfelt tribute to Queen Elizabeth yesterday with cheering, flag-waving crowds on the street and solemn messages in parliament as she sealed a special place in the country’s history by becoming its longest-reigning monarch.
Elizabeth, 89, last night surpassed the 63 years, 7 months, 2 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes that her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, reigned the British empire.
In London, the BT Tower flashed “Long may she reign” around its screens 200m above the capital.
Those close to the queen said she was fairly relaxed about the milestone, believing it represented little more than the fact she had lived for a long time and that her father, King George VI, died early.
Initially, she did not even intend to mark the event publicly, but she bowed to public pressure and undertook an official engagement in Scotland.
Crowds greeted her arrival accompanied by husband Prince Philip, who has been at her side throughout her reign, in Edinburgh.
She then began a journey on the steam train Union of South Africa to mark the opening of the longest railway line to be built in Britain for more than 100 years.
In her first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957, she said: “I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice.
“But I can . . . give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”