Long live the queen

Queen Elizabeth II now officially Britain’s longest-ruling monarch

Queen Elizabeth II set a new record for longevity on Wednesday when she became the longest reigning monarch in U.K. history. The previous record-holder was her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who sat on the throne for 63 years and seven months.

According to the BBC, at approximately 17:30 BST (12:30 EDT), the 89-year-old queen set the new record when her reign reached 23,226 days, 16 hours and about 30 minutes. She assumed the throne in 1952 after her father, King George VI, died in his sleep in February of that year.

The queen reportedly did “not want a fuss to be made” about the extraordinary milestone, but that didn’t stop heads of state and dignitaries from the U.K. and around the world from paying tribute to the feat. TIME reports that she is also the world’s longest serving sovereign. In a message posted on Twitter, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron wrote, “Her Majesty has been a rock of stability in a world of constant change, earning admiration for her selfless sense of service & duty.”

The sentiment was echoed by many others including London Mayor Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and media personality Piers Morgan. Celebrations were held around the nation.

The queen carried on with her normal routine of official duties, attending the opening of the Borders Railway at Tweedbank Station in Scotland. During the appearance, she delivered some remarks and addressed the milestone, striking a humble tone.

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones — my own is no exception — but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness,” the queen said.

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Several media outlets marked the occasion by publishing interesting anecdotes about the queen’s amazing life. The Washington Post chronicled all of the nations that have featured Queen Elizabeth on paper currency. Her portrait has appeared on paper money in every continent and Canada was the first nation, in 1935, to feature her image on its currency.

The Independent’s i100 blog posted “The best story on the Queen you will read today.” And it turns out that headline is hardly an over tout.

The story is told by former Saudi ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles in his memoir and recalls an official visit by then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made in 1998 (Abdullah became king in 2005 and died earlier this year). As the former ambassador tells it, publicly discussing the details of a private conversation with the queen is a total no-no, but this one is “too funny not to repeat.”

He goes on to talk about how Abdullah lunched with the queen at Balmoral Castle and afterwards was coaxed by the queen into taking a tour of the castle grounds. Eventually the royal fleet of Land Rovers were fetched and Abdullah climbed aboard riding shotgun. Because women in Saudi Arabia are barred from driving, Abdullah was taken aback when the Queen climbed into the driver’s seat, started the engine and took off. According to Cowper-Coles’ account, Abdullah was nervous having a woman (and a queen, no less) driving him around, but her lead foot and penchant for taking hard turns compounded his anxiety and caused him to ask the queen through his translator “to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.”

The queen also made headlines with her driving earlier this summer when she was photographed going off-road in her Jaguar. Above, look through the slide show featuring photos taken throughout her life.

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