Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years on the throne

REPORTING FROM LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth on Monday marked the 60th anniversary of her accession to the British throne with a message of thanks to her subjects.

In a statement on the royal website, the queen pledged continued service to her people and extended gratitude for the "wonderful support and encouragement that you have given me and [husband] Prince Philip over these years."

"In this special year as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign," the message said.

Traditionally, the queen spends the anniversary day of her accession to the throne -- which also marks the death of her father, King George VI -- quietly in the royal country retreat of Sandringham about 90 miles north of London. 

On Monday, however, the 85-year-old monarch, braving icy winter weather, made a low-key visit to King's Lynn in eastern England, where she watched schoolchildren perform a play commemorating her 60 years as a monarch and was cheered by flag-waving children as well as citizens and town officials.

In a written message, Prime Minister David Cameron praised the authority and dignity of the queen and her 60 years of service -- which has seen 12 prime ministers come and go.

"Today is a day to pay tribute to the magnificent service of HM the Queen. With experience, dignity and quiet authority she has guided and united our nation and the Commonwealth over six varied decades," his statement said.

The diamond jubilee is to be marked throughout the year with visits to the nations of the Commonwealth by members of the royal family while the queen herself travels around Britain with her 90-year-old husband, who underwent heart surgery in December.

Events are to climax in the first week of June, the royal website disclosed, with a schedule of pageants, commemoration services and a concert.

As with the wedding last year of the queen's grandson, Prince William, and his bride, Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Britons will also be given a public holiday to mark the occasion.

The last British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee was Queen Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, in June 1897.

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 -- Janet Stobart

 
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