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GALLERY: Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years of power

Britain’s King George VI died sixty years ago today – making his eldest daughter, then 25, the head of seven different countries. She’s now the head of 16 – and has ruled over no fewer than 32.

Queen Elizabeth smiles after attending Sunday service at a church in Norfolk yesterday.
Queen Elizabeth smiles after attending Sunday service at a church in Norfolk yesterday.
Image: AP

BRITAIN’S QUEEN ELIZABETH today marks the 60th anniversary of her secession to the throne.

The Queen ascended to power on the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6th 1952 – and has overseen major transformations throughout her empire ever since.

Though not officially coronated until June 1953 (it is considered inappropriate to hold it any sooner, as the new monarch should still be in mourning), February 1952 marks the official point at which she became the head of state of seven different countries.

Her era has seen great transformation throughout the empire, and has seen her be the head of 32 different nations. Today she remains the head of sixteen of them.

She is, naturally, the world’s longest-serving current head of state (Mary McAleese was the second longest-serving female head of state before her retirement) and Britain’s second longest-serving monarch after her great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years.

Here’s a selection of photographs marking the Queen’s sixty years of power.

GALLERY: Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years of power
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  • The Queen's 60 Years

    On January 31, 1952, King George (right) and his wife Elizabeth (second right) waved goodbye to Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip, as they set off on a tour to Kenya - where they would stay in a home bought for them as a wedding present. It was the last time Princess Elizabeth would see her father alive.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Six days later, George VI succumbed to coronary thrombosis - and Elizabeth flew back to the United Kingdom as its new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The circumstances of Elizabeth taking the office may have been sudden, but she nonetheless threw herself into the position. Here she is meeting King Faisal of Iraq in the first months of her reign.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Elizabeth's visit to Kenya had meant to proceed a visit to Australia and New Zealand. She finally got to travel 18 months later. Here, the Queen records her Christmas address from Government House, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Elizabeth had two children before she ascended to the throne, and had two more while monarch. Here she is with her baby Prince Andrew in 1960.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Having taken an active role in state business during World War II and afterwards, the Queen became close to Sir Winston Churchill. Here she is attending his state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    1964 brought Queen Elizabeth her fourth child, a third son: here she leaves Liverpool St train station with Prince Edward, nine months, and Prince Andrew. They were heading for Sandringham for their Christmas holiday. Prince Philip, by now the Duke of Edinburgh, had brought Prince Charles and Princess Anne on a skiing holiday.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Queen Elizabeth stands with Prince Andrew, who waves, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on June 2, 1962 to mark the ninth anniversary of her official coronation. (The Queen was not coronated until 1953, as it is considered inappropriate to hold an official ceremony while the monarch is in mourning for their parent).
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The 1960s passed off without much incident for the monarchy - but the 1970s proved more fraught. Here the Queen attends a garden show in 1973 with her uncle Lord Mountbatten, who was killed by the IRA in Sligo in 1979.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Nonetheless, 1977 came and brought the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - marked by the opening of a new £30m extension to the Piccadilly Line. Here she is, in the drivers' cab for its first journey - a monarch taking public transport.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The Queen Elizabeth receives congratulations from wellwishers during a brief walkabout in London on June 7, 1977 - the day after her formal jubilee.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    1977 ended with the Queen getting her first grandchild: Princess Anne, who had been the first of her four children to marry (to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973), gave birth to Peter Mark Andrew Phillips. Here the Royals are pictured in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Three years after he had come to Ireland, Pope John Paul went to meet the head of the Church of England. John Paul II sought to overcome centuries of distrust when he became the first pope to visit British shores, preaching reconciliation between the Vatican and Anglicans. His message was timely, as Britain went to war with Argentina (a Catholic nation) over the Falkland Islands.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Prince Andrew, later the Duke of York, served in that war as a helicopter pilot - which made the Queen outwardly proud though inwardly fearful. Here the Queen, Andrew, Prince Philip and Princess Anne pose on the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible after Andrew's return from war.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The early 1980s brought need entrants to the Royal Family - including Lady Diana Spencer, who married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981. Here the Queen manages not to notice Charles and Diana's legendary kiss.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    A month earlier, President Ronald Reagan had made an official visit. The two became quite close, though the Queen was said to be angered when Reagan ordered the US invasion of Grenada, one of her Commonwealth territories, without prior notification in 1983.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    In 1991 the Queen returned the visit, heading for Washington a month after the conclusion of the Gulf War. Her visit to the White House was remembered more for a logistical screw-up than for diplomatic reasons, however: no platform was provided behind her podium, meaning the Queen's face was obscured to photographs by a microphone.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Later that week Elizabeth became the first UK monarch to address the Joint Houses of Congress. She opened her remarks with the comment, "I do hope you can see me today," which brought a standing ovation from the members.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    1991 brought the first visit of the Rugby World Cup to the Northern Hemisphere - with England making it as far as the final before losing to Australia, who themselves had only narrowly overcome Ireland. Here the Queen presents the William Webb Ellis cup to Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones at Twickenham.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    1992 wasn't so good for the Queen. Princess Anne got divorced, Prince Andrew separated from Sarah Ferguson, and eggs were thrown at the Queen's car during a 'reconciliation visit' to Germany...
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    ...and all of that was before her beloved Windsor Castle was destroyed by a fire in November.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Delivering a speech later that month, to mark her 40th anniversary as monarch, the Queen referred to 1992 as an "annus horribilis" - literally, a "horrible year". (There was worse to come: in December Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who the Queen had been personally counselling to try and help them overcome marital difficulties, announced their separation too.)
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    1994 saw the Queen break further new ground: making her first official visit to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here she is pictured meeting then-president Boris Yeltsin.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Charles and Diana finally divorced on August 28, 1996 - but Diana would be dead just a year later, killed in a car accident in Paris. The reluctance of the Royals to leave their summer residence in Balmoral and return to London met with major public disapproval - but the Queen ultimately relented and made a televised address before returning to the capital.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    There, the Queen's public approval rebounded after the Royals took time to share in the unprecedented outpouring of grief.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The Queen had become firm friends with President Mary McAleese during her own tenure as Ireland's head of state. The two had first met in 1999 and are here pictured in 2005 alongside Dr Martin McAleese, now a member of the Seanad, and the then-Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    2002 marked the first time in 115 years that Britain marked the Golden Jubilee of its monarch, with a major programme of national events which culminated in a gala concert outside Buckingham Palace. The usual daily grind wasn't to be interrupted, though: in advance of the festivities, big screens showed the latest episode of Eastenders. Note Barbara Windsor's Peggy Mitchell in the corner.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    No great ceremony is complete without fireworks, of course...
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    ...nor Queen guitarist Brian May playing the national anthem on an electric guitar from the roof of the royal residence. As you do.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The decade ended on a high, though: Prince Edward, the youngest of the Queen's four children, wed Sophie Rhys-Jones. The Queen granted them the titles of Earl and Countess of Wessex.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The Queen took a hands-on role in the millennium festivities: igniting a laser which then lit up the Millennium Beacon in London. She was among the guests who rang in the New Year at the Millennium Dome, now The O2, in Greenwich.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Another hallmark of her reign, aside from the gradual dissolution of Britain's worldwide empire, is the devolution of power to other countries within the UK. Here she is pictured alongside the SNP's Alex Salmond at the Scottish Parliament in 2005. Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, is advocating full independence for Scotland in a referendum later this decade.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, talk with Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London in 2009, early into Obama's tenure. He infamously presented the Queen with an iPod containing videos of his campaign speeches.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Royal weddings might all be about the bride and groom - but the Queen has her own place too. Here, after Prince William and Kate Middleton had concluded their wedding, Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton stop to bow to the Queen before following them out of Westminster Abbey.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Two weeks later there was, of course, the first formal visit of a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland. Here, the Queen opts not to take a sip of Guinness - though Prince Philip was evidently a bit more tempted to have a mouthful before he followed her off.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Later the Royal couple historically visited Croke Park to get to grips with Ireland's native sports. Pictured alongside the Queen and President McAleese is GAA president Christy Cooney.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    The second night of the Queen's visit included an official State Dinner - where the Queen historically opened her speech with five words of Irish: "A Úachtaráin agus a cháirde". At the toast, the Queen remarked: "I like this clinking glass."
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Perhaps the singly most iconic photograph of the Royal visit. Fishmonger Pat O'Connell keeps Her Majesty amused during her visit to the English Market on the last day of her visit.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny says goodbye to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh as they depart from Cork Airport at the end of their four-day visit.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Christmas 2011 marked the first time since her reign began that the Queen was not accompanied by her husband. Prince Philip felt pains in his chest on December 23 and was taken to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. He underwent a successful coronary angioplasty and stenting, and was discharged on December 27.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    This morning the Royal Mail unveiled its new Diamond Jubilee Definitives stamp set, celebrating Queen Elizabeth's portaits on English banknotes during her reign.
  • The Queen's 60 Years

    Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she leaves the Sunday Service at West Newton Church in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

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Gavan Reilly

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