Prime Minister and Archbishop of York lead tributes ahead of unprecented milestone in Royal history

This IS the Queen that the public rarely sees – Her Majesty sitting by her famous red box and signing official papers with painstaking meticulousness in a daily ritual which began a record-breaking 63 years and 217 days ago.

The Queen with an official red box in a photograph issued by Buckingham Palace.

Captured by former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney’s daughter Mary, the business-like picture has been released to mark today’s milestone in history in which Queen Elizabeth II will eclipse her great, great grandmother and become the longest-serving monarch in British history.

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Taken in July at Buckingham Palace, Royal aides hope the image captures the diligence and duty that has been exemplified by the Queen since she acceded to the throne in February 1952.

As Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for the nation and hailed Her Majesty as “a rock of stability in a world of constant change”, it will be business as usual today for the Royal family – the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are expected to receive a particularly warm welcome when they open the Scottish Borders Railway and take a steam train ride on the new £294m route from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.

It will not be lost on the Royal party, and those watching television images around the world, that they will be accompanied by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon whose Scottish National Party came so close to breaking up the United Kingdom in the independence referendum of 12 months ago.

Yet Her Majesty’s discretion can be assured – she has remained above politics for the duration of her reign and her weekly audiences with 12 Prime Ministers from Sir Winston Churchill to Mr Cameron continue to remain totally confidential. One can only guess the secrets in which she has been confided, either in person or through official papers studied scrupulously each day.

Her Majesty, pictured at the same ornate desk which she used during her unforgettable sketch with James Bond actor Daniel Craig prior to the 2012 Olympics, still uses the red boxes made for her on her Coronation. They have been refurbished over the years and while Government boxes bear the Royal cypher, only the monarch’s box is embossed with the words The Queen.

In the image, the Queen is wearing a pink and white floral print day dress by designer Karl Ludwig and a pink sapphire brooch surrounded by diamonds. She is clasping a pair of spectacles in her right hand as she holds a piece of paper and resting against the back of her chair is her black handbag.

Family pictures line a nearby sideboard in the room which the Queen uses for her private weekly audiences with the PM and to meet visiting heads of state like President Barack Obama.

Miss McCartney, whose late mother Linda was a celebrated photographer, approached the Royal Household with the proposal of taking the Queen’s portrait to mark the milestone and her project was accepted.

She could not have been happier with the result, and said: “Having grown up during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II it was a thrill to meet her and a very great privilege to take her photo on this historic occasion.”

Today’s Royal appearance north of the border will coincide with national celebrations – church bells are due to ring out around Britain, London’s Tower Bridge will lift as a mark of respect and special tributes will be heard in the House of Commons. There was supportive banging of the table at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting when Mr Cameron told Ministers that the Queen was “a symbol of Britain’s enduring spirit admired around the world”.

This spirit was epitomised by the Archbishop of York’s personal tribute to the head of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and whose Christian faith has guided every day of her reign.

“I give hearty thanks to God for our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth II: for her faithfulness and long reign, and I pray to God to shower upon her his heavenly blessing – especially today,” Dr John Sentamu told The Yorkshire Post.

The precise point the Queen passes Victoria’s milestone is not known as there is no precise time for the death of her father George VI, who died in the early hours of February 6, 1952. It has been presumed that the King died peacefully at around 1am, hence Buckingham Palace’s calculation that the Queen will probably make history at 5.30pm when she will have reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes.

It is a moment in time never likely to be repeated.

Queen Victoria’s place in history remains assured – despite her reign being eclipsed by her great, great granddaughter today.

Victoria witnessed great economic, social and political change during her 63 years as monarch, and came to define what it is to be a modern sovereign.

She embodied the principles of her age – high morality, stoicism and family values – and firmly embedded the monarchy in national life by increasing its popularity.

When she acceded to the throne on June 20, 1837, following the death of her uncle William IV, Britain was quickly moving from a rural to an urban society and its influence in the world was increasing.

By the end of the 19th century, Britain had a vast empire and her death on January 22, 1901, at the age of 81, brought to a close a period which left the unifying figure of the Queen at the nation’s heart.

One quarter of Chinese people draw inspiration for fashion and home purchases from the example set by the Queen and Royal family. Experts at Warwick Business School say the luxury goods market was worth £167bn last year to British firms.

London’s Tower Bridge will lift today as a mark of respect for the Queen,

a four-gun salute will sound out and the Massey Shaw fireboat will shoot jets of water into the air. The BT Tower will scroll the message ‘Long May She Reign’.

Prince Charles will spending today filming a documentary with TV presenters Ant and Dec about his Prince’s Trust organisation ahead of a day of engagements in Leeds and North Yorkshire tomorrow.

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