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The royal barge Gloriana rowed down the River Thames as part of a flotilla to celebrate today's milestone.

Photo by Loco Steve. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At approximately 5:30 PM UK Time (9:30 AM California Time), Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom or any of its preceding nations (Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland), passing Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years, 216 days.

It’s actually difficult to know exactly when Elizabeth became the longest-reigning monarch because it’s difficult to know exactly when she became Queen. Because the Sovereign never dies (in a matter of speaking), the Crown passes immediately from one monarch to the next in the time of a breath (the previous monarch’s last breath, to be specific and a little morbid), and King George VI died in his sleep, some time in the early morning hours of February 6, 1952. However, historians at Buckingham Palace have pulled out their calendars and calculators and (having settled upon “around 1 AM” as the time of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne) figured out that Elizabeth definitely had passed Victoria’s record by 5:30 PM, give or take a few minutes.

Additionally, with the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Elizabeth became the world’s oldest ruler, and as only King Bhumibol Adulyadej (also known as Rama XI) of Thailand has been ruling longer (69 years, 92 days at the time of this writing), Elizabeth is also the longest-ruling Queen in the world (though not of all time – Eleanor of Aquitaine ruled the Duchy of Aquitaine for 66 years and 358 days in the 12th and 13th Centuries).

There were celebrations across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth today, but The Queen treated it as any other working day, opening a new railway in Scotland. According to rumors, Elizabeth doesn’t exactly like to “celebrate” anything to do with her accession, since the only reason she acceeded to the throne was through the (arguably premature) death of her father, whom she loved dearly.

Still, hearty congratulations to Her Majesty on this milestone, and may she continue to reign for many years to come.

Long live Queen Elizabeth!

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