Britain’s second-longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, praised the British virtues of “resilience, ingenuity and tolerance” and vowed to rededicate herself to the service of her country in a speech today before Parliament to mark her 60 years on the throne.
In the landmark address to both Houses of Parliament, the 85-year-old queen also made an uncharacteristically personal statement in praise of her husband, Prince Philip, for standing by her side.
“Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide,” she said. “During these years as your queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure.”
The 90-year-old prince, whom the queen wed in 1947, underwent a health scare late last year when he was hospitalized for emergency heart surgery that caused him to miss the traditional Christmas festivities with the royal family.
Philip was by the queen’s side today, however, and on Feb. 6, the day she officially took over the throne 60 years ago as a 25-year-old after her father, George VI, died.
The queen joins an elite club in reaching the 60-year, or Diamond Jubilee, milestone. Only Queen Victoria served longer, 63 years in all, a feat Queen Elizabeth noted in her speech today.
“So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee,” she said.
Today’s speech by the queen was only the sixth address she has delivered to both Houses of Parliament in her six decades of rule. She gave similar speeches in celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Silver Jubilee 25 years earlier in 1977, according to the BBC.
Among the 400 guests in attendance at today’s speech were Prime Minister David Cameron, members of his Cabinet, former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Labor leader Ed Miliband.
“I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come,” the queen told those gathered, echoing the vow of service she made on Ascension Day in February.
The queen eschewed the traditional robes and gowns befitting such a historical event and instead opted for her signature look, a matching coat, dress and hat, this time in buttercup yellow. She did deliver the address in the ancient Westminster Hall, a historical setting she reflected on in her remarks.
“We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it,” she said.
The queen was gifted a Diamond Jubilee window from the members of both Houses during the event to mark her 60-year reign. The stained-glass window will be installed above the North Door of Westminster Hall later this year, the BBC reports.
Celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee are reaching a peak this month as the queen and Prince Philip tour England and other members of the royal family – most visibly Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Prince Charles – travel around the world to take part in ceremonies and events honoring the queen.
The main event, the 2012 Diamond Jubilee weekend, will be held in June and feature a star-studded concert and boat pageant on the Thames river with a 1,000-strong flotilla.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.