Whether she likes it or not, the Queen will get a fuss when she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch

Tim Ewart

Former Royal Editor

The Queen will appear in public on the day she becomes Britain's longest serving monarch. Credit: Reuters

The Queen did not want a fuss, but that was always going to be a vain hope.

When she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch on Wednesday, bells will peal out up and down the country, cathedral services will be held and there will a pageant on the River Thames.

The Royal Collection will stage exhibitions celebrating her achievement at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

The Queen herself will appear in public, something she was initially reluctant to do.

She and the Duke of Edinburgh will board a steam train at Edinburgh station for a journey to Tweedbank to mark the opening the the Scottish Borders Railway service.

And to guarantee a little extra media interest they will be accompanied by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a passionate advocate of Scottish independence.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh expected to board a steam train as part of the celebrations. Credit: Reuters

It's not known at exactly what moment Queen Elizabeth will pass Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years and 216 days, but those who have counted the hours and even the minutes think it will be around 5.30 in the afternoon.

Victoria was 18 when she acceded to the throne, Elizabeth 25.

It is hard now to imagine an heir becoming monarch so young in the future, or reigning for so long.

Inevitably, there will be much analysis of the Queen's reign.

The historian David Starkey has already caused controversy by suggesting that Elizabeth has neither said nor done anything that anyone will remember, but thereby guaranteeing the survival of the monarchy.

"She came to the throne with only one thought," he wrote. "To keep the royal show on the road."

The Queen will overtake Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch. Credit: PA

Rather more popular, I suspect, will be the tribute paid by her grandson Prince William in the preface to a new book about the Queen by former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd:

William also praises the private side of the Queen, her "kindness and sense of humour, her innate sense of calm and perspective."

The Queen will turn 90 next April, and if she is reluctant about celebrating the landmark of her longest reign now, she will be more enthusiastic then.

She and members if her family will join 10,000 people in The Mall outside Buckingham Palace for what promises to be a street party like no other.