ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the preparations on the eve of Accession Day, with the Queen hours away from becoming the first British sovereign to reach 70 years on the throne
One of the reasons why the Queen comes to Sandringham every year for Accession Day, is because it offers her the peace and solitude which is so hard to find elsewhere. The sprawling Norfolk estate, to the east of Kings Lynn, gives her the space away from formal court at Buckingham Palace or Windsor. And she is here this year, just as she is every year, on 6 February - a day which simultaneously marks the death of her father and the end of his reign as well as the start of her own. If she had her way, the Queen would spend this Accession Day like all the other ones, in quiet contemplation with as little fuss and fanfare as possible. But this is no ordinary anniversary. No British Monarch has ever reached this milestone of 70 years of reign.
Queen Victoria reached 63 years and seven months – but the Britain has never before celebrated a Platinum Jubilee. So this weekend, the Queen has agreed to some limited moments to mark the occasion. She’s allowed the cameras in the film her and she’s hosting a reception for the community this weekend.
Togetherness and community means a lot to the Queen and she knows that the Jubilee this year will be a moment to unite people after a tough couple of years during the pandemic. It also explains why she acted to strip her son, Prince Andrew of his military titles and patronages as his ongoing lawsuit was threatening to overshadow the jubilee.
The Queen met community groups and volunteers at the main house on the Sandringham estate. It was here in 1952 that her father went to bed on 5 February and then died in his sleep. At that moment, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth – but she would not find out for some time. The new Queen was in Kenya with Prince Philip, on the start of a Royal Tour on behalf of the King. The tour was quickly abandoned. She left London airport in late January as a Princess but returned as Queen.
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No one knew it then, but her reign would stretch for the next seven decades – during a period of dramatic social and political change in the UK. Accession Day will kick off a year of celebrations and the focus will be the four-day public holiday in June. But there will be no big celebrations this weekend. The Queen might issue some words, she is also likely to visit church for Sunday worship but there will be no public engagement. But she will reflect on what happened 70 years ago and how that changed her life, and the life of this country.