Sixty years ago today, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom.
It was June 2 1953 and the country, and the wider world, was buzzing with the excitement of the occasion. An estimated 11 million people listened into the Coronation Ceremony on the radio and a further 27 million people in Britain watched on TV. This in the days when TV sets were still a rarity, many many people used the Coronation as the excuse to buy their very first TV and those who did not do so gathered in neighbours' or family sitting rooms to watch the ceremony live on the strange little box with the black and white pictures which took centre stage in the home for that day.
When Elizabeth took her oath of consecration, was crowned and invested with all the regalia and titles that come with being the British monarch, she didn't just become Queen of the UK but of many other nations including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon.
What an overwhelming responsibility for someone aged just 25!
Admittedly she had been raised as a Royal and would have been aware from her earliest moments that she lived in a world where duty was an overwhelming principle. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was the grandaugher of King George V and Queen Mary, but her father, Prince Albert Duke of York, was second-in-line to the throne, so Elizabeth and younger sister Margaret were not born as certain front runners for the eventual job of monarch.
That was until Elizabeth was 10, when her Uncle David (King Edward VIII) , who had succeeded to the throne after the death of George V in January 1936, decided in December that year to abdicate the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced American with whom he had fallen in love.
From the moment her father ascended the British throne (he took the regnal name George VI), the young Princess Elizabeth would be groomed for a life as monarch. Her duty to her country would have been quietly processing in her mind and heart, her at-home private education would have prepared her for the eventuality of a life of service, where her own wishes and desires would need to be suppressed. From that moment it was not about her - Elizabeth the private individual, the woman, the wife, the mother - but about the greater good, her people.
By the time her father passed away when she was 24 - George VI sadly died of lung cancer on 6 Feburary 1952 - Elizabeth had married her third cousin, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh - had two young children and had enjoyed something of a private life, albeit wrapped up in all the responsibilities which came with being Heir to the Throne.
But was she prepared for monarchy? Her background would certainly suggest so, although the loss of her beloved father aged just 56 would have been a tremendous shock and propelled her into the role of Queen many years before she might have expected, and certainly many many years before she would have wanted.
S0, on June 2 1953, she processed through the packed streets of London and the cheers of the crowds to Wesminster Abbey in Central London and amid much pomp and historical ceremony swore the sacred oath of allegiance to her country and its laws. Much as kings and queens of England had done down many centuries, during this solemn Coronation Ceremony, this beautiful, sincere and dutiful young woman took on responsibilities which you and I can only imagine. Apart from being monarch of the United Kingdom and all those other aforementioned countries and dominions, Elizabeth II also became Head of the Commonwealth, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Down the years, through good times and bad, Queen Elizabeth has 'ruled' with grace and determination. She has weathered the storms of public disapproval and bathed in the love of her people. She has held her head high during family grief and trial, and shown her compassion and care to the grieving. She has rejoiced with us and mourned with us. She has been the best example of a 'working mum' before that creature became popularised. Although undoubtedly she had lots of help, she has raised 4 children and worked tirelessly, giving of herself absolutely every day.
There have been those who have speculated whether she might one day abdicate in favour of her son Charles, but many commentators have suggested that Her Majesty's sense of duty to the role and to her nation would never allow that. Even now, aged 87, she still remains dedicated to her life of devotion and duty and keeps going, undertaking public duties and always looking immaculate, when many elderly women would be happy to sit at home in their slippers drinking tea and quietly nodding off in the corner of the room.
This second Elizabethan era has stretched entirely across my life and the lives of most of the people I know. For us it's always been Elizabeth and although she is not yet the longest reigning British monarch - Queen Victoria reigned for nearly 64 years from 20 June 1837 to 22 January 1901 - our Queen Elizabeth is coming close.
Whether you like the idea of the monarchy or would rather see the UK as a republic, there's no doubting this woman has been a wonderful example of dutiful service. She is something for us to be proud of.
So I, for one, think of her today and wish her many more happy years of life and service. I thank her for her life of duty to her people and to her sacred 'calling' as Queen,which was sealed on this day sixty years ago.
And I say, with many many millions more and with true sincerity .... 'God Save the Queen'.
(Thanks also to http://www.thediamondjubilee.org)