The iconic Round Tower of Windsor Castle is home to the Royal Archives – a unique collection of documents relating to the history of the British Monarchy over the last 250 years. The Royal Archives preserves the personal and official correspondence of monarchs from George III (1760-1820) onwards, as well as administrative records of the departments of the Royal Household.
From diaries and personal letters to account books and speeches, the collections held by the Royal Archives record and reflect some of the most significant moments in British history and provide a fascinating insight into the life and work of past monarchs, their families, households and residences.
The origins of the Royal Archives
The Royal Archives were first established in 1914, during the early years of the reign of George V. The need for an archive for the papers of the Royal Family and the Royal Household had become evident only a few years earlier, following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Previously, historic records had been stored in tin trunks, cupboards and storerooms in the various royal residences, with no appointed archivist to care for them. However, the legacy left by Queen Victoria’s 63-year reign, in the form of a vast collection of official and private correspondence, required a permanent home.
Queen Victoria’s son, Edward VII, appointed Lord Esher as the first Keeper of the Royal Archives shortly after Victoria’s death. A few years later, following George V’s declaration in 1912 that ‘All the Royal Archives shall be kept in a Strong Room or Rooms in the Round Tower’, work began to construct a Muniment Room in the top half of the medieval Great Hall in the Round Tower. The first records were transferred to the new Muniment Room in 1914.
The development of the archives
Other collections were soon added to the Victorian records, including the papers of George III and George IV, the military papers of the Duke of Cumberland and the papers of the exiled Stuarts after 1688. (Please see the Collections in the Royal Archives page for more details.) Private papers of earlier Sovereigns and members of their families have not survived for the most part. Surviving official correspondence of Sovereigns before George III can be found in The National Archives.
Over the last few decades, the Royal Archives has grown rapidly. The official papers of George V, Edward VIII and George VI have all been added, as have the private correspondence and diaries of George V and Queen Mary. Papers of other members of the Royal Family have also been placed in the Royal Archives, including those of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Household papers from Queen Elizabeth II’s reign are transferred to the Royal Archives when they are no longer required for current use.
The archives online
The last few years have seen the Royal Archives embark on some exciting projects. In 2012, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, all 141 volumes of Queen Victoria's Journal were digitised, transcribed and made available online at www.queenvictoriasjournals.org. 'Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook' was also launched in 2012 at www.queen-victorias-scrapbook.org. This online educational resource focused on Queen Victoria’s life and reign, in particular her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It contains documents from the Royal Archives, paintings and photographs from the Royal Collection, as well as audio and film clips. The same year, records of Royal Household staff from 1660 to 1924 were digitised and made available online by Find My Past at www.findmypast.co.uk.
To celebrate the centenary of the Royal Archives in 2014, a book, Treasures from the Archives, was published, featuring some of the most significant items in the collections. A number of these treasures were also put on display in an accompanying exhibition at Windsor Castle (now closed) and these can still be viewed on the Royal Collection Trust website.
The Royal Archives is currently working on a project to digitise the Stuart and Cumberland papers, and in conjunction with King's College London and other partners, is also undertaking a major digitisation and cataloguing programme to make available online the historic records from the Georgian period, totalling more than 350,000 pages. Please see the Georgian Papers Programme microsite for more information.
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
Collections in the Royal Archives
At present, the Royal Archives does not have an online catalogue. Please read below for details of our various online resources.
To access the Royal Archives page on The National Archives Discovery catalogue, which provides an overview of some of our collections, please visit The National Archives' website.
The Georgian Papers
The Royal Archives contains a number of collections of papers, mostly dating from the reign of George III (1760-1820) onwards. The official papers of George III, George IV and their private secretaries were one of the first collections added to the newly-created Royal Archives in 1914, following their discovery in the basement of Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's London residence. These important papers had been quite forgotten since George IV's executor, the first Duke of Wellington, had placed them there, labelled 'To be destroyed unread'. The collection was presented to George V by the fourth Duke of Wellington.
Letters to George III from members of his family have also survived, as have numerous notes, essays and reflections in his own hand. Private correspondence of George IV as both King and as Prince of Wales also forms a significant collection.
The official correspondence of William IV was destroyed, virtually in its entirety, after his death in 1837 by his surviving executor; however, some of the papers of his two Prime Ministers, Lords Grey and Melbourne, have been given to the Royal Archives. Only a small amount of material has survived in the Royal Archives for the earlier Hanoverian monarchs, George I and George II.
The Royal Archives has embarked upon a digitisation project to make the collection of George III's official and private papers available online. The papers of George IV and surviving material from the reigns of Kings George I, George II and William IV will also be included. To access the Georgian Papers Programme online catalogue, please visit Georgian Papers Online.
Queen Victoria and King Edward VII
The official and private papers of Queen Victoria and Edward VII and some members of their families form a large part of the Royal Archives. Queen Victoria in particular was a prolific letter-writer and the collection retains much of her correspondence with relations, friends and government ministers throughout her life.
In the first years of his marriage to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert gradually took control of her official correspondence and created a highly organised filing system, in which the papers from that period are still kept. After the Prince's death, the Queen's papers accumulated more haphazardly until the 1890s, when her Assistant Private Secretary began the large task of organising them.
This work was continued in Edward VII's reign by Viscount Esher, who also edited three volumes of Queen Victoria's early correspondence (published in 1907; other editors subsequently published five further volumes covering the Queen's later years).
Queen Victoria also kept a detailed journal, a unique historical source for the period, and the manuscript volumes are housed in the Royal Archives. The majority of the volumes are not in Queen Victoria's own hand, as she left instructions that after her death, Princess Beatrice, her youngest daughter, should edit the diaries. Princess Beatrice destroyed the originals after editing them, apart from those written by Queen Victoria as Princess, between 1832 and 1837. Queen Victoria's Journal is now available to view online at www.queenvictoriasjournals.org
Additional documents relating to Queen Victoria’s life can be found at www.queen-victorias-scrapbook.org.
20th Century Collections
Official and private letters from the reigns of George V, Edward VIII and George VI have been added to the Royal Archives over the years, including papers relating to public engagements and patronages. Both George V and Queen Mary kept a daily diary throughout their lives and these volumes are now kept in the archives. Papers of other members of the royal family, including Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother have also been transferred to the Royal Archives, as have documents from Princess Elizabeth's (now Queen Elizabeth II) Household.
Household and Estate Papers
The Royal Archives also holds records generated by the departments of the Royal Household. These include records of the department of the Master of the Horse from the eighteenth century onwards; of the Privy Purse from the nineteenth century onwards; and of the departments of the Private Secretary, Lord Chamberlain and Lord Steward (the latter now called the department of the Master of the Household) from the twentieth century. Household papers from the Queen Elizabeth II's reign are transferred to the Royal Archives when they are no longer required for current use.
The National Archives holds records of the departments of the Lord Chamberlain and the Lord Steward up to 1901. Papers of the Lord Chamberlain's Office relating to theatre censorship from 1901 to 1968 are in the collections of the British Library.
Papers relating to the private royal estates of Balmoral and Sandringham are also held by the Royal Archives, as are smaller collections relating to Windsor and Osborne.
Records of Royal Household staff from 1660 to 1924 have been digitised and made available online by Find My Past at www.findmypast.co.uk.
Other Royal Archives Collections
The Wardrobe accounts for 1660 to 1749 are the earliest series of Royal papers in the Archives. They consist of three parallel series of warrants, bills and receipts, relating to the supply of furniture and furnishings for Royal palaces, and of Royal liveries and ceremonial robes. These volumes were kept by the Dukes of Montagu, as Masters of the Great Wardrobe (a forerunner of the present Master of the Household), and were presented to the Archives by the Duke of Buccleuch in 1914. A similar set of Wardrobe accounts are also held by The National Archives.
The Stuart papers (c.1689-1800) are the papers of the exiled Stuarts: King James II from the period of his exile in 1689 onwards, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart ('The Old Pretender') and his sons, Prince Charles Edward ('The Young Pretender') and Prince Henry Benedict (Cardinal Duke of York). This collection was purchased in Italy for George IV after the death of Cardinal Stuart in 1807 and had been held in the Royal Library since the 1830s, until its transfer to the Royal Archives in 1914.
The Cumberland papers (1745-65) are the papers of King George II's son, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. They principally comprise the Duke's correspondence as Captain-General of the Army and papers relating to his office as Ranger of Windsor Great Park. This collection came to the Royal Archives from the Royal Library in 1914. The Stuart and Cumberland Papers are the focus of a current digitisation project and will be available online in 2018.
Two other important collections held by the Royal Archives are the Howick and Melbourne Papers, which shed light on the politics of the reign of King William IV, whose own papers have not survived. The Howick Papers, presented to the archives by 5th Earl Grey, contain letters between William IV and Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834. The papers of Lord Melbourne (Prime Minister in 1834 and 1835 to 1841), include all his ministerial letters, as well as much royal correspondence.
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
The Georgian Papers Programme
Launched on 1 April 2015 by Her Majesty The Queen, the Georgian Papers Programme is an ambitious project to transform access to the extensive collection of Georgian papers held in the Royal Archives and Royal Library at Windsor Castle. At the heart of the Programme is a partnership between the Royal Archives and Royal Library with King’s College London. The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the College of William & Mary are sharing in this work as primary Programme partners for the USA.
The Georgian Papers Programme intends to make available online the historic manuscripts, both official and private, relating to the Georgian monarchy held in the Royal Archives and Royal Library, in addition to relevant collections held by King's. The large body of uncatalogued material held at Windsor contains more than 350,000 pages, of which only about 15% have previously been published. Most of these papers relate to George III and to a lesser extent, George IV, although papers from the reigns of George I, George II and William IV will be digitised, as will those relating to other members of the Royal Family from the Georgian period.
The outcome of this project will be a substantial web resource, accessible to universities, schools, academics, authors and the general public alike, both in the United Kingdom and overseas. The website will present images of the digitised Georgian papers and will allow them to be searched effectively by users. Catalogue information about the papers will be added by project staff working in the Royal Archives, as well as by academics and specialists in the field of Georgian history, facilitated by the Programme's academic partners, whose expertise will help to interpret the documents. It is also intended that other resources will be made available on the site to assist users in their research, including information on people, places and themes connected to the Georgian papers and academic essays and interactive applications.
This high-profile project, which is still in its early stages, is due for completion in 2020. The first 'showcase' of digitised Georgian papers, however, will be launched in 2017.Alongside the digitisation and cataloguing work, a series of Georgian history fellowships, sponsored by the partnering institutions, will further the research into the Georgian period. Seminars, lectures, teaching sessions, media programming and publishing projects will also arise from the project and it is hoped that all these many facets of this digitisation programme will transform the understanding of Georgian Britain and its monarchy at a time of such great cultural, political, economic and social change, which has shaped the world we live in today.
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
Visit the Georgian Papers Programme microsite on website of Royal Collection Trust
Visit the Georgian Papers Programme website of King's College London
Visit the Georgian Papers Programme website of the Omohundro Institute
Access to the Royal Archives
The Royal Archives applies four principles when considering requests for information from, or access to, its historic collections:
1. ‘Information First’: Access to the collections is on the basis of information sought.
2. Unique Content: Particular consideration will be given to applications where the material or content can be found only in the Royal Library and Royal Archives. Where it can be accessed elsewhere (for example, online or in other libraries or archives), external researchers will be expected to have consulted those sources first.
3. Historical Research: Access is granted for the purpose of ‘historical research’. This term is widely defined, and recognises the huge range of subjects and themes and the myriad ways in which research is conducted.
4. Equitable Access: The Library and Archives aim to provide access to a wide range of applicants, and this may mean that, from time to time, repeat applicants may be rejected in favour of those applying for the first time.
Access to the Royal Archives is granted solely at the discretion of the Keeper of The Queen’s Archives.
Please contact the Royal Archives with your request for access by using the email contact form on the Royal Collection Trust website or by writing to The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ.
Please note that we have limited researcher facilities and security clearance is necessary before visiting the Royal Archives, therefore appointments must be made well in advance.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
On 1 January 2005, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 came into force. As from that date, any person of any nationality can make a request to see information held by public bodies, except where special exemptions apply.
The Royal Household is not a public authority, as defined by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Freedom Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and as such the Acts do not relate to access to the Royal Archives.
Also, under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958 the papers of the Royal Archives are not defined as public records.
Although exempt from FOI requirements, the Royal Household is committed to transparency, and to making information available, where appropriate.
Regarding the papers it holds on government business, it is the policy of the Royal Archives to follow voluntarily the regulations on closure and release to which counterpart papers in The National Archives are subject.
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
The Royal Archives does not hold general records of the sort which might be useful for genealogy. In the first instance, we recommend using an online resource such as Ancestry or Find My Past. The Society of Genealogists, which is based at 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA, will also be able to offer guidance on family history research.
My ancestor worked in the Royal Household. Do you have details about them?
The Royal Archives has references to people employed in the Royal Household from the 18th century, indexes to names of people employed from 1660 onwards and a few records relating to the Royal Household in the sixteenth century. Please visit the Royal Archives Collection on Find My Past to search these records. Otherwise please write to us with your enquiry, including as much detail as possible, and send it to:
The Royal Archives,
Berkshire SL4 1NJ
or use the email contact form on the Royal Collection Trust website.
For earlier periods, please contact The National Archives at Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU or via the National Archives website
My ancestor was a guard who attended the Sovereign. How do I find out more?
Service records of soldiers in the regiments of Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry, which guard the royal palaces, are held by The National Archives.
The police officers who provide personal security for the royal family are members of the Metropolitan Police, the historic records for which are also in The National Archives.
My ancestor was a Court dressmaker. Can you provide further information?
Court dressmakers made clothes for members of the general public who attended functions at Court, rather than specifically for the Sovereign and other members of the royal family. Consequently, the Royal Archives does not hold information about these individuals.
My ancestor is said to have been a pall bearer at the funeral of Queen Victoria. Can you confirm this?
Whilst records in the Royal Archives do show which military units provided the pall bearers at royal funerals, they do not give the names of the individuals concerned.
My ancestor carried out building work on one of the royal palaces. Can you supply further information?
Building work on royal palaces, both external and internal, was, until the 1990s, carried out by a government department, the Office (later Ministry) of Works. It is this department's records which should record the firms employed to carry out such work, and these records are in The National Archives.
I own an item which was supposedly formerly owned by a member of the royal family. How do I find out whether this is true?
The Royal Archives can sometimes help with such queries, but would need to have as much information as possible concerning the item and the story of how it left the royal family's possession - for instance, was it a gift to a particular person? Please enquire in writing, giving as many details as possible, and if possible an image of the item, to: The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ or use the email contact form on the Royal Collection Trust website.
My ancestor was presented at Court. Can you supply any relevant information?
The Royal Archives does hold some registers of people presented at Court from the 1870s through to 1952. Earlier records of presentations at Court can be found at The National Archives. Please supply the name of your ancestor, and if possible, an idea of the year they were presented at Court. Please enquire in writing to: The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ or use the email contact form on the Royal Collection Trust website.
My ancestor received a formal message from a member of the royal family. Can you provide any more information about the message?
A number of printed messages were sent by the Sovereign, particularly during wartime. These include facsimile messages sent by George V to American soldiers entering World War 1 in 1917 and a message of thanks sent by Queen Elizabeth in 1940 to all those who took in evacuees. Although we have no details of the recipients, we can supply some information about the messages. Please enquire in writing to: The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ or use the email contact form on the Royal Collection Trust website.
What documents do you hold from the Middle Ages and Renaissance?
The records held by the Royal Archives predominately date from the reign of George III (1760-1820). Papers from earlier periods and important documents such as Magna Carta and the Domesday Book are now in national collections such as The National Archives, the British Library and The National Library of Scotland.
I have a query about events or people in the reign of the present Queen. Can you help?
General public information enquiries, including anything related to the reign of the present Queen, are handled by the Public Information Office at Buckingham Palace. Please put your enquiry in writing to:
The Public Information Office,
London SW1A 1AA.
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
The National Archives
Records for UK Government 1066 onwards, and records previously stored at the Family Records Centre (births, marriages and deaths and Census records for England and Wales):
Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: 020 8876 3444
Web site: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
The National Records Scotland
Public records of Scotland:
HM General Register House
2 Princes Street
Edinburgh EH1 3YY
Tel: 0131 535 1314
Web site: www.nrscotland.gov.uk
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Official records of government of Northern Ireland c.1830 onwards:
2 Titanic Boulevard
Belfast BT3 9HQ
Tel: 028 90251318
Web site: www.proni.gov.uk
National Archives of Ireland
Public records of Ireland:
Dublin DO8 DF8S
Web site: www.nationalarchives.ie
Archives and Records Council Wales
For information on where to find public records of Wales:
Web site: archives.wales
The British Library
Major non-governmental archival collections relating to Britain:
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Web site: www.bl.uk
The National Library of Scotland
Non-governmental archival collections relating to Scotland:
George IV Bridge
Web site: www.nls.uk
The College of Arms
Records of heraldry and coats of arms for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth. Also the records of the Earl Marshal's Office, which include papers relating to Coronations and other State occasions:
130 Queen Victoria Street
London EC4V 4BT
Tel: 020 7248 2762
Web site: www.college-of-arms.gov.uk
The Court of the Lord Lyon
Records of heraldry and grants of arms for Scotland:
HM New Register House
Edinburgh EH1 3YT
Web site: www.lyon-court.com
Society of Genealogists
Genealogical reference library:
14 Charterhouse Buildings
London EC1M 7BA
Tel: 020 7251 8799 (main switchboard)
Web site: www.sog.org.uk
Download a PDF format guide to the Royal Archives' Collections:
Although the congratulations and celebrations have been going on all day, it is only now that we can officially say the Queen is our longest-reigning monarch, as 5.30pm is the accepted time of day at which her reign is finally longer than that of Queen Victoria.
17.10 - World's loudest town crier announces Queen's record
In perhaps the most surreal celebration of the day, David Hinde, who claims to be the world's loudest town crier, has proclaimed the Queen's record-breaking reign to a small crowd in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.
Having bucked the trend by calculating the record-breaking moment as 4.18pm (though without saying why) he seized the moment by offering "proud congratulations on this magnificent achievement".
After ringing his bell and a hearty yell of "oyez, oyez, oyez", he said: "People of Bridlington and visitors to our town and resort. Today is a very special day.
"At this time of 4.18pm on the 9th of Septmeber 2015, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has become Britain's longest reigning monarch, passing the record set by Queen Victoria with a total of 23,226 days, 16 hours and 18 minutes - over 63 years, seven months and two days."
16.27 - Lords pay their own tributes to the Queen
Lords Leader Baroness Stowell of Beeston led tributes to the Queen in the House of Lords.
She said: "Her Majesty has served our country with unerring grace, dignity and decency and long may she continue to do so."
Baroness Smith of Basildon, the Shadow Leader of the Lords, added: "Her Majesty did not choose to be Queen, she had it thrust upon her at an unexpectedly early age.
"Her strong sense of duty that has been evident throughout her reign shows great respect to her country and Commonwealth and we repay that respect today."
Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, said: "For the majority of our fellow citizens the Queen alone embodies what we think of and understand by the monarchy."
15.57 - France's mixed feelings about the Queen
Not everyone loves the idea of a monarchy, especially the French. Today's front page of Libération, borrowing heavily from the Sex Pistols for its picture, asked: "Why such a reign?", describing the Queen's time on the throne as "23,226 days of boredom and tradition".
15.42 - Australia praises its Queen's "remarkable" reign
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian Parliament that the Queen has compiled an extraordinary record of service and is regarded with "respect and affection" by Australians.
"Hers has been a long, rich life of service to her country, to the Commonwealth," Abbott said. "We pay tribute to her dedication to duty. We wish her and her loving, remarkable husband health and happiness in the years ahead."
15.15 - Nicola Sturgeon talks about the Queen's "modest" response to the occasionand says Scotland will keep the monarchy, no matter what
Nicola Sturgeon said after the Queen had left: "I think it's an historic occasion, I think the Queen is clearly, as we saw there, very modest herself about it.
"But she has given many, many long years of dedicated public service and the attendance here today was a sign that people want to show their gratitude to her for that.
"She was in tremendous form, I think she enjoyed the train journey, the most special bit of a very special journey was when the train went through Galashiels station and slowed down and she was able to see some people who had gathered there outside the window."
Asked if an independent Scotland would keep the monarchy she replied: "My view and this was a view expressed during the referendum campaign last year is that, yes, the Queen, who is Queen of Scots, would remain head of state in an independent Scotland."
15.10 - Sir Paul McCartney tweets his pride
Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney could not resist congratulating his daughter Mary on being chosen to take the official portrait of the Queen that appeared on front pages today.
15.06 - How MPs celebrated on the terrace of Parliament
MPs gathered on the terrace of the Palace of Westminster to watch the flotilla of nine boats, led by Gloriana, pass by.
At noon Tower Bridge was raised and the boats - including Havengore, which carried Sir Winston Churchill's coffin for his funeral and hosted the Royal family during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant in 2012 - sounded their horns before they passed beneath the bridge.
The Massey Shaw fire boat shot jets of water into the air, and as the flotilla sailed by HMS Belfast the naval vessel sounded a four-gun salute.
The procession of ships made its way upriver to the Houses of Parliament, where tourists lined Westminster Bridge to watch the final fanfare.
As MPs watched from the terrace the boats again sounded their horns, and after the band aboard Havengore played the national anthem there was a chorus of three cheers for the Queen.
14.36 - What the people think about the Queen's reign
People in the crowd who were at the Thames watching the celebratory flotilla go past have spoken about their thoughts on the Queen's momentous day.
14.11 Telegraph readers send their own messages of goodwill
All this week we have been asking Telegraph readers to email us their messages of support for the Queen as she approached her milestone, and you responded in your thousands A selection of them have now been published, and you can read them here.
13.50 - Queen's statement in full
Here is the full text of the Queen's remarks at Tweedbank station as she becomes Britain's longest-reigning monarch: "First Minister, ladies and gentlemen. The Duke of Edinburgh and I are delighted to be back in the Borders today and especially to have arrived by train.
"It has been wonderful to witness the excitement which the return of the railway has brought here.
"The Borders railway brings so much promise for sharing and invigorating this most beautiful countryside as a place to work, live and enjoy.
"Prince Philip and I are very grateful for the warmth of your welcome on this occasion.
"Many, including you First Minister, have also kindly noted another significance attaching to today, although it is not one to which I have ever aspired.
"Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception. But I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.
"So now to the business in hand. It is my very happy duty to declare the Borders Railway open."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon greeted the Queen with "a simple but heartfelt thank you" for her work as the longest-reigning monarch.
The Scottish First Minister said: "We are privileged ma'am that you have chosen to mark today's milestone here. All of us are delighted to be able to share some of this special day with you.
"For those watching from around the world let me say, on their behalf ma'am a simple but heartfelt thank you."
13.30 - Queen thanks the world for their messages of thanks and says she never "aspired" to the record she now holds
Speaking as she officially opened the Scottish Borders Railway, Her Majesty said she was "grateful for the warmth of your welcome on this occasion"
"Many including you First Minister have also kindly noted another significance attaching to today although it is not one to which have ever aspired.
"Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones and my own is no exception.
"I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness."
13.23 - Queen acknowledges her "special day"
Retired train driver and fireman Walter Bell said the Queen acknowledged her "special day" when they chatted about his days on the railway.
The 88-year-old from Edinburgh sat with the royal couple for part of their steam train journey and told them about his life as a driver.
He said: "She said to me 'we've both got a special day'. It was out of this world to meet her, it's a great honour, it's very special."
Mr Bell joined the railways during the war and was promoted to a fireman on D-Day, June 6 1944, before going on to become a driver in a career that lasted 50 years.
He added: "She was really interested in what I was telling her. I was discussing about where I worked and the mishaps on the railway and other stories.
"I thought I was talking too much but the Duke said 'carry on Sir, you carry on'. "
13.12 - More from the Duchess of Cornwall on the Queen's "unbelievable" reign
Speaking to ITV News's Alastair Stewart, the Duchess said: "Oh it's unbelievable, it's unbelievable.
“I just can't believe it's as long as Queen Victoria...such a big person in history, you know, to beat that and you know, with such style.”
13.07 - The Queen has arrived at Tweedbank for the final engagement of the day
13.01 - well-wisher faints waiting for the Queen to arrive
An update from Harry Wallop at Tweedbank
Crowds now getting thick with people, flags and flasks of coffee. There are easily over 1,000 at Tweedbank in the station carpark. The brass band is playing Pharell Williams's "Happy". Someone has fainted in the crush and a shout has gone up for biscuits. "Anyone got chocolates, biscuits, anything." A bag of pear drops has been passed back.
12.56 - A big day for Cerys
Cerys Hares, 11, won the chance to present the Queen with a posy at Newtongrange when she designed a poster for the new railway in a school competition.
The Newtongrange primary pupil said she practiced curtsying "a thousand times" before the big day.
She said: "I was really nervous but I feel better now."
12.47 - A marvellous day for the Queen, says Camilla
Touring the ITV studios to mark the channel's 60th birthday, the Duchess of Cornwall has discussed the Queen's landmark with This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes.
Holmes said: "Camilla told me she thought it was a great day for the Queen, a marvellous day."
12.42 - Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman pays tribute to the Queen
Following David Cameron in the Commons tributes session, Harriet Harman said: "There can be no doubt of the commitment that she has made and the public service she has given, and continues to give.
"Her life has been a great sweep of British history - the Second World War, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and she's presided over the transition from empire to Commonwealth."
Ms Harman also joked: "She is now on her 12th Prime Minister. We on these benches had hoped she would now be on her 13th.
"She reigns over 140 million people - that is a huge number, nearly as many as the number of Labour Party's registered supporters - and it's entirely characteristic of her that she has let it be known that she doesn't want there to be a fuss about today, but we are making a fuss and deservedly so."
12.37 Duke of York praises his mother's "consistency"
The BBC has secured an interview with the Duke of York, often said to be the Queen's favourite son. Here's what he had to say about why the Queen's reign has been so long and successful.
Very simple, consistency. And sound leadership. And that’s both from a familial perspective and from a national perspective. But in many respects it’s the consistent delivery of her service to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth which is marked so well.
And having spent some of the summer holidays with the Queen, it was interesting to note her perspective. Tomorrow is business as usual. It’s a milestone in UK terms but as far as her consistency and leadership, it’s the run-of-the mill, normal day. A normal day in her reign.
Yes it’s an extraordinary achievement in some respects but it’s actually about the consistency and the leadership she is showing and has shown throughout her reign which is probably the one thing that marks her up more than anything else.
12.33 - Gloriana's Thames tribute
Meanwhile, on the Thames, the royal rowbarge Gloriana, built for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, has led a small flotilla of boats down the Thames as a private tribute to the Queen. HMS Belfast fired a four-gun salute as they went past.
12.27 - Here are our latest videos of the Queen's day so far.
12.25 - "And what do you do?"
The latest picture from aboard the Queen's train
12.04 - Crowds come from miles around to see the Queen
Some in the crowd are railway buffs here to see the first steam locomotive for 50 years in the Borders. But most are here for the Queen. Some of the 600 who are now here are locals, but some have driven over two hours, from Cumbria, Northumberland and Renfrewshire.
Viv Geoghegan, 68, says: "The Queen is the only thing that is stable.Governments come and go and she's always there. She has such integrity."
Brian Farmer, 68, from Melrose. "I can remember the last time she came through on this line to Melrose. It must have been 1953 and she was wearing primrose. I was a wee lad and I had to dance a Scottish dance."
What do you hope she might say? "Sorry, I'm late". He then laughed.
"She is such a brilliant asset for Britain."
12.00 - a "golden thread" running through our history
Mr Cameron said it was "truly humbling" to comprehend the scale of the Queen's public service, noting: "The reign of Queen Elizabeth has been a golden thread running through three post-war generations, and she's presided over more than two-thirds of our history as a full democracy with everyone being able to vote."
He added the Queen has answered more than 3.5 million pieces of correspondence and sent more than 100,000 telegrams to centenarians across the Commonwealth and "met more people than any other monarch in history".
Mr Cameron prompted laughter in the Commons as he added: "And yet whether it's something we suspect she enjoys, like the Highland Games, or something we suspect she might be slightly less keen on, such as spending new year's eve in the Millennium Dome, she never, ever falters.
"Her selfless sense of service and duty have earned her unparalleled respect and admiration not only in Britain but around the world."
11.57 - Cameron leads the tributes from the Commons
In a half-hour session of tributes in Parliament, David Cameron said the Queen would have wanted today to be treated like any other day, adding: "While I rarely advocate disobeying Her Majesty, least of all in her own Parliament, I do think it's right today we should stop and take a moment as a nation to mark this historic milestone and to thank Her Majesty for the extraordinary service she's given to our country over more than six decades."
He also said: "The Queen is our Queen and we could not be more proud of her. She has served this country with an unerring grace, dignity and decency and long may she continue to do so."
Mr Cameron said the Queen inspired everyone with her "incredible service, dignified leadership and the extraordinary grace" with which she carries out her duties.
He recalled when the monarch, then aged 21, vowed to dedicate her life to serving the Commonwealth, telling MPs: "It's one thing for a 21-year-old to utter those inspiring words. It's another to live by them for more than 60 years."
11.53 - The Queen's train stops at Newtongrange
The Queen has got off the train at Newtongrange, halfway through her journey, to unveil a plaque commemorating her visit. She has also greeted the crowds with a brief walkabout.
And here's the scene on the footplate...
11.50 - A special gift from the Government
The Cabinet is to present the Queen with a bound copy of Cabinet papers from the meeting when ministers approved the content of her first Queen's Speech at the state opening of Parliament, Downing Street has announced.
The meeting was held on October 22 1952 in the House of Commons rooms of then prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, and the state opening of Parliament came a fortnight later on November 4.
David Cameron's official spokeswoman said the nature of the gift "reflected how Her Majesty wanted to mark the day" and "highlights just how many cabinets there have been since her first".
11.48 Don't read this if you're saving up for a deposit on your first home
The Press Association reports that when the Queen came to the throne in 1952, the average house price in decimalised money was £1,888, a pint of beer cost 9p and a pint of milk 3p.
Sixty three years later in 2015, the average house price is £277,000, a pint of draught bitter sells for £2.97 and a pint of milk sets you back 43p.
11.46 - Full steam ahead for the Union of South Africa as it takes the Queen southwards
11.40 - Sturgeon takes pride of place
Scotland's First Minister has bagged the seat next to the Queen for the first part of the journey at least...
11.36 - Queen's jewellery tribute to Victoria
The Queen has a superb eye for subtle details, and the bow brooch she is wearing is her personal tribute to Queen Victoria. It was owned by her great-great grandmother and was passed down to her by Queen Mary.
The brooch is one of a set of three ordered by Victoria from the royal jeweller Garrard, made with 506 diamonds she supplied.
11.34 - aisle or window Ma'am? Window please...
11.31 - The scene aboard the Queen's train
11.27 - Google introduces PegMa'am to its maps app
Google Maps has paid a special tribute to the Queen by replacing its Peg Man streetview icon with PegMa'am for the day.
11.25 - A wave to the crowds as the Queen enters the record books...
The Queen is wearing a coat by Karl Ludwig, a hat by Angela Kelly and a bow brooch that belonged to Queen Victoria, passed down to her by Queen Mary
11.20 - A boost for the Union
It's worth pointing out that although the Queen is staying at Balmoral, she could have carried out an engagement in any part of the UK today. However, the Queen (and her advisers) chose to spend the historic occasion in Scotland. Scots may have voted to stay in the Union, but after 63 years, the Queen is a master of playing the long game, and knows that keeping up appearances north of the border can only help with keeping the country together.
11.14: No delay as the Queen gets straight into her Pullman carriage.
11.12: The Queen, wearing blue, is out of her car and is being greeted by Nicola Sturgeon and other VIPs.
11.07 - The Queen arrives in Edinburgh
Phew. The fog finally lifted in Balmoral and the Queen has now arrived in Edinburgh, where her car is about to arrive at Waverley Station.
10.58 - A long day for the Galashiels Youth Band
Harry Wallop reports from Tweedbank, where the Queen's train journey will end and she is expected to say a few words to mark her historic achievement.
The Queen is running hour late. She is fog-bound in Balmoral. Meanwhile a crowd numbering about 400 so far are being entertained by the Galashiels Youth Band playing a brass version of Let it Go
10.53 - The weather has no respect for history
The Queen is currently running an hour late because fog has delayed her departure from Balmoral by helicopter.
10.50 - The monarchy is 'popular across society and here to stay'
New data from YouGov has shown that even in the modern age, the Monarchy is popular across society, and people want to keep it, reports Helena Horton
The majority of the country - 68% - believes that the monarchy is a worthwhile institution, and this view is held across the political spectrum and in every age group.
Labour supporters like the Royal family the least, but still the majority (57%) believe we should have a monarchy. This compares to 88% of Conservatives, 77% of Lib Dems, and 67% of UKIP supporters.
Most young people like the monarchy, with 61% of 18-24 year olds believing we should keep it, compared to 79% of those aged 60 plus.
Republicanism doesn't seem to have wide support- only 18% of the British public believe we should have an elected head of state instead of the Royal family.
Most people (68%) also believe we will have a monarchy in a century, so the Queen will most likely have an enduring legacy even after her long reign.
One member of the Royal family the public aren't sure about is the Duchess of Cornwall who only 18% believe should have the title 'Queen' when Prince Charles ascends the throne. Some 32% think she should have no title at all.
10.42 - Commonwealth Secretary-General sends his congratulations
Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, has sent a message to the Queen saying: "As a symbol of continuity during decades of unprecedented change, and by drawing our people together in their rich diversity, Her Majesty has embodied all that is best in the Commonwealth. With vision and dedication her example has encouraged successive generations of leaders and citizens to embrace the promise of the future.
"In congratulating Her Majesty on this historic occasion the Commonwealth joins with a fresh sense of common purpose, committed to advancing in practical ways the shared values and principles now set out in the Commonwealth Charter."
10.37 - How does Queen Elizabeth II's reign compare with Queen Victoria's?
Want to know how the Queen's reign measures up to the women she is overtaking? We have all the answers in this addictive interactive timeline.
10.35 - Why Elsie Titshall has three reasons to celebrate today
The Queen’s historic achievement will be even more memorable for one particular Telegraph reader who celebrates her 100th birthday today.
Elsie Titshall, of Goring, West Sussex, will not only be receiving the traditional birthday card from the Queen, but also a free year’s subscription to the Telegraph as our way of marking the occasion.
Mrs Titshall has been a Telegraph reader for decades and has been subscribing since 1998, and enjoys reading the Business section, a favourite of her late husband Ernest, and completes our Sudoku puzzles to keep her mind active.
She said: “The Queen means everything to me. Royalty holds the whole country together, and the whole Commonwealth, just as they did during the war.
“The Queen has said she doesn’t want a fuss about her breaking the record, and I don’t want a fuss either. I’m not a celebrity, I’m just an ordinary person that loves my family and the friends that are so good to me.”
Mrs Titshall knows all about duty: she worked in intelligence before the war until she had to give up work because she was having a baby.
Mrs Titshall, who has two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, remembers seeing the Queen’s father, George VI, in a procession in London when she was a young woman. The Queen is the fourth monarch of her lifetime, and she recalls watching the Coronation on television in 1953, along with most of the rest of the nation.
Asked if she had any secrets to longevity, she said: “Not really. I wasn’t a fitness fanatic or particularly health-conscious about food, I have the occasional drink socially and I used to have the occasional cigarette if other people were having one, but I didn’t like them.
“I just wanted to live a life and have a happy marriage, which I did, for 65 years, and that was everything to me.
“I’ve no idea why I’m still around. Very often I say to myself when I wake up: ‘Are you still here?’”
If she lives to be 105, Mrs Titshall can expect another card from the Queen, according to convention, which will be followed by a birthday card every year after that.
10.33 - Nicola Sturgeon goes walkabout
The Scottish First Minister has been greeting the crowds as she waits for the Queen to arrive
10.13 - the train driver becoming part of history
Steve Hanczar is the lucky train driver who has been given the job of pulling the Queen's carriage on her special day. And here he is...
10.05 Germany continues its love-in with the Queen
Germany, which welcomed "Die Queen" so enthusiastically earlier this year during her State visit, has devoted huge amounts of coverage to the Queen's landmark.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung hails Her Majesty as "Queen Forever" while Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described Her Majesty as "The Saviour of the Monarchy".
10.01 - Australians discuss whether the Queen should be their last monarch
In Australia, the Queen's milestone is being celebrated by monarchists, but it is also being used by republicans to kick-start the debate on whether the country should scrap the British monarch as their head of state.
09.57 - How many minutes has the Queen reigned for?
Depending on how you calculate the length of the Queen's reign, she may have surpassed the record yesterday, today, or even tomorrow. But Buckingham Palace has used the formula of total days reigned, which seems sensible.
When the Queen passes the record, she will have been monarch for around 33,446,430 minutes - or approximately 2,006,785,800 seconds.
09.45 - Crowds arrive to greet the Queen
Wellwishers are in place at Waverley Station in Edinburgh, where the Union of South Africa, the steam train that will pull the Queen's carriage, is looking resplendent
09.39 - Business as usual for the other royals
The Duchess of Cornwall is, like other members of the Royal family, treating today as a normal working day. She will be at the ITV studios in London to go behind the scenes of the This Morning programme to help celebrate the channel's 60th anniversary. She is expected to appear live on television at 10.30. ITV is one of the many things that was not around when the Queen came to the throne.
09.29 - Low key celebrations in Tuvalu?
The day of the Queen's longest reign first dawned in Tuvalu, the Pacific island which is the easternmost of the Commonwealth realms. Sadly we don't have a correspondent on Tuvalu and the news section of the island's official website hasn't been updated since 2012, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited!
09.25 - The Queen's train has arrived at Waverley Station
09.20 - BT Tower's special tribute to the Queen
Over at the BT Tower in London, a scrolling message of congratulations can be seen from miles around.
09.17 - What is the Queen doing today?
For those of you wondering what today's official engagement is all about, the Queen will be opening the new Scottish Borders Railway, which runs from Edinburgh to Tweedbank near Galashiels.
The original Waverley Railway was closed in January 1969 as part of the Beeching cuts, so the line has been torn up and then rebuilt all within the Queen's reign.
It is 30 miles long, used 95,834 sleepers, and involved the construction of 42 new bridges.
We expect the see the Queen at Waverley Station in about an hour.
09.05 - How well do you know the Queen?
The Telegraph's resident quizmaster, Gavin Fuller, has compiled a quiz to test your knowledge of the Queen's reign. It's only 12 questions, so what are you waiting for?
08.51 - everything you need to know about the Mary McCartney portrait
Buckingham Palace aren't saying who choose the exact pose for Mary McCartney's portrait of the Queen, but it is a picture that has been chosen to show the world that the Queen is as active as ever.
The Queen had wanted today to be "business as usual" and that's exactly what the picture is saying to us. During her reign the Queen has opened 23,162 red boxes (give or take a few) and she has no intention of slowing down.
Meanwhile our friends at the Royal Collection Trust have sent us some details of what you can see in the picture.
The roll top desk by François-Gaspard Teuné (b.1726) was made between 1781 and 1788 and is of oak and pine veneered in tulipwood, purplewood, sycamore, boxwood and satinwood, with gilt bronze mounts. It was purchased in Paris by Sir William Knighton on behalf of George IV, 22 September 1828.
The chair that Her Majesty is sitting on is by John Linnell (1729-96) and dates from 1768. It is described as "an open armchair of carved walnut with grey fields and gilded in part with a curved back on cabriole legs. Over upholstered seat, back and arm rests and decorated with a shell to the centre and palmettes".
The commode in the background with the photographs on it is attributed to Pierre Langlois (active 1754-81) and was made between 1755 and 1770. It is oak, veneered in quartered sections of satinwood, bordered by rosewood and fitted with a red griotte marble slab and gilt bronze mounts.
The red box is on a circular mahogany table supported on three columns on a tripod plinth raised on three acanthus scroll legs. The mahogany top is inlaid with a floral wreath of light wood.
The portraits in the background include the Queen Mother (on the desk) and in the same room are pictures of the Queen's father, George VI, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
08.31 - Google pays tribute
Google posted a Congratulations Ma'am link on its homepage, linking to news stories about the day, while Buckingham Palace's official Twitter account released a photo of the Queen at her desk by Mary McCartney.
08.30 - A Major achievement
Sir John Major, one of the 12 prime ministers of Elizabeth II's reign so far, described the sovereign as an "absolute constant" in British life.
Sir John told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "Throughout the last 60 or so years, the Queen has been an absolute constant.
"Whilst prime ministers have come and gone, celebrities have come and gone, life has changed, she and the monarchy have been an absolute constant in their lives and I think that is very reassuring."
08.18 - David Cameron pays tribute on Twitter
The Prime Minister is awake, and paying tribute to the monarch:
07.45 - Queen's 'awe-inspiring' achievements hailed by Kirk Moderator
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has paid tribute to the "utterly awe-inspiring" achievements of the Queen, as she becomes the United Kingdom's longest serving monarch.
Rt Rev Angus Morrison said that in future she is likely to be recognised as one of the greatest monarchs in the country's history.
The Moderator spent last weekend with the Queen at Balmoral Castle and preached in her presence at nearby Crathie Kirk, which she attends when staying in Aberdeenshire.
Today, he said: "People may well wonder what it is that motivates a lady of the Queen's years to continue day by day with the same full schedule of work and engagements that she has undertaken throughout her reign. The answer, I believe, is both simple and profound.
"At the time of her coronation the Queen took a solemn vow before God of service to the people of this country and of the Commonwealth. The sense of duty to fulfil her vow lies very deep, as does her commitment to the people she serves. From this course, she has never wavered though all the years.
"Undergirding all is the Queen's cherished Christian faith, and her desire that all her service will bring glory to God, as well as blessing to her people.
"The achievements of Her Majesty during her reign, to date, are utterly awe-inspiring. I have no doubt that in future ages she will be recognised as one of the greatest monarchs in the history of our country.
"At this particular milestone, the Queen can be assured of the enduring admiration and affection of her people, as we thank God for her, and also of our good wishes and prayers for abiding health and strength, as she continues in self-giving service to us all."
At this time of year, the Queen takes her traditional summer break at Balmoral.
Rev Ken MacKenzie, minister of Crathie Kirk, said there is "terrific admiration and affection in the community" for the Queen.
He said: "She derives some peace and respite from the grandeur of these hills and takes a great interest in the community and all that we are involved in.
"The Queen has served without putting a foot wrong She sees her role as a duty but does it with grace too. Her commitment to office comes partly from a deep sense of calling. These are promises she made before God. Her faith is very much to the fore in her life and has been all these long years of service.
"The Queen has made it clear that she does not see this day as a landmark in the same way the anniversary of the coronation might be. This day is essentially linked to good health and long life. For the rest of us, however, it is perhaps a day to acknowledge and give thanks for her devoted service to the country over so many years."
It is understood that in keeping with the Queen's business-as-usual approach, today will be a normal working day for the monarch with no special dinner party.
Joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, she will open the new Scottish Borders Railway and take a steam train ride on the new £294 million route with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
07.42 - 'She had everybody in fits of laughter'
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mary Francis, who was one of the Queen's aides in the late 90s, revealed another side to the monarch.
She said: "She can be great fun. I've seen her on one of the last holidays on the Royal Yacht Britannia - the only time I ever saw the Queen wear trousers.
"She let her hair down. She told stories. She had everybody in fits of laughter so she can be very relaxed - at times."
07.40 - The Queen's official photo released on Twitter
Buckingham Palace has released another photo by Mary McCartney on its Twitter account this morning.
The image shows the Queen sat slightly away from her desk, smiling and holding some official papers. Clear handled letter openers are among the items on her tidy desk.
07.38 - A remarkable day
Royal writer Hugo Vickers said: "I think it's really rather like a terribly rare eclipse of the sun. This date will probably never be passed again. It's completely remarkable.
"When Queen Victoria out-reigned George III in 1896, she was already an old lady, very rarely seen, whereas our Queen is firing on all cylinders.
"We're incredibly lucky. It's a remarkable achievement."
Mr Vickers added: "When things are rough and difficult, she's a point of stability. She's steadfast. She's always had a clear vision to what her role as Queen is. She's enjoyed her role and she's very dutiful, as people will keep telling you, but she's enjoyed being dutiful which is a tremendous advantage.
"She's kept going through good times and bad times and I think that's a huge example to all of us. I don't think honestly you'll find anyone who's quite on the side of Britain as the Queen is."
"It's rather fun that it's a sort of quiet celebration. I think people will just raise a quiet glass to the Queen. When she becomes 90, she wants to focus more on that."
07.36 -'Clean for The Queen' campaign launched
A nationwide "Clean for The Queen" campaign has been launched in a bid to clear up Britain in time for the monarch's 90th birthday.
The initiative, which was announced to coincide with the day Elizabeth II becomes the nation's longest reigning monarch, will encourage people to tackle the litter problem in the country's cities, town, villages, roadsides and countryside by June 2016.
Country Life magazine is spearheading the drive, which is backed by the Government and organisations such as the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, the RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), the Women's Institute and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
An army of litter pickers will be rallied to tidy up their local areas and a special clean up weekend will be staged from March 4 to March 6 next year.
The Queen's actual birthday is on April 21, but her official birthday will be marked next June when the bulk of the national celebrations will be held.
Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life, said levels of litter have changed dramatically since the Queen first became monarch in 1952.
"When she came to the throne litter was not the problem that it is today. Food packaging, plastic bottles, takeaway meals and cigarette butts have all contributed to a growing menace that affects our wildlife, streets, countryside and sense of pride," he said.
"What better way could we show our gratitude to Her Majesty than to clean up our country and stop the despoilation of its natural beauty and urban areas."
The initiative is being overseen by Adrian Evans, who was in charge of the Queen's Jubilee River Pageant in 2012.
He urged people to make Britain beautiful for the Queen's 90th, adding: "This campaign should be embraced by everyone who cares about our country."
Environment minister Rory Stewart said: "(The Queen's) 90th birthday is a unique opportunity for people to come together in celebration of Her Majesty's long service and dedication to this country.
"Everyone has a responsibility to keep their community tidy and this campaign provides us with a great chance to protect our wildlife and improve the quality of our streets and public spaces. I hope it will help lead to a lasting legacy of a cleaner, tidier Britain."
More than 30 million tonnes of litter are collected from England's streets every year - enough to fill Wembley Stadium four times over. The amount of litter on UK beaches has almost doubled over the past 15 years, according to Clean for The Queen.
The campaign was launched in this week's edition of Country Life.
07.31 - Thames procession leads Queen's reign celebrations
A royal rowbarge leading a procession down the River Thames, the ringing of church bells and tributes from MPs in the House of Commons form just some of the celebrations honouring the Queen's reign.
London's BT Tower is scrolling the message "Long May She Reign" from sunrise until late in the evening while at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle - the monarch's favourite residence - prayers are being said to mark the historic day.
On the day the Queen passes Queen Victoria's record to become Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh's Palace of Holyroodhouse and Windsor Castle are unveiling special outdoor exhibitions of photos.
Long To Reign Over Us, which can be viewed by visitors to the palaces and castle, includes official portraits and images of the Queen from 1952 to the present day, such as Cecil Beaton's 1953 official Coronation Day portrait, as well as informal pictures of the monarch and her family.
At 11.30am in Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth II married in 1947 and was crowned less than six years later when she was 27, bell ringers will ring a quarter peal for 50 minutes.
On the River Thames, the Queen's rowbarge Gloriana will lead a flotilla of boats in a procession, setting off east from Tower Bridge at midday and sounding their horns for one minute in tribute to the sovereign.
Tower Bridge will lift as a mark of respect and as the procession passes HMS Belfast, a four-gun salute will sound out and the Massey Shaw fireboat will shoot jets of water into the air.
Among the boats will be the Havengore, which was used to transport Sir Winston Churchill's body on the day of his state funeral in 1965, as well as the steam ship SS George Stephenson.
Pagentmaster Adrian Evans is hoping spectators will create a "wave of applause" in honour of the Queen as they watch the colourful flotilla pass by.
The 45-minute procession will end outside the Houses of Parliament with a final fanfare and three cheers for the monarch.
The celebrations are much more low-key than any of the Queen's jubilees. For her Diamond Jubilee, the multi-million pound Gloriana - an 88ft ornately-carved 18-oared rowbarge decorated with gold leaf - joined a parade of more than 1,000 vessels and ships down the Thames.
In Windsor, a special walking route named The Queen's Walkway has been completed by the Outdoor Trust.
The Queen gave her permission for the route to bear her EIIR cypher on bronze markers.
The Walkway connects 63 points of interest such as the Henry VIII Gateway of the Castle and the Guildhall where the Prince of Wales married the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005.
It stretches for 6.37km to symbolically represent the 63 years and 7 months the Queen has reigned.
Normal business will be postponed in the House of Commons for half an hour from 11.30am to allow MPs to pay tribute to the head of state.
Special prayers, drafted by the Church of England's Liturgical Commission and approved by the Palace, have also been written and will be read at church services across the country.
One gives "heartfelt thanks for her service to her people" while another expresses gratitude that "you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people, and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her".
07.29 - 'Modest Queen is symbol of reassurance in a changing world'
The Queen is modest about her record-breaking reign, but has responded to people's desire to mark the occasion, one royal historian has said.
Robert Lacey said the Queen would have preferred an undisturbed holiday in Scotland, but had done her job as sovereign by agreeing to carry out an engagement on the day she becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history.
"It's an accident of time and date in a sense, but it carries all sorts of significance and I think the way people are reacting to it, it's part of our times, it's part of history," the royal writer said.
"It reminds us of times we've lived through together. For some older people it goes back as far as the Second World War and those years of austerity.
"There's still something of that slightly Churchillean bulldog spirit about the Queen that people respond to."
He suggested: "As we all know, she's a very modest person, rather shy in some ways and I think those are two aspects of her appeal and reasons for her success - essential modesty.
"But as we've seen, she's done her job as the sovereign, she's responded to the feelings of the people as she did indeed after the death of Diana."
He added: "There she is up in Scotland. She doesn't want her holiday disturbed ... but as her people have clamoured for her she agreed to take part in this occasion with Nicola Sturgeon."
Lacey described the Queen as a symbol of reassurance in a changing world.
He suggested she was a better role model than her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, whose record she is overtaking, because Victoria was lazier and saw herself as superior to her subjects.
"In a changing world which disturbs many people profoundly, she has been a symbol of reassurance," Lacey said.
"I think one of the dreadful things we've seen in the last 30 and 40 years, as the world has spun faster and faster, people have turned to fundamentalist religion of all sorts, nationalist feelings, ethnic feelings to create roots.
"She has shown an alternative form of rooted-ness in tolerant faith, in her sense of duty, in her unfailing politeness, in her modesty. In a world that is increasingly dominated by celebrity and celebratory-seeking politicians, she offers an alternative role model.
"It's on occasions like today that that role model will be acknowledged.
"I think she's offers a better role model than Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was rather wilful, rather imperious, rather spoilt and not hard-working. As a monarch, she was rather superior to her people.
"Queen Elizabeth II has genuinely seen herself as a servant and seen her work as service, and service and duty and obligation and hard work - these are all virtues that deserve celebrating.
"In 1957 she said: 'I can't lead you into battle, I can't make laws, I can't adjudicate on laws, but I can do my duty', and that's what she's done."
07.27 - Will the Queen reflect on her reign later?
There is speculation the Queen may reflect on the historic day that sees her eclipse her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria's reign, if she gives a speech when she opens the new £294 million Scottish Borders Railway.
The day will begin with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arriving at Waverley Station in Edinburgh to board a train with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The train will be drawn by the steam locomotive Union of South Africa.
The royal party will travel the new route, stopping off at Newtongrange in Midlothian before carrying on to the final station on the railway, the Borders town of Tweedbank, where the opening ceremony will be held.
Celebrity photographer Mary McCartney, who has captured the Queen at work to mark the historic day, has described her as a "beacon for womankind".
The official photograph released today and taken by McCartney, the daughter of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, shows the Queen sitting at her desk in Buckingham Palace, working on matters of state.
McCartney said: "Having grown up during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II it was a thrill to meet her and a very great privilege to take her photo on this historic occasion.
"She is a truly inspirational person, a trailblazer and a beacon for womankind."
David Cameron has already paid tribute to the Queen, telling Cabinet colleagues at their weekly meeting in Downing Street yesterday that the Queen had a "remarkable record" and was "a symbol of Britain's enduring spirit admired around the world".
Later today, the Queen will pass the record set by Queen Victoria, who defined an era and left an indelible mark on 19th century British history.
The exact moment the Queen passes Victoria's milestone is not known as there is no precise time for the death of her father, George VI - who died in the early hours of February 6 1952.
But it is thought he probably died at 1am, so at around 5.30pm the Queen will make history as Buckingham Palace has calculated she will have reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes, a few minutes longer than Victoria.
Celebrations will be held throughout the day, with church bells ringing out across the country and business in the House of Commons postponed for half an hour so MPs can pay tribute to the Queen.
The BT Tower will scroll the message "Long May She Reign" and the royal rowbarge Gloriana will join a flotilla of boats in a procession down the River Thames.
Tower Bridge will lift as a mark of respect and, as the procession passes HMS Belfast, a four-gun salute will sound out and the Massey Shaw fireboat will shoot jets of water into the air.
07.23 - We are lucky to live in the New Elizabethan Age
Read the Telegraph View:
A fixed point in an ever-changing world, Queen Elizabeth II has anchored and sustained her subjects
07.20 - Her reign in numbers
The monarch has served the Commonwealth through the Cold War, the Space Age and the Internet Age. Here is a breakdown of her reign in numbers:
Interactive: Queen facts
07.18 - First class Queen
The Royal Mail has revealed the 1st class stamp is turning purple to mark the Queen's historic record-breaking reign.
The classic everyday 63p stamp, which features the monarch's profile by sculptor Arnold Machin, has switched from its regular red to regal purple for the next 12 months in celebration.
Its iridescent overprint, which usually reads "Royal Mail", now bears the text "Long to Reign Over Us".
It is the first time the colour purple has ever been used for what is known as the First Class Definitive stamp.
Andrew Hammond, stamps and collectibles director at Royal Mail, said: "Royal Mail stamps mark the most significant anniversaries and landmark events in the life of our country. We are proud to commemorate Her Majesty becoming the longest-reigning monarch in UK history."
The new stamp, along with a collection of four others, has been issued on the day the Queen becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch.
The miniature sheet of stamps includes a 1st class stamp featuring William Wyon's City Medal head of Queen Victoria - the country's previous longest reigning monarch.
The image on the Penny Black - the world's first postage stamp - was based on this portrait, which came from a sketch of Victoria when she was 15 years old.
Another 1st class stamp features Dorothy Wilding's three-quarter profile photograph of Elizabeth II which was printed on British postage stamps from 1952 until 1967.
There are also two £1.52 stamps - the first showing the Badge of the House of Windsor with the Castle's Round Tower of Windsor Castle flying the Royal Standard and the second containing the Queen's Personal Flag, designed in 1960 for use in Commonwealth countries. It includes an "E" with a crown, surrounded by a garland of roses.
07.17 - Army pays tribute
The Army will commemorate the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch in British history today with a "dignified restraint".
In recognition that the calculations for the historic day rest on the moment the Queen's father and great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria died, the Army's tribute will be more reflective.
An Army spokeswoman said: "The Army's tribute to their Commander in Chief has a dignified restraint.
"A Drumhead Service will be held in Bury St Edmunds with 6 Army Air Corps, and in London, the Household Division, which enjoys a uniquely close relationship with the sovereign, has arranged for the Band of the Coldstream Guards to perform a bespoke piece of music which will be released on the day."
Forty musicians from the band will perform the quintessentially British piece Vivat Regina (Long Live The Queen), the first of Four Historical Portraits by composer and band leader Laurie Johnson who has scored a number of films including Dr Strangelove.
Director of Music Major Simon Haw said: "It is a huge privilege to be marking this historic occasion on behalf of the Household Division. The piece of music we have chosen: Long Live The Queen is something we all long for."
At around 5.30pm the Queen will surpass Victoria's reign of 23,226 days, 16 hours and 30 minutes. Victoria was 18 when she acceded to the throne, the Queen was 25. The length of reign has been calculated by experts at the Royal Household to the nearest point of accuracy, taking into account leap days in both reigns.
07.16 - Longest reigns in history
Interactive: Longest reigning monachs
Good morning and welcome to a momentous day. The Queen is celebrating becoming our longest-serving monarch later, and tributes are expected to flood in to mark the historic occasion.
The milestone is likely to set the seal on her reign as sovereign, which so far has lasted more than 63 years.
Here is our live coverage.