Queen Elizabeth II, who took the throne on February 6, 1952, is poised to become the longest-serving British monarch in history, second in the world to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has ruled since 1950.
To put this further in perspective: When young Elizabeth was crowned, Harry S Truman was president and Josef Stalin was leader of the USSR.
On September 9, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s record of 63 years, seven months, and two days on the throne, reports CNN. “Already the country's longest-lived monarch and the world's oldest-serving sovereign,” Elizabeth, at age 89, is the sixth queen and 40th monarch of the United Kingdom.
What has Queen Elizabeth accomplished in her decades on the throne?
Over the course of her rule, Queen Elizabeth has traveled to 116 countries, and she was the first reigning British sovereign to visit Saudi Arabia or China. She assented to more than 3,500 Acts of Parliament, including a change to the law of succession that will allow first-born daughters to take precedence over later-born sons. She is heavily involved in charity work, serving as patron of over 600 charities and organizations.
Above all, "the successful and largely peaceful transition to the Commonwealth of Nations has arguably been the Queen's crowning achievement,” writes Victoria Arbiter, CNN’s royal commentator.
As monarch, the Queen is head of state for the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms, as well as head of the Commonwealth itself, an association of 53 independent countries. At the time of her accession, only eight countries belonged to the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth could have “quite easily fallen apart under different management,” said British historian Andrew Roberts to NBC News, adding that Elizabeth has a “deft political sense.”
While the British government transitioned into a constitutional monarchy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sovereign still plays a critical role in the Britain. She “acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service,” according to the British Monarchy’s official website.
Parliament controls the vast majority of Britain's political power, but the monarch maintains three rights, noted Victorian economist and writer Walter Bagehot: "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn."
Her understated authority has contributed to her record popularity, with 69 percent in favor of the queen, according to a 2012 Guardian/ICM poll.
To commemorate the record-breaking date, Queen Elizabeth will appear in public to open the Borders Railway in Tweedbank, Scotland, “the longest domestic line to be built in Britain for more than 100 years,” says Arbiter.
British citizens can celebrate by having a bowl of cereal in the queen’s name, as Kellogg’s releases a special edition of cornflakes mixed with macadamia nuts and edible diamonds and pearls called “Queen flakes.”
During her royal tenure, the world has transformed, as Roberts told NBC: “Elizabeth has overseen a period of extraordinary technological advancement and social change.”