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Queen Elizabeth marks her record reign with a rail trip

In 1952, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II assumed the throne after the death of her father. More than 63 years later, her reign has lasted longer than that of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who up until now had been the nation's longest ruling monarch. Tim Ewart of Independent Television News reports on how she spent the occasion.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight: Britain's monarch marks a milestone.

    Tim Ewart of Independent Television News has the story.

  • TIM EWART:

    It was a routine royal engagement, the reopening of a railway line, but this was a momentous moment in the queen's reign.

    She arrived from Balmoral, her estate in the highlands, where she had originally hoped to spend a quiet day. She was met in Edinburgh, a moment not without irony, by Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Many in her Scottish National Party would like to sever links with the crown.

    The queen was to be carried in style aboard the steam train Union of South Africa. Today was a day all about making journeys, one long, extraordinary so, touching seven decades, the four corners of the globe and the affections of many million people, the other short, 31 miles from Edinburgh down to the borders.

    The queen's thoughts may have been on a rather more somber journey many years ago. In February 1952, she flew back to London from Kenya after the sudden death of her father, King George VI. She had left a princess and returned a queen at just 25 years old.

  • DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:

    As the Union of South Africa headed south, a tide of tributes was gaining momentum, led by the prime minister. And it is, of course, typical of her selfless sense of service that she would have us treat this day just like any other.

  • TIM EWART:

    The queen's first stop was Newtongrange station. It was a chance to meet some of the thousands of well-wishers who had turned out to share her big day.

    The queen was always uncomfortable about celebrations she regards as inextricably linked to the death of her great-great grandmother, but such was the level of public and media interest in today's milestone in her reign that she was in the end forced to respond to it.

    Nicola Sturgeon, passionate advocate of Scottish independence, was now cheerleader for the British monarch.

    NICOLA STURGEON, First Minister of Scotland: Your Majesty, today, you become the longest reigning monarch in British history.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • TIM EWART:

    And the queen herself accepted that there was more here than just the opening of a railway. QUEEN ELIZABETH II: 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.

  • TIM EWART:

    A monarch who has traveled further and met more people than any other is now the longest to reign over her subjects.

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