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Queen celebrates 65 years on throne as she marks Sapphire Jubilee

By Helen William

Well-wishers were greeted with a smile as the Queen went on a walkabout ahead of becoming the first British monarch to reach their Sapphire Jubilee.

The 90-year-old looked pleased as she gathered up bouquets from the waiting crowds after the church service at St Peter and St Paul in West Newton, Norfolk.

Three-year-old Jessica Atfield, who dressed specially for the occasion in a Union flag skirt, was delighted when she got to present a bunch of flowers to the Queen.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Elizabeth II came to the throne. She has now reigned for 65 years.

Yesterday, the Orange Order paid tribute to Her Majesty ahead of the occasion. Grand Master Edward Stevenson hailed the "remarkable longevity and selflessness" of Britain's longest serving monarch.

He said: "Since ascending the throne 65 years ago following the untimely death of her late father, King George VI, Her Majesty has remained a constant focus for the nation. While today is very much a personal anniversary, and not necessarily a public celebration, it is important to acknowledge the outstanding leadership, commitment and dedication of the Queen over the past six-and-a-half decades.

"We all owe Her Majesty a huge debt of gratitude for her extraordinary sense of duty and service, devoting herself untiringly to her subjects."

He added: "With God's blessing, we pray she will continue in her role as Head of State, setting an example to us all and playing a central role in our national life."

Accession Day will, as usual though, be a low key affair. The Queen will be spending it privately at her Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, and no grand celebrations have been planned. The sovereign, dressed in an aquamarine blue and black dress and coat, was joined at yesterday's church service by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Royal Mint is marking the 65th anniversary of the Queen's accession with a range of specially designed Sapphire Jubilee commemorative coins. Coins have been struck in a range of metals and denominations from £5, £10 and £500 to £1,000.

The recommended retail prices for the commemorative coins range from £13 for the Brilliant Uncirculated £5 piece to £49,995 for the £1,000 UK gold proof kilo coin.

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