Britain’s Queen Elizabeth Lights National Beacon Marking 60 Years on the Throne

Posted June 4th, 2012 at 6:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth has lit a symbolic torch during a moving ceremony in London marking her 60 years on the throne.

Her son and future king, Prince Charles, flanked by British superstars Paul McCartney and Elton John, called the celebration the British people's chance to thank the queen for always being there for them.

The crowd offered three cheers and sang the British anthem “God Save the Queen” before Elizabeth lit the beacon and fireworks exploded over Buckingham Palace.

They also gave a special cheer for Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, who is hospitalized with a bladder infection.

The London beacon was the last of 4,200 hundred torches and bonfires lit all day Monday across Britain and the Commonwealth, starting with New Zealand and Tonga.

The four-day celebration ends Tuesday with the queen attending a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Cathedral. The royal family will make a balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace to wrap up the festivities.

Elizabeth succeeded her father King George after his death in 1952 and was coronated the following year.

She was crowned queen of seven Commonwealth countries — the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

Along with Britain, the monarch is the head of state of 16 other nations, known as realms. Her role is purely ceremonial. She is also head of the Commonwealth, an organization that rose from the ashes of Britain's empire. Most of its 53 member countries are former colonies.