Queen spends Accession Day, the start of her Diamond Jubilee Year, in King’s Lynn

No great fanfare. No grand ceremony. Today the Queen celebrates the start of her 60th year as Monarch in Norfolk - where her reign began.

Sixty years ago today, the world was stunned by the news King George VI had passed away in his sleep at Sandringham. His oldest daughter Princess Elizabeth, then 25, became Queen.

Today the Queen marked the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne by renewing her pledge to serve the nation and its people.

Echoing the famous words she delivered when a young princess in the 1940s, the monarch declared today to - 'dedicate myself anew to your service'.

Today the Queen will celebrate with a visit to King's Lynn Town Hall, where she will view some of the town's wealth of historic artefacts including King John's cup.

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Crowds are expected to gather in Lynn, despite the deep snow and cold conditions, to greet the Monarch.

Yesterday, a parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the King's Lynn branch of the Royal British legion was cancelled because the Tuesday Market Place lay under six inches of snow.

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The Queen has also been invited to an infant and nursery school in the nearby village of Dersingham where she will tour the building before watching a play about her 60 years as sovereign.

On the day she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee the sovereign earlier issued a heartfelt message to the nation, thanking all those who had given 'wonderful support and encouragement' to her and the Duke of Edinburgh over the past six decades.

The monarch stated she and Philip had been 'deeply moved' by the many kind messages they had received about her 60-year milestone, and her statement carried a unifying message as she hoped this 'special year' would remind the nation of the 'convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness'.

The 85-year-old sovereign's statement of intent to continue to serve the nation reveals she has lost none of her desire to fulfil her role as head of state despite her advancing years.

David Cameron has led the tributes to the Queen, highlighting her 'magnificent service' and how she has guided and united the country and Commonwealth with her 'experience, dignity and quiet authority'.

The Prime Minister added: 'You sometimes hear people talk as if the monarchy was simply a glittering ornament, a decoration on our national life.

'That misunderstands our constitution and it underestimates our Queen. Always dedicated, always resolute and always respected, she is a source of wisdom and continuity.'

When the Queen acceded to the throne as a young woman following the death of her father George VI on February 6 1952, the country was almost unrecognisable from today.

Britain was still gripped by rationing, and the country bore the scars of six years of war against the Nazis.

Five years earlier, during a visit to South Africa, on her 21st birthday - April 21 - she had vowed to serve the Commonwealth.

Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, said: 'I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.'

The Queen, obviously conscious of this pledge, said in her message released today: 'In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope that we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth.

'I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart as we join together in our celebrations.'

Britain's head of state already has the status of being the longest-serving monarch after Queen Victoria.

And like her great-great-grandmother, who reigned for more than 63 years, her many years on the throne have helped define an era.

Part of the monarch's importance is that she remains a constant in a changing world - a point of reference for politicians and public alike.

The historian and political biographer Ben Pimlott stated in his biography of her: ''The Queen's strength', as one of her aides, a friend for half a century, remarks, 'is that she doesn't change very much'.'

In her Diamond Jubilee message the monarch highlighted how she hoped during the year there would be time to 'give thanks' for the great advances that have been made since she came to the throne in 1952.

Over the decades Britain has embraced major transformations from technological advances like computers and supersonic flight to developments in society and the political landscape.

There have also been benefits generated by the medical and scientific world from transplant surgery to treatments for cancers.

During her reign she has seen 11 prime ministers come and go, with Mr Cameron her 12th, while Barack Obama is the 12th US president to hold office over the same period.

The Queen endured her 'annus horribilis' in 1992, the year the Prince of Wales separated from Diana, the Duke of York split from Sarah, and the Princess Royal divorced Captain Mark Phillips.

And she faced the criticisms that followed the death of Diana in 1997 when she was accused of remaining too long in Balmoral rather than returning to London - the focus of public grief.

But her Golden Jubilee in 2002 was a momentous occasion and showed there was still a strong feeling of support for the Queen.

Public affection for the monarchy has been boosted over the past year following the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the interest Kate has generated in the royals.

The Diamond Jubilee is likely to be a high-water mark in the life of a woman who became Queen as a young woman and remained true to her ideals.

February 6 - Accession Day - will be celebrated simply with a visit to King's Lynn Town Hall where the monarch will tour the civic building and view some historical artefacts.

She has also been invited to an infant and nursery school in the nearby village of Dersingham where she will tour the building before watching a play about her 60 years as sovereign.

Crowds are expected to gather at both locations, despite the deep snow and cold conditions, to greet the monarch who will share the celebrations of one of the most important days of her reign with ordinary people.

The other side of the Queen is represented by two official Diamond Jubilee photographs released today, showing the monarch looking relaxed yet regal dressed in a lavish gown with glittering jewels.

Her 60 years as monarch will be marked throughout the year by a series of regional, national and international events during 2012.

Members of the royal family will undertake Diamond Jubilee tours across the Commonwealth and the countries where the monarch is head of state, and the celebrations in the UK will culminate in a four-day Bank Holiday weekend in June.

A River Thames pageant featuring a 1,000-strong flotilla and a St Paul's Cathedral service of thanksgiving are some of the highlights of the weekend.


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