The Queen has thanked the nation for its kind messages on the day she becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Reflecting on the landmark record, the Queen admitted it was not a milestone she had ever aspired to.
As she opened the £294 million Scottish Borders Railway in Tweedbank, the Queen said: “Prince Philip and I are very grateful for the warmth of your welcome on this occasion.
“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.”
The 89-year-old monarch, with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side, has spent the day travelling 40 miles on the railway with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, starting at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, stopping off at Newtongrange in Midlothian before carrying on to the Borders town of Tweedbank.
Later today, the Queen overtakes the record set by her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria to become the nation’s longest reigning sovereign, when she will have been on the throne for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes.
The Queen demonstrated her business as usual approach at the end of her short speech by remarking: “So now to the business in hand. It is my very happy duty to declare the Borders Railway open.”
The milestone is tinged with sadness for the Queen as the calculation of the length of her reign is linked to the death of her father, King George VI, and that of Queen Victoria.
There was no mention of Victoria in the Queen’s address but she was wearing her great-great grandmother’s diamond bow brooch, which was handed down to her through the generations.
The Queen began her speech by remarking that she and Philip were delighted to be back in the Borders and to have arrived by train.
“It’s been wonderful to witness the excitement which the return of the railway has brought here,” she said.
Earlier she was greeted by delighted crowds at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station as she stepped onto the polished steam locomotive Union of South Africa with Philip.
The Queen, the Duke and Ms Sturgeon travelled in a ‘’Pegasus’’ Pullman coach that seats 14 in the main lounge area and also has a bar - that was serving tea and coffee.
The trio were seated in a pristine private compartment at the end of the coach’s lounge area with the Queen’s entourage in nearby seats.
Tributes have been paid to the monarch with Prime Minister David Cameron declaring in the House of Commons: “The Queen is our Queen and we could not be more proud of her.
“She has served this country with an unerring grace, dignity and decency and long may she continue to do so.’’
Ms Sturgeon in her own speech greeted the Queen with ‘’a simple but heartfelt thank you’’ for her work.
She said: ‘’We are privileged ma’am that you have chosen to mark today’s milestone here. All of us are delighted to be able to share some of this special day with you. For those watching from around the world let me say, on their behalf ma’am a simple but heartfelt thank you.’’
The rest of the royals carried on with their scheduled diary of engagements, with the Queen’s daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall describing the milestone as “marvellous” on a tour of the studios of ITV show This Morning.
The Queen’s son the Duke of York, in a pre-recorded interview with the BBC, spoke of her consistency and leadership.
‘’It’s a milestone in UK terms but as far as her consistency and leadership - it’s the normal run of the mill sort of date. It’s just one day in her reign,” he said.
‘’So yes it’s an extraordinary achievement in some respects, but actually it’s about the consistency and the leadership that she is showing and has shown throughout her reign that I think is probably the one thing that marks her up more than anything else.’’
The exact moment the Queen passes Victoria’s milestone is not known as there is no precise time for the death of her father who died in the early hours of February 6 1952.
But it is thought he probably died at 1am so at around 5.30pm the Queen will make history when she will have reigned for a few minutes longer than Victoria.
Scotland’s First Minister highlighted in her speech, before the Queen opened the new railway, how Queen Victoria was also resident in Balmoral when she became the longest serving monarch in 1896 passing George III.
Speaking later Ms Sturgeon added: “I think it’s an historic occasion, I think the Queen is clearly, as we saw there, very modest herself about it.
“But she has given many, many long years of dedicated public service and the attendance here today was a sign that people want to show their gratitude to her for that.
“She was in tremendous form, I think she enjoyed the train journey, the most special bit of a very special journey was when the train went through Galashiels station and slowed down and she was able to see some people who had gathered there outside the window.”
Asked if an independent Scotland would keep the monarchy she replied: “My view and this was a view expressed during the referendum campaign last year is that, yes, the Queen, who is Queen of Scots, would remain head of state in an independent Scotland.”