Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated her 50th year on the throne with an address to a joint session of parliament that reflects on the vast changes seen in the second half of the 20th century. The Queen's speech marks the start of what will be 15 weeks of commemorations marking her long reign.
With pomp and ceremony, Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, entered Westminster Hall for the historic speech. It was only the fifth time she has made this kind of speech to such a gathering of political leaders.
Introducing the monarch, the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, spoke about how the times have changed since she took the throne in 1952 and the importance to the British people of her role over that time.
"Amidst this sea of change," said Mr. Martin, "the monarchy has acted as a beacon of stability, a unifying influence for her people. But it is not simply the throne that we honor here today, it is your personal contribution that we have reason to give thanks for."
Fifty years is a long time in any job, and over that span the queen has seen many changes, both good and bad. But as she said in her speech, change is inevitable, the ability to manage it is what is important.
"If a Jubilee becomes a moment to define an age, then for me, we must speak of change - its breadth and accelerating pace over these years," said the British monarch. "Since 1952, I have witnessed the transformation of the international landscape through which this country must chart its course: the emergence of a commonwealth, the growth of the European Union, the end of the cold war, and now the dark threat of international terrorism."
Queen Elizabeth also spoke of what she called the enduring British values of moderation, tolerance and service in coping with new and ever changing challenges.
Over the next 15 weeks, the 76-year-old queen will get a personal glimpse of just how closely those values are held today when she tours every region in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as part of her Golden Jubilee swing through Britain.