LONDON — She has been served by 12 prime ministers, starting with Churchill; navigated the decline of the British Empire; braved the tragedies of her family and the nation; and, on Sept. 9, edged out Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning monarch in British history: 64 years now. And she is lauded for having the stiffest upper lip in the realm.
On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 90th birthday, and a grateful Britain will honor a woman her biographer Douglas Hurd, a former foreign minister, has called “The Steadfast.”
Through seven decades, she has remained gloriously and relentlessly enigmatic in one of her signature pastel outfits and colorful hats, chosen, royal experts say, so onlookers can spot her in a crowd.
This being Britain, the occasion will be celebrated with pageantry; warm beer; longer pub hours; equestrian displays; and an appearance by the actress Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for portraying the queen.
But befitting a workhorse who carried out 341 engagements last year, Elizabeth kicked off birthday celebrations on Wednesday in a dutiful display: at a Royal Mail delivery center, where she and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, watched workers sort mail and were serenaded by a choir of postal employees. On Thursday, she is to light the first of more than 900 celebratory beacons. On Friday, President Obama will offer the queen birthday wishes at Windsor Castle.