Today’s columnist, James Taylor: Queen’s landmark year

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Pic: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Pic: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Last year proved to be another landmark year for the Royal Family.

September saw the Queen’s place in the history books assured as she surpassed Queen Victoria’s record and became the UK’s longest-serving monarch.

After suggestions that the Queen would spend the day privately at Balmoral, she made an appearance in Scotland to open the Borders Railway.

Although she said it was a milestone she had not aspired to, she thanked people across the world for their kind wishes.

It was a year which saw the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s generation brought to the fore as the royal couple took part in commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and their visit to Germany included a visit to the former Belsen Bergen Concentration Camp.

Their attendance at events has never been more appropriate since Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy – being mentioned in dispatches and Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, served in the ATS in the closing months of the war learning to drive and service vehicles.

The Royal Family continues to have a wide appeal.

This was shown by the elderly veterans who met and welcomed Her Majesty and His Royal Highness and the young people who queued to see the announcement of Princess Charlotte’s birth in May and who gathered to see Prince George’s first appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour ceremony in June.

The royal story is a continuing one and one day the young prince will appear on this balcony after his own birthday parade.

For now, though, questions of privacy continue to occupy their parents who try to balance the opportunity for people to see their children and their right to an ordinary childhood.

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry are both carrying out more royal duties as they have both left the armed forces.

The Duke of Cambridge has carried out several investitures on the Queen’s behalf and October saw him and the Duchess attend their first state banquet at Buckingham Palace.

During the year, I have been to a few royal occasions but the highlight was the Queen’s visit to Sheffield to distribute the Maundy Money at Sheffield Cathedral.

The ancient ceremony saw the Queen hand out the commemorative coins to 89 men and 89 women – one for each year of Her Majesty’s age who have carried out service to their church or community.

I joined BBC Radio Sheffield’s Rony Robinson at the window in Cutlers’ Hall to describe the ceremony as it unfolded for listeners.

There were some suggestions that the Queen might have used her Christmas message to announce her intention to abdicate.

This was unlikely for more than one reason, not least that it is broadcast at different times across the Commonwealth.

Instead, the Queen said she is looking forward to a busy 2016, adding “though I have been warned I may have Happy Birthday sung to me more than once or twice” – alluding to her 90th birthday in April.

With the official commemorations planned for next June, it looks set to unite people in the way only the Queen can.