Accession Day: Military Gun Salutes Marks Queen's 68 Years On Throne

Gun salutes nationwide have marked the 68th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne.

In London, soldiers from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, in full dress uniform, rode from Wellington Barracks past Buckingham Palace to nearby Green Park.

Seventy-one horses pulled six First World War-era 13-pounder field guns to the north of the park on Thursday, where the 41-gun salute was fired.

At the Tower of London, Honourable Artillery Company fired a 62-gun salute.

Other salutes included 21 guns fired at Edinburgh Castle, performed by 26 Regiment Royal Artillery.

Watch: 26 Regiment Royal Artillery fired a 21-gun salute from Edinburgh Castle.

The Queen is the nation’s longest-reigning monarch.

As is her tradition, she is spending the anniversary of her beloved father George VI’s death privately at Sandringham, where she has been staying during her winter break.

The then-Princess Elizabeth was 25 years old and thousands of miles from home on a Commonwealth tour with the Duke of Edinburgh in Kenya when the King died in his sleep from lung cancer at Sandringham House on 6 February 1952.

Her Majesty has ruled for 24,837 days, passing her Silver, Golden, Diamond and Sapphire Jubilees.

She became the nation’s longest-reigning monarch in September 2015, after overtaking her ancestor Queen Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation at Westminster Abbey
The Queen during her coronation at Westminster Abbey, in June 1953 (Picture: PA).

On Monday, the Queen visited RAF Marham to meet staff and watch a vertical landing of an F-35B fighter jet.

Why are gun salutes tradition?

The firing of gun salutes appears to have originated in the early days of sail.

Ships, when on goodwill visits to foreign ports, discharged all their guns to seaward on arrival thus indicating to the authorities ashore that their guns were empty and their visit peaceful.

Royal and national salutes are of 21 guns. The number of guns for other salutes varies from 19 to seven and is laid down in the Queen or King's Regulations for the Royal Navy.

In London, salutes are fired from Tower of London, Hyde Park and Green Park.

The basic salute is 21 rounds, fired at ten-second intervals, however, in royal parks an extra 20 are fired.

At the Tower of London, an additional 20 are also fired because it is a Royal Palace, and a further 21 because to allow the City of London to show its loyalty to the monarch, meaning a total of 62 rounds, and a total firing time of around ten minutes.

Watch: How do you perform a gun salute for the Queen? We joined the military for a behind the scenes look.

Cover image: PA.

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