Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland today celebrates her 90th birthday with a series of events and the lighting of a beacon. President Barack Obama will be lunching with her at Windsor Castle. Prime Minister David Cameron will lead members of Parliament in paying the nation’s tributes.

The Queen is Britain’s longest-serving monarch. She acceded to the throne at the age of 26 on the death of her father. Today, six and a half decades later, support for the monarchy in Britain is higher than it was 20 years ago. The British public is clear that they want her reign to continue and most think the monarchy still has an important role in Britain’s future.

For 22 years, between 1952 and 1974 when Malta became a Republic within the Commonwealth, Elisabeth II was Malta’s monarch, first in the period leading up to Malta’s independence in 1964 and then as our head of State until 1974.

Malta’s relationship with the Queen has been close, not simply because she was our monarch for over two decades, but also because as a young, newly married Princess she spent two years based in Malta with her husband, Prince Philip, as a naval officer’s wife with two young children living in a rented quarter in Guardamangia.

She is known to have a great affection for Malta as the one place where she was free to live like an ordinary citizen, unhampered by the burden of responsibilities which she knew would be her destiny.

She has since visited Malta several times and was last here six months ago at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, where her relaxed affection for Malta was evident. Nine years ago, when celebrating her diamond wedding anniversary, she chose to come to Malta to mark the occasion, meeting 10 Maltese couples who had also been married, like herself and Prince Philip, in 1947. On such contacts and memories at a human level are the foundations of relations between countries built.

The Queen’s love and affection for Malta have come to epitomise the strong bonds that have existed between our two countries. Her reign has seen Malta progress from humble colony and vital military base to a sovereign, independent country – a proud member of the European Union and of the Commonwealth. Migration, inter-marriage, sporting ties, language and other cultural exchanges are only the skin-deep details of something that – for all the inevitable past political upsets – runs deep.

Her reign has seen huge changes in the UK: the end of the British Empire, the evolution of the Commonwealth, Britain’s engagement with Europe (now under threat), the development of a multicultural society. While standards of every kind have been changing, she has remained steadfast, ploughing a straight path in the most troubled times.

She has provided a trusted framework of continuity and stability to ease the process of change. Her unstinting and uncomplaining devotion to duty – an unfashionable notion today – her manifest sense of vocation, her perfect dignity on State and public occasions have been the hallmarks of her reign.

At the age of 90, she provides a remarkable example of stamina topeople half her age, of commitment, selflessness and dedication to her country and the people of the Commonwealth, of which the Maltese form an important part.

Malta celebrates Elizabeth’s 90th birthday and congratulates her on her outstanding achievements as Queen and as head of the Commonwealth. Long may she reign.

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