WHEN the future Elizabeth II dedicated her life to the British people on her 21st birthday, she probably didn’t realise she was signing herself up for 60 years and counting on the throne.

Since the premature death of her father George VI, she has seen national and personal tragedy and rejoicing in plenty, planted enough trees to fill a forest and endured enough speeches to send an entire nation to sleep.

Her perseverance and duty has made her only the second British monarch to mark a Diamond Jubilee after her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Small wonder the central Diamond Jubilee weekend will feature opportunities for the Queen to relax and enjoy herself, starting with a visit to the Epsom Derby on Saturday, June 2.

On Sunday, June 3, accompanied by 1,000 boats she will travel in the Royal Barge down the River Thames.

On Monday, June 4, she will attend the BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace, featuring UK and Commonwealth musicians and afterwards light the National Beacon in a chain of more than 4,000 beacons.

Tuesday, June 5 will be the day for pomp and circumstance with a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a reception at the Mansion House, lunch at Westminster Hall and a procession to Buckingham Palace with a 60-gun salute and an RAF flypast.