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Stung by royal break-ups, sniping over her tax-free status and a fire at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II dubbed 1992 her annus horribilis.
Two decades later, the world's highest profile monarch finds herself basking in the glow of something wholly different: an annus mirabilis. One. Marvellous. Year.
Commemorating her 60th year on the throne, the Queen's diamond jubilee is drawing an estimated 1 million people to London for a four-day fete starting on Saturday that will dwarf last year's nuptials of her grandson, Prince William, and his bride, Catherine.
Aboard a royal barge, the Queen will lead a 1000-vessel flotilla down the Thames in a scene inspired by a Canaletto painting. A network of 2012 beacons will be lit in her honour from the Scottish highlands to the Channel Islands. Paul McCartney and Elton John will serenade her at a glittering concert.
Yet the Queen is observing more than a milestone that puts her just three years shy of becoming Britain's longest reigning monarch. She is also symbolically marking the revival of a British royal house that has defied the odds by bringing a nation back under its spell.
The rising fortunes of the royals amount to what observers call a public relations coup. Though support for the monarchy has always been strong, a new opinion poll shows eight out of 10 Britons want to keep the monarchy - the highest level since surveys began in the 1980s.
Many credit the wedding of ''Will and Kate'' for providing the boost. But the royals appear to have solidified those gains, with even Prince Charles and his second wife, Camilla, scoring fresh points with the public.
Yet as Britain prepares for the Queen's diamond jubilee, the monarchy more than ever is all about her.
“'In my life, she has always been there,” said Sean Brushett, a 19-year-old aspiring lawyer who waited hours in the rain to see the Queen during her recent visit to south London. “It's hard to see her every really going away. The Queen is the biggest celebrity in the world.”
Meanwhile, British supporters of the Queen have floated rival attempts to buy her a yacht for her diamond jubilee to replace the decommissioned royal yacht Britannia.
A self-described “group of ordinary people” have launched the Jubilee Yacht Appeal in which fans of the monarch can donate to a yacht or to a group of charities supported by the Queen.
They aim to raise £60 million to buy “one of the top 100 yachts in the world” and present it to the Queen and Prince Philip next year, for use partly by the royal couple and partly for charity fundraisers.
“It's about the people giving a gift to the Queen and her charities in the year of the jubilee,” spokeswoman Elaine Skinner said.
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