Today marks the 96th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

This year is extra special as it is also 70 years since she became monarch of the United Kingdom.

The historic occasion will be celebrated over the Platinum Jubilee Weekend which takes place between June 2 and 5 when hundreds of street parties will be held across the BCP Council area. 

Read more: More than 250 street parties planned in BCP for the Queen's Jubilee

Her father King George VI died at Sandringham in the early hours of February 6, 1952.

The new monarch, formerly Princess Elizabeth, was in Kenya with her husband, Prince Philip when the news was broadcast.

Read more:  Tell us what you're doing for the Queen's Jubilee 

Here we look back at the Queen's visits to Dorset during her reign. 

WHEN a new princess was born on April 21, 1926, few expected she would ever be Queen.

But an unexpected turn of events would see Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary accede to the throne at the age of 26 and become the longest-reigning monarch in our country’s history.

Born third in line to the throne, Princess Elizabeth was schooled at home with her sister Margaret.

Their lives took an unexpected turn in 1936, when her uncle, Edward VIII, renounced his throne so that he could marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father became George VI and she became his heir.

Although she led a life of privilege, in some respects Elizabeth’s young life paralleled that of other young people. She was evacuated from central London during the blitz; and she was smitten by a man in the services, her distant cousin Philip Mountbatten. When they married in 1947, Britain was still living in austerity, and Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, like other young brides.

It was the following year that she made her first recorded public visit to Dorset, making her way through Wimborne, Lytchett Minster and Holme Bridge on her way to inspect the 16th/15th Lancers at Lulworth.

In 1949, she opened Avon Tyrrell, the holiday centre in the New Forest for the National Association of Girls Clubs and Mixed Clubs.

Elizabeth was becoming increasingly busy as a public figure, especially as the King’s health declined in 1951. In February 1952, she was in Kenya on a tour with Philip when they were told that the King had died and that, therefore, Elizabeth was Queen.

While plans were being laid for a coronation the next year, Elizabeth visited Dorset in July 1952, visiting Shaftesbury, Poundbury, Maiden Castle and a factory near Gillingham.

The coronation took place on June 2, 1953, with communities all over the country holding their own celebrations, and countless families gathering in the growing number of homes with television sets to watch proceedings. Colour films of the occasion were rushed into local cinemas within days.

Local people had to wait until 1966 until they had another visit from their Queen. She and the Duke of Edinburgh spent seven hours touring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Lymington. Among those delighted by the visit were young people from Bournemouth’s Shaftesbury Society home for children with muscular dystrophy, who chatted with the monarch and gave her flowers.

In July 1969, the Queen and the Duke were in Poole to open its new general hospital and chat to patients in the children’s ward.

The royal party then travelled through Wimborne and Wareham to Winfrith, where their lunch was cooked by Bournemouth catering students.

In July 1979, Bournemouth and Poole shared a royal visit. The day started with the Queen and the Duke visiting Poole Arts Centre, which had opened to the public the year before, and where they listened to Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra rehearsing They moved on to the Quay, where they were presented with some specially commissioned Poole Pottery.

The tour then took in Dorset Institute of Higher Education at Wallisdown before heading via the Lansdowne to Madeira Road in Bournemouth, where the Queen and the Duke toured Bournemouth Central Police Station.

Before leaving, the Queen asked the mayor, Cllr Frank Beale, to “pass on my thanks to the people of Bournemouth for their warm welcome”.

The royal couple were back in the New Forest later the same year, travelling in an open landau through Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

Many more, smaller scale visits followed: to the Royal Marines at Hamworthy in June 1984; to ward Poole’s Ryvita factory the Royal Warrant in January 1995; and to watch the Tank Regiment at Bovington in July that year.

In February 1997, the Queen and the Duke saw their grandchildren Peter and Zara Phillips in sports displays at Port Regis School at Shaftesbury, where they also opened a new gym. That May, the Queen watched another tank display at Bovington.

In 1998, the Queen visited Queen Elizabeth’s School in Wimborne, seeing art and sculpture, electrical circuits and the new computer suite. “She is just like everyone’s gran,” said one pupil.

A large-scale visit in July 2004 saw the Queen and Prince Philip greeted at Kings Park by a party including Cherries captain Steve Fletcher.

At Bournemouth Pier Approach, the couple were greeted by a crowd of 5,000 as they were presented with a stick of rock and met 60 World War II veterans.

Then it was on to Poole’s Lighthouse and the new RNLI training college, where coxswains from all 233 lifeboat stations were gathered.

Another trip to Bovington followed in 2009. In 2012, the Queen embarked on a strenuous Diamond Jubilee tour, the last day of which brought her to the New Forest Show.

The 21st century saw the Queen surpass two records set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. In December 2007, she became the longest-lived monarch; and in September, 2015, she achieved the longest ever reign.

Through times of massive social upheaval and sometimes personal trial, the Queen has done as she promised in 1947, when, as Princess Elizabeth, she addressed the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”