Ringing the changes: Big Ben's tower may be renamed for Queen's Jubilee

Story highlights

  • British lawmakers want St Stephen's Tower to be renamed in honor of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Clock tower is one of London's most famous landmarks, home to "Big Ben" bell
  • Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee -- marking 60 years on the throne -- this year
  • Other tower at Houses of Parliament named after long-serving monarch Queen Victoria

British lawmakers want to rename one of London's most famous landmarks -- known to tourists around the world as "Big Ben" -- after Queen Elizabeth II, for her Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen marks 60 years on the throne in 2012, and politicians believe that naming St. Stephen's Tower, the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, in her honor would be a fitting tribute to her years of service.

"Not many kings and queens have served for such a long time," Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who is leading the renaming campaign, told CNN. "Only two have celebrated their Diamond Jubilee -- Queen Elizabeth II, and Queen Victoria.

"The other tower at the Palace of Westminster is named in honour of Queen Victoria; the clock tower has lots of nicknames -- Big Ben, St Stephen's Tower, or just the Clock Tower -- but no official name.

"It seems a superb way to honor a very distinguished life, and the many years of service she has given to the country."

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Ellwood said his plan had the support of MPs from across the political spectrum, and that he hoped they would back his bill to officially name the tower after the Queen in the coming weeks -- in time for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

"Of course, if it does go ahead it will mean that the next time a monarch reaches their 60th anniversary we'll have to build another tower -- but I don't suppose we'll have to worry about that for a while," he joked.

"Big Ben" is officially the name of the 13.5 ton bell inside St Stephen's Tower, and not the name of the tower itself.

The bell rang out for the first time in July 1859 -- but cracked two months later. Its chimes were silenced for the next four years, until a way was found to make it peal again in 1863 (by turning it slightly), however, the crack is still visible. Today it rings -- in the key of E -- each hour, while a series of quarter bells chime every 15 minutes.

It remains unclear whether the new name -- Elizabeth Tower -- will capture the public imagination, or if they will continue to refer to it as "Big Ben". However, jokers have already suggested a new nickname: "Big Beth."

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