She is the longest serving monarch in the history of the British Royal Family, but what were the events that led to her being crowned, and how has her reign been received?
Twist of fate
The Queen’s ascent to the throne was not in fact assured from birth. After reigning for just 325 days, her childless uncle Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936. As a result, Eliazabeth’s father George VI inherited the crown and she became next in line to the throne. With this in mind, Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history as early preparation for her expected future role as monarch.
In 1947, Elizabeth embarked on her first overseas tour through Southern Africa, and it was there on her 21st birthday that she made a broadcast to the British Commonwealth declaring her devotion to a life of service. On 20th November that same year, she married Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.
By 1951, the health of George VI was in decline, with Elizabeth often standing in for him at public events. News of her father’s death in 1952 was broken to Elizabeth by Prince Philip while they were on tour in Kenya. At just 25 years of age, she was proclaimed Queen.
Strict but fair monarch
The Queen’s reign, much like her public persona, has been characterised by understatement, formality and a profound sense of duty. Having said this, she has made attempts to soften the image of the Royal Family, not least through a documentary in 1969 that gave viewers a glimpse into the private life of her family.
During certain periods of her reign, she and the Royal Family have attracted criticism and downturns in enthusiasm. In the 1990s, the Queen started paying tax for the first time in response to growing public concern over the ballooning expenses of the Royal Family, but public opinion would reach an all-time low following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Staying in Balmoral with her family when news of Diana’s death broke, the Queen’s decision to remain there was bizarrely misconstrued as displaying a lack of mourning. As the unfathomable sea of memorial flowers enveloped the gates of Kensington Palace, the Queen bowed to public pressure and left her grieving grandsons to inspect the bouquets outside Buckingham Palace.
During the early part of her reign, it was difficult for the Queen to balance the demands of being both monarch and mother. This was especially true for Prince Charles, as the Queen heavily relied on nannies to pick up the slack when she was away on royal duties. By the time she gave birth to Prince Andrew, the Queen is said to have adopted a more flexible approach by stepping back from certain duties. Some have argued that the differing experiences of her children have led to tensions, but on the whole, the Queen has maintained a strong connection to those closest to her. However, with Prince Andrew now put out to pasture due to his proximity to the abhorrent practices of Jeffrey Epstein, the Queen has demonstrated that the longevity of the Royal Family comes before all else.