The passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was an event that has shocked the world. Her seventy-year reign, the second longest reign of any monarch behind only Louis XIV of France, has been a constant presence for longer than most have been alive. From her father’s untimely death in February 1952, to her own passing in September 2022, Elizabeth was a shining example to the people of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and many others from around the globe.
Her Majesty’s service to her country began before she ascended to the throne, of course. Following the bombing of Buckingham Palace in September 1940, she is reported to have said:
“I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye”.
Elizabeth spoke directly to the thousands of children that were evacuated from London in October 1940, giving an address from the drawing room of Windsor Castle as part of the BBC’s Children’s Hour. In 1944, she was named a member of the Privy Council and the Council of State, meaning she could act on the king’s behalf when he was out of the country. In the same year, she joined the women’s branch of the British Army, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, as a second subaltern, and was later promoted to Junior Commander. She began training as a mechanic in March 1945, and was deemed the “Princess Auto Mechanic” by newspapers after passing a vehicle maintenance course in April.
Elizabeth was the sixth woman to ascend to the British throne in 1952, with her coronation as Queen Elizabeth II occurring on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey. Winston Churchill was her first Prime Minister; Liz Truss would be her fifteenth, and her last. Elizabeth took steps to modernise the Royal Family during her first years as monarch. 1957 saw her annual Christmas broadcast for the first time, for example. Another modernising effort came in 1992, when Her Majesty permitted the opening the state rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public when she was not in residence.
The twenty-first century saw the popularity of the queen peak once again; 2002 saw her Golden Jubilee, 2012 both the Olympics and her Diamond Jubilee, whilst 2015 her passing of Queen Victoria as our longest reigning monarch, and 2022 saw her celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, at the age of ninety-six. Two days before her death, Elizabeth was still carrying out her public duties; she officially installed Liz Truss as her Prime Minister at Balmoral Castle, showing again her dedication to the nation.
A history of Her Majesty’s reign, however brief, would be incomplete without an adequate mention to the wider Royal Family. Her marriage to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, from November 1947 to the day of his passing in 2021, was the longest union in the history of the British monarchy. They had four children: Charles, formally Prince of Wales and now King Charles III; Princess Anne; Prince Andrew; and Prince Edward. Her Majesty also had eight grandchildren, including the newly anointed Prince of Wales, and heir to the throne, Prince William, and twelve great-grandchildren.
Elizabeth the Great, as former Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared her in his parliamentary tribute, was the best of our country. A remarkable woman, leader, mother, Christian, and monarch, her passing in September 2022 has been received with great sadness. May she rest in peace.
God Save The King.