On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Duchess of Edinburgh, succeeded as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island, taking the name Elizabeth II. On the same day in 2017, Her Majesty reached a new milestone in her life when she marked the 65th year of her reign. In September 2016, she surpassed Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning British sovereign, but this time, it seemed the Queen achieved yet another feat that, perhaps, no other future British sovereign could break.
Let us take a look back in 1952, when the young Elizabeth took the helm of the British Crown and the Commonwealth.
King George VI Dies
While the princess was enjoying the beauty of the African wildlife, her father King George VI passed away quietly at Sandringham House in the early hours of February 6. He was 56. According to the medical bulletin, the king's death was due to coronary thrombosis - a fatal blood clot in the heart - soon after falling asleep. A swarm of crowd soon flocked outside the gates of Buckingham Palace while diplomats from around the world arrived in official cars to extend their condolences in the visitors' book.
Read more about King George VI’s death here.
Elizabeth was informed of her Accession
Queen Elizabeth II was on a Commonwealth tour in Kenya with her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when news of her father’s death arrived. The couple had just returned to Sagana Lodge, their home in Kenya, after spending a night at Treetops Hotel, when she was informed of the King’s death and that she had just become ascended to the throne. Major Martin Charteris arrived just in time after the new Queen was back in the Lodge: “She was sitting erect, fully accepting her destiny.” He asked her what name she would take. “My own, of course,” she said.
Read more about Queen Elizabeth II’s accession here
Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen at 11 am, Feb. 8, 1952 at the balcony of St. James' Palace. Around 150 Lords of the Council, who were representing the Commonwealth and the City of London including the Lord Mayor-- as well as dignitaries from other countries were there to witness the accession of the new queen.
Read more about Queen Elizabeth II’s proclamation.
King George VI’s funeral
For Queen Elizabeth II, her father's death meant facing the reality that she is now the Queen to millions of people spread all over the world. On his funeral on February 9, Great Britain's three queens gathered to bid adieu to the king who mattered most to their lives—the king’s mother, frail Queen Mary, his wife, Queen Elizabeth, henceforward known as the Queen Mother, and the new Queen, Elizabeth II. King George's body was transferred to Westminster Hall for the lying-in-state. More than 30,000 people flocked to take a last glimpse of their beloved king. Not even the bitter cold or the cloudy weather stood between the crowd and the solemnity of the event.
Here’s about King George VI’s funeral.
Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey on a rainy June 2, 1953. The country was just moving forward from the devastation of World War II and Her Majesty’s coronation was a sign of that recovery, being able to demonstrate for the last time her mighty imperial vigor that was steadily on its decline.
More than 10 thousand servicemen – a quarter of them “soldiers of the Queen” from the Commonwealth – marched in the coronation procession. Two thousand bandsmen, which comprised nearly fifty bands, provided music at the background. Sovereigns and rulers around the world arrived in London to honor her small figure, who now heads the greatest nations in history. More than a hundred thousand of her loyal subjects lined the streets of London, despite the dampened weather.
The length of her coronation was such that it took almost an hour to pass any one spot.
More than 100,000 seats were built along processional route aside from the 7,000 seats reserved at Westminster Abbey. Suddenly, London became a city of tents, all flooding Kensington Palace Gardens. And while the populace tried their best to sleep, a plain unescorted van travelled through the night from the Jewel House in the Tower of London to the Abbey, carrying the priceless regalia for the coronation.
In a broadcast from Buckingham Palace to the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II summed her feelings and said: “As this day draws to its close I know that my abiding memory will be not only the solemnity and beauty of the ceremony but the inspiration of your loyalty and affection.”
Image: Wikimedia Commons