Queen Elizabeth II just recently surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning Monarch in English history, with Victoria having reigned for 63 1/2 years. Elizabeth’s Diamond Anniversary occurred in June of 2012.
Queen Elizabeth II of England - Wikimedia
When Elizabeth was a child, she never expected to be a Queen one day. She and her family lived a normal, but very grand, life. Their family duties were not great. She was the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her uncle Edward had succeeded to the throne upon the death of King George V.
Elizabeth was very close to her father and had a great reverence for the crown. They were a stay-at-home family but were deprived of any kind of normalcy. Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret were isolated from other children, and so were left to interact with just each other. To counteract their isolation, their parents allowed a Girl Guide troop to be formed within the palace, along with a group of girls including cousins and friends of the family.
Elizabeth was born in 1926, a time of austerity and unemployment. Her parents knew what was going on in the real world. They refrained from spending large amounts of cash when they knew that things were difficult for other people. The girls were educated at home by their parents, supplemented by a tutor from Eton College who came regularly. It was a somewhat inadequate education. Their grandfather, King George V, adored the girls and had a special fondness for Elizabeth, whom he called Lilibet.
Prince Philip - Wikimedia
King Edward VIII Abdicates the Throne
When their uncle Edward, who was King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936 in favor of marrying the divorcee Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth’s father Albert, the Duke of York, succeeded to the throne as King George VI. The family had to make the transition to being thrust into the spotlight on a daily basis. Up until that time, the world had not been aware that Albert had a serious stammer. His wife Elizabeth encouraged him to seek treatment from the therapist Lionel Logue, who was successful in improving the King’s speech defect. This story has been told in the 2010 film “The King’s Speech.”
England at War
England went to war with Germany in 1939. The King was obliged to speak to the country and there was little evidence of his stammer at that time. It was a very difficult time due to the recession, the abdication, and then World War II. The family lived at Windsor Castle and people came in to entertain them. For the princesses, it was an enjoyable time.
Elizabeth wanted to make a contribution to the war effort. She was permitted to join the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she served as an auto mechanic and driver. She was able to go back to the Castle each night after getting dirty on her job each day.
When victory was announced, she and Margaret begged to go down in to the streets to see the people celebrating and to mingle with the crowds. They were terrified of being recognized. Elizabeth remarked that it was one of the most memorable nights of her life.
Buckingham Palace - Wikimedia
Elizabeth Meets Philip
Elizabeth was 13 years old when she first met Philip, who was 18 years old at the time. She took pride in writing letters to him when he served in the Navy. She fell in love with him and never had any affection for any other man since. He cut an astonishing figure, like a young Greek God. Philip proposed to her secretly in 1946 without her parent’s knowledge.
Elizabeth and Philip were third cousins. They were both great, great grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Philip served in the Royal Navy. When King George VI took his family on a trip to South Africa, Philip went with them. Elizabeth had her 21st birthday when she was in South Africa.
Elizabeth and Philip are Married
The couple were married in Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. It was a time of austerity in England, and the celebration served to carry the country out of the doldrums of the war. It was like a fairy tale. Philip’s sisters were not invited because they were Germans living in Germany with husbands who had Nazi connections. The couple received 1700 wedding presents, among which were several hundred pairs of nylon stockings, a desirable gift at that time.
Elizabeth’s first two children, Charles and Anne, were born before Elizabeth became Queen. She enjoyed her life as a Naval Officer’s wife. Philip was given his own ship and they lived in Malta. They had something resembling a normal life.
Philip definitely took the reins as the head of the family. They recently celebrated 68 years of married life. It was an enduring love. They had a blissful existence in Malta until they received the news of the King’s death.
Prince Charles - Heir to the Throne - Wikimedia
Elizabeth Becomes Queen
Elizabeth arrived back in her country to take the reins. People bowed to her. She was thrust into the limelight. Philip realized their family life was over. Elizabeth had little time to be with the children. Philip had to leave the Navy and he became the house husband. He lost his wife to her duty.
Television was fairly new at that time. People bought TV sets so that they could watch the coronation. Although Elizabeth became Queen in June of 1952 after her father’s death, her coronation took place on June 2, 1953 after a year’s period of mourning for the deceased King.
Princess Margaret and Captain Townsend
When Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret fell in love with Peter Townsend, a married man with children, Elizabeth was torn between her love for her sister and her duty to her country. Margaret would not be allowed to marry a divorced man; it was unheard of. Captain Townsend was sent as an attache to Brussels. At age 25, Margaret decided not to marry him. It was really the British government which forced her hand.
Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Artist Herbert James Gunn Wikimedia
Elizabeth Takes on Her Obligations
Queen Elizabeth toured the massive Commonwealth - Australia, New Zealand, India, and Canada - and thanked those who had contributed to the war effort. She considered herself married to her country. She learned, after her uncle abdicated, that you do not walk away from your duty. She had a special affection for her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who had been a friend of her parents and had sat on his knee as a child.
Once a week on a Tuesday, the Prime Minister goes to Buckingham Palace and talks to the Queen about what’s going on. During the recession, she remarked that she had had thirteen Prime Ministers since 1952, and none of them knew what to do about the recession.
Those who know her say she is very amusing. She does impressions. She does accents. Once when she visited a supermarket anonymously, a lady said to her “You look very much like the Queen.” She answered “Thank you, that’s very reassuring.”
Changing of the Guard - Buckingham Palace Wikimedia
She worries about her son Prince Charles’ reputation. She is less critical of her younger sons, Andrew and Edward, than of Charles. Andrew can do no wrong; he has a special place in her heart. Edward has always lived in the shadow of his brother Charles.
Princess Anne is Elizabeth’s biggest support. She carries on multiple engagements for the Queen every day. Elizabeth focuses on her grandchildren most of the time. Behind palace gates, they are a normal family.
When Prince Charles was courting Diana Spencer, Diana was not the usual type of girlfriend that Charles had. He had a long period of bachelorhood. Diana improved Charles’ PR. She was good at her royal duties. Nobody had ever explained to her the enormity of what she had signed on for.
The Queen and Diana never formed a good relationship. Elizabeth did not know how to deal with Diana. Diana did not care to have invitations to lunch or dinner with Elizabeth. She would always have some excuse. The Queen and Prince Philip put the blame on the breakup on Prince Charles because of his relationship with Camilla. She tried not to interfere in her children’s lives. Prince Philip was always fond of Diana and wanted his relationship with her to continue after her divorce.
Queen Elizabeth II - Wedding of Will and Kate Wikimedia
The Royal Family’s relationship with the press went wrong when Rupert Murdoch arrived in England. They felt that Murdoch was out to destroy them. They were disturbed by the attention that Diana and Fergie got. People regarded the Royal Family as a part of celebrity culture; they regarded themselves as part of history.
The year 1992 was the worst year of Elizabeth’s life - the divorce of Andrew and Fergie, the fire at Windsor Castle, the separation of Charles and Diana.
On August 31, 1997, Elizabeth was informed of the death of Diana and her friend, Dodi Fayad, in a car crash in Paris. The papers made much of the fact that the flag at Buckingham Palace did not fly at half-staff. In reality, the flag at Windsor Castle was at half-staff. The Queen stayed at Balmoral. She had to look after Diana’s boys. She did not want cameras near them. The family misjudged the mood of the nation; people were angry with her. She went on television from Buckingham to address the nation about the tragedy.
Wedding of Prince William and Kate Wikimedia
The Joyful Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton
In 2011, the wedding of Prince William, Elizabeth’s grandson, to Kate Middleton was a time of great joy. They married that year so that their wedding would not conflict with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee year in 2012.
It is said that Queen Elizabeth always keeps her emotions under lock and key. Her mystery and enigma are an important element of her magic. The Monarch in England does not have any real power, but her consistency and longevity mean a great deal to the citizenry at large. She was there in 1952, and she is still there. They feel that they know where they are with the Queen; she will not let you down.
The years of the reign of Queen Victoria were called "The Victorian Age," just as the years of Queen Elizabeth I were called "The Elizabethan Age." It is possible that we will see the onset of another Elizabethan Age at the end of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.
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