06 February 2012

Royal Splendor 101: Queen Elizabeth's Accession

Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II 60 years ago on the death of her father, King George VI. After the stress of the abdication of his brother Edward VIII and World War II, the king was not in good health when he saw his daughter off on a Commonwealth tour at the beginning of 1952.

She was in Kenya days later, on February 6, 1952, when news came that the king had passed away. Her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, gave her the news. The new queen - who chose to reign under her own name, Elizabeth II - was just 25 years old and had two young children, Charles (just three years old) and Anne (one year old). (She would wait several years, until she had her feet under her as queen, to have the last of her two children. Andrew was born in 1960; Edward in 1964.)
Two famous moments: Elizabeth returning home as queen, and three queens in mourning (Elizabeth II, Mary, and Elizabeth)
She returned home and officially declared herself Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith in front of the Privy Council and other dignitaries at St. James' Palace. The proclamation was read publicly in several places throughout her realm. 
King George VI died at Sandringham. He was taken to London to lie in state at Westminster Hall and then to Windsor, where his funeral was held at St. George's Chapel on February 15th. There was great affection for this wartime leader, and mourning was deep.
Celebration of Queen Elizabeth's accession would come the following year in the form of the the coronation, held on June 2, 1953. A delay so great was necessary not just for the end of the mourning period but also for the tremendous amount of planning required. We'll be talking about the coronation separately in the weeks to come.
Large celebrations were held in 1977 to mark Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee and in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee. The Golden Jubilee included a concert, a church service, and a big ride in the Gold State Coach, among other celebrations. Foreign sovereigns joined the queen for Garter Day, a dinner, and a bit of racing at Ascot.
This year, 2012, Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, a remarkable milestone very seldom reached by a monarch. Celebrations on tap so far include church service, a concert, and a river pageant on the Thames to name just a few. Dates for some of these royal events can be found on the Upcoming Events page. Additionally, the queen will tour the United Kingdom, and her family will undertake tours around the world to celebrate with the rest of her realm. A busy, busy year to wish Her Majesty many more to come.