Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith; known by most as Queen Elizabeth, was the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom up until her recent death on the 8th of September which shook the world.
Over her 70-year reign (she only recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee), the Queen has left behind a lasting legacy with an ineffable impact on her realm, whilst dealing with the slew of opposition and crisis that has rocked the kingdom.
Her life, legacy, and impact will be explored and celebrated for years to come.
On April 211926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born to the then reigning monarch King George VI, who ascended the throne in 1936 after his brother abdicated to marry an American divorcee -an event that launched Elizabeth’s family into the spotlight as the new main royal family.
She spent her early life as most royals would, in castles with private tutors learning the various intricacies of royal life along with her younger sister Margaret. During her early years, her family coined the nickname “Lilibet” for her, after her first pronunciation of her name.
The young princess never expected to take the throne. After all, sons of the king would take precedence as heirs. However, as the King never had a son, Elizabeth as the eldest daughter remained as heir presumptive. She spent her years in Balmoral castle in Scotland during the blitz of World War Two, away from the ferocious bombing campaigns that decimated London.
It wasn’t until 1947 that the princess drew the attention of the media as the royal family embarked on a trip to South Africa. It was on this trip that the announcement of her betrothal to the Prince of Greece and Denmark, Prince Phillip, was made. Their wedding took place in November of the same year and their first son, Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was born a year later.
She would enjoy her marriage for 3 more years until an untimely death would change the course of her life- and country- forever.
Queen Elizabeth’s Accession and Coronation
In 1952, due to poor health and prolonged illness, King George VI had to withdraw from the forthcoming Commonwealth tour. Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by Prince Phillip, took his place, departing London on 31 January 1952. On 6 February 1952, word arrived of the death of King George VI and Princess Elizabeth, at the age of 25, immediately acceded the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II.
Following the tragic news, the young Princess flew back to Britain as Queen. She was greeted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill (the first of the 15 ministers she would work with during her reign) and other officials at the airport before returning to Clarence House, where the Royal Standard flag was flown for the first time in her reign.
At that moment, she was the sixth woman in history to ascend to the British throne. The first three months of her reign-the period of full mourning for her father- were passed in comparative seclusion. In the summer, she moved from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth undertook the routine duties of the sovereign and carried out her first state opening of Parliament on 14 November 1952.
Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony took place on 2 June 1953, 14 months after her accession at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. During the coronation, she was crowned Queen of the seven independent Commonwealth countries, which include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon (which is known today as Sri Lanka), as well as Head of Commonwealth.
That evening, the Queen broadcast a speech to the public. “Throughout this memorable day I have been uplifted and sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts and prayers were with me. I have been aware all the time that my peoples, spread far and wide throughout every continent and ocean in the world, were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.” she said.
The Queen added, “I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your thrust.” Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was the first coronation to be televised in full and broadcast live.
On that day, the Queen wore a gown designed by Sir Norman Hartnell. The gown was white silk embroidered with the emblems of the Commonwealth nations, and on top of it, the velvet Robe of State, more than 5 metres long, its train supported by six maid of honours.
Dr G.Fisher presented the Queen with the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove. As the monarch held both spectres, she was crowned the St. Edward’s Crown, the coronation crown of British Kings and Queen. As the ceremony proceeded, she was seated in the Coronation Chair, also known as the St Edward’s Chair or King Edward’s Chair. This is because King Edward I commissioned the wooden chair in 1296, and subsequent monarchs have sat on it during their coronation.
During the procession to and from Westminster, Queen Elizabeth rode in a gold carriage called the Gold State Coach. It is an enclosed carriage, drawn by eight horses and normally used by the British Royal Family. The procession took place through London so that the Queen and her procession could be seen by as many people as possible.
During her reign, the Queen made an effort to go on royal tours all over the Commonwealth in the hopes of strengthening the bonds between England and her increasingly independent colonies. These actions set into motion the Queen’s strategy to modernise the monarchy and help it survive in an ever changing era.
In congruence with this agenda, televisions broadcast insights into the daily lives of the royal family, making them seem more down to earth and relatable to the general public. This strengthened ties with the people, and the general consensus of the monarchy grew more positive.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Matriarch as an onslaught of relationship crises would fragment the once tightly knit bunch by forcing the family to take sides in messy divorces. One such example is the tense relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, which reached its peak when the princess divorced Prince Charles. Princess Diana would later pass away in a tragic car crash, in which the Queen initially refused to fly flags at half-mast.
The Queen witnessed many ceremonies, such as her Golden and Platinum Jubilees celebrating her 50th and 70th year on the throne respectively. This saw massive parades and large crowds gathering to cheer on and express their support for the longest-reigning Queen in British history.
Throughout her reign, she made a profound impact on British society and the world.
Death of Queen Elizabeth II
The United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch, died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years. Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers, starting with Winston Churchill (born in 1874), and including Liz Truss (born 101 years later in 1975). She died peacefully on 8 September 2022 at her Scottish estate, where she had spent much of the summer.
In June 2022, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne with the “Platinum Jubilee” , a four-day national holiday. Health issues limited Elizabeth’s involvement and concerns about the Queen’s health also aroused suspicion, especially after she tested positive for Covid-19. On 6 September 2022, Queen Elizabeth appointed the 15th British prime minister and Boris Johnson’s replacement, Liz Truss at Balmoral Castle rather than at Buckingham Palace, where she had formally appointed more than a dozen prime ministers.
Two days later, the news about Elizabeth’s death shocked Britain and the world. Prince Charles succeeded her on the throne as King Charles III. Upon the Queen’s death, Prince William and his wife, Catherine, became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Cornwall. King Charles III said the death of his beloved mother was a “moment of great sadness” for him and his family and that her loss would be “deeply felt” around the world.
He also said, “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.” During the coming period of mourning, he said he and his family would be “comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”
Prime Minister Truss said the monarch was the rock on which modern Britain was built, who had “provided us with the stability and strength that we needed.” Speaking of the new King, she said “We offer him our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother devoted so much, to so many, for so long.”
“And with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country, exactly as Her Majesty would have wished, by saying the words ‘God save the King’.”
The State Funeral for Her Majesty The Queen took place at Westminster Abbey on Monday, 19 September 2022. The Queen’s coffin had been lying in state since 14 September for a day in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and then for three days in Westminster Hall in London. Her sombre funeral was attended by heads of foreign governments such as Yoon Suk-yeol (president of South Korea), Anthony Albanese (prime minister of Australia), Joe Biden (president of the United States) and Wang Qisan (vice president of the People’s Republic of China) .
Her Majesty’s coffin was draped with the Royal Standard, with the Imperial State crown on a velvet cushion and a Wreath of Flowers. Minutes Guns were fired from Hyde Park by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and Big Ben tolled at one minute intervals whilst the coffin moved in Procession to the Palace at Westminster. The Queen’s casket was borne by hearse to her final resting place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The monarch shared 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April 2021 at the age of 99. Known for her quick wit and sense of humour, as well as her passion for horse riding and equestrian sports, her Majesty was beloved by many and will be deeply missed.
Written by: Matthew and Isabel
Edited by: Priyanka