This Day in History: 02/06/1952 - Elizabeth becomes Queen

This Day in History: 02/06/1952 - Elizabeth becomes Queen

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On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham.

Elizabeth becomes Queen

On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king's two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father's death she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953, at age 27. King George VI, the second son of King George V, ascended to the throne in 1936 after his older brother, King Edward VIII, voluntarily abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

During World War II, George worked to rally the spirits of the British people by touring war zones, making a series of morale-boosting radio broadcasts (for which he overcame a speech impediment) and shunning the safety of the countryside to remain with his wife in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace. The king's health deteriorated in 1949, but he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952. Queen Elizabeth II, born on 21 April 1926, and known to her family as Lilibet, was groomed as a girl to succeed her father. She married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, on 20 November 1947 at London's Westminster Abbey. The first of Elizabeth’s four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948. From the start of her reign, Elizabeth understood the value of public relations and allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, despite objections from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who felt it would cheapen the ceremony.

Elizabeth, the 40th British monarch since William the Conqueror, has worked hard at her royal duties and become a popular figure around the world. In 2003, she celebrated 50 years on the throne, only the fifth British monarch to do so. The queen's reign, however, has not been without controversy. She was seen as cold and out-of-touch following the 1996 divorce of her son, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana, and again after Diana's 1997 death in a car crash. Additionally, the role in modern times of the monarchy, which is largely ceremonial, has come into question as British taxpayers have complained about covering the royal family's travel expenses and palace upkeep. Still, the royals are effective world ambassadors for Britain and a huge tourism draw. Today, the queen, an avid horsewoman and Corgi dog lover, is one of the world's wealthiest women, with extensive real-estate holdings and art and jewellery collections.

On This Day in Royal History: Queen Elizabeth's Grandmother Queen Mary Died &mdash How She Shaped the Royals

On this day in 1953, the public mourned the death of a much-loved and respected member of the British royal family – Queen Mary.

Who was Queen Mary and why was she such an important royal?

Born Princess Mary of Teck on May 26, 1867 at Kensington Palace in London, her mother Princess Adelaide of Cambridge was a granddaughter of King George III and a cousin of Queen Victoria. Her father Duke Francis of Teck was the son of Duke Alexander of Württemberg, an area which is now called Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany.

Mary wed Queen Victoria’s grandson Prince George, Duke of York in 1893 at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace, the first royal wedding to take place at the chapel since the death of Prince Albert in 1861, which saw Victoria go into mourning.

Known for her love of art and culture and her dedication to her role as queen consort, Mary oversaw some of the biggest upheavals in the history of the royal family, including the abdication of her son Edward VIII who, much to her disapproval gave up the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. It was that decision that led to Queen Elizabeth‘s father King George VI becoming King and ultimately her current role as Queen.

During and after her husband’s reign (he died 17 years before her), Mary remained committed to her role, outliving three of her six children. She also became the first Queen to see a grandchild ascend to the throne when Elizabeth was announced Queen after her father died. However, Mary sadly died before the Coronation took place.

Dying peacefully in her sleep at her home at Marlborough House at age 85 after suffering from a reoccurring gastric illness, Mary’s glamorous presence is still felt at royal engagements today. Many of her jewelry pieces (she had a vast collection) have since been passed down to the Queen, who loaned them out to everyone from Princess Diana to Meghan Markle.

Accessorizing her understated Givenchy wedding dress, Meghan wore the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau tiara at her and Prince Harry’s wedding in May 2018. The art-deco piece was first created for Queen Mary back in 1932 to incorporate a brooch given to her by the Count of Lincoln on her marriage to George V.

Kate Middleton‘s go-to tiara is also from Mary’s collection. The Lover’s Knot tiara, often referred to as the Cambridge Lover’s Knot, has become a favorite of Kate’s over the years. With pearls hanging from pretzel-shaped knots, it was also a favorite of Diana’s, who wore it numerous times during her life.

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Kate is also fond of a bracelet that once belonged to Mary, often wearing the Queen Mary Chain-Link Bracelet for formal occasions. Made by Garrard & Co. in 1932, the bracelet was originally a choker before being turned into a bracelet by the late Queen Mother and has been seen on Kate’s wrist several times, including at the Buckingham Palace state banquet for China’s president in 2015.

More information about: The Queen

Her Majesty the Queen was born on 21 April 1926 in London, the first child of Prince Albert, The Duke of York, and his wife, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.

Third in line to the throne, it seemed unlikely that Princess Elizabeth would be Queen. However, shortly after the death of George V, the new King - her uncle Edward VIII - dramatically abdicated so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. Princess Elizabeth's father then became King George VI and she became heir to the throne.

Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret were educated at home. During the Blitz in 1940, they were moved to Windsor Castle and stayed there for most of the Second World War. In 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the war effort, training as a driver in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (WATS).

In November 1947, she married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, who was then created His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The wedding - which took place during the austere post-War years - was described by Winston Churchill as a 'flash of colour'. The Princess used ration coupons to buy the material for her dress.

The couple had four children. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, was born in 1948 and his sister Princess Anne, was born two years later. After the coronation, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York was born in 1960 and Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex arrived in 1962. They were the first children to be born to a reigning monarch since Queen Victoria.

Accession and coronation

George VI died on 6 February 1952 while Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were touring Kenya and she immediately became Queen. After months of preparation, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. For the first time, the ceremony and the huge public celebrations were broadcast on TV across the UK, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.

A young and glamorous Queen

The Queen began her political duties which included opening Parliament and receiving her prime ministers. Throughout the 1950s, the Queen and Prince Philip cut young and glamorous figures as they extensively toured the UK and the Commonwealth.

During the 1960s, the Queen made historic visits to West Berlin at the height of the Cold War, and welcomed Emperor Hirohito of Japan on a state visit to Britain. Against a backdrop of political and social unrest, she celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977. It was a huge success and tens of thousands of street parties were thrown by the public across the country.

Five years later, the UK was at war over the Falkland Islands during which Prince Andrew served with the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot. The 1980s also saw the birth of her first grandchildren, Peter and Zara Phillips, the son and daughter of Anne, Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips.

Disaster struck in 1992 when a devastating fire broke out in Windsor Castle. The same year the respective marriages of Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne disintegrated. The Queen deemed this her 'annus horribilis' (horrible year). In 1996 the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales was dissolved. Tragedy was to follow in 1997, when Diana was killed in a car accident. The Queen broadcast live to the nation in tribute to the Princess of Wales.

And 2002 was another year of personal sadness for the Queen, as both her sister Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died, casting a shadow over the Golden Jubilee celebrations a few months later.

During a period of great change in Britain, the Queen successfully carried her political duties as head of state, her role as head of the Commonwealth, the ceremonial responsibilities of the sovereign and a large annual programme of visits in the UK, as well as many foreign tours.

The Queen also introduced numerous reforms to the monarchy. In 1992, she offered to start paying income and capital gains tax. She opened her official residencies to the public - including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle - in order to finance their maintenance.

She supported ending the rule of male primogeniture, which now means the eldest child can succeed to the throne, regardless of gender. She also supported lifting the ban on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Catholic.

The Queen introduced more informal engagements and visits, and the 'walkabout' - the meeting and greeting of large numbers of the public.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was marked by celebrations across the country, illustrating the public’s appreciation of her unwavering commitment during her reign.

Why Princess Elizabeth Was Almost Never Queen Elizabeth II at All

The Queen has broken a lot of records in her time as monarch. She has visited more countries than any other British King or Queen before her. She's the oldest monarch and the longest-reigning British monarch ever. So it's odd to think that she almost didn't become Queen at all.

Queen (or rather, Princess) Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926 during the reign of her grandfather, George V. At the time, she was third in line to the throne behind her uncle, Prince Edward (the eldest son of George V), and her own father, Prince Albert (Edward's younger brother).

At this point, it was far too early to imagine Elizabeth would ever become Queen. Mostly because the heir apparent, Prince Edward, was still young enough that he was expected to marry and produce his own heir, but also because Prince Albert could still have produced a son. Had that happened, the boy would have taken the throne before Elizabeth, under the (since-altered) rules of succession, which placed male children before their sisters, regardless of birth order.

The birth of Prince Edward's child, whether male or female, would have shuffled both his brother and niece (Prince Albert and Princess Elizabeth) down the line of succession, putting them both further from the top job. Indeed, this is exactly what happened to the current Prince Harry when Prince George was born: he went from being third in line to the throne after his father and brother, to fourth after his newly inserted nephew. (And the births of Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis means he's now sixth in line.)

So barring any unfortunate tragedy, Princess Elizabeth was never expected to get much closer to being Queen than she was when she was born. For the first 10 years of her life, it seemed that she would remain a relatively minor royal. Her modern equivalents would be Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, neither of whom are as well-known globally as their cousins, Princes William and Harry.

But something unexpected happened. When King George V died in 1936, Edward VIII took the throne—then renounced it less than a year later so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American socialite, against the advice of the British government and the Church of England. Since Edward had no children at the time, his brother Albert ascended, choosing the regnal name George VI in honor of his late father. His daughter, 10-year-old Princess Elizabeth, was now the heir presumptive: first in line to the throne on the understanding that her father could still produce a son who would take the throne before her (and, for that matter, her younger sister Margaret, who was born in 1930).

But despite the possibility, that didn't happen. George VI produced no more children and died on February 6, 1952. His eldest daughter was crowned Queen Elizabeth II, defying the expectations of her birth to become one of Britain's most popular, well-regarded, and longest-reigning monarchs. Though to some constitutional scholars, she'll always be the Queen who almost wasn't.

Look like they cared

"The public overwhelmingly wanted to see the Royal Family caring and sharing in the grief when Diana died," says Harris.

The Queen, who had been at Balmoral with Charles and Diana's sons William and Harry, made a televised address from Buckingham Palace five days after Diana's death.

"The Queen did respond to that by speaking of her feelings as a grandmother, so once again [she was] trying to respond to what the public wants, while maintaining a certain reserve regarding her own thoughts and feelings," says Harris.

Outside the palace, more up-close-and-personal encounters — albeit of a rather fleeting nature — have also given members of the public a greater chance to see the Queen during walkabouts on royal visits and engagements.

"Elizabeth the Second really popularized that method of meeting as many people as possible during her royal visits," says Harris, who notes the Queen is the most well-travelled monarch in history.

"More and more people have a personal encounter with the Queen than would have been possible in any previous reign."

As Ninian Mellamphy, a professor emeritus at Western University in London, Ont., and a longtime royal watcher, sees it, the Queen's reign has brought "a very, very slight slackening of formality in the relations between the monarch and the people of England and the people of the world."

Other relations have also changed since Elizabeth ascended to the throne on the death of her father, George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952.

The Great Depression Hits

Work begins on the new Southampton dry dock, to be known as the King George V Graving Dock.

December 11

Work halts on Job #534 because of the Great Depression and an inability to secure further bank loans. The hull plating is 80% completed and the ship stands nine stories high.

July 26

The King George V Graving Dock is officially opened with King George V and Queen Mary steaming into the dry dock aboard the Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert. The dock is the largest in the world at the time. It is 1,200 feet long, 135 feet wide at its entrance, 59 feet deep, holds 58 million gallons of water, and can hold any ship up to 100,000 tons.

January 1

Charles wasn&apost ready for marriage. Camilla was

Though Charles quickly developed strong feelings for Camilla while they were together and was ostensibly wife-hunting (he was first in line to the throne, with a duty to produce an heir) — at the time he wasn&apost ready to marry. In addition to counseling Charles about how experienced his wife should be, Mountbatten had also told him a man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down. Given the number of women Charles dated over the years, he seemed to have taken this advice to heart.

While Charles wasn&apost ready for matrimony, Camilla was. Like most other girls with her background, she&aposd been raised to expect that her life path would be to get married, then set up a home with her husband and children. She hadn&apost gone to university, and instead of pursuing a career, she&aposd taken temporary jobs. For her, life wouldn&apost truly begin until she made it to the altar.

Parker Bowles had been away with his regiment in 1972, but he rekindled his relationship with Camilla while Charles was off with the Royal Navy. Camilla was soon engaged to her old boyfriend they married in 1973, devastating Charles. Yet Parker Bowles wasn&apost just a consolation prize for Camilla when she couldn&apost marry the prince she had always had strong feelings for him. In fact, the depth of her devotion to Parker Bowles didn&apost make her any more suitable for Charles.

That same afternoon, 4,000 miles away in Kenya, Elizabeth and Philip had arrived at Treetops Hotel, built into the branches of a giant mgumu tree. Once night fell they occupied themselves watching elephants and rhinoceros gather at a watering hole beneath the viewing platform. The royal party turned in late with plans to rise at dawn to resume their watch over the wildlife. During those few restful hours, early on the morning of 6 February 1952, King George VI died peacefully in his sleep.

Due to the three-hour time difference Elizabeth and Philip arose to an as yet untroubled day. They fished for trout ion the Sagana Stream and lunched at the Outspan Hotel. News of the king’s death was sent from London to the governor’s residence in Nairobi via a coded message, but the codebook was locked in a safe and the governor, the only man with a key, had left for the coast. Given the remote location, outside communication was virtually non-existent and it wasn’t until a local journalist asked Martin Charteris, the princess’s private secretary, if reports of the king’s death were true, that the royal party learned of George VI’s passing. Elizabeth was among the last to be informed. Once the news was confirmed, preparations for the onward journey were abandoned and attention turned to matters of state. Chartetis was charged with opening and preparing the sealed accession documents, which had been taken on tour as a precaution given the ongoing nature of the king’s illness. Prince Albert had chosen to become King George VI as opposed to King Albert but when posed with the question of what regnal name she would choose, Elizabeth famously replied, ’My own name of course – what else?’ Mourning clothes were transported from Mombasa telegrams were drafted and sent to her Kenyan hosts as well as those expecting her in Australia and New Zealand, and letters were penned to her mother and sister. When it came time to leave, Elizabeth asked that no pictures be taken. Witnessing her historic departure first-hand, reporters honoured her request.

On the evening of 7 February, Elizabeth arrived home to a nation in mourning. For many Britons her father had restored their faith in the monarchy and the shock over his death was widespread. The next morning, dressed in black, Elizabeth read her Declaration of Sovereignty before the assembled Accession Council at St James’s Palace. The queen’s proclamation rang out across London as Elizabeth and Philip made the solemn journey to Sandringham.

Extracted from Queen Elizabeth II: pocket GIANTS by Victoria Arbiter

Proclamation Announcement of Queen Elizabeth II, February 1952

WHEREAS it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
WE, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty's Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Elizabeth the Second with long and happy Years to reign over us.
Given at St. James's Palace this Sixth Day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifty-two.’

The day the Princess of Wales became Queen Elizabeth II

When King George VI died in 1952, the then Duchess of Wales and her husband were the last to find out as they were in Kenya at the time. Speaking recently Philip's cousin Pamela Hicks, daughter of the late Lord Mountbatten, who was also in Kenya working as a lady-in-waiting, has revealed that Philip was told first and then shared the news with his wife.

Read more

Speaking on her daughter India Hicks' podcast in 2018, Lady Pamela recalled how the Queen had been staying at the remote Treetops guest lodge in Kenya, which was accessed via a ladder.

She said: "She goes up as a princess. The King dies that night. She comes down the ladder as Queen. We were the last people in the world to hear."

Princess Elizabeth is greeted by Winston Churchill on her return from Africa following the death of her father George VI. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

A message had been sent by the British embassy but as it had been written in code it wasn't passed on. Instead, the Queen's private secretary, Martin Charteris, was in a nearby town when a reporter accosted him and asked about the news.

Charteris returned to the lodge and subtly climbed the ladder trying to get Philip's attention while not disturbing the Queen.

Lady Pamela said: "Prince Philip is sitting, reading a newspaper, while the princess is in another part of room, at the desk, writing to her father.

"Mike crawls in as he doesn't want the princess to look up and see him so he's crawling out of her sightline and gesturing to get hold of the radio.

"He secretly turns it very, very low and hears all the stations (playing) the same dirge-like music, being very solemn, so it's obviously true."

Mr. Parker secretly got the Duke to listen to the radio to hear the news for himself.

Lady Pamela continued: ”Philip just takes the newspaper and covers his face with it, hides behind it and says: 'This will be such a shock!’”

She said the Duke convinced his wife to go for a walk in the garden, where he told her of her father's death and that she was now Queen.

Lady Pamela added: "As she comes into the room. I think 'Oh, poor girl, her father's died'.

“So I go over to her, give her a hug and think 'Oh my God, it's the Queen’, so I go into a deep curtsey.

"And she says 'I'm so sorry. It means we've all got to go back’. She was only thinking of all of us."

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) (right) in mourning with Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary (centre) at the funeral of King George VI. (Photo by Ron Case/Getty Images)

The podcast also said Lady Hicks reveal that when the royal party returned to London a black dress had to be smuggled onto the plane so the Queen could change before disembarking as she hadn't thought to bring one. An oversight that changed how the monarchy travel, as they now all bring a black mourning outfit.

Watch the video: Coronation of queen elizabeth on 6 feb 1952. #queen (July 2022).


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