Today Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning Monarch in British History. The Queen has overtaken the record set by Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, and continues to work, way beyond the age of an average British citizen.
The Crown Chronicles takes a look at The Queen’s reign, including the ups and downs, and the historical moments she has witnessed in her 63 years on the throne.
The Queen has seen more than 12 Prime Ministers, and 10 US Presidents; she has seen man land on the moon, the rise of the internet, and reigned through two millenniums. How many other Sovereigns can say that?
1952 – Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen:
George VI passed away in his sleep at Sandringham on 6th February 1952. Elizabeth ascended the throne whilst in Kenya with The Duke of Edinburgh.
1953 – the coronation:
Officially crowning Elizabeth II took place 18 months after her accession. Prince Philip was head of the coronation committee to plan the event.
1954 – commissioning of Royal Yacht Britannia:
A yacht, specifically for the purpose of overseas travel, was commissioned in 1954 for The Queen and the Royal Family. It was used each summer to take The Queen Mother to Castle Mey and Her Majesty would spend time north of Scotland, travelling around the isles.
1960 – Prince Andrew is born:
The third child and second son of The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward was born on 19th February 1960, expanding the Windsor family.
1960 – Princess Margaret marries Anthony Armstrong Jones:
Following the problems that lingered in the newspapers over Margaret’s preference to marry Peter Townsend, The Queen was no doubt happy to see her sister settle down.
1963 – President Kennedy assassinated:
It has become a moment in history where people ask ‘where were you when you heard about JFK?’. The Queen witnessed this moment and was described as ‘horrified’ at the death of the US President. The tenor bell tolled at Westminster Abbey, something that usually happens for royal deaths.
1964 – Prince Edward is born:
The last of the Windsor clan arrived in 1964. Prince Edward Antony Richard Louis was born on 10th March, and is the only child of The Queen’s to not have divorced.
1965 – Winston Churchill dies:
The famous Prime Minister passed away on 24th January. His funeral took place at the end of the month and was the biggest State Funeral in the world up until that point.
It was unusual for The Queen to attend the service, but she did, perhaps because of his long tenure as Prime Minister.
1966 – England win the World Cup:
The first, and only time the English Football team have won the World Cup was in 1966, against West Germany.
1969 – first man on the Moon:
‘One small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.’
The Queen sent a micro-filmed message for the astronauts into space: “On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the Moon. May this endeavour increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind.”
Her Majesty also sent a message of congratulations to the President of the United States of America:
“I send my warmest congratulations to you, to the crew of Apollo 11, and to the American people on the historic occasion of man’s first landing on the Moon. I am filled with admiration for the fortitude of Astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, whose exploits add a new dimension to man’s knowledge of the Universe. I offer my good wishes and prayers for their safe return”.
1972 – Princess Anne marries Captain Mark Phillips:
The second child of Her Majesty married an aide-de-camp of her mother’s, at the age of 22.
1972 – the death of The Duke of Windsor:
The Queen’s uncle, the man who abdicated leading to the accession of Princess Elizabeth, died in 1986. The Duchess of Windsor, who was living with her husband in Paris, returned to Britain to bury the former-Edward VIII.
Wallis stayed at Buckingham Palace on the invite of Her Majesty to attend the Windsor funeral.
1977 – Peter Phillips is born:
The Queen’s first grandchild, Peter Mark Andrew was born on 15th November. He was fourth in the line of succession when he was born.
1978 – Princess Margaret divorces:
It was the first divorce of a senior Royal since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901; Anthony married again that December.
1979 – Earl of Mountbatten is killed:
Prince Philip’s uncle, Louis, Earl of Mountbatten, was assassinated off the coast of Ireland by the IRA. His boat was rigged with a bomb during his summer holiday, killing him and two grandchildren.
1979 – Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister:
The first female Prime Minister was appointed during the reign of Elizabeth II.
1981 – assassination attempt at Trooping the Colour:
Six blank shots were fired at The Queen during her birthday parade in 1981, by a young former-cadet. Her Majesty barely flinched and proceeded to calm down her horse, Burmese, as the culprit was detained.
The Queen has been the target of many attacks over the years but this was one of the few times the event has come to fruition; plots are usually discovered beforehand.
1981 – Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer:
The match of Prince Charles and his young wife was cemented in 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral on 31st July. It was the wedding of the century, and Her Majesty beamed as her eldest son became a husband.
1982 – an heir is born:
Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales was born on 21st June, securing a direct heir for the House of Windsor.
1982 – an intruder in the bedchamber:
The same year, The Queen had an unexpected guest in her bedroom. Michael Fagan scaled the walls at Buckingham Palace and entered The Queen’s bedroom while she slept. Years later he claimed he did it because he was high on magic mushrooms. Her Majesty reportedly chatted to Fagan calmly before security came, even offering him a drink.
1986 – The Duchess of Windsor dies:
The woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated died this year. She was buried alongside her husband at Frogmore, and the service and burial were attended by The Queen, The Queen Mother and other senior members of the Royal Family, perhaps surprising when one considers the furore that surrounded Wallis.
1992 – Princess Anne divorces Mark Phillips:
The first to marry and the first to divorce – Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips divorced in 1992. The marriage lasted 20 years and produced two children.
1996 – Prince Charles and Diana divorce:
Just a few years later, The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales divorced too, following a lengthy separation and public battle of propaganda.
A separation was announced in 1995, with the divorce finalised a year later.
1997 – the death of Diana, Princess of Wales:
Whilst holidaying in Balmoral, the Royal Family received the news that Diana, Princess of Wales had died in a car crash in Paris.
To protect her grandsons, William and Harry, the family stayed in Scotland, despite the outpouring of grief south of the border. This is perhaps the only time Her Majesty has put her role as grandmother before her role as Head of State.
The family returned to London a week later, and members of the Royal Family came to see the flowers and tributes laid for The Princess of Wales.
1997 – decommissioning of Royal Yacht Britannia:
The sad year of 1997 also saw the decommissioning of The Royal Yacht Britannia. The Queen displayed a rare display of emotion, and we saw her shed a tear for the floating home that she spent many a-happy hour on.
1999 – Prince Edward marries Sophie Rhys-Jones:
The youngest child of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was engaged and married in this year. The service was a small affair at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and seemed to be a good way to end the millennium.
2000 – a new millennium:
The Queen celebrated with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Millennium Dome, singing Auld Lang Syne, bringing in the new millennium.
2001 – 9/11:
Her Majesty sent a message which was read at the prayer service in St Thomas church, New York, by the British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer.
“You come together today in St Thomas church in New York united in sorrow by the terrible events of last week. Each and every one of us has been shocked and numbed by what we have witnessed in these recent days.
“But none of us should doubt the resilience and determination of this great and much loved city and its people. Men and women from many nations, from many faiths and from many backgrounds were working together in New York City when this unimaginable outrage overtook them all.
“At your service today, we think especially of the British victims. For some of them, New York was simply a stopover on some busy travel schedule. For others it was a workplace of excitement and of opportunity. For many it was a familiar second home.
“These are dark and harrowing times for families and friends of those who are missing or who suffered in the attack – many of you here today. My thoughts and my prayers are with you all now and in the difficult days ahead.
“But nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love.”
2002 – death of Princess Margaret and The Queen Mother:
Two blows came not long after the beginning of a new millennium: both The Queen’s sister and her mother passed away within seven weeks of one another. Princess Margaret was 71 and The Queen Mother 101, just shy of her 102nd birthday in August.
At Margaret’s funeral, Her Majesty cried, a rare display of emotion.
The Queen Mother was laid to rest in April.
2002 – Golden Jubilee celebrations:
Despite the sadness in the previous months, this year also saw The Queen celebrating 50 years on the throne. Along with Prince Philip, The Queen toured the Commonwealth and the UK, travelling over 40,000 miles to thank the people for their support over the course of her reign.
Over one million attended the parade and flypast in the Mall to mark the occasion.
In a unique move, The Queen organised a photo of the reigning Monarchs of Europe at Windsor Castle.
2005 – 7/7 bombings:
The worst attacks on British soil occurred on the 7th July. The London tube was targeted with suicide bombers as well as bus services.
Her Majesty visited victims in hospital the following day, and gave a rare speech: “I know I speak for the whole nation in expressing my sympathy to all those affected and the relatives of the killed and injured. I have nothing but admiration for the emergency services as they go about their work”
“This is the answer to this outrage. Sadly we in Britain have been all too familiar with acts of terror and members of my generation, especially at this end of London, know that we have been here before.
“But those who perpetrate these brutal acts against innocent people should know that they will not change our way of life.
“Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity and our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all.”
2005 – Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker-Bowles:
The Prince of Wales married his long-time girlfriend in April of this year. The couple had the ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, both being divorcees, followed by a blessing which The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended.
2007 – Diamond wedding anniversary of The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh:
The Queen and her husband surpassed this impressive milestone. It was celebrated in private.
2011 – marriage of Prince William of Wales to Catherine Middleton:
The second-in-line married his fiancée at Westminster Abbey, in front of hundreds of people and billions across the world.
2012 – Diamond Jubilee:
Celebrations saw Her Majesty send members of the Royal Family across the globe to celebrate this momentous occasion. Prince Harry visited the Caribbean, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge south-east Asia, and Prince Charles and Camilla paid visits to Australia and New Zealand.
The Queen and Prince Philip toured the UK extensively, with a river pageant on the Thames being a highlight of the celebrations.
2013 – arrival of Prince George of Cambridge:
William’s line was secured with the arrival of Prince George on 22nd July. The announcement was made on social media and with the traditional easel at Buckingham Palace.
2014 – Irish President visits UK:
A historic visit from the Irish President was made in April. The Queen hosted Michael D. Higgins at Windsor Castle to rebuild a rapport following the poor Anglo-Irish relations of the late 20th century.
2015 – arrival of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge:
The fourth-in-line arrived on 2nd May, just in time for Her Majesty to meet her great-grandchild before going to Scotland for her summer holiday.
The christening followed in July, which took place at Sandringham’s church, St Magdalene’s.
2015 – record reign:
Today Her Majesty quietly undertakes an engagement in Edinburgh, opening a rail line alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, taking a light reprieve from her holiday in the Scottish Highlands.