Born: May 24th, 1819
Titles: HRH Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent; Her Majesty the Queen; Her Imperial Majesty The Queen-Empress
Reign: June 20th 1837 – January 22nd, 1901
No one imagined that Princess Victoria of Kent would one day become an icon of majesty.
Victoria was the daughter of the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III. The Duke was just one of the king’s seven surviving sons, and the eldest already had a legitimate heir to the throne. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) provided his father with a granddaughter named Charlotte Augusta. She was expected to be queen, but sadly, the princess died while giving birth to a stillborn baby in November 1817. It would change the course of history.
Victoria’s forebears had been rulers of Hanover in Germany. When the crowns of Hanover and Britain merged, the newly anointed King George I was viewed as a foreigner in his adopted kingdom. In fact, the first two kings, Georges I & II, spoke no English and spent more time in Germany than in Britain. George III, thankfully, was born on British soil and spoke English like a pro. Unfortunately, he became infamous for losing his American colonies and becoming mentally incapacitated. His heir, the notorious spendthrift Prince George of Wales, acted as Regent for him when he became seriously ill.
The Prince, eventually crowned King George IV, led an extravagant lifestyle. The Royal Pavilion in Brighton was one of his iconic pet projects, and he had architect John Nash remodel Buckingham Palace for millions of pounds. He was also famous for being a selfish adolescent trapped in a middle-aged body. The British public was unimpressed with him, to say the least.
George’s brother, who became King William IV, fared a bit better. He was more modest in his spending and did not share George’s elaborate taste. William was a conscientious monarch, appreciated by the public for his simple lifestyle of a “Sailor King” who had served in their Royal Navy. Not to mention that a great many reforms were made possible during his reign – The Reform Act abolished major abuses of the electoral system as well as emancipating slaves.
William was very fond of his young niece, Princess Victoria, and appreciated her vitality and intelligence. She, in turn, liked the king and queen and saw them as surrogate parents.
Like most of his brothers, William had no true heirs. His only two legitimate children, both daughters, died as babies. The king’s other ten children with actress Dorothea Jordan were all illegitimate.
Despite his fondness for Victoria, William was constantly at odds with her mother. After the death of Edward, the widowed Duchess of Kent took on a private secretary named John Conroy, who became her close advisor. The king’s court looked upon him with suspicion, thinking that he may try to make a power grab if he was close enough to the heir to the throne. They were not entirely wrong – the ambitious Conroy harbored a desire to see Victoria come to the throne before age 18 so that there would be a regency. The Duchess could act in Victoria’s stead, and Conroy could manipulate things behind the scenes.
Conroy’s scheming and the Duchess’s unquestioning support of him led to a rift between Victoria and her mother. Not only did the princess dislike Conroy’s influence, she resented the Duchess trying to keep her away from the king and queen.
It was no secret that the king aimed to keep the Duchess of Kent and Conroy away from his crown. William prayed that he would live until Victoria came of age, and, though gravely ill, William did survive until just after her 18th birthday. There would be no regency, and the new Queen Victoria took control of her life and her court.
Once saddled with a mother who wouldn’t let her out of her sight, the Queen banned the Duchess from sleeping in the same bedroom and from constantly accompanying her around the palace. She also banished Conroy from her household.
The British public now had to get used to a female monarch, but Hanover was a different story. Under Salic Law, a woman could not rule Hanover, and so the Hanoverian Crown went to George III’s fifth son, Victoria’s uncle Ernest Augustus.
The crowns diverged, and while Hanover’s kingdom eventually went the way of the dinosaurs, Queen Victoria became one of the most famous British queens in history with a monarchy more stable than any other.
Victoria was one of the most influential (and for a time, one of the longest-lived) monarchs of the United Kingdom. She established an era of moral value and Britain flourished as a nation and as an empire; it was the most powerful industrial country in the world. The Queen had territorial gains in India, Egypt, Afghanistan, Zululand, the Sudan, South Africa, Burma, and the Pacific. Britain’s empire doubled, and Victoria was made Empress of India in 1876.
At times the Queen faced controversy. When Whig party member Lord Melbourne became Prime Minister, Victoria was very pleased. She felt that she could trust him to give her sound advice. When he had left office and was replaced with Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, Peel wanted her to get rid of all her ladies-in-waiting. He wanted the Queen to replace them with ladies who held more of a Tory viewpoint, rather than Whig. That was the usual thing to do when a new administration came to power, but Victoria refused and even called for Melbourne’s return. Peel was quite put out by her attitude, and thus came forth the taunts of “Mrs. Melbourne” from other agitated Tories.
In the meantime, “Mrs. Melbourne” became the wife of a certain Saxe-Coburg-Gotha prince: Albert, the man who gave his name to the British monarchy. He was the great love of her life, and a marvelous father to their nine children.
He would tour the common work places of their subjects to see how people were treated. He was the founder of the Great Exhibition – the Exhibition of the Works of Industry. Albert was always keen to take part in the administration of the kingdom. The prince wanted to prove to the aristocratic British Court that he was more than a lowly “foreign prince”.
Eventually Albert was named “Prince Consort” in honor of his dedication to England and the monarchy. Rightfully so; by the time he and Victoria reached middle age, he had become the <em>de facto</em> head of state. It was he who met with government ministers and read state papers. Victoria was involved, but was less so than Albert. She had only just reconciled with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, when the elderly woman died. After her mother’s death, the grief-stricken Victoria left the duties of state mainly to her husband and became more reclusive, an ominous sign of things to come.
After nearly two decades of being a mainstay in the monarchy, Albert had gained the respect of not only his subjects but the government ministers and aristocracy.
Albert, too, was to be taken from the Queen at the relatively young age of forty-two. He had contracted typhoid and died soon after. Queen Victoria was quite shaken by this, and fell into perpetual widowhood. She erected several memorial tributes to her husband all over England. It is safe to say that she was obsessed by Albert, whom she madly loved and respected. For the rest of her life, the widowed queen dressed in black and became reclusive. It was a tragic thing to happen, and it also served to dull the lustre of the monarchy. There were no parades down the Mall, no opening of Parliament. Victoria shied away from the public. She also issued an edict that no male successor ever be crowned King Albert. This is why her son, Albert Edward and her great-grandson, Albert Frederick Arthur George, were crowned as Edward VII and King George VI respectively. No one could ever (or should ever) top Prince Albert in Victoria’s eyes.
The marriages and children of Victoria’s own children would officially make her the grandmother of Europe. Vicky’s eldest son was Kaiser Wilhelm II and daughter Sophie became a Greek royal consort; Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenberg, and they produced the future Queen Ena of Spain; Alice wed Grand Duke Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt, and their daughter Alexandra married Russian Tsar Nicholas II; Helena married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, whose son became the titular Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and the Head of the House of Oldenburg. Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, produced the flamboyant Queen Marie of Romania.
By the age of 81, Victoria was revered by her people. She had been Queen for most of her subjects’ lives. The public came in droves to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, but it was obvious that the Queen was weak. On January 22, 1901, a little over one year into the new century, Queen Victoria passed away. Taking over the reins for his mother was Bertie, now King Edward VII.
King Edward VII
Full name: Albert Edward
Nicknames: Bertie; The Uncle of Europe
Other Titles: HRH The Prince of Wales
Edward, as Prince of Wales, was irresponsible and an irritation to his mother and father. He loved hunting, traveling all over the world, horse racing (a popular Windsor sport of today) and most of all, he loved women. He was quite the ladies’ man, and he so angered Victoria with his promiscuous ways that she kept all affairs of state private from her son.
Edward was 21 years old when he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. She was an elegant, shy, and beautiful girl, a daughter of King Christian the IX of Denmark. As lovely and as tolerant as she was, it did not keep Edward faithful. He had many mistresses, one of the most famous being Alice Keppel.
Alix, as Queen Alexandra was nicknamed, learned to live with her husband’s many love affairs, but the queen constantly fretted about his personal affairs affecting his public image. Edward maintained that he was merely waiting to succeed his thriving mother, and along with Alix, lived a glamorous lifestyle for the era.
I don’t mind praying to the Eternal Father, but I must be the only man who is afflicted with an eternal mother!
Though he was considered by both of his parents as embarrassingly promiscuous, Edward proved to be a great king once crowned at age 59. He could speak fluent German and French. He was also a force in the creation of the Entente Cordiale and was soon known as the “Uncle of Europe”.
The King took the monarchy to new heights of public esteem, re-instituting public royal events such as the opening of Parliament. His reign sadly lasted for only nine years, dying at the relatively young age of 68 on May 6, 1910.
His heir was George V, who found himself in the center of a brewing storm that would become World War I. It wouldn’t be just any war: it would be war against his own family – his first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
King George V
Full name: George Frederick Ernest Albert
Other Titles: HRH The Duke of York; HRH The Prince of Wales
Prince George became heir to the British throne after the death of his eldest brother, Prince Albert Victor (“Eddy”). George had never been prepared for the duties of kingship because he was a second-born son, but he had to step into the role as heir behind his father Edward, the Prince of Wales.
The late Prince Eddy had been engaged to a German princess named Mary of Teck. Upon his death, Queen Victoria steered the girl towards George’s affections. The queen liked Mary so much that she insisted that she remain in the royal family through marriage to George instead.
George and Mary would come to love each other very deeply. They had a very good marriage together, producing Edward, Albert, Henry, John, George, and Mary.
As Duke of York – and then as Prince of Wales – George maintained a quiet life with Mary. They lived in a small home on the Sandringham Estate called York Cottage. It was very tiny and cramped for all of their staff and family, but George loved it. It reminded him of his childhood. He shot grouse on the moors and collected stamps, and as king his quiet dignity drew the admiration of his subjects.
Then World War I struck. The Royal Family’s Germanic surname of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became a problem. It had been attached to the monarchy since Prince Albert married Queen Victoria and now George’s first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm, was on the German throne.
Was George English enough to be king? Or was his German heritage (and that of his wife) going to be a problem?
It was a ridiculous notion. There was nothing to indicate that George was anything other than English. Queen Mary described them as “English from top to toe”. Even Queen Victoria, who had been born into the Hanoverian dynasty, was staunchly English. One had only to see the reaction towards her eldest daughter’s entrée into the German imperial family. Vicky was Victoria and Albert’s first child and they raised her, as well as her siblings, to believe that England was the best nation in the world. They had hoped her marriage to the German Crown Prince, Frederick, would add some enlightened Englishness into the militaristic court. But the court and Frederick’s parents, Emperor Wilhelm I and Empress Augusta, hated Vicky and disparaged her as “the Englishwoman”, a devil who sat on the shoulder of her husband and manipulated him away from German interests.
Despite the history of the King’s family’s preference towards England (and rightly so as her rulers), it didn’t matter in the days of “The Great War””. Britons’ disgust of anything that was even remotely German was so fierce that the royal family was concerned that they would not escape the wrath.
Even more than that, it was a matter of personal pride. The King was absolutely furious when he heard someone say that he had an “alien and uninspiring court.” He blew his top:
“I may be uninspiring, but I’m damned if I’m an alien!“
The royal family became known as the House of Windsor, after the castle built by William the Conqueror in the town of Windsor. Even titles were changed to reflect “Englishness” – many relatives who were German nobility changed to English marquesses, dukes, and lords. Surnames were Anglicized, like ‘Battenberg’ to ‘Mountbatten’.
To prove that the newly minted Windsors were English from “top to toe”, as Queen Mary said, the king decided not to give asylum to his cousin, Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The tide of revolution was sweeping through Russia and the Imperial family was seen as out of touch with the nation’s misery. Sadly, the Tsar and Tsarina, along with their children, were brutally murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries.
George could not imagine that the Tsar would be killed. When word came that the Romanovs had been executed, George was deeply grieved. For the rest of his life, he was haunted by his decision to abandon Nicholas. When the time came to spring into action, George was prepared. When Greece was invaded by Turkey in the 1920s, George immediately sent warships to evacuate Prince Andrew of Greece and his family. Andrew’s wife, Alice of Battenberg, was George’s cousin. The king was determined that another member of his family should not be lost to revolutionaries.
As the war came to a close and time marched on, George’s health declined. He tried to carry on with his duties despite illness and the need for various operations. His family worried; not just about him, but about his heir, Edward. The Prince of Wales was a cause for concern. He was bored with his duties, and hated royal life. King George V predicted that, “After I am gone, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months”. He had secretly hoped that Edward would somehow remove himself from the picture so that the king’s second son, Albert, would ascend the throne and keep some dignity for the House of Windsor. The old king knew his eldest son was not fit to reign, though he knew the succession must pass to him. In the end, Edward would in fact remove himself from the position of king to become the skeleton in the family cupboard – The Duke of Windsor.
Edward VIII/Duke of Windsor
Full name: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David
Titles: HRH The Prince of Wales; HM King Edward VIII; HRH The Duke of Windsor
Reign: January – December 1936
Edward, known as David, was the eldest son of George V. Destined to be King Edward VIII, he had followed in much the same footsteps as his grandfather Edward VII; a jetset darling of the public, making popular official tours. When he became King, however, he did not go on to become an exceptional ruler as his grandfather had. In fact, his reign lasted for about a year, and he renounced the throne to marry a twice divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. He began to court her and consider her seriously as a bride while Prince of Wales, and was determined to make her queen when he ascended.
After being ill for some time, King George V’s condition worsened. In order for news of his death to be announced in the more prestigious morning papers, he was given a lethal dose of cocaine and morphine by his doctor. The king died January 1936, and David was officially proclaimed King Edward VIII of England. But the wheels were turning on how to escape. He started to bring his brother Albert with him to meetings with the Prime Minister and show him official papers every now and then. Everyone realized what was in store; he was preparing Albert for kingship so he could go and marry Wallis. Edward knew that the government was already unhappy with his marrying a divorced American, but he realized that the government was also not going to stand for the fact that both he and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers.
Many have considered his giving up the throne for love as the greatest romantic gesture of all time, but it was not just the love affair. To have a pro-Nazi king was unimaginable and was denounced by the government. He was told he would have to give up the throne, but there was not a lot of argument; David did not want to be King Edward VIII in any case, and decided to pack up and leave Britain with his American love.
He ascended on January 20, 1936 and abdicated December 11 of the same year, leaving the heavy burden of sovereignty on his brother, Prince Albert, and his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. When Albert became King George VI, he gave Edward the title ‘Duke of Windsor’. It was as if George V’s prayers had been answered – that Albert succeed him, along with his dutiful and loyal daughter, Princess Elizabeth.
As his father predicted, Edward had “ruined himself” within the year.
King George VI
Full name: Albert Frederick Arthur George
Other Titles: HRH The Duke of York
Albert became known as King George VI to honor the continuation of his father’s reign. His wife became Queen Elizabeth, and their eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was now directly in line for the throne as the future queen.
The new sovereign, with his wife at his side, bravely helped Britain stagger through the terrible Second World War and established a ‘family values’ type of monarchy.
Once king, George VI created the former King Edward the Duke of Windsor. When David married Wallis, she became the duchess, but was denied the style of “Her Royal Highness”. The king whipped up a few Letters Patent, declaring that while Edward was to “enjoy the style, title, and attributes of His Royal Highness,” the duchess was barred from these privileges and only referred to as “Your Grace”.
David was appointed as the Governor of the Bahamas after receiving his dukedom. He was, in effect, banished. The brothers, who were once so close, were no longer speaking. Angry over his brother’s snub to Wallis, David called him “the stammering idiot”.
George VI had been afraid of his father, as were all of his brothers, and he had developed a crippling stammer out of the fear. Elizabeth considered their Royal Family ‘firm’ to be priceless, so she helped her husband obtain the services of a speech therapist to help coach him. Along with speech therapist Lionel Logue, the queen helped her husband seem less shy and more kingly.
Through breathing techniques and practice, George sounded more and more publicly adept. His popularity rose, and David was silenced.
The king and queen toured the United States, which was quite successful for them as monarchs in the eyes of the public and for Britain herself, who was lobbying for support from the U.S. during WWII. When asked if it might be better for daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret to be abroad during the war in order to avoid danger, the Queen replied,”The children won’t leave without me, I won’t leave without the king and the king will never leave”.
When George became weak and ill from the beginning stages of cancer, the queen tried to keep him as cheerful as she possibly could. Soon, arteriosclerosis and lung cancer wore the king down to the point that he could no longer travel extensively. Princess Elizabeth, newly married, had to make some of his official engagements and tours with Prince Philip.
On one particular trip to Africa, the king could not go, so he sent his daughter and son-in-law. He went to Heathrow airport to see them off, standing hatless in the cold biting wind. He gave the royal wave to his beloved Lilibet, and watched as the plane became nothing more than a speck in the sky. He and the queen, along with their younger daughter, Princess Margaret, headed home to Buckingham Palace. It would be the last time Princess Elizabeth saw her father again.
Queen Elizabeth II
Full name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
Other Titles: HRH Princess Elizabeth of York; HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh; HM Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II was one of the most famous women in the world, yet no one truly knew how she felt. She remained outside the fray of celebrity and political strife. She could advise, consult, and warn politicians in her government, but she remained impartial. Her Majesty was seen as a uniting force not just for the United Kingdom, but for her Commonwealth, too.
The Queen never retired from her duties. She, despite being a nonagenarian, continued until her dying day as Sovereign. Though she missed some events due to mobility issues, she remained THE Queen. As Elizabeth herself once said, “The job and the life go on together”.
It was a destiny she accepted when her uncle Edward abdicated in 1936, placing her father on the throne as King George VI and making Elizabeth the heiress presumptive.
After her father’s untimely death in February 1952, Elizabeth embraced her new role as queen. In the time since her accession, Elizabeth II had seen presidents and prime ministers come and go, media coverage change and evolve, scandal and divorce among her children, milestone jubilees, and a gaggle of great-grandchildren born.
The Queen was married to the love of her life, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, whom she married in 1947. The Duke died in April 2020 at the age of 99, just months short of his 100th birthday. He was the longest-serving royal consort in history.
Like her predecessor, Queen Victoria, Elizabeth was never expected to be monarch. Her father was the Duke of York, the second son of King George V. The heir was Prince Edward, known to his family as David, who was Prince of Wales and quite popular with the people.
Edward was deeply unhappy with royal life’s golden cage. It became more apparent when he met Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee who had captured the Prince’s heart. As time passed, his father the king grew more distressed at his casual, outright playboy behavior and stated that, “When I am gone, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months”. How right he was.
Deciding that he no longer wanted to be king, Edward called his brothers together and signed the instrument of abdication. His younger brother Albert, now king, was devastated. Not just in a familial sense but also as a royal. The king had abdicated his throne, an unheard of move that plunged the nation into sorrow, anger, and confusion. Thankfully, that would not last long as Albert’s little family, “Us Four”, would now take center state. At the heart was little Princess Elizabeth,
On Coronation day in 1953, the new queen and her husband inspired the nation as they rode along in a procession straight out of a fairy tale – the golden coach driving through the streets of London, drawn by grand white horses. The young queen, glittering in her jewels, waved to all whom she passed by. Prince Philip, dressed in his naval uniform with gold epaulets, waved and occasionally saluted the crowds with a white-gloved hand.
Once they arrived back at Buckingham Palace, they were heralded by trumpets, and throngs of people cheered. Elizabeth, at only twenty-five years of age, was the first reigning queen since Victoria.
The ceremony was broadcast on the radio around the world. At Elizabeth’s request, it was also broadcast live on the television, the newest media at the time. With the coronation televised, it brought home the splendor and the significance never before seen to hundreds of thousands of people.
The Queen was born in London on April 21, 1926. She was the first child for Prince Albert, the Duke of York, and his wife Elizabeth. Five weeks after her birth, the baby princess was christened with the beautiful name of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the chapel at Buckingham Palace. She was named for her mother, her grandmother Queen Mary, and great-grandmother Queen Alexandra. As a toddler, too young to pronounce her own name, Elizabeth called herself “Lilibet”. The name stuck, and that’s how she was always known to her family.
When her sister was born – whose full name is Margaret Rose – little Elizabeth declared, “I shall call her Bud.” When asked why she called Margaret this, Elizabeth replied logically, “Well, she’s too young to be a rose. She is only a bud.”
Princess Elizabeth lived at 145 Piccadilly, an elegant London townhouse. At age 4, Elizabeth was joined by a baby sister, Princess Margaret. Though they were four years apart, the Duchess of York dressed her daughters exactly alike. Though the girls did so for many years, they eventually grew to an age where they each had their own style. Elizabeth’s was reserved and elegant; Margaret became more glamorous, with glittering gowns and long, bejeweled cigarette holders.
As children, the princesses were educated privately in the importance of social graces and how to behave as a proper lady. When not practicing royal etiquette, Elizabeth and Margaret would put on plays and pantomimes for their parents.
In 1936, upon the abdication of his elder brother, Prince Albert ceased being the Duke of York and became King George VI. Elizabeth automatically became heiress presumptive. Her education turned sharply away from that of Margaret’s. Since Elizabeth would one day be queen, her studies now focused on geography and constitutional history.
Much of the Queen’s devoted work habits are credited to her father, George VI, who ensured that she received the proper apprenticeship for the throne. When his elder brother abdicated, it put Albert in the spotlight and he had been completely unprepared. As King George, he decided that his daughter would not face the same surprises.
Princess Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip, during a tour of Dartmouth Royal Naval College with her parents. Philip was eighteen, she was thirteen, and was completely smitten by the handsome naval cadet. Philip was following in the footsteps of his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who had been the Admiral of the Fleet in the British Navy. Mountbatten was such an effective leader he had been posted to India as Viceroy after the war.
Prince Philip had been born a prince of Greece and Denmark, the youngest child of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice of Greece. As a baby, Philip’s family had been forced to flee when Greece was invaded by Turkey. Philip, his parents, and his four sisters escaped with the help of the British Royal Navy.
Prince Andrew was a cousin of King George V, in whose reign these events transpired. The old king remembered his Russian cousin’s horrible execution and was determined not to make the same mistake again by abandoning family. George V’s forces saved not only the Greek royals but the future husband of a queen.
Philip’s four sisters eventually came of age to marry, and one by one left the family to marry German noblemen. Deciding that they were now secure with husbands, Prince Andrew ran off a few years later to be with his mistress. Princess Alice had a nervous breakdown and was sent for treatment in Switzerland. Young Philip was only ten years old.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh
When it was thought that he might marry Elizabeth, Philip had to renounce his title and his Orthodox Greek religion and become a member of the Church of England. After WWII, Philip eventually made his intentions known to the king about Elizabeth, and the Princess was thrilled. George VI was wary, worried that she was too young. The King took his family on a trip to South Africa while Philip stayed behind. He figured it would give his daughter time to think about her impending engagement. After they returned from the 6-month tour, Elizabeth’s mind was still made up – she wanted to marry Philip. He officially proposed, giving her an engagement ring fashioned from a few diamonds from his mother’s old tiara. The engagement was announced publicly July 10, 1947 and the wedding was set for November 20 of that year.
Philip discussed with Elizabeth about the possibility of taking of his new surname, Mountbatten. As a royal prince, he never had a last name, so Lord Mountbatten, his maternal uncle, offered his own name as a solution when Philip was set to marry Elizabeth. The king and many other members of the family were agitated at the thought of Elizabeth changing her name which would change the name of the royal house. Elizabeth put off the name controversy for a few years, but eventually, when she became queen, she instituted that all her descendants would bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor. That way, the official name of the house would not be changed, but her children and their descendants would carry their father’s name.
Their first child was a son, Prince Charles, born in 1948. He was followed by a sister, Princess Anne, born in 1950. Charles and Anne grew up watching their mother navigate her life as a young queen. Several years later, Elizabeth and Philip had two more children: Andrew, born in 1960 and Edward, born in 1964.
Philip and Elizabeth, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, took on more of the king’s official engagements as his health was declining. George had cancer in a lung and arteriosclerosis. He went ahead with an operation to have one of his lungs removed, which proved successful. For a time he was well and back to his old self, but unfortunately it would not last long. Elizabeth and Philip went on an African tour – one of her father’s engagements – and George saw them off at the airport with the Queen and Princess Margaret. It would be the last time Elizabeth would see her beloved father again.
Life Without Father
King George VI died in his sleep February 6, 1952. The healthful effects of the lung operation had lasted only a short time, and the king died during his daughter’s tour in Africa. A courtier from the palace contacted Philip’s servant and friend Michael Parker to tell him to inform the Princess, now Queen Elizabeth II, that her father had passed away. Lilibet, as royal protocol declared, had her funeral clothes on hand, and during the plane ride home changed from her summer cottons to a plain black dress. At Heathrow, the new Queen was greeted by Winston Churchill, among others, with the Royal black Daimlers.
“Oh, they’ve brought the ‘hearses’,” she commented sadly of the large, black royal automobiles.
Her Majesty carried out hundreds of official engagements every year – but it was all in a day’s work for her. Visits around the country and overseas gave Elizabeth the chance to meet people from many backgrounds. It all began when she had to fill in for her father when he was ill. In fact, when the king died, she was in Africa on a trip that he had been scheduled to do.
Her training began early. As a teen, the king introduced her to the red government boxes that came day after day. Elizabeth would eventually contend with the mountain of paperwork which arrived every day of the year, wherever she was. Even on holiday at Balmoral!
Rules and Regulations
A Constitutional monarch can’t do whatever they want arbitrarily. The Queen conducted weekly meetings with the Prime Minister – usually on Tuesdays – to discuss the latest developments in the government. She acted on the advice of the government of the day, though she could “advise, consult, and warn” them. Her Majesty thus did not have absolute rule over her country.
Facing the storm
The Queen faced several difficulties during her reign – her sister Margaret’s love for Peter Townsend; the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales as well as the Duke and Duchess of York; the fire at Windsor, and criticism over delaying a return to London upon Diana’s death. Despite these, Elizabeth was lauded for her calm demeanor and ability to carry on even under intense pressure.
A Life of Service
With great delight, people all across the nation celebrated Her Majesty for her milestone Jubilees. Her final Jubilee was the historic 70th year – the Platinum Jubilee – that broke the records of all previous British monarchs.