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Platinum Jubilee Special - April/May 22

A Joyous Jubilee! by Catherine Rose

June’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations mark an extraordinary 70 years since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, surpassing the previous record held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years.

Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 21st April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street, London, the girl nicknamed Lilibet wasn’t destined to be Queen.

She was the eldest daughter of Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duke and Duchess of York. The Duke, a shy man with a pronounced stammer, was the younger brother of Edward who was heir to the throne, and the family of four with their two daughters were anticipating a quiet life without the heavy responsibilities of rule. However, an event that shocked the nation was to propel Elizabeth into the spotlight and take her on a quite different path.

Only twelve months after his coronation, Edward VIII’s love for a twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson, led him to abdicate. It may seem strange to us now, but even into the 1960s it was strictly taboo for a sovereign, or member of the Royal family, to marry a divorcee.

As second in line to the throne, Edward’s brother Albert had to take his place. Crowned King George VI on 11th December 1936 at 40 years old, Princess Elizabeth, then ten, became heir. From that point, her education and upbringing focused on the fact she would one day be Queen.

In 1947, Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in Westminster Abbey. They settled in Clarence House and two years later Prince Charles was born. Although still only 55 years old, in the summer of 1951 King George’s health began to fail and the young Princess Elizabeth had to undertake her first official duty when she stepped in to represent her father at the Trooping of the Colour.

That autumn, Elizabeth and Philip departed for a tour of Canada and Washington DC, where the young couple was enthusiastically received. In January 1952, they set out for another tour of Australia and New Zealand. However, on 6th February, while en route in Kenya, the King died of a coronary thrombosis at Sandringham. Elizabeth immediately flew back as Queen. She was just 25 years old.

After three months of private mourning for her beloved father, Queen Elizabeth moved into Buckingham Palace and began to start the routine duties expected of a monarch. She took her role seriously, conducting her first state opening of Parliament in November 1952.

Her coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953. Controversially, Prince Philip was instrumental in having the ceremony televised. Both the Queen and her husband subsequently worked to modernise the monarchy while retaining its traditional sense of public duty and creed of “never complain, never explain.”

Like all of us, Queen Elizabeth has lived through difficult times, and last year lost her husband and life companion. But despite bouts of ill health herself, she has stoically continued her duties. Now, aged 96 and still head of the Commonwealth, she has lived a life of service to her country and is admired, respected and loved around the globe.

Photo: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England.