September’s Royal of the Month is our wonderful Queen Elizabeth II. Last week, on Wednesday 9th September, she celebrated an incredible 63 years and 7 months on the throne (23,226 days) – making her the longest reigning British monarch since her Great-Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Queen Elizabeth was the daughter of King George VI and was not a direct heir to the throne. Her uncle, King Edward VIII, came to the throne in 1936, however, he abdicated the throne on 11 December the same year to marry Wallis Simpson, his lover. Due to King Edward’s abdication, his brother, George VI, was next in line to the throne. King George VI reigned for 15 years, 1 month and 25 days until he passed away in 1952.
Queen Elizabeth II was born as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 21st April 1926 to parents King George VI and wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. At the time, her Grandfather, George V was King of England. She was named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V’s mother and Mary after her Grandmother. She was also known as ‘Lillibet’ by her nearest and dearest.
4 years later, King George VI and Elizabeth welcomed their second Princess, Margaret, in 1930. The two Princesses were educated at home by their mother and Marion Crawford, governess. Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, privately tutored Princess Elizabeth in Constitutional History.
During WW2, King George VI and his family stayed at Balmoral Castle until December 1939 until they moved to Sandringham House in Norfolk. From February to May 1940, the Royal Family moved to Royal Lodge in Windsor until they moved into Windsor Castle until the end of the war. Most noticeably, in 1940, young Princess Elizabeth made her very first radio broadcast during the BBC’s Children’s Hour addressing evacuated children:
“We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war.
We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.”
During Princess Elizabeth’s first overseas tour, and on her 21st birthday, she said in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth:
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.
It was announced on 9th July 1947 that Princess Elizabeth was engaged to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. The pair had known each other as they were second cousins once removed (through King Christian IX of Denmark) and third cousins through Queen Victoria. The Royal engagement had been greeted with uncertainty as Prince Philip had no financial standing, was born in a different country and had sisters who married German nobleman with Nazi links. It has been stated that Princess Elizabeth’s mother had opposed the engagement – but in later life, told a biographer that he was “an English gentleman”.
Before their marriage, Prince Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and took the surname of his mother’s British family – Mountbatten. Prince Philip’s title was created as His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh.
Prince Philip married Princess Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. During this time, Britain had not recovered from the devastation of WW2 and the Princess had to use ration coupons to buy her wedding gown material.
The following year, the Royal Couple welcomed Prince Charles into the world on 14 November 1948. They welcomed three more children – Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Edward in 1964 and Prince Andrew in 1960.
Sadly, on 6th February 1956, King George VI passed away in his sleep, at the young age of 56. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in Kenya at the time when Philip broke the sad news to the new Queen. Normally, the new Royal House would be named after her husband, Prince Philip of Mountbatten, however, Winston Churchill and Elizabeth’s Grandmother, Queen Mary, favoured House of Windsor. House of Windsor was declared on 9 April 1952.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey – this was the first time that a coronation was televised. The Queen’s coronation gown was commissioned by Norman Hartnell and featured beautiful embroidered floral emblems – the English tudor rose, Scots thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, New Zealand silver fern, South African protea, lotus flowers for India and Ceylon and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton and jute.
1977 marked the 25th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne – known as the Silver Jubilee. Parties took place throughout the UK and Commonwealth, culminating in June with the official Jubilee Days – held to coincide with the Queen’s Official Birthday.
2002 marked the Queen’s 50th Anniversary, her Golden Jubilee, – sadly, in February and March, the Queen lost both her mother and sister that year. Street parties and events were held across the United Kingdom to celebrate the Queen’s continued success.
2012 saw the Queen celebrate a spectacular 60 years on the throne, her Diamond Jubilee. Parties and events throughout the United Kingdom and abroad commenced. The same year, the Queen opened the the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London.
Back to present day, on 9 September 2015, the Queen celebrated a phenomenal 63 years on the throne and surpassed her Great-Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria’s, record. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning British Monarch and does not intend to abdicate. Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday next year.