History of Queen Elizabeth II: 70-Year Platinum Jubilee Celebration
HISTORY OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Queen Elizabeth II of the UK has ruled for 70 years, marking her Platinum Jubilee celebration. While she took the throne on February 6, 1952, she was not coronated (officially “crowned”) until June 2, 1953, or 69 years ago today at Westminster Abbey. But what’s a year between friends?
She is the longest-reigning British monarch in history but not yet the longest-reigning monarch in the world or even in Europe. The longest-reigning monarch was Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, who came to the throne just short of six years of age and ruled for 72 years, 110 days.
For all of America’s Republic-loving rhetoric, we are envious of the UK and its royalty. We have artificial royalty, marked by either film, finances, or even people who are celebrities for being celebrities.
Reign of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth became queen regnant upon the death of her father, King George VI (from The King’s Speech). When his older brother King Edward VIII abdicated the throne, George came to power. When Elizabeth was crowned, Britain still ruled seven independent Commonwealth countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, plus several African and Caribbean colonies. The British Empire is somewhat smaller today, with former territories and colonies gaining independence.
In addition to being the longest-reigning British monarch, she is also the longest-lived British monarch, the longest-serving female head of state, the oldest living and longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving incumbent head of state. During World War II, she served as a driver and mechanic with the honorary rank of Captain. She came to the throne at the age of 25.
Predecessors of Elizabeth II
Historically, Queen Elizabeth I, her namesake, was the longest-reigning British monarch of her time, ruling a “Golden Age” of England for 45 years during the 16th-century. In the 19th-century, Queen Victoria had a longer reign, almost 64 years.
As Queen of England, she is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, thanks to her 16th-century predecessor King Henry VIII breaking from the Roman Catholic Church. She remains the patron of over 600 charities and organizations. Due to all her real estate holdings, she is likely the wealthiest person in the UK, probably richer than J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.
What’s In A Name: Elizabeth II
Her name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor, though her husband Philip was of the House of Edinburgh. Her grandmother and Prime Minister Winston Churchill favored the retention of the Windsor name rather than the name of Elizabeth’s husband. The House of Windsor came into being with King George V, the grandfather of Elizabeth.
On July 17, 1917, George changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor because of anti-German sentiments in the UK during World War I.
Let us join our British brethren in congratulating Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Jubilee celebration. As British Monty Python alum John Cleese said in 1982,
“After all, we did fight on your side in the last War, and we always let you beat us at golf, and incidentally let’s not forget you pinched our language.”
Elizabeth is the longest incumbent ruler, at 70 years, 116 days. And she still has a shot at the longest rule if she rules for another two years.
God Save The Queen!
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
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