THE PASSING OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
BALMORAL, Scotland, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the nation’s figurehead and a towering presence on the world stage for seven decades, died peacefully at her home in Scotland on Thursday aged 96.
“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the new king, her eldest son Charles, said.
As I write this from England, people are already gathering at Buckingham Palace.
Queen Elizabeth II of the UK ruled for 70 years and in June marked her Platinum Jubilee celebration. While she took the throne on February 6, 1952, she was not coronated (officially “crowned”) until June 2, 1953 at Westminster Abbey.
She was the longest-reigning British monarch in history though not 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.
Nevertheless, one historian said of her reign
“she was the subject of adulation unparalleled since the days of Louis XIV”.
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
Though she was not born to become queen, 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 was also the longest-lived British monarch, the longest-serving female head of state, the oldest living and longest-reigning contemporary monarch, the most traveled, 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 was Supreme Governor of the Church of England, thanks to her 16th-century predecessor King Henry VIII breaking from the Roman Catholic Church. She was the patron of over 600 charities and organizations. Due to all her real estate holdings, she was 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 was 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.
On her coronation day almost 70 years ago, she said:
“The whole of life is a journey to God… I have not chosen this office for myself: he has appointed me to it, and I go to be consecrated to it by him… And because he leads, I may follow in complete trust.”
On Saturday, September 10, when Charles is formally proclaimed King, the following words, enshrined in precedent, will be proclaimed:
“Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Prince Charles Philip Arthur George . . .”
Elizabeth was the longest incumbent ruler, at over 70 years. For most British people, she was the only monarch they have ever known. Let us join our British cousins in mourning the passing of the Queen and share their grief.
The Queen is Dead
God Save The King
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian