Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 70 years on the throne. Here are some highlights of her long reign to celebrate this milestone.
2022 is a historical year in British history and its monarchy. This year, 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 70 years on the throne, which is unprecedented as she's the very first monarch to rule for that long. She's followed by her great grandmother, Queen Victoria, who stayed in power for 63 years and 216 days.
However, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II isn't just relevant for being the longest in British history, but because of all the milestones and achievements she's had as head of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. A woman who wasn't destined to rule, and a Queen that's kept her nation as one of the richest despite the many social and political changes the world has had.
Let's celebrate this key moment in Queen Elizabeth II's reign by remembering the highlights of her 70-year reign.
1953: A magnificent coronation
Elizabeth became Queen on February 7, 1952, after the sudden passing of her father, King George VI. She was in Africa covering for her father on a tour that was planned to last months through Africa and Australia. However, she wasn't officially crowned until the next year, on June 2, 1953, in a magnificent event as the world had never seen before.
The ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey, and it became the very first coronation broadcasted on television; it was actually Prince Philip's idea, who wanted to give this new reign a more modern and more approachable identity. The coronation was seen by around 27 people in the UK plus an extra 11 million who listened to everything on the radio.
1957: A presidential tradition
Although Queen Elizabeth was used to meeting with foreign dignitaries including presidents of the US as a princess, in 1957 she had her first official meeting as head of the United Kingdom with president D. Dwight Eisenhower. Ever since, with exception of Lyndon B. Johnson, Queen Elizabeth II has met with 13 of the 14 presidents of the US since she acceded to the throne. She met with the actual president Joe Biden even when she's reduced quite notably her public meetings. Meeting the president has become a tradition in both countries, and she's hosted historical meetings like the one with John F. Kennedy and Jackie, and even went horse riding with Ronald Reagan.
1960: A reigning monarch giving birth
When Elizabeth became Queen, she was already a mother of two, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. When she gave birth to Prince Andrew in 1960, she became the first monarch in over 100 years to give birth. The last one had been Queen Victoria in 1857. Queen Elizabeth, would become a mother for a fourth and last time in 1964 when she gave birth to Prince Edward.
1965: Winds of change
Marking the 20th anniversary of the end of WWII, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made a royal trip to West Germany to show acknowledge the Federal Republic of Germany as a growing and reemerging power in the world. This was the first time since 1913, that a British royal visited the country. To make the visit even more emblematic, the Queen planted a tree at the English Garden in Berlin's Tiergarten. The city's mayor accompanied the royal couple.
1966: The Queen's biggest regret
Although she had been Queen of the United Kingdom for over a decade, in 1966 happened a tragedy that would challenge her as a monarch and as a person. In October of that year, an avalanche from a mine buried an elementary school in the town of Aberfan in Wales. The avalanche took the lives of 116 children and 28 adults. Prince Philip was the first royal to visit Aberfan while the Queen remained reluctant to do so thinking her presence would be more harmful than helpful. She thought she would distract the attention from the rescuing efforts, but the people wanted to feel the support of her Queen. She went days later, but she's regretted all her life not going earlier.
1970: Breaking royal protocol
During her royal tour through Australia and New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth decided to break protocol so people would see her as a more approachable monarch. To do so, she decided to ditch centuries of tradition and take a walk through the streets to greet her subjects. Nowadays, royals have way much more contact with the people instead of just waving them from afar. This moment marked a before and after in royal protocol and helped increase the approval of the royal family and the monarchy overall.
1977: Traveler Queen
Her father King George VI was the first British monarch to visit frequently throughout the Commonwealth countries. Queen Elizabeth, saw this as an asset for the royal family and followed his steps. She would even travel way much more than him making her the most traveler British Queen. To mark the celebration of her Silver Jubilee (25 years on the throne), Queen Elizabeth carried out a tour through all Britain and the Commonwealth; she covered about 90,000 kilometers in total.
1979: A threat to the Royal Family
One of the most difficult moments for the Royal Family, and one that inspired fear amongst its members was the attack on Lord Louis Mountbatten and his close family on August 27, 1979, while they were traveling on their boat. Lord Mountbatten was very close to the family, not only because of his royal ties to Elizabeth but because he was the one who raised Prince Philip and gave him his last name. IRA (Irish Republican Army) claimed responsibility for the attacks becoming a threat to the monarchy for the following decade.
1992: Annus horribilis
While the eighties were convulsing for the country in social and economic terms, the royal family had some annexions, starting with the wedding of the heir to the throne Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew in 1986. However, these marriages that were presented as real-life fairy tales, would soon end and bring a terrible stain in the image of the Royal Family. 1992, became negatively famous as an "annus horribilis" by the Queen herself, meaning it had been one of the worst years for her reign. Three of her four children (Charles, Anne, and Andrew) announced their separation and/or divorce, something rare in royal history, and to make matters worse, her beloved Windsor Castle was terribly damaged in a fire. Over 100 of the rooms disappeared in the fire.
1997: The death of a princess
The following years weren't that happy either. Details of the troubled relationship between Diana and Charles became public, and to the Royal Family's dislike, Charles was seen as a villain. Tragically, on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana, the People's Princess as she was known, died in a car accident in Paris. The way the Queen dealt with the loss of the people's favorite jeopardized the power of the monarchy and almost destroyed it sparking anti-monarchic movements all over the UK. Why? The Queen was criticized for staying secluded in Balmoral rather than going back to London and giving a public message on Diana's passing. Not only that, she refused to lower the royal flag at Buckingham Palace as a symbol of mourning and respect suggesting, that Diana was no longer perceived as part of the Royal Family. Days later, seeing the anger of the people, the Queen gave a speech on national television.
2002: A Jubilee tarnished with sorrow
A decade later, more sorrow would hit the Royal Family. While the Queen was celebrating her Golden Jubilee (50 years on the throne), the Queen would also have to dress in black once again and mourn the loss of two of her closest relatives, her mother, the Queen Mother, and her sister, Princess Margaret. Almost replicating this bitter/sweet moment, Prince Philip passed just one year before the celebration of the Platinum Jubilee (70 years).
2011: A royal wedding to remember
2011 would bring back the popularity the Royal Family had once received. Prince William, the Queen's grandson, and second in line to the throne, was marrying Kate Middleton, her college girlfriend. On April 29, the whole world tuned in to see the beautiful bride and the handsome prince walk the aisle of Westminster Abbey. It surpassed all previous royal weddings and the ones that followed. The marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was seen as a new beginning and the face of a more modern and fresh image of the royalty. The birth of their three children equally thrilled the nation.
2012: A Queen with a sense of humor
With popularity rates high as it had never been seen, the following year the Queen was in great spirits. That year the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee (60 years) with a big celebration and concerts but also London was the host of the Summer Olympic Games putting the country under the spotlight. The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics was iconic not only because of the display of wealth and great entertainment but also because the Queen allowed herself to be seen as more fun and cheerful monarch. For her big entrance to the stadium, the Queen prepared a hilarious sketch featuring Daniel Craig in his iconic role of James Bond. In the end, both of them board a helicopter, and right in the middle of the stadium a figure, dressed exactly as the Queen on the video, parachutes into the stadium. Then, perfectly timed, Queen Elizabeth appeared at her seat next to Prince Philip to wave at the audience.
2015: The longest-reigning monarch in history
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth made history once again, she surpassed her great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She will likely hold that record for a very long time since it's almost mathematically impossible for any of those in the line of succession to reach the throne and keep it for that long.
In the last seven years, the Royal Family has grown with the marriage of some of the Queen's grandchildren (Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice), as well as the welcoming of several royal babies into the family. But just as it happens in life, as families are gifted with new members, some others pass, and the death of Prince Philip has definitely had a toll on the Queen. Ever since, the Queen has reduced even more her public duties and visits, and it's likely, as we mentioned, that her very special Platinum Jubilee, won't be as festive as previous ones.