Being the head of the crown for 70 years has made Queen Elizabeth witness some of the most important historical events that have changed the world forever.
Seventy years is easy to say, but it is such a long time! Queen Elizabeth, the longest-reigning monarch hasn’t only been head of the crown in England, but a true cultural icon that’s been a constant for generations all around the world. Being such an important character in history, Queen Elizabeth has been both at the center and witness to some of the key historical events that have changed the world.
Born in 1926, Queen Elizabeth arrived in a world devastated by the terrible WWI, soon after, the US and the world would experience one of the worst economic crises in modern history, and not long from that, she witnessed what would be an even worse world war. However, despite her young age, from a very early stage, Elizabeth was determined to be an active princess and a protagonist in history.
Still, an active monarch in the events in the UK or a simple witness in world history, here are some of the world-changing events that have happened during her long reign.
Decolonization (1946 - now)
Since WWII ended, many countries that had been subjugated by European colonization, saw a window of opportunity to achieve their independence. Unprecedented movements over colonies changed the world’s map. In India, Mahatma Gandhi achieved the independence of the country (and the partition of the territory into two countries, Pakistan and India) through his philosophy of non-violence in 1947. In the fifties, French Indochina saw the birth of nations like Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam after forcing the French out of their territory.
A short time after Elizabeth herself became Queen, she had to struggle with the loss of almost all British colonies in Africa. By 1968, 16 years after her accession, the only possession the UK had in Africa was Seychelles, which would become independent almost one decade later. To put it into perspective, when Queen Elizabeth took the throne, the Empire had over 70 colonies overseas; throughout the decades, only 15 remain in what is known as the Commonwealth. This year, Barbados got its independence.
Vietnam War (1955 – 1975)
As we mentioned above, after WWI, French Indochina got its independence creating three different nations, including Vietnam. In the following years, the country was divided into North and South, with the latter having financial support from the US. By 1955, there was a clear struggle between the North (supported by Communist nations) and the South. The devastating war lasted 20 years and became one of America’s biggest flops in its history.
Cuban Revolution (1953 - 1959)
Talking about the Communism vs. Capitalism atmosphere that reigned the world during the Cold War, we have to talk about the Cuban Revolution and the international consequences of the inner conflict. In 1953, revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro took arms to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The president was ousted in 1958 but the conflict was far from being over.
The US had won control over the island after the Spanish-American War in 1899, and even when Cuba was an independent nation, the US kept military control over the island. Castro aligned the country to the politics of the Soviet Union and saw the US as an interventionist country creating countless clashes that derived from conflicts like the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)
On November 22, 1963, the world was shocked by the news of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. Just two years earlier the popular president and his equally praised wife, Jackie Kennedy, had enjoyed a successful visit to Buckingham Palace. In 1963, Kennedy was preparing for his re-election campaign and had started touring over the states.
Aware of the rivalry between both parties in Texas, President Kennedy visited the state. On November 22, the presidential couple conducted a parade through the streets of Dallas when the tragedy occurred. The guilty were captured but killed as well while he was being transferred. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency.
Man on the moon (1968)
One of the events that thrilled the world was the televised NASA mission, Apollo 11, that put the first human beings on the moon. As one of the key events of what was known as the Space Race, a spatial competition between the USSR and the US, many believed that the feat of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, gave the US the victory in the race.
Chernobyl Disaster (1986)
Considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, the tragedy of Chernobyl terrified the world. On April 26, 1986, after a failed safety test on the Number 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the energy caused a nuclear chain reaction that derived in a terrible explosion. This generated radioactive contamination that spread throughout Ukraine, the USSR, and Western Europe for nine months. Even years after, the consequences of the nuclear incident were still registered.
Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)
For almost five decades, the so-called Cold War left the world anguished with fear of a new world war that would involve nuclear warfare. The angst ‘finished’ in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the divisions of the world between the Communist and Capitalist powers. After a spokesperson of the East Berlin’s Communist Party announced publicly that citizens of East Berlin were free to cross the border, on the first hours of November 9, East Berliners crowded the wall and started crossing. A few hours later, people from both sides, started demolishing the wall. This is considered the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
9/11 September attacks (2001)
It doesn’t matter where are you from, we all remember the shocking images of the Twin Towers collapsing after being hit by two airplanes. The terrorist attack, organized by Al Qaeda, and left almost 3,000 casualties, changed the world forever. As a response, the US government sparked a war against terrorism that is still going on even today.
War in Afghanistan (2001 - 2021)
One of the main consequences of 9/11 was the war in Afghanistan. After the attacks, the US government demanded the extradition of the Taliban leader Osama Bin Laden, who claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Taliban refused and the US responded with an invasion of the Asian country. It’s considered the longest war in American history surpassing Vietnam for about five months. The war ended when the US military left their occupation in 2021 and the Taliban regained power in the country.
Covid-19 Pandemic (2020)
Last but not least, we have the event that has changed us forever and that still has us wondering how to keep on. The Covid-19 pandemic, which started in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, rapidly spread throughout the world becoming one of the most lethal epidemics in modern history. Covid shook the world with over six million casualties and has changed how we do even the basic activities like working, socializing, and entertaining ourselves. Queen Elizabeth was one of the over 530,000,000 confirmed cases.