Despite her old age, billions across the globe were shocked and are mourning her loss. With a historic seven decades on the throne, it’s safe to say that she had a long and eventful reign (and life) full of ups and downs. Here are 15 of the most significant moments of her reign.
When Elizabeth was born in 1926, nobody thought of the possibility of her inheriting the throne. In 1936, her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry his twice-divorced American lover, Wallis Simpson. Edward passed the throne onto his brother and Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, making Elizabeth the heir to the throne at only 10 years old. King George VI died in 1952, and Elizabeth became the Queen of England at 25 years old. Her official coronation was held on June 2, 1953, and was the first coronation to be televised.
The Death of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill not only played a key role in British history, but also in the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. She was a teenager when Churchill was Prime Minster during World War II while her father was King, and Churchill was also Prime Minister in the first few years of her reign. The two were close until Churchill's death in 1965.
1965 West Germany Visit
In May 1965, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visited West Germany for the 20th anniversary of the end of World War II. The ‘60s were a time of division in Europe, and this visit was proof that the Queen was looking toward reconciliation and repairing the damaged relationship between Britain and Germany. Though she didn’t have any political power, she had immense cultural power in pushing the healing of Europe in the decades after World War II.
The Election of Margaret Thatcher
We all know how the Queen made sure she got to know all 14 Prime Ministers during her reign, and Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was no exception. Though the two women had a complicated relationship, they respected each other, and the Queen broke royal protocol to attend Thatcher's funeral in 2013.
Charles and Diana’s Wedding
Charles and Diana’s wedding on July 29, 1981 was watched by 750 million people around the world, truly making it the “wedding of the century.” Though Charles and Diana’s marriage ended in disaster, this wedding set the precedence for lavish royal weddings in the modern era and helped elevate the royals in the pop-culture sphere.
1986 China Visit
Queen Elizabeth became the first British monarch to visit mainland China (outside of Hong Kong) in 1986, in celebration of "returning Hong Kong's sovereignty to China." The six-day trip allowed the monarch to visit the Great Wall of China, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, and Guangzhou.
Queen Elizabeth II lived for an impressive 96 years, so it’s not a surprise that she lived a life of ups and downs. One of the toughest years of her life and reign was 1992, which was the year of several family scandals and the Windsor Castle fire. The family scandals included the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the separation of Prince Andrew from his wife, Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Anne's divorce from her first husband, Mark Phillips.
The Death of Princess Diana
The untimely death of Princess Diana in 1997 rocked both the world and the Royal Family. The Queen’s first instinct was to protect Diana’s sons and her grandsons, William and Harry, but the British public wanted to hear from the Queen while the country mourned the "People’s Princess." The Queen was advised to speak to the public by former Prime Minister Tony Blair due to criticism from the British public. This not only changed how the public viewed the monarchy but was the subject of the 2006 film, The Queen, which resulted in an Oscar win for Helen Mirren’s brilliant performance as Queen Elizabeth.
William and Kate’s Wedding
While the Royal Family was the subject of bad press through much of the ‘90s, public opinion began to shift in the late 2000s and early 2010s. No evidence is greater than that of the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011. It’s estimated that 162 million people tuned in for the historic wedding, and it’s said that it was one of the Queen’s happiest days. The wedding not only ushered in a new era of the monarchy, but the Queen was "overjoyed" with the match and saw a younger version of herself in Kate. The Queen remained close with both William and Kate for the rest of her life, and we hope that they honor her legacy in their new roles as the Prince and Princess of Wales.
2011 Ireland Visit
It’s safe to say that the United Kingdom and Ireland have a complicated relationship. In May 2011, the Queen took it upon herself to mend the rift between the two nations by becoming the first British monarch to visit Ireland in 100 years. The visit was considered a "watershed moment" for the two countries, and the Queen shook hands with the leader of Sinn Fein, the political party of the Irish Republicans and former Irish Republican Army.
Queen Elizabeth II Surpasses Queen Victoria as Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch
On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II made history by surpassing Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and 216 days. This not only made her the longest reigning monarch in British history, but she celebrated this occasion on a train in Scotland. It’s truly amazing that she didn’t have a lavish ceremony or party to celebrate this accomplishment, proving how devoted she really was to the Crown. There are also plenty of similarities between Elizabeth and Victoria, as both women were devoted to their roles until the very end.
Harry and Meghan’s Wedding
Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle was watched by 1.9 billion people worldwide and was considered a historic event for many reasons. Prince Harry not only married a biracial American woman but a former actress and divorcée. The lavish ceremony took place on May 19, 2018, and was considered to be a step into a more modern era for the Royal Family.
Less than two years after their wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced that they would "step back as senior royals" on January 8, 2020, and planned to “work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen” and “balance their time between the UK and North America, while continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages."
The press dubbed the dramatic exit “Megxit,” and the couple moved to Southern California to pursue lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify. On March 7, 2021, Meghan and Harry sat down with Oprah for an explosive interview exposing how they were treated poorly by the British press and Royal Family, but made it clear that the Queen had been nothing but supportive. Though the Queen never made her feelings on this situation known to the public, many believe that the rift between Prince William and Prince Harry due to the exit upset her. This also led many fans to believe that Markle was a narcissist, something more fans have begun believing in recent months. Unfortunately, the Queen passed away before the Royal brothers could reconcile.
The Death of Prince Philip
On April 9, 2021, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years, died at age 99. The royal couple had a fairytale romance, and the Queen often referred to Philip as “her rock” as he stuck by her side through the many ups and downs of their lives. Not only did the couple make history as the longest reigning monarchs, but it’s also believed that the Queen "was never the same" after Philip passed and that her health began to decline after his death.
The Queen celebrated several milestones throughout her reign, but she was the first monarch to celebrate 70 years on the throne with her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022. Though she was unable to attend some of the events due to her health, the celebration was proof that her legacy was already unique. The Jubilee also showed her influence on pop-culture and her famous sense of humor, particularly in an adorable skit with Paddington Bear.
Queen Elizabeth II was so much more than a monarch. She was an icon in every sense of the word and witnessed numerous historical events in her 96 years of life and 70-year reign as Queen of England. She will leave behind a legacy of duty and loyalty to her country and Crown, alongside being a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
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