Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, passed away on Thursday 8th September at the age of 96.
In a statement released by Buckingham Palace it was revealed: ‘The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow’.
The Queen’s four children hastened to the royal residence in Aberdeenshire following news that Her Majesty had been placed ‘under medical supervision’, doctors having become ‘concerned’ for her health.
The Queen’s grandson Prince William was also present on the day, his brother Prince Harry cancelling the final event of his European tour to fly up to Scotland.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor – or “Lilibet” to her parents – was born on 21st April 1926. She was the first child of the Duke of York, Prince Albert, and granddaughter of the reigning king, George V.
Elizabeth spent her early years on the periphery of royal life. Her father was only second in line to the throne. It was his elder brother Prince Edward who was poised to become king.
The Queen spent most of her childhood at her parent’s London home, 145 Piccadilly, with her younger sister Princess Margaret Rose. Here she received a thorough education, taking a mix of classes ranging from mathematics and history to singing and dancing.
It was also in these early years that the Queen developed her great zeal for the outdoors. Her lifelong love of horses was kindled by frequent tours around the stables at the royal estates in Sandringham, Hampton Court, Windsor and Balmoral.
Though not yet viewed as an immediate heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth was already revealing herself to be fine material for a future monarch. Upon meeting Her Majesty at the age of just two, Winston Churchill described her as ‘a character’ with an ‘air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant’.
The Future Queen
At the age of 10, Princess Elizabeth’s life would change forever. In December 1936, King Edward VIII announced his abdication.
Within a year, Elizabeth’s father had taken his brother’s place. In May 1937 he was crowned King George VI and Elizabeth found herself Heiress Presumptive to the throne.
Elizabeth’s relocation to Buckingham Palace did not last long. Two years later came the outbreak of the Second World War and she was forced to uproot once more, evacuating with her sister to Windsor.
The air of authority Churchill had recognised in Elizabeth at two was not lost amidst this turmoil.
When the Princess turned 18, in 1944, she insisted upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Here she trained as a driver and mechanic, lifting public morale with a hands-on display of royal support for the war effort.
In the decade following the war, Elizabeth was rewarded with a bout of personal happiness. In November 1947, at the age of 21, she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the former Prince of Greece and Denmark.
Over the next three years, she gave birth to her first two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
In February 1952, Elizabeth’s family life was cruelly interrupted. After a long battle with lung cancer, King George VI, her beloved father, had died in his sleep.
Elizabeth received the news in Kenya, where she was standing in for her ailing father as part of an official royal tour. She rushed home and acceded to the throne at the age of just 25.
She was crowned Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953. On the eve of her Coronation she announced in a radio broadcast to the Commonwealth: ‘I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine’.
A Life of Service
During her 70-year reign, the Queen has remained steadfast in her pledge of service.
By her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, she had carried out more than 21,000 royal engagements, given Royal Assent to 4,000 Acts of Parliament, become Patron of over 500 organisations and hosted 112 incoming State Visits to the United Kingdom.
The Queen is better travelled than any previous British monarch, having made over 150 visits within the Commonwealth alone, and in 2015, became the longest ever to have reigned.
Dutiful to the last, it was just on Tuesday that Her Majesty shook hands with the UK’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, fulling her final royal prerogative.
A Monarch for a New Age
Queen Elizabeth inherited a monarchy whose political power had been steadily waning since the 18th century. Yet her role in the public life of the nation seemed to be growing ever more important.
Her coronation was after all the first to have been broadcast to an audience of over 20 million people.
Just as important as the Queen’s daily acts of service during this Second Elizabethan Age, has been her unwavering presence as a symbol of strength and hope.
As with any long reign, the Queen’s 70 years on the throne have coincided with blights of nationwide and global adversity. In the face of war, political unrest, natural disasters and personal tragedy, the Queen has led with extraordinary stoicism.
From profound gestures of political change, like her handshake with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness; to ever-optimistic annual Christmas addresses; to personal interactions with members of the public, the Queen has been the exemplary figurehead.
She has been the rock to which so many have anchored their fears and the mirror reflecting their successes.
Queen Elizabeth II has successfully delivered the monarchy into the 21st century and has left a powerful legacy in her stead.