The Platinum Queen: Elizabeth II Marks 70 Years Since Ascending to the British Throne
Queen Elizabeth II has become the first monarch in British history to hold the throne for seventy years on Sunday, which marked the start of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations to honor her decades of service to the British people.
As well as being the British head of state and the head of its armed forces, Queen Elizabeth II, 95, also serves as the head of 14 other Commonwealth Realms including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Papula New Guinea.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, Princess of York, on April 21st, 1926, The Queen has become the first British monarch to have reigned for seventy years after ascending to the throne on February 6th, 1952 following the untimely death of her father, King George VI.
The celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee will feature, street parties, concerts, and a Platinum Jubilee Pageant. The Queen’s private estates at Sandringham and Balmoral will also be open to the public on the culminating bank holiday weekend of the Jubilee from the 2nd to the 5th of June.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, leaving their BOAC airliner as they return from Kenya following the death of King George VI and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, London, February 7th 1952. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In the intervening seven decades, the queen has shared confidences with 14 prime ministers and met 13 U.S. presidents.
Once a year, she travels the mile or so from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords for the ceremonial opening of Parliament. And when world leaders come to call she hosts state banquets during which her diamonds flash under the TV lights and presidents and prime ministers worry about whether to bow and when to offer a toast.
But it is the less lavish events that give the queen a link to the public.
At the garden parties that honor the service of everyone from soldiers and charity workers to long-serving school librarians and crossing guards, guests wear festive hats and drink tea as they try to catch a glimpse of the queen on the lawn outside Buckingham Palace. The honorees can spot her at a distance, as it is said she favors bright colors so the public can spot her in a crowd.
Then there is the annual wreath laying at the memorial to those who have died during conflicts around the world, as well as the numerous school openings, hospice visits and tours of maternity wards that have filled her days.
Britain’s longest-serving monarch, the only sovereign most Britons have ever known, has been a constant presence from the Suez Crisis of 1956, when Egypt’s seizure of the Suez Canal underscored Britain’s declining might, through the labor strife of the 1980s and the 2005 terror attacks in London.
Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat for the funeral service of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh inside St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, on April 17, 2021. – Philip, who was married to Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years, died on April 9 aged 99 just weeks after a month-long stay in hospital for treatment to a heart condition and an infection. (Photo by Jonathan Brady / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
When Prince Philip died during the pandemic, she donned a black face mask and sat alone during his socially distanced funeral, silently demonstrating that the rules applied to everyone — particularly her.
“She’s not beholden to the electorate. She’s not dependent on her latest hit or her latest movie,” said Emily Nash, royal editor of HELLO! magazine. “She’s just there. She does what she does. She carries out her duties without ever complaining or making any personal drama. And people respect her for that.”
Not that there haven’t been controversies.
In the early 1990s, criticism of the monarchy increased amid reports of the queen’s private wealth and concerns about the expense of the monarchy. In 1992, the queen agreed to pay the expenses of most of her family and become the first monarch to pay income taxes since the 1930s.
Tensions flared again in 1997 when the royal family’s silence after the death of Princess Diana, the ex-wife of Prince Charles, fueled the resentment of Diana’s many fans.
The Prince and Princess of Wales pose on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, with the Queen and some of the bridesmaids, 29th July 1981. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Even now, the monarchy is struggling to distance itself from the scandal caused by a sex abuse lawsuit filed against Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, and the fallout after two of the royal family’s most popular members, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, ditched their royal duties and departed for California.
But the queen has transcended scandal and remained popular throughout it all, said Kelly Beaver, the CEO of polling firm Ipsos UK, which has tracked her popularity for decades.
“Part of this because she is so synonymous with … the monarchy, which is something the British people are proud of,” Beaver said.
Still, Tiwa Adebayo, a social media commentator and writer who inherited a fascination with the monarchy from her grandmother, believes younger people want “more transparency” — to see the royal family move beyond the adage of “never complain, never explain’’ that has typified the queen’s reign.