When Elizabeth became Queen it was hoped that she would continue to strengthen the future of the monarchy still haunted by the humiliation of the abdication crisis. But despite Elizabeth’s best efforts, her reign has not always been happy and glorious.
Steve Cain looks at some of the defining moments of the second Elizabethan age, beginning with events that gave cause for celebration.
1953 – The Coronation – Coronation Day, June 2, 1953, was marked by an eruption of patriotic fervour. Although the skies were grey, crowds lined the streets from early morning.
Everyone was determined to celebrate the dawn of a new era – and they did. Neighbourhoods crowned their own ‘queens’ and sat down to sumptuous coronation buffets, while souvenir-hunters bought anything from coronation storybooks to mugs. An estimated 20 million people watched Elizabeth on their screens as she accepted the sceptre and crown from the Archbishop of Canterbury before walking down the aisle of Westminster Abbey to emerge as Queen. For the Queen herself, the ceremony and the presence of the television cameras, were a test of her composure that she passed with flying colours.
1977 – The Silver Jubilee – The Silver Jubilee reaffirmed the magic of the monarchy. Suddenly, the nation came alive, united in a glittering celebration of the Queen’s 25 years of reign. It was a grey day, but the Queen glowed in pink. The surge of warmth and emotion was overwhelming – a true bond between a monarch and her people. In a speech the Queen reminded the nation of the promise she made six years before her Coronation: “When I was 21, I pledged my life to the service of our people ... I do not regret or retract one word of it.”
1981 – The Marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – Like the Coronation and the Silver Jubilee, the wedding of the Prince of Wales, the Queen’s eldest child and Heir Apparent, and Lady Diana Spencer captured the imagination of the country and became a huge spectacle with crowds of 600,000 people filling the streets of London. A congregation of 3,500 people were at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, and a further 750 million are estimated to have watched on television. For Elizabeth, the marriage of her son and heir represented not only the continuation of the House of Windsor but also the future of the monarchy.
1982 – The Birth of Prince William – The Queen already had two grandchildren when the new Princess of Wales gave birth to Prince William on June 21, 1982. However, William’s birth was not only a source of personal joy for the Queen but a further continuation to the Windsor bloodline. The baby boy became second (behind his father, Prince Charles) in the line of succession, further strengthening the continuity of the monarchy. The Queen and Prince William share a particularly close relationship.
In 2016, William said of his relationship with his grandmother: “Growing up, having this figurehead, having this stability above me has been incredible. I greatly appreciate and value that protection.”
1986 – The Queen’s 60th Birthday.
The celebration of the Queen’s sixtieth birthday on April 21 1986 saw a much more relaxed monarch than at any previous grand occasion. On the big day, she appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who were married later that year. They were greeted with delight and 6,000 children holding daffodils sang Happy Birthday to the Queen.
ITN news anchor Sir Trevor MacDonald said: “One tends to take the Queen for granted. But the most amazing thing I found is the esteem in which she’s held throughout the Commonwealth. She is universally adored.”
2002 – The Golden Jubilee.
The new millennium brought about a renewed sense of optimism for the Royal Family who looked to move on from the damaging and tragic events of the 1990s.
Despite having lost her sister and her mother earlier in the year, the jubilee celebrations were a success. An estimated one million people turned out for each of the three day celebratory events held in London in a resounding show of support for the sovereign. The enthusiasm shown gave credence to the theory that, despite the fractious relationship between the palace and the media, public support for Elizabeth remained strong.
2011 – The Marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The Queen was “absolutely delighted” to give her formal consent to the marriage of William and Kate, as required by the now repealed Royal Marriages Act 1772, on the morning of November 16 2010.
As Prince William was not heir apparent, the wedding, which took place on April 29, 2011, was not a full state occasion although it was declared a public holiday in the United Kingdom. More than one million people lined the streets between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. On the morning of the wedding, the Queen bestowed the title of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the couple.
2012 – The Diamond Jubilee
In 2012, Queen Elizabeth celebrated sixty years on the throne with events held across the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth. In a message released on accession day in February, Her Majesty said: “I hope that this jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart.”
The Queen and Prince Philip travelled the UK extensively while her children and grandchildren made royal visits to Commonwealth members on her behalf.
2013 – The Birth of Prince George.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were expecting their first child in December 2012, and on July 22, 2013, the arrival of Prince George was announced by Buckingham Palace. A future King had been born, the House of Windsor had a new generation and for only the second time in history three direct heirs to the British throne were alive at the same time – the last time being 1894 when Queen Victoria’s great-grandson, the future Edward VIII, was born. Public and media reaction was unprecedented.
The Queen this year celebrates seven decades on the throne and we want your help to make our right royal coverage extra special.
Her Majesty becomes the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum jubilee.
Events and initiatives will take place throughout 2022, culminating in four-day UK bank holiday weekend from June 2 to 5.
During her 70-year reign, the Queen has visited every corner of the nation, millions of loyal subjects there to greet her.
She has hosted garden parties at Buckingham Palace, honoured hundreds of you from our communities who have made a difference to the lives of those around you.
From walkabouts to investitures, civil servants to cooks, royal outfitters to radio DJs, artists to headteachers, launching ships to opening venues, the Queen has performed thousands of royal duties and met people from all walks of life.
Many of you, our JPIMedia-wide audience, have been privileged to share a few precious moments with Her Royal Highness. And we'd like you to share those exciting experiences with us.
Maybe you were the flower girl who handed the Queen a bouquet as she arrived? Or you played host when she visited your town or city. It could be you caught her attention during a walkabout, attended a VIP Garden party or was awarded an honour. Or it could have been a chance encounter.
Tell us what the occasion was and the build-up to those special seconds when we commoners came face-to-face with the Queen.
What did she say? What did you say? How special remain your memories?
Your personal recollections are the focus of our coverage of her "happy and glorious" 70 years reigning over us.
Share your special stories and photographic memories with us now by emailing [email protected] &/or [email protected] addresses.