Amazingly for a woman who was almost not Queen, she will even surpass her great grandmother, as the longest ruling monarch in British history. Queen Elizabeth II will become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch on September 9. Here are some key dates from over 63 years on the throne:
February 6, 1952: King George VI dies aged 56. His 25-year-old daughter Elizabeth, visiting Kenya at the time, ascends to the throne and flies home.
June 2, 1953: Coronation at Westminster Abbey. Sales of television sets surge as millions of Britons crowd around sets to catch a glimpse of their glamorous young queen.
February 19, 1960: The queen becomes the first reigning monarch to give birth since Queen Victoria in 1857, with the arrival of third child Prince Andrew. She and husband Prince Philip will have four children in total: heir to the throne Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
1970: Carries out the first royal walkabouts, meeting members of the public face-to-face in the street, during a tour of Australia and New Zealand, underlining the royal family’s gradual modernization.
1977: Celebrations marking the queen’s silver jubilee — 25 years on the throne. She carries out a tour of Britain and Commonwealth countries, travelling some 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometres).
August 27, 1979: Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle and part of the royal inner circle, is assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), highlighting the threat to the monarchy throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
April 18, 1980: Zimbabwe becomes independent from Britain, the last of its major colonies to break away. Over 40 countries formerly part of the British Empire have gained independence during the queen’s reign.
July 29, 1981: Marriage of the queen’s son and heir Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer seems to cement the monarchy’s popularity. Diana gives birth to Prince William in 1982, providing the next in line to the throne.
1992: The queen endures what she calls her “annus horribilis” — Latin for horrible year — a low point of her reign. Prince Charles and Prince Andrew separate from their wives, Princess Anne gets divorced and Windsor Castle is badly damaged in a fire.
August 31, 1997: Diana dies in a Paris car crash. The queen is heavily criticized for keeping the family mourning privately at their country estate Balmoral, Scotland rather than returning to London. The failure to lower the royal flag at Buckingham Palace in mourning is also deeply unpopular. After days of intense pressure when she is accused of lacking compassion, the queen comes back to London and addresses the nation on TV.
November 20, 1997: The queen and Prince Philip celebrate 50 years of marriage. While he has earned a reputation for gaffes and tasteless jokes, she hails him as “my strength and stay all these years”.
2002: Britain marks the queen’s golden jubilee — 50 years on the throne. The warm public reception shows the royal family has regained respect following the shocks of Diana’s death and a string of divorces. The year is also tainted by grief for the queen after the deaths of princess Margaret, her only sibling, and her mother, Elizabeth, known as the queen mother.
April 29, 2011: Prince William marries commoner Kate Middleton. The couple, who stress the importance of living as ordinary a life as possible, are popular and represent a more modern face for the next generation of the monarchy.
2012: Diamond jubilee celebrations underline public support for the monarchy, which also benefits from the euphoria surrounding the London Olympics.
July 22, 2013: The birth of Prince George, first son of Prince William and Kate, means the queen now has three generations of direct heirs, testimony to her longevity.
September 9, 2015: The queen will become Britain’s longest reigning monarch, surpassing queen Victoria.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Buckingham Palace; AFP
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