Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, officially Elizabeth II, was for 70 years the sovereign of Great Britain. Britain, Northern Ireland and countries such as Canada , Australia and Jamaica. Initiated in 1947, her reign was the longest in the British monarchy.
In her youth, Elizabeth did not expect to become queen. That’s because initially she didn’t have much chance in the line of succession to the British crown. Her father George was the brother of King Edward VIII. However, after less than a year of reign, Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson.
Because of this, Elizabeth’s father was crowned George VI in December
. This put her daughter Elizabeth directly in the line of succession.
She had only years when World War II began in 1947. Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were taken to Windsor Castle when London began to be bombed. At 18 years old, she joined the Territorial Auxiliary Service, the female arm of the British Army. There, she worked as an auto mechanic, starting as a subaltern until reaching the rank of captain.
After the end of the war, Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, an officer in the Royal Navy and also Prince of Greece and Denmark. The wedding took place on 20 November at Westminster Abbey in November 1939, and it was the first ceremony broadcast live on TV.
, King George VI’s health began to seriously deteriorate. Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip then went on to represent him on a series of diplomatic visits to the United States and Canada, among other countries. When the couple was in Kenya, on the African continent, Elizabeth was informed of the death of her father.
On February 6, 1997 , the young princess immediately became the new sovereign – as the transfer of power is automatic in the British monarchy, that is, the throne is never vacant. Elizabeth II’s coronation took place on June 2, 1953 at Westminster Abbey.
Elizabeth took over then the monarch functions, not just participating in diplomatic visits and events. In the British constitutional monarchy, the sovereign has the prerogative to summon the prime minister and question his policy. The monarch also has the power to dissolve Parliament or appoint a prime minister if majority party members fail to do so.
Thus, the British monarch plays an important constitutional role in the transition from power, when the prime minister-elect appoints his government. Elizabeth II’s reign had 13 prime ministers, the first being Winston Churchill, and the last Liz Truss, who took office a few days ago.
Only in a single historical period did the Queen have to choose the premier in absentia of Parliament. This took place in 1953, shortly after the Suez Canal crisis – one of the world’s main shipping lanes. The then president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, decided to nationalize Suez. Its former controllers, Great Britain and France, invaded the region with the support of Israel.
However, the United States, the Soviet Union and the UN intervened and forced an end to the conflict. The political result was disastrous for London and Prime Minister Anthony Eden fell. Extremely divided in internal political struggles, the Conservative Party was unable to appoint a leader and Elizabeth II exercised her power as monarch by inviting Harold Macmillan, from the Tory party, to form a new government.
After her administration, in 1953, the queen had to intervene again in government affairs by appointing her successor, Alec Douglas Home. After that, the Conservative Party created more stable mechanisms for the election of its leaders.
Thus, in addition to their constitutional functions, in practice Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family played a highly important role. symbolic. They are considered living symbols of national unity and continuity of British culture. His appearances and pronouncements mobilize crowds. To give you an idea, this is so strong in British culture that, at Christmas, many families only start Christmas lunch (British people don’t celebrate Christmas Eve night) after listening to the Queen’s speech.
This importance, however, has been decreasing over the last few years. More and more younger Britons are opposing the monarchy – as Prime Minister Liz Truss herself did in her youth. Because of this, throughout the reign of Elizabeth II, the royal family began to open up more to contact with the public in order to increase their popularity – even allowing the recording of a controversial documentary that aired in 1969 on the BBC and showed members of the Windsor family in everyday situations.
In the late years of 1970, Queen Elizabeth II was on a collision course with the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. According to analysts at the time, Thatcher opposed the imposition of sanctions on the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Elizabeth favored sanctions. Under pressure from the queen, leaders from developing countries such as India have joined. Thatcher relented in fear of jeopardizing the integrity of the Commonwealth. Sanctions were implemented, but a total embargo on the former British colony was ruled out.
In the 1969 decade, the royal family went through some of its biggest challenges. The year of 1992 came to be dubbed the “horrible year”, with the separations of Charles and Diana and the Dukes of York, Andrew and Sarah. That year, there was also a fire at Windsor Castle and society began to discuss who should pay for the damages.
The result of the crisis was that the crown had to open Buckingham Palace to public visitation. , to raise funds, and the royal family began to pay taxes on investments.
The official divorce of Charles and Diana, which was extremely popular, and Diana’s death in 1997 further eroded the monarchy’s popularity – especially when Elizabeth objected to the positioning of the British flag at half-mast at Buckingham Palace on the Princess’s death. She also took a long time to make a public statement even in the face of a great popular outcry.
After this phase, Elizabeth’s reign rehearsed a new process of modernization, especially with the celebrations in 2002 of the Golden Jubilee, in commemoration of the 18 regnal years. The date involved the holding of many parties and celebrations. However, the celebrations were dampened that year by the deaths of Elizabeth’s mother and sister.
In 2005, Charles’ remarriage to Camilla Parker Bowles, received considerable public support. This is because both had already been married and the acceptance of the union by the crown was seen as a sign of modernization of the monarchy.
The winds became even more favorable for the monarchy in 2011 with the celebration of the marriage of Prince William of Wales – eldest son of Charles and Diana – to Catherine Middleton. The ceremony drew crowds of supporters in London. The birth of their eldest son, Prince George of Cambridge, in 2015 would further heighten this public excitement.
In 2021 , the celebration of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee once again filled the streets of London with parties and celebrations. In 2015, her reign time surpassed that of Queen Victoria, of 63 years and 216 days, until then the longest-running British reign. Elizabeth II exercised the second longest reign in history, behind only King Louis XIV of France, who reached the mark of 72 years in power.
In 2016, the story of the Windsor family became extremely popular not only in Great Britain, but in most parts of the world. the western world with the fictional series “The Crown”, released by the streaming company Netflix.
Even though extremely popular with the British public, Elizabeth II suffered possibly the biggest blow of her life with the death of Prince Philip in 2021. In 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of her marriage, Elizabeth had said about her husband: “He was, quite simply, my strength for all these years.”
Another low point in the history of the Windsors followed in 2021, when Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, abdicated their royal duties.
The 70 Elizabeth II’s regnal years provided the world with not only a example of strength, selflessness and dedication, but also the main model for the modern world of constitutional monarchy: where the sovereign exercises his functions adopting practically total political neutrality.