Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, has died at 96. Before she was born, Queen Elizabeth II provided comfort for the British people. She made her first recorded radio broadcast to Britain in 1940 as a young teenager. This occurred 13 years prior to her coronation in 1952. She was never open to much press access during her time as Queen. The role she played in history is perhaps best summarized in her entry in TIME’s 100 Women of the Year: “In her utter rejection of a public persona, she is best understood, still, as a symbol: no longer the potent florescence of youth, but a hard-worn tree in whose limbs and roots can be traced the archaeology of an era.” The Queen leaves a complicated legacy in addition to the families of her four children: Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, and the eldest, Prince Charles—who is next in line for the throne.
In Oct. 1940, Princess Elizabeth (right) and Princess Margaret (left), sent a message through the BBC’s children program, especially to those children being evacuated due to World War II.
Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne was unexpected, a surprise only surpassed by the duration of her reign. Here’s a brief history of how she ascended to the throne.
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King George VI is elected to the throne
Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI, became King after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Spencer in 1936. World War II broke out shortly after King George VI assumed power. His efforts to improve wartime morale gained him popularity, such as visiting bombing sites across Britain with Queen Elizabeth I and also visiting Normandy 10 day after D-Day, 1944. In 1947, the King took the Royal Family on an historic tour of South Africa. This was a first for the monarchy.
King George VI, who was already in poor health from lung cancer and other illnesses, died at 56 years old of coronary thrombosis. Elizabeth, then 25, was still a princess and had visited Kenya. She returned to her home country to take up the position of Queen.
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Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation
We don’t know the exact date Queen Elizabeth was elected to power. The shift of power takes place the moment the reigning monarch dies, but given that King George VI died in his sleep and was found by a servant at around 7:30 in the morning, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign is said to have begun sometime during that night.
TIME reported on the way she found out about her father’s death during her trip to Africa. “It was not until early in the afternoon that Philip got the news (by telephone from a local newspaper) that changed their lives. He sent an equerry to call London for confirmation, then gently led his wife down to the river’s edge and told her that her father was dead. The Queen returned to the lodge on her husband’s arm, shaken but in full command of herself.”
Her coronation took place on June 2, 1953—14 months after she ascended to the throne.
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A memorable speech
She was made Queen of Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as South Africa, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, South Africa, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. She gave an unforgettable speech to the people that is still a major highlight in her legacy.
She thanked all who supported her and pledged to continue doing right for our nation. “Many thousands of you came to London from all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire to join in the ceremony, but I have been conscious too of the millions of others who have shared in it by means of wireless or television in their homes. You all, whether you live near or far have united for one cause. It is hard for me to find words in which to tell you of the strength which this knowledge has given me,” Queen Elizabeth said.
She added: “Therefore, I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendor that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God’s Grace and Mercy, be given to reign and serve you as your Queen.”
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