Queen Elizabeth II celebrates six decades on the throne

This weekend, BBC America will be airing a special presentation of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. In honor of her 60 years on the throne, celebrations are being held throughout the United Kingdom and other “Commonwealth realms” that recognize her as their sovereign (i.e. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and 11 other countries).

In London, a series of celebratory events are scheduled from June 2 to June 5, starting with the Epsom Derby today and including a pageant of 1,000 boats parading up the Thames River, a major televised concert by major British musicians such as Elton John and Paul McCartney, the lighting of 2,012 beacons across her realms, and climaxing with a carriage procession on the final day.

Elizabeth II will be only the second monarch in the history of the United Kingdom to have a diamond jubilee. The only other diamond jubilee was held in 1897 for Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1903, her 64 years on the throne the longest reign in British history. Queen Elizabeth II is catching up, though; her mother lived to be 101 years old, so it is possible she might live to surpass Victoria’s record.

Even so, Queen Elizabeth’s 60 year reign is impressive. To put that in perspective, when she first took the throne:

  • Harry S Truman was president of the United States
  • Joseph Stalin was still ruler of the Soviet Union and, well, being Stalin.
  • Europe was still recovering from World War II.
  • Spaceflight was still theoretical, and people still plausibly speculated about the existence of Venusians and Martians.
  • Television was still a very new technology (though many Britons bought a TV set to watch the coronation).
  • Computers were giant machines that filled a whole room.
  • Elvis Presley had not recorded his first song yet.
  • Much of Africa was still under British rule.
  • The Korean war was still being fought.
  • Racial segregation was still “normal” in many parts of the world.

This interactive guide demonstrates just how different the world was in 1952.

Elizabeth II’s reign has seen the break-up of the British Empire into today’s Commonwealth, the rise and fall of rock ‘n’ roll and the hippie movement, the terrorist campaigns of the IRA and other groups over the political status of Northern Ireland, the Falklands War with Argentina, and the current War on Terror and Great Recession.

Through the years Elizabeth II has had her share of personal triumphs and tragedies. She has four children, two of whom were born before her accession and two after. In 1979, her uncle-in-law, the popular Lord Mountbatten, was assassinated by IRA rebels. In 1981 her son, Prince Charles, married Lady Diana Spencer, a woman who reshaped the public image of the monarchy but ultimately fell out of favor and divorced her husband. The queen declared 1992 to be her “annus horibilis” (horrible year) after two of her other children got divorced and Windsor Castle suffered a devastating fire. And who can forget the events after death of Princess Diana, when the royal family’s seclusion from the press very nearly got them overthrown until Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened and saved the monarchy. But of course, the monarchy’s popularity has only improved since then, especially after the marriage of her grandson, Prince William, to the commoner Kate Middleton.

And, of course, she also has her famous lifelong love of Welsh corgis.

During this time, she has also become the most well-traveledĀ monarch in history. She has visited 116 countries around the world, and has been to all of the continents except Antarctica.

One must wonder what she thinks of all the changes in her life and the world around her, but the Queen has never given a press interview and she keeps her personal views extremely private. What we do know is that she has an iPod and a Nintendo Wii, the latter of which she has called “addicting”. Perhaps it is fitting that one of her favorite pastimes mirrors the great changes in her life.

Long live the Queen!

Information from various sources, including Wikipedia, the official website of the British Monarchy, and BBC.

2 Responses to Queen Elizabeth II celebrates six decades on the throne

  1. Pingback: Cat Flag Investigates: Are All European Royals Actually Related? | Cat Flag

  2. Pingback: What’s in a regnal name? The UK’s new king takes the throne | Cat Flag

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