Master of Her Fate: Queen Elizabeth II, UK's Longest-Reigning Monarch, Dies

On 9 September 2015, Elizebeth's reign surpassed that of Queen Victoria's.

5 min read

Video Producer: Hera Khan

Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar

Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, widely known as Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, passed away on Thursday, 8 September 2022, at the age of 96.

She served as a figurehead for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for 69 years.

The Royal Family said, "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon."

"The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and return to London tomorrow," the tweet read.

Early Life and an Unlikely Queen

The elder daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926 in a terraced house in London's Mayfair.

Fondly called 'Lilibet,' the young Elizabeth was an improbable successor to the throne, until her uncle, Edward VIII (afterward Duke of Windsor), abdicated the position in her father’s favour in 1936, making her the next prospective monarch.

Her education was overseen by a governess, Marion Crawford, who was bestowed with this role by the princess's mother. She was taught history by CHK Marten and was instructed in music and languages.

By 1939, Britain was in the midst of a disastrous war that would last years and the ugly, pervasive memories of which would be printed in history books in every corner of the world.

A witness to this upheaval at the young age of 13, Elizabeth, along with her sister Margaret, was evacuated to avoid the dangers of bombing campaigns against London.

They spent the next four years around 20 miles outside of London, in Windsor Castle.


A War and a 'Princess' at Service

"I declare before you all, that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service" – this is what Elizabeth declared on her 21st birthday, years before she would accede to the throne, in a speech broadcasted on radio from Cape Town, South Africa.

At 19, approaching the fag end of the world war, the princess enlisted in the women's unit of the British Army, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

On 9 September 2015, Elizebeth's reign surpassed that of Queen Victoria's.

Amid the conflict, the British Army conscripted unmarried women under 30 to join the war effort.

Elizabeth, becoming the only female royal to have served in the armed forces, began as a second subaltern in the ATS, and was subsequently promoted to Junior Commander.

Moreover, she was undergoing training as a mechanic by 1945, and joined a driving and vehicle maintenance course at Aldershot. Newspapers at the time dubbed her 'Princess Auto Mechanic.'

The Royal Wedding

In July 1947, following her return from a journey to South Africa, the announcement of Princess Elizabeth's engagement with Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, was made.

Their wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947, on the eve of which the bridegroom was conferred with the titles Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

On 9 September 2015, Elizebeth's reign surpassed that of Queen Victoria's.

Subsequently, in 2017, the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh would go on to become the first couple in the Royal Family to celebrate their Platinum Wedding anniversary.

After their wedding, the couple took residence at London's Clarence House, where their first child, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, was born.

Before her accession to the throne, Princess Anne was also born, followed by Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

1952: Becoming the Queen

It was in February 1952, while Elizabeth was in Sagana, in the heart of Kenya, that Elizabeth first heard the news that her father had passed away and she was to be the Queen.

King George VI's health had started to decline in the summer of 1951, and the Princess represented him at the Trooping the Colour and on several other state occasions. The King was suffering from lung cancer when Elizabeth and her husband were out on a highly successful tour of Canada and Washington DC the previous year.

Towards dusk on the evening of sixth February, Elizabeth was driven to an airstrip close by and flown back to England. The Charteris thought her "very composed, master of her fate" as she boarded the Dakota.

With this, Elizabeth became the first Sovereign in over 200 years to accede while abroad.

On 2 June 1953, the official coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place.

On 9 September 2015, Elizebeth's reign surpassed that of Queen Victoria's.

The ruler's Coronation of 1953 was ground-breaking in its own right – the first ever to be televised, it was watched by 27 million people in the UK alone and millions more around the world.


The Dawn of Modern Monarchy

It was in Elizabeth's reign that the monarchy assumed a role in modern society – she was a woman of many beginnings and ends.

"I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the people of our brotherhood of nations," she proclaimed on television.

The United Kingdom was still seeing wartime rationing when she flew out from Kenya in 1952, and in 2022, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth was the only English ruler ever to celebrate her platinum jubilee.

She condoned the formal dissolution of her sister’s marriage in 1978, and later witnessed the sensational divorce of Prince Charles and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales. She christened the year 1978 as 'annus horribilis.'

The Silver Thread Running Through Britain's Collective Story

That year, Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, also went separate ways, and a blaze ravaged through the royal residence of Windsor Castle.

As public sentiments changed, and the royalty's prestige eroded, Elizabeth agreed to pay taxes on her private income in 1992. The reproval of the monarchy intensified after Diana’s death in 1997.

Still, the Queen would go on to know 14 American presidents, and meet every Labour prime minister there ever has been. She would shake hands with the Beatles, and stand alongside men who walked on the moon. She would be photographed with Nelson Mandela in London and be seen shaking hands with politician Martin McGuinness, who was once a commander in the IRA, the militant organisation that assassinated Lord Mountbatten.

She would hold public calls on Zoom during COVID-19, and give royal assent to no less that 3,500 acts of the UK parliament.

"..the Queen has shaped and reflected the world we live in...Like it or not, she has been the silver thread that runs through Britain’s collective story," wrote Rachel Cooke for The Guardian, earlier this year.

In 2012, Elizabeth marked her 'Diamond Jubilee' – indicating her 60 years on the throne. Three years later, on 9 September 2015, she surpassed Queen Victoria to become the longest reigning monarch of Britain.

In backdrop of a renewed fascination with the Royal Family, by way of Netflix's The Crown, and the famed marriage of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, and their choice to formally give up their royal roles, the Queen Elizabeth’s husband Philip died in April 2021.

Before stepping into the 70th year of her reign, she had expressed, "He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years."

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