Elizabeth II celebrated this February 6 70 years at the head of the British monarchy. Her reign is the longest in the history of the United Kingdom and one of the most important due to the large number of changes that she has experienced during these seven decades. Elizabeth II has witnessed numerous political events and has had to deal with family crises at this time, something that has not diminished her personal popularity.
Elizabeth II celebrated this February 6 70 years at the head of the British monarchy. Her reign is the longest in the history of the United Kingdom and one of the most important due to the large number of changes that she has experienced during these seven decades.
This monarch has witnessed the greatest geopolitical and war events of recent decades, having overcome the Cold War, decolonization, the fall of the Soviet Union or Brexit, as well as family scandals, without practically losing popularity.
But Elizabeth was not always destined to inherit the throne. Her father George VI did not plan to be a monarch until in 1936 his older brother Edward VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle, abdicated in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee whose relationship with Edward raised much controversy.
George VI’s reign was heavily marked by World War II. A conflict that, without a doubt, significantly weakened the monarch’s health, but which, however, served Princess Elizabeth to prepare herself thoroughly.
Already in 1947 he made clear his intentions to lead the British monarchy until his death, once his reign had arrived, something he is fulfilling. “I declare before all of you that my whole life, long or short, will be dedicated to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
The heritage of a declining empire
During a trip to Kenya in 1952, part of a tour of the colonies that the British Empire owned at the time, Elizabeth received the news on February 6 confirming the death of her father. Jorge VI, a regular smoker, had been suffering from lung cancer for months. Although his illness was kept secret, she was finally able to handle him.
From that very moment, as established by British tradition, Elizabeth became the sovereign of her nation. Although it was not until 1953 when the act of her coronation took place. A historic event that everyone could see, as it was broadcast on television for all Britons and the entire world. The act caused the adulation and admiration of millions of people who followed the event and catapulted the fame of Elizabeth II.
The new monarch took over an empire in decline. During the 1950s and 1960s, Elizabeth II had to deal with the decolonization of numerous territories in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. A hard blow for an empire that years before had dominated a quarter of the planet.
The British monarch focused on traveling and getting to know these territories with the aim of strengthening the Commonwealth of Nations, an international institution that tolerated the independence of the former colonies but maintained ties with the United Kingdom. During her reign her membership grew from five nations to 54.
Internal and external armed conflicts
But Elizabeth II not only faced external challenges, but also internal ones. In the late 1960s, conflict broke out in Northern Ireland between Protestant unionists and Catholic supporters of adding Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. This dispute left thousands dead and put the United Kingdom in check, which saw its stability and even peace threatened for three decades. Queen Elizabeth II was the guarantor of the unionists to maintain her connection with the United Kingdom.
The following years of his reign were marked by the Government of conservative Margaret Thatcher. During this period, the United Kingdom faced internal strikes and a colonial war against Argentina for the territory of the Malvinas. The conservative premier’s decisions were questioned on occasion by the monarch, from which she transcended her tense relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Despite this, the two most powerful women in the United Kingdom in the 1980s always had mutual respect.
The figure of Lady Di and her ‘Annus Horribilis’
But the biggest controversies that surrounded Isabel II were the family ones. Since the early 1980s, the figure of Princess Diana, wife of her son Prince Charles, has taken on a lot of relevance in the British press… as well as her marital problems with the heir to the crown. In this context came 1992, the well-known ‘Annus Horribilis’ of the queen: three of her children separated and Windsor Castle burned down.
But his most complicated moment as monarchIt was the death of Diana in a traffic accident in 1997. The death of Lady Di occupied all the covers of the world for days. The Royal family was confined to Balmoral Castle in Scotland during the following days, something that significantly affected the image of the queen, who was forced to return to London to carry out the funeral of her daughter-in-law. This change of attitude helped to recover the image of her weeks later.
The challenges of the 21st century
The arrival of the new century brought new personal and political challenges for Elizabeth II. In 2002, shortly before her 50th anniversary on her throne, her sister Margaret and her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon passed away. Although the following years were relatively calm for the royal family, since 2016 the United Kingdom has faced great political instability caused by Brexit. But, although leaving the European Union has been traumatic for British institutions, the monarchy has continued to enjoy its popularity.
Elizabeth II begins her seventh decade as queen alone. The death of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was a severe blow to the monarch, which, however, has not taken her away from her firm intention to end her reign when she dies, as she promised in the her youth. In all these years, Elizabeth II has become the longest-serving sovereign in history, she has seen 14 prime ministers pass by and has met the most relevant personalities on the planet. Her person is living history of the last century.