If the history of the last century in the United Kingdom could be defined with a single character, that could only be Queen Elizabeth II . The British monarch, who died on September 8 at the age of 96, has been present at the most important moments in her country from the postwar period to the covid-19 pandemic.
It was made from the account of the Royal Family. Buckingham Palace already flies the flag at half-staff, and it is expected that the other states where he reigned will do so.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.”
“The King and Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral tonight and return to London tomorrow,” the tweet read.
She was the last queen with whom the historic Winston Churchill worked, the first whose image was broadcast on television and her life was brought to the screen in a series on a streaming platform, The Crown , the most expensive Netflix production to date. .
These are the facts that marked the biography of the queen, as well as the United Kingdom during the last seven decades.
the young queen
The family of Princess Elizabeth did not expect that the girl would one day become queen. The expectations were that he would live a relatively normal life within his privilege as part of the British royal family.
Her father, Duke George of York, was second in the line of succession, after his brother Edward VIII, so his daughters—Elizabeth and Margaret—would occupy positions very far down the line of succession to the crown.
Elizabeth II’s fate changed when her uncle abdicated the throne in 1936 and she, the daughter of the newly crowned King George VI, became crown princess.
Two years earlier, in 1934, she had met Prince Philip at the wedding of his cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, and her uncle, the Duke of Kent. Isabel and Felipe got engaged a few years later, on July 9, 1947.
The couple married on November 20, 1947. The ceremony, according to Isabel’s official biography, was low-key as the country was still recovering from World War II. Princess Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, like any other young British bride of the time.
The couple had their first child, Prince Charles, in 1948, two years later Princess Anne was born. The family moved between 1949 and 1951 to Malta, where Philip was an officer in the Mediterranean Fleet.
After a prolonged illness, King George VI passed away on February 6, 1952.
The British monarch had canceled a tour of Commonwealth countries earlier that year. In her place came the then Princess of Wales, Elizabeth, and her husband, Duke Philip of Edinburgh. The future learned of the death of her father in Kenya, thousands of kilometers from London.
Elizabeth, then 25 years old, immediately acceded to the throne that day and since then has held the title of Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of her other Kingdoms and Territories, head of the Commonwealth of Nations, defender of the Faith.
“Following the news, the tour was abandoned and the young princess flew back to Britain as queen. She was received with honors by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other officials at the airport, before returning to Claren House, where the royal standard was flown for the first time in her reign,” reads her biography on the Royal House website. British.
Elizabeth had to wait until June 2, 1953 to be officially crowned Queen of England in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was the first coronation ceremony broadcast on television, in part on the advice of Philip of Edinburgh, Elizabeth’s husband and
“Television brought home to hundreds of thousands of people across the Commonwealth the splendor and meaning of the Coronation in a way never before possible,” the queen’s official biography states.
Queen Elizabeth had two other children: Prince Andrew, born in 1960, and Prince Edward, in 1964. Both were the first children born to a monarch on the throne since Queen Victoria had her family.
the end of an empire
The British empire, which flourished during Victoria’s reign, was already crumbling when Elizabeth II took the throne. By then, Britain had already lost most of its colonies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including one of its crown jewels, India, which declared independence in 1947.
The decolonization of Eritrea (1952) and the independence of Egypt (1953) were the starting gun for the independence processes in Africa that would continue on this continent for the next three decades.
“In the first 12 years of his reign the empire virtually disappeared, to the point that by 1965 the term ‘British Empire’ had ceased to be commonly used,” writes historian Ashley Jackson, quoted by the BBC.
Although it no longer governs these territories, the United Kingdom has maintained its influence in these territories thanks to the existence of the Commonwealth of Nations or Commonwealth, which groups 54 independent and semi-independent countries that maintain historical ties with the United Kingdom, and whose membership in the same it is currently voluntary and does not imply submission to the British monarchy.
Elizabeth is still monarch of 14 countries, in addition to the United Kingdom, but her role as head of state is more symbolic.
A country that has been transformed
During her first years of reign, Elizabeth II had to face the consequences of the Second World War, which ended only seven years before her ascension, and the challenges of economic reconstruction of a country devastated by years of armed conflict.
Then, notes a BBC note, the country had a strong class distinction, where murderers were sentenced to hang, homosexual behavior was illegal and mass immigration had not begun.
The UK is no longer the same place. The country no longer allows capital punishment, same-sex marriage has been allowed since 2014, and it is a major immigration destination for Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The Cold War was being waged in the world, with the Soviets and the capitalist powers, led by the United States, facing each other in scenarios such as Vietnam or Korea.
During her reign Elizabeth maintained a close relationship with the United States. She traveled to that country for the first time as queen in October 1957 and has received 13 of the 14 US presidents with whom she has met during her reign. In 1991 she became the first British monarch to speak before the US Congress.
In the United Kingdom there was a cultural revolution among the young people who were born during the Second World War. Rock took the lead in Isabel herself received The Beatles in her Buckingham Palace, channelers of that energy of the 60s.
The 1970s were tough for the UK, with years of economic instability and constant strike action.
On January 30, 1972, soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the British Army Parachute Regiment, considered one of its most relentless elite corps, fired on a demonstration that was running through the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, a city with a Catholic majority. and a large presence of Irish nationalists. This episode was known as Bloody Sunday. The Northern Irish conflict continued until 1998, when the peace accords were signed.
The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC), commonly referred to by the British as the “Common Market” on January 1, 1973, under the government of Conservative Edward Heath.
In 1977, his silver jubilee — to celebrate his first 25 years on the throne — was somewhat marred by the Sex Pistols’ song “God Save the Queen,” in which they call the monarchy a “fascist regime.”
This decade also marked the arrival of Conservative Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister.
In April 1982, the Falklands War took place, which ended in less than a month and a half with a victory for the United Kingdom over Argentina and the death of 650 Argentine soldiers and 255 British soldiers.
With the popularity that this military victory gave her, the Conservative Margaret Thatcher was re-elected as Prime Minister. In 1983 it privatized the state telephone, gas, water, electricity and British Airways airline companies.
Isabel maintained a complicated relationship with Thatcher, known as the “Iron Lady”, and became concerned about the “human costs” of the measures adopted by the premier.
The decade of reforms
The 90s were the most complicated years that the British royal family experienced in a long time, with several events that questioned the monarchy.
Elizabeth II made history in 1991, as she became the first monarch to speak before the United States Congress, in an intervention on the Gulf War.
The year 1992 was known, in fact, as the annus horribilis (horrible year) of Queen Elizabeth II. Three of his children, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Charles have separated. Ana ended up divorcing that same year. The tabloids, however, were especially interested in the separation of Andrés with Sarah Ferguson, and the marital crisis of Carlos, the crown prince.
In October, during a state visit to Germany, the queen faced the fury of protesters, who threw eggs at her.
To top it off, on November 20, 1992, a fire destroyed part of Windsor Castle, one of the habitual residences of Elizabeth II. Although there were no injuries, the incident did cause significant economic losses, since part of the almost thousand-year-old heritage of the site was devoured by the flames.
In an unusual speech four days after the fire, Isabel said that every institution expects criticism. “No institution … should trust to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support. Much less than those who do not grant it, “said Isabel in her statement.
Both the queen and her eldest son promised that Parliament would carry out a more transparent control of their finances.
On November 28, Prime Minister John Major announced reforms to the royal finances to fulfill the queen’s promises, including paying income tax for the first time, beginning in 1993, and a significant reduction in the number of members of the royal family. royal family who received a salary from the treasury.
Rumors about the relationship between Charles and Diana of Wales increased over the years and ended in divorce four years later. Lady Di, as she was known, had become one of the most beloved characters in the royal family, thanks to her charisma. A year later, on August 31, 1997, Diana died in a car accident in Paris, France.
When the accident occurred, Elizabeth II was in the summer residence at Balmoral. Along with her husband, Philip of Edinburgh, the queen decided to protect her grandchildren William and Henry from the media and rumours, so they remained sheltered in the Balmoral house for five days. The British press at the time criticized the secrecy of the royal family.
With a speech delivered on September 4, the day before Diana’s funeral, showing her admiration for the Princess of Wales, Elizabeth II managed to overcome public mistrust.
In 1998, during the first government of Tony Blair, the report of a second truth commission on Bloody Sunday was published which, to the extent that it helped to restore confidence in the mechanisms of the rule of law, facilitated the adoption of the Good Friday Peace Agreements or the Belfast Agreement on April 10, 1998, by which peace was achieved in Northern Ireland.
jubilees and records
10 years after the annus horribilis, Queen Elizabeth II had to face moments of uncertainty again. The Queen Mother Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, Elizabeth II’s mother and sister, passed away in February and March 2002, respectively. That same year, the monarch was preparing to celebrate her golden jubilee, which marks the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne. She celebrated it with a tour of the territories of which she is head of state, starting with Jamaica.
On July 7, 2005, London was the scene of one of the worst terrorist attacks by Islamist militants in Europe. There were four explosions in less than an hour on London public transport: three in the tube and one on a bus, right in the middle of rush hour. The balance was 56 people dead, including the four terrorists, and 700 wounded.
“Today’s heinous attacks in London have shocked us all,” the sovereign then declared in a brief statement issued by Buckingham Palace.
The decisions of Tony Blair, who was still prime minister, worried Elizabeth II, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, which the United Kingdom joined in support of its ally the United States. According to a report by The Daily Telegraph published in 2008, the queen was “distressed” by a possible overload of the British Armed Forces in the conflict.
On December 21, 2007, she broke her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s record as the longest-living British monarch in history.
However, she was always appreciative of Blair’s efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. In May 2011, Elizabeth II made her first state visit to Ireland, at the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese.
Elizabeth addressed the United Nations for the second time in 2010, in her capacity as queen and head of the Commonwealth of Nations. The then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented her as an “anchor for our times”.
The queen’s visit to Australia in October 2011, her 16th since 1954, was called her “farewell tour” by the British press, due to her advanced age. So, I was 85 years old.
In 2012, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee for the 60th anniversary of her coronation, with a short tour of the UK and a concert featuring Paul McCartney, Elton John and Kylie Minogue.
The celebrations in this decade did not prevent the political turmoil from taking over the United Kingdom.
Scotland, one of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, held a referendum on its independence on September 18, 2014. The referendum question, following the recommendations of the United Kingdom Electoral Commission, was: “Should Scotland be an independent country? Independent? Yes or no”. The “no” was imposed with 55.3% of the votes.
Another referendum changed UK history less than two years later. On June 23, 2016, British people voted in a referendum to decide whether or not the United Kingdom would remain in the European Union. The block’s exit won with 51% of the votes. Brexit won.
The monarch was dragged into the negotiations. On March 16, 2017, two days after the approval of Parliament, the queen authorized the then Prime Minister Theresa May to begin negotiations with the European Union to reach a divorce agreement.
The discussions between London and Brussels got so bogged down that in 2019 members of the Conservative Party thought of resorting to the “humble call”, a legislative instrument to bypass the prime minister and that the monarch be the one who negotiates directly with the EU. The instrument was not used, in part due to the impartiality of the sovereign, who tends to avoid this type of conflict.
After three years of tough negotiations and with a new prime minister, Boris Johnson, Brexit was completed on February 1, 2020, marking the first exit from the European bloc in its history.
Isabel’s last years were marked by losses and scandal in her family. On the one hand, she had to say goodbye to her husband and lifelong partner, Prince Philip of Edinburgh, who died on April 9, 2021, after spending several months of illness.
In an image that will remain engraved as a symbol of the rigor of the confinements by Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, on April 17, 2021, the queen, in deep mourning, was seen sitting totally alone in the chapel of Windsor Castle during the funeral Prince Philip, to whom she was married for seven decades.
In the last year, the queen also had to face the loss of prestige in which her son Andrés fell. On January 13, 2022, his military titles were revoked due to a sexual scandal related to Jeffrey Epstein and his girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
Last February, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, the 70th anniversary celebration of her coronation.
The party was overshadowed a week later, when it was reported that the queen had Covid-19, for which she had to suspend her public agenda. In addition, health problems have already afflicted the monarch since 2021, when she gradually moved away from public life.
In May, rumors about Elizabeth’s health grew louder after the 10 missed the opening speech of Parliament for the first time in 60 years. The two previous times she had been absent were in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Princes Andrew and Edward. Prince Charles took his place.