After 65 years on the throne, Her Majesty is now the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Here, we revisit her storied career.
For royal watchers across the globe, February 6, 1952, marked the day Britain warmly embraced a new monarch. But for Queen Elizabeth II, February 6 is only about the solemn reminder of her father's unexpected death.
While the people rejoice at her momentous achievement with fanfare and commemorative coins from the Royal Mint—this being her Sapphire Jubilee, after all—the queen will instead mark Accession Day in "quiet reflection" at the country estate of Sandringham, the same place her father, King George VI, spent his final days before dying in his sleep at age 56 of coronary thrombosis (a blood clot inside the heart).
Dickie Arbiter, the queen's former press secretary, told the Telegraph about Her Majesty's intentions to remain secluded: "It's important to understand that for the queen this marks the anniversary of the day her father died," he said. "She has always made it clear that her long reign is a consequence of her father's early death and so it is not a day for celebration."
It was during a trip to Kenya with husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that the then-25-year-old Elizabeth first learned of her father's death. But due to the remoteness of the location, the news took several days to reach the new queen. The brief respite in Kenya was part of a larger international tour that would have taken the royal couple to Australia and New Zealand. Elizabeth immediately canceled her travel plans and left for London, where she was greeted at the airport by prime minister Winston Churchill.
Elizabeth was crowned on June 2, 1953, in a televised broadcast—the first of its kind for an English monarch.
In 2015, Elizabeth surpassed her ancestor, Queen Victoria, as Britain's longest-reigning monarch. Again, the queen chose not to recognize the occasion, telling reporters it was not a milestone "to which I ever aspired."
The longest-reigning monarch in history was Sobhuza II, the King of Swaziland, a sovereign state in southern Africa. He came to power in 1899 and ruled for an astonishing 82 years before his death in 1982. More recently, Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, ruled for 70 years until his death in 2016. He came to power in 1946.
But how will the U.K. celebrate the Sapphire Jubilee without the presence of their monarch? According to tradition, a 41-strong gun salute is staged at noon in London's Green Park by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, complete with celebratory music. The event also features 89 horses pulling six First World War-era guns, followed by a gun salute that will be fired at the Tower of London at 1 p.m.
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