Devoted to Duty………
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 80th birthday in 2006
On Friday 21 April 2006, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales plans to host a dinner at Windsor Castle to celebrate a landmark birthday for his mother. This birthday will also be celebrated throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and throughout the world.
Queen Elizabeth II is the Sovereign of 16 different countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Bahamas, and The Solomon Islands.
On Wednesday 21 April 1926, a baby girl was born at 2.40 a.m. by caesarean section, at 17 Bruton Street, London, W1. The proud parents were, the then, Duchess of York, aged 25 and Duke of York, aged 30, who welcomed the birth of their first child just before their 3rd wedding anniversary. The Archbishop of York - Cosmo Gordon Lang, christened the new princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 29 May 1926 in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace. Destiny would direct her life into the path of Monarchy.
Princess Elizabeth was born in the middle of what some may refer to as the roaring twenties but May 1926 witnessed the General Strike called by the Trade Union Congress. This brought problems for the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his Conservative government. A far call from The Charleston, One Step, and Black Bottom – some of the new dances of the 1920s. The combination of the new music, new dances, and new fashions outraged many. John Logie Baird first publicly demonstrated television in 1926 and no one realised the significant role this new invention would have in Princess Elizabeth’s future.
The King, George V, was quite besotted by the new princess. After George V suffered a serious illness in 1928, he spent time convalescing in Bognor and “Lillibet” (the affectionate family name for Elizabeth) was his talisman. George V was much more relaxed with his granddaughter than he ever was with his own children.
Princess Elizabeth’s sister, Margaret Rose, was born on 21August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland. Elizabeth fell easily into the role of looking after her. The two young princesses were the pop stars of that time. They were dressed identically for many years and set trends for children’s fashion.
Education for Elizabeth and Margaret was in accordance with the set protocol i.e. their governess Marion Crawford (Crawfie) acted as a schoolmistress. They did not attend a public nursery or school.
During Elizabeth’s life there are many years that could be described as a defining moment but 1936 was an exceptional year. It was the year of the three Kings during which the throne was shaken to the core.
Whilst Elizabeth and Margaret were enjoying family life and their parents continued dutifully with the round of royal duties, their Uncle David enjoyed a more flamboyant lifestyle. George V died on 20 January 1936 and his eldest son Edward (David) was pronounced King.
Edward’s affair with Mrs Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American, was kept from the British press until mid 1936. Edward VIII thought Wallis was the perfect woman and planned to marry her. He assumed she would be made Queen consort. Although a popular prince it appeared he misjudged the mood of the British public, the role of a constitutional monarch and the relationship it has with a democratically elected government.
“Abdication Day” was the heading that the ten year-old Princess Elizabeth placed in her diary on 11 December 1936. On that fateful day, the British public had their third King of the year i.e. George VI.
The pressure on the shy, nervous, self-conscious George (Bertie) was immense and he needed tremendous support from his family. George VI was a doting father to his two daughters and placed an importance on his family that he called, “Us Four.”
The date of the coronation remained unchanged, 12 May 1937, but the person being crowned was not as originally intended. Princess Elizabeth attended the service with her Grandmother Queen Mary and witnessed her Papa and Mama being crowned. Special memories were recorded in her diary. On the balcony of Buckingham Palace the new King and Queen waved to massive crowds cheering outside the gates. King George VI positioned his daughter in front of him. She looked up at her Grandmother and followed her example by giving a royal wave to the delight of the crowds. Some 16 years later she would be waving from the same balcony as the newly crowned Queen.
During the late 1930s, Europe was being torn apart by extremists and the world was on the brink of war. Following the crash of the Wall Street Financial markets in 1929, the unemployment rate in Great Britain rose sharply and the U.S.A. gave Germany 90 days to start to re-pay money loaned to her. This had a devastating affect on the Germany economy. Unemployment increased to approx. 6 million who were mostly male. In despair, with little hope, people started to turn to the extreme political parties for answers and looked for scapegoats.
Prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, the King and Queen accompanied by their two daughters visited the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. The 13-year-old Elizabeth was chaperoned by a handsome 18-year-old naval cadet, Prince Philip of Greece. It was love at first sight for Elizabeth and she told Crawfie how impressed she was by him. Allegedly, Philip’s uncle and godfather, Lord Louis Mountbatten had orchestrated the event and arranged for Philip to meet Princess Elizabeth. Although there were rumours of an arranged meeting, it was definitely a love match from Elizabeth’s point of view.
Britain and France declared war on Germany on 03 September 1939 following the invasion of Poland. George VI addressed the nation and declared that for many people it would be the second time they were at war. The King had served in the Royal Navy during World War I. Many dark years followed for all communities throughout the United Kingdom and sacrifices made that some teenagers in 2006 could never comprehend.
There was speculation that Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret may be evacuated to Canada but a steely determination from both the King and Queen resulted in them staying in Windsor Castle. The King and Queen were mainly based at Buckingham Palace and travelled all around the country to inspect the bomb damage and consul the bereaved. Allegedly, there were reports that they were initially booed but following the bombing of Buckingham Palace, attitudes changed. The Queen famously said, “…. Now we can look the East End (of London) in the face………”
Film footage of “Us Four” was shown to try to boost moral. Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast in 1940, during Children’s hour. She finished the broadcast by encouraging her sister Margaret to say good-bye to all the children. The Queen held knitting groups at Buckingham Palace to boost the war effort along with many other gestures. Hitler referred to The Queen as the most dangerous woman in Europe.
During the War years The King would encourage Princess Elizabeth to meet important guests during lunch in preparation for her future role. Now heir presumptive Elizabeth’s education had been widened to include law and constitutional history lessons at Eton College. An eccentric Vice-Provost of Eton, Henry Marten, gave these lessons. Miss Mabel Lander was her tutor for piano lessons.
Whilst their life at Windsor was preferable to the thousands that were homeless, it must have been quite restrictive for Elizabeth and Margaret. They must have also witnessed the increased pressure placed on their parents. The King was one of the few people who knew how bad things were getting.
On 21 April 1942, Princess Elizabeth carried out her first public engagement, inspecting the regiment of the Grenadier Guards in the capacity as their appointed Colonel-in -Chief
In early 1945, Princess Elizabeth was made a Subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and reached the rank of Junior Commander.
On 08 May 1945, The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, officially announced the end of the war in Europe. He said that the public may allow themselves a brief period of rejoicing. The war against Japan, the suffering and sacrifice throughout Asia continued. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were allowed to join the evening celebrations outside Buckingham Palace and even joined in the chant, “We want the King…”
Princess Elizabeth’s first flight by air was in July 1945, when she accompanied the King and Queen on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.
After the war ended, the number of public engagements increased for Princess Elizabeth, including attending the National Eisteddfod of Wales in August 1946.
Even during the dark, demanding days of the war, Elizabeth’s heart remained with one man and he became a regular visitor to Windsor Castle. George VI, as an over protective father initially thought that once Elizabeth had a chance to experience life, she may change her mind. The King also thought that Elizabeth was too young to be engaged, especially to a man that had little money of his own.
As a severe winter gripped the United Kingdom in early 1947, the King accompanied by his wife and two daughters travelled to South Africa. Maybe distance would encourage Elizabeth to change her mind? It appeared that nothing would. Princess Elizabeth had a framed photograph of Philip in her cabin and she repeatedly played the record Philip had given to her from a West End hit, which includes the line.
” ……… People will say we’re in love.” I believe this is from the musical, Oklahoma.
On 21 April 1947, during her first overseas official tour, Princess Elizabeth made a televised broadcast dedicating her life to duty and she asked that God help her make good her vow. By her 21st birthday, it was clear that there would be no more siblings so Princess Elizabeth would one day be The Queen.
The engagement between Elizabeth and Philip was announced on 10 July 1947 after the King had given his consent to his stubborn daughter. The year 1947 brought many adjustments for Philip i.e. he became a naturalised British subject, changed his surname from Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg to Mountbatten, changed his religion from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, renounced his title as Prince of Greece and was created His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Philip did not become a Prince of the realm until 1957.
The wedding took place on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. The father of the bride gave her away with a heavy heart. Norman Hartnell designed the ivory silk wedding dress. It was embroidered with 10,000 American seed pearls and had a full court train of 15 feet long. At a time when rationing was still in force this may have appeared to be extravagant but after the grey, dark, sad days of the war it must have been uplifting to feel part of the celebrations of the future Queen’s wedding. The happy couple left Buckingham Palace in a carriage en route to Waterloo for the start of their honeymoon. Thoughtful staff had put hot water bottles under the blankets to help keep the cold of the chilly early evening at bay. The guest of honour in the carriage was a corgi named Susan. The love of dogs, especially Pembroke Welsh Corgis has not changed.
The newly weds were able to enjoy some form of normality in the early years of their marriage. Princess Elizabeth spent some time as a Naval wife when the couple lived in Malta.
The King’s health was progressively getting worse and concern was growing. The King lived long enough to see two grand children and the reassurance of the continuance of the royal family.
The gaunt figure of the King was last seen in public bidding farewell to his daughter and her husband in January 1952 as they set off for a Commonwealth tour. He remained in the cold staring at the plane as it’s image faded beyond the clouds
Wednesday 6 February 1952, the world changed again for Elizabeth. The Duke of Edinburgh broke the sad news to his wife that her father had died at Sandringham. The couple had just spent the night at the infamous Treetops Hotel in Kenya and they were in the Sagana Lodge when the news finally made it’s way to the royal party. The funeral for George VI was held on 15 February 1952 and the world said farewell to a reluctant King, aged 56, who had weathered the rough seas of two crisis in the history of the British Royal Family i.e. The Abdication in 1936 and World War II. The heavy smoking and stress had taken their toll on a man raised in austere circumstances but who showed a determination that many us could only wish for.
There was now a new Queen, Elizabeth II, who was crowned on 2 June 1953 in Westminster Abbey. The event was televised and there is even colour footage of the ceremony to be treasured in the archives.
As they say the rest is history. Many articles, books, and magazines will be published in connection with Her Majesty’s 80th Birthday celebrations. Most of the details will have been published or broadcast before but our thirst for news and photographs in respect of the British Royal Family has not decreased.
Queen Elizabeth II carried out a state visit to Switzerland from 29April – 2 May 1980 to visit the then President Chevallaz.
Is there a role for a Monarch in 2006? Is the monarchy too old fashioned or is it ageless?
There are many who are staunch Republicans and I am not referring to a political party in the U.S.A elections. Many young people in 2006 would find in difficult to understand the gush and humbleness of the media broadcasts in 1952.
The Queen in the early years of her reign would include such statements as, “my people….” in her speeches. The United Kingdom in 2006 must appear like an alien planet, in some ways, for all those who can remember 1952. There is a saying that,
“ Nothing is forever except Change.” One constant there has been since 1952 has been The Queen’s dedication to duty.
At the age of 80, long after an age when many people retire, The Queen has a busy work schedule e.g. The Queen travelled to Melbourne to open The Commonwealth Games in March 2006. During the opening ceremony, Dame Kiri Te Kawana sang Happy Birthday to Her Majesty. It is reported that The Queen will never retire or abdicate, as it would be a dereliction of duty in her eyes. Only a serious illness would force her to stand down.
Thankfully, The Queen’s has enjoyed good health for the majority of her reign. There were reports that she might miss her grandson, Prince William’s graduation ceremony on 23 June 2005, at St.Andrew’s University in Scotland, due to ill health, but she did attend. The completion of her 80th birthday portrait by Rolf Harris was delayed due to ill health. The Queen allegedly had a cold and severe sore throat.
Imagine being the mother of four and the grandmother to seven and all your family’s trials and tribulations being analysed, criticised and sensationalised in the media. Some say, too much daylight will destroy the monarchy. An air of mystery should remain. There has not just been daylight allowed in but floodlights. It has been reported that the royal family are dysfunctional. It is difficult dealing with any family problem; goodness knows what it must be like trying to do this under such scrutiny. But they have so much wealth and privilege, some may say, what more could they wish for? A peaceful, safe, and healthy life might be on their list of requests.
Security has always been a high priority for the British Royal Family and is a topic that is foremost in people’s minds following the bombs in London on 07 July 2005. Terrorist attacks are not a new threat for The Queen’s family e.g. Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an I.R.A. bomb on 27 August 1979 whilst on his boat, Shadow V, which had just set off from the fishing village of Mullaghmore, Northern Ireland. Marcus Sargeant, 17 years old, fired blank shots at The Queen on 13 June 1981, en route to the Trooping of the Colour ceremony. The Queen, an expert horsewoman, did not fall off her horse, Burmese, and the ceremony continued. One may imagine the most frightening incident for The Queen happened on 09 July 1982. Michael Fagan somehow managed to evade the security of Buckingham Palace and make his way to The Queen’s bedroom. He sat on The Queen’s bed holding a broken glass ashtray. The Queen rang the alarm twice but no one came. The Queen was able to raise the alarm when he asked for a cigarette from her sitting room. Allegedly, a cleaner was asked to run for help. Thankfully, no one was hurt during that incident.
There have been many other breaches of security which have provided the tabloids with pages of coverage e.g. A Fathers 4 Justice protester, dressed as Batman, held a protest on a ledge outside Buckingham Palace on 13 September 2004.
People tend to look to the Royal Family at times of disaster and sadness e.g. 11 September 2001, 31 August 1997(the death of Diana, Princess of Wales), 21 December 1988 (the bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, near the Scottish borders). The Queen was criticised for the perceived delayed reaction after the death of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Subsequently, The Queen made a live television broadcast from Buckingham Palace on the eve of the funeral that was described as one of her finest speeches. It must be emotionally draining listening to traumatic accounts on a regular basis and some say her strong religious faith helps to sustain her composure in the face of adversity.
One of the more delicate debates that has taken place during her reign is the one in respect of Devolution. The Queen was crowned as sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Allegedly, there were reports that The Queen was not too keen to see the U.K. separated but she did open The National Assembly for Wales on 26 May 1999 in Cardiff, accompanied by her husband and The Prince of Wales. On St. David’s Day (2006), HM The Queen officially opened the National Assembly for Wales’ new building – the Senedd, Pierhead Street, Cardiff. TRH Prince Philip, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall also attended. Prince Charles was created Prince of Wales on 26 July 1958 and his investiture took place on 01 July 1969, at Caernarfon Castle. Lord Snowdon designed some of the set and furniture for the investiture.
We may feel that we know The Queen but she is a very private person who has deep religious beliefs. The Queen loves being in the countryside and has a great deal of knowledge in respect of horses. One of her friends Lord Carnarvon, her racing manager, died on 12 September 2001. The Queen sent a message of condolence to be read at a memorial service held in New York, on 20 September 2001, which included the poignant statement “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Details of the celebrations planned for The Queen’s 80th birthday, from April-June 2006, can be found on the website links: -
Her Majesty, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will meet members of the public on a walkabout outside Windsor Castle during the morning of 21 April.
One of the more light-hearted events, the Children’s party to celebrate British children’s literature and the magic of books, is planned to take place at Buckingham Palace on Sunday 25 June 2006. Characters such as Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine and Paddington Bear will also attend the tea party.
As the years pass, the burden of monarchy becomes even lonelier and theoretically the weight of the crown increases for The Queen. Her mother and sister died within seven weeks of each other in 2002, a year that was due to be remembered for the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The Queen has now been monarch for 54 years, married 58 years, has seen ten different British Prime Ministers, and carried out the role as a diplomat with superior skill. She has witnessed her sister and three of her children divorce. She has endured international press speculation that her husband had affairs during the mid 1950s.
A symbolic blaze took hold at Windsor Castle in a year that one of more sympathetic correspondents described as, “Annus Horribilis.” The Queen said it was not a year that she would look back on with undiluted pleasure.
The last serving Queen who reached the age of 80 was The Queen’s great-grandmother, Queen Victoria who reigned for 64 years.
The birthday celebration will provide an opportunity to purchase some souvenirs but the general advice is to ensure, whatever you buy, is of good quality e.g. Wedgwood. The souvenirs tend not to bring a quick profit but may prove to be a good long-term investment, if kept in good condition with the original packaging.
Some say that whilst the crown rests upon the head of Queen Elizabeth II it will be safe. The Queen has enjoyed celebrating her Silver and Golden Jubilees and hopefully we will witness the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 which is the same year the Olympics will take place mainly in Stratford, London and at venues throughout the United Kingdom.
In her Commonwealth Day message for 2006, The Queen made preference to a traditional proverb that states, “He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”
May you have a very Happy 80th Birthday your Majesty and hopefully we will benefit from your experience and expertise for many years to come.
© Theresa Avery
Written 02 April 2006
GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK/THOUGHTS/COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE: