A Monarch for the ages: Reflecting on the defining moments of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign

Sep 08, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II's reign was a remarkable journey through history. Source: Getty Images.

One year ago today the world stood still as news broke of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing.

As the world now marks the one-year anniversary of her death, we find ourselves in a moment of reflection and remembrance.

The beloved Monarch’s 70-year reign came to an end on Thursday, September 8 at 6.30 pm London time at Balmoral, triggering an outpouring of grief from across the globe.

Few will ever forget the sombre moment when Buckingham Palace made the historic announcement of the Queen’s passing, a solemn message that echoed through the corridors of time.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” the Palace announced at the time.

Her Majesty’s reign left a profound and lasting mark on the world and the United Kingdom, a reign that was marked by numerous defining moments, each of which played a significant role in shaping not only the Monarchy but also the course of history.

As millions across the globe reflect on Queen Elizabeth’s life and mourn her passing, Starts at 60 pays tribute to the late Monarch and honours her incredible legacy by exploring some of the most memorable and defining moments of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

Meeting the love of her life, Prince Phillip

Source: Getty Images.

At the age of 13, Elizabeth’s path crossed with the love of her life, an 18-year-old cadet named Philip Mountbatten, during their time at the Britannian Royal Naval College in 1939.

Their initial encounter was but the beginning of a profound connection, a connection that grew deeper over the years through numerous meetings and an exchange of heartfelt letters. A decade of courtship passed, and in 1946, King George VI granted his blessing for Philip to marry his daughter, with one stipulation – they had to wait until Elizabeth turned 21.

The momentous proposal took place amidst the picturesque backdrop of Balmoral Castle in June 1946. The formal announcement of their engagement followed in July of the subsequent year. Finally, in November of that same year, their union was celebrated in grandeur at Westminster Abbey, witnessed by a congregation of 2,000 attendees.

The devoted couple would later welcome four children into their lives. Their eldest, Charles, now the King of England, followed by Anne, bestowed with the title of Princess Royal, their only daughter. Then came Prince Andrew and finally, Prince Edward, who bears the noble title of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Coronation

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The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which took place on June 2, 1953, was a landmark moment in British history and marked the beginning of a new era for the Monarchy.

The Queen’s coronation was a momentous occasion that captured the attention of the world with dignitaries and representatives from every corner of the globe gathering to witness the historic event. The Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey in a golden carriage, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, amidst a sea of adoring supporters.

The ceremony itself was steeped in tradition and symbolism. The most sacred moment was the anointing of the Queen, performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury with holy oil, which signified her consecration as the head of the Church of England. The crowning of Queen Elizabeth was the highlight of the ceremony, as the Archbishop of Canterbury placed the St. Edward’s Crown on her head.

Following her crowning, Queen Elizabeth was escorted through the streets of London in a magnificent procession, where she was greeted by thousands of well-wishers who had gathered to witness the historic event. The jubilant crowds lining the route cheered and waved as the new Monarch made her way through the city.

In her coronation speech, Queen Elizabeth reflected on the historic day while reaffirming her commitment to the people of the Commonwealth and thanking them for their unwavering support. She also emphasised the importance of unity and the need to work together to build a better future for all.

First public ‘Walkabout’

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During a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970, alongside her husband Philip and Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II defied centuries-old royal conventions by embarking on an unconventional walkabout to greet the thousands of royal supporters who had gathered.

This moment marked a historic departure from the tradition of royals waving from a distance to meet their subjects in person. It was a groundbreaking moment that forever altered the royal playbook, setting a precedent both on foreign soil and within the United Kingdom.

This innovative approach to royal engagement not only redefined the monarchy but also solidified Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy as a Monarch who was in touch with her people in a remarkably personal way.

This royal tradition of connecting with the public in a more personal manner continues today. Prince William and Princess Catherine, following in Queen Elizabeth II’s footsteps, have upheld the practice of greeting an adoring public both abroad and at home. They have embraced the spirit of openness and accessibility that the Queen initiated during that historic day, ensuring that the Monarchy remains deeply connected to the people it serves.

‘Annus Horribilis’

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In November 1992 Queen Elizabeth delivered one of her most historically significant speeches. Reflecting on the year, she claimed, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure”.

It was during this year that Her Majesty faced what she termed her “annus horribilis”, a Latin expression meaning a horrible year. It was a time marred by a series of high-profile scandals that cast a shadow over the Royal Family.

The once-stable marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana continued to crumble, leading to their announcement of separation. Additionally, Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, also decided to separate. To cap off the year, a fire erupted in Windsor Castle, leaving more than 100 rooms in ruins.

As Queen Elizabeth commemorated her 40 years on the throne, her reference to 1992 as an “annus horribilis” not only marked the turmoil of the time but also spoke to the resilience and strength of her character in navigating these challengIng moments.

The tragic loss of Princess Diana

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While the Queen admirably weathered the storm of her “annus horribilis”, she was met with further tragedy following the death of her former daughter-in-law, Princess Diana, on August 31, 1997.

Diana’s death sent shockwaves not only through the United Kingdom but also deeply affected the Queen. The Queen faced criticism for the initial handling of Diana’s death, which was seen by some as lacking in warmth and understanding.

However, in the face of overwhelming public grief and global mourning, Queen Elizabeth eventually addressed the nation with a heartfelt tribute to the “People’s Princess”. This marked a significant shift in public perception and highlighted the Queen’s ability to adapt to changing sentiments.

Prince Philip’s death

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The Queen was sadly faced with tragedy and loss once again following the passing of her beloved husband Prince Philip on April 9, 2021.

His death was a deeply personal loss for Queen Elizabeth, leaving a profound void in her life, as he had been her steadfast companion and a source of unwavering support throughout her reign and during their 73 years together.

Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. Due to pandemic restrictions at the time of his death, the Queen was forced to sit alone during her husband’s funeral service. The iconic image of Queen Elizabeth II, seated alone during this trying period, became a poignant symbol of her resilience, character, and her remarkable capacity to navigate life’s challenges.

The Queen publicly expressed her grief, acknowledging that his absence marked the end of a cherished era and the enduring, defining bond they had shared throughout their remarkable marriage.

Platinum Jubilee celebrations

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee marked an unprecedented milestone in her extraordinary reign. Celebrating 70 years on the throne, was a testament to her unwavering commitment to her role as the world’s longest-reigning Monarch.

In what would become her final public celebration before her passing on September 8, she was joined by thousands of Brits and millions around the world over four glorious days of celebration and royal pageantry.

The Platinum Jubilee offered Queen Elizabeth a chance to reflect on her seven-decade reign, witnessing profound changes from the post-war era to the digital age. It was not just a moment of celebration but also a poignant period for her, acknowledging her enduring dedication as a unifying figure in a changing world. This milestone also allowed her to express gratitude to the nation and the Commonwealth.

Sadly, Queen Elizabeth passed away shortly after her Platinum Jubilee, the event serving as a poignant and fitting conclusion to her historic reign.

It was a moment when the nation came together to honour a Monarch who had been a steadfast presence throughout their lives, and it will forever hold a special place in the history of the British monarchy.

From her coronation in 1953 to navigating personal tragedies and addressing modern challenges such as the pandemic, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign was a remarkable journey through history. Her ability to adapt to changing times while upholding the traditions of the Monarchy ensured its enduring relevance.

Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy will continue to influence the British Monarchy and the world for generations to come. Her reign was not just about a title or a crown; it was about duty, service, and a steadfast commitment to her people. Her passing may mark the end of an era, but her impact on the world will be felt for years to come.

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