The “accidental heir”
Queen Elizabeth II has been ruling for more than 65 years, and we’re getting to a point where we can’t see any other British monarch taking her place. What if someone were to tell you that the queen’s position was completely accidental? That’s right, the distinguished queen was not first in line to rule the throne, nor was her father for that matter. The true heir apparent? Her uncle, Prince Edward VIII. Only one years after his coronation, Edward voluntarily abdicated his throne for the love of his life Wallis Simpson; it was the scandal of the day.
Heir by abdication
You would think the birth of the future queen of England would have the country drunk with celebration and cheer, but was not the case. Born on April 21, 1926, Queen Elizabeth was born to the brother of the would-be-king, her uncle, King Edward VIII. Born female and third in line for the throne, her chances of ascension were slim. It was commonly assumed that the King of the United Kingdom would reign, have children, and succeed the line as any royal. That simply wasn’t the case.
Scandal plagues England
In 1936, the king abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Simpson (pictured above), an American socialite who was twice-divorced before marrying His Royal Highness. Edward was smitten and made the ultimate sacrifice to pursue his love. Of course, to marry a divorced woman who was not born from nobility or royalty is a huge taboo in the royal family. He stepped down from his throne and became a social outcast. He was evidently kicked out his own country, but not before his brother—Elizabeth’s father—was kind enough to style him as the Duke of Windsor.
George VI loved his brother, but the pressure was on: Sorry that everyone hates you, bro, but here’s a consolation title as Duke of Windsor. It’s a good title. Sturdy. By the way, you and your wife need to leave England. Okay, love you, bye! Thus, Elizabeth’s father, George VI inherited the throne, becoming king and titling young Elizabeth heir, or formally titled as the “presumptive heir.” Nobody saw it coming, not even George. Next thing he knew, he had a crown on his head, a scepter in his hand, then Bam! Insta-king. Shake and bake.
Keeping up with the Windsor’s
Aside from her uncle’s abdication, Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, had a wholesome and normal upbringing (aside from being royal and all). The only difference in the princess’ upbringing is that the young royals never attended school. Instead, they had an old-fashioned governess, entrusted by the royal family (why am I thinking Jane Eyre?), to tutor the intelligent girls. They were taught to speak different languages, literature, mathematics, and science. A standard education. Princess Elizabeth (who was also nicknamed ‘Lilibeth’) was said to be a “well-mannered” girl who spoke clearly with great sensibility. A true monarch in the making.
Coming of age in World War II
When World War II broke out, there was great distraught all throughout the United Kingdom. Hitler and his Axis powers were geared to bringing down the Allied forces, sending their Luftwaffe to drop aerial bombs over London. They were set on leveling cities and instilling fear into the public. While cities were being bombarded, England feared for the worst, especially for the nation’s children. Fearing the lives of their country’s younger generation, many kids from high-target zones like London were sent out to live in the countryside away from the exposure of war.
Concerned for the nation’s children, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, broadcasted their first radio announcement in 1940, “Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers…To you living in new surroundings, we send a message of true sympathy and at the same time we would like to thank the kind people who have welcomed you to their homes in this country.” No more than children themselves, they held on to cool composure in order to reassure the minds of the innocent.
Pressed, dressed, and ready to impress
You would think that a distinguished princess, heir to the throne, would be never be smeared with car oil, working on engines, and getting grease under her manicured fingernails. EH! Wrong-o, guess again. Princess Elizabeth was a wartime bad-ass. In 1942, she enrolled with England’s Labour Exchange, determined to join the women’s armed forces. By 1945, Liz was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a truck mechanic with ID number No. 230873 and became Honorary Second Subaltern (a fancy ’40s way of saying “junior officer” or “Second Lieutenant”).
Elizabeth the riveter
In the ATS, Elizabeth learned how to change a tire, disassemble and reassemble a truck engine, and drove an ambulance. By the way, she liked having grease under her fingernails. So much, that the princess would show it off to her friends. It was during her service in ATS that the princess learned to drive. Due to her royal status, the princess would never have to carry a license. Even when she was later crowned queen, she could hop in a car and assume all is well and dandy. Perks of the job.
Loving a royal amidst post-war aftershocks
The queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, have been married for exactly 70 years this past November, making it their platinum anniversary. Their marriage has set milestones and has endured what all married couples go through, whether it’s an argument or weighing a joint decision. Queen Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Phillip has been a testament to their commitment, and most importantly, love. So, how did it start? When did cupid stick an arrow in their rumps and clap his hands for a job well done? It all started at yet another royal wedding in 1937.
It became suddenly clear
They briefly met at the fabulous affair of mutual relatives, but it wasn’t until 1939, when the queen came to visit the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth that she fell prey to the fateful and classic “love at first sight.” She saw her future husband — who was 18 at the time— looking dashing in his cadet uniform and fashioned a charming smile. Elizabeth — only 13— kept in contact with the Prince of Greece through a multitude of letters until their engagement in 1947, though it was rumored that she got engaged a year before. The reason behind the said engagement delay was simply because the princess was too young, but others had more eyebrow raising explanations.
Recycling royal diamonds
The story behind Princess Elizabeth’s engagement is sweet and romantic. When the prince decided to ask the future queen of England to marry him, he went to his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, for advice. Her response? According to Southern Living, the doting mother presented him tiara, a gift passed down and gifted by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia — the last Russian Royals before the Russian Revolution. Her Highness gave the prince her blessing and gifts him with the tiara. Prince Phillip then took the diamonds from the glittering head-piece, and with the help of the royal jeweler, presented Princess Elizabeth with a stunning brilliant-cut diamond solitaire with five pave diamonds. At a boy, Phil.
Trouble in paradise
Everything was fine and dandy after the prince and princess exchanged their vows and said their I Do’s, but while the two were courting each other, there was a lot of scrutiny behind the princess’ choice of husband. Firstly, the man was broke. Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying he lived a life that was hand-to-mouth, but compared to the stature and financial stability of Elizabeth’s family, Prince Phillip was house poor. His father had been rejected by his own country and had nothing to contribute financially, leaving his family with little means.
Looking for a blessing
The second reason is linked to Prince Phillip’s past. Firstly, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were third cousins and shared the same great-great-grandmother, contemporary queen bee, Queen Victoria. Also, his family had German ancestry. England was under some serious fire with Germany, especially because the war had just ended almost two years prior. People were still salty about the Axis powers bombing their country and people, and trying to take over the world. And to suddenly have the princess bring around a royal who’s family may be linked to a Nazi background didn’t sit well with the public. It was even rumored that Elizabeth’s mother — England’s Queen Mother — once referred Phil as “the Hun,” until she publicly commented on how the prince was a well-rounded gentleman. Interesting.
Phillip made serious sacrifices
Prince Phillip loved his Lilibeth. He loved her so much that he dumped his previous title as Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark to adopt his mother’s name, Prince Phillip of Mountbatten, the English version of his mother’s name, Princess Alice of Battenberg. If that wasn’t enough, the prince even dropped his Greek Orthodox upbringing and converted to Anglicanism. There was no way his future family-in-law could deny that he was loyal to their princess. They were impressed, and upon their engagement, the prince was styled as Lieutenant along with other titles such as “His Royal Highness” and “His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh.”
Love in a time of post-war England
Prepared to walk down the aisle, the princess’s wedding was the topic of the century. Not only was the heir to be married, but she was getting married during a time of peace and post-war celebration. Members of Parliament wondered if it was a good idea to have a large wedding after just scraping by through a global war. Considering that the budget comes out of the pockets of taxpayers, was the public ready for a royal wedding? There was speculation that going forward with the royal wedding will raise the spirits of the nation and begin anew in a world of economic growth and peace. Amen to that.
Groupon. The Queen did it first.
Preparation for a royal wedding had some pros and cons. Pro: rebuilding and coming into a world of peace and prosperity—check. Con: England was recovering from a world war, which meant that the country was still heavily rationed for trade-goods. Can you imagine what it must be like for a young royal to request her government to issue her 200 ration coupons to purchase material for your wedding gown? Trick question, you don’t (you’re not a young royal, duh!). But because it was post-WWII, international trade relations were still rocky. So, if the princess wanted fabrics from Milan, Italy, that poses a bit of a problem considering it was an ex-Axis power. Awkward. And Japan? Forget it… they were still reeling from the nuclear attacks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A gown inspired by the renaissance
In the end, the princess made it work. There was concern that the princess wouldn’t be able to obtain the gown’s material, so her friends sent their coupons to help with the wedding funds. Of course, the princess returned each coupon because — for one, it was illegal, and two, that’s not how our girl rolls. She reassured her friends that she had everything covered. She purchased ivory satin silk from China and commissioned Norman Hartnell to create the pearl-inlet gown, which was inspired by Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera.” Not extravagant at all. So humble.
Radio broadcast and live
The queen walks down the aisle of London’s Westminster on November 20, 1947, with a gorgeous gown. And even though it wasn’t broadcast on television or Youtube, the wedding was broadcast live over the radio all over the globe where over 200 million listeners tuned in. Imagine 200 million people synchronizing their clocks and radios to hear something so rare as the heir of England getting married? It’s mind blowing!
Flag at half-mast
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Though life was good for the royal family, the King of the United Kingdom fell ill. King George VI was diagnosed with lung cancer, 90% of which was caused by smoking, leaving his majesty with only one lung and one foot in the grave. At this point Princess Elizabeth had given birth to her first two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, easing well into the domesticity of motherhood. Then in 1953, the King passed away in his sleep, and Elizabeth became the Queen of England.
Coronation day: Princess and wife turned Queen
I mean, sure her wedding was radio broadcast, but until the television was socially accepted and affordable to install into every home, her wedding was the biggest news. She was the first crowned queen since Queen Victoria, and her coronation was the first televised coronation ever recorded in history. Period. Over 20 million people watched the ceremony. If that’s not lit then you need to get yourself checked and examined, because that’s awesome. After her coronation, she goes off to tour the UK and countries of Commonwealth. When dad dies, it’s time to fly.
Let’s face it, the queen has been the UK’s figurehead for almost a lifetime. In fact, according to BBC News, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest living monarch to ever reign! She has been queen for so long that four out of five UK residents weren’t alive when she ascended the throne. It’s hard to imagine anyone else taking her place, after enduring so many pivotal moments in England’s history. One of those moments happens to be on the moon. That’s right, the moon, and other things.
London bridge landed on the moon
When Apollo 11 made a successfully landed on the moon, international leaders were invited to send “a message of goodwill” as humanity embarked on the last frontier: space. Among those international leaders, Queen Elizabeth was one of them. Her message was recorded on a silicon disc: “On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this endeavor increase the knowledge and well being of mankind.” Her message, along with the messages of John F. Kennedy and other international leaders, remain with a stationed flag and plaque reading, “Here men from the planet Earth/First set foot upon the Moon/ July 1969 AD/ We came in peace for all mankind.”
She owns Flipper
We all know the queen owns the swans on the Thames River and all swans within her realms are protected by law thanks to her ancestors in the 12th century. According to Business Insider, the queen owns the waters in Britannia, which also means she owns whatever is in the waters of Britannia. Thanks to yet another relative (I’m looking at you King Edward II) she owns all of Britain’s “sturgeons, porpoises, whales, and dolphins” which are recognized as “royal fishes.” I can see the queen out at sea, pointing a breaching dolphin and say, “You see that fish? Yeah, that’s mine.”
More than one attempt was made on the Queen’s life
Who on earth would want to harm the Queen of England? It’s unfortunate, but believe it or not, not everyone was a fan of Queen Elizabeth. An attempt on her life was first recorded in 1981, when a teenager fired blanks from a replica gun as she paraded down The Mall on horseback. He said intentions were not to harm the queen, but rather to alarm her. The action made clear how vulnerable the queen was. Another attempt was made in Dunedin, New Zealand when seventeen-year-old Christopher John Lewis scaled a five-story building with a .22 rifle with intentions to assassinate the queen. Luckily, when he took the shot he missed, lacking a good vantage point and an insufficient riffle.
The IRS is not knocking on the Queen’s door
Did you know as a British royal you don’t have to pay taxes? It’s true. The taxes pay you. According to The New York Times, Queen Elizabeth is legally exempted from paying her taxes. But since 1992, the monarch voluntarily began paying for her private income to the national treasury. A public gesture of good faith, the action eased suspicion and resentment over the wealth and lifestyle of royals during a “recession-weary” time. The queen wasn’t the only British monarch to pay her taxes. Her father, George VI and Queen Victoria, also reportedly paid for their own royal income.
Everything that glitters is gold, then diamond, then sapphire…
Her Royal Highness is one of the oldest reigning monarchs in the world. Reigning since 1953, Queen Elizabeth recently celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee: a celebration marking 65 years of her reign. Only two other British monarchs before her were able to celebrate their jubilees: King George III (aka Mad King George) and Queen Victoria. Unlike the rulers before her, Liz is the first and only reigning British monarch to gun toward her Platinum Jubilee (that’s 70 years BTW). As of now, only a few royals can take claim to their long reign, and according to Business Insider, the longest reigning monarch to ever hold his throne was King of Swaziland, King Sobhuza II, who reigned for 82 years.
The death of a monarch
None of us want to imagine a world without Queen Elizabeth, but a kingdom has to grimly consider the actions following on the day that the queen departs. According to The Guardian, Members of Parliament will be notified via phone call with code word: London Bridge is down, and the news of her death will go to the Press Association—then to the rest of the world’s media. Radio stations will turn to breaking news stations and cease and alter their regular music programs. Once the queen’s death is announced and absorbed, the nation will enter a twelve-day mourning period. The world will continue to turn, but one without the sovereign queen.
Next in line
Upon the queen’s passing, Prince Charles of Wales will be announced king, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will be legally named as queen consort (though that discussion is up to some serious debate). Depending on the monarch coming to rule, the appearance of currency could change, switching the queen’s face with Charles and mint his image on coins. At age 69, going on 70 in November, should the future king’s reign fall short, next in line to succeed the throne would be his son Prince William.
During her reign as queen, Queen Elizabeth has seen 12 of U.S. presidents come and go. She observed the changes of a century and bore witness to the potential of the world’s future. She has undergone trials of a shrinking empire that was once touched by her ancestors. She is a figure of good-will, wishing the best for humanity — whether it’s leaving a message on the moon or witnessing the marriage of a new generation. Queen Elizabeth, whether we like it or not, has been a pillar of strength and represents longevity and prosperity. No wonder the Brits say, “God, save the queen!”