Queen Elizabeth II: A front-row view to almost a century of history
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has passed away after a lifetime that has seen everything from World War II to the Covid-19 pandemic.
City A.M. look back at the extraordinary events she lived through as Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
- 1952: Elizabeth becomes Queen following the death of her father, George VI, being the thirty-ninth sovereign to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. George died at 56, while Elizabeth was in Kenya, on a Commonwealth trip. She was only 25 at the time.
- 1955: Winston Churchill resigns as prime minister after suffering an electoral defeat from the Labour Party, back then headed by Clement Attlee. Churchill was succeeded by Anthony Eden.
- 1956: Anglo-French forces invade Egypt over the Suez crisis. After the Egyptian president Nasser nationalised the canali, Israeli forces invaded and were followed by British and French troops. It remains arguably Britain’s greatest diplomatic disaster.
- 1957: Harold Macmillan becomes prime minister, after the resignation of Anthony Eden in the midst of the Suez crisis. He was very active in foreign policy and is remembered for his “Wind of Change” speech, in which he acknowledged the need to start the decolonisation of the British empire.
- 1962: Jamaica becomes independent after more than 300 years of British colonial rule. Its new constitution retained the Queen as head of state – and she’s been to this day.
- 1963: The Beatles release their first album, “Please Please Me”. The album topped the Record Retailer’s LP chart for 30 weeks in a row. They later recorded a song in her honour.
- 1964: Labour’s Harold Wilson becomes prime minister. He reportedly had a very good relationship with the Queen, keeping a photo of them together in his wallet. Wilson abolished capital punishment and pushed for progressive reforms on topics such as homosexuality and abortion.
- 1966: The Aberfan mine disaster kills 144 people, most of them children. The incident was caused by a mountain of coal waste that slid down from a hill above Aberfan, in Wales. In 2002, the Queen said that not going to the place of the tragedy right after the incident was “her biggest regret”.
- 1969: The Queen is reported to have watched the Moon Landings on television – like a billion other citizens of humankind
- 1969: The Troubles begin in Northern Ireland. The first confrontation between Catholic civil rights activists and the mainly Protestant police forces began in 1968, but intensified over the following year. Street violence and bomb attacks became common.
1970: Edward Heath becomes prime minister after winning general elections against Labour.
1974: The miners’ strikes bring down the Heath government and lead to the “three-day week” where commercial users of electricity where allowed to use it only three days a week amid shortages caused by the strikes.
1976: The first Concorde flights with commercial passengers takes off from London and Paris. These are the first supersonic – flying at greater speed than that of sound – trans-Atlantic flights.
1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of the UK
- 1981: Prince Charles, the Queen’s son, marries Lady Diana Spencer in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The wedding was watched by 750 million in 74 countries.
- 1982: Britain goes to war with Argentina over control of the Falklands Islands. They fought until Argentina eventually had to surrender. Margaret Thatcher gained political capital from this victory.
- 1989: The Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the Cold War. The Queen reportedly played a significant diplomatic role in warming the relationship with Russia, personally receiving Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev months before the fall of the Wall.
- 1990: Margaret Thatcher loses the support of the majority of her party and resigns. She is succeeded by John Major.
- 1994: The Queen and France’s then president Francois Mitterrand formally open the Channel Tunnel
- 1996: The Prince and Princess of Wales, as well as the Duke and Duchess of York divorce.
- 1997: Authority over the territory of Hong Kong, a former colony of the UK, is passed on to China. Hong Kong becomes a special administrative region of China. Hong Kong keeps its governing and economic system, although China’s control has been increasing over recent years.
- 1997: Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris. The Royal Family were criticised for their response to the Princess’ death.
1998: After years of violence in Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement is reached. It was made up of an agreement between most of Northern Ireland’s political parties, and one between the British and Irish governments.
2001: 9/11 shocks the world, as the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York are destroyed by hijacked planes. Almost 3000 people were killed.
2002: The Queen celebrates 50 years of rule with the Golden Jubilee. In the same year, her mother and Princess Margaret pass.
2003: The UK and the US invade Iraq under the premise that Saddam Hussein possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction – which were never found. His regime was toppled and he was later sentenced to death.
2005: Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker-Bowles. She becomes the Duchess of Cornwall.
2007: Prime minister Tony Blair resigns. His reputation got tainted by his decision to invade in Iraq.
2010: David Cameron becomes prime minister, leading a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government.
2011: Prince Williams marries Kate Middleton. They take the title of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
- 2015: Queen Elizabeth becomes the longest ever reigning British monarch, surpassing the record of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who was head of state for 63 years.
- 2016: The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday.
- 2016: The UK votes to leave the European Union after a tumultuous referendum campaign.
- 2018: Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle, they become Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
- 2019: Boris Johnson is elected Prime Minister after defeating Jeremy Corbyn.
- 2020: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exit royal duties and move to the US, prompting scandal in the UK and reports of serious rifts with Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge. The couple subsequently have a baby boy and a baby girl named after the Queen.
- 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic begins. In the year to December 4 2020, 69, 771 people died with the virus mentioned on their death certificates. The Queen made several addresses during the pandemic, including her one during the first lockdown telling Britons “we will meet again”.
- 2021: Prince Phillip dies aged 99. He retired from royal duties in August 2017, aged 96. The couple had been married for 73 years. At his funeral, the Queen sits alone in Westminster Abbey because of strict Covid-19 regulations preventing households mixing.
- 2022: The Queen celebrates her platinum jubilee, the first British monarch to serve for 70 years. There is a four day weekend marked by celebrations and services at Buckingham Palace. The Elizabeth Line is opened a week before.
Her last duty, of course, was the transfer of power between Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
The nation will enter a period of mourning.