SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 6 October 2022, Thursday |

Queen Elizabeth quietly marks 70 years on the British throne

On Sunday, Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her 70th year on the British throne, a milestone never attained by any of her predecessors in the previous 1,000 years and only a handful monarchs throughout the world have ever achieved.

Elizabeth, 95, ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom and more than a dozen other kingdoms, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, following the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952, while on an international tour in Kenya.

Her husband, Prince Philip, who died last year at the age of 99 after spending more than seven decades at her side, conveyed the news to her.

Elizabeth will observe ‘Accession Day’ in solitude, as is traditional, and will not consider it a cause for celebration. However, there will be four days of national activities in June to commemorate her Platinum Jubilee.

“While it is a time for national celebration, it will be a day of mixed feelings for Her Majesty since the day also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the death of her loving father George VI,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday, saluting the monarch for “her tireless devotion.”

Elizabeth has continued to perform official tasks long into her 90s, although she has been seldom seen in public since spending a night in hospital in October for an unidentified sickness and being told by physicians to rest.

However, Buckingham Palace on Friday released footage ahead of Sunday’s landmark, showing her viewing items from previous royal jubilees, such as a fan given to her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to mark her 50th year on the throne in 1887, signed by family, friends and politicians.

Ironically Elizabeth was not destined to be monarch at her birth, and only became queen because her uncle Edward VIII abdicated to be with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

But in 2015, she overtook Victoria as Britain’s longest-reigning sovereign in a line that traces its origin back to Norman King William I and his 1066 conquest of England.

MILESTONES

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones – my own is no exception,” Elizabeth said in 2015, adding that the record was not one “to which I have ever aspired”. Her son and heir Prince Charles said it was a moment other people were more excited about than she was.

While small in stature – standing at 5ft 3ins according to reports – she has been a towering figure in Britain for seven decades. During that time she has overseen huge social, economic and political change, including the end of the British Empire.

When she ascended the throne, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Harry Truman were running the Soviet Union, China and the United States, respectively, while Winston Churchill was British prime minister.

Including Churchill, she has been served by 14 prime ministers – a quarter of all there have been in Britain since Robert Walpole 300 years ago. During her reign, there have been 14 U.S. presidents, all of whom she has met bar Lyndon Johnson.

As the world’s current oldest and longest-reigning monarch, her global presence has also been profound, and she retains an almost unrivalled mystique.

“What’s telling is when heads of state meet, whether it be at the G7 or the COP conference, they want to meet the queen,” said Anna Whitelock, Professor of the History of Monarchy at London’s City University.

“They may be presidents or heads of state in their own country, but there is something quite magical about this miniature woman.”

Only a handful of monarchs are ever thought to have reigned for longer than Elizabeth. King Louis XIV of France, who built the palace of Versailles, is considered to hold the record for a sovereign state, ruling for 72 years, while Sobhuza II was king of Swaziland for almost 83 years until his death in 1982.

While public affection for her remains strong, with about four in five Britons holding a favorable view, the monarchy itself has suffered a number of recent knocks, including a U.S. sex abuse court case against her second son Prince Andrew, raising questions about the long-term future of the institution.

“She’s almost beyond criticism, I think,” said Professor Vernon Bogdanor, an expert in British constitutional history.

“It’s not that she’s never put a foot wrong, it’s more positive than that. She somehow instinctively understands what you might call the soul of the British people.”

    Source:
  • Reuters