Queen Elizabeth has become the longest reigning English monarch. She's currently #6 on the list of longest reigning monarchs ever behind notable names like King Louis XIV and Franz Joseph I. That means there's been plenty of time for her subjects as well anglophiles to learn all about her. However, there's plenty that isn't common knowledge. She is, after all, a particularly private person when it comes to her personal life. She's remained a icon and an enigma of royal life both. After all, she took the throne when royalty was just starting to become a people focused role. No longer were nobles allowed to sit in their high towers and disengage from the lives of the common man. Queen Elizabeth is one of the pioneers of modern, "working" royals.
Yet, over the 60+ years she's ruled some scandals were bound to leak. They did. Her eldest son got divorced then was later blamed for causing Diana's death (if they'd been married still she'd never have been in that car). Prince Philip, her husband, was shunned by politicians. Her coronation was delayed in case her mother was pregnant with a male child. More recently, she gave her blessing for her grandson to marry a woman of African American descent. Look deeper into what has made the queen who she is and what will be remembered about her in the annals of history.
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According to an article on Business Insider, "In many countries, you would lose your right to the throne if you married a commoner...hence your choice was very limited and you most probably would be related." Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were both direct descendants of Queen Victoria. The bloodline ran on her father's side and on Philip's maternal one. They are second cousins since both of their fathers were descended from King Christian IX of Denmark. If this seems strange to you, keep in mind that Queen Victoria and her consort, Albert, had nine children. Eight of them married into other royal houses. Because of this, by the time Queen Elizabeth was marriageable, nearly all nobles were related.
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Elizabeth was barely a teenager when she first met her husband. Oppositely, he was almost out of his teen years, being 18 when he was introduced to then Princess Elizabeth. Sparks didn't fly right away, thank goodness. Instead, the two communicated through letters while Philip went into the Royal Navy. He continued to visit the royal family, though one of his visits when she was 17 led to her parents declaring her too young to focus on romance. They also thought the athletic Philip was too good looking for the future monarch. With those looks, the belief was he wouldn't stay faithful to his wife and queen.
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Queen Elizabeth inherited the throne from her father, who inherited from his own dad. However, her father never should have taken on the crown. Instead, his older brother was marked as heir. He, shockingly, chose to abdicate to his brother in order to marry his American girlfriend, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth and her sister Margaret's life changed upon Edward's stepping down. Elizabeth wasn't just a noble on her father's side, though. Her maternal grandparents were the Duke and Duchess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. They also carried the titles of Lord and Lady Glamis. They had sprawling lands in both Scotland and England.
Though her parents stayed in Buckingham Palace to show their people that they would all endure, they didn't maintain such a stiff upper lip with their two daughters. The royal couple sent Elizabeth and Margaret to live in Windsor Castle, farther away from projected German bombings. Others told the entire family to leave England for their own safety. As The Guardian reminded us, 'The bombing, along with the royal family's refusal to flee Britain against Foreign Office advice, was to win the King and Queen affection and fellow-feeling across the country. The Queen declared: "The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances, whatever."'
In another way, Queen Elizabeth was far ahead of her time. Today, more women than ever are having babies after 35. She did, too. Her last child, Prince Edward, was born when she was 37. He was her second child born after her coronation. Her oldest child, Prince Charles, was fifteen at the time of the birth, and both he and Princess Anne had to be called to be alerted to their brother's arrival. They were away at boarding school.
It was the first time a father stayed with his wife to witness a royal birth. Author Ingrid Seward says about the change in tradition, "The Queen, by then aged 37, had asked him to be there; she'd been keenly reading women's magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea. Thus Philip became the first royal father in modern history to witness the arrival of one of his children ... Compassion comes from the Queen. And the duty and discipline comes from him Philip."
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The idea was to include all of her people on the big day. Many advised against this, saying that it devalued the event. The Queen got her way, and the broadcast reached all over the Commonwealth. Royal.UK says about the breakthrough in television, "27 million people in the UK (out of the 36 million population) watched the ceremony on television and 11 million listened on the radio." For many of them, it was the first live event they'd ever tuned into. Only two thousand people were able to view the momentous ceremony inside the church in person. The return route likewise tried to include as many of the Queen's subjects as possible. Therefore, it took over two hours to complete.
Why? People couldn't agree on whether or not the area should remain within the UK or join the Republic of Ireland. It wasn't a quickly decided issue, either. In fact, what was dubbed the 'Troubles' lasted for thirty years. It wasn't as simple as just wanting to be part of the monarchy or not. No, it also tended to pit Catholics against Protestants. Despite the danger and IRA backed protests, Queen Elizabeth visited Northern Ireland in 1977. She then went back in 2011 and apologized for the pain British soldiers caused when trying to put down some of the clashes.
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The Queen was vilified after Diana's death for many reasons. It was rumored she wouldn't let Prince Charles use the designated royal aircraft to pick up Diana's body from France. Only when Prince Charles threatened to fly commercial (and put the family's business on public display even more) did the Queen acquiesce. Also, the Queen refused to fly the flag over Buckingham Palace at half mast, despite the public outcry for her to do so in a show of respect for the passing of Diana.
Why? It seems like a simple enough gesture. However, the royal standard never flies at half mast. It represents the monarchy, which is unending. It wouldn't be lowered in the event of the Queen's death either, because Prince Charles would immediately step into the role as ruler. She did hear the demands of the people though and flew the Union Jack at Buckingham Palace at half mast on the day of the funeral.
The couple had been separated for some time, and nasty scandals plagued them as they built lives away from one another. Diana gave an interview during which she admitted to her own infidelities along with blaming Charles for his with Camilla. A recorded call of his with Camilla was released by the press in which the couple were talking about rather intimate things, like Charles saying he wanted to live in Camilla's pants. After all this, the Queen wrote a letter to the couple telling them to get a legal divorce and "be done with it." It was said that Diana worried her children would blame themselves for the divorce, as she had as a child after her own parents split up.
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At the start of the Queen's reign, the royal family simply drove from place to place. People might see their faces through the car windows, but that was really the most the common man could hope for. That's no longer the case. Now the entire royal family can shake hands and hold short conversations with their adoring public. In the 1970s the Queen decided that she didn't want to keep her visits isolated to just dignitaries and politicians. This decision greatly humanized the royalty at a time when people were asking if a country governed by a parliament truly needed to keep and pay for a royal family.
The Queen married Philip Mountbatten in 1947, in an England still recovering from WWII. This meant things like fabric and food continued to be rationed. In fact, rations on the sale of meat wouldn't be lifted completely until 1954, ending fourteen years of conserving. Then Princess Elizabeth saved her rations and was given 200 coupons from the government as a gift. She used these to purchase the fabric, pearls, and crystals that were embroidered onto her gown. Despite the careful way she paid for her dress, the Netflix series The Crown paid nearly $40,000 to recreate it.
Because her father was second in line to the throne behind his older brother, it seemed quite unlikely Elizabeth would ever inherit the throne. Instead, she was born the daughter of the Duke of York. She was like Archie Harrison, the child of the second son. If Edward hadn't abdicated and went on to marry a woman deemed appropriate by the Church of England, his children would have bumped young Elizabeth down the list. It's much like how Harry went from being third in line to the throne behind his father and brother to now being sixth behind his father, his brother, and his brother's three children.
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There was some confusion around Elizabeth's ascension. You see, there was a very small chance that Elizabeth's mother, the Queen Consort also named Elizabeth, could be pregnant. Had the child been a boy, despite being twenty five years younger than the married Elizabeth, he would have become king upon his birth. Instead, it was found that the Queen Mother was entering peri-menopause. Elizabeth was crowned after the mourning period for her father was over, despite taking up the helm of Queen at the moment of his death. It was then Elizabeth Senior went from Queen Consort to Queen Mother. When the would be queen found out about her father's death, she was in Africa on a royal tour. The trip ended early and Elizabeth returned to the country that was now hers.
England isn't like America in many ways. One notable way is that prime ministers do not have term limits. So long as they continue to win elections every five years, they can remain in power. The Queen also remains in power from the moment of the previous leader's death until her own (or abdication). Despite this, Queen Elizabeth has seen the rise and retirement of thirteen prime ministers so far. That number will go up when Theresa May's replacement is named.
The longest serving PM she's witnessed was Margaret Thatcher who led parliament for eleven years. Royal.UK notes that, "The Queen has held a weekly Audience with her Prime Minister throughout her reign in order to discuss Government matters. The Audience is held in an Audience room in her appartments and is entirely private. Though The Queen remains politically neutral on all matters, she is able to 'advise and warn' her ministers - including her Prime Minister - when necessary. "
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In a speech Queen Elizabeth admitted that, "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis." Why? Her son Andrew separated from his wife, Sarah. Her daughter, Anne, also had marital troubles and divorced her husband that year. This was the year Diana's tell all came out and the public were made painfully aware of the couple's affairs. That led to Diana and Charles' separation. To top it all off, Windsor Castle caught on fire and would need extensive renovation.
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The royal family has an exempt status from taxes (the perks of nobility). However, the Queen has chosen to pay taxes on the income her investment portfolio gleans annually. She also pays property taxes on her royal residences. She made this decision in 1992, amid outcry that the royal family was an expense to the average tax payer. Her son, Charles, had decided to pay taxes voluntarily since the late 60s. In an article from the Independent in 1993 it was detailed, "John Major assured MPs yesterday that Britain would not be getting a cut-price, bargain basement monarchy as a result of the voluntary agreement by the Queen to pay tax and restrict the size of the Civil List. She will return to the Treasury the money voted to all members of the Royal Family except herself, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen Mother."
Despite the fact that Prince Charles has far more in common with Camilla than he ever did with Diana, the Queen was not open to the idea of Camilla joining the family. There's a long history there. Prince Charles dated Camilla years before he met Diana, and many believe he would have married her then if people didn't see her as not virginal enough for the heir to the throne. Instead, Charles was sent off into military service and Camilla married Andrew Parker-Bowles. Fox News said about the Queen's feelings towards Camilla, 'The Daily Mail shared an excerpt from the book in which Bower claimed the Queen called Camilla "that wicked woman” and said she wanted "nothing to do with her" after having "several martinis."'
The Queen's most visible grandchildren are the Princes William and Harry. This is because they were high up the list of heirs to the throne as well as, in part, because of Diana. The press was obsessed with her even after she was no longer Princess of Wales. She does have six other grandchildren though. There are the princesses Eugenie and Beatrice who're the daughters of Prince Andrew. Also, Zara and Peter Phillips are the Queen's grandchildren from Princess Anne. Lady Louise Windsor and her brother James round out the group. Zara, like many of the grandchildren, isn't defined by her bloodline. She's also an Olympian who rode for the British Equestrian Team, winning silver in 2012.