Today on February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascends the British throne after the death of her father, George VI.
Queen Elizabeth II is the current and longest-reigning British monarch in history. She also holds the title of the world’s longest-reigning female monarch. Her realms immediately proclaimed her as their new Queen following the death of her father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, were in the midst of a royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Kenya. In 1951, King George’s health rapidly deteriorated, with Elizabeth frequently standing in his absence for public events and royal duties. Her private secretary, Martin Charteris, began carrying a draft accession declaration in case of the King’s sudden passing.
Upon returning to their Kenyan home at night, private attendants first informed Prince Philip of George’s death. He then quickly broke the news to his devastated and shocked wife. Geroge had gone to bed as usual at his Sandringham House. At 7:30 am on February 6, a servant found him dead in his bed. It was later revealed that he died suddenly from a blood clot. It was a moment that shocked the nation – cinemas, sports grounds, and theatres were closed. Television programs ceased all broadcasts. And, even Parliament adjourned as a sign of respect. The well-respected King George never thought he would ascend the throne. But following his elder brother Edward’s abdication, he (and the future Queen) were abruptly handed the crown.
The next morning, Martin asked his new Queen to choose a regal name. The 25-year-old monarch famously responded with, “Elizabeth, of course.” Over the next six days, proclamations happened across the Commonwealth. Throughout history, it was customary for British royal women to bear her husband’s surname in marriage. Queen Elizabeth traditionally should have adopted Philip’s House of Mountbatten. However, Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted that she retain the House of Windsor. Two months later, Elizabeth confirmed Windsor would continue as the royal family name. The Duke of Edinburgh then complained, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”
The royal couple moved into Buckingham Palace upon returning to Britain. Preparations and meticulous planning immediately began for the coronation. On June 2, Queen Elizabeth was formally crowned during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was particularly unique in that it was the first publicly televised coronation. However, the actual anointing and communion parts were not recorded for the public. Queen Elizabeth requested that her gown be embroidered with floral emblems from all of the Commonwealth realms.