BBC headquarters in London honors Queen Elizabeth II during a national minute of silence. Photo: @bbcnews on Instagram.

Queen Elizabeth II served as Britain’s longest reigning monarch until her death in September 2022. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, she was the daughter of George VI and third in line for the throne. When Elizabeth turned 10 in 1936, her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated after proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. Their engagement inundated the royal family with scandals and changed the course of young Elizabeth’s life. Her father reigned from 1936 to 1952. The young princess planned to spend years with her husband Philip and their growing family in Malta, where Philip served in the British Navy, but on a Commonwealth tour in 1952 in Kenya, she learned of her father’s unexpected death. At the mere age of 25, she assumed the throne.

Since then, Queen Elizabeth II transformed from a young and inexperienced monarch into an extremely popular and respected head of state. She worked to pave a new future for the monarchy with her efforts to maintain its relevance and also managed to balance her role as a politically impartial entity and a royal constantly in the public eye.  

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a portrait in 1955. Photo: @rollingstone on Instagram.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen was responsible for meeting with prime ministers once a week and calling upon British political parties to form a government for the last 70 years. She oversaw a total of 15 prime ministers, from World War II leader Winston Churchill to conservative Margaret Thatcher to recent Brexit advocate Boris Johnson. Essentially, she served as the advisor to the British government. 

The Queen began her reign in a postwar Britain, a country not only battered by world conflict but one entering a lengthy phase of Cold War tensions. In fact, at this time Britain no longer held the supreme status on the world stage like it had as a prewar-empire; on the contrary, the loss of its colonies weakened the power of Great Britain. Nonetheless, the Queen wholeheartedly embraced her role as head of the Commonwealth, traveling and touring extensively and bringing a sense of peace and respect between Britain and its former colonies. 

Queen Elizabeth II also became a beacon of hope against a background of constant political, economic and social change. The young monarch insisted that her 1953 coronation be filmed to allow this significant tradition to be more accessible to the masses. Then, in 1969, a documentary titled “Royal Family” showcased the private life of the family to 30 million viewers, albeit with the Queen’s slight reluctance. Nonetheless, to later adapt a monarchy to survive the internet media age is no small feat. One would think it would be impossible to uphold such an ancient institution in the modern era; however, most Britons have continued their support of the monarchy because of their love and faith in the Queen herself.

Unlike many members of her family, she continued to complete her official duties and events despite their perceived monotony. One cannot ignore the fact that her family is marred with scandal and media drama; from King Charles’ tumultuous marriage to Princess Diana to the more recent exit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from the royal family, the Queen has remained a constant presence and a symbol of composure and duty. 

A month after her death, Britain concluded a 10-day period of mourning and conducted the State Funeral on Sept. 19. The titles of royal family members have been updated and King Charles III officially completed his first month as Britain’s monarch. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms, and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world,” King Charles III said of his mother.

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.