Elizabeth Alexandra Alexandra Alexandra Alexandra Alexandra Alexandra Mary Windsor was not destined for the throne. But fate had other plans.
On Sunday, the lady who became Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate 70 years on the throne, an unparalleled reign that has made her a symbol of stability while the United Kingdom has navigated a period of uncertainty.
The queen has witnessed the end of the British Empire, the rise of multiculturalism, the rise of international terrorism, and the challenges posed by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic from her early days as a glamorous young royal in glittering tiaras to her more recent incarnation as the nation’s grandmother.
She has remained a constant in a world of perpetual change, representing the United Kingdom’s interests overseas, cheering its accomplishments and commiserating with its failings, and always keeping above the fray of politics.
According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Elizabeth’s consistency should give her a royal epithet like William the Conqueror, Edward the Confessor, and Alfred the Great.
Vickers told The Associated Press, “I’ve always believed she should be dubbed Elizabeth the Steadfast.” “I believe it is an excellent description of her. She didn’t expect to be queen, but she relished the opportunity.”
When Elizabeth, now 95, was born on April 21, 1926, she was supposed to live the life of a lesser princess as the elder daughter of King George V’s second son. Her future looked to include dogs and horses, a country house, a suitable spouse, and a nice but unremarkable life.
Everything changed a decade later when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father was crowned King George VI, making her the heir apparent to the throne.
During the early months of World War II, George VI, whose troubles with a stammer were shown in the 2010 film “The King’s Speech,” endeared himself to the people by refusing to leave London while bombs dropped.
Elizabeth followed in her father’s footsteps, entering the Auxiliary Territorial Service in early 1945 and became the first female member of the Royal Family to serve in the armed forces full-time. She pledged her life to the nation and the Commonwealth, a voluntary union of governments that developed out of the British Empire, on her 21st birthday.
“I proclaim before you all that my whole life, whether long or short, shall be committed to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she declared in a worldwide radio speech.
In lieu of her unwell father, the young princess embarked on a Commonwealth tour in 1952. When she learned that her father had died, she was in a secluded Kenyan lodge with her husband, Prince Philip, watching baboons from the trees.
She returned to London right away, disembarking in black mourning robes to begin her reign as queen. She has reigned ever since, sometimes with a crown and scepter, but more often with a broad-brimmed hat and a modest purse.
In the seven decades since, the queen has shared secrets with 14 prime ministers and met 13 presidents of the United States.
She walks the mile or so between Buckingham Palace and the House of Lords once a year for the ceremonial opening of Parliament. When international leaders pay her a visit, she arranges state dinners at which her jewels sparkle under the TV lights and presidents and prime ministers debate whether to bow or give a toast.
However, it is the less extravagant ceremonies that provide the queen with a connection to the general population.
Guests wear flamboyant hats and drink tea as they try to get a sight of the queen on the grounds outside Buckingham Palace at garden parties honoring everyone from troops and charity workers to long-serving school librarians and crossing guards. The recipients can see her from afar since she is reported to like bright colors so that she can be seen in a crowd.
Then there’s the yearly wreath-laying ceremony at the monument to those who have perished in conflicts throughout the world, as well as the various school openings, hospice visits, and maternity unit tours that have taken up her time.
From the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Egypt’s capture of the Suez Canal highlighted Britain’s waning power, to the 1980s labor unrest and the 2005 terror attacks in London, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, the only sovereign most Britons have ever known, has been a consistent presence.
She wore a black face mask and sat alone for Prince Philip’s socially distant burial when he died during the epidemic, silently emphasizing that the laws applied to everyone — including her.
“She isn’t beholden to the people.” ′′She isn’t reliant on her most recent hit or film,′′ said Emily Nash, royal editor of HELLO! magazine. “She’s simply standing there.” She goes about her business. She never complains or causes any personal drama while performing her tasks. And they admire her for it.”
Not that there haven’t been any disagreements.
Following allegations of the queen’s private fortune and worries about the monarchy’s expenditure in the early 1990s, criticism of the monarchy grew. In 1992, the queen consented to pay for the majority of her family’s costs, making her the first monarch since the 1930s to pay income taxes.
Tensions rose again in 1997, when the royal family’s silence following the death of Princess Diana, Prince Charles’ ex-wife, exacerbated Diana’s many supporters’ animosity.
Even now, the monarchy is attempting to distance itself from the scandal sparked by a sex abuse lawsuit filed against Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, as well as the fallout from two of the royal family’s most popular members, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, abandoning their royal duties and flying to California.
But, according to Kelly Beaver, CEO of polling firm Ipsos UK, which has studied the queen’s popularity for decades, the monarch has transcended scandal and remained popular throughout it all.
“Part of this is because she is so closely associated with… the monarchy, which the British people are proud of,” Beaver explained.
Nonetheless, Tiwa Adebayo, a social media commentator and writer who inherited a fascination with the monarchy from her grandmother, believes that younger people want “more transparency” from the royal family, and that they want the royal family to move beyond the “never complain, never explain” mantra that has characterized the queen’s reign.
Sunday will be bittersweet for the queen, since it will celebrate the 70th anniversary of her father’s death, as well as her lengthy reign.
Vickers stated, “I’ve always believed that one of her beliefs was that she just wanted to be a really wonderful daughter to her father and fulfill all of his aspirations for her.” “And, if there is an afterlife and they meet again, my goodness, he’ll be able to thank her for it.”