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The highs and lows of Her Majesty’s unprecedented 70 years on the throne


6 FEBRURARY, 1952

King George VI dies peacefully in his sleep after a day’s shooting at Sandringham.

At Sagana Lodge in Kenya, the Duke of Edinburgh takes the 25-year-old Queen for a walk to break the news of her father’s death and her accession to the throne.

She is the first monarch since George I to be outside the country at the moment of succession

The three Queens at Westminster Hall, at the funeral for the death of King George VI, waiting for the arrival of the King’s coffin. L-R, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary

5 APRIL, 1955 

Churchill resigns, aged 80. As Elizabeth’s first prime minister, he was her mentor in affairs of state.

On his last night in office, he hosts a farewell dinner for his beloved sovereign.

Winston Churchill giving the 'V for Victory' sign - he was Prime Minister of the UK from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955

Winston Churchill giving the ‘V for Victory’ sign – he was Prime Minister of the UK from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955

25 DECEMBER, 1957

The Queen’s first televised Christmas broadcast, live from the Long Library at Sandringham.

From 1959, the messages would all be pre-recorded. 

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Christmas speech at Buckingham Palace on December 25, 1957. From 1959 onwards, the messages have all been pre-recorded

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Christmas speech at Buckingham Palace on December 25, 1957. From 1959 onwards, the messages have all been pre-recorded

19 FEBRUARY, 1960

Her Majesty’s third child Prince Andrew is born, leapfrogging his sister Princess Anne to become second in line to the throne.

One of the first pictures of the new born Prince Andrew in the Queen's arms, on 22 March 1960 at Buckingham Palace. The name of the prince was not yet known when the picture was taken

One of the first pictures of the new born Prince Andrew in the Queen’s arms, on 22 March 1960 at Buckingham Palace. The name of the prince was not yet known when the picture was taken

18 NOVEMBER, 1961

At the height of the Cold War, it is feared that President Nkrumah of Ghana is getting too close to Russia.

But when the Queen dances with him at a state dinner in Accra, so much goodwill is generated that there is no more talk of Ghana leaving the Commonwealth.

President Nkrumah later talked of ‘his personal regard and affection’ for Her Majesty. 

The Queen dancing with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, at a farewell ball in honour of the Queen and Prince Philip at the State House in Accra, Ghana in 1961

The Queen dancing with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, at a farewell ball in honour of the Queen and Prince Philip at the State House in Accra, Ghana in 1961

22 NOVEMBER, 1963

President Kennedy is assassinated.

Two years later his family attend as the Queen opens the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, site of the signing of Magna Carta. 

President and Mrs John F. Kennedy smile at the crowds lining their motorcrade route in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963, minutes before he was assassinated

President and Mrs John F. Kennedy smile at the crowds lining their motorcrade route in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963, minutes before he was assassinated

10 MARCH, 1964

The birth of Prince Edward.

The Queen and Prince Philip with their baby son, Prince Edward, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping of the Colour in June 1964

The Queen and Prince Philip with their baby son, Prince Edward, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping of the Colour in June 1964

24 JANUARY, 1965

Winston Churchill dies, aged 90.

‘The whole world is poorer for the loss of his many-sided genius,’ writes the Queen to Clementine, his widow.

By order of Her Majesty, his body lies in state for three days at Westminster Hall and, unusually, she breaks with protocol to attend the funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Winston Churchill's coffin at his State Funeral procession in 1965. The lie-in-state was at the Palace of Westminster for three days and thousands of Britons turned up to pay tribute

Winston Churchill’s coffin at his State Funeral procession in 1965. The lie-in-state was at the Palace of Westminster for three days and thousands of Britons turned up to pay tribute

21 OCTOBER, 1966

A slag heap collapses on a school in Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Lord Snowdon, the only Welsh member of the Royal Family, arrives at 2am with a shovel, but the Queen is criticised for taking eight days to visit. 

The Queen and Prince Philip visiting Aberfan, Wales, after the tragedy that saw 116 children and 28 adults killed in October 1966

The Queen and Prince Philip visiting Aberfan, Wales, after the tragedy that saw 116 children and 28 adults killed in October 1966

28 MAY, 1969

Concorde’s maiden flight.

The Queen’s first supersonic flight is on 2 November, 1977, flying home from her Jubilee tour of the West Indies in 3 hours, 42 minutes – three minutes quicker than expected.

She chooses white wine and duck from a menu that includes caviar and Champagne.

The French-built Concorde prototype aircraft pictured on its maiden flight with under carriage and landing gear, above Toulouse airport in France in 1969

The French-built Concorde prototype aircraft pictured on its maiden flight with under carriage and landing gear, above Toulouse airport in France in 1969

20 MARCH, 1974

A kidnap attempt on Princess Anne is foiled.

Anne is returning to the Palace with her husband Mark Phillips when their car is forced to a halt on The Mall by an armed assailant who shoots her bodyguard and chauffeur, and two others.

When told to get out of the car, Anne replies, ‘Not bloody likely!’ 

The aftermath of Ian Ball's attempt to kidnap Princess Anne, with Ball's white Ford Escord parked blocking the path of the Princess's Rolls Royce limousine

The aftermath of Ian Ball’s attempt to kidnap Princess Anne, with Ball’s white Ford Escord parked blocking the path of the Princess’s Rolls Royce limousine

31 MAY, 1977

The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen is banned by the BBC – and consequently rises to Number Two in the charts in Silver Jubilee year.

The Sex Pistols, pictured in 1977, released 'God Save The Queen', which was banned from the BBC - but went to rise to number two in the charts in the year of the Silver Jubilee

The Sex Pistols, pictured in 1977, released ‘God Save The Queen’, which was banned from the BBC – but went to rise to number two in the charts in the year of the Silver Jubilee

4 MAY, 1979

Margaret Thatcher sweeps to power as the first female prime minister.

She reveres the institution of monarchy (her curtsies sweep the floor), but as women, Mrs T and the Queen have little in common. 

Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waving to the crowd outside 10 Downing Street, after her victory in 1979

Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waving to the crowd outside 10 Downing Street, after her victory in 1979

17 OCTOBER, 1980

The Queen makes history as she becomes the very first British monarch to make a State Visit to the Vatican. 

Queen Elizabeth II meets and exchanges gifts with Pope Paul II for the first time in the Vatican - the very first British monarch to make a state visit there

Queen Elizabeth II meets and exchanges gifts with Pope Paul II for the first time in the Vatican – the very first British monarch to make a state visit there

13 JUNE, 1981

Six blank shots are fired at the Queen during Trooping the Colour, causing her black mare Burmese to bolt. The Queen shows remarkable sangfroid.

The culprit is a 17-year-old who is sentenced to five years for treason.

The Queen, riding her favourite horse 'Bermese' at the Trooping of the Colour in 1981 in full dress uniform of the Welsh Guard, on her 80th birthday

The Queen, riding her favourite horse ‘Bermese’ at the Trooping of the Colour in 1981 in full dress uniform of the Welsh Guard, on her 80th birthday

9 JULY, 1982

Unemployed Michael Fagan scales the wall at Buckingham Palace, shins up a drainpipe and wanders into the Queen’s bedroom.

The Queen, in a Liberty print nightie, calmly engages him in conversation while she tries to summon help as her footman is walking the corgis. 

Michael Fagan, pictured in 1982, scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace and wandered into Queen Elizabeth's bedroom, who engages in conversation with him while in her pyjamas

Michael Fagan, pictured in 1982, scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace and wandered into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom, who engages in conversation with him while in her pyjamas

20 JULY, 1982

IRA bombs explode at the Changing of the Guard and beneath a bandstand in Regent’s Park.

Four soldiers of the Blues and Royals and seven military bandsmen are killed. Seven horses are killed or terribly injured and have to be shot.

The Queen describes it as ‘the most ghastly day of my life’.

The aftermath of an IRA bomb in Hyde Park, London, at the Changing of the Guard, a day which the Queen describes as 'the most ghastly' of her life

The aftermath of an IRA bomb in Hyde Park, London, at the Changing of the Guard, a day which the Queen describes as ‘the most ghastly’ of her life

15 JUNE, 1987

Prince Edward’s ill-judged It’s A Royal Knockout raises £1 million for charity but attracts widespread ridicule. 

Prince Edward pictured after It's a Royal Knockout, which raised £1million for charity, but attracted widespread ridicule

Prince Edward pictured after It’s a Royal Knockout, which raised £1million for charity, but attracted widespread ridicule

21 DECEMBER, 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 is bombed over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. With a total of 270 fatalities, it’s the deadliest terror attack in our history.

Prince Andrew visits the next day and talks to rescuers. 

18 MAY, 1991

Helen Sharman becomes the first British astronaut, launching on the Anglo-Soviet Juno mission, and carries into space with her a picture of the Queen.

Helen Sharman becomes the first British astronaut, launching on the Anglo-Soviet Juno mission, and carries into space with her a picture of the Queen, pictured in 1991

Helen Sharman becomes the first British astronaut, launching on the Anglo-Soviet Juno mission, and carries into space with her a picture of the Queen, pictured in 1991

19 MARCH, 1992

The Queen’s annus horribilis kicks off with the separation of Andrew and Fergie, followed by Anne’s divorce from Mark Phillips in April.

On 7 June the first extract from Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story is published.

In August photos of a topless Fergie having her toes sucked are followed by the release of taped conversations between Diana and her friend James Gilbey. 

HRH Duchess of York is tearful at her first public appearance following her topless photos and toe-sucking scandal in 1992, also the year of her separation to Prince Andrew

HRH Duchess of York is tearful at her first public appearance following her topless photos and toe-sucking scandal in 1992, also the year of her separation to Prince Andrew

9 DECEMBER, 1992

Charles and Diana separate – but there is no let-up from royal scandal and the steamy Camillagate tapes are published in the New Year. 

Princess Diana and Prince Charles look in different directions during a service to commemorate the 59 British soldiers killed in action in 1992

Princess Diana and Prince Charles look in different directions during a service to commemorate the 59 British soldiers killed in action in 1992

7 AUGUST, 1993

Buckingham Palace opens its doors to tourists for the first time, with the hefty £8 admission fee going towards restoration of fire-damaged Windsor Castle.

Within one week of the opening, the Palace sells three years’ worth of tickets.

Buckingham Palace opened its doors to tourists for the first time in 1993, with a hefty £8 admission fee going towards the restoration of fire-damaged Windsor Castle

Buckingham Palace opened its doors to tourists for the first time in 1993, with a hefty £8 admission fee going towards the restoration of fire-damaged Windsor Castle

10 MAY, 1994

Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid, becomes the first president of a democratic South Africa.

He and the Queen develop a close bond, with Mandela later referring to her in correspondence as ‘My dear friend Elizabeth’. 

President Nelson Mandela leans forward as he speaks with Queen Elizabeth at Avalon cemetery in Soweto, outside Johannesburg in 1995

President Nelson Mandela leans forward as he speaks with Queen Elizabeth at Avalon cemetery in Soweto, outside Johannesburg in 1995

20 NOVEMBER, 1995

Diana’s Panorama interview with Martin Bashir makes explosive revelations about her marriage to Charles – ‘there were three of us in this marriage’ – and hints that he doesn’t want to be King.

Diana wants to be Queen of People’s Hearts. ‘Someone’s got to go out there and love people and show it,’ she says. 

Princess Diana's BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir is released in November 1995 following her divorce from the Prince of Wales

Princess Diana’s BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir is released in November 1995 following her divorce from the Prince of Wales

13 MARCH, 1996

A gunman opens fire in a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, killing 16 children and their teacher.

On Mother’s Day a few days later, the Queen and Princess Royal, looking visibly moved, visit and lay a wreath.

Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth arriving at Dunblane Primary School in 1996 to lay a wreath at the entrance, where a gunman shot 16 children and a teacher

Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth arriving at Dunblane Primary School in 1996 to lay a wreath at the entrance, where a gunman shot 16 children and a teacher

31 AUGUST, 1997

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a Paris car crash.

At the lowest ebb of her reign, the Queen badly misjudges the hysterical mood of her once stoical nation, choosing to stay at Balmoral to protect her two beloved young grandsons who have lost their mother, rather than return to London. 

Prince Philip and the Queen looking at the floral tributes left outside Buckingham Palace on the eve of Princess Diana's funeral

Prince Philip and the Queen looking at the floral tributes left outside Buckingham Palace on the eve of Princess Diana’s funeral

9 FEBRUARY, 2002

The death of Princess Margaret after a stroke, followed seven weeks later by the death of the Queen Mother, aged 101.

The Queen stoically carries out public engagements up to the eve of her sister’s funeral.

There is no outburst of national mourning for Margaret – though in her younger days she had shone as brightly as Diana – but the Queen is greatly touched by the response to her mother’s death. 

Princess Margaret arriving at a State banquet at the Australian Embassy in London in May 1966

Princess Margaret arriving at a State banquet at the Australian Embassy in London in May 1966

29 APRIL, 2002

The Queen and Prince Philip dine at Downing Street with the five living prime ministers who’d served under her – Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and Edward Heath.

She has had 14 PMs in all, starting with Winston Churchill when she came to the throne. 

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh meeting the Blairs at No 10 Downing Street for dinner, joined by four other living Prime Ministers, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and Edward Heath

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh meeting the Blairs at No 10 Downing Street for dinner, joined by four other living Prime Ministers, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and Edward Heath

22 NOVEMBER, 2003

England beat Australia 20-17 with a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in extra time to become rugby world champions.

In December the triumphant team tour London in open-top buses, bringing the West End to a standstill, before dropping into Buckingham Palace to see the Queen.

At 6ft 7in, captain Martin Johnson towers over the monarch, who’s 5ft 4in. 

The Queen pictured with Prince William, right, England Rugby coach Clive Woodward, left, and team Captain Martin Johnson holding the Webb Ellis Cup at a reception for the World Cup winners at Buckingham Palace

The Queen pictured with Prince William, right, England Rugby coach Clive Woodward, left, and team Captain Martin Johnson holding the Webb Ellis Cup at a reception for the World Cup winners at Buckingham Palace

6 JULY, 2004

Opening the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, made of 545 pieces of Cornish granite, the Queen calls it ‘a highly original memorial which captures something of the essence of a remarkable human being’.

The event brings Diana’s two families – the Windsors and the Spencers – together publicly for the first time since her funeral in 1997.

Earl Spencer, Tessa Jowell, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry at the opening of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain in Hyde Park, London

Earl Spencer, Tessa Jowell, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry at the opening of the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain in Hyde Park, London

9 APRIL, 2005

Charles and Camilla marry. The Queen does not attend the civil ceremony but is present for the church blessing at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which incorporates an act of penitence. 

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles with the Queen at their church blessing at St George's Chapel, Windsor, in 2005. The Queen did not attend their civil ceremony

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles with the Queen at their church blessing at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in 2005. The Queen did not attend their civil ceremony

28 JUNE, 2005

In the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Trafalgar, the Queen hosts the International Fleet Review on the Solent, with more than 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 30 other nations.

Queen Elizabeth II aboard HMS Endurance to review the fleet, a total of 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 25 nations who were taking part in the International Fleet Review in 2005

Queen Elizabeth II aboard HMS Endurance to review the fleet, a total of 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 25 nations who were taking part in the International Fleet Review in 2005

1 JULY, 2007

Prince William and Prince Harry host the Concert For Diana at the newly built Wembley Stadium, with Elton John opening and closing the show. 

Prince Harry and Prince William during a star-studded concert in memory of Princess Diana, where more than 63,000 attended the newly-built Wembley Stadium

Prince Harry and Prince William during a star-studded concert in memory of Princess Diana, where more than 63,000 attended the newly-built Wembley Stadium

8 OCTOBER, 2008

As a result of the world financial crisis, the UK government announces a rescue package totalling £500 billion to bail out the banks. 

29 APRIL, 2011

Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton after a nine-year courtship. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelling down The Mall on route to Buckingham Palace in a horse-drawn carriage following their wedding at Westminster Abbey in April 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelling down The Mall on route to Buckingham Palace in a horse-drawn carriage following their wedding at Westminster Abbey in April 2011

17-20 MAY, 2011

Her first state visit to the Republic of Ireland – and the Queen charms our nearest neighbours.

At the State Dinner she wears a white silk dress embroidered with 2,091 shamrocks and her speech, which begins in perfectly pronounced Gaelic, causes President Mary McAleese to say, ‘Wow!’. 

Queen Elizabeth II and Irish President Mary McAleese arriving at the State Dinner held at Dublin Castle in May 2011, the first visit by a British monarch since 1911

Queen Elizabeth II and Irish President Mary McAleese arriving at the State Dinner held at Dublin Castle in May 2011, the first visit by a British monarch since 1911

5 AUGUST, 2012  

Andy Murray beats world number one Roger Federer in straight sets to win Olympic gold at the men’s singles final at Wimbledon. 

Silver medalist Roger Federer of Switzerland congratulating gold medalist Andy Murray, right, of Great Britain during the medal ceremony for the Men's Singles tennis match at London 2012

Silver medalist Roger Federer of Switzerland congratulating gold medalist Andy Murray, right, of Great Britain during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Singles tennis match at London 2012

22 JULY, 2013

Birth of Prince George. For the first time since Victoria’s reign, three generations of direct heirs to the throne are alive at the same time. 

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William at St Mary's Hospital with their newborn son, Prince George, after giving birth

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William at St Mary’s Hospital with their newborn son, Prince George, after giving birth

14 SEPTEMBER, 2014

The Queen drops a rare political hint as she leaves Crathie Kirk at Balmoral only days before the Scottish independence referendum, saying, ‘I hope people will think very carefully about the future.’

Four days later the Scots reject independence – by 55 per cent of the vote – and the UK remains United. 

Members of the Yes movement demonstrating outside the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2014, the Queen drops a rare political hint as she leaves Crathie Kirk at Balmoral only days before the Scottish independence referendum, saying, 'I hope people will think very carefully about the future'

Members of the Yes movement demonstrating outside the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2014, the Queen drops a rare political hint as she leaves Crathie Kirk at Balmoral only days before the Scottish independence referendum, saying, ‘I hope people will think very carefully about the future’

23 JUNE, 2016

The Brexit referendum takes place, with 51.89 per cent voting to leave the EU, and 48.11 per cent voting to remain.

Prime minister David Cameron resigns soon after. 

19 MAY, 2018

The marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle – who seems to bring a breath of fresh air to the Royal Family. 

Newlyweds Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex leaving the West Door of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle after their wedding ceremony in May 2018

Newlyweds Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex leaving the West Door of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle after their wedding ceremony in May 2018

24 JANUARY, 2019

The Queen makes a veiled reference to the toxic debate around Brexit when she recommends ‘respecting different points of view, coming together to seek out the common ground, and never losing sight of the bigger picture’ in a speech at Sandringham Women’s Institute. 

8 JANUARY, 2020

Harry and Meghan announce their decision to step down as senior royals and move to North America.

The Queen makes it clear that it’s a hard Megxit: they will no longer use their HRH titles and Harry is stripped of his military appointments. 

Their tell-all Oprah interview in March 2021 makes allegations of racism in the Royal Family.

Harry and Meghan being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, a year after announcing their decision to leave the Royal Family

Harry and Meghan being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, a year after announcing their decision to leave the Royal Family

29 JANUARY, 2020

The first case of Covid-19 is confirmed in the UK after paramedics in hazmat suits escort a family to hospital from a hotel in York. 

9 APRIL, 2021

Prince Philip, the Queen’s beloved husband of more than 73 years, dies at Windsor Castle.

The Queen cuts a lonely figure at her husband’s funeral on 17 April, face-masked and socially distancing.

The Queen taking her seat at the funeral of her beloved husband Prince Philip at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021

The Queen taking her seat at the funeral of her beloved husband Prince Philip at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021



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