60 years ago on the evening of February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne to become Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realm after the passing of her father George VI at the age of 56. While reign of the Commonwealth would automatically be passed down to her upon the death of her father, as she was the eldest of his two daughters, her official coronation would not be held until June 2, 1953. Today, the Monday or Saturday closest to the June date, depending on the country in the Commonwealth realm, is an annual public holiday celebrating her coronation, and has been selected as the date for Her Majesty the Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee Celebration.
Queen Elizabeth II with her husband Prince Albert (Creative Commons)
When her father died, Queen Elizabeth was not even present in the country, let alone the continent. At 25, she had already been married for 5 years and was traveling through Africa with her husband Prince Philip when she received the news. For some years already, however, the Queen had known about the ill health of her father and had been standing in for him at many official events in preparation for the day when she would eventually rule herself. Upon hearing the news of the passing of her father, she and Philip quickly returned back to Britain. Little did she know that she would reign over the Commonwealth for 60 years, becoming only the second person in history to hold title for so long; her Grandmother Queen Victoria being the first who reigned a total of 64 years from 1837 to 1901.
That fateful day was over 60 years ago, and this week Britain marks the anniversary with a special public holiday on Tuesday the 5th, just one day after their annual Early May bank holiday. The four day weekend is packed with entertainment including a 1,000+ boat flotilla that will lead the royal family down the Thames River and through the very center of London on Sunday. Other festivities will include a concert at Buckingham Palace and several street parties around London. Millions are expected to participate in the events, more than twice as many as those who came out for last year’s Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Queen will wind down celebrations on Tuesday with a service of Thanksgiving that will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
For a list of all the planned activities for the 4 day period, click here
Flag of the Commonwealth of Nations. The 16 nations that consist of this union have Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign
In addition to traveling around her own country to celebrate the 60th year of her reign, the rest of the royal family will travel on her behalf to many of the other Commonwealth countries.
William & Kate will travel to Malaysia, Singapore, Solomon Island and Tuvalu
Prince Harry will make visits to the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Belize
Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea
The following are the 16 countries where Queen Elizabeth is recognized as sovereign, otherwise known as the Head of State:
Antigua & Barbuda
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
In addition to these 16 countries, Fiji ceremoniously recognizes her as Parliament Chief, although she does not possess any sway in government.