Expert comment: The Queen at 90Thursday 21 April 2016
Senior Resident Tutor Lauren Sharkey, who completed a Master’s in History at Hope, looks back on the Queen’s reign, as the monarch celebrates her 90th birthday.
Earlier this week, I was at Liverpool town hall with a group of residential students and the Residential Life team. We were very lucky to be given a tour of the building by local historian Steve Binns. As he took us up the main staircase, a very large and commanding portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II stood proudly before us. Painted in 1957, she stands tall and regal, dressed in a golden gown wearing her royal blue sash, yet the most prominent feature is her friendly face topped with a beautiful sparkling silver crown. Only five years into her reign, and she was already being portrayed as a powerful yet mothering figure that the public held the highest of regards for.
On April 21st 1926, a princess was born in Mayfair to Prince Albert, the Duke of York, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Although she was a princess, she was never destined for the throne. Yet 90 years on, she has arguably been the defining monarch of the British Empire and Commonwealth, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for an impressive 63 years and 7 months.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was thrust into the line of royal succession after the abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII in 1936, following the Wallis Simpson scandal. Then when her father King George VI passed away on 6th February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne and was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953.
Over the course of Her Majesty’s reign, society itself has changed and evolved in a dramatic fashion. Since 1952, there have been 12 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom; inventions have included the iPhone, the Internet, emojis, the floppy disc and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Events include the Space Race between the USA and the USSR, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the first female Prime Minister, the first black President of the United States and the London 2012 Olympics.
What is most interesting about Queen Elizabeth’s reign is that the British Public are incredibly divided on whether we should have a monarchy. Yet over the 64 years she has reigned, the royal family has been able to withstand the negative critique it has sometimes received and even adapted and modified itself to survive and keep in touch with its subjects. Her Majesty’s reign has also seen a dramatic acceleration of decolonisation, with only 16 sovereign states remaining. However despite the divide in opinion of the Queen and the royal family - and the dwindling power of the commonwealth, royal events such as the golden jubilee, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the diamond jubilee, thousands of people came from all over the world and commonwealth to fill The Mall and show their devotion. Does this show that deep down the British actually love the Queen and the monarchy? Or perhaps, we British just love our Bank Holidays too much. I like to think it’s a little bit of both.
With Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reaching 90 years of age, it is a wonder how she can continue with the demanding aspects of her role and what more she can offer as our Sovereign. As the most travelled monarch of the commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth has most definitely earned the devotion, if not, the respect her subjects give her. No matter how long she continues to reign, the Queen has dutifully led and represented the United Kingdom and her commonwealth, thus immortalising herself in the history books of today and the future.