By Varsha J
Queen Elizabeth II ruled the United Kingdom for seven decades. Britain’s record-setting monarch was such a longstanding ruler that it’s easy to forget she wasn’t supposed to have become queen at all. Born in 1926, Elizabeth was the daughter of King George V’s second son, and had little expectation of succeeding to the throne until her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 (in order to marry Wallis Simpson). After the death of her father, King George VI, 25-year-old Elizabeth was called upon to assume the throne, beginning a momentous reign.
Held at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony was the first to be broadcast live on television. Some 27 million people in the United Kingdom (out of a total population of 36 million) watched the ceremony, and 11 million more listened on the radio. Around the world, television captured the hearts and minds of people looking for entertainment and news alike. Whereas previously many people received their news from radio and newspapers, television became increasingly dominant in the 1950s. Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation was viewed more widely on television than it was listened to on the radio—a first for such an event.
But she didn’t only indirectly impact the media; she directly impacted society. In 1965, Britain abolished the death penalty in cases of murder. Homicide was one of the last crimes for which the death penalty was allowed to be applied. On Nov. 8 of that year, Queen Elizabeth signed the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act, prohibiting capital punishment. Additionally, as in much of the rest of the world, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights developed, and the U.K. also saw changes in its legislation. In 1967, both abortion and homosexuality were legalized in the U.K. Decades later, the Queen was reportedly “elated” to sign the royal assent to the decree legalizing same-gender marriage.
The queen’s celebration of her 50th year on the throne came with great loss – when her younger sister, Princess Margaret, and their mother died within weeks of each other. As the first British monarch since Queen Victoria to celebrate a Golden Jubilee, Elizabeth traveled more than 40,000 miles that year, including visits to the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. She also visited 70 cities and towns in 50 counties in the United Kingdom. In April 2021, she lost her husband of 73 years, Prince Phillip, when he died at age 99. In February 2022, the United Kingdom staged a series of celebrations for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee—marking 70 years of her service to the British Commonwealth. However, soon after, the Queen contracted the coronavirus, which she later said left her “very tired and exhausted.” She installed her 15th prime minister, Liz Truss, just two days before her death. Queen Elizabeth II died at age 96, providing consistent and enduring. Her efforts to spread wellness around the world will never be forgotten, especially to those she impacted.
Photo by annie spratt on Unsplash