mercoledì 9 settembre 2015

The Take-Over: Queen Elizabeth II Becomes the Longest-Serving British Monarch Ever

Today, on 9 September 2015, as you'll almost certainly be aware, we have the privilege of witnessing a truly historic event: Queen Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning British monarch of all times. This is a once a lifetime occasion and, while plenty has been written on the subject and will no doubt continue to be written, yours truly couldn't pass up this wonderful blogging opportunity :)

The Spectator cartoon.

Third place on the list of British monarch by lenght of reign goes to George III, who reigned a very respectable, particularly for his times, from 1760 to 1820, 59 years and 96 days, although his later years were marred by ill health, with a Regency being finally established for the final 10 years of his reign

George III (left) and his son the Prince Regent (later King George IV).
George's record was surpassed by his granddaughter Queen Victoria on 23 September 1896. The Queen recorded the event in her diary, noting that that was "the day on which I have reigned longer, by a day, than any English Sovereign and the people wished to make all sorts of demonstrations, which I asked them not to do, until I had completed the 60 years, next June. But notwithstanding that this was made public in the papers, people of all kinds & ranks, from every part of the Kingdom, sent congratulatory telegrams & they kept coming in all day. They were all most loyally expressed & some very prettily". When she died on 22 January 1901, she had reigned 63 years and 216 days, or 23,226 days.
Like Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was at Balmoral enjoying her summer break when she became the longest reigning monarch, where she was joined by some very special guests - her granddaughter Empress Alexandra of Russia along with her husband Nicholas II and their baby daughter Grand Duchess Olga. The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was also on hand to celebrate his mother's milestone:

The painting below, by Henry Tanworth Wells, shows Queen Victoria receiving the news of her accession on 20 June 1837. In the sitting room of Kensington Palace, the Lord Chamberlain (Lord Conyngham) and the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Howley) kneel before the young Queen Victoria, the former kisses the Queen's right hand.
Again, the Queen, a keen diarist, recorded the event in her own words: "I was awoke [sic] at 6 o'clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone [underlined in the original text], and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen".

Later that day, the Queen presided over her first Privy Council in one of the rooms at Kensington Palace:

Although the painting by David Wilkie commemorating the occasion depicts the Queen wearing a white dress, she wore, in fact, a black mourning dress, that has now been preserved in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and can occasionally be seen on display at the Palace (note how the black dye has faded over time and the dress appears now a golden brown):

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne on 6 February 1952, on the death of her father King George VI. As the King died in his sleep, the precise time of his death remains unknown, although Buckingham Palace officials have estimated that the take-over will take place some time around 5.30pm GMT on 9 September 2015.
As is widely known, Princess Elizabeth had just begun a tour of the Commonwealth when news of the King's death reached the royal party in Kenya, in a somewhat unusual fashion, as the official Palace telegram announcement got lost along the way. It was Martin Charteris, Princess Elizabeth's Private Secretary, who heard what had happened from a journalist over lunch. It was then Prince Philip who broke the news to the new Queen at Sagana Lodge.
For the first leg of her journey back, the new Queen wore a light-coloured cotton dress; all her mourning clothes were waiting for her at Entebbe, in Uganda, already loaded on the SS Gothic, which was to take her and Prince Philip to Australia and New Zealand, on the second leg of their tour.

The Queen landed at Heathrow Airport mid-afternoon of the following day, having changed into mourning attire, with the Flame Lily brooch pinned to her lapel. Her uncle the Duke of Gloucester and the Mountbattens came aboard to greet her, carrying a note from Queen Mary for the new Queen.

On the tarmac, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was the first in the line-up. Upon returning to Clarence House, the Queen received a visit from her grandmother Queen Mary. The accession council was held at St James's Palace on the morning of 8 February. The Queen only said a few words after reading her formal Declaration of Sovereignity: "My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than that I shall always work as my father did".

Trumpeters from the Household Cavalry at the Queen's Proclamation.

Today more than 63 years have passed, Her Majesty is a mother, grand-mother and great-grandmother, is Head of the Commonwealth and a well-loved figure the world over; most recently she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 - LONG MAY SHE REIGN!!