Acession to the Throne, Kenya, King George VI of the United Kingdom, Prince Charles, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain
Today, February 6, 2021 marks the anniversary of the death King George VI of the United Kingdom and marks the beginning of the 69th year on the throne for his daughter and heir, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926) who is Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms.
Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). Her father ascended the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She was educated privately at home and began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947 she married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch. She is the longest-serving female head of state in world history, and the world’s oldest living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, and oldest and longest-serving current head of state. Next year if she is still with us she will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee marking 70th year on the throne.
Her father died at the age of 56 and though his health had been declining the death still came unexpectedly. The stress of World War II had taken its toll on the King’s health, made worse by his heavy smoking and subsequent development of lung cancer among other ailments, including arteriosclerosis and Buerger’s disease. A planned tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed after the King suffered an arterial blockage in his right leg, which threatened the loss of the leg and was treated with a right lumbar sympathectomy in March 1949. His elder daughter Elizabeth, the heir presumptive, took on more royal duties as her father’s health deteriorated. The delayed tour was re-organised, with Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, taking the place of the King and Queen.
The King was well enough to open the Festival of Britain in May 1951, but on 23 September 1951, he underwent a surgical operation where his entire left lung was removed by Clement Price Thomas after a malignant tumour was found. In October 1951, Elizabeth and Philip went on a month-long tour of Canada; the trip had been delayed for a week due to the King’s illness. At the State Opening of Parliament in November, the King’s speech from the throne was read for him by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Simonds. His Christmas broadcast of 1951 was recorded in sections, and then edited together.
On 31 January 1952, despite advice from those close to him, the King went to London Airport to see Elizabeth and Philip off on their tour to Australia via Kenya. It was his last public appearance. Six days later, at 07:30 GMT on the morning of 6 February, he was found dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died in the night from a coronary thrombosis at age 56. His daughter flew back to Britain from Kenya as Queen Elizabeth II.
From 9 February for two days George VI’s coffin rested in St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, before lying in state at Westminster Hall from 11 February. His funeral took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the 15th. He was interred initially in the Royal Vault until he was transferred to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St George’s on 26 March 1969. In 2002, fifty years after his death, the remains of his widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the ashes of his younger daughter Princess Margaret, who both died that year, were interred in the chapel alongside him.