February 6, 2017 marks the momentous occasion when, 65 years ago, King George VI passed away – and Elizabeth II ascended the British throne.
We take a moment to look back on arguably the most influential woman of this Century – the historic reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Every year that God blesses our beloved Queen Elizabeth II with continued health, she continues to make, then break, substantial achievements and records.
At 4.18pm on September 9, 2015, Her Majesty became Britain’s longest reigning monarch in its 1,000 year history, passing the record set by Queen Victoria with a total of 23,226 days, 16 hours and 18 minutes – over 63 years, seven months and two days.
The following year, on October 13, 2016, King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, Thailand’s beloved monarch, passed away after 70 years on the throne, the longest-reigning monarch in world history, and the richest king in recorded history, worth a staggering $40 billion. With his death, Queen Elizabeth II now becomes the longest-reigning living monarch from any nation in the world today.
With her health remaining strong at 90 years of age, and as her mother lived to be over 100 years old, Elizabeth II could very possibly go past her 70th anniversary on the throne – thus also surpassing the late King of Thailand as the longest-serving monarch in world history.
We are already in uncharted today, as Britain has never had a 90-year old monarch, nor one that has ruled 65 years. However, longevity is not the Queen’s main accomplishments – it’s her incredible influence over one of the greatest periods of transformation in world history.
Let’s first look at some fun facts about the Royal Family, and then we will celebrate some of the Queen’s greatest accomplishments:
Queen Elizabeth II is the 32nd great granddaughter of King Alfred, who 1,147 years ago was the first effective King Of England – ruling from 871 to 899.
If Edward VIII has not abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, he would have ruled until he died in 1972. Having had no children, and as his younger brother (who instead became King George VI) was dead by 1952 – Elizabeth would have still inherited the throne – only in 1972, not 1952.
Ironically, in 1889 Alice Keppel was the mistress of King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. Today, her great granddaughter Camilla was for a time the mistress of the current Prince of Wales – until she married him of course!
Speaking of which, Edward had a number of affairs with married women including Wallace Simpson, who was already divorced and still married to her second husband. Based on societal attitudes at that time, the prime minister of the day told him that it would cause a scandal and a constitutional crisis if he married her – the government would have to resign. So Edward chose to abdicate – he was not forced to, he chose to. Today, prince Charles is not facing that same decision, even though he is also divorced and remarried to a divorced woman, because attitudes towards divorce are different today.
“Prince Harry” is a nickname – his real name is Henry Charles Albert David.
Even if Prince Charles inherited the Crown today, he will already be the oldest monarch to ascend to the throne in British history.
The Queen could not choose to bypass the throne directly to Prince William instead of Prince Charles – he is the eldest son and Prince of Wales and he will become king as long as he’s living when the queen dies or should she abdicate – the latter being highly unlikely.
Prince. Charles is unlikely to call himself King Charles III when he becomes king – he may choose any name he wishes. Charles’ grandfather George VI was Prince Albert before he became king, and his great great grandfather Edward VII was also Prince Albert. King Charles I was beheaded in 1649 after the English Civil War, and Charles II was known as the “Merrie Monarch” because he has so many mistresses, so it’s unlikely that he would call himself King Charles III. Many believe he will choose King George VII.
In the bizarre display of sexist rules, the husband of a Queen is always known as a Prince consort – Victoria’s husband was Prince Albert and Elizabeth II’s husband was Prince Philip. But the wife of a King is known as a Queen consort – she just doesn’t officially rule as Queen (as with the Elizabeth the Queen Mother)
Queen Victoria was likely the most powerful woman in world history – not only did the “sun never set on the British Empire” then, meaning it literally spanned almost every time zone of the world, but descendants today rule over Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Even more bizarre, at the start of the First World War, her grandchildren sat on the thrones of Denmark, Greece, Norway, Germany, Romania, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom – meaning that the European war involved cousin fighting against cousin!
And now, let’s honour the Queen by looking at back at some of her tremendous accomplishments:
The Queen holds or has held the following official titles: Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions Beyond the Sea, Queen of Canada, Queen of Australia, Queen of New Zealand, Queen of Jamaica, Queen of Barbados, Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Queen of Grenada, Queen of Papua New Guinea, Queen of Solomon Islands, Queen of Tuvalu, Queen of St. Lucia, Queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, Queen of Belize, Queen of Saint Kits and Nevis, Queen of Ghana, Queen of Nigeria, Queen of Sierra Leone, Queen of Tanganyika, Queen of Uganda, Queen of Kenya, Queen of Malawi, Queen of Mauritis, Queen of South Africa, Queen of Gambia, Queen of Trinidad and Tobago, Queen of Guyana, Queen of Pakistan, Queen of Ceylon, Queen of Malta, Queen of Fiji, Queen of Jamaica, Queen of Gibraltar, the Duke of Normandy, the Lord of Mann, Commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, Head of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lord Admiral of the Royal Navy, Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces, Dame Grand Cross of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, Member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, Queen of India, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith
Beginning with Sir Winston Churchill in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has had 13 Prime Ministers during her rule, the most recent being Theresa May.
Possibly a little-known fact: In 1992, the Queen modernized her financial relationship with the British government and the British people by offering to pay income tax and capital gains tax on a voluntary basis. Since 1993, her personal income has been taxable as for any other UK taxpayer
The Queen’s estimated personal fortune is around £350 million. The Duchy of Lancaster estate, a portfolio of land property and assets, is held in trust for the monarch and is worth around £348 million. She also owns property that’s never been valued including Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle in Scotland reportedly worth £160 million. Her investment portfolio in blue-chip British companies is worth £110 million, a personal art collection is worth at least £2 million and she has personal jewellery and a large stamp collection built up by her grandfather George V. Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the crown jewels and the Royal Art Collection are held in trust for the nation.
The Crown Estate manages on behalf of the monarch the property and land owned by the Crown including properties in St. James in London, offshore wind farms around Britain’s coast and real estate in Scotland – all worth around £11 billion and generating £285 million per year. The Queen organized a new income plan for the Royal Family in 2013, taking just 15% of this Crown Estate income, and giving the rest to the national Treasury – meaning income of about £42 million in 2016 for the entire Royal Family, and over £240 million to the government.
While Queen Victoria reigned over more than 70 countries, she never left Europe. Queen Elizabeth II currently has just 16 realms, but she has visited 116 countries during 265 official visits, making her by far the most travelled monarch in British history. She has never been to Cameroon or Rwanda, the two most recent member states of the Commonwealth. She has visited Canada 22 times and Australia 16 times! In 1957, during an official state visit to the United States, she was the first monarch to open a session of Congress.
The queen is a patron of 510 charities in Britain including Cancer Research UK, and the British Red Cross – assisting them in raising an incredible £1.4 billion over the years. The wider Royal family supports a grand total of 2,415 charities in Britain, with this figure rising to almost 3,000 globally She’s done more for charity than any other monarch in world history.
Her Majesty has been an integral part of the ongoing transformation of the old British Empire into the new British Commonwealth and its successor, the Commonwealth of Nations. She has overseen the independence of many former Empire realms, including to a degree Australia and Canada.
The queen is always been on the cutting edge of technology starting with her coronation, which was broadcast for the first time ever on television. In 1976, she sent her very first email, part of a technology demonstration. It took a few decades before anyone emailed regularly. Today, the Queen uses a cell phone in order to text her grandchildren – a pretty impressive feat for an 89-year-old great-grandmother. She also sent her first tweet into 2014!
According to a famed British constitutional scholar, Walter Bagehot, Queen Elizabeth II “could disband the army; she could dismiss all the officers… she could sell off all our ships-of-war and all our naval stores; she could make a peace by the sacrifice of Cornwall and begin a war for the conquest of Brittany. She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom, male or female, a peer; she could make every parish in the United Kingdom a ‘University’; she could dismiss most of the civil servants, and she could pardon all offenders.”
Her Majesty’s actual rights as a Queen are only three:
- The right to be consulted by the Prime Minister
- To encourage certain courses of action
- To warn against others
Clearly then, the queen’s duties involve more than her rights. But what of her value to the British economy?
And the Royal family’s value to the UK economy is massive. UK Business Insider quotes Brand Finance said that at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Monarchy’s value at that point to be in excess of £44 billion ($67 billion). Three years on, its value now rests around £57 billion ($87 billion). In addition, Brand Finance estimated that the Royal Family’s net contribution to the UK economy is around £1.155 billion ($1.8 billion) this year alone!.
In her 90th year, and on today’s 65th anniversary of her reign, she still continues to mean as much or more to millions of us than ever!