Today – 10 September 2015 – Queen Elizabeth II will pass the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Buckingham Palace has calculated that Queen Victoria reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes (to be precise) – taking into account 63 years, 15 leap days, additional months and days and the meticulous timings of her accession and death.
Queen Elizabeth II will enter the history books when she overtakes Queen Victoria sometime during 9 September 2015. This event takes into account 63 years plus 16 leap days, additional months and days and the timing of King George VI’s death. We should therefore date her reign as longer on 10 September 2015. Though her reign is the longest in British history, the record for the longest reign belongs to King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who as of this writing has been on the throne for 68 years, and is the current longest reigning monarch in the world. Will Queen Elizabeth II surpass his record? Only time will tell, but the answer is in her genes. Her mother, Queen Elizabeth – Queen Consort of King George VI – lived to the ripe old age of 101! All things are possible.
Princess Elizabeth, the elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, was born in 1926 and became Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms at the age of 25, upon the death of her father. She has reigned through more than five decades of enormous social change and development. The Queen is married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and has four children and eight grandchildren. Upon her accession to the throne, the new Queen was asked by her Private Secretary what her regnal name would be, to which the new Queen responded, “My own, of course – what else?” She was thus proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
Many people in the United Kingdom have not known another monarch. The British are very used to her. In contrast, Queen Elizabeth II has been monarch during the presidencies of Harry S. Truman, Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard Milhous Nixon, Gerald Rudolph “Jerry” Ford, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Ronald Wilson Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton, George Walker Bush, and Barack Hussein Obama.
Three down. . .
On 30 May 2009, Queen Elizabeth II had reigned for fifty-seven years, three months, and twenty-two days. She surpassed King Edward III, who reigned for fifty years, four months, and twenty-five days from 1327 to 1377. She also bested King Henry III, who reigned for fifty-six years and twenty-nine days from 1216-1272. By the end of 2012, she eclipsed King George III, who reigned for fifty-nine years, three months, and two days from 1760-1820.
. . . and ONE to go!!Still, the longest reigning British sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for sixty-three years, seven months, and two days from 1837-1901. Queen Elizabeth II, therefore, will have to reign until 10 September 2015, when she will be eighty-nine years old, to actually transcend Queen Victoria’s record and become the longest reigning sovereign in British history. That feat is by no means impossible. At this writing, the Queen is in good health, is full of vigor and vitality, and shows no signs of slowing down. As it has been said, records are made to be broken! In 1897, near the end of her long reign, Queen Victoria appeared in her wheelchair on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for her Diamond Jubilee. So indisputable were the feelings of loyalty and pride toward their queen that those who gathered there for the occasion greeted Queen Victoria with roaring shouts of “Go it, old girl!” So, too, with Queen Elizabeth II. She has so transformed public opinion of the sovereign and of the monarchy that shouts of “Go it, old girl!” are both appropriate and imperative as she continues her long reign. At the time of the Queen’s milestone, Prince Charles, “King-in-waiting,” will be almost sixty-seven years old and could well be the oldest sovereign to become king when he ascends to the throne! Further, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, second in line to succeed his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, after his father, will have passed his thirty-third birthday and Prince Henry (“Harry”) will be nearly thirty-one-years-old. Prince William is already married and has two children, thus securing the crown for the House of Windsor for quite some time. Prince Henry has yet to marry.
At this point in history, the future of the British monarchy looks most secure. It has survived for the better part of a millennium. It has survived conquest, invasion, usurpation, murder, divorce, execution, and abdication. It has survived the Reformation and the Commonwealth. It has survived good sovereigns, bad sovereigns, mediocre sovereigns, and great sovereigns. It has survived “Bloody Mary,” “Bad Dick,” Oliver Cromwell, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” a “Nine-Day Queen,” and Wallis Warfield Simpson. It has moved from an absolute sovereign who answered to no one but God to a constitutional sovereign who answers to Parliament and ultimately to the people. Though it has its many detractors, the monarchy in its present form is still the preferred form of government for the majority of the British people.
The future of the House of Windsor looks equally secure. It, too, has survived difficult times: the Great War, the Battle of Britain, the end of the Empire, the “Troubles” in Ireland, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the European Union. In each instance, the House of Windsor has adapted itself accordingly, and has become accessible to the people it serves. Unlike the Tudor Queen Elizabeth I, her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II can rest, assured that the House of Windsor will not end when she ends her days. The greatest legacy of the Prince and Princess of Wales is the security and stability of the House of Windsor for years, perhaps even generations, to come. As Queen Elizabeth II marked her Diamond Jubilee anniversary, she dedicated herself anew to continuing to serve fellow Britons and those around the world who count her as head of state. Releasing a special set of portraits, taken by John Swannell in the Center Room at Buckingham Palace in December 2011, Queen Elizabeth II sent a message indicating that while she has seen “great advances” since she took over at her father King George VI’s death on 6 February 1952, she is looking forward to the future with a “clear head and warm heart.”
As an American, this event on 10 September 2015 has little significance. We Americans fought a war in the eighteenth century to rid ourselves of the British monarchy, but as an Anglophile – which I am – this occasion is certainly one to celebrate. So I say:
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!