London When Queen Elizabeth II received Liz Truss at her Scottish country estate in Balmoral last Tuesday, she was the 15th prime minister to receive a government mandate from the British head of state in her 70 years on the throne. Winston Churchill was the first - and probably her favorite prime minister. The Queen, on the other hand, remained suspicious of the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and her cold economic liberalism.
No other head of state in the world has seen as many heads of state and government come and go as Elizabeth II – including 13 US presidents. She posed with John F. Kennedy, danced with Gerald Ford and went horseback riding with Ronald Reagan in Windsor. No one has reigned longer - and represented better - than the Queen.
The English-born philosopher Thomas Paine predicted the end of the English monarchy shortly after the French Revolution in 1792. The greatest merit of the Queen remains that she carefully dusted off the more than 1000-year-old monarchy on the island, opened the palace gates for a breath of fresh air and the media and thus saved the taxpayer-financed House of Windsor into the modern age.
In June, the Queen celebrated her 70th anniversary of the throne. For three days, life in the United Kingdom largely came to a standstill and the population enthusiastically cheered their monarch. Two-thirds of Britons still support the parliamentary monarchy, which probably has something to do with the fact that the Queen stood for the illusion of an ideal world in the kingdom's changeable public life.
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Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926 as the first daughter of the later King George VI. born in London. Although she was only third in line to the throne at the time, she assumed the scepter of the English monarchy after the abdication of her uncle Edward VIII and the death of her father in February 1952.
The then only 25-year-old ascended the throne quite suddenly. She was not specially prepared for her office, never attended school and was educated by governesses. "In some ways I didn't have an apprenticeship," the Queen later regretted her lack of education.
Queen in the media age: she was sure to attract attention
300 million viewers worldwide saw their coronation. This attention around the globe became a blessing and even more a curse for the Windsors in the following media age. In 1970, the Queen opened the palace gates for a BBC documentary about family life. The current worldwide success of the Netflixseries "The Crown" is a powerful testament to this dilemma of global interest and constant attention.
Her husband Prince Philip, whom she married in 1947 and who died in April 2021, shortly before his 100th birthday, proved to be a support and sometimes a burden. With him, Elizabeth II had four children: Prince Charles, whose tragic marriage to Diana Spencer almost toppled the monarchy and who now succeeds her to the throne. In addition, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, who recently fell out of favor due to numerous scandals, and Prince Edward.
The wayward but ever-loyal naval officer, Philip always stood by, and literally for the most part, his Queen through the trials and tribulations of royalty, of which there were quite a few during her tenure.
Whether love affairs, marital crises, excessive parties or pubescent princes - the Queen has had her hands full over the years to keep the family together and the monarchy alive. In the end, it hurt her that she didn't quite succeed in the case of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. The young couple retired from royal duties last year and have been living in the United States ever since.
Death of Lady Diana: identity crisis of the monarchy
Probably the strongest shock for the House of Windsor was the tragic death of Lady Diana almost exactly 25 years ago. The "Princess of the People" and wife of Charles had already confused the royal family during her lifetime with her unconventional manner and warm-hearted closeness to the people, but also with her unhappy love affairs.
The early death of the then 36-year-old mother of Princes William and Harry shocked the country and plunged the monarchy into a deep identity crisis in 1997. After all, Diana's suffering was seen by many Britons as a symbol of a cold family life based more on tradition than compassion. Late, many say too late, Elizabeth II recognized the danger to the monarchy and, as a sign of national mourning, had the Union Jack hoisted at half-mast over Buckingham Palace for the first time ever.
The "Queen by the Grace of God", as she was officially titled, had hardly any political power in the kingdom, despite her crown jewels, her golden carriage and her palaces. Although she was formally still the head of state of Great Britain and 15 other states, she remained the supreme commander of the British army, appointed prime ministers and head of the Anglican church. In fact, however, the Queen's Cabinet, Parliament and Ceremonial dictated at every turn what she had to do and say.
The final acid test for Elizabeth II was Brexit. Although the monarch did not comment on the question of whether Great Britain would be better off in or outside the European Union. However, when she publicly advocated "respecting different viewpoints" and "coming together to look for common ground" in 2019, it was widely taken as a nod to just how important the kingdom's close ties to continental Europeans were to her.