On this date in 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary [Windsor] was born in London. You might call her “Elizabeth, Jr”, because her mum was called Elizabeth as well. And there was no thought of her becoming Queen, then. Her uncle Edward had that right, being older than his brother Albert — her father — and Edward’s heirs would inherit the throne from there.
And, indeed, when Elizabeth was ten, Uncle Edward became King Edward VIII, on the death of his father, Elizabeth’s grandfather. No surprise there. The surprise came within the year, though. It’s often said that Edward abdicated his throne because his impending marriage to Wallis Simpson, an American — and, so, not of noble blood — gave him no choice. The truth is that the proposed union caused a political upset at the highest levels. Rather than see the government fall into resignations and a disruptive general election, Edward, who could have stood his ground and remained king, chose to step down.
That put Edward’s eldest brother, Albert, Duke of York, on the throne. Interestingly, he chose the royal name George VI, to draw support through his father, even though he had a younger brother called George. So there was King George, and Prince George. Well, I think people figured out who was who.
This put Elizabeth next in line for the throne, as the heir presumptive — “presumptive”, not “apparent”, because if George VI should have a son, she would be bumped into second place.
But George VI did not have a son, and a 25-year-old Elizabeth became queen in early 1952. Her 57-year reign (so far) is a long one, but not yet the longest. George III — the king from whom we wrested our independence — ruled for 59 years, and Victoria held on for more than 63 years.
Today is also the birthday of my friend and colleague, and occasional commenter to these pages, Jim Fenton. Happy birthday, Jim.