THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 — Paris, France)
Queen Elizabeth II
The Official Story
(Queen of the United Kingdom, 1952-2022)
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022) was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until her death in 2022. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during her lifetime and 15 at the time of her death. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days is the longest of any British monarch and the longest recorded of any female head of state in history.
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 acceded to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, making Elizabeth 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 November 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, and their marriage lasted 73 years until his death in April 2021. They had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.
When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth—then 25 years old—became queen of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (known today as Sri Lanka), as well as Head of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, devolution in the United Kingdom, the decolonisation of Africa, and the United Kingdom’s accession to the European Communities and withdrawal from the European Union. The number of her realms varied over time as territories gained independence and some realms became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include state visits to China in 1986, Russia in 1994, and the Republic of Ireland in 2011, and meetings with five popes.
Significant events include Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, Diamond, and Platinum jubilees in 1977, 2002, 2012, and 2022, respectively. Elizabeth was the longest-lived British monarch and the second-longest reigning sovereign in world history, behind only Louis XIV of France. She faced occasional republican sentiment and media criticism of her family, particularly after the breakdowns of her children’s marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992, and the death of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. However, support for the monarchy in the United Kingdom remained consistently high, as did her personal popularity. Elizabeth died aged 96 at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, and was succeeded by her eldest son, Charles III.
Reign (Turbulent 1990s)
In August 1997, a year after the divorce, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. Elizabeth was on holiday with her extended family at Balmoral. Diana’s two sons, Princes William and Harry, wanted to attend church, so Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh took them that morning. Afterwards, for five days the royal couple shielded their grandsons from the intense press interest by keeping them at Balmoral where they could grieve in private, but the royal family’s silence and seclusion, and the failure to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace, caused public dismay. Pressured by the hostile reaction, Elizabeth agreed to return to London and address the nation in a live television broadcast on 5 September, the day before Diana’s funeral. In the broadcast, she expressed admiration for Diana and her feelings “as a grandmother” for the two princes. As a result, much of the public hostility evaporated.
On 8 September 2022, Buckingham Palace announced that Elizabeth was under medical supervision at Balmoral Castle after doctors expressed concern. The statement read, “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.” Elizabeth’s four children, along with her daughters-in-law, and grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry, travelled to Balmoral. Her death was confirmed that evening at 18:30 BST, setting in motion Operation London Bridge and, because she died in Scotland, Operation Unicorn.