THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 — Paris, France)
& Prince Phillip
(Inspect Flowers for Diana)
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.
PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH
(Husband of Queen Elizabeth II)
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, later Philip Mountbatten; 10 June 1921– 9 April 2021), was the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and served as the consort of the British monarch from her accession as queen on 6 February 1952 until his death in 2021, making him the longest-serving royal consort in history.
Philip was born in Greece, into the Greek and Danish royal families; his family was exiled from the country when he was eighteen months old. After being educated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, he joined the Royal Navy in 1939, when he was 18 years old. In July 1939, he began corresponding with the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth, the elder daughter and heir presumptive of King George VI. Philip had first met her in 1934. During the Second World War, he served with distinction in the British Mediterranean and Pacific fleets.
In the summer of 1946, the King granted Philip permission to marry Elizabeth. Before the official announcement of their engagement in July 1947, Philip relinquished his Greek and Danish royal titles and styles, became a naturalised British subject, and adopted his maternal grandparents’ surname Mountbatten. He married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. The day prior to their wedding, the King granted Philip the style His Royal Highness. On the day of their wedding, he was additionally created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. Philip left active military service when Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952, having reached the rank of commander. In 1957, he was created a British prince. Philip had four children with Elizabeth: Charles III; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. In 1960, the Queen issued a British Order in Council, which declared that her and Philip’s descendants who do not bear royal titles or styles may use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has since also been used by titled members.
A sports enthusiast, Philip helped develop the equestrian event of carriage driving. He was a patron, president, or member of over 780 organisations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, and served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a youth awards program for people aged 14 to 24. Philip is the longest-lived male member of the British royal family. He retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, aged 96, having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches from 1952. Philip died on 9 April 2021, at the age of 99.
Charles and Diana
At the beginning of 1981, Philip wrote to his eldest son, Charles, counselling him to make up his mind to either propose to Lady Diana Spencer or break off their courtship. Charles felt pressured by his father to make a decision and did so, proposing to Diana in February. They married five months later. By 1992, the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales had broken down. The Queen and Philip hosted a meeting between Charles and Diana, trying to effect a reconciliation, but without success. Philip wrote to Diana, expressing his disappointment at both Charles’s and her extra-marital affairs, and asking her to examine both his and her behaviour from the other’s point of view. She found the letters hard to take but nevertheless appreciated that he was acting with good intent. Charles and Diana later separated and were divorced in 1996.
A year after the divorce, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. At the time, the Duke was on holiday at Balmoral with the extended royal family. In their grief, Diana’s two sons, Princes William and Harry, wanted to attend church, and so their grandparents took them that morning. For five days, the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the ensuing press interest by keeping them at Balmoral, where they could grieve in private. The royal family’s seclusion caused public dismay, but the public mood changed after a live broadcast made by the Queen on 5 September. Uncertain as to whether they should walk behind her coffin during the funeral procession, Diana’s sons hesitated. Philip told William: “If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?” On the day of the funeral, Philip, William, Harry, Charles, and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, walked through London behind her bier.
Over the next few years, Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son Dodi Fayed was also killed in the crash, claimed that Prince Philip had ordered the death of Diana and that the accident was staged. The inquest into the Princess of Wales’s death concluded in 2008 that there was no evidence of a conspiracy.