Royal Celebration Series: From accession to a Sapphire Jubilee in 2017

2017 will complete a hat-trick of hugely significant years for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 2015 The Queen became the Longest Reigning Monarch in British history. In 2016 she became the first British monarch to celebrate her 90th birthday. Now, in 2017, she will have been our Queen for 65 years, becoming the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee.

The Sapphire Jubilee is a historic achievement, and one worthy of recognition. As with all Jubilees in Her Majesty’s reign, it is one with cause for both celebration and reflection. To help explain why, we’ve taken a look back to where it all began, to the moment where a young Princess Elizabeth became Queen.

King George VI photographed with his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, c1946.

6 February 2017 is the actual date of the Sapphire Jubilee, marking 65 years since the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. It is a date that is undoubtedly tinged with sadness for Her Majesty, as it also represents the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI. Throughout 1951 and into the early weeks of 1952, the King was in poor health, and was forced to miss a planned tour of the Commonwealth territories.

2 February 1952 – Her Majesty The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, arrives in Kenya.

Princess Elizabeth went in his place, with Prince Phillip by her side. It was while on this tour, in their Kenyan home of Sagana Lodge, that news reached the royal party of the death of King George VI. Prince Phillip was the one charged with breaking the sad news to his wife, and in so doing confirm her immediate accession to the throne. The rest of the tour was cancelled, and the young lady who had left these shores as Princess Elizabeth, flew home as Queen.

So began 65 years of loyal service and dedication. The Queen had some key decisions to make early in her reign. One, for instance, was; would the royal house bear the name of The Queen’s husband, and become the House of Mountbatten? The Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, was among those who favoured the retention of the House of Windsor title. In a declaration issued on 9 April 1952, The Queen confirmed the retention of the House of Windsor name. As well as The Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee, 2017 also sees the centenary of the House of Windsor family title – a centenary that we are only able to celebrate due to this key decision in 1952. That anniversary is duly marked by a UK £5 coin, which can be found as part of The Royal Mint’s 2017 Annual Sets.

The 2017 House of Windsor Centenary £5 coin

With The Queen and indeed the nation in mourning the death of her father King George VI, the coronation was arranged for 2nd June 1953. This allowed for a respectful period of mourning and sufficient time to plan the event which was held at Westminster Abbey. The coronation itself was a relatively sombre ceremony conducted within a wider atmosphere of public celebration. Throngs of people braved the heavy rain to line the streets and cheer the procession as it made its way to the Abbey.

1953 Coronation Crown

But the celebration was not limited to the streets of London. The event was also broadcast on radio to a global audience and, for the very first time, a full royal coronation was also shown on national television. This innovation was at Her Majesty’s personal insistence. Not only did millions of people across Britain watch the coronation live on TV, but taped recordings of the ceremony were also flown across the Atlantic to Canada to be broadcast to the Canadian people on the same day!

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace in the coronation coach on 2 June 1953

This wish to include the wider public in key royal events, and the public’s appetite to be involved in and celebrate them, only increased over the years that followed. Significant events such as The Queens Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee were all marked by live television coverage and local street parties across the land and Commonwealth. While it is likely that this year’s Sapphire Jubilee will be a more low-key celebration, the fact that Her Majesty will become the first British Monarch to celebrate 65 years on the throne is an achievement worthy of reflection, and recognition.

Next in our Royal Celebration Series: We will take a look back to the Silver Jubilee, when The Queen celebrated 25 years on the throne in 1977.

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