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Long live the Queen

The Queen was a Bada**! I know that’s a controversial statement. Let’s face it, Lilibet wasn’t perfect but considering all the things this petite (standing at 5’3”) woman accomplished in her life, how can you disagree? She may have been small in stature but not in will and honor. 

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Her reign went from February 6, 1952, till her death last Thursday, Sept. 8. Elizabeth reigned for a total of 70 years and 127 days. Her reign consisted of many firsts and trailblazing moments, both in general and for women. To name a few, Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress, the first British monarch to go to mainland China, the first British monarch to break protocol to honor the lives of the victims of 9/11 and she even helped get an act passed in the U.K. to alter the line of succession.  

When Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 after the death of her father King George VI, she was only 25 years old. Before she officially ascended however, Elizabeth was still setting precedents. When Elizabeth, still a princess, turned 18 in 1944, WWII had been going on for five years already. Elizabeth, feeling the need to support her country, enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was the women’s branch of the British Army. Elizabeth began her time in ATS as a second subaltern and was later promoted to Junior Commander, which was equivalent to a Captain. She started out training as a mechanic and later became qualified in a driving and vehicle maintenance course. A newspaper at the time dubbed her “Princess Auto Mechanic,” as noted by The National World War II Museum. Following her service, the Princess gave a speech on her twenty-first birthday in which she dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth, according to the official site of the British Royal Family. Her Majesty the Queen said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Who among us, at the age of twenty one, could or even would dedicate their life to the service of their country, putting the country and its needs above their own? 

The Queen has always been up to date on the latest technology trends. She gave the first televised Christmas address in 1957, and even allowed her coronation ceremony to be televised for the world to watch. It was the first televised ceremony of its kind with 27 million people in the U.K., out of the 36 million population, watching the broadcast and 11 million who listened to it on the radio. Elizabeth was also the first monarch to tweet. On October 24, 2014, she tweeted, “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.” 

Queen Elizabeth II was never one to shy away from her people, so it should come as no surprise to you that she was the first member of the Royal Family to take part in a ‘Royal Walkabout.’ While on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand with Prince Phillip in 1970, Queen Elizabeth II broke centuries of tradition when she walked right up to the crowds of people to meet them in person, rather than wave at them from a safe distance. She walked through the streets of Sydney, Australia greeting the many onlookers. Since her original stroll in 1970, ‘the Walkabout’ has become a regular habit for the British Royal family from Prince Charles and Princess Diana to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

This was not the only time the Queen has broken centuries of protocol, however. On September 13, 2001, just two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II broke protocol once again and “ordered the daily ceremonial parade to break a 600-year tradition to show solidarity with America in its time of great loss.” The Queen ordered the Coldstream guards to play the Star-Spangled Banner. This was the first and only time in U.K. history that this command has been made.  

Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II experienced many firsts and many Royal tours. In 1986, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British sovereign to enter mainland China. According to a New York Times article from October 13, 1986,“The [Queen’s] visit comes not two years after the two countries agreed on the future of the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and during a time of increasing British-Chinese trade”. Not since King George III sent an Embassy to China in 1792, has a monarch tried to contact the eastern power.

Years later, in May of 2011, Queen Elizabeth II would be the first British Monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland in 100 years. Queen Elizabeth’s visit, during which she expressed her “sincere thoughts and deep sympathy” for the victims of the troubled Anglo-Irish past, was celebrated as the beginning of a new era of friendship between the Irish Republic and Britain.

Another Royal visit in July of 1991 would help her secure yet another first. During a 13-day visit to the United States in 1991, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to address a joint session of Congress more than 200 years after the United States won its independence from the British Empire. The Queen also “touched on the “special relationship” between Britain and the U.S., noting that her country hoped to be a part of “a unified Europe that would work in harmony with the United States.”

In the fight for women’s rights Queen Elizabeth II was always a fearless advocate and in 2013 she had a chance to prove that once again. In 2013, “the Succession to the Crown Act amended the provisions in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement to end the system of male primogeniture, under which a younger son can displace an elder daughter in the line of succession,” as noted by the official British Royal Family site. While it’s true that the Queen did not directly vote on this amendment, it is widely known that without Queen Elizabeth’s cooperation and support, the legislation might have failed.

Throughout her 70 plus years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II remained reliable and steadfast, proving to be England’s literal ‘stiff upper lip.’ When Queen Elizabeth II rose to power, Britain was in a time of instability and uncertainty. Before her father became King George VI, his brother King Edward VIII first abdicated the throne leaving it to his shy, reluctant and unprepared younger brother who would become King George VI. Britain didn’t truly regain its stability until Elizabeth sat on the throne. Some have said that even with all her accomplishments, Queen Elizabeth II’s greatest accomplishment is the period of strength and balance that Britain enjoyed during her reign.  

To end with one last first, Queen Elizabeth II is the first and only British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. A Platinum Jubilee celebrates the 70th year a monarch spends on the throne. On June 2, 2022, the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 1952 until her death last Thursday. 

From being dubbed “Princess Auto Mechanic” for her time in the war, to supporting the Crown Act of 2013 which opens doors for future female royals, Queen Elizabeth II has always pushed her own boundaries and those of others, fighting for the betterment of the world, making her a legend and a bada**. 

Long Live the Queen. 

You can contact Meghan at mlange03@saintmarys.edu.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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