Elizabeth II has enjoyed an incredible 65 years on the throne, surpassing Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. But in the same month that her husband Prince Philip retired from his royal duties, reports emerged that the Queen herself was thinking of following suit. Indeed, it’s suggested that she may even be planning to step down from the throne.
And perhaps only a few would begrudge her retirement, given her long and honorable service to the British people. She’s also now into her nineties, as she was born in 1926, the first child of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. As with any royal, her birth attracted huge interest, even though she was never expected to take the throne. But after her uncle Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, she suddenly found herself in line for the crown.
In 1947, meanwhile, Elizabeth courted controversy when she announced her engagement to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. He was her second cousin once removed, and she claimed to have first fallen for him at just 13 years old. However, he wasn’t considered a particularly suitable catch. Indeed, not only was he foreign-born and not rich enough to be a good match for Elizabeth, but he also had siblings married to German grandees with Nazi connections.
Despite these concerns, the couple still made it down the aisle in November 1947, although Philip was forced to renounce his Danish and Greek titles in the process. Then 12 months later, they welcomed their first child, Charles, with the couple’s only daughter Anne following two years after that. But an even bigger life change was in store in 1952.
That’s because, in February of that year, George VI died in his sleep from a coronary thrombosis at Sandringham House, aged just 56. Immediately afterwards, Elizabeth was proclaimed queen, and she soon moved into Buckingham Palace with her husband and two children. However, her official coronation only took place a year later.
And speaking in a broadcast before her ascension, the Queen had stated how she intended to conduct herself as monarch, saying, “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.” Few could have anticipated, though, that her reign would last so long.
Subsequently, the Queen embarked on a seven-month international tour, becoming the first reigning monarch ever to visit the Antipodes. This helped create the foundation for her status as the most well-traveled head of state in history. Indeed, over the next 64 years, Elizabeth II would make hundreds of official visits across the world.
Soon, the Queen added to her family with the birth of Andrew in 1959 and Edward in 1963. And although Britain’s connections to its once formidable Commonwealth empire weakened during the first two decades of her reign, the monarch herself remained as popular as ever. In 1977, for instance, she celebrated her 25th anniversary in power with a series of Silver Jubilee events that gripped the nation.
But the 1980s were not so kind to the Queen. In 1981, for instance, a teenager fired six blanks at her from close range during a Trooping the Colour appearance. Then, the following year, an intruder somehow evaded security to enter her Buckingham Palace bedroom when she was sleeping. Meanwhile, the royals would also become tabloid fodder thanks to a series of sensational articles.
But her true annus horribilis arrived in 1992. During that year, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne separated from their spouses. The Queen was also pelted with eggs during a visit to Dresden, and Windsor Castle was devastated by a large blaze. Five years later, moreover, she would come under fire for her delayed response to Princess Diana’s tragic death.
And although the Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002, the occasion was arguably marred by the death of her mother and sister the same year. Nevertheless, a full decade later the Queen herself was still going strong, as marked by the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And in 2015 she surpassed Queen Victoria’s record as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Indeed, Prince Philip also achieved a significant milestone when he was crowned the longest-serving royal consort of all time. In 2017, however, he announced his retirement from his royal duties, having completed more than 22,000 solo engagements. In response, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, thanked him for his “remarkable lifetime of service.”
In contrast, the Queen has always insisted that she will never abdicate. After she celebrated her 91st birthday, though, she reportedly began to pass on more of her workload to the heir apparent, Prince Charles. And rumors then began to surface that she was planning to hand over all her powers to her eldest son.
Specifically, in August 2017 reports emerged that if Her Majesty is still monarch at the age of 95, she might take advantage of the Regency Act. This piece of legislation would allow Prince Charles to take full power despite his mother still being alive. And it would also enable the Queen to essentially abdicate without going back on her word.
In fact, Prince Charles has already had experience of being treated like a king thanks to several international trips where he represented his mother. In 2017, for instance, he traveled to Canada to help mark the nation’s 150th anniversary. He has also visited the Persian Gulf, Australia and New Zealand in place of the Queen.
Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on the prospect of the Regency Act coming into force. However, a man once dubbed the “Godfather of Royal Reporting” by The Wall Street Journal soon added weight to the theory. Indeed, in a piece for the Mail on Sunday, Robert Jobson claimed that he’d talked to various high-ranking courtiers to the royal family. They supposedly confirmed that plans for such a transition were taking place.
Jobson added in his article that a former member of the royal household had said that the Queen had put a great deal of thought into the issue. “She is dutiful to her core,” the unnamed person said. They also explained, “Her Majesty is mindful of her age and wants to make sure when the time comes, the transition of the Crown is seamless.”
But what exactly is the 1937 Regency Act? Well, it grants the heir to the throne ruling powers should the Sovereign be rendered incapable through sickness. However, the Queen cannot implement the act entirely alone. Indeed, she will also have to seek the permission of at least three other key figures.
These figures include the Sovereign’s consort: that is, her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. Others are Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls, John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor David Lidington. Recently, according to Jobson’s Mail on Sunday piece, Buckingham Palace Communications staff have even been advised to get “up to speed” on the Act.
However, the same former Royal Household member mentioned earlier also reiterated that Her Majesty isn’t interested in an official abdication. “As ever, the Queen wants there to be the minimum of fuss,” they said. “Of course, for obvious reasons, abdication is not even a consideration.”