What Was the Moment Like When Elizabeth II Became Queen?

On February 6, 1952, England's Elizabeth II was staying in a treehouse in Kenya when her father died and she became queen.
On February 6, 1952, England's Elizabeth II was staying in a treehouse in Kenya when her father died and she became queen.

Queen Elizabeth II has a famous family tree, and we don't just mean her royal ancestors. At the moment when Elizabeth became queen, the 25-year-old princess was staying at a treehouse lodge in Kenya, during an official tour of the Commonwealth. Along with her husband, Prince Philip, Elizabeth had spent the previous evening watching elephants come to drink at a watering hole.

Back in England, Elizabeth's father, King George VI, died at Sandringham Estate in the early hours of February 6, 1952. It took some time for the news to reach his eldest daughter and heir, who by then had left Treetops Lodge and was at Sagana Lodge, three hours from Nairobi. The couple and their entourage quickly returned to England. However, although Elizabeth became queen the moment her father died, her official coronation didn't take place until June 1953.

Earlier this month, to commemorate her seven-decade reign, the Queen wrote: “It is a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign."

In her biography of Elizabeth II, Sally Bedell Smith writes that the treehouse story, though seemingly fanciful, is no myth. “It undoubtedly happened when she was atop the African fig tree, which draws a romantic line to the moment in 1558 when Elizabeth I, seated next to an oak tree at Hatfield House, heard that the death of her sister, Queen Mary, meant she was the monarch, also at age twenty-five.”

Elizabeth II will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, marking 70 years on the throne. Her reign is the longest in British history.

It's good to be queen:

  • Since Elizabeth II became monarch, she has worked with 14 British prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.

  • Elizabeth II celebrates two birthdays: Her real one, on April 21, and her public one, in June, when the weather is more accommodating to crowds and public gatherings.

  • Queen Elizabeth II has been driving since 1945, but she doesn't need a driver's license – and her car requires no plates.

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    • On February 6, 1952, England's Elizabeth II was staying in a treehouse in Kenya when her father died and she became queen.
      On February 6, 1952, England's Elizabeth II was staying in a treehouse in Kenya when her father died and she became queen.