As we enter a week of official Diamond Jubilee celebrations in thanksgiving of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, let us explore a few facts and figures about her life and the times during which she has served her nation and the Commonwealth countries.

(Photo credits to Elite of the World and W D Fyfe (Royal Family photo on Coronation Day 1953).)

What follows are a few facts from Wikipedia about Queen Elizabeth II, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 21 April 1926, which I hope will give be of interest to everyone and give ‘complementarian’ male supremacists pause for thought:

1/ As a granddaughter of the monarch in the male line, Elizabeth’s full style at birth was Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York. She was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, Edward, Prince of Wales, and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, she was not expected to become queen, as the Prince of Wales was still young, and many assumed he would marry and have children of his own.[14]

2/ In February 1945, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, as an honorary Second Subaltern with the service number of 230873.[30] She trained as a driver and mechanic,[31] and was promoted to honorary Junior Commander five months later.[32]

3/ In 1947, the princess made her first overseas tour, when she accompanied her parents through southern Africa. During the tour, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she pledged: “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.”[37]

4/ Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and 1937.[38] … They married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. They are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother’s British family.[40] Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness.[41]

5/ Elizabeth and Philip received 2500 wedding gifts from around the world,[46] but Britain had not yet completely rebounded from the devastation of the war. Elizabeth still required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, designed by Norman Hartnell.[47]

6/ George VI‘s health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she toured Canada, and visited President Truman in Washington, D.C.; on the trip, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration for use if the King died while she was on tour.[53]

7/ In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of Elizabeth’s father. Philip broke the news to the new queen.[54] Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name; she chose to remain Elizabeth, “of course”.[55] She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom.[56] She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.[57]

8/ With Elizabeth’s accession it seemed likely that the royal house would bear her husband’s name. Lord Mountbatten thought it would be the House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip’s last name on marriage; however Elizabeth’s grandmother Queen Mary and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill favoured the retention of the House of Windsor, and so Windsor it remained. The Duke complained, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”[58] After the death of Queen Mary on 24 March 1953 and the resignation of Churchill in 1955, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted in 1960 for Philip and Elizabeth’s male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles.[59]

9/ Despite the death of Queen Mary ten weeks before, the coronation went ahead on 2 June 1953. Before she died, Mary had asked that the coronation not be delayed.[64] The ceremony in Westminster Abbey, except the anointing and communion, was televised for the first time,[65] and the coverage was instrumental in boosting the medium’s popularity; the number of television licences in the United Kingdom doubled to 3 million,[66] and many of the more than 20 million British viewers watched television for the first time in the homes of their friends or neighbours.[67] In North America, just under 100 million viewers watched recorded broadcasts.[68]

10/ Elizabeth’s coronation gown was commissioned from Norman Hartnell and embroidered on her instructions with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries:[69] English Tudor rose, Scots thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, New Zealand silver fern, South African protea, lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute.[70]

11/ Her reign of 60 years is the second-longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer. Elizabeth’s Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated in 1977 and 2002; her Diamond Jubilee is being celebrated during 2012.

As for life back then, including American prices, W D Fyfe wrote a beautiful tribute on February 6, 2012 (emphases in the original):

For sixty years, Her Majesty has been the Queen — and that’s the gist of it, really.  She is not a queen, one of many queens, although there are still many queens in the world.  She is The Queen – universally recognized.  This is partially to do with the enduring power of the British monarchy – nearly 2,000 years old – but mostly it’s to do with the Queen herself …

People wrote letters to each other.  Telephones were attached to the wall, and long distance calls were an event.  People still sent telegrams.  In 90% of the British Commonwealth (as it was called) television was an intriguing rumour.  Most people didn’t fly, and great distances were covered in boats and trains.

In 1952, the majority of Queen Elizabeth’s British subjects earned (in American dollars) less than $250.00 per month.  However, beef was 85 cents per lb, chicken, 56 cents and apples (when you could get them; Britain still had wartime rationing [until 1954] ) were only 19 cents per lb.  Fresh fruits and vegetables were outrageously expensive out of season, and there was no such thing as fast food.

In 1952, walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction; Sir Edmund Hillary hadn’t even walked on Mount Everest yet.  Although transistors had been invented by Bell Laboratories in 1947, it would take Sony, a Japanese company that didn’t exist yet, three more years to commercially market the Transistor Radio.

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” and nobody thought that sounded strange …

It is a testament to Her Majesty that, despite the upheavals of a world that now seems to be spinning faster than most of us can understand, she has maintained an unassailable dignity. For sixty years, she has represented the best of what we are supposed to be.  Quietly and continually, she has done what was expected of her, not perhaps what she herself wanted to do.  She has spent a lifetime dedicated to her task — without comment or complaint or the flares of ego so common these days.

Few, if any, institutions have survived intact from 1952.  They’ve all been swept away by history.  Yet, Queen Elizabeth II remains The Queen.

Who can say better than that? The Queen saw out Stalin, Mao, the Cold War and several other dictators. She gave independence to her former colonies, many of which still remain loyal to her. She reigned during the rock’n’roll years, the rise of the ‘teenager’ and various resurgences of British culture which spread around the world in the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1990s. She saw the move from tailored dresses to the miniskirt, long hair to Vidal Sassoon’s bob (not forgetting his mannish gamine cut for Mia Farrow in 1968), general libertarianism to the nanny state and more. (Well, I had to get something negative in there …)

This site has a lovely compendium of photographs of the Queen throughout her reign with helpful historical explanations.

Through it all, she ensured that we were quietly governed. May she live many more years in good physical — and mental — health to serve as our head of state.

Many people around the world will say prayers of thanks in appreciation of her service, kindness and gentleness to Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

May God continue to bless you, Your Majesty.

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