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To commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Accession Day on Sunday, February 6, The Telegraph republished its front page of Thursday, February 7, 1952:

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The text of the lead article in the left hand column reads as follows:

HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE VI DIED IN HIS SLEEP AT SANDRINGHAM HOUSE IN THE EARLY HOURS OF YESTERDAY MORNING. A SERVANT FOUND HIM DEAD IN BED AT 7:30 A.M. AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM SANDRINGHAM REPEATED IN A SPECIAL EDITION OF THE LONDON GAZETTE LAST NIGHT, SAID:

The King, who retired last night in his usual health, passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.

Princess Elizabeth, who immediately became Queen, was informed of her father’s death while she was at the Royal hunting lodge near Nyeri in Kenya. A thunderstorm delayed for two hours the departure of the plane which is to bring her to London, where she is expected at 4:30 p.m. to-day.

The Accession Council, which consists of members of the Privy Council summoned with others, “notables of the Realm” such as the Lord Mayor of London, to act on the demise of the Crown, met at 5 p.m. yesterday to decide on the accession proclamation. This will be read at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. James’s Palace, at Temple Bar and on the steps of the Royal Exchange in the City.

The Queen, who is 25, is expected to take the Royal oath before a second meeting of the Council to-day. She was proclaimed Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa yesterday. Prince Charles automatically becomes Duke of Cornwall.

Mr. Churchill will broadcast on all B.B.C. wavelengths at 9 o’clock to-night for 15 minutes.

OUT SHOOTING ON PREVIOUS DAY

The King, who was 56 and in the 14th year of his reign, was born at Sandringham. During what proved to be his last stay there he was out shooting on Tuesday morning and afternoon, and appeared to be in good health. In the evening, he walked in the grounds.

The Queen-Mother and Princess Margaret accompanied him when he went to Sandringham last Friday. On the previous day he had gone to London Airport to see his elder daughter and the Duke of Edinburgh leave for Nairobi.

Queen Mary was informed at Marlborough House of her son’s death. The Duke of Gloucester, who was at his home in Barnwell Manor, Northants, went to Sandringham on hearing the news. The Princess Royal was told at St. James’s Palace. The Duchess of Kent returned from Germany last night and the Duke of Windsor leaves New York in the Queen Mary to-day.

The Prime Minister and Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Home Secretary, were given the news by telephone. A Cabinet meeting was held. The House of Commons and the House of Lords met formally for two minutes and adjourned until after the Accession Council, when M.P.s and Peers began to take the Oath of Allegiance to the new monarch. The two Chambers are expected to meet on Monday for addresses of condolence and then adjourn until Feb. 19.

Subject to the wishes of the new Queen, the body of King George will lie in state in Westminster Hall from Monday until the funeral, the date for which has not been fixed. Carpenters at Sandringham finished midday the coffin of oak from the estate last night. 

CINEMAS AND THEATRES CLOSED

The effect of the news from Sandringham was felt immediately throughout the nation. All cinemas were closed and the Lord Chamberlain directed that theatres should be shut for the day and also on the day of the funeral of the King. B.B.C. programmes were cancelled except for news bulletins. There will be a restricted programme from to-day until after the funeral. The Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s closed, courts adjourned and a number of public dinners and other functions were postponed. Flags in every town were at half-mast.

All sport stopped except for the four Football Association Cup ties. Saturday’s Rugby Union International between England and Ireland at Twickenham has been postponed. Football League and Rugby League fixtures will be played as arranged. National Hunt racing was suspended.

As soon as the news became known a crowd began to gather outside Buckingham Palace and was there until late at night. Ambassadors were calling throughout the day to sign the visitors’ book as an official expression of their sorrow, and messages of sympathy flowed in from every quarter.

Mr. Churchill issued a statement from 10, Downing Street last night, asking that there should be no public gathering at London Airport when the Queen arrives from Kenya.

A few historical notes follow:

London Airport became Heathrow Airport in 1966.

– The Lord Chamberlain is the most senior officer of the Royal Household.

– The Duke of Gloucester at the time was Prince Henry, the King’s brother; he, too, was born at Sandringham.

– The BBC programmes at the time were exclusively on the radio — or wireless, as the British say.

The Telegraph‘s article about their front page from 1952 has a lot of photos and more news items from the days before and after the King’s death. History lovers will find them fascinating.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne were young children at the time; the family lived at Clarence House:

On 31 January 1952, 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth bid farewell to her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, at Clarence House as she departed for a tour of the Commonwealth that was planned to include visits to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Princess Elizabeth and her consort were standing in for her father, who had been in poor health from lung cancer:

The couple were standing in for the King, who had been battling illness for some time as they aimed to strengthen the relationship between the Commonwealth. Little did they know that they would not meet him again …

Final farewell: Against medical advice King George VI – along with Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother – sees off the young princess on her first royal tour of the Commonwealth. The Telegraph reports that the “King looks well.”

The Commonwealth tour began in Nairobi and ended in Kenya:

Greetings from England: The young Princess – in a mauve, blue and pink calf-length frock – greets citizens of Nairobi alongside the Duke of Edinburgh at a garden party on the first afternoon of the Commonwealth tour.

Calm Before the Storm: The couple explores the grounds of the lodge, gifted to them from the people of Kenya. The day’s highlights include seeing a herd of 30 elephants.

Winston Churchill said that the Queen was ‘just a child’:

A face that reflects the nation: Churchill in top hat returns from the Accession Council at St James’ Palace, summoned automatically on the death of the monarch. The Prime Minister was brought to tears upon the news of the King’s passing, remarking that the new Queen was “just a child”.

I read elsewhere that he was sceptical about meeting regularly with her to discuss affairs of state but was pleasantly surprised at her mastery of the subject matter.

Churchill, his deputy Prime Minister (and eventual successor) Anthony Eden and the previous Prime Minister Clement Attlee met the Queen at London Airport:

Left a Princess, returns a Queen: Queen Elizabeth II lands at London (Heathrow) airport at 4:30pm, greeted by Churchill, Eden and Attlee, among others. The Queen was brought suitable mourning clothes by an aide before alighting from the plane.

The Royal couple returned briefly to Clarence House before leaving for Sandringham:

Returning to Clarence House: The Queen is met by silent crowds as she travels from the Mall to her residence with her husband. The royal standard is unfurled for the first time over Clarence House as she approaches her home …

Through the gates: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are saluted by a policeman as they arrive at the Jubilee Gate of Sandringham House, two days after the King’s death. After greeting her mother and sister, she and the Duke head to the room where her father lay.

This is how the King’s coffin was transported to London:

Taken to the church: George VI’s body, guarded by keepers from his estate, lies in the Church of St Mary Magdalene in the grounds of Sandringham. He was taken from the House at dusk with his family following in procession.

Final journey begins: Five days after arriving in Sandringham, Elizabeth makes her way to Wolferton Station to take the King’s body to London. Crowds gather to watch the new Queen and her sister pass by.

Last stop: People line the streets in the rain to see the coffin in the capital. George’s body is carried from the train at King’s Cross Station and taken on a three-mile journey to Westminster Hall. On the coffin rests the Imperial State Crown and a wreath from the Queen Mother …

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and is attached to the main building which houses both chambers of Parliament.

The Queen Mother lay in state there; I was one of 200,000 Britons who paid their respects in 2002.

The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret went to Buckingham Palace:

Day of mourning: The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, clad in veils, travel down from Sandringham. They watch the procession at King’s Cross Station, before ending their journey at Buckingham Palace.

London’s streets were lined with mourners:

Packed London streets: Members of the public pay their respects as the procession bearing George VI’s coffin enters New Palace Yard from Parliament Square. The coffin was carried on a gun-carriage by the Royal Horse Artillery.

Three hundred thousand people paid their respects at Westminster Hall:

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

The King’s funeral was held in Windsor. The funeral train left from Paddington Station.

The funeral service was brief:

Three Queens in mourning: Wearing black veils, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary and The Queen Mother at the King’s funeral. The service took place at St George’s Chapel in the walls of Windsor Castle, lasting less than half an hour.

George VI lies buried beneath St George’s Chapel:

Homecoming: The funeral procession arrives at Windsor Castle. Around 1,400 people were present to watch George’s coffin descend into the Royal Vaults beneath St George’s Chapel.

That concludes the story of the death of the Queen’s father, much loved by his subjects.

I am grateful to The Telegraph for that walk through history.

In 1952, newly-wed Margaret Roberts Thatcher wrote an article for the Sunday Graphic about the accession of the young Queen Elizabeth to the throne and what it meant for British women.

On February 7, 2022, The Spectator published the article in full and included a photo of it as well as the front page, which features King George VI and Princess Elizabeth together. The headline reads:

THE KING THE PEOPLE LOVED

THE QUEEN WHO IS OUR HOPE

Mrs Thatcher looked very different to the bouffant-wearing Conservative leader and Prime Minister of later years. The magazine put a photo of her in the Order of the Garter robes.

The photos are must-see images.

The Spectator introduced the article, in part (emphases mine):

… It was published in the Sunday Graphic on 17 February 1952. Thatcher [was] just a few months older than the Queen. As Margaret Roberts, she had already been the youngest woman candidate in the last two general elections and had just married Denis Thatcher in December of 1951. At the time of writing, she was studying for the bar.

Three things struck me as I read the article: women were already in positions of power, especially in Britain; Margaret Thatcher subscribed to ‘have it all’ feminism and, finally, our saying that all women then were ‘oppressed’ is wide of the mark.

Excerpts follow.

Thatcher supported her contemporary, the young Queen, and welcomed a new Elizabethan age for women:

A young Queen, the loveliest ever to reign over us, now occupies the highest position in the land. If, as many earnestly pray, the accession of Elizabeth II can help to remove the last shreds of prejudice against women aspiring to the highest places, then a new era for women will indeed be at hand. We owe it to the Queen — and to the memory of her father who set her such a wonderful example throughout his life — to play our part with increasing enterprise in the years ahead.

I hope we shall see more and more women combining marriage and a career. Prejudice against this dual role is not confined to men. Far too often, I regret to say, it comes from our own sex. But the happy management of home and career can and is being achieved.

There was already a female QC (Queen’s Counsel) — senior barrister — at the time:

the name of Miss Rose Heilbron QC whose moving advocacy in recent trials has been so widely praised is known throughout the land. Unless Britain, in the new age to come, can produce more Rose Heilbrons — not only in the field of law, of course — we shall have betrayed the tremendous work of those who fought for equal rights against such misguided opposition.

The term ‘career woman’ has unfortunately come to imply in many minds a ‘hard’ woman, devoid of all feminine characteristics. But Rose Heilbron and many more have shown only too well that capability and charm can go together. Why have so few women in recent years risen to the top of the professions?

Thatcher said that women mistakenly thought they should forfeit a continuing career when they got married:

In my view this is a great pity. For it is possible to carry on working, taking a short leave of absence when families arrive, and returning later. In this way, gifts and talents that would otherwise be wasted are developed to the benefit of the community.

The idea that the family suffers is, I believe, quite mistaken. To carry on with a career stimulates the mind, provides a refreshing contact with the world outsideand so means that a wife can be a much better companion at home. Moreover, when her children themselves marry, she is not left with a gap in her life which so often seems impossible to fill.

Thatcher returned to the prospects of a great Elizabethan era:

Women can — and must — play a leading part in the creation of a glorious Elizabethan era. The opportunities are there in abundance — in almost every sphere of British endeavour.

She gave examples of powerful women in Britain:

We must emulate the example of such women as Barbara Ward, at 37 one of our leading economists and an expert on foreign affairs. Dr Janet Vaughan, mother of two children and principal of Somerville College; Mary Field who, as president of the 90,000-strong British Federation of Business and Professional Women, is one of our most successful ‘career women’; and Dame Caroline Haslett, Britain’s No. 1 woman engineer and founder more than a quarter of a century ago of the Electrical Association for Women.

That there is a place for women at the top of the tree has been proved beyond question by these and very many others. And if there are those who would say: ‘It couldn’t happen to me.’ They would do well to remember that Dame Caroline Haslett herself started as a 10s-a-week apprentice in a London boiler works more than 30 years ago.

Thatcher pointed out that Britain was ahead of the United States when it came to representation in political life:

American women have only six out of 435 members in the House of Representatives. We have 17 out of 625 in the House of Commons. But it is still not good enough. If we are to have better representation in parliament, the women of England must fight harder for it.

She advocated aiming for the top in political life, although she did not mention the office of Prime Minister:

Why not a woman chancellor — or foreign secretary? Why not? And if they made mistakes they would not be the first to do so in those jobs!

She concluded (italics in the original):

To sum up, I should like to see the woman with a career holding down her responsibility with easy assurance during the Elizabethan age. I should like to see married women carrying on with their jobs. If so inclined after their children are born. I should like to see every woman trying to overcome ignorance of day-to-day affairs; and every woman taking an acting part in local life.

And, above all, I should like to see more and more women at Westminster, and in the highest places too. It would certainly be a good thing for the women of Britain, and I’m sure it would be a good thing for the men too.

Certainly, Margaret Thatcher followed her own advice by serving as Prime Minister from 1975 to 1990.

All credit to the Conservative Party for supporting her and many other women members in their quest to hold political office.

The Conservatives also gave us a second female Prime Minister: Theresa May.

I daresay we’ll get a third Conservative woman PM in our lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party lags far behind. They have never had a female party leader.

Credit for Thatcher’s rise to the top also belongs to her husband Denis, who was as supportive of her as Prince Philip was of the Queen by being a confidant and a best friend.

It is unfortunate that Margaret Thatcher didn’t cherish her daughter, Carol, more; she preferred her son Mark.

As for her relationship with the Queen, rumour had it that it was spiky on occasion. The Queen grants serving Prime Ministers a weekly audience, usually in person. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during their conversations.

Margaret Thatcher thought that women could have it all: marriage, career and children. She could not have foreseen that taking marriage out of the equation makes working and raising a family precarious and difficult for many women.

In closing, I second The Spectator‘s thanks to Clarissa Reilly of Digger & Mojo Antiques in Woodborough, Wiltshire, for sending the magazine a copy of Margaret Thatcher’s article, which was illuminating and thought-provoking.

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