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THE Queen Mother was one of the most popular members of the Royal Family.

Her death and subsequent funeral were momentous events, that are still well remembered today.

2 The Queen Mother passed away in 2002Credit: AP:Associated Press

When did the Queen Mother die?

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother passed away on March 30, 2002.

She died in her sleep at the Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park, with her surviving daughter Queen Elizabeth II at her bedside.

She’d been suffering from a persistent cold for the previous four months.

Her younger daughter Princess Margaret had died just seven weeks earlier.

How old was she?

At 101 years and 238 days old, the Queen Mother was the longest-living member of the Royal Family in British history at the time of her death.

Her last surviving sister-in-law Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, exceeded that, dying aged 102 on October 29, 2004.

Elizabeth was born on August 4, 1900, and outlived her husband King George VI by 50 years.

He passed away on February 6, 1952, aged 56.

2 The funeral of the Queen Mother took place in Westminster Abbey, LondonCredit: AFP – Getty

Where did her funeral take place?

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, took place on April 9, 2002, in Westminster Abbey, London.

Prior to the service, her body lay at the altar of Royal Lodge’s Royal Chapel of All Saints before being taken to London for her lying in state.

During this time, her four grandsons Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Viscount Linley mounted the guard as a mark of respect.

An estimated 200,000 people filed past over three days as she lay in state in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster.

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Her funeral began when the tenor bell of Westminster Abbey sounded 101 times, each chime representing a year that the Queen Mother had lived.

During the funeral, the Union Flag flew at half mast over Buckingham Palace.

The Queen Mother’s personal royal standard flew at half mast over Clarence House, her official London residence.

Afterwards, her personal standard was lowered for the final time.

Wayne Sleep regales Celebrity Big Brother housemate Rachel Johnson with an anecdote about the Queen Mother drinking gin

How Old Did Queen Elizabeth II’s Parents Live to Be?

Queen Elizabeth II is currently 92 years old, and her 93rd birthday is quickly approaching. Yet the queen hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. She often makes appearances, is always dressed her absolute best, and even still drives herself here and there. At this rate, it seems as if she could live forever. But how old were the queen’s parents when they died, and what might that say about her?

Queen Elizabeth II | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The life expectancy in the United Kingdom is 80.96 years — and the queen has far surpassed that

Every country in the world has a different life expectancy. The life expectancies vary based on multiple factors. A few of those include available health care, diet and nutrient access, and education and cognitive activity. In the U.K., the average lifespan for men and woman is just under 81 years. And Elizabeth II surpassed that milestone more than 10 years ago. The queen has had the throne since 1952, and she’s had her husband ruling by her side since then as well. In all that time, the queen has never faltered. She’s always out in public doing as the royals would do; she has hardly ever missed an event for one reason or another. And despite being 92, it doesn’t appear she’s going anywhere any time soon.

Elizabeth the Queen Mother died in 2002 at age 101

Perhaps the queen’s amazing genes come from her mother, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived to be a shocking 101 years old. Once King George VI died in 1952, the rule went to Elizabeth II, since her mother was not a blood relative. Elizabeth I then became known as “The Queen Mother” up until her death in 1952. She passed away in her sleep in Windsor, dying of natural causes.

King George VI, Elizabeth II’s father, died in 1952 at age 56

While Elizabeth II’s mother lived quite a long time, her father did not. King George VI died in 1952 at age 56. George’s life was cut short when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had one lung removed, but he died in his sleep not long after. It was ruled that he had died of coronary thrombosis, or a blockage of blood flow to the heart from the coronary artery. The death was young, but for someone born in the 1800s, he still lived quite a while. Elizabeth II immediately succeeded him.

If the queen’s life expectancy is anything like her mother’s, she’ll live quite a long time

Elizabeth II has been the queen ever since, and she has made quite a name for herself in the nearly 70 years she has been ruling. And if the queen takes after her mother, 92 means she still has a lot of time left to make appearances, drive herself around, and just be the queen. Her husband, Prince Philip, is 97. He recently decided to retire from the public eye and makes very few appearances nowadays. However, the couple still seems to be doing well, and Elizabeth II is still in very good health for an elderly woman.

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Princess Margaret dies

It is understood that the Queen was told of her sister’s death by Viscount Linley: she was said by Palace officials to be “genuinely saddened” last night. The Queen travelled yesterday afternoon to Windsor Castle, where she will oversee the funeral arrangements.

Lord Snowdon, whom Princess Margaret married in 1960 and divorced in 1978, was also grieving yesterday. He was told of her death in a telephone call from the hospital from their two children.

The private funeral for Princess Margaret will take place on Friday at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, at 3pm and will be attended by family and friends. It will not be a state occasion and there will be a memorial service at a later date.

“Princess Margaret had made it clear that she did not want a massive state funeral and did not want wholesale disruption to the lives of the Royal Family,” said a Buckingham Palace official. “As such, the Queen’s engagements over the next few days will be curbed rather than cancelled.”

Members of the Royal Family will carry out official engagements, including hosting a visit by President Sampaio of Portugal on Tuesday. However, a reception for Queen’s Awards for Enterprise winners tomorrow night has been postponed.

Princess Margaret, who was a heavy smoker and drinker, had suffered at least three strokes since 1998 and in recent months had been wheelchair bound and virtually blind. The Princess had developed cardiac problems during the night and was taken from her home at Kensington Palace to the hospital at 2.30am yesterday.

Four days before her death, however, she had attended her three-year-old grandson’s birthday party and found herself surrounded by playing children. She had returned from the party of Arthur, Lady Sarah Chatto’s second son, with a helium balloon tied to her wheelchair.

The timing of her death is unfortunate for the Royal Family. It came three days after the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne and eight days before she is due to begin her Golden Jubilee Commonwealth tour in Jamaica with Prince Philip.

Buckingham Palace officials said that the Queen, despite her grief, will put duty first and ensure that there are minimal, if any, disruptions to the celebrations. She is expected to fulfil her plan to fly next Sunday to begin a three-day visit to Jamaica, before going to New Zealand and Australia.

Tributes to Princess Margaret came throughout yesterday. Tony Blair was told of the Princess’s death by Downing Street shortly before he boarded his aircraft to fly to Sierra Leone from Ghana yesterday morning.

On arrival, Mr Blair, wearing a black tie after changing on the plane, said: “I know the whole country will be deeply saddened by Princess Margaret’s death. She will be remembered with a lot of affection. Before she was ill in the last few years, she gave a great deal of service to the country and our thoughts are with the Queen, the Queen Mother and all the Royal Family at this difficult time.”

The Queen urged Mr Blair to complete his West African tour after hasty consultations between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace confirmed that there were no reasons of protocol for him to return to London.

The Prince of Wales, who was told of his aunt’s death while staying with friends at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, left for Sandringham to be with his grandmother, who is recovering from a persistent cold.

The Prince paid a warm tribute to his late aunt last night and described her as “wonderfully vibrant”, although he added that her death, because of her failing health, must have been a “merciful release”.

Speaking at Sandringham House, the Prince, wearing a black tie, was in sombre mood as he spoke of his “darling aunt” and said it had been “a terribly sad day” for the Royal Family. “The last few years with her awful illness were hard for her to deal with, particularly as she was such a wonderfully vibrant woman with such a free spirit.”

He recalled many happy times with his aunt. “She sang like an angel and she had this wonderfully sharp mind,” he said. “One of the fondest memories I shall have of her was with her sitting at the piano playing away with a large, very elegant cigarette holder in her mouth. We shall all miss her dreadfully.”

There was a minute’s silent before big sporting events yesterday, including Britain’s Davis Cup tennis tie against Sweden in Birmingham, and soccer and rugby matches throughout the country. The British peacekeeping forces in Kabul lowered all their flags to half-mast as did the re-opened British Embassy.

Buckingham Palace announced the news of Princess Margaret’s death at 8.30am yesterday. “The Queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately. Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30 in the King Edward VII Hospital.

“Her children, Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, were at her side. Princess Margaret suffered a further stroke yesterday afternoon. She developed cardiac problems during the night and was taken from Kensington Palace to the King Edward VII Hospital at 2.30am. Lord Linley and Lady Sarah were with her and the Queen was kept fully informed throughout the night. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and other members of the Royal Family are being informed.”

Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s former husband, said: “Both Lord Linley and Lady Sarah are in close touch and informed me about the Princess’s death early this morning. We are all extremely saddened.”

Princess Margaret had a troubled love life: some say she never fully got over the decision not to marry Group Capt Peter Townsend in 1955 because he was a divorcee and such a marriage would have split the Cabinet and the nation. Small, sombre crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace yesterday and many people left flowers and hand-written messages.

One tribute left at Kensington Palace read: “Remembered with affection for your beauty and glamour and for your loyalty and service.”

At 4pm, the Princess’s coffin, draped with a Royal Standard, was taken by hearse from the King Edward VII Hospital to Kensington Palace where it will rest in the Princess’s apartment.

“This is to enable the Princess’s family and close friends to pay their respects privately,” said a Buckingham Palace spokesman. “Early next week the Princess’s coffin will be moved to the Queen’s Chapel at St James’s Palace where it will remain until the day before the funeral.”

A book of condolence will open tomorrow at the Princess’s birthplace, Glamis Castle, Angus, the Queen Mother’s family home.

George III (r. 1760-1820)

George III was born on 4 June 1738 in London, the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.

He became heir to the throne on the death of his father in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760. He was the third Hanoverian monarch and the first one to be born in England and to use English as his first language.

George III is widely remembered for two things: losing the American colonies and going mad. This is far from the whole truth.

George’s direct responsibility for the loss of the colonies is not great. He opposed their bid for independence to the end, but he did not develop the policies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend duties of 1767 on tea, paper and other products, which led to war in 1775-76 and which had the support of Parliament.

These policies were largely due to the financial burdens of garrisoning and administering the vast expansion of territory brought under the British Crown in America, the costs of a series of wars with France and Spain in North America, and the loans given to the East India Company (then responsible for administering India).

By the 1770s, and at a time when there was no income tax, the national debt required an annual revenue of £4 million to service it.

The declaration of American independence on 4 July 1776, the end of the war with the surrender by British forces in 1782, and the defeat which the loss of the American colonies represented, could have threatened the Hanoverian throne.

However, George’s strong defence of what he saw as the national interest and the prospect of long war with revolutionary France made him, if anything, more popular than before.

The American war, its political aftermath and family anxieties placed great strain on George in the 1780s. After serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801, George became permanently deranged in 1810.

He was mentally unfit to rule in the last decade of his reign; his eldest son – the later George IV – acted as Prince Regent from 1811. Some medical historians have said that George III’s mental instability was caused by a hereditary physical disorder called porphyria.

George’s accession in 1760 marked a significant change in royal finances. Since 1697, the monarch had received an annual grant of £700,000 from Parliament as a contribution to the Civil List, i.e. civil government costs (such as judges’ and ambassadors’ salaries) and the expenses of the Royal Household.

In 1760, it was decided that the whole cost of the Civil List should be provided by Parliament, in return for the surrender of the hereditary revenues by the King for the duration of his reign.

The first 25 years of George’s reign were politically controversial for reasons other than the conflict with America. The King was accused by some critics, particularly Whigs (a leading political grouping), of attempting to reassert royal authority in an unconstitutional manner.

In fact, George took a conventional view of the constitution and the powers left to the Crown after the conflicts between Crown and Parliament in the 17th century.

Although he was careful not to exceed his powers, George’s limited ability and lack of subtlety in dealing with the shifting alliances within the Tory and Whig political groupings in Parliament meant that he found it difficult to bring together ministries which could enjoy the support of the House of Commons.

His problem was solved first by the long-lasting ministry of Lord North (1770-82) and then, William, from 1783, by Pitt the Younger, whose ministry lasted until 1801.

George III was the most attractive of the Hanoverian monarchs. He was a good family man and devoted to his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for whom he bought the Queen’s House (later enlarged to become Buckingham Palace). They had 15 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood.

However, his sons disappointed him and, after his brothers made unsuitable secret marriages, the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was passed at George’s insistence. (Under this Act, the Sovereign must give consent to the marriage of any lineal descendant of George II, with certain exceptions.)

Being extremely conscientious, George read all government papers and sometimes annoyed his ministers by taking such a prominent interest in government and policy.

His political influence could be decisive. In 1801, he forced Pitt the Younger to resign when the two men disagreed about whether Roman Catholics should have full civil rights. George III, because of his coronation oath to maintain the rights and privileges of the Church of England, was against the proposed measure.

One of the most cultured of monarchs, George started a new royal collection of books (65,000 of his books were later given to the British Museum, as the nucleus of a national library) and opened his library to scholars.

In 1768, George founded and paid the initial costs of the Royal Academy of Arts (now famous for its exhibitions).

He was the first king to study science as part of his education (he had his own astronomical observatory), and examples of his collection of scientific instruments can now be seen in the Science Museum.

George III also took a keen interest in agriculture, particularly on the crown estates at Richmond and Windsor, being known as ‘Farmer George’.

In his last years, physical as well as mental powers deserted him and he became blind.

He died at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820, after a reign of almost 60 years – the third longest in British history. His son, George IV – who had been Prince Regent since 1811 became King.

Kew: Home of George III

The house that was to become Kew Palace was built in 1631 for Samuel Fortrey, a French-born Flemish merchant. Fortrey created an expensive and sumptuous home that was extravagantly decorated with magnificent molded plasterwork and detailed paint schemes

Royal associations with the building began in 1728 when the house was leased by Queen Caroline to be used for accommodation for the three elder daughters of George II. The small palace was also put to use as a school room with the future George III and his brother Edward educated there by leading politicians, musicians, and architects.

The first ‘truly British’ Hanoverian King, George III was keen to find a wife before his coronation, and after a search for suitable candidates, married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, on the same day as he met her! In 1762, American colonists in the Carolinas paid honor to the royal couple by naming a city in honor or the new queen consort. They called their town Charlotte, and the surrounding county was named Mecklenburg in honor of the princess’s homeland.

Everything to Know About the Death of King George VI, As Seen On The Crown

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Crown

The Crown, Netflix’s new series about the life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, begins on a gruesome note: King George VI (played by Jared Harris) coughing up blood.

Just a few episodes into the big-budget series, which launched on the streaming service last Friday, the King of England is pronounced dead — and his daughter, Elizabeth (Claire Foy), takes the crown. Here’s what you need to know about the real death of His Majesty King George VI:

Who was King George VI?

Albert Frederick Arthur George ruled England for almost 16 years after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American socialite. (Marriage to a divorcée was forbidden for a king.) He had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, and the pair had two daughters by the time he took the throne: Elizabeth and Margaret.

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The conscientious, dedicated and highly religious King had a stammer, which he never fully overcame—and which was the central topic of the 2010 blockbuster The King’s Speech, which won four Oscars. King George, who called himself a “very ordinary person,” was also the first British monarch to attend a state visit in the United States, which he did in 1939.

What was his health like?

The world first heard of the King’s artery trouble in 1948, when he gave up public appearances because of pain in his right leg and foot. His doctors decided that their patient was a victim of thromboangiitis obliterans, also called Buerger’s disease. They found, too, that all his arteries were hardened beyond his years.

The Second World War took a toll on the King’s health, and it didn’t help that he was a heavy smoker. He developed lung cancer and underwent a serious leg operation for a circulatory ailment, which threatened the loss of his limb. In 1951, he had a lung operation to remove an obstruction in the left bronchus, which he never fully recovered from. “In deciding to risk the operation, the King was guided by advisers of his own choosing,” TIME reported, following the surgery. “In all but their most private affairs, Britain’s constitutional monarchs do what they are told, but the government has no say in their choice of doctors.”

“In his own room, the King was injected with an anesthetic (probably sodium pentothal) by Anesthetist Robert Machray. He was wheeled to the operating room and… his left side propped up slightly with pillows,” the article continued. “After that, Patient George was put on a soft diet, from soft-boiled eggs to such delicacies as steamed fish. Because of his old trouble with poor circulation, it was essential for the King to have a few minutes out of bed each day, as soon as his strength permitted.”

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What did that mean for Elizabeth?

King George’s failing health and lung surgery meant delegating more of his royal duties to his daughter Elizabeth, the heir presumptive. On Jan. 31, 1952, he went to London Airport to see her off on a diplomatic visit to Australia and New Zealand, via Kenya, despite medical advice from those close to him.

Elizabeth and her husband Philip spent a night away from the lodge at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya’s Aberdare National Park, where, after seeing the elephants, she was too excited to sleep, as TIME reported, and “kept leaving her cot to watch other nocturnal visitors at the waterhole.” In the morning, “she breakfasted on bacon and eggs, and tossed bananas to baboons below.” It wasn’t until early afternoon that a reporter from a local newspaper called and told Philip that the King had died.

How did he die?

The King was found dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk, on the morning of Feb. 6. He had died from a coronary thrombosis — a blocking of blood flow to the heart as a result of a blood clot in an artery — in his sleep. He was only 56 years old.

“Footman Daniel Long, who took a cup of cocoa to the King at 11 p.m. and found him in bed reading a sportsman’s magazine, was the last person to see the King alive,” TIME’s obituary of the King read. “Early next day, a servant brought the King‘s morning cup of tea. The tea was never drunk: a blood clot had stilled George VI‘s valiant heart as he slept.”

What happened next?

Back in London, “church bells tolled, Union Jacks flew at half-staff, shops and factories closed for the day, and the BBC stopped broadcasting after airing an announcement of the King’s death,” TIME reported. “Crowds of people stood in the cold rain for hours outside Buckingham Palace.”

The King’s coffin rested in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, before lying in state at Westminster Hall. His funeral took place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the 15th. Fifty years later, in 2002, the remains of his wife, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and the ashes of his daughter Margaret were interred in the chapel alongside him.

Write to Kate Samuelson at [email protected]

Biography Newsletters

Family and Early Life

King George VI was born Albert Frederick Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on December 14, 1895, in Norfolk, England. Though formally known as “His Highness Prince Albert of York,” within the family the future king was called “Bertie,” and, as a young man, “Albert.”

The second son of King George V and Victoria May, the Duchess of York (Mary of Teck), Prince Albert’s youth was not easy. Though affectionate with his mother, affection was not always returned, and his father was harsh and critical. His tutors forced him to write with his right hand, though he was naturally left-handed.

At around age eight, the future King George VI developed a stammer, and he suffered the indignity of wearing leg braces to correct his knock knees. Often ill and easily frightened, Prince Albert was somewhat prone to tears and tantrums—traits that he carried throughout much of his adult life.

Military Service and Education

In 1909, Prince Albert graduated from the Royal Naval Academy at Osborne, finishing at the bottom of his class in the final exam. However, Albert progressed to the Royal Navy Academy at Dartmouth and then joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman.

During World War I, the future king served on the HMS Collingwood. He saw action at the inconclusive Battle of Juteland in May 1916. In 1919, he joined the Royal Air Force and was certified as a pilot.

After the war, Prince Albert went to Trinity College (University of Cambridge) and studied history, economics and civics. He only stayed there for one year, however, and in 1920, he was made the Duke of York and began to carry out public duties for his father.

George VI’s Wife and Kids

Around 1920 Prince Albert became reacquainted with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, whom he had met as a child through their families’ close relationship. Upon seeing her again as an attractive 18-year-old, Albert was smitten, but shy and awkward. After twice rejecting Albert’s marriage proposal, Elizabeth finally accepted, and they were married on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey. They had two children: Elizabeth, born in 1926, and Margaret, born in 1930.

Prince Albert and Princess Elizabeth were able to solidify their relationship during the first several years of marriage. Recognizing that his stammer was an ordeal for her husband and his audiences, Elizabeth sought the help of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London. At first reluctant, Prince Albert began seeing Logue and partaking in his unorthodox exercises. His wife often accompanied him and participated in the sessions. Prince Albert and Logue cultivated a strong relationship and, gradually, his speech improved.

Why Did King George Get the Throne?

King George VI’s father, King George V, had reservations about his first son, Prince Edward (Duke of Windsor), taking the throne. He once said, “I pray God that my eldest son will never marry and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne.”

On January 20, 1936, King George V died, and Edward ascended to the throne as King Edward VIII. In less than a year, he abdicated his role to Prince Albert so that he could marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. Prince Albert was crowned on May 12, 1937, and took on the name George VI to emphasize continuity with his father and restore confidence in the monarchy.

The Start of World War II

In the 1930s, King George VI, a strong supporter of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, hoped that Chamberlain would be able to stave off a war with Nazi Germany. In 1938, Chamberlain met with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and signed the Munich Pact.

Though Chamberlain’s efforts were criticized as a “policy of appeasement” by the opposition party in Parliament, King George VI supported his prime minister. He and Chamberlain appeared together on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the crowds after the agreement’s announcement, a tradition normally restricted to royal family members.

Visit To the United States

Hitler ignored the Munich Pact and continued his aggressive actions in Europe. Feeling war was a possibility, King George and Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in June 1939, forging a strong friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The royals were also well received by the American public.

The King’s Speech

In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, violating the Munich Pact, and war was declared. With the help of his speech therapist and his wife, King George successfully made one of the most important speeches of his life, announcing to the citizens of Britain that the country was at war—an event depicted in the 2010 film The King’s Speech.

World War II

During World War II, the royal couple was resolved to stay in London at Buckingham Palace despite intense German bombing raids. King George and Queen Elizabeth undertook many morale-boosting visits to Britain’s bombed-out cities, touring hospitals and visiting with wounded troops.

In 1943 the king visited British troops in North Africa. King George VI later visited troops at Malta, bestowing on the entire island the honor of the George Cross, which he instituted to honor exceptional acts of bravery by civilians. In June 1944, 10 days after the D-Day invasion, the king visited the troops in Normandy. He suffered personal tragedy during the war when both his wife’s nephew and his youngest brother were killed.

King George VI and Winston Churchill

King George VI was not enamored with the selection of Churchill as prime minister after Chamberlain’s resignation. Nevertheless, focused on World War II, the two men quickly developed a strong working relationship and deep respect for each other.

During the victory celebration at the end of the war in Europe, the king invited Prime Minister Churchill to appear with him on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, just as he had done with Chamberlain.

King George VI’s Health and Surgery

After World War II, the stress of war began to catch up with King George VI and his health began to deteriorate rapidly. Around this time, his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, the presumptive heir, began to take on some of his royal duties. A planned tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed after the king suffered an arterial blockage in 1949.

In 1951, following years of heavy smoking, King George was diagnosed with lung cancer and arteriosclerosis. On September 23, 1951, his left lung was removed.

Legacy

Despite his reluctance to be king, George VI was a conscientious and dedicated sovereign who assumed the throne at a time when public faith in the monarchy was at an all-time low. Armed with strong determination and the help of his wife, he became a modern monarch of the 20th century. During his reign, George VI endured the hardships of war and the transition from an empire to a commonwealth of nations and restored the popularity of the British monarchy.

King George VI’s Death

On the morning of February 6, 1952, George VI was discovered dead in bed at the age of 56. He previously suffered from lung cancer and had a lung removed; it was later determined that he had died of a coronary thrombosis.

After George VI’s death, his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, took the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 25. She was officially crowned at the age of 27. So as not to be confused with her daughter, King George VI’s widow, Queen Elizabeth, took on the name “Queen Mother.”

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  • Queen Elizabeth II was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York.
  • Her Majesty’s father was unexpectedly named King in 1937, taking the name George VI.
  • Knowing Elizabeth would one day be Queen, he began preparing her for the role at an early age, creating a special bond between them.
  • Elizabeth II has solemnly regarded the anniversary of her rule ever since.

In February 1952, King George VI of England died of lung cancer, leaving his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to rule in his stead. Elizabeth was just 25 years old when she became Queen Elizabeth II, but thanks to her close relationship with her father, she was prepared.

King George VI called Elizabeth his “pride.”

Ten years before he would take the throne, George VI (then known as Prince Albert, Duke of York) and his wife, Elizabeth, Duchess of York, welcomed their first child: a daughter who they named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

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When Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, it was widely believed that her father would never rule the country, as his older brother, Edward, was set to inherit the title of King. So for the first 10 years of young Elizabeth’s life, the family led a relatively quiet existence.

The Duchess of York gave birth to her and Albert’s second child, Margaret, in 1930, and the family of four split their time between two royal homes — one in London, and one on the grounds of Windsor Great Park — where Elizabeth and her sister were privately tutored.

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Although the Duchess (who later became known as The Queen Mother) and Queen Mary (Albert’s mother) are credited for much of Elizabeth and Margaret’s education and upbringing, Albert reportedly also adored his two girls from the very beginning. While Margaret was a bit more rambunctious, young Elizabeth — who was called “Lilibet” by those closest to her — was well-behaved and serious beyond her years. For this reason, Albert was said to have called Elizabeth his “pride,” and Margaret his “joy.”

Elizabeth’s father began preparing her to be Queen early.

Of course, Albert did eventually come to rule the country: His older brother, Edward VIII, became King of the United Kingdom in 1936 after the death of their father, King George V, but he abdicated the throne later that year in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson.

In the wake of his brother’s abdication, Albert took on the role of monarch, becoming King George VI in an official coronation ceremony on May 12, 1937. Elizabeth was just 11 years old at the time, but George immediately recognized what his new role meant for his young daughter: she would one day succeed him as Queen.

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With this in mind, the new King of the United Kingdom reportedly asked his eldest daughter to write an account of his coronation, so that she might one day feel more prepared for her own. Elizabeth did as she was told, and her love for her father shone through in her words: She wrote that her Papa, as she called him, looked “very beautiful” that day, and she saw a “haze of wonder” throughout Westminster Abbey as her father was crowned, according to Vanity Fair.

George VI began entrusting Elizabeth with royal duties.

As George settled into his new role as King, he began assigning some royal responsibilities to his eldest daughter. When she was just 14, Elizabeth gave a now-famous radio broadcast to British children who had been evacuated from their homes due to World War II. As soon as she was eligible, she joined the war efforts as a mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and in 1942, George made Elizabeth an honorary colonel in the Royal Army’s 500 Grenadier Guards.

Perhaps the ultimate sign of his trust, however, was the responsibility King George VI granted Elizabeth after she turned 18: While he was away on a tour of the Italian battlefields, she was named a “counselor of state,” which allowed her to represent the U.K. when her father was abroad and unable to do so.

Elizabeth’s father was saddened by “losing” her to Philip.

Eventually, with her father’s blessing, Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten (now Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) in a November 1947 wedding. Following the event, King George VI wrote his eldest daughter a letter reminiscing on the day — and this single piece of correspondence might be the strongest evidence of their remarkably close relationship.

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According to an emotional video released by The Royal Family in 2015, George’s never-before-seen letter read as follows:

I was so proud and thrilled at having you so close to me on our long walk in Westminster Abbey. But when I handed your hand to the Archbishop, I felt I had lost something very precious. You were so calm and composed during the service and said your words with such conviction that I knew everything was alright. I have watched you grow up all these years with pride under the skillful direction of Mummy, who, as you know, is the most marvelous person in the world in my eyes, and I can, I know, always count on you, and now Philip, to help us in our work. Your leaving us has left a great blank in our lives. But do remember that your old home is still yours and do come back to it as much and as often as possible. I can see that you are sublimely happy with Philip, which is right, but don’t forget us, is the wish of your ever loving and devoted… Papa.

Elizabeth reacted stoically to her father’s death.

On February 6, 1952, 25-year-old Elizabeth got word of her father’s death while on a Commonwealth tour of Kenya.

According to Robert Lacy, author of The Queen: A Life in Brief, the young royal was remarkably stoic upon hearing the news of George’s passing, dutifully writing letters to apologize for the cancelation of the rest of her tour before packing up her belongings and returning to England. At the time, her official proclamation of herself as Queen was one of few signs of her heartbreak: “My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples,” Elizabeth said during an Accession Council at St. James’s Palace.

To this day, though, Elizabeth’s love for her father remains clear in her refusal to celebrate the anniversary of her first day as Queen. In 2015, she surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning monarch in British history — but in response to the congratulations she received, Elizabeth called attention to the great loss that led to her lengthy term. The record “was not one to which I have ever aspired,” she said.

Heather Finn Content Strategy Editor Heather Finn is the content strategy editor at Good Housekeeping, where she heads up the brand’s social media strategy and covers entertainment news on everything from ABC’s ‘The Good Doctor’ to Netflix’s latest true crime documentaries.

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If you’ve found yourself obsessed with Netflix’s latest hit series, The Crown, you’re not alone. The $130 million drama follows the sweeping, tumultuous romance between a young Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and how the premature death of her father shaped not only the rest of their lives but history itself. In addition to nailing the look of the real-life royals, writer Peter Morgan also makes sure each episode chronicling their story is as accurate as possible. One such example is the realistic portrayal of King George VI’s last days before he dies of lung cancer in the second episode, spurring on Elizabeth’s career as the queen of the UK.

In 1937, George VI — born Albert Frederick Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha — was crowned king after his brother Prince Edward abdicated so that he could marry American socialite Wallis Simpson. George VI navigated the ups and downs of World War II (including overcoming his debilitating stutter with the help of wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) and became an important symbolic leader for the British people. Unfortunately, the stress of years at war took a toll on King George VI, and his health began to seriously decline. It’s during this time that the then-Princess Elizabeth, his presumptive heir, was tasked with taking over his royal duties.

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As seen in the first episode of the show, a tour of New Zealand and Australia had to be postponed due to the king’s health. He suffered an arterial blockage in 1949, and by 1951 his years of nonstop smoking led to a lung cancer and arteriosclerosis diagnosis. By September of that same year, his left lung was removed. Unfortunately, the 56-year-old king could not rebound from his devastating health issues, and on the morning of Feb. 6, 1952, George VI was discovered dead in his bed chambers. He officially died of a coronary thrombosis (or in layman’s terms, a blood clot in the heart). From then on, Princess Elizabeth became known as Queen Elizabeth II.

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The Crown is now streaming on Netflix.

The Funeral of King George VI

On January 31st, looking tired and frail four months after an operation for lung cancer, the King waved goodbye to Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at London Airport as they set off to East Africa. His doctors had kept the truth of his condition from him and though his family knew, they had to go through the motions. He went up to Sandringham in Norfolk and went out hare-shooting in a cheerful frame of mind with a group of friends on a bright, cold day on February 5th. After planning the next day’s sport the King went up to bed about 10.30 that night, went to sleep around midnight and never woke up. Early the next morning he was found dead in bed of a coronary thrombosis. He was fifty-six years old and had been King for fifteen years, since December 1936, in which time, shy and stammering and unprepared, he had earned considerable respect and affection.

The new queen and her husband returned from Africa at once. On February 11th the late King’ s coffin was moved from the church at Sandringham to Westminster Hall in London to lie in state while more than 300,000 people filed past. Foreign royalties and heads of state gathered in London for the funeral. The King’ s elder brother and predecessor, the Duke of Windsor, arrived at Southampton on the 13th aboard the Queen Mary. He did not bring his duchess, who had not been invited, but he brought his grievances. The palace had been in no particular hurry to inform him of his brother’ s passing and he had first heard of it from journalists demanding a statement at the Waldorf Towers in New York, where he was seeing the winter through.

In London he stayed with his mother, the eighty-five-year-old Queen Mary at Marlborough House. ‘Mama as hard as nails but failing,’ he noted and reported to the Duchess that his reception by the family had been ‘entirely correct and dignified’. There was a nasty shock, however, when he was told that the allowance of £10,000 a year, which he had been receiving from the palace, had been a personal favour from the late King and would now cease. The Duchess wrote to him on the 15th, ‘I hope you have not taken the expensive trip to lose the £10,000 and to be insulted’ . She had heard that he would not be allowed to walk in uniform behind the coffin in the procession.

The 15th, a Friday, dawned cloudy and misty. At 9.30 the mile-long cortege began its slow journey from Westminster Hall as Big Ben tolled fifty-six times – once for each year of the King’ s life – and artillery salutes of fifty-six guns were fired in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London. The route along the Mall passed Marlborough House, where Queen Mary watched from a window, and continued past St James’s Palace to Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Edgware Road and by Sussex Gardens to Paddington Station. Detachments from the services lined the route and headed the cortege. In the procession walked four field-marshals (Alanbrooke, Ironside, Montgomery and Slim), four admirals of the fleet and four marshals of the Royal Air Force. An escort of the Household Cavalry, pipers and the band of the Scots Guards preceded the Earl Marshal and some of the King’s personal servants, walking immediately in front of the gun-carriage bearing the coffin, on which rested the imperial crown, orb and sceptre.

In a carriage behind the coffin came the Queen, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and the Princess Royal shrouded in black, followed on foot by the closest male members of the family – the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Windsor (in naval uniform, so that was all right) and the Duke of Kent. Behind them came heads of state, foreign royalties, diplomats and other dignitaries, with more cavalry and detachments from the police and the fire services bringing up the rear.

From Paddington the coffin was taken by train to Windsor for burial in St George’s Chapel, where the King’s father and grandfather, George V and Edward VII, had been buried, and among his earlier predecessors both Henry VIII and Charles I. The government sent a wreath of white lilac and white carnations in the shape of the George Cross with an inscription signed by Winston S. Churchill. At the centre in purple letters were the words ‘ For Gallantry’ .

  • Queen Elizabeth II took over the throne at just 25 years old when her father, King George VI, died in 1952.
  • Her Majesty was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death on a tour of the Commonwealth.
  • Her trip was cut short when she learned that the king had died.
  • Over one year later, Elizabeth was crowned and officially was recognized as the Queen of England.

Queen Elizabeth II has been the leader of the royal family for roughly 67 years, officially making her the longest-reigning British monarch ever.

She fell into the position at just 25 years old in 1952 after her father, King George VI, died of coronary thrombosis at 56 amid his battle with lung cancer. Though she was not officially crowned until June 2, 1953, Elizabeth was asked to lead the minute the King died.

Princess Elizabeth and King George VI talk in an office at Buckingham Palace in 1950. Getty

Despite being overcome with grief when he was laid to rest, the royal family was reportedly aware of the King’s declining health by the early 1950s and knew that Elizabeth’s time was coming. After all, the King was forced to postpone a tour of New Zealand and Australia because of his condition. What’s more, he suffered an arterial blockage in 1949 and had to have his left lung removed in the summer of 1951. During his struggles, George had allegedly been showing his daughter state papers and “the ways of the monarchy.” There were black clothes in Elizabeth’s suitcase whenever she traveled. She was prepared, though it’s not certain she was ever really ready for what was ahead.

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The Princess’s Trip to Kenya

On February, 6, 1952, the day George VI died at Sandringham House, Elizabeth wasn’t by her father’s side — instead, she was working on his behalf. At the time, the British monarchy was under intense scrutiny in Kenya. Mau Mau fighters were gaining power in their fight against British colonialism and for independence (which they eventually won in 1963). Though the safety of the royal family was a big concern among British officials, the King felt it was necessary to show face on the African continent.

King George VI (second, right) waves goodbye to his daughter, Elizabeth, for the last time at Heathrow. Getty

Knowing that the King was too ill to travel, Elizabeth set off on the Commonwealth tour with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (who became Prince Philip in 1957). Little did Elizabeth know that when she departed Heathrow on January 31, 1952 that it would be the last time she’d ever see her beloved father.

Lord Chandos, the Colonial Secretary, told The Telegraph at the time:

“I well remember the last time I saw the King. When Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip left Heathrow for Kenya, the King and Queen came to see them take off… I was shocked by the King’s appearance. I was familiar with his look and mien, but he seemed much altered and strained. I had the feeling of doom, which grew as the minutes before the time of departure ebbed away. The King went on to the roof of the building to wave goodbye. The high wind blew his hair into disorder. I felt with foreboding that this would be the last time he was to see his daughter, and that he thought so himself.”

The royal couple arrived in Kenya on the first of the month, where they attended a garden party, greeted the Governor of Kenya, and enjoyed time at the Treetops Hotel, which was located in the heart of the forest. Five days into their trip, King George VI took his final breath.

Just hours before she learned that her father had died, the Princess was having the time of her life taking photos of elephants at a nearby watering hole. The night before George died, Time reports that the Princess was “too excited to sleep” and “kept leaving her cot to watch other nocturnal visitors at the watering hole.”

Princess Elizabeth and Philip attend a polo match in Nyeri, Kenya days before George’s death. Getty

British hunter Jim Corbett, who was also staying at Treetops at the time, later wrote the now famous lines in the visitors’ guest book:

“For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen.”

From Princess to Queen

While it’s believed by many today that the Treetops Hotel is where she found out her father had died in his sleep in the early morning hours of February 6, The Guardian reports that this isn’t exactly true. The Queen had gotten up that morning and eaten breakfast while “tossing bananas to baboons below,” totally unaware of what was going on in London.

BBC’s Frank Gillard penned at the time:

“How tragic to think that even this morning, as she sat at breakfast, talking about her father, and proudly describing how bravely he’d stood up to his illness, how well he’d recovered — sitting there in her yellow bush shirt and brown slacks — even at that moment her father was lying dead and she had succeeded to his vast responsibilities.” Philip and Elizabeth at Treetops in Kenya before King George VI’s passing. Getty

In the early afternoon, Philip was the one to first learn that George VI had died after a local newspaper reporter told him. And later on in the afternoon, when the royal couple was at a fishing lodge 20 miles away from the hotel, Philip finally told his wife.

After hearing the tragic news, Elizabeth took a walk around the grounds with Philip. She then immediately began writing letters to leaders apologizing that she’d have to cancel the rest of her trip.

A sign notifying guests and photographers not to take photos after the passing of King George VI. Getty

According to Robert Lacy, author of The Queen: A Life in Brief, she reacted stoically, and showed almost no distress. “She was sitting erect, fully accepting her destiny,” Martin Charteris, the princess’s private secretary, says in the book. No one actually saw Elizabeth shed a tear. It is said that as Elizabeth departed the lodge, no photographers took a single shot of the historic moment, per Her Majesty’s request.

Accepting Her New Position

On February 7, after a thunderstorm delayed her departure, Elizabeth arrived in London. The mood was somber, as the whole nation mourned the death of their sovereign. Flags were at half-mast, many businesses were shut down, and sporting events were canceled, according to The New York Times. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had already addressed the nation in a broadcast.

A day later, Commonwealth representatives and privy counselors attended an Accession Council at St. James’s Palace where Elizabeth officially recognized her new role.

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“By the sudden death of my dear father I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty,” she explained. “My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples.”

King George VI’s coffin is passed through Piccadilly on February 15, 1952. Getty

On February 15, a funeral for the deceased king took place at St. George’s Chapel. There, George was interred in a vault. Later on that day, a commemoration service was held at Westminster Abbey.

Looking back on King George’s death, the new Queen penned a letter in March of 1952 to her father’s former private secretary Sir Eric Mieville. In it, she detailed how much she missed her father.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (left), Queen Elizabeth II (center), and Princess Margaret (right) wear veils as they walk between Sandringham and Buckingham Palace to attend King George VI’s funeral. Getty

“We have been so comforted to know that we are not alone in our sorrow, as it seems so many people feel they have lost a friend as well as a king.”

Over one year later on June 2, 1953, Elizabeth was officially crowned and recognized as the Queen of England.

Kayla Keegan News and Entertainment Editor Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping.

George VI

Prince Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary and was born on 14th December 1895 on the Sandringham estate. On the abdication of his brother Edward VIII in December 1936 he was proclaimed King and took one of his middle names, George, on succeeding to the throne.

Marriage

On 26th April 1923 (as Duke of York) he was married in Westminster Abbey to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become The Queen Mother). She was the first royal bride to lay her wedding bouquet on the grave of the Unknown Warrior, in memory of her brother who had died during the Great War. They gave the silver candlesticks which are on the altar in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, in commemoration of their marriage. Their children were Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret Rose.

The Order of Service (PDF, 643 KB)

Coronation

The coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth was held on 12th May 1937. This was the day that had originally been chosen for the coronation of Edward VIII before his abdication. Staff on duty started work at 4.00am and guests began arriving at 6.00am, many peers carrying sandwiches in their coronets. At 9.30am the procession of the Regalia started. Since the time of Charles II the crowns and other regalia to be used in the ceremony had been brought to the Jerusalem Chamber at the Abbey the evening before and placed in charge of the Dean of Westminster. The Regalia procession made its way from the Chamber through the cloisters into the Abbey. All the items were then placed ready in position for the service. Eye witnesses recalled that the overall impression inside the Abbey was colour everywhere, with blue and gold hangings and carpets and crimson robes and uniforms. Queen Mary, with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, attended, watching from the Royal Gallery. Slight mishaps did occur during the service. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, who performed the ceremony thought the Dean had given him St Edward’s Crown the wrong way round, a bishop stepped on the King’s train and another put his thumb over the words of the oath when the King was about to read it.

Burial

George VI died on 6th February 1952. His coffin lay in Westminster Hall where a short service was held and 305,806 people filed past the coffin. The funeral service, taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on 15th February and the king was interred in a vault there. On the same day a commemoration service was held at the Abbey.

Sword

In 1955 Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, presented to the Abbey George VI’s sword. This had been given to him by his father and he always wore it with his naval uniform and to confer knighthoods. This stands in a case in the Lady Chapel. The inscription on the blade reads

Albert Frederick Arthur George Sub-Lieutenant R.N. from his affectionate father George R.I. Sep.15 1915.

Further reading

King George VI, His life and reign by John Wheeler-Bennett, 1959

The story of the coronation 1937 edited by Sir John Hammerton

Crown and Empire. The coronation of George VI, Times Publishing 1937

Music for George VI’s Coronation, 1937 (PDF, 75KB)

The Prayer Book Society for the text of Book of Common Prayer

How Old Was Elizabeth II When She Became Queen and How Did Her Father Die?

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip | CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

England’s current queen has been the head of state long enough that many people either don’t remember or haven’t been around long enough to witness anyone else on the throne other than Her Majesty.

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne after her father died in 1952. Although she succeeded him the same day he passed away. Her official coronation was held a year and a half later. The reason is due to the tradition of allowing an appropriate length of time between a monarch’s passing and holding a celebration to crown their heir.

So how old was Elizabeth II when she ascended the throne and how did her dad, King George VI, die?

How did her father, George VI, die?

George VI | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The queen was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary to Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. After the duke’s brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry an American socialite, Albert was crowned as King George VI. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

In the 1940s his health started to deteriorate and his heir, then-Princess Elizabeth, began taking on some of his royal duties and going on official engagements in his place. In 1949, a planned tour to Australia and New Zealand was shelved after the king suffered an arterial blockage. George VI was a heavy smoker for several years and was diagnosed with arteriosclerosis and lung cancer in 1951.

On the morning of Feb. 6, 1952, King George VI was found dead in his bedroom at his Sandringham House in Norfolk. He was 56. At the time his death, Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, were in Kenya. Upon hearing the news, the pair returned to England and Princess Elizabeth flew back home as Queen Elizabeth.

Since his passing, the royals have spent the holidays at the Sandringham house and every year after the rest of the family leaves the estate, Her Majesty and Prince Philip remain at the home to honor King George VI. While they are there, all of the Christmas decorations stay up and are not taken down until the second week of February.

How old was Elizabeth II when she ascended the throne?

Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day | /AFP/Getty Images

At the age of 25, Elizabeth II assumed responsibilities as the ruling monarch. Her coronation took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey when she was 27 and for the first time ever the ceremony was broadcast on television. King George VI’s widow, Queen Elizabeth, took on the name the Queen Mother so not to be confused with her daughter.

In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the U.K.’s longest-serving monarch and in 2016, after the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, she became the longest-reigning monarch in the world. Her eldest son, Prince Charles, is the longest-serving heir apparent in the British royal family’s history.

Read more: Does Queen Elizabeth II Have Any Close Friends?

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1951: King has lung operation Crowds have gathered outside Buckingham Palace for news of King George VI following an operation to remove part of his lung.

A bulletin on the King’s health posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace this afternoon said “anxiety must remain for some days” but “his immediate post-operative condition is satisfactory”.

The statement was signed by the five doctors who have attended the King and spent last night at the palace prior to the operation.

The decision to operate was taken on Friday after doctors noticed “structural changes” in the King’s lung, which were giving cause for concern.

Queen at the palace

Nurses moved into the palace on Friday night and oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment arrived during the day yesterday.

The operation began at around 1000 today (Sunday) and took most of the morning.

The Queen was at the palace and she was the first to hear from the doctors how the King had withstood the surgery.

News of the King’s condition was then telephoned to Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Clarence House and to Queen Mary and other members of the royal family at Marlborough House.

The King was apparently moved to the comfort of his own bedroom immediately after the operation. He is being attended by nursing staff round-the-clock.

The Princess and her husband spent more than an hour at the Palace this evening. Queen Mary had left after visiting for nearly an hour a little earlier.

Princess Margaret flew in from Scotland to join her parents. She drove direct to the palace from London Airport.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne are the only members of the royal family remaining at Balmoral.

The Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who had also flown back to London from Scotland, has been kept informed of the King’s progress at Number 10.

Special prayers are being said in churches throughout the country for the King’s recovery.

Crowds gathered outside the palace and filed passed the railings where the bulletin on the King’s health had been pinned. Police officers kept the crowd moving.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY

On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.

King George VI, the second son of King George V, ascended to the throne in 1936 after his older brother, King Edward VIII, voluntarily abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. During World War II, George worked to rally the spirits of the British people by touring war zones, making a series of morale-boosting radio broadcasts (for which he overcame a speech impediment) and shunning the safety of the countryside to remain with his wife in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace. The king’s health deteriorated in 1949, but he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth, born on April 21, 1926, and known to her family as Lilibet, was groomed as a girl to succeed her father. She married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, on November 20, 1947, at London’s Westminster Abbey. The first of Elizabeth’s four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948.

From the start of her reign, Elizabeth understood the value of public relations and allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, despite objections from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who felt it would cheapen the ceremony. Elizabeth, the 40th British monarch since William the Conqueror, has worked hard at her royal duties and become a popular figure around the world. In 2003, she celebrated 50 years on the throne, only the fifth British monarch to do so.

The queen’s reign, however, has not been without controversy. She was seen as cold and out-of-touch following the 1996 divorce of her son, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana, and again after Diana’s 1997 death in a car crash. Additionally, the role in modern times of the monarchy, which is largely ceremonial, has come into question as British taxpayers have complained about covering the royal family’s travel expenses and palace upkeep. Still, the royals are effective world ambassadors for Britain and a huge tourism draw. Today, the queen, an avid horsewoman and Corgi dog lover, is one of the world’s wealthiest women, with extensive real-estate holdings and art and jewelry collections.