Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


By Glynn Burrows


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Glynn Burrows discusses the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean, or SoundCloud.


Our Queen was born on 21st April 1926, in Mayfair, London and she was the eldest child of The Duke and Duchess of York. At that time, The Duke of York was not expected to become King of England, because he had an elder brother, Edward, So, in her early years, the young Elizabeth was growing up with no expectation of being anything more than a minor member of the royal family. This was especially the case because she was a girl and could be leap-frogged by any male child born into her family, or any child of her Uncle Edward.

At the time of her birth, nobody was expecting the problems which would follow.

Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V passed away on the 20th January 1936 in his beloved home at Sandringham, and there were some very surprising revelations about this event which was made public in recent times. (King George V was euthanised.)

The death of King George V, meant that Elizabeth’s Uncle, Edward, became King Edward VIII and preparations began for the Coronation, to be held in May 1937.

During 1936, Edward’s intention to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson became a major constitutional problem and as the Prime Ministers of the UK, as well as the Dominions, opposed the marriage, the situation became untenable and Edward chose Wallis Simpson over the Kingdom and abdicated.

This action created its own problems and on the 11th December 1936, the country had a new King. A very quiet and unprepared “Bertie,” who was to become King George VI.

That, in turn, made the young Princess first in line to the throne and from being a child, born with little expectancy of becoming anything much more than a “member of the royal family,” the young Elizabeth had to get used to the idea that one day, she would be Queen.

So, moving forward and realising that the young Princess even had time in the services during World War II, her marriage to Philip Mountbatten in 1947, and the subsequent births of two children, we see a very quiet, unassuming twenty-five-year-old stepping off an aeroplane at London Airport, the day after her father had died at Sandringham.

The young woman, who had said goodbye to her beloved father at the airport only a week before, was stepping into her new role as Queen Elizabeth II and her life was to be one which broke royal records left, right and centre. At that time, Harry S. Truman was President of The United States of America and from then to now, there have been thirteen others. In the UK, we have had fifteen Prime Ministers.

This year, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the accession of The Queen and her reign which has been longer than any other British monarch and longer than other monarchs in history. The only ones who reigned much longer were Sobhuza II of Swaziland (82 years), and Louis XIV of France (72 years).

The fact that The Queen has reigned for so long is amazing in itself, but the mind-blowing thing to realise is what has happened during that time. Just about everything has changed beyond recognition.

Let’s just look at life for an average family in the Norfolk countryside in 1952.

  • East Front of Sandringham
    East Front of Sandringham

My parents were not married until 1955, so I will have to look at my Grandparents. They were living in a cottage which went with my Grandfather’s job on the farm and they were paying 6/- (30p) a week rent. They had electricity, but there was a well and a stand-pipe in the yard, so no running water inside the house. There was no heating, apart from the large range in the living room and a small fireplace in the main bedroom. The toilet, which was outside, up a path, was a sump toilet, which my Grandfather had to dig out every so often and spread on the garden.

My Grandmother did the washing on a Monday, in a “copper” in the kitchen. This “copper” was a large water boiler, which was heated by a fire that was lit under it.

Cooking was done on the range in the living room and that was powered by coal. There was no bathroom, so washing was either done at the kitchen sink (a large stone-ware sink), or upstairs in the bedroom in a china basin, with a large ewer to carry the water from downstairs.
The only entertainment was a radio which had very limited service.

My Grandfather worked on the farm as a Team-Man, meaning that he was in charge of a team of horses. There was a crawler on the farm, but most work was carried out by horses. Granddad worked five and a half days a week and also looked after the horses 24/7, so he never really had a day off. I never remember my Grandparents having a holiday.

My Grandmother was a housewife and did some work on the farm if and when required.

In 1952, my Dad was 19 and was working on the farm when The King died and he went into the RAF a little later in the year. When he signed up and took the oath, he remembers that the forms he had to read and sign had “His Majesty” crossed out and “Her Majesty” inserted.  My Uncle was just 12, so still at school.

Life was still difficult as there was still some rationing, a lot of families were still grieving the losses of family and friends, and the local town still had scars from the effects of the war.

This was the world, just a few miles away from where His Majesty King George VI died, at Sandringham, on 6th February 1952. My Dad still remembers the radio playing dour music all day when the death was announced. The family listened to the Coronation on the radio because nobody they were friends with had a television.

Since then, we have seen the development of towns and cities, electricity in all properties, hot and cold running water, central heating, bathrooms, television, telephones, computers, mobile telephones, international travel for everyone, holidays, fridges and freezers, imported food, supermarkets, etc, etc, etc. In fact, if we think about it, just about everything we know today has developed beyond recognition over the last seventy years. Yes, we had cars, telephones, flush toilets, and aeroplanes etc. in 1952, but not for everyone, and definitely not for the likes of my Grandparents.

So, when you see the celebrations going on in the UK, just remember that this lady has been Queen for longer than most of us have been alive.

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit www.Norfolk-Tours.co.uk


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Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England.

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