By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Today marks a fascinating day in history: Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest reigning British Monarch, surpassing her two-times Great Grandmother, Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth has asked for no celebrations to mark the milestone, but rather to mark it with reverence and respect. As a museum and as historians, we thought it would be of interest and appropriate to reflect back on Her Majesty’s reign and what the world was like when she became Queen.
The beginning of a monarch’s reign is an interesting time, because it begins upon the passing of the previous monarch; in the case of Elizabeth, she became Queen on February 6, 1952, the day her father, King George VI died. Local newspapers reported the news of the King’s death with a great deal of sorrow and shock; the news of his passing was not expected. It was expressed, as is the custom, “The King is Dead; Long Live the Queen.”
Interestingly, the death of King did not make front page news, but rather the entire fifth page was dedicated to his passing and his life, with the headline: ‘King George, Valiant Leader of People in War and Peace.’ There is also a page dedicated to images of the royal family, focusing on Elizabeth and George.
The following day, the headline read ‘Queen Arrives in London,’ as Elizabeth had been in Africa at the time of her father’s passing. The front page is mostly filled with stories about the Queen and more information about the passing of the King, including the official announcement of his cause of death (Thrombosis.) It was reported that the day of the King’s funeral will be a national day of mourning for Canada.
While officially becoming Queen in February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation did not take place until June 1953. Celebrations to mark this event were held in England, Ottawa, as well as locally. The Daily Times reported an ‘elaborate presentation’ was arranged at the bandshell in Memorial Park, including choirs, the Oshawa Civic and Regimental band, and fireworks.
*Many thanks to our summer student Carrie for combing the newspapers for the above information!