Twelve days later, on Feb. 27, the 25-year-old queen presided over her first investiture, handing out honors to 2,500 citizens and members of the military for service to the nation. She has given out hundreds of thousands such honors over the years.
“It was all very sudden,” the queen recalled that surreal week more than 40 years later. In the moment it was basically about “making the best job you can. It’s a question of maturing into something that one’s got used to doing, and accepting the fact that here you are, and it’s your fate, because I think continuity is important.”
And the people of the United Kingdom have been blessed with continuity ever since, as Queen Elizabeth II—with 16th-century monarch Elizabeth I as her predecessor, while her mother, also Queen Elizabeth, became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother—passed her ruby jubilee (40 years), then golden (50 years), then diamond (60 years) and then, her sapphire jubilee after 65 years on the throne.
But Feb. 6, 1952, will forever be remembered as the day when a young woman who had just lost her father, and who had only recently embarked on marriage and motherhood, became The Queen.
(Originally published Feb. 10, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)