A glance through the decades of The Queen's reign
- Credit: PA/Steve Parsons
As the Queen celebrates seventy years on the throne, we take a look back at her long reign one decade at a time…
1952-62: In 1952, Princess Elizabeth learned her father had died and she had become Queen while she was abroad in Kenya. At 25, she was the same age as Elizabeth I was when she became Queen in 1558. The new Queen already had two children, Charles (b. 1948) and Anne (b. 1950). A third, Andrew was born in 1960. The new Elizabethan age was warmly welcomed. The only real disquiet occurred over the row concerning the cancellation of Queen’s sister Princess Margaret’s engagement to the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend in 1956. Margaret eventually married Antony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) in 1960 although this proved to be unhappy. There are also rumours the Queen’s own marriage was under strain during the 1950s, although if this was true, the media chose not to report this at the time.
1962-72: A very eventful period for the world but a comparatively quiet decade for the House of Windsor. The last of the Queen’s children, Edward was born in 1964. In 1969, Prince Charles formally became Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Caernarfon Castle. In the same year, the controversial Royal Family documentary was aired on TV. It received some of the highest viewing figures for a British TV programme ever recorded but some feel it damaged the Royals’ reputation overall.
1972-82: Mixed fortunes. This period was bookended by two major Royal Weddings. Princess Anne married Captain Phillips in 1973 and Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. The Queen became a grandmother for the first time during her Silver Jubilee year of 1977. On the downside, Princess Margaret divorced, Princess Anne only narrowly escaped a serious kidnapping attempt in 1974 and Lord Mountbatten and three other people were killed in a Provisional IRA bomb attack in 1979.
1982-92: Princes William (1982) and Harry were both born and in 1986, Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson. However, as the decade wore on, it became increasingly clear that all three of the marriages undertaken by the Queen’s children at that point were to varying degrees of unhappiness. Speculation and gossip mounted.
1992-2002: This was undoubtedly the worst decade of the Queen’s reign so far. It began with the famous Annus horribilis of 1992 characterised by the Windsor Castle fire and various other Royal misfortunes and didn’t improve after that. All three of the Queen’s children’s marriages ended in divorce. In the case of Charles and Diana this proved especially messy. In one of the biggest news stories of the decade, Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris in 1997. Princess Anne married Sir Timothy Laurence in 1992, soon after her divorce. The Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward also married Sophie Rhys-Jones in a low-key ceremony in 1999. Both of these marriages have endured.
2002-2012: A big improvement. But it began badly: the Queen’s sister Margaret died aged 71 in February 2002 just three days after the 50th anniversary of the Queen coming to the throne. The Queen Mother died a month later in March 2002, aged 101. There was also widespread controversy over the collapse of the trial of Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell at this time. But despite these developments, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year was widely judged a success. In 2005, Prince Charles was able to marry his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles in a low-key ceremony. In 2011, Prince William married Catherine Middleton in one of the biggest Royal Weddings ever held.
2012-2022: The last decade has seen the births of Prince William’s children, controversy over the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and far greater and continuing notoriety attaching itself to the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew. As the Queen has moved into her nineties, there has also been an inevitable slowing down in the number of duties she is able to perform. Last year saw the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip at the age of 99. In 2015, she surpassed /the record of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) to become the longest reigning British monarch of all time.