63 years ago today, His Majesty King George VI died at Sandringham. Since there is never a passing of time without a sovereign, his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was now queen.
News of her father’s death was delayed in reaching the princess, who was on a trip to Kenya with her husband, Prince Philip. It was Philip who told Elizabeth what had happened. They immediately boarded a plane to England, where she was welcomed back as Her Majesty Elizabeth II; the coronation would not take place until June 1953, after a period mourning.
“Looking back to the start of her reign makes you realise how young she was when she came to the throne,” Prince Charles said in a 2012 documentary. “She and my father were new parents just setting up home with their children and she can’t have been expecting to be thrown into her new role. The death of her beloved father at only 57 must have been a terrible shock.”
As she does every year, the Queen marks this day at Sandringham before going back to business as usual (splitting her time between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle). February 6th is a solemn one for Her Majesty, who is not celebrating her ascension to the throne since it’s tinged with sadness. While the empire lost a king, the Queen lost her father, whom she adored.
On September 10th of this year, Her Majesty will surpass Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning British monarch in history.