In February 1977 Reader's Digest published a jubilee supplement. It presented a unique record of 25 royal years under Queen Elizabeth II, we've reproduced the best bits of the supplement

Nearly 40 years on, we look back at the pride Britain felt for our monarch, just 25 years into the reign that was to become the longest in our nation's history

Accession 

Queen Elizabeth II's Accession

On February 5th, 1952, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in Kenya, enjoying a break during a world tour. 

During her stay, the princess walked with a herd of trumpeting wild elephants before climbing a series of wooden ladders and platforms to access Treetops observation cabin, 35 feet from the ground. 

Eating dinner atop the giant tree, conversation turned to her father's illness. With affection, she remembered how he had bid her goodbye before her trip, standing hatless at London airport on a bitterly cold January morning. She remarked: "He never thinks of himself", expecting him to make a full recovery.

Little did she know that during the night, perhaps whilst she watched the elephants below, the King had died peacefully in his sleep at Sandringham. 

The visitor's book at Treetops records: "For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree a Princess and climbed down the next day a Queen."

At 25, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary became the 42nd sovereign of England. Her subjects and citizens numbered 539 million. 

 

Undoubted Queen 

Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation

On Coronation Eve 30,000 people lined the Mall, bedding down with stools, spirit stoves, radios and blankets. It rained all night. As morning dawned, they awoke to an unexpected headline — Mount Everest had been conquered for the first time, by a British team. It was taken as a better omen for the future than the weather. 

Attended by scarlet and gold-coated Yeomen of the Guard, Queen Elizabeth II arrived at Westminster Abbey in the State Coach at 11am. The music of Handel swelled through the Abbey as the Archbishop anointed the Queen's hands, breast, then head with holy oil. Then, as she clasped the Sceptre and Rod, he lowered the crown onto her head. 

Speaking in a broadcast that night, the Queen diverged from her script to address the people directly: "As this day draws to its close I know that my abiding memory will be, not only the solemnity and beauty of the ceremony, but the inspiration of your loyalty and affection."

 

Head of the Commonwealth

Queen Elizabeth II head of the Commonwealth

In 1952 the British Commonwealth covered a quarter of the earth's habitable surface while its population exceeded a quarter of the human race. Today (1977) a process begun in the reign of the Queen's father has been virtually completed, and nearly all of Britain's former dominions and dependencies have been granted full independence.

No comparable act of liberation by the rulers of a great Empire is known to history. 

The Queen regularly undertakes tours of these liberated nations, though many often fear for her safety. In the year she visited Ghana — the first of Britain's African states to achieve independence — there had been threats against the President, Kwame Nkrumah. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made several attempts to stop her going due to the potential danger. The Queen was annoyed. "Danger," she told him, "is part of the job."

 

Ambassador to the World

Queen Elizabeth II ambassador to the world

When in 1968 the Queen visited Brazil, they were impressed by her style. She was accompanied by five aeroplanes, the Britannia, 14 members of the household, two frigates, two plain-clothes police officers, seven officials, 24 staff including a Royal Pastry Chef and a 22-piece orchestra. 

She brought with her on the trip several gifts including 24 bottles of Liebfraumilch Madonna, 24 bottles of Beaujolais, three tins of Dundee cake, eight boxes of After Eight mints, three jars each of strawberry and raspberry jam, 24 tins of Danish cream and three bottles of mint sauce. Instructions were relayed ahead that she didn't want to eat oysters or lobster.

A typical day during a State Visit begins at about 9am when the royal suite assembles for the first engagement. In the middle of the day, there is a formal luncheon, at which the Queen is usually expected to deliver a speech. In the afternoon, there are more visits – to universities, art galleries, national monuments. This goes on until the evening, when it is time to change for a reception formal dinner and another speech. The day seldom ends before midnight, and often much later.

 

Machinery of Monarchy 

Queen Elizabeth II's machinery of monarchy

Like the chief executive of any international company, the Queen spends many hours at a desk. Her first meeting of the day is typically held with her private secretary, to discuss any urgent matters. Next is a meeting with two assistant secretaries during which she attends to the mail. The Queen reads much of the mail herself. Letters vary from pleas for help, to requests for her presence, to secret government documents and information from the Commonwealth. 

After a couple of hours at her desk, the Queen embarks on the rest of her working day — perhaps a stream of public engagements, sitting for portraits, entertaining foreign guests, or some of the 200 to 300 audiences she gives each year. 

Since he was a teenager, Prince Charles has been educated to believe he too must take part in what his Grandfather, George VI, called "the Royal firm". 

 

The Royal Wife and Mother

Queen Elizabeth II as wife and mother

Everyone likes to see their young children before they go to bed. Not everyone has to ask the Prime Minister to delay coming round so that she can do so. Most people feed their pets. Not everyone feeds corgis with elegant ritual. The Queen's dogs are fed courses of cooked meat, dog biscuit and gravy – served with a silver spoon and fork. 

The Queen's tastes are simple and safe: Handel's "Water Music", biographies, Agatha Christie and historical novels. She watches television, and especially enjoys Dad's Army and Dudley Moore. Her favourite hobby is acting, and houseguests indulge in The Game, a sort of charades race. Her cardinal interests are horsemanship and the breeding, training and management of horses. Her most celebrated racing steed was the chesnut Aureole, which won £36,225.

To prevent Charles and Anne becoming over-impressed with their grand surroundings, they had a limited number of toys. Their clothes were let down and the seams let out to make them last longer. Charles once lost a new dog lead at Sandringham. When the Queen found out, she enquired; "Did he look for it? Well, he must go back tomorrow — and find it this time." And he did.

 

God Save the Queen 

God Save the Queen Elizabeth II

At a time when most of the world's monarchs have either disappeared or been downgraded to figureheads, the standing of the British Crown is unique

Queen Elizabeth II must now be ranked not only as one of the central figures on the world stage, but also one of the most respected. One reason why British constitutional monarchy has worked so well in the fast-changing third quarter of the twentieth century has been the Queen's clear grasp of its place and purpose in the modern state. 

The Queen does not only symbolise and help to promote the unity of her people. She serves to remind them of their ideals. She represents in her person and family life, and in her dedication to her public duties, the abiding virtues of hearth, home and service on the foundations of which society rests. 

Feature image via Pop Sugar

Browse films about the Queen from the Reader's Digest shop

Buy, The Queen's Speech, a study the queen's life told through her speeches

 

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