BY ROYAL COM­MAND

EL­IZ­A­BETH HAS BEEN OUR CON­STANT COM­PAN­ION SINCE OUR VERY FIRST DAYS

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... -

The Queen has been a main­stay of our cov­er­age through­out the decades

His­tory, by its na­ture, is lit­tered with “what ifs”. What if Hitler never came to be? What if Cap­tain James Cook never sailed to Aotearoa? What if women never achieved suf­frage?

And what if Ed­ward VIII hadn’t ab­di­cated?

It’s a ques­tion the Queen has surely asked her­self many a time. When the Weekly was born at the end of 1932, six-year-old Princess El­iz­a­beth had no idea of her des­tiny.

Third-in-line to the throne, “Lili­bet” should have never be­come queen. Her un­cle David, the Prince of Wales, was heir to King Ge­orge V and be­ing in his prime, was ex­pected to bear chil­dren and heirs him­self.

Four years later, when his fa­ther died, David, the new

King Ed­ward VIII, caused one of the royal fam­ily’s big­gest scan­dals, ab­di­cat­ing from the throne so he could marry his lover, Amer­i­can di­vor­cée Wal­lis Simp­son.

In that in­stant, as her beloved fa­ther Ber­tie be­came King Ge­orge VI, El­iz­a­beth’s life changed for­ever. An eas­ier life, a more pri­vate but still priv­i­leged ex­is­tence van­ished, and she knew one day she would be queen, bur­dened but anointed with re­spon­si­bil­ity, duty and rule.

From the very be­gin­ning of the Weekly, we were en­tranced by the vi­va­cious princess, re­port­ing ex­cit­edly on her child­hood and teenage years, as she and her sis­ter Mar­garet grew up un­der the harsh spot­light of monar­chy dur­ing World War II.

Sto­ries of the young princess join­ing the Aux­il­iary Ter­ri­to­rial Ser­vice were en­thu­si­as­ti­cally typed, and re­ports of how El­iz­a­beth and Mar­garet danced and cel­e­brated anony­mously out­side Buck­ing­ham Palace gates on VE Day en­thralled a joy­ous na­tion.

Of course, her mar­riage to Prince Philip of Greece and Den­mark was one of the big­gest sto­ries of the ‘40s, not just due to the spec­ta­cle of the royal wed­ding. Con­sid­ered by some as wholly un­suit­able – “a prince with­out a home or king­dom” as some sniffed at the time – the union wasn’t with­out its chal­lenges.

How­ever, love pre­vailed and the two were mar­ried at West­min­ster Abbey on Novem­ber 14, 1947. They will cel­e­brate their 70th wed­ding an­niver­sary next month.

The daz­zling princess per­son­i­fied post-war op­ti­mism as she stepped out in her tulle, chif­fon and silk gown, which was cus­tomde­signed by Nor­man Hartnell.

As ra­tioning was still in force, El­iz­a­beth needed coupons to buy the fab­ric, though wellmean­ing women from across Bri­tain sent the princess theirs.

The day Queen El­iz­a­beth II was crowned – June 2, 1952 – saw the birth of a new, mod­ern royal fam­ily, full of youth, hope and glory.

Giv­ing birth to four chil­dren – Charles, Anne, An­drew and Ed­ward – the Queen and Prince Philip’s pic­ture-per­fect life was ce­mented, and Bri­tain and the Com­mon­wealth con­tin­ued its fas­ci­na­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion of the roy­als.

There have been tough times – most no­tably her self-dubbed “an­nus hor­ri­bilis” of 1992, when both Anne and An­drew an­nounced the end of their re­spec­tive mar­riages, Charles and Diana for­mally sep­a­rated, a fire rav­aged Wind­sor Cas­tle and pub­lic sen­ti­ment was steadily ris­ing against the monar­chy.

And, of course, there was the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and the re­sult­ing fall­out.

But the Queen and her fam­ily en­dured. Now 91, she is slow­ing down, but her legacy – her record-break­ing reign, her de­vo­tion to her role, her de­scen­dants – is as­sured.

His­tory is lit­tered with what ifs. But Her Majesty has been a con­stant – from the adorable, care­free six-year-old who first adorned these pages, to the world’s long­est-serv­ing monarch whose un­flap­pable, ded­i­cated and re­fined rule harks back to the many other great Queens of Eng­land.

When she turned 21, know­ing the weight of the crown and the monar­chy would one day fall upon her, she de­clared be­fore her sub­jects “that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be de­voted to your ser­vice and the ser­vice of our great im­pe­rial fam­ily to which we all be­long.”

In our 85 years, she has seen war, de­pres­sion, tri­umph, tragedy and an in­cred­i­ble amount of change.

She has con­ducted more than 260 over­seas tours and more of­fi­cial en­gage­ments than are pos­si­ble to count – and she’s had an in­cred­i­ble 18 dif­fer­ent prime min­is­ters of New Zealand.

When it comes to the Queen, there’s no what ifs – in­deed, we won­der what we’ll do with­out her.

In 1932, six-year- old Princess El­iz­a­beth had no idea what the fu­ture had in store for her. A pen­sive-look­ing princess at Wind­sor Cas­tle in 1940. Pomp and pageantry were on dis­play at El­iz­a­beth’s Corona­tion at West­min­ster Abbey. A youth­ful Queen and Prince Philip on tour in New Zealand in 1974.

Happy fam­i­lies:

All smiles from Anne, Charles,

Ed­ward, An­drew, the Queen and

Prince Philip hol­i­day in Bal­moral

on in 1971. The Queen ‘s record-break­ing reign en­sures her legacy will re­main long af­ter she is gone. A por­trait of the Queen in 1947, shortly be­fore she mar­ried her beloved Prince Philip.

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