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The Tudors

The health of the King, George VI, had been poor for several years. He was a heavy smoker and this had caused some of his health problems. In September 1951 he had his left lung removed after a cancerous growth was found. His daughter Elizabeth, heir to the throne, took on more royal duties. She and her husband Prince Philip undertook a month long tour of Canada in October 1951. At the State Opening of Parliament in November 1951 the King's speech from the throne was read for him. Traditionally the monarch made a broadcast to the country and the Commonwealth on Christmas Day. In 1951 it was recorded in bits and then put together.

On 31 January 1952 he went to London Airport to see his daughter off on a tour she was carrying out on his behalf. He did not look well. Six days later, on 6 February 1952, he died in his sleep at Sandringham House. At that moment his daughter, who was in Kenya on her way to Australia, became Queen. She took the title of Queen Elizabeth II. She immediately flew back to England and she and Prince Philip moved in to Buckingham Palace, where they have lived ever since.

George VI had never expected to be King. He was quite shy and had a stammer. Nevertheless he showed bravery during the war years, refusing, along with his wife the Queen, to leave Buckingham Palace even during the blitz. The palace and the grounds were actually hit on sixteen occasions but no real damage was done and no lives lost. He and the Queen would also go out on to the streets of London visiting bombs sites.

After his death George lay in state at Westminster Hall before his funeral at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. In 1969 he was moved to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside the main chapel. His wife, who became known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother after his death, lived for another 50 years before dying, at the age of 101 and 238 days on 30 March 2002. She was buried alongside her husband. Sadly their second daughter, Princess Margaret, had died a month before at the age of 71. She was cremated and her ashes buried alongside her parents. It is amazing to think that no one under 66 years old in 2018 has witnessed scenes at the funeral of a monarch.

Queen Elizabeth was not crowned until 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. This caused some confusion to 3¾ year old me. Kings of England take the Latin word rex, meaning king, after their names. Queens take the Latin word regina, meaning queen. Therefore Queen Elizabeth was known as Elizabeth Regina or ER. At the time of the coronation there was much celebrating. Flags were hung out and houses had banners on them saying ER.

On 11 May 1953 my little sister was born. We called her Elizabeth and, if you look around this site you will find out our surname was Rowland. Imagine my surprise that people would put banners out when my mum brought my sister home from hospital and these banners all said ER. Elizabeth Rowland, I thought, she must be very special. I soon learned how wrong I was.

It was also on June 2 that I saw my very first television programme. The BBC broadcast the coronation live and we went round my aunt's house to watch it. The picture was poor, the screen small but we were watching something happening miles away. My own family didn't get a television until 4 years later in 1956.

On the morning of the Queen's coronation it was also announced that the British Mount Everest expedition had been successful and were the first to reach the top of the highest mountain on earth. The expedition was led by Colonel John Hunt but the two climbers who made it to the top were New Zealander Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay, a sherpa from Nepal. Hunt and Hilary were knighted and Tenzing given the George Medal.

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