This Is the Real Reason Why Queen Elizabeth II Didn’t Expect to Be Queen
Queen Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch. So we take for granted some of the records that she’s set. But surprisingly as it may seem to modern fans of the queen and the British royal family, Elizabeth never expected to ascend to the throne.
Read on to get all the details on the reasons why she didn’t expect to become Queen Elizabeth II — and how it happened anyway.
1. She was third in line to the throne
Time reports that when Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, to King George V’s second son, Prince Albert, she was third in line to the throne. Albert’s older brother, Edward, had not yet married. But the royal family felt confident that he would settle down and have children. So Elizabeth’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, planned a life outside of the spotlight for Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret.
Next: Everybody thought that Elizabeth wouldn’t get any closer to becoming queen.
2. Edward was expected to produce an heir, and Albert might have had a son, too
Mental Floss reports that at this point, Elizabeth was behind her uncle, Prince Edward, and her father, Prince Albert, for the throne. Prince Edward, the heir apparent to the throne, was expected to produce an heir. But it was also thought at the time that Prince Albert could still have produced a son. “Had that happened, the boy would have taken the throne before Elizabeth, under the (since-altered) rules of succession, which placed male children before their sisters, regardless of birth order.”
Next: Then, Edward did this and changed everything.
3. Then, Edward decided to marry a divorcée — and Elizabeth’s father became king
When Elizabeth was young, her uncle Edward began to spend time with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée. Rumors swirled about their possible affair. In January 1936, King George V died and Edward became King Edward VIII. Later that year, he declared his intention to marry Simpson and make her queen. But as the head of the Church of England, Edward was bound by its moral laws. So after ruling for just 325 days, he abdicated the throne. That made Elizabeth’s father, Albert, the new (reluctant) King George VI, despite the fact that he hadn’t been groomed to become king.
Next: Elizabeth knew this when she was just 10.
4. At 10 years old, Elizabeth knew she would likely become queen
According to Time, a footman informed Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of the news when their uncle abdicated the throne. Margaret asked Elizabeth, who was 10 years old at the time, “Does that mean you will have to be the next queen?” Elizabeth replied, “Yes, someday.” And Margaret, like any loving little sister, supposedly responded, “Poor you.” As Mental Floss notes, Elizabeth had become the “heir presumptive: first in line to the throne on the understanding that her father could still produce a son who would take the throne before her.”
Next: The childhood of Queen Elizabeth II was very unusual.
5. Elizabeth lived a sheltered and extended childhood
Time reports that after their father became king, Elizabeth and Margaret had a sheltered childhood, and “any excursion into London attracted so much attention that the girls never had a hope of feeling ordinary.” They received just an hour and a half of private tutoring each day. After World War II began, the two princesses moved to Windsor Castle — about 20 miles from London — and stayed there for five years, until the Allies defeated Germany. There, “Elizabeth seemed to live in a suspended childhood,” Time reports. “She missed debutante season, and at the urging of her mother, she continued to wear childish clothing through her 18th birthday.”
Next: She never considered anybody other than Philip, who was a controversial choice.
6. She wanted to marry Philip, whom many considered unsuitable
Time reports that Elizabeth and Margaret returned to London in May 1945, and it soon became apparent that she was in love with Philip, her third cousin. Philip proposed to her in the summer of 1946 even though many in the royal family’s circles thought he was unsuitable for her. Express reports that Philip’s critics thought he was arrogant and might be unfaithful to her. And the marriage of three of his sisters to Nazis was also problematic, as was the fact that he had no money. But Elizabeth’s father consented to the engagement on the condition that the couple wait until her 21st birthday to announce it. And unlike her uncle, Elizabeth married her “unsuitable” love without the union altering her path to the throne.
Next: Before she became Queen Elizabeth II, she got to experience life outside the spotlight.
7. Elizabeth began married life outside the spotlight
Time reports that in the years after her marriage to Philip, when she gave birth first to Charles and then to Anne, Elizabeth experienced “life outside the spotlight for the first and only time in her life.” But that period of her life didn’t last long. As Time reports, King George VI had longstanding health problems. He died in 1952 at the age of 56. Elizabeth had not expected to inherit the crown so soon. And Philip struggled to adapt to the new role of consort, which superseded the long naval career he had planned for himself.
Next: She and Philip clashed over this.
8. The new queen kept the name, ‘House of Windsor’
Time reports that Philip’s uncle, Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten,” who had long wanted Philip to marry Elizabeth, greeted the news of Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne clumsily. “The House of Mountbatten now reigns,” he said. Elizabeth’s grandmother heard rumors of the declaration and persuaded Elizabeth to keep the name “House of Windsor.” The move would head off any potential backlash against the queen having a German husband. But it angered Philip, who complained that he was “the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children.”
Next: Philip made this historic suggestion for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
9. It was Philip who suggested televising the coronation
Time reports that in order to assuage Philip, Elizabeth made him head of the committee organizing her coronation. He pushed to make the event more modern. And it was his suggestion to bring cameras into Westminster Abbey for the coronation. Elizabeth initially balked at the idea. But she and Winston Churchill changed their minds when they found out that the public favored the idea. Elizabeth’s coronation became the first major international event to be broadcast on television, and 20 million people around the world tuned in to watch on June 2, 1953, to watch Elizabeth become the queen she never thought she’d be.
Next: Here’s why Philip is a prince, not a king.
10. Philip later became a prince, but not a king
After Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II, Philip became a prince — but not a king. As Town and Country reports, the wives of British monarchs usually hold the ceremonial title of queen consort. However, the reciprocal is not true. Men married to British consorts have the title of prince consort, not king consort. The publication reports, “As with many royal traditions, you can chalk this one up to a very old and powerful patriarchy. Kings always reign, whereas Queen can be a symbolic title.”
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