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PANORAMA: 1996

The Queen at 70
by Michael David
Photography: Royal Archives

Queen Elizabeth II, crown as the British monarch in Westminister Abbey on 2 June 1953, celebrated her 70th birthday on 21 April 1996, marking a significant milestone of her 44 year reign. It was during a tour of the Commonwealth that the Duke broke the news to Princess Elizabeth of the premature death of her father, George VI, on 6 February1952. The rare black and white photo pictures a young Princess Elizabeth at 16, as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, in 1943.

Through decades of social change the Queen has become the consummate master of her role. In 1995 she returned to South Africa - she first visited the country when she was 21 - to make a six-day State Visit. It is one that she still regards as among the most successful and significant of her reign.

She is the most travelled monarch in the world and has been received in almost every nation of significance and in many of the map's smallest places. She is greeted with affection and instant recognition wherever she goes.

Much of the Queen's travelling is to Commonwealth countries. She takes her role as Head of the Commonwealth seriously and is always present in the host country for the biannual meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Retirement for the Queen is not an option. Her red boxes of state papers follow her everywhere, even on holiday - very often the last light seen burning at night in Buckingham Palace is that in the Queen's apartment as she works on them.

She has been served by nine prime ministers and all have praised the Queen's shrewdness, wit and impartiality. Her hold on the affections of most of her subjects has never reallv faltered. People see a trusted familiar figure - a down-to-earth woman who does an extraordinary job.

At a time when monarchies are not in fashion she has preserved Britain's own particular brand by adroitly adapting and modernising the institution to the times.

  

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