Elisabeth ii(Elizabeth II in English), Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland since 1952, has also been the reigning head of state of fifteen other countries of the former British Empire, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. During his long reign, Queen Elisabeth II saw fifteen prime ministers parade through Buckingham Palace, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Forced by tradition to strict political neutrality, it essentially has a representative role and travels the world on official trips. Heir to a long tradition, she has had to adapt (more or less willingly) to the contingencies of modernity in order to maintain the adherence of her people to the british monarchy.
A princess not meant to rule
Elisabeth Alexandra Mary, great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was born in London on April 21, 1926. She is the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, of the House of Windsors. Princess Elisabeth did not begin her apprenticeship as a queen until the age of ten, when her father ascended to the throne after the abdication of her older brother Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in 1936. During the WWII, she made her first public appearances and joined the United Kingdom Women's Army Corps. In 1940, she made her first radio address to address children who had been evacuated to the countryside. Prudent and reserved, even distant, fond of horse riding, in 1947 she married Prince Philippe of Greece, who became Duke of Edinburgh. Four children are born: Charles, Prince of Wales (in 1948), Anne (1950), Andrew (1960) and Edouard (1964).
On February 6, 1952, on the death of King George VI, her eldest daughter Elizabeth succeeded her: the first woman to ascend the throne of England since Victoria (who reigned from 1837 to 1901), she is consecrated by Time magazine as the 'Man of the year' 1952. On the day she was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth, a group of countries linked to the Crown to which a quarter of the world's population belonged, she declared: "May God help me to fulfill this heavy burden with dignity. task that falls to me so early in life! ". She is twenty-six years old. The solemn coronation took place the following year, on June 2, 1953. Beyond the ceremony, it was its live broadcast on television that was an event.
Elisabeth II crowned: a television event
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is the first opportunity for Television to offer a great show to viewers around the world. They were still few in number, but from the start of 1953 post office purchases skyrocketed. In France, less than 4,000 receivers were in service in 1950. Three years later, 60,000 sets were lit to follow the ceremony. In the neighborhoods, in the villages, neighbors throng to the happy owners of small skylights. Cafetiers set up their rooms and rent seats, like in the cinema. Elsewhere, public screenings take place on the big screen.
In Paris, the report is screened in front of selected audiences, in specially equipped cinemas. Despite protests from foreign television stations, the British channel BBC has exclusive rights to the operations. Thanks to the presence of French-speaking Quebec in the Commonwealth, the French benefit from a live report in their language, provided by Jacques Sallebert, the London correspondent of RTF (French Broadcasting Television).
In London in the throes of Coronation Day fever, crowds are gathered on the route of the coaches to Westminster Abbey. On the head of Elizabeth, forty-second monarch since William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Queen of Great Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland, head of the Anglican Church and the Commonwealth, the Archbishop of Canterbury lays the heavy crown of Saint Edward, adorned with a thousand precious stones. The party is grandiose, the lyrical commentators.
A popular sovereign
While on the eve of World War II the monarchy was hated by the working classes, Elizabeth II succeeded in making it popular in a country where the sovereign had a symbolic role all the more important because he was deprived of everything. real power. “We love you, Madame. You are doing a good job. We are proud of the royal family, ”the Labor-leaning daily The Daily Mirror will headline as a gift for its sixtieth birthday.
A mystery remains: how Elizabeth II, one of the richest people in the world, managed to give shape to an image of a peaceful bourgeois tea-drinking woman, to the legendary hats and handbags? Is it the strength, under a dull appearance, of a not very spontaneous character combined with a great sense of the dignity of his office? This is how she never wanted to receive the Duchess of Windsor, guilty in her eyes of being an amoral schemer, or how she broke the romance between her sister Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend.
Still, the good grace with which she conscientiously fulfills her role is unanimously appreciated. Her personality devoid of any salient features allows the public to identify with her, to empathize with the worries of her husband's blunders and the escapades of so many members of her family, and finally to applaud her children's marriage. And the success continues, because, in the permanent spectacle offered to the world by the Windsor saga, the cast of supporting roles continues to be renewed thanks to the arrival, by marriage or by birth, of new actors. The private life of the royal family is by far the favorite subject of the British popular press. It also provides comfortable pensions for numerous newspapers in other countries, including France.
A contested monarchy
In the 90s, a succession of events raised the protest against the monarchy. In 1992, the queen was faced with the divorce of two of her children, Anne and Andrew, then the separation of Prince Charles and the popular Princess Diana, against the backdrop of a media storm that the English monarchy had the greatest difficulty in managing. In 1992, a fire destroyed Windsor Castle. The significant costs of restoration opens a virulent debate on the financing of the work, many voices being raised to make them support by the queen. To calm the critics, the civil list of the monarchy is reduced and the queen will now have to pay income tax.
In 1997, Elisabeth II did not immediately perceive the immense emotion caused in the population by the death of Diana, her former daughter-in-law. As the Queen stays at her Balmoral residence in Scotland, protecting her grandchildren, Princes William and Harry from the media storm, British public opinion fails to understand her apparent indifference. The sovereign is due to return to London and address her people in a televised address the day before Diana's funeral. Subsequently, the marriages of Prince William with Kate Middleton, then that of Prince Harry with Meghan Markle will blow a saving wind of freshness and modernity on the crown. Finally, Prince Charles remarries Camilla Shand, titled for the occasion Duchess of Cornwall.
Elisabeth II, queen to the end
If the British monarchy is regularly criticized for its lack of "popular" fiber, the disuse of its institutions and its way of life, a majority of Britons remain attached to the symbol of unity and to the role of representation of the Queen and her family. . This justifies in the eyes of taxpayers the 30 million pounds that the royal civil list costs them each year. His Golden Jubilee in 2002, which celebrated 50 years of his accession to the throne, was considered a popular success.
Elisabeth II, who considers the coronation as a sacrament from which only death will release her, beat the longevity of Victoria's reign (64 years) in 2017. The public functions of the 93-year-old sovereign, hostile to the idea of an abdication , are increasingly assumed by his son Prince Charles.
- Elizabeth II, the queen, biography of Jean des Cars. Perrin, 2018.
- Elisabeth II. The Life of a Modern Monarch, by Sally Bedell Smith. Ecuador, 2018.
- The Queen: Elisabeth II, an exceptional destiny, by Guillaume Picon. Glénat, 2019.
- The Crown, television series by Peter Morgan.
- The Queen, film by Stephen Frears, 2006.