Elizabeth Becomes Queen
February 6, 1952
On February 6th in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya when of her father’s death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.
Princess Elizabeth was enjoying a short break in Kenya with Prince Philip, her husband of five years. It was a brief respite from their royal duties.
They were standing in for George VI on a long-planned international tour that was to also take in Australia and New Zealand. The 56-year-old King, thousands of miles away at Sandringham, had been too ill to travel.
The pair were relaxing at a game-viewing lodge, at the now-famous Treetops Hotel just over 100 miles (165km) from Nairobi. Elizabeth had spent the day of 5 February taking cine films of elephants at a nearby watering hole before retiring with the Duke of Edinburgh to their cabin high up in the trees. They spent the night surrounded by wild animals.
It was here, that the princess became Queen, after George VI passed away in his sleep.
From the start of her reign, Elizabeth understood the value of public relations and allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, despite objections from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who felt it would cheapen the ceremony. Elizabeth, the 40th British monarch since William the Conqueror, has worked hard at her royal duties and become a popular figure around the world. In 2003, she celebrated 50 years on the throne, only the fifth British monarch to do so.