by Sophia Moseley
However, when we reach a certain age, some of us stop counting or even go into reverse! But whatever we do the annual event is inescapable and has been marked since the dawn of calendars or even earlier when astrological deities were linked to our births.
So for those of us who try to forget about the passage of time, spare a thought for HM Queen Elizabeth II who has not one but two birthdays each year; her proper one that is on 21 April and her official one that happens on the first or second Saturday in June. So having come to the throne in 1952 that is a staggering 145 birthdays!
At 86 years old, Queen Elizabeth is the oldest reigning monarch we have had; Queen Victoria was 81 years, 7 months and 29 days old when she died on 22 January 1901.
Born on 21 April 1926 at 2.40 am by Caesarean section at her maternal grandfather’s London home of 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York was named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, (Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V’s mother and Mary after her paternal grandmother) and when she was just 39 days old, Elizabeth was christened in the private chapel in Buckingham Palace on 29 May 1926 by the Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang.
Elizabeth was third in line to the throne and unlikely to become queen, but following the death of her grandfather, George V, followed by the abdication of Edward VIII, her father, George VI came to the throne in 1936, making 10 year old Princess Elizabeth heiress presumptive.
Elizabeth, known as ‘Lilibet’ to those around her, grew up in a secluded and controlled environment. Her governess was Marion Crawford, ‘Crawfie’ who was later ostracised when her book “The Little Princesses” was published in 1950. The biography of Elizabeth and Margaret’s childhood described Elizabeth’s love of horses and dogs, her orderliness and her attitude of responsibility.
Elizabeth’s early years were spent at her family home in Piccadilly and Richmond Park and when Elizabeth was 11 her mother agreed she should join the Girl Guides, so the 1st Buckingham Palace Company was formed!
When the Second World War broke out, Elizabeth was 13 years old. Lord Hailsham recommended the two princesses should be evacuated to Canada, but their mother famously declared:
“The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King and the King will never leave”.
They did however move to Windsor Castle in 1940 and remained there for the duration of the war.
There were also many ‘firsts’ for the young princess, such as the first royal transatlantic telephone call she made to her parents whilst they toured Canada and the United States in 1939. Then in 1943 at the tender age of 16, Elizabeth undertook her first solo public appearance when she visited the Grenadier Guards.
Every year has been eventful although there are some she would rather forget: 1992 was branded her annus horribilis when her sons Charles and Andrew separated from their wives, Princess Anne divorced Captain Mark Phillips and there was the fire at Windsor Castle.
The Queen’s April birthday is usually a private celebration although it is marked with a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London.
So as Queen Elizabeth approaches the end of her 86th year, spare a thought for the life she leads; okay she may be waited on hand and foot, but the next time you engage in some misdemeanour or have your own annus horribilis, just be thankful there aren’t dozens of camera crews broadcasting your every move to millions of people around the world.
So many happy returns your majesty and I hope you have many more!