July 3, 2022

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Platinum Jubilee: How the Newspapers Reported the Queen’s Ascension 70 Years Ago

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The Queen and the newspapers are reporting on the death of their father.

King George VI died on 6 February 1952 – and his daughter immediately became queen

In 2022, the nation is enjoying a four-day weekend to celebrate the history-making of Her Majesty Platinum Jubilee.

Her Majesty is the first British monarch to sit on the throne for 70 years, but did anyone see it coming from a woman who was never made to be queen?

This is how the newspapers reported the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne 70 years ago today.

Soon after the death of his father in 1952, the country had a new monarch – although he did not officially hold his coronation until the next 16 months.

Several British newspapers received news of King George VI’s death before its 6 February publication, as there were more evening publications at that time.

By the morning of 7 February, the word had spread to all front pages, with most reporting about the Queen’s visit from Kenya via Uganda.

According to the Birmingham Gazette, Elizabeth was “sadly pale” at the age of 25, with her front page emblazoned with the “long-lived Queen Elizabeth”.

While the subway was decades away from its founding, the headline of the Daily Mail told its readers: ‘The Queen Flying Home … the King will lie in state at Westminster Hall.’

Under the emblem at the top of the masthead, the paper proclaimed itself ‘to the Queen and the Commonwealth’ – a subtle change from the King’s reference to the same location the day before.

The Daily Mail 7 February 1952

The Daily Mail declares itself ‘for the Queen and the Commonwealth’

Birmingham Gazette February 7, 1952

The Birmingham Gazette reported the Queen was ‘sadly pale’ (Picture: Rose Staveley-Wadham)
The nation ‘shocked’ the king’s death at the age of 56 (Picture: Rose Staveley-Wadham)

The Daily Mirror explained that the 56-year-old king’s servant ‘calls out softly to his master – but there is no answer.

It went on: ‘In a dramatic domestic dash to her grieving people, Queen Elizabeth sec … was flying through the darkness last night’, adding that she ‘broke in tears after Prince Philip gave her the news’ Went’.

The Times of February 7 noted that the Queen’s home visit from Uganda was delayed due to a storm on page 6, which was followed by a proliferation of pictures depicting memorable moments from the king’s life.

But – not unusually for the time – its front page was so busy with small text that there was no picture or large headline to mark the occasion – instead it featured a simple ‘Death of the Year’ in the upper right corner. King’ two liner.

Meanwhile, the Portsmouth Evening News noted a day earlier that theaters and cinemas were closing and wrote: ‘Princess Elizabeth, who waved off her plane a week ago. London airport for her father, King George VI, is flying back to England as the Queen, standing bareheaded, to wish his daughter Godspeed on a trip to Africa. Tonight (sic) he will be declared sovereign.’

Portsmouth Evening News, 7 February 1952.

The Portsmouth Evening News said theaters and cinemas were closing (Picture: Rose Staveley-Wadham)
Photos of the late king and new queen were featured in newspapers around the world, including the New York Times.
The Bucks Herald termed the new one a ‘personal loss for all of us’ (Picture: Mary Mackie)

The New York Times led the story, noting that President Harry Truman was ‘among world leaders in tribute’.

Back in Britain, where Sir Winston Churchill was in his second term as prime minister, The Bucks Herald used a photo of both the king and his daughter to announce a ‘personal loss for all of us’.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph declared the nation ‘shocked by the news’, adding that the king had died peacefully in his sleep and the city was ‘sympathetic’ with the new queen.

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