2002 marks the 50th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. This is a rare historical landmark for the monarchy, as only four previous British monarchs have ever celebrated such an event:

1266 - King Henry III (1216 - 1272)
1377 - King Edward III (1327 - 1377)
1810 - King George III (1760 - 1820)
1887 - Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901)

The Queen's reign began on Wednesday 6 February 1952 when her father, King George VI, died suddenly at Sandringham. At that time, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in Kenya, having just begun a tour of the Commonwealth.

Tradition decrees that the monarch accedes to the throne instantly upon the death of the previous monarch -at no time is the country ever without a monarch. It is for this reason that the Royal Standard, the monarch's flag, can never fly at half mast. Therefore, it was as Her Majesty The Queen that she returned to the United Kingdom the next day and was met at London Airport by Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden (then Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary respectively).

The funeral of King George VI took place on 15 February 1952 at Windsor Castle following which there was a period of 16 weeks of Court mourning. Since it was felt that it would be inappropriate for the Coronation to be held on the anniversary of her father's death, it was agreed that this would take place on 2 June 1953 in Westminster Abbey, London. It was a glittering occasion, attended by representatives from Commonwealth countries and other foreign states.

On 24 November 1953, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh began their first tour of the Commonwealth, travelling to parts never visited before by previous monarchs. In total they covered a distance of 43, 618 miles including visits to Canada, Bermuda, Jamaica, Panama, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Libya, Malta and Gibraltar.

Since then, the Queen has made over 200 official overseas tours plus many more visits throughout the United Kingdom. In 1970, during a visit to Australia and New Zealand, she began the tradition of the 'walkabout' in order to try and meet as many 'ordinary' people as possible. This is now standard practice for all Royal visits anywhere in the world.

Since 1952 the Queen has:

received some 3 million items of correspondence
sent almost 100,000 telegrams to centenarians and more than 280,000 telegrams to couples celebrating their diamond (60 years) wedding anniversaries
sent about 37,500 Christmas cards
given out some 75,000 Christmas puddings to staff
made a Christmas broadcast every year except 1969 when a written message was issued and the film 'Royal Family' was shown
given Royal Assent to 3135 Acts of Parliament
conferred 380,630 honours and awards
held 459 investitures
undertaken 251 official overseas visits to 128 different countries
given 88 State banquets
launched 17 ships
sat for over 120 portraits
attended 46 Royal Maundy services in 35 cathedrals
owned more than 30 corgis and 8 dorgis (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund)
Additionally, to date during her reign there have been 10 Prime Ministers and 5 Archbishops of Canterbury

Biography Of The Queen

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