For over 70 years the Queen has been the reigning monarch in the UK, and much of her time has been spent in our wonderful capital. We take a look back over the years at the Queen and her relationship with London.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Start in London
Like many members of the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II was born in right here in London. To be specific, she was born in 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair – the home of her maternal grandparents on the 21st April 1926. Her grandparents were the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
At the time of her birth Elizabeth was never destined to be Queen. It wasn’t until her father King George VI took the throne after his brother King Edward VIII abdicated that the path we know our Queen took began.
The Queen was baptised in London too, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace which would one day become her London home. The ceremony took place on 29th May 1926 and was performed by the Archbishop of York – the Dukedom her parents were currently in ownership of.
The Queen’s Childhood in Piccadilly & Beyond
Before her father was crowned the King, the Yorks (as they were then known) resided between Royal Lodge in Windsor, White lodge in Richmond, and 145 Piccadilly.
145 Piccadilly was destroyed by a bomb in World War II, on the 7th October 1940. By this time, the Queen and her family had moved out. Today it’s location is the site of the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel.
There a photos of the Queen as a child enjoying time with her beloved corgis in the garden of 145 Piccadilly (No 1 Hamilton Place).
She also lived for a short time, before her sister was born, in White Lodge in Richmond Park – one of London’s many royal parks. The Lodge is now home to The Royal School of Ballet.
The Move to Buckingham Palace
In 1936, the Queen’s father George VI, unexpectedly because King when his older brother abdicated the throne. Edward VIII had been King for less than a year when he chose love over monarchy and proposed to twice divorced Wallis Simpson.
As is tradition, the new King and his family moved into Buckingham Palace. Located at the end of The Mall, and nestled between St James Park and Green Park.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, our future Queen was only 13. And her, along with her sister Princess Margaret, along with many other London children were evacuated to the country. Elizabeth and Margaret at this time made Windsor Castle their home, a residence just twenty miles from the city.
Celebrating the End of WW2
World War II ended on the 8th May 1945 and the then Princess Elizabeth was not going to miss out on the celebrations in London. Whilst their parents waved to those celebrating from Buckingham Palace’s iconic balcony, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret snuck out.
Elizabeth had worked in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) during the war, and left the palace wearing her uniform. The areas surrounding the London palace were packed, from Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and beyond. The two sisters were worried they’d be recognised but it seems they had no trouble celebrating amongst the British people. The Queen was reported saying it was “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
Her Engagement to Prince Phillip
Whilst it’s reported that Prince Phillip and the Queen decided to marry on a trip to Balmoral, their photo-call was done in none other than Buckingham Palace.
On the 9th July 1947, the 21 year old Elizabeth and her husband-to-be announced to the world they were engaged. They invited press to Buckingham Palace where the future monarch showed off her diamond ring.
A London Wedding Fit for a Princess
On 20th November 1947, Elizabeth and Phillip were married in Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey welcomed the Queen as the 10th bride to be married within its walls. The wedding began at 11.30am and was attended by 2,000 guests.
Phillip as the future consort, gave up his Greek citizenship to marry Elizabeth. Her dress was paid for with ration coupons from the war and boasted crystals and 10,000 seed pearls.
Clarence House – A Family Home
After living at Windlesham Moor for a short time, the young couple, and their son Charles, took up residence in Clarence House. Clarence House is adjacent to St James’s Palace, a stones throw from Buckingham Palace in London.
Most recently Clarence House has been the home of the now King Charles III and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort.
Becoming Queen Elizabeth II
Sadly, in February 1952, whilst on tour in Kenya on behalf of the King, Elizabeth received the devastating news her father had died and she was now Queen.
Over a year later, it was time for the Queen’s coronation in London. Once again, the iconic Westminster Abbey was to be the location for this significant event in Her Majesty’s life.
Her coronation was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher. This was the first coronation in history to be televised, with eyes around the world on the new Queen and London. It’s estimated that in Britain alone 27 million people watched the proceedings. The crown used in the ceremony was the St Edwards Crown – this would be the only time in her reign the crown was used.
A procession through the streets of London took place after the ceremony. Seeing the Queen travel on Whitehall, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, the Mall, Park Lane, Oxford Street, and Regent Street.
The Queen’s Primary London Residence
The Royal Family has a wealth of beautiful properties around the UK, but Buckingham Palace remained the official residence of Her Majesty during her reign. And many celebrations, events, and memorable moments happened around the palace during this time.
Memorable Monarch Moments from London
The Queen sat on the throne for 70 years, with her home being London for the majority of these. With such a length of time there are plenty of stories the public have been privy to from the palace. We’ve selected just a few memorable ones to share here:
An Intruder at the Palace
In July 1982, Queen Elizabeth II woke up to an intruder in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace. Michael Fagan had somehow got past place security and found his way to the monarch. It’s said that Fagan spent time wandering the grounds, sitting on the throne, and drinking wine.
Reportedly the Queen asked Fagan “what are you doing here?” Before managing to summon security 10 minutes later.
Britain’s longest reigning monarch, and the world’s second longest reigning monarch – Elizabeth II saw 6 jubilees in her time. Each of which saw big celebrations in London, with iconic balcony moments, trooping the colour, and parades that brought joy to the whole nation.
In 2022, just months before her passing, QE2 celebrated her 70th year on the throne. The Platinum Jubilee celebrations were the biggest yet, and included a Red Arrows flyover Buckingham Palace whilst the Queen watched with her family.
Opening the London Olympics
In 2012, London held host to the Olympic games. To open the games, many skits were down by high profile figures and icons in the UK.
James Bond is a British institution and so it was agreed Daniel Craig would play a part in the opening of the games. Danny Boyle was the mastermind behind the sketch and had simply asked the Palace for permission to use a likeness of the Queen.
However, the Palace came right back and said the Queen would like to play herself in the short film. In the film we see James Bond arrive at Buckingham Palace to collect the queen, where her famous corgis make an appearance. All her dialog was improvisation by the Queen herself and she receive an honorary BAFTA for the part – becoming the “most memorable Bond girl to date.”
COVID 19 – The End of an Era
In 2020, COVID 19 hit not only the nation but the world. The Queen and Prince Phillip moved permanently to Windsor Castle in this time – their preferred residence. This saw the end of the Queen’s permanent time in London – with her returning infrequently for official occasions, including the Platinum Jubilee, in the two years since.
The Queen & Parliament
Throughout her years in London, one of the Queen’s main roles was to act as Head of State. This involved meeting with the Prime Minster every week, welcoming new Prime Minsters into the role, and opening Parliament every year.
All of these things were down in the capital between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Palace. The Queen saw 15 Prime Minsters in her reign, including Winston Churchill, and the final Prime Minster of her time – Liz Truss – for all of two days before HRH’s death.
Her Final Journey Home
The nation held baited breaths on Thursday 8th September when news came through that the Queen was ill and her family were rushing to her bedside. By Thursday evening it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II had peacefully passed away with her son Charles, and daughter Anne at her side.
As she passed away in her Scottish home of Balmoral, the following 10 days saw her journey home to London for her funeral. She was accompanied by Princess Anne for the full journey.
Lying in State
From Wednesday 14th September through to 6.30am on Monday 19th September the Queen and her coffin were lying in state at Westminster hall.
Lying in state gives the public the opportunity to come and pay their respects to the late Queen in a formal setting. The queue, lovingly nicknamed QEII Queue, stretched from Westminster Hall, over Lambeth Bridge and down the Southbank to Southwark Park. At its longest point the queue was 24 hours long as it saw people stay awake through the night in dedication to their late Queen. It’s been estimated that around 250,000 people saw the Queen lying in state during the period.
Her Majesty’s State Funeral
On the morning of Monday 19th September, the Queen was moved from the Hall to Westminster Abbey for her service.
The funeral was attended by the Royal Family, foreign royals, politicians, and foreign dignitaries amassing 2,000 people within the abbey.
The streets along Whitehall, Horse Guards, and The Mall were lined with those wishing to be a part of the Queen’s funeral, paying their respects for the final time.
Her coffin was placed on the State Gun Carriage which was then drawn by member dog the Royal Navy. And was preceded by marches and bands from military units from across the commonwealth.
Members of the royal family, including the Queen’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren followed the coffin. With claps and bows from the crowd as she passes, Elizabeth II passed her London home of Buckingham Palace for the final time as she was taken to Wellington Arch to be transferred to the Royal Herse.
From here, she was taken to Windsor and her final resting place alongside her beloved husband Phillip, her parents, and her sister Margaret.
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