68 years ago, a princess climbed a tree and came down a Queen — so beginning a remarkable reign of unbroken service for the world’s longest-reigning monarch.
Then-princess Elizabeth had flown to Kenya for an official visit in January 1952, leaving behind her unwell father — King George VI, stricken with lung cancer — in England as she did so. During her stay, the Princess and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh slept at the exclusive Treetops Hotel in Nyeri, Kenya, the rooms perched atop ancient fig trees.
This gave rise to the unusual situation where the 25-year-old princess Elizabeth climbed a tree for the night’s sleep and awoke the next morning, her father having passed away during the night, as Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen does not celebrate the day she ascended the throne — perhaps unsurprisingly, given it is the anniversary of her father’s death. The celebrations are instead held for the anniversary of Coronation day, which followed more than a year later on 2 June, 1953 in Westminster Abbey.
Nonetheless, today marks 68 years of unbroken, exemplary apolitical service at the very top of British public life by one person. Although the Queen didn’t wake up in a tree this morning, she did wake on the anniversary of her ascension for the first time in many years not a subject of the European Union, which is nice.
While other countries are well served by presidential systems, in that time Elizabeth II has spared the United Kingdom a President Kinnock, or a President Blair, and many other potential horrors. And for that, you might say, God Save the Queen.