Long To Reign Over Us

A dark-haired woman of 19 in a military uniform stands in from of a green truck with a large red cross on the right face.

HRH The Princess Elizabeth in April 1945.

Not many people, even among royalty, make it to the age of ninety years. George III and Victoria both expired at 81, while the first Elizabeth was a source of amazement for living to 69. Indeed, many a sovereign has died rather young – Henry V died at 36, Richard II at 33, Mary II at 32 and two Tudor monarchs (Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey) never reached adulthood. Edward V did not manage to reach his teens.

All the more impressive it then is for our diamond nonagenarian to reign as she does today. More so, it is a significant accomplishment that today’s birthday girl can still appear in public for her celebrations, whereas few others of her age could claim likewise. By the time that George III reached his final year he was bald, blind, and utterly insane. Among his many descendants he had outlived three of his children and three of his grandchildren. His wife, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg, tightly predeceased him as well.

Victoria had her own share of tragedies: having been one of few monarchs to truly marry for love, she spent thirty-nine years in mourning for her lost Prince Consort. Again, several princes could not outlive the Queen – Alice, Alfred (of Edinburgh), Leopold, Frederick, Sigismund, Waldemar, Albert Victor, Alexander John, Friedrich, Marie, Alfred (of Saxe-Coburg), Christian Victor, Harald, and two unnamed stillbirths.

Lilibet, by contrast, has her litter, and theirs, intact. Though she has lost her younger sister, the only death so far in the generation below her was Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 (and she, by that point, was not actually a relative anymore). In that decade it was lamented that, in the family supposed to represent the bulwark of British integrity, three of her four children had divorced. Now, though, two have happily remarried while the third has seemingly reconciled with his former spouse.

Furthermore, the institution she represents has generally been stable – whereas Charles

Having been head of state in so many countries for so many years (with the result of featuring on so many coins, notes and stamps), Her Majesty has the most reproduced face in all of human history.

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