Queen Elizabeth - A Royal Life
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Exploring Queen Elizabeth’s life, legacy, and her influence around the world.
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Special | 56m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
Exploring Queen Elizabeth’s life, legacy, and her influence around the world.
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
- [Announcer] This program was made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you, thank you.
(slow orchestral music) (slow orchestral music continues) - Good evening, and welcome to this PBS "NewsHour" special, "Queen Elizabeth, A Royal Life."
After reigning for more than 70 years, the longest of any British monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died today at the age of 96 at her Balmoral estate in Scotland.
In a moment, we will look back at the Queen's long history, but first here with me to remember her life and legacy is Anne Sebba.
She's a biographer and a "New York Times" bestselling author of the book "That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor."
Anne Sebba, welcome to this special.
70 years on the throne, what did she mean to the British people, to the United Kingdom?
- Thank you so much for letting me talk about this great woman.
As you say, not only the longest reigning monarch, the best traveled monarch.
There are so many statistics one can use to describe her.
And yet, in a sense, it's very fitting that she died at Balmoral, which was her much loved private home because she was also a private person.
She never gave interviews, and yet everyone feels they knew her.
In England, we feel as if she's the grandmother of all of us, she was the nation's grandmother, and yet she was this great global figure.
She was so well traveled that everybody felt they knew who this queen was.
I think what she really represented, if I had to sum it up, because there's so much, but she represented the best of what it means to be British, our best selves, our history, our tradition, our sense of duty, and her links with veterans and World War II.
She fought in World War II from the age of 21.
She insisted on joining up, on wearing a uniform, and I think that has endeared her to those veterans who are still alive.
She had so much history in her life.
15 prime ministers served under her, the first one of whom was Winston Churchill.
So look at that sort of link to the past, and yet the new one, Liz Truss, she greeted only the other day.
- Only the other day, just two days ago.
She seemed to embrace the role of queen, of monarch, and you were telling us such a remarkable work ethic.
She loved her work.
- Yes, she not only worked constantly, but I think she defined herself by a sense of duty, not ordinary duty, but Christian duty.
She was really rooted in the church.
And I think having been a child during the abdication of 1936, when her Uncle Edward VII abdicated, gave up the throne, which her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, thought was such a selfish act, she really decided to define herself in opposition to what he stood for.
I would say he stood for individual fulfillment, a sense of personal freedom.
No, she was not going to allow that.
She devoted herself to greater things, to the country, to building up the Commonwealth, and really, she oversaw the strengthening of the monarchy because even people in England who aren't necessarily monarchists will say to you today, "Oh, but I love the Queen."
So she somehow engendered that sense of love and that we all knew her, that she was our friend somehow.
- I think so many people did feel they knew her because of that long, long tenure as the Queen.
So Anne Sebba, please stay with us.
We'll come back to you later.
But as we mention, the Queen's reign was the longest of any British monarch.
She was also one of the longest serving of any monarch in history.
Only France's Louis XIV is considered to have reigned longer.
From Independent Television News Productions, we now turn to this in-depth retrospective on Queen Elizabeth II's historic life.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning British monarch through war and peace, crisis and calm.
Britain mourns a woman who dedicated her life to serving us.
- She left the country a princess and came back a queen.
It was a very shocked nation that she came back to.
- [Narrator] An extraordinary woman who lived for more than two thirds of her life on the throne.
- The coronation of Queen Elizabeth perhaps started a new era.
- [Narrator] She was the glue that held us together through social and political upheaval, our constant through times of turbulence and change.
- I think whenever there's been a major crisis in this country, the Queen has shown her ability to bring the country together.
- [Narrator] Head of state to 138 million of us, she's one of the 21st century's most recognizable faces, and the first to reign through the television age.
- The Queen was the perfect role model for all of us.
She showed a vocation of dedication to duty.
- [Narrator] Commander in Chief of the British Army, Navy, and Air Force, she began talking to us over the airwaves when she was 14 and was still talking to us until the end of her life.
- [Elizabeth] Goodnight and good luck to you all.
- [Narrator] We look at the extraordinary life of the woman who put duty to her country above all else, and to ensure the monarchy were made relevant in modern Britain.
(slow orchestral music continues) (lively orchestral music) Queen Elizabeth II was the longest reigning British monarch.
When Elizabeth became queen in 1952, Stalin was still leader of the Soviet Union, and Truman President of the US.
By the end of her reign, she had supported more prime ministers and met more world leaders than any other British monarch in history.
- In a world which changes so very fast and in which people don't stay the same and don't, you know, undertake the same jobs, and they move around and they sort of try all sorts of different things, it's completely remarkable that she was this calm, presiding presence over Britain for, you know, over 65 years.
I mean, it's a very, very long time.
- She has always been there through the good times and the bad times over the decades, that sort of knitting together of the tapestry of our nation.
She is the thread that pulls everything together.
(lively orchestral music continues) - [Narrator] Born on the 21st of April, 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was not originally destined to be queen.
Her early years were spent as part of a tight knit family, referred to affectionately by her father as Us Four.
She was known in childhood as Lilibet.
(slow orchestral music) She enjoyed a close relationship with both her parents, but it would be her strong bond with her father that would serve her in adulthood.
In 1936, her family's life changed forever.
Her uncle, King Edward VIII, chose to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The scandal forced his abdication.
- 1936 was a very traumatic moment because Princess Elizabeth's beloved Uncle David, Edward VIII, betrayed his sacred trust.
And it was a terrible moment of family shame, which was why throughout her reign, whenever there was talk of abdication, it was really out of the question.
- [Narrator] Elizabeth's father took his older brother's place, and in May, 1937, was crowned King George VI.
- Speaking from London, I asked you to join with me in that act of thanksgiving.
- Forced into becoming a king in 1936 with no training whatsoever, terrified that he wouldn't be a good constitutional king, with one great advantage, that he had a very strong wife who was able to support him and make him turn him into a good constitutional king and give him the credit for that.
(somber orchestral music) (siren wails) - [Narrator] Her shy, stuttering father had been left unprepared for the task of leading the nation, a nation which would shortly go to war.
During the war, he and Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied Britain to fight Germany and its allies.
The King prepared his young daughter, Elizabeth, for the title that one day she would take, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
- The Queen learned her job as queen in years of crisis, after the abdication, when it seemed the monarchy could actually vanish and be swept away, and the Queen, Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, took her cue from her father, from his sense of duty.
She became his pupil.
(slow piano music) - [Narrator] In 1940, following his example, at the age of 14, she made her first broadcast to children who'd been forced to evacuate their homes due to German bombing.
- [Elizabeth] Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers.
My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you, as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all.
My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you, come on, Margaret.
Good night, children.
Good night, and good luck to you all.
- [Narrator] Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret spent most of the war years at Windsor Castle, and like many other British children, were often apart from their family.
(artillery rumbles) (siren wails) The Queen's parents remained at Buckingham Palace, despite the German bombs that fell nearby.
- When the war came along and the Royal family decided to stay in the heart of London and risk the worst that the enemy had to offer, that was her second example of duty and how important it was, and so duty became her watchword for the rest of her life.
(upbeat orchestral music) - [Narrator] In 1947, she set sail on her first overseas tour, accompanying her parents through Southern Africa.
It was said to be her happiest time with her family.
During the tour, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she made the following pledge.
- I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong.
- [Narrator] It was a declaration that rang true to the end.
When she returned later that year, the princess went on to marry Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.
- [Announcer] From the palace balcony, Elizabeth and her husband waved to the cheering ground.
(audience cheers) - For the public, the idea of a love match and their beloved princess being in love was so exciting to them.
People after the war were desperate for some good news.
- [Narrator] By 1952, due to her father's failing health, the couple had begun taking over some of the King's engagements.
- It gives me great pleasure on behalf of my father to present this overmantel to you.
(quiet overlapping chattering) - [Narrator] But it soon became evident something was seriously wrong with the king.
(somber orchestral music) - Nobody knew the King was ill.
It had been kept secret, even from the King himself, that he had lung cancer.
He was a man in his 50s.
It was assumed that he would go on for another 20 years or so.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] On the 31st of January that year, she was waved off by her father as she departed for Kenya on a royal tour.
It would be the last time she would see him alive.
Just a week later, the King died in his sleep.
He was only 56 years old.
(slow orchestral music continues) - I was six, my father was then still a soldier.
We were living in London, in Putney, and I have this memory of my father appearing sometime in the day when he should have been at work, and I can hear and see him now saying, "My dear family, the King is dead."
- [Narrator] Overnight, her life changed.
Never again would she be referred to as a princess.
She returned to Britain as Queen Elizabeth II.
- [Announcer] Rulers of our land meet to welcome the new Queen.
(slow fanfare music) - [Narrator] On the 2nd of June, 1953, she was crowned in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
After the gloom of post-war austerity, it was a moment of pride and optimism.
- [Audience] God save the Queen.
God save the Queen, God save the Queen.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] Across the globe, millions tuned in to the first broadcast spectacular the world had seen, and at home sales of televisions were boosted by the prospect of watching the new queen taking the coronation oath.
- The coronation was, I mean, the most fun.
I was a school girl then, and I remember getting my mother's diamond ring and scratching the date on a windowpane with it.
And it was an amazing experience for all of us, and abroad too.
It was a huge spectacle, and I suppose you could say she was married to the nation, but she also was anointed by God.
That's the point of that ceremony, and the Queen being a religious person, I think that was an important part of it.
(audience cheers) (slow music) - [Narrator] Winning the war came at a price.
The country had to be rebuilt and the economy was sluggish.
The nation looked to their Queen for inspiration and for encouragement.
- The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth perhaps started a new era and a sense of moving on after the dark days of the war and its immediate aftermath when, you know, Britain was a place of rationing, food rationing, of bomb damage in all the cities, a new era, and moving on.
(upbeat cheerful music) - [Narrator] Britain was struggling to find its place in a new era and was faced with a stark identity crisis.
The glory days of an empire that covered the world were coming to an end as former colonies demanded their independence.
The countries formed a group called the British Commonwealth with the Queen as their head.
(upbeat cheerful music continues) On the 24th of November, 1953, she began a world tour of Britain's colonies and the Commonwealth.
It was one of the most significant royal tours of all time, covering 40,000 miles and several continents by air, sea, and road, from the tiny South Pacific islands of Fiji to the capital of Uganda, her mission was vitally important.
- The greatest royal tour the Queen undertook was in 1953 and '54 after her coronation, and it actually had two roles.
One was to be greeted everywhere as the new queen, but it was also the first chance that Britain had to go out to the empire and the Commonwealth and say, thank you you for supporting us in World War II.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] Unlike any other public figure, the Queen was a politically neutral head of state who united the Commonwealth countries around her.
She would never be able to express an opinion publicly.
Instead, she could provide a vital role in promoting the interest of the former colonies.
- She was the catalyst, for example, when she attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in whatever country it was held every two years, and there might have been differences of opinion between two countries, she would speak to those heads of government to those countries, and she'd be a sort of messenger between the two, and eventually at the end of the Heads of Government Meeting, the two leaders would be talking.
So she was a sort of catalyst between political leaders.
(upbeat music) - [Narrator] But as the 1950s came to an end, the Queen would be challenged once again to reinvigorate the monarchy, as the post-war patriotic traditions were replaced with the rebellious counterculture of the 1960s.
- Britain was completely different from the beginning of the '50s to the end.
I mean, at the start, it was still post-war, it was still austerity.
There were children who'd never seen a banana.
By the end of the '50s, it was money, it was glamor, Britain was rich again, and, you know, it was riding high moving towards the '60s, the miniskirts, Carnaby Street, the Beatles.
- [Narrator] The great hangover of wartime was gone.
In its place, a vibrant cultural revolution.
Britain had become world famous for pop music and fashion.
By 1964, the Queen had given birth to four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex.
(lively music) The family lived at Buckingham Palace for most of the time, but spent holidays at the Queen Scottish estate of Balmoral and Sandringham in Norfolk, where they enjoyed a love of the great outdoors, the Queen balancing the demands of married life with being head of state.
- And right from the beginning, it was accepted that Prince Philip would be the head of the family.
She'd wear the crown, but he'd wear the trousers.
So all the decisions about the fabric of their homes, the domestic decisions, the big important decisions would be taken by him, where the children went to school, all that sort of thing was in his remit.
- The Queen, you know, in a time, let's be honest, of chauvinism, of, you know, where most women did not have careers, there were no leaders of companies.
There were certainly no senior politicians that were women.
And yet this woman at 25 was at the helm of our government and our constitutional monarchal system.
(slow piano music) - [Narrator] The 1970s were a challenging period for both queen and country.
Now in her mid 40s, her reign was faced with mounting problems at home and abroad.
Northern Ireland was gripped by intense sectarian violence.
Britain was facing power cuts, strikes, and a winter of discontent, and unemployment topped the one million mark for the first time since the 1930s.
- It was pretty tough in the '70s.
There were a lot of industrial action.
There were three day working weeks, and people were struggling, and inflation was beginning to rise.
Unemployment was rising.
- [Narrator] The Queen, always acutely aware of the mood of her public, chose to make a much more informal approach.
- The Queen really started doing her walkabouts.
That was introduced in 1977.
And the media kind of looked at it and said, "Wow, this new phenomenon, the Queen is doing a walkabout."
- [Narrator] The walkabouts were a huge success and prepared the way for the party of the decade, Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.
An estimated one million people lined the streets in the hope of catching a glimpse of the royal family.
A further 500 million people around the Commonwealth watched the day's events on live television.
Red, white, and blue bunting decorated the streets and villages as the people of Britain came together to celebrate the first 25 years of the Queen's reign.
(lively orchestral music) Throughout her reign, the Queen and her family have been a focal point for public interest, and never more so than in 1981, when her eldest son Charles married Diana Spencer.
The day was witnessed by a worldwide audience of 750 million people.
- Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?
- I will.
- [Officiant] And forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
- I will.
(slow piano music) - [Narrator] One year after the royal wedding, Charles and Diana had their first son, William.
William's brother Harry was born two years later, but their parents' marriage problems were already making news.
- To see Charles and Diana at war on the TV screens for the benefit of viewers wanting to know the intimate details of the breakdown of their marriage must have been very difficult for her to take, especially a woman of her generation who would never be used to airing her dirty washing outside, to see her son and daughter-in-law going to war like this for the TV cameras was a very difficult pill to swallow.
(somber piano music) - [Narrator] By the late 1980s, it became apparent that the marriage between Charles and Diana was on the rocks.
- Her door was always open to both her son, Prince of Wales, and to Princess of Wales, to Diana as well, right through the most difficult period.
In the end, of course, the consensus was that it would be better for both of them and for the monarchy to divorce.
(pizzicato orchestral music) (pizzicato orchestral music continues) - [Narrator] 1992 was to be one of the Queen's most difficult years.
Three of her children, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne would announce they were divorcing or separating.
(slow piano music) As well as marital breakdown, there would be further adversity for the Queen.
On the evening of the Queen's 45th wedding anniversary, a fire swept through her home at Windsor Castle, destroying priceless heirlooms and gutting several rooms in the royal apartments.
- [Reporter] Paintings hastily removed from the walls, Rembrandts, Gainsboroughs, an immense collection of irreplaceable art.
- Shock, horror, a shock and horror, and the fact that it took hold so quickly.
- [Narrator] The Queen made a remarkable speech referring to an annus horribilis, her year of horrors.
- 1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.
In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] The 1990s was a turbulent time for the Queen, and one of the darkest periods of her reign was the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
On the 31st of August, 1997, a car carrying Diana crashed at high speed in a tunnel in Paris.
Diana died shortly afterwards in hospital.
Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, were spending the summer with the Queen at Balmoral when the news came through.
- The Queen took the decision as a grandmother to keep them there, to unplug the televisions, and to protect her teenage grandsons at Balmoral.
Their focus was to look after William and Harry.
- [Narrator] In the hours and days that followed, there were unprecedented public displays of grief at Diana's death.
(slow orchestral music continues) - The Queen herself has a general principle that the way to get on with life is to get on with one's routine, no matter what.
And that's what stood her in brilliance stead throughout a very hard, throughout lots of troubles in her reign, but it didn't work here, it was an utter failure.
And what people wanted from their queen was not carrying on, was not stiff upper lip.
They wanted emotion, they wanted feeling.
They wanted to be told how to feel.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] On the 5th of September, a day before Diana's funeral, the Queen returned to London and gave a heartfelt address to the nation from a balcony in Buckingham Palace.
Her message was broadcast live.
- So what I say to you now as your queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart.
First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself.
She was an exceptional and gifted human being.
In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.
- She was talking to us as a queen and as a grandmother.
It was perhaps the most intimate the Queen has got with the nation in a public broadcast of that type.
And that I think really helped to reassure people, look, at the end of the day, she's head of state, but she's also a woman who cares, too.
And that really helped rehabilitate her image in what was a very difficult time for her.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] The new millennium ushered in a new era for the royal family and a milestone celebration for the Queen's mother.
In the year 2000, the Queen Mother celebrated her 100th birthday.
The Queen Mother had married King George VI in 1923 and had been in the public eye ever since.
The matriarch of the monarchy, she was the only member of the royal family to have lived as long as a century.
- [Announcer] Forward.
(slow bagpipe music) - [Narrator] It was in 2002, nearly two years after celebrating the Queen Mother's 100th birthday, that the Queen lost both her sister Margaret and her mother within several weeks.
- I thank you for the support you are giving me and my family as we come to terms with her death and the void she has left in our midst.
(slow horn music) (slow horn music continues) (slow horn music continues) (slow orchestral music) (helicopter blades whirring) - [Narrator] It had been half a century since her father's death and 50 years since her accession.
Despite the personal tragedy, the Queen, now into her late 70s, wanted to celebrate her Golden Jubilee as a way of thanking the nation for their loyalty.
- People saw this Jubilee as a celebration of the Queen living so long.
She saw it in a different way.
It was a chance for her to renew her vows of duty to her country and to her people.
(upbeat orchestral music) - [Narrator] In April, 2002, the Queen addressed the two houses of Parliament to renew her vows of commitment and intention to reign as a constitutional monarch.
- I would like above all to declare my resolve to continue with the support of my family to serve the people of this great nation of ours to the best of my ability through the changing times ahead.
(slow orchestral music) - Three years later in 2005, after a 30 year love affair, the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles finally announced they were getting married.
- Well, it's done.
It's made the Prince of Wales a much happier man, a much more contented man, and much more relaxed about things, someone to shoulder some of the burden for him, and I think the Queen's thrilled about that.
- [Narrator] The Queen announced that Camilla Parker Bowles would now be known as her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.
(upbeat orchestral music) 2011 was a big year for the Queen.
On the 29th of April, she was thrilled to watch her grandson Prince William marry university sweetheart Kate Middleton.
The ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey and watch by more than a billion people around the globe in what's thought to be one of the largest television events in history.
When Prince William and Princess Katherine stepped outside the Abbey, crowds far and wide erupted.
(audience cheers) - The Queen on that day almost took a backward step, you know?
She wasn't the star of the show.
There are some days when it's the other person's turn, and it was certainly the bride's that day.
(audience cheers) (upbeat orchestral music continues) - [Narrator] It was a joyous and momentous day for the royal family, and it was only a month later when the Queen made history again.
(slow orchestral music) She became the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Republic of Ireland.
In her speech at Dublin Castle, the Queen set about addressing some of the abiding pain caused by past conflicts.
- Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation, of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.
(upbeat orchestral music) - [Narrator] Weeks later, she hosted US President Barack Obama for an official state visit.
He was the 10th serving president she had met.
(cannon fires) The visit was marked with a 41 gun salute.
From then on, the royals and the Obamas enjoyed a warm friendship.
- It's quite odd, isn't it, that when Paul Keating the Australian prime minister put his arm around the Queen, he was called the Lizard of Oz and there was outrage, but when the Queen had a cuddle with Mrs. Obama, the First Lady, it was seen as great.
- [Narrator] It was the Queen who dominated the headlines again in 2012, inspiring some of the most patriotic celebrations the country had ever seen, this time, her Diamond Jubilee, when she became the second British monarch to reign for 60 years.
- It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbors, and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere.
I hope that memories of all this year's happy events will brighten our lives for many years to come.
(audience cheers) (upbeat orchestral music continues) - [Narrator] The festivities were topped off by Prince Charles leading a tribute to his mother at the closing celebrations.
- Three resounding cheers for Her Majesty, the Queen, hip hip.
- [Audience Members] Hooray!
- [Charles] Hip hip.
- [Audience Members] Hooray!
- [Charles] Hip hip.
- [Audience Members] Hooray!
(upbeat orchestral music continues) - [Narrator] She went on to make history three years later, breaking Queen Victoria's record of 63 years as sovereign.
(upbeat orchestral music continues) (slow orchestral music) Two years after the wedding spectacular of Princess Katherine and Prince William, the country was taken over by royal baby fever, and as the Queen waited for news on the appearance of her great grandchild, so did the world.
On the 22nd of July, 2013, Prince George finally arrived.
- It was special, it was special to the nation.
It must have been special to the Queen, as well.
- [Narrator] It was a defining moment, the first time in more than 100 years the nation had witnessed four royal generations.
(lively orchestral music) In 2016, our longest serving monarch celebrated her 90th birthday.
Britain came out to party in the thousands.
(audience cheers) (slow orchestral music) And for her official anniversary in June, The Mall outside Buckingham Palace was turned into a huge street party with a picnic and performances for 10,000 guests.
She wasn't the only one celebrating a milestone birthday.
It was Prince Philip's 95th.
They'd been married for more than 70 years.
- The main lesson that we've learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage.
It may not be quite so important when things are going well, but it is absolutely vital when things get difficult.
- [Narrator] At the Queen's Coronation, Prince Philip swore to be the Queen's liege man of life and limb.
It was an oath he stuck by for seven decades.
- The one person the Queen could trust was her husband, and they would frequently have little arguments and they would frequently be seen roaring with laughter, as well.
They got on, they were lifelong friends.
- [Narrator] However, that commitment bowed to age when in 2017, Prince Philip retired from public duty.
(officer shouts) Then 96 years old, he took the salute at Buckingham Palace as Captain General of the Royal Marines, his final solo public engagement after 65 years of service.
(upbeat orchestral music) (audience cheers) In 2018, Prince Harry married Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor.
The fairy tale wedding blended British royalty with Hollywood glamor in a celebration the likes of which had never been seen before.
- This wedding felt new, it felt different, it felt modern, and the crowds turned out in the thousands to watch this historic moment.
And, of course, the Queen was there, and she really looked fantastic, and I think she was thrilled that the Duke of Edinburgh, who'd only weeks before had a hip replacement operation, was able to be by her side there to watch, you know, one of their favorite grandsons get married, and you could see from the Queen's face just how thrilled she was.
- [Narrator] Harry and Megan's son Archie would later become the Queen's eighth great grandchild.
(slow music) 2020 would see the Queen need to be at her most stoic and dutiful because of fractures within her own family.
(audience cheers) On the 8th of January, 2020, the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were stepping away from royal life stunned the world and shook the palace.
- It came as a huge shock to the Queen.
There had been discussions, but they were at an embryonic stage, nowhere near ready to announce.
For her to have been preempted in this way so publicly would have been incredibly disappointing, and on a personal level very hurtful.
- [Narrator] The Queen decided that Harry and Megan would spend a transitional year away from the royal family, leaving the door open for a possible return.
- For the Queen, this was essentially losing a grandson, losing a grandson to another country, losing a grandson from The Firm, but it was a very clear example of her strength as a leader.
This is the Queen who at the age of 21 vowed that she would serve her people, her country for her whole life, whether it be long or short, and here was the Queen doing just that, and putting duty before family.
It must have been on a personal level heartbreaking.
- [Narrator] And just one year later, the Queen would face this dilemma again with her second son, Prince Andrew, stripping him of his HRH title and his military responsibilities.
- The downfall of a duke stripped of every military title given by his mother and no longer known as HRH.
The Queen casts out her favorite son after learning he's likely to face civil trial for sexual assault.
Prince Andrew was called to Windsor Castle.
In a stark announcement, the Queen made clear he'll face the case as a private citizen.
(somber orchestral music) - [Narrator] In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic hit British shores.
The number of deaths rose at a dramatic rate.
Hospitals were overrun, NHS staff overworked.
Frontline workers became soldiers at war, battling an invisible threat that had spread across the world.
Then came the shocking news that the Queen's son, Prince Charles, had contracted the virus.
- People were dying.
Businesses, industries were going under.
We were under a national lockdown, the likes of which this generation and generations before simply hadn't seen.
Even for the Queen, who had lived through so much and addressed the nation as a young princess during the Second World War, this was uncharted territory, and this was an absolutely extraordinary situation.
- [Narrator] As Prince Charles recovered in Balmoral, the Queen remained at Windsor Castle with her husband, Prince Philip.
It was from there that shortly before her 94th birthday, as the world faced a malevolent uncertainty, the Queen made a brave and poised address to Britain.
It was only the fifth time the Queen had delivered an unscheduled address directly to the nation in a speech that was watched by 24 million people in the UK.
- The moment that the Queen spoke, the world stopped to listen.
That message of hope meant so much to the people of Great Britain.
(ominous orchestral music) - [Narrator] As the coronavirus pandemic swept throughout the UK and across the world, the Queen continued to isolate with Prince Philip at Windsor Castle.
- I don't think that the Queen and Prince Philip had ever spent quite such a long time completely together because they were both busy, they were both traveling in different directions, they were both doing different things.
They were in different places very often.
So, whereas they were obviously together a lot, they weren't ever really quite as together as they were for this long period of time.
- It must have been quite difficult for the pair of them, really, because although the Queen had a principal staff there and a dresser, it was tough When someone who's been incredibly busy and active all their lives from a very young age, for the Duke, it must have been terrible.
He needed always to be busy and he couldn't do the things that he loves.
In the end, it was probably the Queen who comforted him.
- [Narrator] Behind palace walls, Philip's health was rapidly deteriorating.
In February, 2021, he was admitted to hospital on his doctor's advice.
Just days later, a final decision was made on Harry and Meghan's futures after they had spent a transitional year away from the royal family in California.
In a difficult moment for the Queen, it was decided that her grandson would not be returning to the royal fold.
- I think the Queen would've tried to talk him out of it, you know, in a nice way, you know, "You really need to do this."
He wanted to keep his titles.
He wanted to keep the name for his charity, and the Queen stopped that straight away.
She said, "You're either going to be working here as a member of the royal family, or you're going to America.
If you're go to America, you're just Prince Harry."
And she was adamant that was the case.
The Queen was upset about that.
(slow orchestral music) - [Narrator] In April, 2021, just weeks after Prince Philip was released from hospital, the Queen suffered the worst heartache of her entire reign.
(slow piano music) - [Reporter] We are interrupting normal programs to bring you some news from the royal household.
It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor castle.
- Prince Philip was such a support to the Queen that one way and another, he was the one person who could always say whatever he liked to her.
And I think also, quite interestingly, he was a person who liked to wrestle with ideas and he liked to question everything.
I'm so glad that he got back from the hospital.
I think that was very important to him because he had a very strong sense of history.
His mother and his grandmother were both born in Windsor Castle and he and the Queen loved Windsor Castle.
- At 99, he had a great (indistinct), a very fit man, kept himself fit, kept his brain active, but he'd gone, and she was now on her own.
He was always supported her, and he never ever let her down once.
She loved that man, oh, God, what a romance, what a life.
(officer shouts) (somber orchestral music) - [Narrator] Prince Philip's funeral was held on April 17th, on a day where Windsor Castle was bathed in sunshine.
In a stripped back service, the small number allowed to attend were forced to sit apart.
The Queen sat alone, as she grieved for her husband of 73 years.
- That picture at the funeral where she's sitting there all alone, oh, God, I mean, people were crying tears over that picture.
I mean, that was so sad there.
She was keeping the rules, keeping the isolation rules, sitting on her own, and there she was, burying her husband, and that was the picture that I'll never forget.
- [Officiant] His kindness, humor, and humanity.
- [Narrator] Prince Philip had been the Queen's rock for more than seven decades, a pillar of support and strength, not just to his wife, but to the entire royal family.
But any notion that the Queen would slow down her public engagements following his death were quickly dispelled.
(slow piano music) In the months after, she welcomed newly elected US President Joe Biden to Windsor Castle and entertained world leaders at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, all on top of celebrating her 95th birthday.
(slow piano music continues) - I think the Queen was extremely wise to keep going immediately after Prince Philip died.
I mean, even within the week of his death, she undertook a couple of engagements, I mean, Zoom meetings and things like that.
And since then, she's been out and about.
I think if she had stopped and gone into a period of sort of seclusion for let's say two or three months, she might not have been able to pick it all up again.
At that age, that would be very difficult.
Instead of which, we've had an incredibly busy queen, a radiant looking queen.
(audience cheers) - [Narrator] In the final few months of the Queen's life, she took center stage as Britain came together to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee.
(slow piano music continues) (jet engines roaring) Thousands lined The Mall and millions watched at home, (audience cheers) honoring a queen who dedicated her life to the United Kingdom for seven decades.
(audience cheers) - Even as she got older, the pace never changed, and the Queen has guided it all through for 70 years.
And Prince Charles will do the same and there'll be, William will do the same, and George will do the same because they will be brought up in that tradition.
As Prince Charles once said to me, "I never ever say 'when I'll be king,' because that's the day my mother dies and I will be so heartbroken."
(slow piano music continues) (audience cheers) When she smiles everything lights up in the world.
(slow piano music) - [Narrator] Over the course of her life that spanned more than nine decades, the Queen's history was our history.
(audience cheers) She was the only monarch that most of us have ever known.
- She defines an entire century, to be perfectly honest, of British life, completely interwoven into the life that we've known for the last 100 years.
And so I think really she's been front and center of everything that the Union Jack means to people.
- [Narrator] She breathed new life into the monarchy.
She served with warmth, humanity, strength, and tradition.
- I think that if you were choosing a title like Alfred the Great, I think there are two that you could use for the Queen.
You could say Elizabeth the Steadfast, because that's what she was, and I think you could also say Elizabeth the Conciliator.
- The Queen's strength was never to show what she's truly feeling at any given time, to always have dignity, to inspire, to be focused, to show that that dedication to duty was what is needed in today's society, for people to often give up too easily.
The Queen never gave up.
- [Narrator] Even as an accidental heir, she helped redefine the relevance of the monarchy.
- Well, there's been so many changes in the Queen's reign, particularly when it comes to communications and technology, that she brought in change in terms of technology, Facebook, their own internet age for the royal family, Twitter accounts.
- I think back about the Queen's life and the fact that 25, 25 years of age, most people just finishing up at school and university now, and she was given that job of queen and she just tackled it with amazing enthusiasm.
And when she smiled, and for me as a photographer, that smile just lit up the room.
- [Narrator] She reigned over us through several wars and other key moments that shaped our world.
- Stewardship of the Commonwealth to her I think was the most important thing that she achieved in her reign.
She was always somebody that believed that if there's a chance that you can talk or work together for the greater good, then it's gotta be a good thing.
- The Queen has been the longest reigning monarch in history, there is nothing that she hadn't seen or lived through.
I think she will be remembered not only as one of the world's greatest queens, but as one of the world's greatest modernizers.
- [Narrator] The late Queen's grandchildren and great grandchildren ensure the continuation of the royal bloodline.
Prince Charles has now succeeded the Queen as monarch.
He was the world's longest serving heir apparent, having held the position since February, 1952, when the Queen succeeded her father.
- Well, Prince Charles is now King, and I think he's going to be a great king, too.
I think he's the most prepared monarch in waiting we've ever had in the thousand years' history of the monarchy.
I've been working with him now for the last 40 years, and I've seen what he's done.
- I think Charles will be a different king to his mother.
I think his reign will be different to his mother's, and I think it has to be, you know, the Queen proved that in order to survive, you have to evolve, and I think Charles also understands that.
- [Narrator] Queen Elizabeth II live through several wars, supported more British prime ministers, and traveled to more countries than any other monarch.
(slow orchestral music continues) But we will remember her for something more than her long years of dutiful service to Britain.
She was the person we turned to as a nation during times of need.
She was the one who spoke to us and spoke for us.
- I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it belong or short, shall be devoted to your service, and to the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong.
- What a life, and joining me again is author and biographer Anne Sebba.
Anne, what would you say is the future of the monarchy after the death of Queen Elizabeth?
- Well, it'll be different, that's for sure.
This is a watershed moment, Britains will have to redefine what the monarchy means to them.
Certainly Charles has talked a lot about continuing some of his mother's legacy, the love of nature and those sorts of things, but he wants a slimmed down monarchy.
He just wants his direct descendants, so that'll be Prince William, who will take on a new title, and Katherine and their children, and not what many people consider are the hangers on, the grandchildren and the nieces and nephews.
So only working royals, those who are in the direct line probably, and one or two others will be part of the new royal family and paid for their work.
So we'll see a lot less of the other members of the royal family, that's the main thing, I think.
- Fair to say that what she has left as her legacy, we won't see the likes of it or anything like it anytime again.
Anne Sebba, we thank you so much for joining us.
- My pleasure, thank you.
- And that concludes our remembrance of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The United Kingdom is now observing an official national period of mourning to be followed by the Queen's funeral in 10 days.
I'm Judy Woodruff, thank you for joining us.
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