On the 9th of September this year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will make history as she becomes the longest reigning monarch Britain has ever seen. To mark the occasion, BBC One will be airing a documentary, ‘The Queen’s Longest Reign: Elizabeth & Victoria’.
The hour-long documentary, airing on September 7, will look at the reigns of both Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria, asking how they have managed to provide such enduring stability in an ever-changing world.
It will be presented by BBC presenter and journalist, Sophie Raworth, who has covered many major royal events for the BBC over the past decade, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Sophie has kindly agreed to speak to Royal Central about the programme, as well as sharing some of her favourite moments.
What can we expect from the documentary?
The Queen’s Longest Reign: Elizabeth & Victoria looks at the fact that though both were born Princesses, no-one expected Victoria or Elizabeth to become Queen, let alone the Longest Reigning Monarchs in British history. Queen Victoria was on the throne for 63 years and seven months. This week her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth will pass that record becoming not just the longest reigning monarch in British history but also the longest reigning Queen in the world. Our film looks at the events that led to the accessions of Victoria and Elizabeth, their childhoods and family circumstances. We also look at how they made their marks as monarchs, their husbands, and other factors that have helped them in bringing great stability to the monarchy.
Whose reign do you think has been the most challenging? Queen Victoria’s or what we have seen so far of Queen Elizabeth II?
Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have reigned through quite different periods of remarkable change. For Victoria, it was the age of Empire and the Industrial Revolution, for Elizabeth – an age of mass communication, technology with far greater freedom for people and greater tolerances in society. Queen Elizabeth is also a monarch who has been able to travel extensively, in sharp contrast to Victoria, who was the figurehead of an Empire, and Empress of India, which she didn’t visit.
Queen Elizabeth and Victoria are the only British monarchs to celebrate Diamond Jubilees. Apart from coronations, do you think we will see celebrations like that again, certainly in our lifetime?
For most of people alive today they have only known one monarch – Queen Elizabeth. For children born now it is unlikely they will see a Diamond Jubilee in their lifetimes.
Buckingham Palace have said that there won’t be any official celebrations to mark the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch and aides say Her Majesty wants little fuss over the milestone. Why do you think this is?
When Queen Victoria became the longest reigning monarch on 23 September 1896, she was at Balmoral and spent the day quietly. On Wednesday when Queen Elizabeth passes her record, she too will be in Scotland, though she will be seen in public. We are told it is ‘business as usual’. The Queen will be officially opening the Borders railway in the morning. She becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history at around 6:30 pm when she is expected to be at Balmoral, as Queen Victoria was.
You have presented many memorable royal occasions for the BBC as of late, including the birth of Prince George and wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to name a few. What has been your favourite royal moment?
I’ve covered many now in my years at the BBC from the Queen mother’s funeral to the Queen’s golden and diamond jubilees, as well as the Children’s party at the palace and the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations. It’s hard to single out one but I think the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most memorable. I was in a studio opposite the entrance to Westminster Abbey, with a bird’s eye view of the events. The crowds were incredible. Around 20 million people were tuned in that day, as well as much more around the world. Huw Edwards and I were allowed into the Abbey the day before to watch the preparations. I’ll never forget the scent in the Abbey from all the flowers and the trees that had been brought in there.
The Queen’s Longest Reign: Elizabeth & Victoria will air on BBC One on Monday 7th September at 9 pm.