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The enduring mystery at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II

The life and reign of Elizabeth II has been one of the most well documented in history. But one integral part of her story remains unknown – the exact time that her reign began is a mystery.

Elizabeth II succeeded her father, George VI, on February 6th 1952. She was told that she was now Monarch by Prince Philip during a stay in Kenya after he received news that the King had died. But the moment that the Crown passed between father and daughter remains unknown.

For George VI died in his sleep. He had retired after a happy evening with his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and younger daughter, Princess Margaret, at Sandringham. His health had been frail for several years but there was no real indication that his end was approaching. However, on the morning of February 6th 1952, when a servant went to wake him, he was found to have died.

The king was found at around 7.30am and had been dead for several hours. But the exact moment of his passing was never determined. His elder daughter became Queen at the moment of his death and so the first part of what would become a record breaking reign passed with no one being aware she was even Monarch.

George VI was just 56 when he passed away. His cause of death was given as a coronary thrombosis. He had ruled for just over 15 years, having unexpectedly succeeded to the throne in December 1936 on the Abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.

On the afternoon of February 6th 1952, before Elizabeth II had returned to London, the Accession Council met to formally declare her Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II flew back from Kenya the following day and was received in London by her Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. A public proclamation of her accession took place on February 8th 1952.

Her own reign ended on September 8th 2022 at Balmoral where she passed away with her own heir, Charles, and her only daughter, Anne, at her side. Her death certificate, released by the Royal Family, showed that Her Late Majesty passed away at 3.10pm that afternoon. The moment her reign ended is recorded forever but no one will ever really know the exact moment it began.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.