Skip to content
Adrian Wooldridge

The Revolutionary Monarchy of Elizabeth II

She defied the bicycle-riding, down-marketing of European royals and transformed the Windsors into a staunchly bourgeois yet mesmerizing dynasty.

On a 2012 visit to Leeds in northern England.

On a 2012 visit to Leeds in northern England.

Photographer: WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe

Britain’s longest-serving monarch has died.

It feels like a death in the family. Born in 1926, the year that John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of television, and crowned in 1953, the year of Joseph Stalin’s death, the Queen has been with us for so long that only a sliver of the population can remember life without her. She has reigned for longer than any other British monarch, easily outstripping her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Acting on the principle that “I have to be seen to be believed,” she has personally met innumerable people, and touched the lives of billions by radio and television. Who does not remember her Christmas broadcasts? Or the solace she provided during the Covid pandemic when she quoted Vera Lynn’s promise that “we’ll meet again.”