Platinum Jubilee: How newspapers reported on Queen’s rise 70 years ago

The Queen and newspapers report on her father's death.

King George VI died on February 6, 1952 – and his daughter immediately became queen

In 2022, the nation is enjoying a four-day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s historic platinum jubilee.

Her Majesty is the first British monarch to have served on the throne for 70 years, but has anyone seen this coming from the woman who was never to be queen?

This is how the newspapers reported on Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne 70 years ago today.

Immediately after her father’s death in 1952, the country had a new monarch – although it was another 16 months before she was officially crowned.

Many British newspapers received the news of King George VI’s death before going to press on 6 February because of the more evening publications at that time.

By the morning of February 7, the news had spread across the front pages, with most reporting on the Queen of Kenya’s journey home via Uganda.

Elizabeth, then 25, was “pale with grief,” according to the Birmingham Gazette, whose front page read “Long live Queen Elizabeth.”

Metro was decades away from its inception, while the Daily Mail headline told its readers “Queen Flies Home…The King Will Rest at Westminster Hall.”

Under the symbol at the top of the masthead, the newspaper proclaimed itself “for Queen and Commonwealth” – a subtle change from referring to the King in the same spot the previous day.

The Daily Mail, February 7, 1952

The Daily Mail declared itself “for Queen and Commonwealth”

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Birmingham Gazette February 7, 1952

The Birmingham Gazette reported that the Queen was “pale with grief” (Image: Rose Staveley-Wadham)

Coventry Telegraph, February 7, 1952

The nation was ‘stunned’ when the king died aged 56 (Image: Rose Staveley-Wadham)

The Daily Mirror explained that the 56-year-old king’s valet “called his master softly – but there was no answer.

It continued: “In a dramatic flight home to her grieving people, Queen Elizabeth II flew through the darkness last night,” after explaining that she “burst into tears” after Prince Philip broke the news to her.

The Times of February 7 noted on page 6 that the Queen’s journey home from Uganda had been delayed by a storm, followed by a series of pictures showing memorable moments in the King’s life.

But – not unusual for the time – the front page was so crammed with tiny text that there were no images or big headlines to mark the occasion – instead it settled for a simple two-liner “Death of the King” in the upper right Corner .

Meanwhile, the Portsmouth Evening News noted the day before that theaters and cinemas were closed, writing: “Princess Elizabeth waving from her plane at London Airport a week ago to her father, King George Sixth, who stood bareheaded to greet his To wish daughter Godspeed on her journey to Africa, today (sic) flies back to England as Queen. Tonight (sic) she will be declared sovereign.’

Portsmouth Evening News, February 7, 1952.

The Portsmouth Evening News said theaters and cinemas were closing (Image: Rose Staveley-Wadham)

New York Times, February 7, 1952.

Newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, published pictures of the late king and new queen

Buck's Herald, February 7, 1952.

The Bucks Herald branded the newcomer a “personal loss for us all” (Image: Mary McKee)

The New York Times introduced the story, noting that President Harry Truman was “among the world’s leading figures.”

Back in Britain, where Sir Winston Churchill was in his second term as Prime Minister, The Bucks Herald used an image of the King and his daughter to announce a “personal loss for us all”.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph said the nation was “stunned by the news”, adding that the king had died peacefully in his sleep and that the city “sympathizes” with the new queen.

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MORE : How to throw a street party for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Platinum Jubilee: How newspapers reported on Queen's rise 70 years ago

Justin Scacco

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