The heartbreaking significance of January 31 to the Queen


QUEEN ELIZABETH II’s accession to the throne was accompanied by incredible sorrow due to the untimely death of her beloved father, King George VI. Why is January 31 so heartbreakingly significant to the Queen?

Aged just 25, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, and this year she will mark her Platinum Jubilee. While the nation will celebrate the Queen’s unprecedentedly long reign, the milestone will likely be incredibly difficult for the monarch, who has not seen her beloved father for seven decades.

On January 31, then-Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh set off from London Airport to embark on a tour of the Commonwealth.

The couple were waved off by King George VI, then-Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, who had also boarded the plane to say their farewells.

Unknown to Elizabeth, the day would mark the last time she ever saw her beloved father, as he died a few days later.

Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI

The heartbreaking significance of January 31 to the Queen (Image: GETTY)

Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth

The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth pictured at London Airport on January 31, 1952 (Image: GETTY)

The King’s appearance at London Airport that day had also marked his last public appearance.

The King had been suffering from illness for a while, previously undergoing surgery for lung cancer.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh had been entrusted to take up the Commonwealth tour in 1952 on account of the King’s ailing health.

When Elizabeth returned to London Airport on February 7, 1952, she did so as Queen Elizabeth II.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

The King’s appearance at London Airport that day marked his last public appearance (Image: GETTY)

The young Queen, herself only 25, was likely incredibly shocked by her father’s death at the age of 56.

In the years since marrying the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, the Princess had enjoyed as close as possible to ordinary life for a future monarch.

Philip and Elizabeth had lived in Malta for a time while Philip pursued his naval career, and the pair had already welcomed two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

But on February 6, 1952, life as Elizabeth and Philip knew it changed for good, and Queen Elizabeth II began what would prove to be the longest reign of any British monarch in history.

Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth returned to London Airport on February 7, 1952 as Queen Elizabeth II (Image: GETTY)

How did the Queen find out about her father’s death?

King George VI died in his sleep at some point on the night of February 5 to 6.

So the new Queen’s reign began while she was at the Treetops hotel in Kenya on the first leg of her royal tour.

The Queen had spent her time there gazing at the incredible wildlife that surrounded the hotel, including elephants and rhinos.

There had been some delay in getting the news to the new Queen, but eventually, Philip was the one to break the news of her father’s death that afternoon.

The new Queen made arrangements to return to the UK immediately, but a black mourning outfit had not been prepared for the Princess’ tour.

So upon arrival at London Airport, a black outfit was brought onto the plane for the new monarch to disembark.


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