"The King has died."We must also have been told that Princess Elizabeth would now be Queen, but I don't remember that. Or perhaps we weren't - the Accession Council did not meet until 5 pm that afternoon. Perhaps our head teacher was carefully observing protocol before the official proclamation, although the succession was not in doubt. I do remember we were told to expect grown-ups to be feeling upset and if we passed shops on our way home from school we would find them to be closed.
I remember a sense of shock, although certainly not grief. In my child world King George VI was a remote person, an image on a postage stamp, coin, newspaper or in newsreels on occasional cinema visits. The nearest I ever got to the King was standing outside Buckingham Palace with my grandmother to watch the Changing of the Guard and reciting with her from A.A. Milne's poem,
"They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
We looked for the King but he never came.
"Well, God take care of him, all the same",
Why all this reminiscing? Because at some time late this afternoon the 89 year-old Queen Elizabeth 11 becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history. Now that is no small achievement. Whatever you think about the institution of monarchy the Queen's faithful dedication to service in her heavy role is admirable.
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