“ By the sudden death of my dear father I am called upon to assume the duties responsibility of sovereignty”.
These were the words of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in her simple and impressive Accession Speech of 8 February 1952, just 36 hours after she had learnt that her father King George VI had died in his sleep. At the age of 25, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the first child of Prince Albert and Elizabeth, Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I) became the forty-second sovereign of England since William the Conqueror.
When the Queen is in residence at Buckingham Palace, every day is a working day, both for her and for the Duke of Edinburgh. They meet for a quick breakfast at half-past eight when they will discuss each others daily programme. By 9.30 Her Majesty is at her desk ready to start the day's routine. A digest of the day's newspapers will have been prepared for her by the Press Secretary with items of particular interest marked or cut out. When Parliament is sitting, a report on the previous day proceedings is delivered by the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household. At the end of the morning Her Majesty usually lunches alone and then in the afternoon she will often have an engagement in the London area. On her return, she may well hold important domestic discussions with the Master of the Household, for she is also the mistress of the house — the largest house in the country.
One of Her Majesty's three Private Secretaries will then arrive with the morning's post. Letters from children are usually passed to one of the ladies-in-waiting for a reply and certain official correspondence may be sent on to the appropriate government for action. But there are always plenty that require her own attention. Another frequent duty of the Queen is sending around 2,000 centenary letters each year to people, who reach their hundredth birthday.
Throughout the working day a number of visitors will call, ranging from incoming or outgoing diplomats to Her Majesty's dressmakers, who may arrive to discuss the wardrobe for a forthcoming overseas tour. Once a month a meeting of the Privy Council is held in order that the Royal Assent may be given to various items of government legislation.
Towards the end of the day there is always another pile of official papers, government documents and reports to be read. The Queen will have been asked to answer all these papers before the morning. Even when the members of the Royal Household have all gone home for the night, there is often one light still burning: it is the Queen's, for whom the business of a constitutional monarchy never ends.