Inside life-changing day Elizabeth found out she was now Queen of England

Elizabeth became Queen of England on February 6, 1952, after her father, King George VI passed away in the early hours of the morning.

The then-Princess was on a Commonwealth tour in Kenya, alongside her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The royal couple had spent the previous night at the remote Treetops Hotel – accessible via a ladder – in Aberdare Forest, where they watched baboons in the jungle.

The 25-year-old Princess climbed up to a look-out point at the top of the tree in order to see the dawn breaking.

The Queen was accompanied by the Duke’s equerry and friend, Mike Parker, and they spotted an eagle hovering overhead.

He later recalled: “I never thought about it until later but that was roughly the time when the King died.”

No one from Elizabeth’s consort knew about the death yet, with Lady Pamela Hicks – who was the Queen’s lady in waiting and also Philip’s cousin – remarking that the Queen and the Duke were “the last people in the world to hear” that King had died.

Lady Pamela added: “She goes up as a princess. The king dies that night. She comes down the ladder as a Queen.”

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The reason behind the delay of information is that the secret messages which were sent by the British Embassy to the governor of Kenya, Philip Mitchell, announcing the King’s death, could not be read as the code necessary to read them was elsewhere.

When the news finally filtered through to royal aides, Elizabeth was resting at Sagana Lodge – a wedding present from the people of Kenya.

Meanwhile, her private secretary, Lord Martin Charteris, was in the nearby town having a drink in a restaurant, when a writer approached him and commented on the news.

Returning to the Lodge, Lord Charteris told Mr Parker, who crawled into the room where the Queen was at her desk and grabbed Philip’s attention.

They proceeded to discreetly turn on the radio on a very low volume, in order to confirm the news of the death, but at the same time prevent the Queen from finding out this way.

This allowed Philip to break the sad news to his wife while they were alone as he took her for a stroll in the garden.

Following this, Lord Charteris remembered seeing the new monarch sitting back at her desk appearing “very composed, absolute master of her fate” and ready to fulfil the role for which she had been carefully groomed.

Asked what name she wished to use as Queen, she replied simply: “My own name, of course.”

Just hours later, Her Majesty and her consort were on their way back home.

With the King’s health failing as they were about to embark on the trip, a Royal Standard had been stowed in the baggage just in case it was needed.

Elizabeth’s mourning clothes were waiting for her in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, which was a stop-over on their way back to London.

It was dusk on February 7, 1952, when a slim, pale figure, dressed in mourning black, descended the steps of the plane as the new Queen of England.

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