10 Ways Queen Elizabeth II Has Modernized The Crown & The Royal Family In The 66 Years Since Her Accession To The Throne

Queen Elizabeth
Entertainment And News

She was breaking royal traditions long before Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle were even born!

Although she herself won't be seen taking part in public celebrations, this Tuesday, February 6, 2018, remains a significant day in world history, as it marks the 66th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne as Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the Head of the Commonwealth and Queen of 12 countries that have become independent since that same date in 1952: Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Six and a half (plus!) decades into her reign, 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is now the longest ruling Monarch in the history of the British Empire.

The Queen, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926 — also known as "Granny" by her 8 grandchildren and "Gan Gan" by great-grandson and future heir to the throne Prince George of Cambridge (4) — will refrain from any public events on this day, as it is also the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI, who himself acceded to the throne in 1936 following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII (whose reign lasted a remarkably short 326 days before giving up the crown he never wore in order to marry American socialite and divorcee, Wallis Simpson).

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King George VI died in his sleep from a coronary thrombosis (blood clot in the heart) after battling lung cancer, arteriosclerosis and Buerger's disease for many years at the age of just 56-years-old, at which point then 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth, as she had been known, immediately cut short her tour of Australia and New Zealand via Kenya with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, and returned to England as Queen Elizabeth II.

Addressing those in attendance at the Accession council held in St James's Palace immediately upon her return from Kenya, the Queen shared a simple, heartfelt statement.

"By the sudden death of my dear father I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty. My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples, spread as they are all the world over."

The Queen's coronation, the formal religious ceremony during which the British monarch is ritually anointed with oil and crowned, took place place almost a year and a half later on June 2, 1953.

Whereas the new British monarch ascends to the throne the moment their predecessor dies, hence the traditional proclamation,"The King is dead. Long live the King," or in this case,"The King is dead. Long live the Queen," the coronation "usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, as it is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate while mourning continues. This interval also gives the planners enough time to complete the elaborate arrangements required."

As a woman of the Traditionalist or "Silent" Generation who now rules over Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials, and the still-forming group known as Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials, the Queen has played a fascinating role in the evolution of the British monarchy over the astonishingly fast-paced transformations spanning both the 20th and 21st centuries.

In fact, she is even reported to enjoy watching the story of her own life unfold in "The Crown" on Netflix, as sources say, "Happily, she really liked it, although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatized.”

Whether or not you are also a fan, here's a look at 10 of the most impressive ways Queen Elizabeth II has modernized the British monarchy in the 66 years since she ascended the throne.

1. She has taken a modern approach to love and marriage.

Elizabeth first established herself as an independent thinker in a way that would become publicly known when she insisted upon being allowed to marry the man then known as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, her second cousin once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousin through Queen Victoria. Her now husband and consort of 70 years was considered a poor choice by many, given that he was neither born nor raised in Great Britain and came from a family with what was considered "no financial standing."

However, young Princess Elizabeth had fallen in love with Prince Philip the first time they met, when she was just 13 and he was 18, and while her mother is believed to have initially referred to Philip as "the hun," her father granted the couple his permission and marry him she did.

Since successfully jumping that first hurdle, the Queen has successfully balanced herself atop the cutting edge of many of the same dilemmas faced by women of the modern age, albeit on a far more grand stage with exceedingly greater financial privilege than most.

As a much more than full-time working wife and mother in the still highly traditional 1950s, the Queen found herself in that modern quagmire trying to balance her personal and professional lives. In an age when it was a given that wives should take their husband's names, her determination to retain her own family's name (Windsor) rather than take on Philip's (Mountbatten) was a significant show of strength for a woman whose husband was famously quoted as complaining in response, “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”

And whereas the only reason the Queen is the Queen is that her uncle had no choice but to abdicate the throne if he was to insist on marrying a divorcee, which at the time did not allow divorcees to remarry while their former spouse was still alive, not only did the Queen order Prince Charles and Princess Diana to divorce, but an additional two of her four children have divorced as well.

Additionally, while there is no requirement that a member of the Royal Family marry someone of royal or aristocratic blood, "Under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, all descendants of George II must obtain the sovereign's agreement before they wed, otherwise the marriage is invalid."

In allowing Prince Charles to marry divorced Camilla Parker-Bowles (now Camilla, Duchess Cornwall), Prince William to British commoner Kate Middleton (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge), and Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle, a divorced, biracial, American commoner, the Queen has made a clear statement to all that in her purview, it truly is love that conquers all.

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2. She has made an ongoing effort to remain connected with the public.

Her father previously broke with tradition by holding his April 23, 1923, marriage to Scottish-born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (who became known as Queen Elizabeth the time of her husband's coronation and then as then as the Queen Mother upon his death and her eldest daughter's accession) as a public affair in Westminster Abbey, rather than in a small royal chapel.

As the BBC notes,"It is believed this decision was taken to lift the spirits of the nation following the ravages of the Great War (1914-18). The event took place before the days of television; nor was it broadcast on the radio because the Archbishop of Canterbury was concerned that men might listen to it in public houses."

Philip and Elizabeth took their public in an even more far-reaching way, televising their 1947 wedding.

And, at Philip's insistence and "on the condition that she would not be filmed close-up," her 1953 coronation, "the only portion of [which] was off-limits was the Queen’s anointing, which was deemed to sacred to broadcast."

3. She became the most traveled Monarch in Britain's history.

This probably isn't difficult to believe given that the Royal Family didn't acquire its first aircraft until 1928, but that technical point aside, the Queen has made it a mission of hers to remain connected to the people of not only her own countries, but of the world. As of the last report available, she had traveled to 120 countries, representing over 60 percent of the world's 196 countries in total.

While Canada is the country she has visited most often, interestingly, she never has been, and likely never will be, free to visit either Israel or Greece.

Sources say that, "Israel and Greece remain beyond her reach for political reasons, Israel because of the never-ending tensions in the region and Greece because it exiled the Duke of Edinburgh and his family when he was a child."

Fun fact: "The Queen does not require a British passport for traveling overseas, as all British passports are issued in her name."

4. She insisted her children receive a proper education outside of the palace.

As was the tradition of the Royal Family throughout history before her, the Queen was educated at home by private tutors. While she has been roundly insulted over the years for her lack of formal schooling and depth of academically based knowledge, she had decidedly no say whatsoever in regard to her own childhood education.

To her credit, she made quite different choices when it came to the education of her four children, Prince Charles (69), Princess Anne (67), Prince Andrew (57), and Prince Edward (53).

Against the wishes of her own mother, the Queen and Prince Philip were determined to send their children outside of the palace to be educated, and on May 10, 1955, Buckingham Palace made an official public announcement that 8-year-old Prince Charles would be the first heir to the throne to attend school, first at Hill House School in West London. He later went on to become the first heir to the throne to attend college when he was enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned a bachelor of arts in 1970 and later returned following his time in the Royal Navy to earn a master of arts in 1975.

While neither Princess Anne nor Prince Andrew followed the university route, Prince Edward did, receiving his Bachelor's degree from Jesus College, Cambridge in 1986, and of her eight grandchildren, five have attended university, with Prince Harry opting instead for officer commissioning training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

(That lovable Harry gets away with a lot, after all...)

5. She began voluntarily paying taxes more than 25 years ago.

In 1992, the New York Times reported that, although the sovereign is exempt from doing so, the Queen agreed to "voluntarily pay tax on her private income and personally absorb a larger share of the public cost of the royal family's expenses."

While the decision came amid a series of controversial events so difficult the Queen dubbed the year her "annus horribilis" — including a catastrophic fire at Windsor Castle, persistent rumors of trouble between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the release of photographs showing then still married Duchess of York sunbathing topless in the South of France with a man who was decidedly not her husband, the Duke of York — she was applauded for the move by "both ardent defenders of the monarchy and critics."

The Labor Party's Ann Clwyd stated that "the announcement proved the monarchy could be influenced by public opinion," while Sir John Wheeler, "a Conservative member of Parliament, described the Queen's intention to pay taxes as 'a magnanimous gesture,' and said she 'has quite properly recognized the public mood during a period of world recession in which her subjects have severe problems.'"

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6. She has been an early adopter of the Internet and social media.

It clearly stands to reason that Queen Elizabeth would have been the first British Monarch to send an email, but not only was she the first, she did so from an army base... in 1976!

Buckingham Palace launched it's first website in 1997, right as the world wide web was beginning to achieve commercialization, and the Queen was the first member of the Royal Family to have not only her own website, but her own Twitter feed and YouTube channel as well.

Another fun fact: Although the Queen has reportedly barred the Royal family from taking selfies, telling some that "she finds it 'strange'to see nothing but the backs of mobile phones whenever she looks up," the naughty royal has been known to slyly photobomb a few, including one snapped by two Australian field hockey players at the Commonwealth Games in July 2014.

7. She has her very own gold record.

Among the many facts about the Queen proudly touted on her official, is the following tidbit from her 2002 Golden Jubilee:

"The Queen is the first member of the Royal Family to be awarded a gold disc from the recording industry. 100,000 copies of the CD of the 'Party at the Palace', produced by EMI, were sold within the first week of release... The 'Party at the Palace' pop concert was one of the most watched pop concerts in history, attracting around 200 million viewers all over the world."

8. She is a card-carrying feminist (kind of).

Whereas her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, "famously loathed the Suffragettes," bemoaned the “wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights,'” and stated that feminists “ought to get a good whipping,” Queen Elizabeth has, in her so quiet you can barely hear it way, said pretty much everything positive one can say about feminism without ever using the actual word or label.

Aside from her many actions already described above, which inherently speak to her complete and total belief in women's equality with men, the two stories are especially wonderful examples.

When she was only 16, Princess Elizabeth insisted that her father allow her to serve in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she took on a far lesser known title of truck mechanic No. 230873.

While serving she "learned how to change a wheel, deconstruct and rebuild engines, and drive ambulances and other vehicles," earning the rank of Junior Commander within 5 months time.

And in 1998, when Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia came to visit her at Balmoral in Scotland, she asked the soon-to-be king if he would like a tour of the estate. He agreed and, as instructed, climbed into a Land Rover and waited there with his interpreter when, according to former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sherard Cowper-Coles, "to his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not — yet — allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen. His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead."

9. She kept her cool when an intruder made his way into her Buckingham Palace bedroom.

Sources claim that on the morning of July 9, 1982, "Michael Fagan, a 33-year-old psychiatric patient managed to find his way into Elizabeth’s chambers."

"When she woke up, she noticed a strange man at the edge of her bed. She was unable to call the police, so she engaged in a conversation, listening to the man chat about his problems."

10. Serious public persona aside, she seems to have a wicked sense of humor.

Again, in just on example of many in her life, when the summer Olympics came to London in 2012, the Queen was delighted to accept an offer from producer Danny Boyle, creative director of the 30th Olympiad, to star as herself in a short film co-starring Daniel Craig as James Bond.

According to Boyle:

"'It was part of the protocol — you have to bring in the Head of State and sing the National Anthem — and we thought we'd [do] something different so we wrote up this idea of the James Bond idea. And we sent it in to them, and we were asking really for permission for them to accept that it wouldn't embarrass them and we'd get a double, a good double, and we were thinking Helen Mirren... They came back and said 'we're delighted for you to do it, and Her Majesty would like to be in it herself' — and the surreal thing, 'she would like to play herself.'"

As summarized eloquently by Autumn Brewington in The Washington Post:

"She is beloved in part for embodying Britain’s stiff upper lip and carrying on while saying little. Her stewardship over decades of deep social change has protected the monarchy as an institution above, yet reflective of, British life. She has guided the throne to a place where a woman who became sovereign as a result of a divorce scandal could welcome a divorced American into Britain’s royal family."

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret is a recognized expert on love, sex, and relationships who has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. For more, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.