The Accession to the Throne of Queen Elizabeth II.
The accession to the Throne of Queen Elizabeth II was a happy occasion for this country. But by its very nature was accompanied by the deepest public and private sorrow.
On 23rd November 1948 it was reported in the media that King George VI was extremely ill and in March the following year he underwent extensive surgery to improve his blood circulation and therefore save his foot.
Then in May 1951 he again became seriously ill and it was discovered that the King had lung cancer. Despite risks to his heart, on Sunday 23rd September he underwent another extensive operation, this time to remove his entire left lung.
The King was to have five such operations in the few years prior to his death.
Before his illness, it was planned that he should tour Kenya, East Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Now it was evident that this was impossible and one dismal, cold, January day in 1952 he waved his daughter and son-in-law off to fulfil this obligation in his place.
During this tour Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were invited to spend some time at a lodge, built into a fig tree, where wildlife could be observed and photographed. This was the infamous Treetops attached to the Outspan Hotel, Nyeri, Kenya where, on 6th february 1952 Prince Philip was to inform his young wife of the tragic death of her father at the age of fifty-six from the coronary thrombosis, and that consequently she was now Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of this realm, and its Territories, Head of the Commonwealth and Empire, the Defender of the Faith. She was just twenty-five years old.
King George VI had not been heir to the throne when he became king and as such was not instructed in statesmanlike ways or matters but when his brother abdicated in 1936 he had, despite being of a weak dispersion, and having a terrible speech impediment, plus great reservations or his part, come to the fore and lead our country through the unparalleled dangers and difficulties brought about by the Second World War.
But it was the King's vulnerability and his fight to overcome it that made him so beloved of his people. This is verified by an account of the last visit made by the King to this area on 9th February 1944 when, unlike some members of the aristocracy, when visiting Elsecar Colliery he had eaten his meals with the rest of the men in the pit canteen, laughing and joking with them. He then went on to Hickleton Main Colliery where he walked among the 'black-faced colliers' shaking them by the hand and telling them how pleased he was with them, also what an important part they were to the war effort.
Now the man who had lead us through the adversities of the Second World War was dead and the South Yorkshire Times in their edition of 9th February 1952 stated that "South Yorkshire heard the news of the death in stunned bewilderment. People obviously felt a deep sense of personal loss in the death of a popular and unostentatious monarch."
So high was the King placed in the affections of the people of this area that on the Wednesday following the announcement of the King's death the cinemas of Mexborough closed and the public houses here remained closed until the Friday after. Various shops in the town draped their windows with black crepe and they closed the following Monday for two hours.
All W.V.S. activities were curtailed until after the King's funeral. Also all Mexborough and Swinton Conservative Party socials were cancelled until March. Two minutes silence was observed on Saturday at 2pm by the collieries of both the Don and Dearne Valleys, where every piece of machinery stood silent and every man stood with his head solemnly bowed. Whereas on the Tuesday, at Mexborough Rotary Club Luncheon the members stood in silent tribute and their President read out a letter of condolence from the Rotary Club of Arnhem, Holland.
As with numerous monarchs before, the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed to a huge crowd in Montagu Square. The Proclamation was not read out, as in years gone by to the chiming of a hand bell accompanied by the voice of our Town Crier. This time the Proclamation was read out by a council dignitary, County Councillor G.M. Hanson J.P. Chairman of Mexborough Urban District Council, who stood on a dais draped in a Union Jack with his wife to one side of him and Mr S.H.E. Crane the Council Clerk on the other. The ceremony was opened by Mexborough Military Band playing a fanfare, personally composed by the Band Master Mr E Tupling, this was followed by the playing of 'Abide With Me', the Proclamation was read, 'God Save the Queen' played, and then the crowd, who had remained completely silent during the whole proceedings spontaneously broke out into three cheers for the new Queen.
At Swinton the Queen's accession to the throne was read out by Coun. J. Randerson on the Monday outside the Council Offices. Whereas at Wath 300 people thronged around the Town Hall and to the fading chimes of the Parish Church Clock at twelve noon on Saturday Councillor A. Beattie read out the Proclamation. Pupils of Wath Grammar School purchased trees in order to line the new Festival Road and two of these were dedicated to George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.
In the towns of our area, while the Proclamations were being read the Union Jacks which had been flown at half-mast, were placed at full mast and then returned to their former position following the ceremony. Among the many Union Jacks seen flying at half-mast in Mexborough at that time an unusual one was seen, this was situated over Mexborough Fire Station and was said to be the official flag of the West Riding County Fire Service.
The King's funeral ceremony took place on Saturday 16th February 1952. His coffin was taken in solemn procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey where a service took place, attended by the monarchy of Europe and beyond. He was then taken to Windsor Castle where a private service was conducted in St. George's Chapel, and it was here that he was laid to rest.
The Queen had been very close to her father and was so grief stricken by his death that it was 10th April before she felt capable of undertaking any public engagements, she spent her time closeted in her private apartments reading up on documents and the affairs of state. It was to be sixteen months before she was crowned.
Written by Your Archivist J.R. Ashby.
Information obtained from: The Country Life . Book of the Royal Silver Jubilee. By Patrick
Montague Smith. South Yorkshire Times Editions. 9th and 16th February 1952.
The Death of Princess Margaret
As we went to press the sad news of the death of Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister, broke. It was almost fifty years to the day since the death of her father, King George VI.
Princess Margaret Rose began her life on 21st August 1930 at Glamis Castle and as she was the first Royal baby to be born in Scotland for three centuries her life began with great revelry.
But that life, which was to begin on such a happy note, was to be a sad and problematic one. Her name will be forever linked to that of war hero and equerry to King George VI Group Captain Peter Townsend. They fell hopelessly in love with one another and wished desperately to marry, but because he was a divorcee the strict moral climate of the 1950's meant that any prospect of marriage was doomed and in 1956 the decision was made that they should not marry. She was devastated and many say that she never really recovered from it. To escape her feeling of loss she threw herself into work.
In May 1960 she married Anthony Armstrong-Jones, and for a time was happy with him having two wonderful children, David and Sarah. But this relationship again was to end in heartbreak for her when they divorced in 1978.
She had a series of very public affairs, which were followed closely by the press, and she began to spend more and more time at her villa, Les Jolies Eaux, on the Caribbean Island of Mustique, where she could live with some degree of privacy.
In 1995 her beloved Townsend died of cancer and it was shortly after this that she had an operation to remove part of a lung. then in 1998 came the first of her strokes. She seemed to make a mild recovery but underwent another stroke and severely scolded her feet.
During the final weeks prior to her death she went almost blind, was unable to walk and became bedridden. Then on Friday afternoon she suffered a third stroke, and during the night developed heart problems, she was taken by ambulance to King Edward VII Hospital where she died with her children by her bedside at 6:30am on Saturday 9th February 2002, she was seventy-one years old.
At 3pm on Friday 15th February 2002 a private ceremony will be held at St. George's Chapel, Windsor castle prior to cremation at Slough. Her ashes will then be buried at Windsor.
It seems so sad that a person who was once a glamorous and beautiful socialite and the life and soul of many celebrity parties should die a sad, depressed and damaged figure.