Twelve days later, on Feb. 27, the 25-year-old queen presided over her first investiture, handing out honors to 2,500 citizens and members of the military for service to the nation. She has given out hundreds of thousands such honors over the years.
“It was all very sudden,” the queen recalled that surreal week more than 40 years later. In the moment it was basically about “making the best job you can. It’s a question of maturing into something that one’s got used to doing, and accepting the fact that here you are, and it’s your fate, because I think continuity is important.”
Continuity has been the name of the game since, as Queen Elizabeth II—with 16th-century monarch Elizabeth I as her predecessor, while her mother, also Queen Elizabeth, became the Queen Mother—passed her ruby jubilee (40 years), then golden (50 years), then diamond (60 years) and then, her sapphire jubilee after 65 years on the throne.
And now, “We’re going to see her moving along, doing her duty,” Bedell Smith said of the monarch’s future without her husband of 73 years. “She’s not going to be like Queen Victoria and retreat from public view. She’ll be out, and she’ll do whatever is required of her.”
(Originally published Feb. 10, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)