A Queen Adored: England\'s Elizabeth II

Countess of Longford, Elizabeth Pakenham, was born in London England in
1906. She attended Lady Margaret Hall and Oxford University where she studied
classical history and philosophy. She later married Oxford professor and
politician, the seventh Earl of Longford in 1931, with whom she had eight
children. She worked as a tutor from 1930-36 in the Worker\'s Educational
Association, and was a member of the Paddington and St. Pomcras Rent Tribunal
from 1946-51. She was also a Labour party candidate for Cheltenham, and later
for the City of Oxford. After both campaigns proved unsuccessful, Longford
began her career as a writer in 1954, where she concentrated on the topic of
parenting. She later turned her focus to British history, and became recognized
for her talent as a biographer. She was awarded the James Tait Memorial Prize
for best biography in 1964 for Victoria R.I. Longford claimed the Yorkshire
Post Book of the Year Award twice with Wellington,1969, and The Royal House of
Windsor, Winston Churchill in 1974. It is with this same thoroughness and true
human interest that she captures the life of England\'s reigning monarch in The
Queen; The Life of Elizabeth II.
Though surveys have revealed that at any one time between 15 and 30% of
the English people claim they would prefer a republic, the majority uphold the
traditional support of the monarchy, as has been the English custom for over a
thousand years. Since 1952 the endeared Queen Elizabeth II has played this role
in her country\'s politics as an important aspect of the modern nation\'s
identity. As she has proved neither conservative nor liberal in her stance, she
has so come to symbolize a popular democracy.
It was raining on the sunless April day in 1926 when Elizabeth Bowes-
Lyon announced to her husband of three years that it was time. The Duke and
Duchess of York were anticipating the birth of their first child. As the
doctors were soon to discover, this was not to be a routine delivery. The child
was breech and as night fell the decision to perform a cesarean section was made
and thus commenced. The operation a success, at 2:40 AM, Wednesday, April 21, a
princess was born. As is characteristic of cesarean birth, the first
granddaughter of King GeorgeV and Queen Mary was particularly immaculate with a
shapely head, fair hair, and pink skin. Her bright blue eyes were framed by
long dark lashes. She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, after her mother,
great-grandmother, and grandmother the Queen. Her delighted father wrote to his
royal parents to announce the new arrival and express his hope that they would
be as satisfied with the birth of a girl as were he and his wife. As she was
born third in line of an unlikely succession, a granddaughter was a refreshing
delight. As one more of sentiment, the ideal of a little Princess had an
immediate public appeal as well.
In the same year of Elizabeth\'s birth, there were other significant
changes within the Commonwealth. The white "colonies" had grown into self-
governing "dominions". The Commonwealth would now be comprised of nation-states
which were to co-exist in absolute equality with one another and the "mother
country". The king was to be the binding force for this partnership of nations
as he was to symbolize their common values of patriotism, history, and culture.
The Imperial Conference of 1926 would reaffirm these common beliefs of liberty,
equality, and unity in the Balfour Report.
The English people were very taken with little Elizabeth. Longford
writes, "part of [her] immense appeal was due to her vivacity and comic fervor
in doing what was expected of her". Though Elizabeth\'s childhood was quite
sheltered, she found access to the rest of the world through the many nursery
toys her parents endowed her with. Miniature delivery vans of bread and garden
supplies represented the everyday jobs of the people. A Christmas present of a
dustpan and brush also symbolized work in the real world, and possibly served as
a tool in the development of a remarkable tidiness that followed her through
adulthood. Her many ponies also served as a learning experience through the
necessity of their care in grooming, feeding, and watering.
She was a very bright child as well. Her mother began teaching her to
read at the age of five, the same age she had began to learn. Much like her
mother, Elizabeth caught on very quickly. This may be greatly attributed to the
amount of attention the Duchess was able to give the Princess. She had put