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Did the British Queen raise young women of humble lineage to serve her?

Did the British Queen raise young women of humble lineage to serve her?

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The House of the Portuguese Queens in the 13th and 14th century could be described more or less as the following:

high social class
- donas or ladies-in-waiting (widows or women married to important officials in the King's Household; possessed the highest offices, such as chamberlain)
- damsels or maidens-in-waiting (young, single women of high lineage)

average social class
- criadas da rainha (maidens of humble lineage; they were raised under the queen's rule, would often be given in marriage by her and, in the meantime, acted as servants)

low social class
- nurses (women of humble lineage, though wet nurses could be of a not so humble lineage)
- covilheiras ('grooming maids' or women of the bedchamber; widows or married women of humble and poor lineage)

very low social class
- chamber maids and servants (free women, not nobility, christian)
- servants and slaves (typically of moorish origin, could become free and continue as free women, though still servants; not christian)

Question: Was there in the British Isles the tradition of the Queen raising young noble women of humble lineage who'd spend their lives serving the Queen (before and, in some cases, after being married by the Queen)? If so, did these women have a specific designation?

I'm not looking for a fancy designation, as the Portuguese one itself is anything but. The Portuguese word 'criada', which today means housemaid and is considered outdated, was at this time taken at face value, meaning 'person raised by one's lady/lord'. It's also a fact that the queen became in fact the young woman's legal guardian until she got married, being thoroughly in charge of her education.

Do note that the term 'criada', as well as the notion of referring to a person raised by his lord/lady, with the associated duties of guardianship, lost its original significance shortly after the 14th century. I believe that, if there was a similar situation in the British Isles, it probably didn't survive past the 15th century either.

Edit and clarification:

By "humble lineage" I mean a noble family with low social standing, be it because the family has few properties and little power, is recent and hasn't yet gained prestige, or is ancient but has lost prestige and power.


  1. Ana Maria S. A. Rodrigues, “A mesa, o leito, a arca, a mula. Como se provia ao sustento e itinerância das rainhas de Portugal na Idade Média.” in A Mesa dos Reis de Portugal. pp. 52-60
  2. Rita Costa Gomes, A Corte dos Reis de Portugal no Final da Idade Média.

King George VI dies Elizabeth becomes queen

On February 6, 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.

King George VI, the second son of King George V, ascended to the throne in 1936 after his older brother, King Edward VIII, voluntarily abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. During World War II, George worked to rally the spirits of the British people by touring war zones, making a series of morale-boosting radio broadcasts (for which he overcame a speech impediment) and shunning the safety of the countryside to remain with his wife in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace. The king&aposs health deteriorated in 1949, but he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth, born on April 21, 1926, and known to her family as Lilibet, was groomed as a girl to succeed her father. She married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, on November 20, 1947, at London’s Westminster Abbey. The first of Elizabeth’s four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948.

From the start of her reign, Elizabeth understood the value of public relations and allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, despite objections from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who felt it would cheapen the ceremony. Elizabeth, the 40th British monarch since William the Conqueror, has worked hard at her royal duties and become a popular figure around the world. In 2003, she celebrated 50 years on the throne, only the fifth British monarch to do so.

Did the British Queen raise young women of humble lineage to serve her? - History

When the Queen was a truck mechanic

Image: Keystone/Getty Images

In March 1945, a truck mechanic (No. 230873) in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, based at the Mechanical Transport Training Section, Camberley, Surrey, received a visit from her parents and her sister. Her parents just happened to be King George VI and the Queen, and her sister was Princess Margaret.

That truck mechanic was Princess – later Queen – Elizabeth.

In 1942, at age 16, Elizabeth registered with the Labour Exchange –the British employment agency at the time – and was extremely keen to join a division of the women’s armed forces. Her father was reluctant to let her do so, but eventually relented. Once in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Elizabeth learned how to change a wheel, deconstruct and rebuild engines, and drive ambulances and other vehicles.

Joining the ATS as an honorary Second Subaltern, Elizabeth achieved the rank of honorary Junior Commander within five months. Here she can be seen maintaining an Austin K2 ambulance and a "Tilly" light truck.

Unlike the other members of the ATS, Elizabeth returned each night to sleep in the royal residence of Windsor Castle.

The young Elizabeth II: life before she was Queen

At the time of her birth, Elizabeth II was a princess who was never expected to succeed the throne. So how did she become queen? From her unconventional childhood to the crisis that made her a monarch, Kate Williams charts Elizabeth II's life within the royal family before she was crowned.

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Published: April 21, 2020 at 9:50 am

In April 1926, Britain was on the brink of the General Strike called by the TUC. There had been an economic perfect storm: the postwar crash in coal prices, combined with the government putting Britain on the gold standard, had put mining under pressure. After a government commission recommended reducing miners’ wages, the stage was set for an all-out strike of miners and other workers covered by the TUC, including railway and transport workers.

But despite being in a crisis, the home secretary Sir William Joynson Hicks could not be excused witnessing the legitimacy of a royal baby. The Duke and Duchess of York – George V’s second son, Bertie and his wife, the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – were expecting their first child. Although the baby was not a direct heir to the throne, Sir William still had to travel to 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, a home owned by Bowes-Lyons, where the child was due to be born.

The little girl was born by Caesarean section at 2.40am on 21 April. “We have long wanted a child to make our happiness complete,” wrote the duke. The child was “a little darling with a lovely complexion”, decreed Queen Mary. “I do hope that you and papa are as delighted as we are to have a granddaughter, or would you sooner have had another grandson?” wrote the duke to his father, George V. The baby was officially third in line to the throne, but since she was the child of George V’s second son – and female – she was destined to be pushed down the succession by sons born to her uncle, the Prince of Wales, and her father. She was called Elizabeth Alexandra Mary after her mother, great-grandmother and grandmother – after consorts, not queens regnant. The princess was destined for a good marriage and little more.

On 3 May, the TUC called the General Strike. Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin called it the “road to anarchy”, but the government played hard, drafting in volunteers and calling forth the middle classes to step in. By 12 May it had been called off and the following year the government outlawed sympathetic strikes and strikes intended to coerce the government, making another general strike impossible and restoring the existing structures of power. Two weeks later, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was christened by the archbishop of York at Buckingham Palace.

The young princess was a favourite with her grandparents and one of the few people in the family not afraid of the king, whom she called ‘Grandpa England’. In early 1927, her parents departed on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, leaving her with her nannies. When they returned, they took a new house, 145 Piccadilly, near Hyde Park. It had 25 bedrooms, a lift and a ballroom but, by royal standards, Elizabeth was growing up in a cosy, normal house and her playmates in the gardens were the daughters of businessmen and doctors, not fellow princesses.

In 1930 Princess Margaret was born. This time the home secretary, John R Clynes, had to trek up to Glamis Castle, the ancestral home of the Duchess of York. “I am glad to say that she has large blue eyes and a will of iron, which is all the equipment a lady needs!” the duchess wrote. As they grew up, it became evident that the two little girls had very different personalities. Elizabeth was conscientious, dutiful and orderly – she couldn’t go to sleep without unsaddling and feeding all her nursery horses and lining them up neatly. Margaret was playful, determined and fond of pranks – she blamed any mistakes or spillages on her imaginary friend, Cousin Halifax.

In 1933, when Elizabeth was seven, she received a new governess, Miss Marion Crawford. She had been recommended to the Duchess of York as a “country girl who was a good teacher, except when it came to mathematics”. Fortunately, the duchess was not looking for a challenging academic schedule. Both she and her husband had hated school (the duke had been ridiculed as a dunce). What the royal couple wanted for their daughters was a “really happy childhood, with lots of pleasant memories”, which meant minimal lessons. The king had only one request: ‘‘Teach Margaret and Lilibet a decent hand.” Miss Crawford’s regimen was gentle. Elizabeth received lessons from 9.30 until 11 in the morning and the rest of the day was devoted to outdoor games, dancing and singing, with a rest period for an hour and a half.

Unlike her parents, Elizabeth had an aptitude for learning and enjoyed history and literature but she had little opportunity for sustained study. Queen Mary criticised their education and recalled that she had busied herself with homework in the holidays – but to no avail. In her free time, Elizabeth was fondest of dogs and horses. She declared she wanted to marry a farmer so she could have lots of “cows, horses and dogs”.

Click to view our picture gallery of Queen Elizabeth II through the decades

George V died in January 1936 and the Prince of Wales assumed the throne as Edward VIII. As king he was more dependent on his lover, Wallis Simpson, than ever. But although the foreign press discussed his relationship with the American divorcee at length, the British newspapers stayed quiet. In late October, Wallis filed for divorce from her second husband and it was clear that the king meant to marry her. The government was as determined to stop him, for it was thought the people would not accept a divorced consort. The empire governments mostly refused the idea outright. “It was plain to everyone that there was a great shadow over the house,” wrote Miss Crawford.

On 10 December, 10-year-old Elizabeth was about to write up her notes from her swimming lesson when she heard chants of “God Save the King” outside. She asked a footman what had happened and he told her that her uncle had abdicated and her father was king. She ran up to tell her sister the news. “Does that mean you will have to be the next queen?” asked Margaret. “Yes, some day,” replied Elizabeth. “Poor you,” said Margaret. In the face of crisis and change, Elizabeth adopted a technique she would use throughout her life: she stuck to her routine, attempting to appear unruffled. She wrote up her swimming notes, and at the top of the page she wrote: “Abdication Day.”

The jolly life of 145 Piccadilly was at an end. The family moved into Buckingham Palace and her father and mother – who had always been so present – became consumed by meetings, receptions and politics. The former king, now the Duke of Windsor, the Uncle David of whom the children had been so fond, was sent to Europe. Elizabeth attended her father’s coronation, accompanied by Queen Mary, writing that the abbey was covered in “a sort of haze of wonder as papa was crowned, at least I thought so”.

Elizabeth was now heir to the throne. Queen Mary stepped up her campaign over education, and more history was introduced. In 1938, Elizabeth began receiving lessons from the vice provost of Eton, Henry Marten, on constitutional history. Marten’s teachings were important to Elizabeth’s perception of her role: he told her that monarchy was strengthened by adaptability and talked of the importance of broadcasting directly to her subjects.

The palace and the government were concerned that the princess did not seem too isolated. The First Buckingham Girl Guide Pack was instituted, with 20 girls invited to the palace on Wednesday afternoons. They learned trekking in the palace grounds and practised signalling in the corridors.

On 15 March 1939, German tanks entered Prague. The ‘peace’ created through appeasement by prime minister Neville Chamberlain was shattered. “Who can hope to appease a boa constrictor,” declared The Telegraph. The country moved towards war. In the summer of 1939, Elizabeth and her parents paid a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where the king had studied. There she was introduced to Philip of Greece, 18 to her 13. The princess was fascinated by him.

On 3 September 1939, Chamberlain announced on the BBC that Britain was now at war. The king broadcast later in the day, telling the people that this “grave hour” was “perhaps the most fateful in our history”. The princesses were staying at Birkhall, near Balmoral, on their annual summer holiday with Miss Crawford – and were soon joined by hundreds of evacuees from Glasgow. After Christmas at Sandringham, they went to Royal Lodge in Windsor, the pale pink walls painted green to fool enemy bombers. The queen refused to bow to pressure to send the children to Canada, out of the range of the enemy.

In spring 1940, German troops invaded Denmark and Norway. Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became prime minister, declaring to the Commons that Britain must “wage war, by sea, land and air with all our might”. The dispossessed royals of Norway and Denmark arrived seeking safety in London. The princesses were sent to Windsor Castle, where they would remain for the rest of the war – along with the crown jewels, bundled up in paper in the underground vaults.

The princesses were key to the propaganda strategy – the nation was told that they were in a secret location in the countryside, where they carried around their gas masks and grew their own carrots and potatoes in a vegetable patch. But the princesses were not exempt from the terrors of war – 300 bombs were dropped on Windsor Great Park over the course of the conflict. Often they were woken at night and sent into the underground vaults of the castle. Like Churchill, they slept in ‘siren suits’, zip-up all-in-one jumpsuits designed for warmth and practicality in bombing raids.

The palace had repeatedly rejected requests for Elizabeth to speak on the radio. In 1940, with the Luftwaffe razing British cities to the ground, the king and queen changed their minds. In a time when US support for the war effort was critical, they agreed to allow the princess to broadcast on the BBC to the children of North America. On 13 October she gave her speech, expressing how she and her sister sympathised with those who had been evacuated, since “we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all”. The speech was a hit. “Princess yesterday huge success here,” reported a north American representative of the BBC.

“This time we are all in the front line,” said the king in his Christmas message at the end of 1940. The bombing of British cities continued until April. Britain entered a sustained period of hardship. In 1941 it was the first country in the world to introduce conscription for single women. When Elizabeth turned 16, she begged her father to allow her to join the Labour Exchange. She was interviewed, but not placed – much to the relief of the king, who wished to protect his daughters.

At the end of 1943, when Elizabeth was 17, Philip came to spend Christmas with the family. He was charmed by her admiration and what he described as the “simple pleasure” of family life, so unlike his own unhappy childhood. He returned to war enthusiastic about the idea of marrying the princess, and his cousin, George of Greece, made a suggestion to the king that the pair might wed. It was a misstep the king was shocked and told George that Elizabeth was too young and Philip “had better not think any more about it at present”. The king didn’t wish to lose his daughter and the courtiers thought Philip “rough, ill mannered” (in the words of one). Worst of all was his background. As one courtier put it, “it was all bound up in one word: German”.

The princess turned 18 in 1944 and began to assume royal duties. Her father insisted she be made a counsellor of state (usually only open to those who had reached 21) and she stood in for him when he was briefly in Italy, signing a reprieve on a murder case. She made her first public speech at a children’s hospital and launched HMS Vanguard in the autumn. But she wanted more – she desired to serve in the forces. In early 1945, the king relented and allowed her to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a trainee ambulance driver.

At the base in Aldershot she was initially kept away from the other trainees and taken to eat in the officers’ mess, before the papers found out and the regime was quickly adjusted. The princess later said that it was the only time in her life that she had been able to test herself against people her own age. For the government, her training was a propaganda coup. Photos were taken of her wielding her spanner or standing by vehicles and she was on the front of every Allied newspaper.

On 30 April, Allied forces occupied the Reichstag. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker and the troops surrendered. On 7 May, the BBC interrupted a piano recital to announce that the following day would be known as Victory in Europe Day. The war was over.

The Gurkhas: The Worlds Toughest Fighting Elite.

Indian Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was known as “Sam the Brave” for his impeccable service to both the Raj and the Republic of India. He once said: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.”

That statement more or less describes the martial prowess of the members of the Gurkha elite fighting unit. “Better to die than be a coward” is their ethos. And they have lived by it for over 200 years as a part of the British and, later, the Indian Armed Forces.

Today, the Gurkha unit of the British Army is considered one of the most fearless fighting units in the service of Her Majesty.

The Queen even engages the services of two personal Gurkha officers known as the Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers. They have been at a British monarch’s side since the time of Queen Victoria. Upon discharge, they are appointed as Members of the Royal Victorian Order.

The unique relationship between Britain and the small Nepalese hill tribe started, unsurprisingly, in war.

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC. Photo: Indian Army GODL

In 1814, the ambitious Nepalese Mukhtiyaror prime minister, Bhimsen Thapa, ordered his Gurkha warriors (then called Gorkhas) to conquer Kashmir and Bhutan. Those orders ultimately resulted in them clashing with the forces of the British East India Company.

Thirty thousand British soldiers fought against 12,000 Gorkhali warriors. It took two years of gory carnage until the two sides agreed to peace in the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.

Sri Mukhtiyar General Bhimsen Thapa

“I’ve never seen more stamina and courage in my life,” said one British officer, describing his encounters with the terrain-inured Nepalese fighters. “They did not run away and seemed to know no fear of death, even though many of their comrades fell around them.”

Fighting against the Gurkhas proved to be a hard-earned lesson for the British. They never again attempted to bring Nepal under their control. Instead, the two nations entered into a period of perpetual peace that was never broken.

Gurkha soldiers during the Anglo-Nepalese War, 1815.

However, impressed by the Gurkha’s martial prowess, the British insisted on recruiting the average five-foot-three tall Nepalese men into their army. Since then, Gurkha warriors have been fighting against the enemies of the British Empire and, later, the United Kingdom.

42nd Gurkha Light Infantry, later known as the 6th Gurkha Rifles.

The Gurkhas have defended the interests of the British crown all over the world in places like Asia, France, Egypt, Turkey, and more. Gurkhas fought in Cyprus as well as in the Gulf War. One hundred thousand Gurkha soldiers also served during the First World War, and 40 battalions, amounting to a total of 112,000 men, served in the Second World War.

To this day, they are an integral part of the armed forces of both Britain and India. Even the Sultan of Brunei finances his own force of these elite fighters.

Nepali soldiers of British India, by Gustave Le Bon, 1885.

They are born soldiers

Born and raised in the mountainous terrain of Nepal, these Nepalese men are habituated to the hardships of what awaits them in the Gurkha regiment. And for decades, they have come in droves to join the British Army.

Back in the 1980s, 80,000 young men made their way to the recruiting offices every year. It was every young Nepalese boy’s dream to become a Gurkha when he grew up.

The 2 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure soon after their arrival in Japan in May 1946 as part of the Allied forces of occupation

But first, they have to pass one of the world’s most grueling military selection processes. Only a few of the thousands of hopefuls are ever chosen.

Gurkha soldiers (1896). The center figure wears the dark green dress uniform worn by all Gurkhas in British service, with certain regimental distinctions.

Those were the days when one-fifth of Nepal’s national income consisted of the pay coming from the young men who fought for Great Britain or India (part of the force became a section of the Indian army after Indian independence in 1947).

The toughest physical challenge during the selection process takes place in a spectacular gorge in Pokhara, Nepal.

Gurkhas in action with a six-pounder anti-tank gun in Tunisia, 16 March 1943.

On any other day, the location would appear idyllic and peaceful. However, when British recruitment officers are in the process of selecting the fittest and most able men for the British Armed Forces, the area is filled with running, sweating men.

The Nusseree Battalion. later known as the 1st Gurkha Rifles, circa 1857.

With dokos (wicker baskets containing 55 lbs of sand) strapped to their foreheads, the men must navigate a five-mile uphill run. The entire course over dusty and rocky trails must be completed in less than 45 minutes.

It is a test of stamina and commitment, separating the men from the boys. There are only 320 places available each year. Over 10,000 men aged 18 to 21 signed up for the 2019 admission.

The 1st Battalion of 1 Gurkha Rifles of the Indian Army takes position outside a simulated combat town during a training exercise.

The chance of becoming a Gurkha is very alluring because of the British salary, pension, and the right to settle in the UK upon competition of service. Many Nepalese families spend almost all they have to prepare their sons for service, as the family’s financial future is secure upon the successful admission of their progeny.

The pressure of joining is so big that some young men even flee to neighboring India and never return to their home villages out of shame from not having been selected.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles on patrol in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo: Sgt Ian Forsyth RLC MOD OGL

Truths about the Gurkhas that are the stuff of legend

A Gurkha soldier always carries the feared and incredibly sharp Khukuri knife with him wherever he goes. When revealed, the inwardly curved 16- to 18-inch long blade that resembles a machete must draw blood. If not, the holder must cut himself before sheathing the weapon.

Twenty-six Victoria Crosses, the most prestigious British military decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy, have been awarded to members of the Gurkha regiment since its inception.

A khukuri, the signature weapon of the Gurkhas.

One of the recipients was Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung in 1945 during the Second World War. With his comrades wounded, he held his own against a force of over 200 Japanese soldiers storming his position at Tanungdaw in Burma, present-day Myanmar.

He threw back enemy grenades until one exploded in his hand, blowing off the fingers and shattering his arm as well as injuring his leg. Although severely wounded, he continued fighting for four hours, inspiring the other men to keep going.

Inscription of Lachhiman Gurung VC’s name on the “Memorial Gates” at Constitution Hill, London SW1.Photo: Gorkha Warrior CC BY-SA 3.0

Gurkhas don’t stop fighting even when they retire. In 2011, the 35-year-old retired Gurkha Bishnu Shrestha took on 40 bandits while riding on a train in India. With only his trusted Khukuri knife he overwhelmed the men armed with swords, knives, and guns.

Ultimately, he killed three brigands and wounded a further eight, convincing the rest to flee the scene. His exploits also stopped them from raping a female passenger.

Even though the number of Gurkhas in uniform has gradually reduced from 14,000 men in the 1970s to about 3,000 today, the future looks bright for the regiment.

2nd 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, North-West Frontier 1923.

As of 2020, Nepalese women will also be allowed to enlist and be a part of a corps that for over 200 years has been the domain of men. But don’t think that they will get any lighter treatment––they too must carry the 55 lbs doko up a five-mile incline.

When considering the future of the Gurkhas, it is likely there will be many more feats of bravery in the decades to come.

Queen Elizabeth: A constant face in a changed world

In acquitting her calling faithfully, any list of the virtues to which our Queen's life bears witness will include patience, reserve, moderation, faithfulness and constancy. As she becomes the longest reigning British (and Australian) monarch in history, let's raise three cheers, writes Matthew Dal Santo.

A young woman angles her camera among the crowd in Wollongong's Crown Street. She shoots and takes a beautiful black and white photograph of another young woman, almost exactly her age.

The year is 1954 and the amateur photographer is my grandmother, her subject: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to Australia, the first of any reigning monarch.

I found the photograph going through old family albums after my grandmother passed away, the Queen suddenly appearing in mounted corners just after my mother's first Christmas and before my electrical engineer grandfather's 29th birthday lunch. I wonder how many others are scattered among family photographs across Australia, mementoes of the country's "great royal summer".

There is genuine poignancy in watching the official movie reel, The Queen in Australia: bright, slightly flickering images flash past of a sun-drenched morning when one million Sydneysiders took to the water and the headlands to greet "the Queen we have never seen", as the reader put it. Cannons boom as the Royal Yacht rolls in through the Heads, "the first ship ever to do so under the Royal Standard", a giant flotilla of leisure craft picking up where the naval escort left off.

George Street, like every street the Queen and Prince Philip would visit during the coming two months, heaved under bunting: blue and red ensign Australian flags, Union Jacks, flowers, streamers, crowns.

The enthusiasm and good will are impossible to miss, as is the growing ease between the young Queen and her Australian ministers, lords-mayor, army officers, ministers of religion, returned servicemen, teachers, nurses and ordinary civilians of apparently every walk of life.

National Archives of Australia: A1773/1

Six million Australians - almost three quarters of the country's population - did as my grandmother and went to greet and, I think, whatever their later views on the monarchy's place in Australia, express their loyal devotion to a still nervous and at times unsure 27-year-old woman who had ascended a thousand-year-old throne barely two years before.

At the beginning of a lifelong vocation, the trust and affection of the beaming crowds must have made the weight of the new burden easier to bear.

In 1954, memories of the Second World War - that triumph of "British-speaking peoples", as wartime prime minister John Curtin put it, in the cause of freedom - and its heavy toll in dead and wounded were keen (as indeed were those of 1914-18).

But while Britain was still on rationing, Australia's wealth, prosperity and optimism were unmistakable, even for Elizabeth herself. In her state banquet speech in Canberra, Her Majesty informed millions listening by wireless that she would return to Britain to "tell those in the United Kingdom that are seeking wider scope for their talents and resources that Australia may well seem the Promised Land".

To prime minister Sir Robert Menzies, the visit confirmed the "basic truth that for our Queen we have within us, sometimes unrealised until the moment of expression, the most profound and passionate feelings of loyalty and devotion".

He continued: "When eight million people spontaneously pour out this feeling they are engaging in a great act of common allegiance and common joy which brings them closer together and is one of the most powerful elements converting them from a mass of individuals to a great cohesive nation."

"The common devotion to the throne," he concluded, "is a part of the very cement of the whole social structure."

Much now separates us from those days. The first is the revolution that has taken place in Australia's identity - rarely remarked on in its depth and the speed with which it came about. Even 10 years, certainly 20, after Menzies' words had been spoken, theyɽ have been impossible to repeat in earnest.

Australia's British identity, one the country had consciously cultivated up to and after the War, collapsed with a rapidity few could have predicted in the early 1950s, leaving a void in the national self-image that has never really been filled. An uncomfortably large element of Australia's identity today is based on forgetting the safety derived from the country's Imperial connections or on myths of colonial oppression by Britain that few Australians would have identified with between Federation and, say, 1970.

The second is a wider change in the temper of our times, not limited to Australia - a shift in Zeitgeist discernible all over the Western world. It's a truism to observe that from Sydney to London, Paris and New York the innocence and deference towards authority that was characteristic of the 1950s crumbled away during the 1960s and 1970s, replacing (among other things) old forms of patriotism with a relatively new cynicism towards the representatives of the state, increasingly conceived not as a historical nation but as a collection of present-centred individuals. Whatever social structure we have left, it hardly seems appropriate to think of it as headed by anyone, let alone the occupant of a ("foreign") throne.

Like many of her generation, however, my grandmother never lost her great respect for the Queen. If the commemorative plates are anything to go by, the Queen's visits in 1970 for the bicentenary of Captain Cook's "discovery" of the east coast, in 1973 for the opening of the Sydney Opera House and in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee were occasions to reconnect with the monarch whose path she had crossed in 1954. I remember sitting with her on the shores of Sydney Harbour to see the Duke and Duchess of York in 1988.

This wasn't about a glimpse of celebrity or the frisson of royalty as such. An elder in her non-conformist church, my grandmother was far too serious and intelligent for that. Neither was it nostalgia for Britain she was born here and never identified patriotically with any other country. (I have a vivid memory of her telling me, "I'm Aussie, and proud of it.") Fighting cancer in her sixties, my grandmother continued to serve meals for the homeless in a Lifeline soup kitchen in a Wollongong street not far from where she had flashed her camera 40 years before almost until the end, she ran the volunteers' committee at a Uniting Church nursing home she had played a primary role in founding.

When my grandmother thought about the Queen, I think it was as an embodiment of an ideal she had formed for her own life: one of service to family, country and God.

On Wednesday, the same Queen Elizabeth II whom my grandmother photographed in Wollongong in her twenties will become the longest reigning British (and Australian) monarch in history, overtaking her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria (1837-1901) with a total of 63 years and 7 months on the throne. Throughout that time, the Queen has embodied nothing if not the grace of a duty borne, without wearying or complaining, from young adulthood (when her equally dutiful father, King George VI, first began preparing her to succeed him to the throne) to the threshold of her nineties - an astonishing act of public service.

In today's world, that makes the monarchy more than a little subversive. The public sphere, the realm of our common life, to which the Queen's entire personal life has been devoted, is in retreat everywhere.

Life in the 21st century relegates to the margins of our individual and collective awareness those older values the 20th century monarchy has been built on - and which the Queen, a quiet but committed Christian, has done more than any to uphold: duty and the pursuit of spiritual goods that cannot be commodified by the market.

In acquitting her calling faithfully, any list of the virtues to which our Queen's life bears witness will include patience, reserve, moderation, faithfulness and constancy.

Foreign to the Queen's life than the modern cult of the individual, cut loose from all social bonds. Consider the astonishing strength of the sense of reciprocal obligation and common purpose in her broadcast from South Africa to the Empire on the occasion of her 21st birthday in 1947.

I am thinking especially today of all the young men and women who were born about the same time as myself and have grown up like me in terrible and glorious years of the Second World War.

Now that we are coming to manhood and womanhood it is surely a great joy to us all to think that we shall be able to take some of the burden off the shoulders of our elders who have fought and worked and suffered to protect our childhood.

To accomplish that, we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves.

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

I do not know whether my grandmother was listening that day, little more than a year before her own 21st birthday. But from what I know of her later life, I am certain that she was - and that somewhere in her heart she returned the invitation addressed to her by that Princess Elizabeth. Millions of others of her generation - in Australia, Britain and elsewhere - will have done likewise.

None can doubt that the Queen has kept her vow.

In his classic work of moral philosophy, After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre describes the collapse in late modern Western culture of a classical sense of the narrative unity of the human life. In living with dignity before us from marriage and coronation to the birth of children, middle age and to grandmother-hood and great-grandmother-hood in her older years, the Queen embodies that rare virtue of constancy ("integrity" or "purity of heart"), best understood as singleness of purpose in pursuit of the good throughout a whole human life.

The Queen at almost 90 is doubtless wiser, more experienced and more confident than she was when she stepped ashore at Farm Cove, a young mother, in 1954. The public has sensed increasing open-heartedness and warm informality in the Queen's demeanour - manifest, for example, in the relaxed and smiling monarch (that "beloved and respected friend" and "vital part of our democracy" in the words of former prime minister Julia Gillard) that greeted crowds in Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in 2011. Who in 1954 could have imagined their Sovereign's consenting to appear in a mock James Bond clip to open the 2012 London Olympics? And yet she is at the same time evidently the same person: dutiful, conscientious and dignified.

In many ways, modern political life is a feud between different visions of the same liberalism. Both treat our association with other people as essentially contingent, empty of meaning in itself. Quietly, on the side lines of politics, the Queen has preserved an older sense of "commonwealth", a vision of the state not just as an arena for the operation of market forces or the provider of legal means for individual self-liberation, but as the goal and purpose, at once material and spiritual, of our private and common lives.

On an historic day, let's raise three cheers for the head of our Australian Commonwealth: Elizabeth the Constant, Elizabeth the Good.

Matthew Dal Santo is a Danish Research Council post-doctoral fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewDalSant1.

Queen Elizabeth&rsquos first son: Charles, Prince of Wales

The Queen was just 22 when she gave birth to husband Prince Philip&rsquos first son and heir to the throne, Charles. He was born on November 14, 1948, which meant he was only 3 years old when his mother ascended the throne, according to the BBC.

Prince Charles became the longest-serving heir apparent in 2011 (surpassing the previous record of 59 years, two months and 13 days, set by his great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII). For those keeping track at home, Queen Elizabeth has reigned for more than six decades&mdashand she&rsquos still got it. (Sorry, Charlie.)

While most kids were practicing multiplication at age 9, Prince Charles was busy becoming Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. Charles didn&rsquot attend Eton College (a boys&rsquo boarding school founded by King Henry VI) like most British royals. Instead, he went to Prince Philip&rsquos alma mater, Gordonstoun, in Scotland, after transferring from Cheam School. He didn&rsquot have the easiest time at boarding school, especially with his royal blood, per Vanity Fair.

After secondary school, Charles went to Trinity College, where he became the first royal heir apparent to get a degree, according to Times Higher Education. He studied anthropology, archaeology, and history and even spent time studying at archaeological sites in France.

Charles served in the Royal Air Force, where he trained as a jet pilot, according to his official bio. He also served in Royal Navy, just like his father, grandfather, and both of his great-grandfathers.

Charles had a slew of girlfriends, including his now-wife, Camilla Parker Bowles and Davina Sheffield, a woman who was reportedly his "soulmate" but was deemed unsuitable for a future with the prince because she wasn&rsquot a virgin, per Marie Claire UK.

Take a rare look inside the Queen's complicated relationship with her four children:

Once he was done living the bachelor life, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, who was 13 years his junior. (You can expect to see their courtship and grand nuptials on The Crown season 4.) The wedding came with much media attention, but Queen Elizabeth reportedly wasn&rsquot particularly fond of the famous princess, per numerous accounts. Princess Di and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, just a year before her death in 1997. Charles felt pressured by his family into marrying Diana, even though he was in love with Camilla at the time, according to Kitty Kelley&rsquos book, The Royals.

Charles remarried in 2005 to Camilla, who is now Duchess of Cornwall.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles allegedly weren&rsquot close while he was growing up. The Queen left most of her parenting to the nannies, according to Prince Charles. In his 1994 authorized biography by Jonathan Dimbleby, Charles said that it was "inevitably the nursery staff" who watched the young royal take his first steps and taught him life lessons, per Town & Country.

But the heir apparent was close with Queen Elizabeth&rsquos mother, aptly titled The Queen Mother, until she died in 2002. Speaking at her funeral, Prince Charles said that his grandmother "meant everything" to him and that he had "adored her" since childhood.

8. She proposed to her husband.

In the lead up to her 17th birthday party, then-Princess Victoria met her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Four years later, Victoria, now the monarch, proposed to Prince Albert on October 15, 1839 and they were married on February 10, 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace in London.

Victoria was deeply in love with Albert and, once they were married, she claimed to be truly happy for the first time in her life. After their wedding night, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary, "I never, never spent such an evening!! My dearest dearest dear Albert . his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before!"

Where did he start out in life?

Curiously, Philip's journey to Buckingham Palace began back in 1922, in a crib made from an orange box.

He was born on 10 June 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu, the youngest child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

That heritage made him a prince of Greece and Denmark, but the following year the family was banished from Greece after a coup.

A British warship carried them to safety in Italy, with baby Philip dozing in a makeshift fruit crate cot.

‘Silly ideas, like becoming independent’

As Eden reveals the invasion of Egypt is part of a secret agreement between the Israeli, French and British governments to reclaim the Suez Canal without approval from Parliament or the United Nations, Elizabeth’s mind is somewhere else, with the Russian ballerina Ulanova with whom she suspects her husband is having an affair. We see her going to see her perform in a ballet as Israeli, French, and British forces invade Egypt. As our hearts begin to bleed for Elizabeth’s bleeding heart, we remember, to paraphrase Baldwin, “the Egyptians are us”.

The next season opens with Philip on a global tour of British colonial bases where he has his colonial fantasies with native women put on full display.

Such popular television versions of history are 10 times more important than any erudite piece of scholarship in measuring the sentiments of the public at large, and it is right here that the colonial calamities of British empire become a mere background noise to flesh out the more immediate vicissitude of an outdated institution coming to terms with a vastly and swiftly changing world.

In one of the episodes of the third season we see how the BBC once tried to do a propaganda “documentary” on the royal family to promote its significance. The piece became such an embarrassing flop that the Queen forbids it being shown anymore.

In many ways this show we are watching, The Crown, is an overcompensation for that catastrophe the BBC made to propagate the British monarchy, where even a monster like Churchill appears as a deeply human father mourning the death of his infant child Marigold with an incessant probing of a pond in his paintings.

This Churchill is not the Churchill the savagely colonised and robbed world knows.

This lovely dialogue between Queen Elizabeth and her two delightful children Charles and Anne sums up the running tension between the domestic chores of the young Queen as a caring mother missing her handsome husband Prince Philip and the mandate the global British colonial “territories” has placed on her crown. Mother and children are in a lush and spacious hall in Buckingham Palace looking at a globe:

ELIZABETH: Now, Anne, what’s this?

ELIZABETH: Very good. And, Charles, who do you suppose is surrounded by penguins at the moment?

ELIZABETH: Yes, that’s right. That’s because he’s in the Antarctic, and from there, he goes to the South Shetland Islands, then he goes on to the Falkland Islands. And then he goes all the way up here, to Ascension Island. All these are British Overseas Territories, and they have to be visited every once in a while, so they don’t feel neglected or forgotten, and don’t get any silly ideas like becoming independent. Right, brushed your teeth?

ELIZABETH: Good. Have you said your prayers? Yes. Jolly good. Right. Night-night.

NANNY: Come along, children.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.