ON THIS DAY: George the 6th Dies, Elizabeth Acends

King George the 6th died in his sleep at Sandringham Castle on Feb 6, 1952 which set his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, on the path to the throne. She was in Kenya when he died, but she is on the throne today and she recently indicted, contrary to speculation, that Charles, her oldest son, will, in fact, succeed her when she dies.

The British monarchy still matters in world affairs by virtue of their connection to the British past but also because they stand as taste makers and standards bearers even after the long and often tortured path their history has taken. That Charles will take the throne after Elizabeth dies indicates that the Church of England is either officially OK with divorce or that marriage is irrelevant to the British and virtually everywhere else in ‘Christendom’. Charles was married to the ‘people’s princess’ Diana, before divorcing her and marrying another divorced person, Camila, and Elizabeth has recently stated that she is OK with Camilla being ‘Queen Camila’ after Elizabeth is gone.

When this happens, and Camila accompanies Charles to the highest echelon of British tradition, so will finally end the saga of King Henry the 8th, the most prominent historical official of the Anglican Church. He was King from 1509 to 1547, long before there were any American colonies, and yet his saga is not quite finished. His ignoble place in history began when he was unable to get the Pope of the then monopoly Catholic Church to agree to his request for a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was also his former sister-in-law. Consequently, he divorced the Church of England from the Catholics and decreed the divorce from Catherine on his own. His marriage to the following wife went forward but did not last, and he ended up married a total of six times. Two of his wives were beheaded, including the second, Anne Boleyn, but not before she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth the 1st, who was the progenitor to the current monarch, Elizabeth 2nd. Elizabeth the 1st was also referred to as ‘The Virgin Queen’ and the state of Virginia is named after her.

The other famous divorcé was Edward the 8th, who became King in 1936 when the older brother of George the 6th, George the 5th, died. Edward ascended to the royal throne, but he also desired to marry an American woman, Wallace Simpson, who had been previously married. In spite of Henry the 8th paving the way for multiple divorces, Edward was unable to negotiate a path to retaining  his position and so he abdicated his title and this paved the way for George the 6th to become King. This King George was the subject of the movie The King’s Speech, since he struggled with a pronounced stutter, but he was King during the Second World War, and when he died on Feb 6, 1952, his daughter, Elizabeth the 2nd, ascended.

Elizabeth bore three sons, the eldest of which is Charles, who is heir apparent. Charles married Diana in a ‘story book’ wedding in 1981, and she bore two sons, William and Harry, but she and Charles divorced and she was subsequently killed in a car accident. Charles married the former Camila Shand, who was also divorced. And now, the reigning monarch, Elizabeth, has publicly indicated the Charles will, in fact, ascend upon her death (if he lives that long) and divorce shall fall as a disqualifier for holding the throne of the longest reigning royal family in the world.  

The list of British royals who are noted in history is long and yet current. The sons of Charles and Diana, William and Harry, are current in the news, including Harry’s American wife, Meghan, who is also divorced. Harry and Meghan enjoy the privileges of royal titles but seem to not enjoy any of the restrictions of royalty and so have become something else entirely: parasitic celebrities. The saga continues and for good or ill, the British royals continue to be relevant in an ever-changing world of shifting morals and tastes.

Elizabeth the 2nd
Henry the 8th
Catherine of Aragon
Edward the 8th