Special Report

The Most Important Event in the Life of Queen Elizabeth in Every Year of Her Reign

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

> Event: Cuban missile crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis shook the world and threatened to spiral the U.S. and USSR into mutually assured nuclear destruction. After it was revealed that the Soviets had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, a tense standoff nearly escalated to Armageddon. However, a diplomatic solution was reached and the crisis was averted. The events spurred the British government to come up with Operation Candid, a plan to protect the Queen and her husband in the event of nuclear war. They were to be evacuated in a royal yacht and hidden in a loch in coastal Scotland.

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> Event: French veto of the U.K.’s entry into the Common Market

In 1963, the United Kingdom attempted to join the European Common Market, the forerunner to the European Union. However, French president Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s application. He claimed that Britain lacked commitment to European integration and some might say history has proven him correct. De Gaulle would go on to veto Britain’s second attempt a few years later.

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> Event: Birth of Prince Edward

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, was born March 10, 1964, at Buckingham Palace. He is the youngest child of Elizabeth and Philip and the 14th in line of succession to the British throne. Edward joined the Royal Marines after graduating from the University of Cambridge. Military service is traditional for members of the British Royal Family — however, Edward stayed with the Marines for less than six months. Edward moved on to a career in theater and television production before taking up royal duties as a full-time job.

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> Event: Death of Winston Churchill

Churchill is a complicated and controversial figure, known for defying the Nazis and guiding the U.K. through World War II. He served as an effective post-war prime minister, and became a close friend of Elizabeth. But he has also been accused of racist views, and he defended the idea of a British Empire and its colonies. He suffered a stroke in 1953, and in 1962 was hospitalized after a fall in Monte Carlo. He never completely recovered, and there has been speculation that he fell into depression. He had another stroke on Jan. 12, 1965, and died two weeks later at the age of 90.

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> Event: World Cup victory

England’s only World Cup victory came in 1966, and the Queen was there to play her part. She witnessed England’s victory over West Germany in London’s Wembley stadium. She then went on to hand the World Cup trophy to the team’s captain. Recently, she invoked her memories of 1966 while rooting on England as they took on Italy in this year’s European Championship final (which it lost).

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> Event: Legalization of homosexual acts and abortion

In 1967, the British parliament passed the Sexual Offences Act, legalizing homosexual acts if they were consensual, in private, and between individuals who were at least 21 years old. It was considered a landmark for gay rights in the nation. Also in 1967, the Abortion Act was passed, which legalized abortion on certain grounds by registered practitioners. The Queen gave her royal assent to both laws.

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> Event: Amending of the Commonwealth Immigration Act

The Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968 amended a similar act from 1962. The new act further reduced the rights of citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations to migrate to the United Kingdom. The Commonwealth is made up of nations and territories that were previously part of the British Empire (including Australia, Canada, India, and Nigeria). The Queen gave the act her royal assent.

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> Event: Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales is the traditional and ceremonial title granted to the heir apparent to the British throne. The investiture is an official ceremony that confers the title. Only two such investiture ceremonies took place in the 20th century, both at Caernarfon Castle in Wales. The 73-year-old Prince Charles, the eldest child of Elizabeth and Prince Philip, remains next in line to take the throne.

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> Event: Election of Edward Heath as Prime Minister

Edward Heath served as leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975 and was prime minister from 1970 to 1974. After the scandals of the later ’50s and early ’60s, his party was knocked out of power until its surprise victory in 1970. Heath balanced relationships between the United States and China, among others. The Queen accompanied him in 1970 when he met with President Nixon on his visit to the U.K..

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> Event: Death of the first British soldier in Northern Ireland

Robert Curtis was officially listed as the first British soldier killed in the decades-long conflict in North Ireland known as “The Troubles.” In early 1971, British forces began searching for Irish Republican Army arms caches in Belfast, provoking citizens to riot. During one clash, Curtis’s regiment was deployed to quell a riot. A gunman fired a burst from a submachine gun into the British lines, killing Curtis.

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