Special Report

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

Source: Express / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

> Event: Birth of Prince William

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was the first child of Charles and Diana and is thus second in the line of succession to the British throne. He was educated at Eton and the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Afterwards, he joined the Royal Air Force and served as an air ambulance pilot for two years. Currently, William performs official royal duties on behalf of the Queen. These include engaging with charitable and military organizations.

Source: Princess Diana Archive / Hulton Royals Collection via Getty Images

> Event: Australian tour by Charles and Diana

Charles and Diana set out on an intense tour of Australia just as the country’s newly elected Labour leader, Bob Hawke, announced that he wanted to end his nation’s membership in the Commonwealth. The couple covered about 30,000 miles and made as many as eight appearances a day. Diana broke royal precedent by bringing baby Prince William with her. The trip was covered extensively by the media, and Diana proved to be an extremely popular figure, winning over even Hawke. It is said that she returned to England a star.

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> Event: Birth of Prince Harry

The second child of Charles and Diana, Harry is sixth in the line of succession to the British throne. After completing high school, Harry took a gap year in Australia where he worked on a cattle ranch. Later, as part of his expected military service, he deployed to two tours of Afghanistan in 2007 and ’08 and again in 2012 and ’13. In 2018, he married American actress Meghan Markle.

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> Event: The Nassau Accord

The Queen attended the 1985 meeting of the Commonwealth of Nations, held in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. A major takeaway from the event was the Nassau Accord, which called on the government of South Africa to dismantle apartheid and end its occupation of Namibia.

Source: Chris Wood / Hulton Royals Collection via Getty Images

> Event: Wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

In 1986, Prince Andrew married commoner Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey. The two had known each other since childhood but did not begin dating until 1985. The couple separated in 1992 and officially divorced four years later. Their split drew considerable media attention, as divorce was not considered normal for royals. Andrew and Sarah had two children, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Andrews has been accused of child sexual abuse linked to deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, and has stepped back from public life.

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> Event: Black Monday

On Monday, October 19, 1987, stocks crashed internationally, affecting all major world markets. Financial transactions in the U.K. had been halted unexpectedly the previous Friday due to the so-called Great Storm — an extratropical cyclone that ravaged the country — and this exacerbated the effects of the crash on British markets. There were fears that the crash could create a prolonged economic crisis, potentially even rivaling the Great Depression, but by 1989, stocks had begun to rebound.

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> Event: Nurses’ protest

In February of the year, nurses across the United Kingdom took part in a day of “industrial action,” striking to secure better pay for themselves and more financing for the National Health Service. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher condemned the strike, saying it would cost patients treatment time. However, the majority of nurses joined picket lines during their breaks or arranged for someone to cover their shifts. Queen Elizabeth II did not comment on the protest.

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> Event: Fall of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November of the year was a landmark moment that marked the symbolic end of the Cold War, led to the ultimate reunification of Germany, and triggered the beginning of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the resultant substantial change in world geopolitics. Queen Elizabeth was popular in West Berlin; when she visited in 1965, more than a million people lined the streets to greet her. She visited on other occasions, including a trip in 1987.

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> Event: Resignation of Margaret Thatcher

Throughout her time in office, Thatcher maintained one of the lowest average approval ratings of any post-war prime minister. She faced multiple challenges to power but was able to fend them off. Her style of governing could be very headstrong — she was known as “the Iron Lady” — and she often ignored the opinions of colleagues. In the late 1980s she began to run into disagreements with fellow members of her party which eventually led her to withdraw from leadership. Before leaving office, she held a final meeting with the Queen.

> Event: Operation Desert Storm

In 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded neighboring Kuwait. Much of the international community responded with sanctions and eventually military action. Coalition forces first heavily bombed Iraq in 1991 and then launched an offensive codenamed Operation Desert Storm when Iraq didn’t surrender. British military forces played a large role from the air and on the ground. The Queen issued several honorary knighthoods to Americans who took part in the operation.

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