What's changed since the Queen took the throne in 1952?
Queen Elizabeth II, wearing the Imperial Crown, carries the symbols of authority, the orb and the and sceptre, as she leaves Westminster Abbey at the end of the Coronation Ceremony, June 2, 1953. (AP Photo)
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012 3:12PM EDT
When Queen Elizabeth II began her reign in 1952, the ditty 'How Much is That Doggie in the Window?' was climbing up the pop charts and a loaf of bread could be bought for less than 20 cents. After 60 years, hit tunes sound very different and bread costs a lot more, but the Queen still rules.
The thought of Lady Gaga crooning about buying a puppy to protect her man is a little far-fetched in today's pop culture, but you might be surprised to learn how much of that era still resonates today.
In Canada, the Old Age Security Act was introduced that year, for example, and remains very much part of the political discourse in 2012.
But for many Canadians, young and old, the most tangible connection to that era might be through our national pastime. As the television age dawned here and around the world, the first 'Hockey Night in Canada' telecasts were beamed across the country.
Looking back, there's no doubt the young Queen Elizabeth II understood a sea change was taking place. British lawmakers had decided the presence of cameras would disrupt the Coronation, but the Queen overruled their fears.
Instead, when she was finally crowned in June of 1953, the events were broadcast across Britain and TV reels were flown around the world for audiences to see before the sun set on Coronation Day.
Coming at the hopeful dawn of the global village, and the outset of our modern technological age, there were many reasons for audiences to cheer. But the world's fragile post-war recovery was about to lurch into a new Cold War.
Yet even as the world transformed, she remained staunchly devoted to her duties as head of the Commonwealth. More than any of her predecessors, she abandoned the safe confines of her throne to travel to all corners of her realm.
Along the way, the Queen essentially invented the royal "walkabout." What might have seemed unthinkable in 1952 -- that a "commoner" might have a chance to actually chat with their Queen -- seems a given today.
In royal historian Dr. Carolyn Harris' view, that's one of the ways Queen Elizabeth II has been keeping up with the times.
"It's a much more global approach to monarchy than previous monarchs have adopted," she told CTVNews.ca.
But coping with the resulting intense global interest in the details of royal life has, at times, proven very difficult.
When the Queen celebrated her 40th year on the throne in 1992, for example, the monarchy was under a dark shadow.
It was not, the Queen said in a famous speech, "a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis."
Translated as 'Year of Horrors,' her Latin turn of phrase encompassed a litany of woes including the collapse of several of her children's marriages and the very public disintegration of another.
It was the year the unauthorized Princess of Wales tell-all "Diana, Her True Story" revealed that Diana, deeply depressed and unhappy in her marriage, had attempted suicide as many as five times during the 1980s. Author Andrew Morton also wrote of Diana's struggle with self-mutilation and bulimia, made public Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, and detailed the attempts by palace officials to contain the royal couple's failing marriage.
Despite staunch denials of trouble in the Palace, any lingering illusions were brought to an end with the official announcement in December that Prince Charles and Diana's marriage was over.
By the time the public saw the embarrassing transcript of a conversation between the Prince of Wales and his married lover -- who could ever shake the mental image of Charles telling Camilla, "I want to be reincarnated as your tampon" – there was no denying the shine was off the royal jewels.
Interest in such gossip was nothing new to the royal family, but the amplification of a now-global media interest was. Yet even as the last vestiges of royal mystique seemed lost, the Queen seized an opportunity for a fresh start.
"There's been a revitalization with a new generation of the royal family growing up and becoming respected," Harris said, noting the Queen's enduring commitment to keeping her family in touch with the times.
"Sometimes monarchy can be viewed as old fashioned, but there's a lot of evidence they're trying to remain in step with new attitudes and new ways of communication and to respond to that," Harris told CTVNews.ca.
"So there's still an enormous effort to really bring the work that the royal family does to as large an audience as possible."
Buckingham Palace has been online since 1997, offering site visitors a chance to apply for jobs, track the family's official movements and even catch up on the Queen's beloved pet Corgi dogs.
The royals have embraced social media since then too, debuting a YouTube channel as well as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook accounts that let the public know what members of the royal family are up to on any given day.
But the royal effort to reflect the public's shifting attitude has gone beyond simply revealing the secrets of a privileged royal life.
Last year's extravagant royal wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, for example, ended with the newlyweds driving themselves away.
Granted, it was in a vintage Aston Martin DB6 Volante on loan from history's longest serving King-in-waiting Prince Charles. But it was festooned in the kind of streamers and trailing balloons popular with newlyweds everywhere.
"In terms of the European monarchies the trend is very much to identify more with how modern people live and to then try to break down those barriers," Harris said, explaining the trend away from the traditional trappings of royal pomp and circumstance.
The Queen has certainly not abandoned her jewels or palaces, but she has seen her riches dwindle somewhat. In a royal first, she even volunteered to pay income and capital gains tax, and as a result has seen her personal income taxed like any other Briton since 1993.
You still won't run into Queen Elizabeth II buying groceries, but you very well might encounter a possible future queen in Anglesey, Wales where the Duchess of Cambridge lives with her husband Prince William when he's working his day job as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.
The 86-year-old Queen is right on trend in another significant way though -- the improved health of today's aging population.
When Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the thanksgiving service was held on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral because the 78-year-old Queen couldn't climb the stairs to go inside.
In contrast, Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee as an active, vital person who betrays no intention of acceding the throne before she beats Victoria's record reign.
Besides knee surgery in 2003, and the odd cancellations due to a cold in 2005 and strained back in 2006, Queen Elizabeth II has given few reasons to be concerned for her health.
She certainly has the genes for it, considering Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lived to be 101.
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