How Queen Elizabeth Saw History Unfold in Her 70 Years on the Throne

It's the end of an era.

Queen Elizabeth II has died at 96 and in her seven decades on the throne as one of the world's steadiest and most loved leaders, she witnessed many of history's seismic shifts that defined the world as we know it today.

Elizabeth's reign predated the personal computer, the smartphone, and the internet and in her twilight years, she was a stabilizing force for the United Kingdom through Brexit or its breakup with the European Union, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

EXPLAINER: Operation London Bridge: Queen Elizabeth is Dead, What Happens Next? 

She ascended to the throne at the age of 25, following the death of her father King George VI in 1952. Throughout her reign, the Queen saw 16 prime ministers from World War II leader Winston Churchill to the newly elected Liz Truss.

"It's worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change," Elizabeth, in her 2019 Christmas message, said.

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Here are some of the most historic events that Elizabeth lived through while on the throne:

The Dawn of the Space Age

NASA/Twitter

Humanity's desire to explore the unknown saw its first leap in 1957 as the Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth satellite that marked the beginning of the Space Age.

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Over a decade later, humanity would see another great feat in space exploration with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully setting foot on the moon.

Just a few months before the Queen's death, the world saw the deepest and sharpest photos of the distant universe so far thanks to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The Birth of the Internet 

Shutterstock
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The Queen's reign also saw the world transition from radio communication to internet messaging as well as the rise of social media.

With lockdowns implemented worldwide at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth also adapted with the times, partaking in Zoom calls and holding virtual meetings.

From Marcos Sr. to Marcos Jr.

Photo courtesy of BBM Media Bureau
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Closer to home in the Philippines, Elizabeth's reign lived through the rise of the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. down to the recent election of his son and namesake to the presidency.

Her reign saw 12 Philippine leaders come and go, including incumbent Marcos Jr. Of the 12, only four remain living, all of whom rose to power in the new millennium.

She also saw the parent-child presidencies of Disodado Macapagal and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Corazon Aquino and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

From Stalin to Putin

Thibault Camus, Agence France-Presse
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When Elizabeth became Queen, the Soviet Union was still intact under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. At the time of her death, the USSR is no more, and Russia is under the leadership of Vladimir Putin who is second to Stalin when it comes to the length of tenure.

Elizabeth's seven-decade reign has seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of its republics as fully independent states.

The Dawn of the Smartphone Era

Elizabeth II also lived through the global shift to the Information Age in the 1970s from the industries established during the Industrial Revolution.

The new era, also known as the Computer Age, saw people gaining access to information and knowledge easier thanks to technological advancements, the most notable of which is the Internet.

News of her death spread fast on social media, showing how smartphones became the must-have device.

A post-Brexit United Kingdom

The Queen in 2016 also witnessed just over half of Brits voting to leave the European Union in what has popularly been known as 'Brexit'.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic

REUTERS/Issei Kato

Elizabeth died without seeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 and has drastically changed the way people live with masks and vaccines now a staple for survival.

The pandemic has also been personally hard for the Queen with the death of her husband Prince Philip in the second year of the global crisis.

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Philip, whom she has described as her "strength and stay", died at age 99 on April 9, 2021.

With Elizabeth and Philip both gone, the world joins Britain as it ushers in a new era in the monarchy with King Charles III.

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