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Queen Elizabeth II died Thursday, ending a remarkable 70-year reign and 96-year life that covered an astonishing amount of history and change — both in her own country and around the world.
Britain’s longest reigning monarch became queen in 1952 at the age of 25, nearly a decade before the first person went to space. She saw the Berlin Wall fall in Germany and the Civil Rights movement rise in America. Her time as queen included a host of other histor y-defining moments ranging from nuclear disasters, the end of apartheid, the advent of commerical air travel, and so many more. She was the last head of state, even if informally, to have served in World War II.
Matching the seemingly endless number of major events and milestones that happened during her time on the throne, there has been a tremendous amount of reaction to the news of her death, including here in Maine.
“Queen Elizabeth served with dignity and grace across her historic seventy year reign,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a Thursday statement. “On behalf of the people of Maine, I offer our deepest condolences to the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.”
Both Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King also recognized the queen’s passing.
“For 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II has been a source of strength and stability for one of America’s greatest allies,” Collins said in a statement. “Her historic reign was defined by her dignity, character, and devotion to duty. She will be deeply missed, but her faithful service and leadership will be long remembered.”
“On behalf of the State of Maine, I wish to send my condolences to the Royal Family, the United Kingdom, and all the Commonwealth,” King tweeted.
These remembrances of today had us wondering about the recognition and headlines of yesterday. So we turned to the Bangor Daily News archives to see how Elizabeth’s coronation was covered by this paper in June of 1953 (she assumed the throne in 1952 when her father died, but was not formally coronated until the following year).
We found pictures from that ceremony splashed across the front page. There was reporting from the Associated Press that included remarks from then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who called the young queen “a gleaming figure whom Providence has brought to us at a time when the present is hard and the future is veiled.”
Below a June 2, 1953 front page story about Queen Elizabeth being crowned that day, interestingly, was this additional headline: “Coronation Takes Back Seat as 2,000 Fans Attend First Little [League] Game at Millinocket.” It’s a quaint but powerful reminder that, as the people at the highest levels of power and prestige rise and fall, life goes on around the world.
Even with that realization, though, we’re still certainly thinking about our friends across the pond in this moment of loss, along with some particularly endearing moments from the now departed queen. Like when she broke with tradition to have “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at Buckingham Palace after the Sept. 11 attacks, or when she cheekily didn’t let on that she was the actual Queen of England when an American tourist failed to recognize her.
Returning to the BDN archives, we also found some remarks from Elizabeth on the day of her coronation saying that she had been “uplifted” and “sustained by the knowledge that your prayers and thoughts were with me.”
In many of the reactions we have seen this week, it is clear that those same sentiments have been with her at the end of her journey, just as they were when she was crowned. Just look at the reaction from Bernard Hope, a native of Bedfordshire, England, who moved to Maine in 2005 and is now an Ellsworth resident.
“Whatever your politics are, she was a nice old lady and it’s very sad for her family, and hearing this news makes me feel a bit homesick,” Hope said. “I’d be willing to bet that most Brits, even if they aren’t all shedding a tear, are certainly feeling something. It’s certainly the end of an era.”
And what an era it has been.