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'Diamond Jubilee' Marks 60 Years Of Queen Elizabeth

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Every now and then, nations pause to reflect on their past. That's happening right now in Britain. Sixty years ago today, Elizabeth II became queen. The British have many jubilee festivities planned later in the year, but today, they're marking the anniversary by remembering the moment a reserved young woman became their monarch. NPR's Philip Reeves has that story.

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PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The government-run British Broadcasting Corporation broke the news.

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REEVES: The king was George VI, Elizabeth's father. He was 56 when he succumbed to cancer. It was the era of the Korean War, of Stalin, Churchill and Truman, the year Agatha Christie's play "The Mousetrap" opened in London's West End. That play is still running, by the way. On the night her father died, Elizabeth was on safari in Kenya in East Africa with her husband, the duke of Edinburgh. They were staying at a tree house, watching elephants at a watering hole. She was only 25. Covering the two was a famous BBC war correspondent.

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REEVES: Sixty years on, Frank Gillard's report of the events of that day perhaps seemed a little obsequious and stilted, but he does eloquently capture the moment.

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REEVES: Communications in 1952 were not what they are today. It took hours before the news reached the royal party.

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REEVES: The 60 years that followed that day were not always easy for Elizabeth. After the death of Princess Diana, the British monarchy was in real danger. It since bounced back, and the queen seems popular again. There is still a significant minority of Britons who would rather have a republic. Yet, whatever you think of them, Elizabeth and the monarchy have rare survival skills, just like "The Mousetrap." Philip Reeves, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.