The life of Queen Elizabeth II, The sixties

The Royal Family grew again in 1960 with the addition of a third child, Prince Andrew.

He was the first royal baby born to a reigning monarch since the birth of Queen Victoria’s youngest child, Beatrice, in 1857.

His birth also saw the resolution of one bone of contention between the Queen and her husband, when she agreed a change to the Royal Family’s surname.

Philip had earlier complained: “I’m the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children.”

Her Majesty relented and decreed from that moment the family name should be changed to Mountbatten-Windsor.

Andrew’s brother Prince Edward was born four years later in March, and the Royal Family was complete.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with their family in the grounds of Frogmore, Windsor, 1965

/ PA

Times were changing and Prince Philip, a moderniser, grasped the opportunities with both hands.

He was the first member of the Royal Family to give an interview on television in 1961, and used it to warn about the state of Britain’s technical skills and how we were lagging behind the rest of Europe.

It remained an important issue throughout his life.

The Commonwealth Realms palace advisers were growing increasingly concerned about a growing apathy towards the institution of monarchy.

Critics said the Government’s drive to get closer to its European neighbours in the European Economic Community was at the expense of its old Commonwealth ties. Support for the monarchy had shrunk and there were growing calls for Australia and New Zealand to become independent republics.

The Queen and her advisers needed to respond and with decisive action.

The Queen was open to suggestions, and was persuaded by her press secretary William Heseltine to take a new approach to public relations.

Cameras were allowed into the palace for the first time, thus letting “daylight in on magic” — something the Victorian writer Walter Bagehot had warned against when writing about the Queen’s forebear Victoria.

It culminated in 1969, when the first TV programme about the Royal Family was produced and broadcast to over 23 million people, giving the world a peek inside the family’s daily life.

Queen Elizabeth II, Andrew, Edward and two corgis watch TV at Sandringham in 1969


Travel for the Queen in this decade began with state visits to Nepal and Vatican City in 1961, and ended 12 visits later in Austria in 1968.

Commonwealth visits kicked off with Cyprus in 1961. From there she included Commonwealth countries ranging from Canada to Ghana, undertaking a total of 28 visits.

Perhaps, the highlight was when the Queen toured West Berlin in May 1965 at the height of the Cold War — the first visit to Germany by a British monarch in more than half a century.

She made a speech to a vast crowd in which she referred to her own German ancestry and praised the links between Britain and West Berlin, making headlines around the world.

Queen Elizabeth II seated on an elephant during a Royal Tour to Nepal, 1961

/ Popperfoto/Getty Images

Her Majesty’s subtle diplomatic skills were demonstrated in the role she played in helping Rhodesia become the independent republic of Zimbabwe.

In 1965, the country’s prime minister, Ian Smith, bluntly refused the black population the vote, even though they made up about 95 per cent of the population. The Queen wrote a warm letter to Mr Smith, which was made public, in which she made clear that he could not claim loyalty to the monarchy and the Commonwealth, and at the same time defend white supremacy rule and reject the voice of the black majority.

It read: “I should be glad if you would accept my good wishes and convey them to all my peoples in your country, whose welfare and happiness I have very closely at heart.”

It may have been a friendly letter, but her message spoke volumes.

The Sixties witnessed two other hugely significant moments.

The first was the death and state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, who died in 1965 at the age of 90.

The Queen sent a message of condolence to his widow Lady Churchill: “The whole world is the poorer by the loss of his many-sided genius, while the survival of this country and the sister nations of the Commonwealth, in the face of the greatest danger that has ever threatened them, will be a perpetual memorial to his leadership, his vision, and his indomitable courage.”

Prince Charles, watched by Queen Elizabeth II places the gold coronet on his head at his investiture

/ Getty Images

As the decade drew to a close Her Majesty installed her 20-year-old son Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales.

The investiture took place on July 1 1969 at Caernarfon Castle. A TV audience of 500 million tuned in worldwide, with 19 million watching in the UK as a nervous-looking young Prince Charles swore to be the Queen’s “liege man of life and limb” during the ceremony.

The Queen had created her eldest son Prince of Wales when he was nine years old. She had let it be known that the investiture would be held when the Prince would fully understand its significance.

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