Just hours before her father George VI’s untimely death aged 56 in February 1952, the Queen sat down to write him a touching letter – but he sadly never got to read it
Seventy years ago today, the Queen was happily spending the day enjoying the sights and sounds of the Kenyan wildlife.
Little did she know, her life was about to change forever going from a then Princess to a monarch.
For the next day, February 6, 1952, her beloved father George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham aged just 56.
On that day Elizabeth and her now late husband Prince Philip were in Kenya for a stop on a huge royal tour.
During the stay over in Africa, the royal couple went on a safari and were wowed by the animals that they saw.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
So much so that when they returned from the safari, Elizabeth immediately began writing a letter to her dad telling him what she had seen.
In her small and tidy handwriting, she told him of the animals she had watched by moonlight at the watering hole below Treetops Hotel.
But the King would never get to read of his daughter’s African adventures.
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Tragically, not long after she wrote the note, news had reached her staff that the King had passed away and she was now the new Queen.
Philip had the job of telling his wife that she was now Queen as they walked back and forth through the gardens of the Kenyan lodge where they were staying.
Recalling that afternoon, Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting Pamela Mountbatten remembers the Queen sheltering inside from the searing afternoon heat.
Writing in her memoir, Daughter of Empire, Lady Pamela claims the then-princess’s private secretary Martin Charteris found out the sad news from the editor of the East African Standard.
Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Martin rang the lodge where Elizabeth was and Philip’s aide, Commander Mike Parker, answered the phone.
Pamela said: “Martin was, as usual, discreet and told him that a Reuters newsflash was announcing the death of our ‘boss’s father’ and asked what we knew.
“When Mike had recovered he replied that we knew nothing, so Martin suggested we find a wireless.”
Mike then crept into the sitting room where Elizabeth was to sneak out a wireless and the group listened as the solemn news was announced.
Charteris then “went in to tell Philip, who lifted his newspaper to cover his face in a gesture of despair, saying ‘This will be such a blow’.”
The Queen usually marks February 6, the day of her ascension in private at Sandringham, where her father died.
Tomorrow will be especially poignant as it marks 70 years since that fateful day – but it will also be the first one without her husband Philip by her side who died aged 99 last April.