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  • Rachel Burchfield

History Lesson: The significance of February 6 in the Royal Family

CREDIT: GETTY The brand new queen at her father's funeral in 1952. Elizabeth, not normally an emotional woman, was utterly devastated.

Today, February 6, is one of the saddest days of the year for Queen Elizabeth II.

On this day in 1952, she and husband Philip were abroad on a tour in Kenya when she found out that her beloved father, King George VI, died unexpectedly at only 56. It was so unexpected that Elizabeth didn’t have any black mourning clothes packed for her trip – which is why, now, all Royals must pack mourning clothes on every trip, every time, so they are never put in such a position.

Not only was Elizabeth blindsided by her father’s death – who she, and I can’t emphasize this enough, absolutely adored – but, of course, it meant that she was now the monarch. At only 25, Elizabeth was hardly ready; married for just over four years and a young mom of two (Charles was three and Anne, only a year old), Elizabeth thought she had ample time to prepare herself for her life’s work as queen. But, just like that, she was the sovereign. It’s such a strange juxtaposition, isn’t it? That you begin your life’s work only upon the death of a (hopefully) treasured parent.

Elizabeth stays in Sandringham, where the Family spends Christmas and where her father died, every year until this day, February 6. She does so to honor the memory of her father and, just as he left Sandringham for the great beyond on this day 68 years ago, she too leaves Sandringham today and goes back to London – somberly reflecting all the while on the love she has for her father, and the day she took on the role of a lifetime.

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