A witness to history: How The Queen spanned 70 years of global events, from astronauts to actresses

From Marilyn Monroe and Yuri Gagarin to Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump, The Queen was at the heart of history and rubbed shoulders with the people who made it throughout her reign.

In the 70 years after Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, the world changed in ways that would have seemed unimaginable in 1952. We look back at some of the major events, and how Her Majesty was so often face-to-face with the people who shaped the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing conquer Everest; Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap opens — it’s still running today; the first hydrogen bomb is tested


Stalin dies; the Korean War ends; Tito takes control of Yugoslavia; Winston Churchill wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Sir Winston Churchill opens the door of Queen Elizabeth’s car as she leaves after dining with him and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen, when asked about her favourite Prime Minister admitted that it was, ‘Winston, of course, because it was always such fun.’ Photo: Alamy


Rationing ends; Roger Bannister runs the four-minute mile; myxomatosis decimates the UK rabbit population; Mau Mau uprising


Warsaw Pact signed; first commercial television

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Suez Crisis; Khrushchev visits Britain

31 October, 1956: Queen Elizabeth II of England offers a gloved hand to Hollywood glamour girl Marilyn Monroe during the Ro 31 October, 1956. The two were born just six weeks apart. Photo: Bettmann Archive / Getty


The EEC established; Castro leads Cuban revolution; the USSR launches Sputnik 1 and 2, the latter bearing Laika the dog; women admitted to the House of Lords as life peeresses


The Munich air disaster kills eight of the ‘Busby Babes’ footballers; the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, visits Britain; the Queen inaugurates direct dialling


Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th American states; Nixon and Khrushchev have the ‘Kitchen Debate’; the Dalai Lama flees Tibet; Ben Hur wins 11 academy awards


National Service ends; Frances Chichester sails the Atlantic solo; Somalia, Ghana and Cyprus become independent republics and Nigeria gains independence; first Paralympic Games, in Rome


John F. Kennedy is sworn in as the youngest US president; Yuri Garagin is the first man in space — and earns an invitation to tae at Buckingham Palace; Nureyev defects; the Berlin Wall is erected; South Africa leaves the Commonwealth; Tanganyika declares independence; the contraceptive pill goes on sale

Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet Cosmonaut and the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth (12th April 1961), visited Britain in July of that year. Here, Gagarin is pictured waving as he leaves Buckingham Palace after lunch with Queen and Prince Philip. Photo: Alamy


The Cuban Missile crisis; Nelson Mandela imprisoned; Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Uganda become independent; the UK winter of the ‘Big Freeze’


John F. Kennedy is assassinated; Martin Luther King delivers his ‘I have a dream’ speech; John Profumo resigns from the government; Britain, the US and USSR sign a nuclear test-ban agreement; Kenya and Nigeria become Commonwealth republics and Malaysia becomes a new nation; the Great Train Robbery


Malta — the Queen’s home from 1949 to 1951 — becomes independent; Nyasaland, renamed Malawi, gains independence; Tanganyika and Zanzibar become Tanzania and Kenya becomes a republic; capital punishment ends in Britain


Churchill dies; Rhodesia becomes independent; Singapore secedes from the Federation of Malaysia


England win the World Cup; the Aberfan tragedy; Chairman Mao launches the cultural revolution and publishes his Little Red Book; Mrs Gandhi becomes Prime Minister of India

Bobby Moore receives the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy from the Queen of England after beating West Germany in the final in 1966. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


BBC2 transmits in colour; Donald Campbell is killed aboard his speedboat Bluebird on Coniston Water in the Lake District; the Six-Day War; Uganda becomes a republic and South Yemen a People’s Democratic Republic


Vietnam War; Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated; Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech; Post Office introduces first-class post; Aswan Dam completed


Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin set foot on the Moon; RMS Queen Elizabeth II enters service; Robin Knox-Johnston is the first person to sail the world solo; Charles de Gaulle resigns; the Booker Prize established

Apollo 11 mission, July 1969. Edwin “Buzz”Aldrin pictured walking on the moon. Photo: Neil Armstrong via Alamy


The vote is given to 18 year olds; Ian Smith declares a republic in Rhodesia; the US invades Cambodia; The Beatles split


Decimal currency introduced; Idi Amin seizes power in Uganda; Greenpeace is founded


Bloody Sunday, with 14 civilians killed in the Bogside, Derry; the pound is devalued and a freeze on wages and prices is imposed; 11 Israeli hostages killed by terrorists at the Munich Olympics; Apollo 16 lands on the moon


Britain, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland formally join the EEC; VAT comes into force; Watergate hearings begin; commercial radio broadcasts begin; Vietnam peace agreement signed in Paris; Greece proclaims itself a republic


The IRA bombs pubs in Guildford and Birmingham, plus Oxford Street; miners’ strike, three-day week and power cuts; no clear majority in February election prompts a second one in October; collapse of power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland; Nixon resigns; Greece abolishes monarchy


Sex Discrimination Act and Equal Pay Act; Britain votes yes to staying in the EEC; Dutch elm disease takes hold; Spain restores monarchy after death of Franco


Concorde starts commercial flights and space-shuttle tests begin; the US celebrates 200 years of independence; Cod wars end; Apple Computers founded; Britain bakes in a hot, dry summer

Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth pictured at the 1979 Commonwealth Conference. Photo: Getty


Virginia Wade wins the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles; Lucinda Prior-Palmer wins Badminton and the European Championships on George; Red Rum wins a third Grand National; unemployment reaches one million; the Regent’s Park mosque opens


House of Commons proceedings are broadcast live on radio; Louise Brown, the first ‘test-tube baby’ is born; major winter strikes


Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first female prime minister; Lord Mountbatten is assassinated by the IRA; the Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran; the Shah is exiled; Amin is deposed; the spacecraft Voyager I observes Jupiter’s rings

Margaret Thatcher in 1986. Photo: Alamy


Iranian embassy hostages freed by SAS; Princess Beatrix crowned Queen of the Netherlands after her mother’s abdication; Rhodesia becomes the Republic of Zimbabwe; John Lennon assassinated


The ‘Gang of Four’ leave Labour to set up the SDP; Toxteth and Brixton riots; Ronald Reagan becomes US President; Pope John Paul II is attacked; Sadat is assassinated; England win ‘Botham’s Ashes’


Falklands War; Channel 4 starts; Mary Rose is raised; IRA bombs Hyde Park; Pope visits Britain


Seatbelts are made compulsory; IRA bombs Harrods; Motorola introduces mobile phone; Lester Piggott wins ninth Derby riding Teenoso


Brighton bombing; miners’ strike; Indira Gandhi assassinated; famine in Ethiopia; AIDS virus identified

Miners’ Strike, 1984 – 1985. Eric Hudson inspects the guard of police officers in the front line at Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield, Yorkshire, Monday 4th June 1984. (Photo by Phil Spencer/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)


Live Aid; ordination of women approved; miners concede defeat; multiple deaths at Bradford City and Heysel, Belgium, football stadiums; state of emergency declared in South Africa


British Gas privatised; Greater London Council abolished; Chernobyl; space shuttle Challenger explodes; Swedish PM Olof Palme assassinated; Gary Lineker wins Golden Boot award at the World Cup


The Great Storm; Black Monday; the King’s Cross fire; Terry Waite kidnapped; MS Herald of Free Enterprise disaster; Enniskillen bombing; Lester Piggott jailed for tax evasion

A forest virtually destroyed overnight by the autumn storm in 1987. Photo: Alamy


Lockerbie plane crash; Clapham Junction rail crash; Piper Alpha oil rig catches fire


Berlin Wall collapses; the Cold War ends; tanks are sent in to crush protestors in Tiananmen Square; Hillsborough and Marchioness disasters; Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution


Margaret Thatcher ousted; East and West Germany unified; Nelson Mandela released; Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Nobel Peace Prize; Lech Walesa elected president of Poland


John McCarthy and Terry Waite released; Operation Desert Storm liberates Kuwait; Gorbachev resigns and USSR becomes a commonwealth of republics; Slovenia and Croatia declare independence from Yugoslavia


Worst UK drought for 200 years; Betty Boothroyd is first female Speaker; Croatia and Slovenia are recognised as independent and Bosnia-Herzegovina declares independence


The single market comes into force; John Major and Albert Reynolds sign peace agreement; Mandela shares Nobel Peace prize with President R. W. de Klerk; Grand National false start

Queen Elizabeth II meets Nelson Mandela during a reception at Buckingham Palace in 2003.


Channel Tunnel opens; Tony Blair elected Labour leader after the death of John Smith; IRA ceasefire agreed; National Lottery launched; first women priests ordained; Mandela sworn in as president of South Africa


Ceasefire in Balkans brokered; Israeli prime minister Rabin is assassinated


BSE hits British cattle; Shakespeare’s Globe completed; Dolly the sheep cloned; first GM products sold in Britain


Labour landslide; Hong Kong handover; the first ‘Harry Potter’ book published by Bloomsbury; the Countryside Rally in Hyde Park; Grand National bomb scare


Good Friday peace agreement; hereditary peers lose right to sit in House of Lords


The Euro is introduced; President Clinton acquitted in impeachment trial; the Millennium Stadium opens in Cardiff; The Gruffalo published


Tate Modern and the wobbly Millennium Bridge open; Ken Livingstone is the first elected London Mayor; Countryside and Rights of Way Act gives partial Right to Roam

May 9, 2000. The Queen on the Millennium Bridge Walkway across The River Thames. With Her Is The Lord Mayor Of London Clive Martin And The Mayor Of Southwark Charles Cherrill. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)


The 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers; foot-and-mouth disease shuts down the countryside; Enron scandal; iPad and Wikipedia are launched; the US invades Afghanistan


The EU votes to add 10 new countries; Commonwealth Games in Manchester


Some 500,000 go on the Countryside March; one million march against the Iraq conflict; Saddam Hussein deposed; Concorde’s last flight; Yugoslavia dismantled; the first Twenty20 matches; England win the Rugby World Cup


Tsunami devastates the Indian Ocean and kills thousands on Boxing Day; Facebook and Google launched


London wins the Olympic Games; London transport is bombed; Hurricane Katrina hits the US; the IRA ends armed campaign; the Civil Partnership Act is passed; Ellen MacArthur breaks the world record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the globe


Alexander Litvinenko murdered in London; £53 million stolen in Securitas depot robbery; whale discovered in Thames; Daniel Craig makes debut as James Bond


Apple releases the iPhone; Helen Mirren wins Oscar for The Queen; Prince William opens new Wembley Stadium

Queen Elizabeth II meets British actress Dame Helen Mirren. (YUI MOK/AFP via Getty Images)


Barack Obama elected US President; Benazir Bhutto assassinated; Castro steps down; Lewis Hamilton is youngest Formula 1 world champion; Large Hadron Collider is inaugurated


Hilary Mantel wins the Booker Prize for Wolf Hall; swine flu; Bitcoin Network created; Usain Bolt sets world record in World Athletics Championships


General Election leads to a hung parliament — a coalition results; Caroline Lucas becomes the first Green MP; David Cameron apologises for Bloody Sunday; earthquake in Haiti; Cadbury taken over by Kraft Foods; volcanic ash from Iceland causes travel chaos


Arab Spring; Osama Bin Laden found and killed; Mark Todd comes out of retirement to win Badminton Horse Trials


London stages hugely successful Olympic Games; Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France


Andy Murray wins Wimbledon; same-sex marriage is legalised in England and Wales; the world’s first lab-grown burger; the General Synod votes in favour of women bishops


Scotland votes to stay part of the UK; ebola crisis; Malaysian Airways flight disappears; Somerset Levels flooded; Commonwealth Games in Glasgow


Attack on Charlie Hebdo offices; NASA finds water on Mars; the first Woman’s Boat Race; Paris Agreement on climate change


Britain votes to leave the EU; Donald Trump elected US President; the Rio Olympic Games are Britain’s most successful with 130 medals; the first series of The Crown is aired

Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump sit together as they pose for the official family photograph during an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, June 5, 2019. (Photo by JACK HILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)


Martin McGuinness resigns; DUP shores up Government; bombing of Manchester Arena; Grenfell Tower fire; Lake District becomes UNESCO World Heritage Site


Salisbury poisonings; Theresa May apologies for Windrush controversy; first statue of a female in Parliament Square, Millicent Fawcett; Harry Kane wins the Golden Boot at the World Cup


Boris Johnson wins an 80-seat majority; the Booker Prize is split; Greggs launches meat-free sausage rolls; the Women’s Fifa World Cup is the most watched British television broadcast


The world stops for the coronavirus pandemic; Britain finally leaves the EU; Joe Biden elected US President with the first female vice-president, Kamala Harris


Coronavirus vaccine programme; Rachael Blackmore is the first woman to win the Grand National; England reaches the World Cup final; the 2020 Olympics take place a year late in Tokyo, Japan. Team GB secure 65 medals: 22 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze


The Lionesses win the Women’s World Cup; Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister; and finally, Her Majesty The Queen dies aged 96, on September 8, 2022.

The final public portrait photograph of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, taken on Tuesday September 6, 2022, in the Drawing Room at Balmoral before receiving Liz Truss for an audience. Photo: PA via Alamy