The very next day after returning from Kenya, she read an official Proclamation declaring her reign as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Losing a parent is never easy. Queen Elizabeth's world around her changed when she learned that her father, King George VI, had died.
It was on February 6, 1952, during a visit to Kenya on a tour of the Commonwealth that Prince Philip told his wife the tragic news of her father's death, according to PEOPLE.
King George VI was only 56 at the time of his death, which occurred due to coronary thrombosis. The loss forced the royal entourage to cancel the rest of the tour, and they made their way to the Nanyuki airstrip after leaving the Treetops resort, where they had been staying to begin the long journey home.
Though the Queen managed to wave and smile at the people who had gathered when she was boarding the flight back home, it was quick with none of the usual pomp and ceremony. Once aboard the flight—according to Nicholas Best, biographer of Eric Sherbrooke Walker and the founder of Treetops—the monarch finally cried to grieve her loss.
"The mask slipped once they were airborne. The Queen left her seat after a while. Her face was set when she returned, but it was obvious to the other passengers that she had been in the loo, having a good long cry," Best previously told The Guardian.
On that day, along with the Queen was Lady Pamela Hicks, cousin to Philip and lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth. She witnessed how Philip broke the news to his wife during a walk in the gardens at the nearby Sagana Lodge. Once she learned of her father's demise, the Queen returned to apologize to everyone for having to return to the U.K. in haste.
"That must have been one of the last times her natural modesty could be played out. She was only thinking of all of us and there were not many opportunities later on," she recalled during a chat with her daughter, India, on The India Hicks Podcast.
The news of King Edward's death didn't reach Elizabeth for several hours, partly due to the fact that a telegram sent to Government House in Nairobi could not be decoded and also due to the remote location of their accommodation. The couple was relishing a short break on the first week of their tour and were staying in a treehouse atop an enormous fig tree at Treetops in Aberdare National Park.
"We were the last people in the world to hear the news," said Lady Pamela. "They were going to have a couple of days holiday, which meant we were going to this wonderful place, Treetops . . . in those days [it] had just two guest rooms and you climbed up a tree. The ladder was pinned to the tree. She goes up that ladder as a princess; the King dies that night; she comes down that ladder a Queen."
When the Queen arrived back in the U.K., she had already changed into a black outfit and had composed herself. She was greeted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill before being driven away in the royal limousine.
The very next day, she met with representatives from the City of London and the Commonwealth at St. James' Palace and read an official Proclamation declaring her reign as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
"By the sudden death of my dear father, I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty," she said. "My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples, spread as they are all the world over."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Julian Herbert