Why Queen Elizabeth Is Spending the Anniversary of Her Ascension to the Throne Differently Today

The monarch's father, King George VI, died on February 6, 1952

queen elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty

Queen Elizabeth is marking 69 years as monarch differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, the day her father, King George VI, died. The monarch, 94, traditionally spends Accession Day in somber reflection at Sandringham House, where her father died. She normally celebrates Christmas at the country estate in Norfolk with other members of the royal family as well, then makes her return to her primary residence in London, Buckingham Palace, shortly after the anniversary.

However, the COVID-19 crisis means a change in the annual tradition for the Queen. Plans to spend the holidays at Sandringham were cancelled, and she has remained primarily at Windsor Castle with Prince Philip since March. The Queen will spend the bittersweet anniversary of when she lost her beloved father and her life changed forever quietly at Windsor.

The Queen may choose to visit her father's burial site at St. George's Chapel on the Windsor Castle grounds to mark the occasion.

Royals VE Day
Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Margaret on VE Day. Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty

In her speech to the accession council in 1952, the Queen said, "By the sudden death of my dear father I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty. 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."

The then-Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya with Prince Philip when they learned of King George VI's death. Several months later, in June 1953, she was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth is now the longest-reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the length of Queen Victoria's reign in 2015.

Prince Charles, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Prince Philip
King George VI at Prince Charles' christening. PA Images via Getty

Queen Elizabeth has not returned to Buckingham Palace in London since March. She and Prince Philip, 99, have been isolating at Windsor Castle, though they did visit Sandringham and Balmoral Castle in Scotland over the summer.

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The Queen And The Duke Of Edinburgh Release A Photograph To Celebrate The Duke's 99th Birthday
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Steve Parsons/Press Association via Getty

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an unexpected reprieve for the monarch, an insider told PEOPLE in a recent cover story.

"In her twilight years, I'm sure it is quite lovely not to have the pressure" of a full calendar of public events, says the insider.

"It is possible this is the only slight rest she's ever had in her whole life," adds a source close to the Queen. "She is well. She's in good fettle."

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