A Life With The Firm

As the Queen approaches her 80th birthday, Anthony Howard looks back at key episodes that have marked her reign.


01A Slap In The Face20060403

The Queen's accession was seen as the dawn of a new Elizabethan age - with then prime minister Winston Churchill making comparisons with the 'grandeur and

genius' of the previous Elizabethan age.

But how long would the euphoria last? There were those who saw things differently - but one man who dared to speak out received a very public slap in the face.

02The Magic Circle20060404

How much power is invested in the monarchy and what part does it play in the constitution? Ministers (much to Tony Benn's annoyance) and bishops in the Church of England still take an oath of allegiance to the Queen and she retains the right to withhold or grant the dissolution of Parliament.

But her limited powers were reduced further after a controversial decision to appoint Alec Douglas-Home over Rab Butler in 1963.

With contributions from Sir Edward Heath, Lord Callaghan and Tony Benn

03Lifting The Veil20060405

In 1969, the monarchy decided to allow the cameras in on the domestic life of the Royals.

The result was the Royal Family Film, shown on British television and around the world.

The risk was that by lifting the veil and portraying the family as much like any other, people might be tempted to question whether the monarchy was anything special.

There was another danger too - if Royal privacy was no longer regarded as sacrosanct, then it would be harder to protect the family from further intrusions by the media.

04An Over-mighty Subject20060406

The arrival of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 provoked a new adjustment in the relationship between the Queen and her prime ministers.

Rumours spread of tensions - rumours fuelled by interested parties and picked up by the media.

But were they true?

05 LASTSurvival And Recovery20060407

1992 will forever be remembered as the Queen's 'annus horribilis' - one event after another served to deepen the sense of gloom.

What more could go wrong?

Five years later, the Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash - plunging the palace into yet another crisis.

Yet the monarchy survived, and has lately found itself sailing through calmer waters.