From the Aberfan disaster to the Great Smog: 7 times the Queen has survived a crisis.


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As the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, Queen Elizabeth II has addressed the United Kingdom on far more occasions than she has in the past.

Speaking in a televised address in April, the Queen promised the nation that better days are ahead.

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” the 94-year-old said.

“We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”

Watch: Queen Elizabeth gives a rare televised address about COVID-19. Post continues below.

Since March 19, the Queen has been self-isolating with her husband, 98-year-old Prince Philip, at Windsor Castle.

But while the monarch is currently undergoing the longest absence from public duties in her 68-year reign, some royal commentators have speculated that the Queen may never return to her public duties again.


As a vaccine for COVID-19 is still a while away, royal biographer Andrew Morton has speculated that this virus could spell the end of the Queen’s official duties, with the Queen instead appearing via TV or video links.

“It’s terribly sad but I can’t see how the Queen can resume her usual job,” he said.

“The COVID-19 virus isn’t going away soon and will be with us for months, if not years,” he explained.

“It would be far too risky for the Queen to start meeting people regularly.

“How can she carry out investitures, meet ambassadors, do walkabouts and visit places without meeting people at close range?”

Amid the mounting speculation, Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, decided to take a look back at the many times that the Queen has survived a crisis throughout her reign.

Listen to Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, below. Post continues after podcast.

1.. The Aberfan disaster

On October 21, 1966, the students of Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan, Wales were eagerly awaiting their mid-term break.

As the students gathered in their classrooms, however, an avalanche – consisting of huge piles of debris – descended from the nearby coal mine.

After three weeks of heavy rain,  a “dark glistening wave” of water-saturated debris poured down the hill, sounding like thunder, destroying two farm cottages and then hitting the school, knocking down buildings and burying everything under almost 10m of thick sludge, which soon started to solidify.


All up, 144 people died in the disaster. Of those, 116 were children.

The Queen was long criticised for her response to the disaster. While Prince Philip visited the town, the Queen didn’t attend Aberfan until eight days after the disaster.

Many years later, it was revealed that the Queen felt the biggest regret of her reign was not visiting Aberfan immediately.

what the crown got wrong
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit Aberfan in Wales in 1966. Image: Getty.

2. The infamous Royal documentary

In the late 1960s, a crew of cameraman spent a year following the Royal Family.

After 75 shooting days, the footage was eventually cut down to a two-hour documentary, which attempted to show the Royals as humans.

There’s the Queen, at breakfast with her family, telling a story about a dignitary with long arms who looked like a gorilla. There’s the Queen going into a shop and taking coins out of her purse to buy an ice cream for her son, Edward. There’s the whole family sitting around watching TV together – and, on another occasion, standing around outside, barbecuing sausages.

When the documentary aired in June 1969 – first on the BBC, and then a week later on commercial station ITV – it was a ratings smash. It’s estimated that three-quarters of the British population watched it.

But the documentary also faced countless critics, including Sir David Attenborough, who reportedly blasted the documentary's director in a letter for "killing the monarchy".

Ultimately, the Queen listened to the critics. In 1970, she ordered the documentary to be locked in the royal archives, and never to be shown again without her permission.

Image: Getty.

3. Prince Philip's close ties to the Nazis

Following the release of The Crown, Prince Philip's close ties to the Nazis entered the spotlight once again.

For a brief period in his teenage years, Prince Philip did in fact live in Nazi Germany.

His sisters also married into the German aristocracy, becoming closely tied to the Nazi party. One sister, Sophie, even named her son Karl Adolf, in honour of Adolf Hitler.


Prince Philip was also photographed as part of a procession at his sister Cecile's funeral, which was attended by dozens of uniformed Nazis.

But despite these links, Philip was later an officer in the Royal Navy, battling against the Nazis in World War II.

4. The Great Smog of London

In December 1952, London became trapped in a cloud of thick pollution and fog for five days.

The event, which is now known as The Great Smog of London, was caused by a combination of industrial pollution and weather conditions, bringing the entire city to a standstill.

In some areas, visibility was so affected that pedestrians were unable to see their feet.

queen elizabeth coronavirus
Image: Getty.

The Great Smog led to the deaths of at least 12,000 people.

In 1956, the tragic event led the Queen to enact the Clear Air Act, which banned the burning of pollutants in the UK.

5. The death of Princess Diana

In the early hours of August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died after being injured in a car crash in Paris.

At the time of her death, Diana was just 36 years old. Her death caused a huge outpouring of grief around the world.

But in the weeks after her death, the Royal Family were criticised for their lack of response response.

Although the Queen and Prince Philip release a statement sharing that they were "deeply shocked and distressed by the terrible news", it didn't seem enough for the public.

At the time, British tabloid headlines such as "Show Us You Care" and "Where Is Our Queen?" suggested that the Royal family's response was cold.

British tabloids
Princess Diana in 1997. Image: Getty.

"Diana’s death had led to a mass outpouring of national grief the like of which had never before been seen," Robert Jobson wrote in his book, Charles at Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams.

"There was an intense opprobrium towards Charles, Camilla and the Queen over their perceived coldness and aloof, haughty response."

6. Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

Following their wedding in 1960, the first ever Royal wedding to be televised, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones were known as one of Britain’s most glamorous couples.


But behind the scenes, their marriage was incredibly different.

While the pair were described as being "besotted" with each other, Antony continued to conduct multiple affairs right up until their engagement.

Not only was the photographer involved with actress Gina Ward and actress Jacqui Chan, he also fathered an illegitimate child with his close friend, Camilla Fry.

On the other hand, Princess Margaret had an affair with her daughter's godfather Anthony Barton and was rumoured to have been romantically involved with Mick Jagger, actor Peter Sellers and Warren Beatty.

The doomed relationship eventually came to an end in 1976, when they separated.

Princess Margaret with Antony Armstrong-Jones, son David and daughter Sarah. Image: Getty.

The couple then became the first royal couple to divorce since 1540, when they finalised their divorce in 1978.

7. The Soviet spy

Anthony Blunt was a member of the Royal Household, who worked as an art curator for the Queen.

During his time working for the Queen, however, Blunt was unmasked as a Soviet spy.

In exchange for a confession about his secret life, Blunt was offered a deal that would grant him immunity from prosecution and keep him under wraps. He agreed and confessed to MI5 on April 23, 1964. The Queen was told shortly afterward.

Blunt was allowed to carry on his privileged life as an art historian, and continued in his royal role until 1972; his colleagues and many within the palace remained blissfully ignorant about his past.

Feature Image: Getty.

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