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CNN Special Reports
A Queen For The Ages: Elizabeth II. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 10, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: She wasn't supposed to be queen.
PENNY JUNOR, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: Suddenly, her father became monarch and Princess Elizabeth became heir to the throne.
SALLY BEDELL SMITH, AUTHOR, ELIZABETH THE QUEEN: Princess Elizabeth's life changed overnight.
CHARLES ANSON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: It's a very dramatic scene when you see the queen coming down the steps to claim her kingdom.
FOSTER: She became monarch at 25 years old.
UNKNOWN: Is your majesty willing to take the oath?
FOSTER: For more than seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II dedicated her life to her country.
ROYA NIKKHAH, ROYAL CORRESPONDENT, THE SUNDAY TIMES: The queen took a view that her duty was a lifelong commitment.
FOSTER: She put duty above all else.
SMITH: She loved her younger sister, but she couldn't give her permission to marry somebody who was divorced.
NIKKHAH: She sacked her son from the family firm.
FOSTER: She survived extraordinary crises.
UNKNOWN: Princess Diana has died.
NIKKHAH: The issue surrounding Charles and Diana probably rocked the monarchy to its core and other crisis.
JUNOR: The future of the monarchy really hung in the balance.
FOSTER: And she revolutionized the British monarchy.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: The monarchy should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give their loyalty and support.
WESLEY KERR, FORMER BBC ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: She steered the world through 70 years of tumultuous change.
JUNOR: Her legacy will be the fact that we still have a monarchy.
FOSTER: Tonight, a CNN special report. A queen for the ages, Elizabeth II.
UNKNOWN: I have found it impossible to carry the heavy duty of responsibility and discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do. But with the help and support of the woman I love.
FOSTER: December 1936, after less than a year on the throne, King Edward VIII abdicated to marry an American divorcee, throwing the British monarchy into tumult.
HUGO VICKERS, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: It was an enormous shock. People felt so left on and couldn't believe it.
FOSTER: The reverberations were felt around the world. But perhaps nowhere more than with those left to deal with the fallout. The new king, George VI, his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.
And for Princess Elizabeth, it had ramifications well beyond, you know, what it did for everyone else in the country.
UNKNOWN: Suddenly, her father was thrust into the limelight. He became monarch and Princess Elizabeth became heir to the throne.
FOSTER: Elizabeth became heir presumptive at just 10 years old.
SMITH: Princess Elizabeth's life changed overnight. Her father was king. Her mother was queen. They moved into Buckingham Palace. It was more like an office building than a house.
FOSTER: While her father adjusted to a role that he was never destined for, so did Elizabeth.
VICKERS: Neither of the two princesses were terribly well-educated, to be quite honest.
JUNOR: I think that all that really her parents wanted her to do was to sign her name nicely.
FOSTER: Tutors were brought in to prepare her as future head of state. But more than anything else, it was her father's example that taught her how to be sovereign.
SMITH: Her father really did have a singular place. He showed her duty and service in action, and that was especially dramatic during World War II.
FOSTER: With the onset of the war, the family now had to put duty first. Elizabeth and Margaret were sent to Windsor Castle whilst her parents, the king and queen, remained in London.
SMITH: Her parents very early on said, we are not leaving England. Buckingham Palace was bombed nine times and several times the king and queen were there and escaped being killed. So, there was an enormous amount of courage.
FOSTER: With her father as the model of a devoted monarch and her own inherent sense of responsibility, Princess Elizabeth seemed like a perfect fit for the crown.
VICKERS: She was always old beyond her years and had this sort of sense of duty and responsibility.
FOSTER: Elizabeth appeared always to follow the advice of her parents. So, it was a surprise when she accepted a marriage proposal from Prince Philip of Greece.
SMITH: He was not like the men that her mother would have preferred that she married. His family were impoverished. He had had a sort of unconventional education and had gone to a very progressive boarding school in Scotland. So, he was unusual.
FOSTER: The two met when Elizabeth was a young girl. And kept in touch throughout the war years with occasional visits.
VICKERS: He was not entirely a popular choice in the royal family.
FOSTER: But a determined Elizabeth had made up her mind and she married Prince Philip in 1947.
She was captivated by him, wasn't she? There is no doubt there that she wanted to marry him.
VICKERS: It's the one time when the queen stepped out of character to some extent and to do something which she wanted to do.
FOSTER: It was a happy time for the newlyweds. Philip resumed his naval career and was stationed in Malta where the two lived relatively normal lives.
VICKERS: She was able to drive around in her little car. They danced at the Venezia Hotel. They went to polo matches. They went to the cinema. It must have been a glorious time.
FOSTER: But it was also short lived. The king's health was deteriorating and the couple began to take on more royal duties. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip took over a tour that was planned for her father.
VICKERS: You see this very sad scene of the king looking terrible at the airport waving goodbye to his daughter. So, it must have been a terrible moment for both of them. They must have realized there was a fairly strong chance that they'd never see each other again. FOSTER: The planned six-month tour began in Kenya. Just days into the trip, however, her father, King George VI, died. Unaware of his passing, Elizabeth pent is the night in the Kenyan treetops watching the animals.
VICKERS: In a way, it's sort of almost symbolic, the sun rises and she doesn't realize. She goes up the tree as Princess Elizabeth. She comes down the tree thinking she is Princess Elizabeth, but actually she's become a queen.
FOSTER: As soon as the news reached her, Elizabeth and Philip returned home.
VICKERS: It's a very dramatic scene when you see the queen coming down the steps to meet the (Inaudible) ministers and they're all down there with top hats on and black overcoats. Can't help thinking that it's almost this beautiful, sad young queen coming down the steps almost to claim her kingdom.
FOSTER: Back in the U.K. preparations get underway for the coronation. The ceremony where Elizabeth would be officially crowned and anointed queen here at Westminster Abbey. One question loomed large over the plans. Would the ceremony be broadcast on television?
SMITH: When it was suggested to the queen she was very much against it. She thought that cameras would be intrusive, that they would somehow violate the thousand-year tradition of the coronation.
FOSTER: Whilst the queen was a traditionalist, she was also open to modernization, and in the end, it was her husband who convinced her to allow cameras into the ceremony.
SMITH: One of the great things about the queen was that she always had an open mind. If someone came to her with an argument that was very well buttressed, she would listen, and if it was a persuasive argument, she would change her mind. And that's what she did with the coronation.
FOSTER: The day of the coronation millions of people across the globe watched the sacred ceremony.
VICKERS: That was the moment when the whole of the nation, the whole of the commonwealth, arguably, the whole world recognized her as queen.
UNKNOWN: Is your majesty willing to take the oath?
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I am willing.
JNOR: It was a very solemn ceremony and it was so meaningful to Elizabeth. She took her vows so seriously.
FOSTER: Vows to God. She's made this lifelong commitment, so it goes back to that moment, doesn't it? JUNOR: I am absolutely certain the reason she never abdicated was
because she made that commitment to God in that solemn ceremony of her coronation.
FOSTER: Coming up, modernizing the monarchy.
VICKERS: The whole course of the reign I think has been moving the queen forward from being this very sort of distant figurehead to somebody that's more approachable.
FOSTER: Before she became queen, Elizabeth had her first child, Prince Charles. With his birth she not only had a son, but an heir, securing the line of succession. She also added another duty to her long list of responsibilities. Motherhood.
SMITH: From the very beginning, she was a working mother. She had to work out at age 25 how she was going to have a viable life/work balance.
FOSTER: She and Prince Philip would eventually have four children. Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward. Together they prepared their children for the rigors of royal life. Especially Prince Charles. The heir apparent.
SMITH: Elizabeth and Philip were doing for Charles what her mother and father had done for her, which was to set an example of how being a monarch is a uniquely influential position.
FOSTER: And as she experienced with her own parents, being a monarch often meant putting royal duties first. Just months after her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II set out on a massive around the world tour whilst her children stayed behind in London. Spanning nearly six months, she and Prince Philip journeyed from the Bermuda Islands to the Indian Ocean.
SMITH: They traveled over 40,000 miles. She shook more than 13,000 hands. She saw nearly 7,000 courtesies. She gave 261 speeches. It was enormously ambitious. And important because she wanted to be seen as the head of the commonwealth.
FOSTER: During her father's reign, what had been the British empire transformed into the modern commonwealth of nations. A voluntary association of independent states, but still headed by the king, then Queen Elizabeth.
VICKERS: What she liked about the commonwealth was it was a large family of nations who joined up together because they wanted to, and it had huge benefits for everybody involved.
UNKNOWN: Malay whose only links with the outside world are ships and the (Inaudible) to Colombo, did the queen proud. FOSTER: The queen remained head of state in several commonwealth
countries, including the United Kingdom, though not head of government. An important distinction, meaning she had no political role and so required to remain neutral.
She stayed above politics very effectively and that was very, very difficult, isn't it?
LORD ROBIN JANVRIN, FORMER PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: It was so instinctive to her to know what the limits were. And you have to be quite political to be apolitical. So, she understood politics. She took a great deal of interest in it.
FOSTER: During her reign, the queen had more than a dozen prime ministers from all walks of political life.
JUNOR: I think that was one of the reasons for her success. She didn't alienate anybody by being politically partisan.
FOSTER: Whilst the queen worked closely with all of her prime ministers, it was her subjects she took an oath to serve.
JUNOR: She has always wanted to communicate directly with the people. I think she understood that was what modern monarchy should be.
FOSTER: She used the media, didn't she, to connect with people?
JANVRIN: I think that it's one of her guiding, if you like, principles throughout her life, was to move with the times, to understand what people were talking about, to understand the importance of television in the '50s and '60s.
FOSTER: Following the success of her televised coronation, the queen came around to the idea of moving her annual Christmas broadcast to television as well.
SMITH: I could only paraphrase this, but she said, I cannot lead you into battle, but I can give you my heart and I can share my thinking with you in this new way. She hoped that this would enable her to have a more personal bond with her subjects and with the people of the commonwealth and nations around the world.
FOSTER: The queen took things a step further when she went on her first official walk about. What we now recognize as commonplace for royals, felt revolutionary in 1970.
JUNOR: Instead of just meeting the officials and the heads of everything, she could meet ordinary people. The public really appreciated it and enjoyed it.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: Hello.
JUNOR: And I think she enjoyed it.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: What is in there? New pictures? Did you draw them? Thank you very much. It was very kind.
VICKERS: I think it proved her effective. The whole course of the reign I think has been moving the queen forward from being this very sort of distant figurehead to somebody that's more approachable.
FOSTER: But by far the most intimate look at the queen came months earlier with the BBC documentary "Royal Family".
JUNOR: Elizabeth was very forward thinking and she did embrace the new technology and she embraced television, but I think she took some persuading to let the cameras in on her family life.
FOSTER: With Prince Philip onboard, the queen agreed to the fly on the wall style documentary.
SMITH: The filming lasted nearly a year. They did something like 75 sessions with her and various members of the royal family. They worked in 172 countries.
FOSTER: The film was received very well, wasn't it?
JUNOR: The public absolutely loved the royal family film. Loved it. I mean, it was fascinating. We were certainly glued to our television sets. It was riveting.
FOSTER: The documentary was seen by an estimated 350 million people across the world. However, shortly after it first aired, it all but disappeared and the queen never participated in another project like it again.
JUNOR: She was well aware that a monarch needs to be seen to believed. But if you see too much of the family just being like any other family, then maybe you start to question whether they are really so special.
FOSTER: When Elizabeth became queen her faith wasn't just a choice. It was a responsibility.
VICKERS: The queen's royal as head of the church was extremely important to her.
NIKKHAH: Her faith underpinned her reign. You can't underestimate how key her deep faith was.
FOSTER: As reigning monarch, the queen was head of the church of England, defender of the faith and bound to exemplify the tenets of the Anglican Communion.
VICKERS: I think the queen did her best to balance family and duty responsibilities. And there must have been time when it was quite difficult. FOSTER: That delicate balance came to a head when her sister Princess
Margaret informed the king of her intention to marry Royal Air Force officer and war hero Peter Townsend.
VICKERS: Princess Margaret's wish to marry Peter Townsend was controversial because he was divorced and given that the church of England didn't in those days recognize remarriage to divorced people, that was a huge, huge issue really.
FOSTER: As the royal in the line of succession under the age of 25, Princess Margaret needed her sister's permission to marry. Without the queen's permission, parliament could approve the marriage, but divorce was still taboo and the prime minister, Winston Churchill, made it clear his cabinet was unlikely to approve the match.
CHARLES ANSON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: There was pretty firm prime minister advice that this would be a difficult thing for a member of the royal family to marry a divorcee.
FOSTER: The queen was also personally opposed to divorce, especially after the chaos of her uncle's decision to abdicate the throne to marry a divorcee.
JUNOR: Members of the royal family grew up with the specter in their lives that they must never, ever allow to happen again.
FOSTER: The queen was torn.
SMITH: She loved her younger sister. She wanted her to be happy.
FOSTER: Townsend was sent away to the British embassy in Brussels on assignment for two years. When he returned, Princess Margaret was faced with a choice.
UNKNOWN: Group Captain Peter Townsend returns from diplomatic duties in Belgium to call on Princess Margaret.
SMITH: The only way Margaret could marry him was for her to renounce her title and everything that went with it. At the end of the day, she felt that she couldn't do that. And so, they broke up. To her everlasting disappointment and sadness.
JUROR: I think the queen struggled, but with Princess Margaret, she put duty over family.
FOSTER: Unfortunately, for the queen, that wouldn't be the last time a royal marriage would rock the very foundations of the monarchy.
UNKNOWN: Here comes the coach which is the center of attention.
FOSTER: When the queen's son, Prince Charles, married lady Diana Spencer in 1981, the queen was thrilled. With Diana by his side, the royal couple looked like a fairy tale come to life. But out of the glare of the public eye it was a very different story. From the start the relationship was rocky.
SMITH: The queen was not aware of the extent of Charles and Diana's problems for quite a long time. They didn't confide in his parents.
They can see Diana, particularly in the first few years, manifesting some disturbing behavior. But they put it down to jitters about being in a new life and having trouble adjusting to royal life.
FOSTER: But 11 years in, it became clear to the Queen how precarious her son's marriage was. Secretly working with a biographer on a tell- all bock, Diana unloaded more than a decades' worth of scandal and unhappiness for whole world to read.
PENNY JUNOR, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: It was a devastating book. I think the Queen found it very difficult and the duke of Edinburgh, they were absolutely furious with Diana because she had washed her dirty linen in public.
FOSTER: Even after Charles and Diana formally separated in 1992, the Queen urged them to work on their marriage. A divorce between the future monarch and head of church and his wife would have huge ramifications.
ROYA NIKKHAH, ROYAL CORRESPONDENT, THE SUNDAY TIMES: The divorce presented all sorts of extraordinary constitutional crises from the theory that you could have a separated King and Queen crowned one day. And I think that was an enormous worry for the Queen as for the future of the British monarchy.
FOSTER: But when Diana sat down for a televised interview in 1995 on the BBC program Panorama, it was clear to the Queen that the marriage was over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smiles hiding any pain or anger that their daughter-in-law's interview may cause them.
JUNOR: The Queen just said, enough. This is so damaging to the monarchy. And so, damaging to your children. She told them that they must seek an early divorce.
FOSTER: Which is seismic?
JUNOR: Completely seismic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Queen does want the divorce and is said to be both angry and frustrated at the couple's public disagreements.
FOSTER: The Queen also wrote the letter suggesting divorce. That's not just a divorce in the royal family. That's the future Queen.
CHARLES ANSON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: The marriage of a Prince of Wales and Princess of Wales is right within the succession. So, it is a matter of state. It's a matter of the survival and progress of the institution.
FOSTER: For decades after watching her sister walk away from a marriage over divorce, it was the Queen, the head of the church of England, who intervened and told her son divorce was the only way forward.
LORD ROBIN JANVRIN, FORMER PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN: It was deeply sad. This is a marriage breaking down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Queen riding at Balmoral today, head of state and head of her family whose misery over divorce led to fundamental questions about the monarchy's future.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some experts argue They will need all hands-on deck to relaunch their image.
JANVRIN: I think divorce in the '90s was certainly not unprecedented, but I think that society had moved on by then. And so, I don't think it was a huge social issue.
FOSTER: Once again, the Queen had proved herself to be a modern monarch. One to change and adapt.
ANSON: Things have evolved. But that of course in a way was the skill of the raid, I suppose, is that things move with the times.
JANVRIN: It's part of the way in which a monarchy either survives or dies.
FOSTER: Coming up, the crown in crisis.
JUNOR: It was the most dangerous week of her entire reign. The future the monarchy really hung in the balance.
JANVRIN: I remember a phone call from Windsor saying that there was a small fire. At that stage we had no idea how big it was, but it rapidly became apparent that it was a major problem.
FOSTER: Windsor Castle, one of the most famous landmarks in Britain, and the Queen's favorite home, was up in flames. Robin Janvrin was the Queen's assistant private secretary and his team had to tell the Queen.
JANVRIN: Immediately she said, I must go down.
FOSTER: The images of her walking with the firefighters and she looked so upset, understandably, was that a true portrayal of how she was feeling at the time?
JANVRIN: It must have been. It was horrendous to see something in flames like that.
FOSTER: The fire was the culmination one of the most difficult years of the Queen's reign.
JUNOR: The year that she famously called her Annus horribilis. It was a horrible year for her. Three of her four children, their marriages broke up.
FOSTER: Including her son, Prince Andrew's marriage to Sarah Ferguson.
JUNOR: Fergie was caught with her financial advisor sucking her toes while she was sunbathing topless. The family was turning into a soap opera and there were rumblings that the royal family in today's society is completely outdated and should be done away with.
FOSTER: There was also public outrage at the thought that taxpayer money might be used for the restoration.
JUNOR: You were looking at this family. Their holidays and their yachts and their castles and the public purse were going to have to fork out for this.
FOSTER: Following bitter criticism, the Queen prepared to adapt and modernize.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: New institution, city, monarchy, whatever, should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support.
JANVRIN: She recognized that we needed as an institution and she needed to listen, and she was a good listener.
FOSTER: Days after the fire, the monarchy made massive changes. The Queen started paying income tax and they opened Buckingham Palace to tourists. And would use the profits to help pay for the restoration of Windsor Castle.
ANSON: There were a lot of changes. In a way, I think eventually the phoenix rose from the ashes.
FOSTER: The Queen turned public perception around, but just a few years later she would face the greatest test of her reign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just getting word that the French government has informed all of us that Princess Diana has died.
JANVRIN: This happened suddenly. So, their first instinct was I think the one that any family would make, which would be to look after these boys.
FOSTER: The Queen and Prince Charles sequestered at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to comfort William and Harry in private. Back in London there was an overwhelming outpouring of public grief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are today a nation in Britain in a state of shock, in mourning, in grief that is so deeply painful for us.
FOSTER: Thousands of Britons lined the streets outside Kensington and Buckingham Palaces.
JUNOR: The country went completely mad. People grieving for this lovely woman that they'd never met. But they all felt they knew.
JANVRIN: It was a nation in shock.
FOSTER: Janvrin was with the Queen at Balmoral.
JANVRIN: I recall a feeling that none of us really knew what was happening and how best to respond to it.
FOSTER: The British press demanded a public response from the Queen.
JUNOR: People wanted the monarch. But she felt the place she needed to be was with her grandsons.
FOSTER: What do you think that said about her?
JANVRIN: It was an occasion where she put family before duty.
FOSTER: Family before duty. Something the Queen had rarely done before.
JUNOR: It was the most dangerous week of her entire reign. I think that the future of the monarchy really hung in the balance.
FOSTER: At what point did you realize that you had to respond in some way?
JANVRIN: I think very early on. The communications were not great.
FOSTER: So, in retrospect, you'd say you were doing everything right, you just weren't communicating it?
JANVRIN: No, I think we were slow in getting some of the decisions.
FOSTER: Days after Diana's death, the Queen broke with protocol and had the Union Flag lowered to half-staff. And she returned to London where she met with mourners outside Buckingham Palace.
WESLEY KERR, FORMER BBC ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: She drove down Constitution Hill and much to everybody's surprise got out of the Limousine. She and the duke spoke to the crowds.
FOSTER: That night, the Queen gave a live address to the nation. Only the second of her reign.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: So, what I say to you now as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart. First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and love, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.
JANVRIN: She saw it as a moment to try to set the record straight about her feelings for the Princess of Wales.
FOSTER: Once again, the Queen had changed the national narrative. But in the years following Diana's death, the world's overwhelming love for the princess lived on and the royal family continued to face harsh criticism.
ANSON: There were many people who felt very strongly that in some way the princess had been treated unfairly or critically.
NIKKHAH: In terms of the stability of the monarchy, the issue surrounding Charles and Diana rocked the monarchy to its core and other crises.
FOSTER: And the Queen realized there were lessons to be learned.
SMITH: Diana was a unique combination of breathtaking beauty with a palpable sense of vulnerability. She had this uncanny ability to connect with people. She was a hugger in a family that was not known for hugging. She was willing to break barriers, and I think that was something that members of the royal family had done, but at some remove. She was right in there with them.
JANVRIN: Her informal style was something we could learn from, and I remember those discussions.
FOSTER: What sorts of things would you do differently?
JANVRIN: I think the image of the Princess of Wales going to see an HIV patient and the ability to capture that moment. I think the whole royal institution looked at it and said, actually, we can do this kind of thing better.
FOSTER: The monarchy would have to adapt to survive. Coming up --
What do you think was the greatest threat to her reign?
ANSON: The greatest threat would have been if it hadn't shown that it was willing to change.
FOSTER: It was the moment everyone had been waiting and hoping for. After being largely absent from the celebrations at her own platinum jubilee, Queen Elizabeth emerged on the balcony at Buckingham
Palace to roaring crowds. It was a celebration 70 years in the making. Commemorating Britain's longest serving monarch. At 96 years old, the Queen had bowed out of many of the festivities planned for the four- day jubilee, instead allowing the future generations of the monarchy to take center stage as the world watched.
It was a defining moment for her legacy. And for the woman who dedicated her life in service to the people of the United Kingdom, the realms, and the commonwealth.
ANSON: Here is a monarch who came to the throne at a very young age who has manage to take her country through the transition after the war of a major British empire. And brought it to a different sort of country.
FOSTER: Over more than seven decades of reign, the Queen became the nation's consoler in chief.
ANSON: The Queen's message to President Bush, at the time of 9/11, the Twin Towers tragedy. She spoke of grief being the price that we pay for love. And I think that expressed for British people, and for many people around the world what people felt.
SMITH: A few years later, during the terrorist bombings in London the Queen went to hospitals and visited people. Grenfell Tower fire. She was there.
JUNOR: There's always this feeling that politicians are there because it's official opportunity. The Queen, and other members of the royal family, they are there actually because they want to express their grief and their solidarity with those people who have suffered.
FOSTER: She was a unifying force.
SMITH: She was the first monarch to visit Ireland in 100 years.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: So, all those has suffered as the consequence --
SMITH: And she expressed her extreme sympathy and regret for these actions that had been a major part of the bloody history between Ireland and Britain. It was the most significant visit of her reign.
FOSTER: And she brought world leaders together.
SMITH: She used her power of influence and subtle persuasion to keep the commonwealth united on the matter of apartheid. And figuring out a way to and end it in South Africa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the Queen. The Queen is coming out of the balcony. This is a great moment.
FOSTER: The longest reigning monarch in British history. She kept the crown relevant and stable, and alive.
ANSON: The Queens reign has been a time of such colossal, social, political, economic change. And so many customs of our society have changed. And she has seen us through these things in a pragmatic way. At the same time, being this slightly mysterious figure above it all. Not taking in position on politics. And with a good sense of humor.
FOSTER: What would you say was the greatest threat to her reign?
JANVRIN: The greatest threat would have been if it hadn't moved with the times and shown that it was willing to change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In bodying duty and religion ahead of her heart, Margaret had the example of her sister, the Queen.
FOSTER: The monarchy has also survived because the Queen put duty above all else. Even in her final years when her second son, Prince Andrew was linked to convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the record, is there any way you could've had sex with any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences?
PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: No.
NIKKHAH: That crisis showed just how much backbone the Queen had. Because within days of that disastrous TV interview, she had effectively sacked her son from the family firm.
FOSTER: The Queen eventually, strip Prince Andrew of his military and HRH titles. She'd also put duty over family when her beloved grandson, Prince Harry, chose to step down as a working member of the royal family.
JUNOR: Harry's intention had been to try and keep one foot in each camp. I don't think that he wanted to give up royal duties entirely. And I think it was the Queen that forced his hand there. And said, you've got to be all in or all out.
FOSTER: Until her death, Queen Elizabeth the second was all in. Working well into her 90s, never relinquishing her role and dedicating her life to serving her country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is your majesty willing to take the oath?
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I am willing.
NIKKHAH: The Queen took a vow in the very early stages of her life, that her duty was a lifelong commitment. The Queen would never have contemplated breaking that vow to her subjects because it wasn't in her blood.
FOSTER: What will her legacy be?
JUNOR: Her legacy, I think will be the fact that we still have a monarchy.
NIKKHAH: The ability to move with the times. To maintain popular appeal, for as long as she did. To retain a sense of stability, to deal with crisis upon crisis in her own family but still maintain national affection. And for a woman in a man's world in the early 1950s to take on that role and command such respect for as many decades as she did, I don't think any other monarch ever achieve that.
KERR: She remained head of state in 15 countries. Head of the commonwealth with 2.4 billion people in 54 countries. We've seen all of that time a world figure, and she wasn't actually in charge of ruling the country but she set a tone, she steered Britain. And I think to a large degree, the world in terms of that image that she had, that iconic image and the example that she personally set say she largely steered the world through 70 years of tumultuous change. And it has been a fantastic exemplar for the best of Britain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)