By Chris Dart  

“Poor you!”

That was what six-year-old Princess Margaret’s said to her older sister, Princess Elizabeth when she found out 10-year-old Elizabeth had just become heir to the throne. Their uncle, King Edward VIII, had just abdicated to marry an American divorcée. Their father, a quiet family man who had no love of the spotlight, was going to be king. And Elizabeth, who was very much her father’s daughter, would be queen someday.

Poor her indeed. 

In the eight-part Passionate Eye series Elizabeth, those closest to the Queen — including friends, members of the Royal Household and former Prime ministers — will tell the story of how Elizabeth went from shy, serious princess to England’s longest reigning monarch.

After her uncle’s abdication in 1936, everything changed for Elizabeth. Her family left their cozy London home for Buckingham Palace, her father — a constant presence in her life, was now often absent on royal business — and her education suddenly became much more formal. Until then, Elizabeth had been educated in a casual, informal way, at the hands of governesses. This was common for upper-class girls of the era. Her grandmother, Queen Mary, realized that the future sovereign was going to need much more thorough schooling and sent her to study, privately, under Eton College vice provost Sir Henry Marten. 

WATCH: Elizabeth online now

Marten taught her history, politics, and British constitutional law. But more than anything, he taught her two key concepts that would come to define her reign: political neutrality and the importance of broadcasting. These two things would guide Elizabeth throughout her reign, as she worked with 13 British Prime Ministers — and 12 Canadian ones — and took the monarch from the radio age to the age of social media.

Throughout it all, she never voted and has never publicly offered an opinion on issues before parliament. This is in spite of the fact that she meets with the British Prime Minister weekly to advise and be advised on what’s happening in government.

She was the first monarch of the television age. Hers was the first coronation to be shown on the BBC. Her televised Royal Christmas Messages, which made their debut in 1957, have become a core part of Christmas Day celebrations all around the world.

The shy princess received another crucial piece of advice, as well. This one was from her mother: “When you walk into a room, walk through the middle of the door.”

The Queen’s friend Prudence, Lady Penn, explains what the Queen Mother meant by that.

“And I think by that she meant, don’t sort of go in apologetically. You walk through as if I’m in charge. I think that was very good advice.”

Elizabeth follows the Queen from her coronation, through the end of the Empire and the growth of the monarchy. It shows her as she weathers personal crises and national social upheavals with grace, dignity, and a firm grasp on the reigns of power.

There is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II has for many decades…. always walked through the middle of the door.

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