SEVENTY years before Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to have a platinum jubilee, her accession to the throne was front-page news for what was then the Evening Echo.
“British Monarch Passes Away In His Sleep” read the headline on our top story on Wednesday, February 6, 1952, with the subheading “Princess Elizabeth Becomes Queen”.
Our coverage began: “The British Sovereign, King George the Sixth, passed away in his sleep during the night at Sandringham, where he had been staying, and where his father, King George the Fifth, died 16 years ago.
“His death was wholly unexpected because, though he had recently suffered a grave infection of the lung, he had made apparently a complete recovery.
“He had retired last night, seemingly in perfect health, and the discovery that during the night he had died, when announced, came as a severe shock.
“The doctor who was immediately summoned to Sandringham, could only announce that he had died during his sleep.”
Our report said that Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, had been staying in Sandringham, and the King had been out the day before, “apparently in the best of health and spirits”.
As the United Kingdom of Great Britain and parts of Northern Ireland went into mourning, along with some areas of what was then left of the British Empire, sporting and entertainment programmes were cancelled and messages of sympathy poured in from around the world.
“Princess Elizabeth, who becomes the new Queen, received the news of her father’s death in East Africa where, with her husband, she was proceeding with an extensive tour,” our coverage continued, and which will no doubt have 21st century veterans of The Crown nodding knowingly.
“In accordance with the British Constitution, Princess Elizabeth became Queen immediately on the death of her father.
“Prince Charles is now heir to the throne,” writes the article’s unnamed author, in a sentence that, at least at the time of today’s edition of The Echo going to press, is possessed of the sort of staying power you rarely really get in daily news reporting.
Seventy years ago, as world leaders offered their sympathies, the Evening Echo reported that Pope Pius XII was preparing his own message of condolence, while in Dublin the Taoiseach, Mr de Valera, and the Minister for External Affairs, Frank Aiken, and Mr McDunphy, secretary to President O’Kelly, had all called to the British Embassy to offer their sympathies.
They were, of course, beaten to it by the man many suspected then was running the country, the Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, John Charles McQuaid.
The City Library on the Grand Parade offers free access to the Irish News Archive, and one of the newspapers in that collection is Cork’s own local paper, the newspaper originally known as the Cork Evening Echo.