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Queen Elizabeth II: Her reign in music

We look at key moments throughout the monarch’s reign and see what was topping the charts at the time


This weekend sees the UK celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 70 years since the monarch ascended the throne. She’s been served by 14 Prime Ministers, seen three generations of heirs born, and she’s brought the British monarchy forward into the age of technology. She’s also witnessed countless shifts in the world of music, beginning her reign just months after the creation of the first official UK singles chart, and reaching seven decades on the throne in an age where Tik Tok now controls what makes it to number one.

As the UK gears up for some huge platinum jubilee celebrations, we’re looking back at some big moments during Her Majesty’s seventy years on the throne and investigating what was topping the charts at the time.

The coronation – 1953

On 2 June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was coronated in Westminster Abbey, a year after the death of her father, King George VI. It was the first coronation to be televised, and the event brought in an audience of 27 million people in the UK alone, with millions more tuning in all across the globe. Elizabeth was just 27 years old at the time.

Playing on the radio as families watched the new queen wave from the balcony was (most likely) ‘I Believe’ by Frankie Laine. The hopeful track was only the ninth number one single ever recorded on the relatively new UK singles chart and was in the middle of its impressive nine-week run in the top spot. Full of optimism and charm, it’s a fitting first track to Elizabeth’s reign.

I Beleive - Frankie Laine

The first state visit to West Germany – 1965

Amongst the Queen’s many royal tours and state visits, a trip to the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1965 remains one of the most important. Twenty years on from the end of World War II, it was the first official visit by a British royal since 1913, and it marked a new era of peace between the two countries. Number one on the charts was gentle romantic track ‘Long Live Love’ by Sandie Shaw – a strangely appropriate title.

Charles becomes Prince of Wales – 1969

On 1 July 1969, the Queen’s eldest son was officially given the title of Prince of Wales, and made a speech in both English and Welsh. Whilst he was speaking of reconciling both the history and future of Wales, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were jetting around the world and worrying about being crucified in ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’.

The Beatles - The Ballad Of John And Yoko

The Silver Jubilee – 1977

Twenty-five years into Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the nation came together to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, and the Queen repeated her vow to dedicate her life to service. Although the nation was rejoicing, Rod Stewart was lamenting a broken heart and refusing to share his feelings in ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It’.

I Don't Want to Talk About It (1989 Version)

Charles and Diana are married – 1981

An estimated 750 million people tuned in from all around the world to watch the wedding of the century between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. But in stark contrast to the lavish celebrations, topping the charts was The Specials’ brilliantly unsettling track ‘Ghost Town’, which spoke of urban decay and unrest in inner cities.

The Specials - Ghost Town [Official HD Remastered Video]

The birth of Prince William – 1982

The next direct heir to the throne arrived in the world on 21 June 1982, as Adam Ant rocked out to ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Maybe a slightly random track at first glance, but think of it this way: this wouldn’t have been number one when Harry was born.

Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes

Diana’s funeral – 1997

Although ‘Men In Black’ by Will Smith was still on top when the nation mourned the unexpected and tragic death of Princess Diana, Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’ took over later in the month – and stayed in the top spot for five weeks.

Elton John - Candle In The Wind

The Golden Jubilee – 2002

No one wanted to talk during the Jubilee celebrations, apparently. Picking up where Rod Stewart left off during the Silver Jubilee, JXL’s remix of Elvis Presley’s ‘A Little Less Conversation’ was number one as the nation marked fifty years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign with the Golden Jubilee.

Junkie XL, Elvis Presley - A Little Less Conversation (Official JXL Remix)

The Queen’s 80th birthday – 2006

Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday was marked by several special events, including a literature-themed Party at the Palace to which 2,000 children were invited. Meanwhile, ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley was celebrating a long life at number one, clinging on to the top spot for nine weeks in total.

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy (Official Video)

William and Kate are married – 2011

The enormous event was broadcast to 180 different countries and spawned street parties all around the UK. Much of the affair was public, but the wedding party did retire at the end of the day to have a private celebration within the walls of Buckingham Palace. Whilst the evening’s playlist has not been shared, we can assume it included that week’s number one – ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO, Lauren Bennet & GoonRock.

LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock - Party Rock Anthem (Official Video)

The Diamond Jubilee – 2012

The Queen celebrated 60 years on the throne with her Diamond Jubilee – and fun. along with Janelle Monáe quite meanly rubbed their youth in her face. ‘We Are Young’ sat at the top of the charts as street party fever swept the nation for the second summer running.

Fun.: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

The London Olympics – 2012

Her Majesty got in on the fun at the London Olympics opening ceremony, participating in a sketch with Daniel Craig as James Bond. As the Queen officially declared the games open and the world turned its eyes to London’s red phone boxes, Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa found themselves stood at a ‘Payphone’.

Maroon 5 - Payphone ft. Wiz Khalifa (Explicit) (Official Music Video)

The birth of Prince George – 2013

We couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate number one here if we’d tried. Unfortunately for everyone, the song that welcomed Prince George into the world was Robert Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams’ ‘Blurred Lines’.

Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines ft. T.I., Pharrell (Official Music Video)

Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch – 2015

Sometimes, however, the stars align. Queen Elizabeth II overtook Queen Victoria on 9 September 2015 to become the longest reigning British monarch. The track at number one when she pulled ahead? Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’.

Rachel Platten - Fight Song (Official Video)

The Queen’s 90th birthday – 2016

As the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday, Drake, Wizkid & Kyla kept us all in the party mood with ‘One Dance’, which spent an extraordinary 15 weeks at number one in the summer of 2016.

Drake - One Dance (Live On SNL) ft. Wizkid, Kyla

The Sapphire Jubilee – 2017

The Queen became the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee in February 2017, reaching a milestone 65 years on the throne. She spent the day quietly celebrating with family at Sandringham, and probably also listening to ‘Shape Of You’ by Ed Sheeran, which held out at the top of the charts for pretty much the entire first quarter of that year.

Ed Sheeran - Shape of You (Official Music Video)

Harry and Meghan are married – 2018

The match between Prince Harry and biracial American actress Meghan Markle signaled to many that the monarchy was entering a new, more modern era. Some 1.9 billion people tuned in to watch around the world, and number one on the charts was romantic dance track ‘One Kiss’ by Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa.

Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa - One Kiss (Official Video)

Platinum Jubilee – 2022

As the nation prepares to celebrate the seventieth year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, Harry Styles is still sat comfortably in No.1 with nostalgic track ‘As It Was’. In light of the occasion, is it too much to hope that Her Majesty may participate in the Tik Tok trend that sees users posting throwback pictures to the sound? Yes, yes it is.

Harry Styles - As It Was (Official Video)