February 1952, was, like February 2012, a cold one. On the morning of the 6th, Sandringham was bleak and wintry, as George VI’s valet desperately tried to wake him. A front-page piece in this newspaper – reprinted in our pullout today – painted a touching picture of a frozen rural Britain that had just lost its king. “The village doctor,” we reported, “drove along the road that winds through the Royal estate, flanked on either side by the brown withered ferns through which, less than 24 hours earlier, the King had himself walked. No blinds were drawn over the windows of this favourite home of the King. The smoke from the first fires hung limp in the still morning air.”
There was nothing the doctor could do; over on the other side of the world, the 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth had become a queen. The balmy Kenyan weather could hardly have been further removed from sub-zero Norfolk, but the mood was just as sad, as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh rushed to the airport.
“When the car, travelling at speed, passed near Nyeri,” wrote another Daily Telegraph correspondent (they had no byline in those days), “the Queen and the Duke, despite the sadness of their journey, smiled and waved to small groups of people who, sighting the Queen’s standard gleaming in the evening sun, had stopped to watch them pass.”