The Way It Was — Queen Elizabeth II On The Detroit River

Take a closer look at this photo of Queen Elizabeth II on the Detroit River and find out how the Detroit skyline looked in 1951.
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

1951  She reigned as the United Kingdom’s Monarch for so long that it’s hard to think of her title as anything other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Having served in that capacity for more than 70 years, she will be remembered as Britain’s longest-serving monarch. But back in 1951, she was simply Princess Elizabeth. She is seen here, age 25, waving with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at her side while visiting Windsor, Ontario, with the Detroit shoreline hovering behind them.

At that time, the city’s skyline was dominated by the Penobscot and Guardian buildings, not the Renaissance Center, whose first tower opened a quarter-century after this photo was shot. Canada was — and is — part of the Commonwealth, and Elizabeth visited the country twice more, in 1959 and 1984.

This image of the princess was taken on Oct. 15, 1951, but just a few months later, in February of 1952, Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died, and she became queen. Her splashy coronation took place in 1953.

She married Philip in 1947, and their union lasted nearly 74 years, until his death in 2021. He was 99. Elizabeth died at age 96 on Sept. 8, 2022. Her son Charles then became King Charles III.

Some have voiced concerns about the king’s age (73) at the time of his accession, but considering his parents’ longevity, as well as that of the Queen Mother, who was approaching 102 at the time of her death, his reign has the potential to be quite long.

This story is from the January 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition. Find even more The Way It Was articles on