Big Ben Renamed ‘Elizabeth Tower’

London's iconic clock tower, known affectionately as "Big Ben" for some 150 years, has been renamed "Elizabeth Tower" in honor of QE2's 60 years as royal figurehead.

London’s iconic clock tower, known affectionately as “Big Ben” for some 150 years, has been renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honor of QE2’s 60 years as royal figurehead.

Reuters (“London’s Big Ben to be renamed Elizabeth Tower“):

It’s one of the most famous names in the world, up there with the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty – but now London’s Big Ben clock tower is to be renamed Elizabeth Tower to mark the queen’s 60th year on the British throne.

The announcement on Tuesday followed four days of celebrations earlier this month to mark 86-year-old Queen’s Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

The landmark, part of Britain’s Houses of Parliament, is officially called the Clock Tower but is commonly known as Big Ben, the name of the giant bell in the tower that chimes the famous bongs in the capital.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the name change. “The renaming of the Clock Tower to the Elizabeth Tower is a fitting recognition of the Queen’s 60 years of service. This is an exceptional tribute to an exceptional monarch,” he said.

Reactions among the public were mixed, however. “Big Ben is so old and iconic, what is the sense in changing its name? All over the world people won’t understand what the Elizabeth Tower is,” said Romanian tourist Mara Ciortescu.

While America doesn’t have royalty, we name all manner of things after politicians big and small. There’s hardly a road or public building in West Virginia not named after Robert Byrd and  two major airports are named after US presidents who served during my adult life, DC’s Ronald Reagan National and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental–another is named after John F. Kennedy, whose tenure was cut short two years before I was born. Not only has QE2 been in office longer than Byrd served in the House and Senate combined–and he’s the record holder–but she’s been on the throne since eight years before Kennedy was elected president.

Still, we tend not to rename globally recognized landmarks. Naming “National Airport” as “Ronald Reagan National Airport” is one thing; renaming the Statue of Liberty as Abraham Lincoln Liberty Monument or the Grand Canyon as Bill Clinton’s Big Ass Ditch would go over less well.

Then again, one wonders if the name change will take. After all, the name isn’t being changed from “Big Ben” to “Elizabeth Tower” but rather from “the Clock Tower” to “Elizabeth Tower.” Nobody calls it “the Clock Tower.” Old timers will likely continue to refer to it as “Big Ben” regardless of what Parliament names it.

Big Ben with double decker photo by Shutterstock

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael Demmons says:

    Two words:

    “Willis Tower”

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Demmons: Or, Monster Stadium or 3Com Park.

  3. Reuters doesn’t get it entirely correct.

    Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the tower.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That’s technically true but not in common parlance. Indeed, the lead sentence at the Wikipedia link you provide says as much: “Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is generally extended to refer to the clock or the clock tower (formally known as Clock Tower of Westminster Palace, due to be renamed Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II) as well.”

  5. EMRVentures says:

    This will go over as well as “Avenue of the Americas.”

  6. @James Joyner:

    Fair point, as a popular matter I doubt most people ever really made the distinction anyway.

  7. @EMRVentures:

    And yet it is still called Avenue Of the Americas

  8. Oh, I don’t know… “Bill Clinton’s Big Ass Ditch” has a real ring to it.

  9. Weird, but not really for me to say, as I am neither British nor a subject.

  10. PJ says:

    There actually is a bit of history to the idea of renaming the tower. In 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and as part of the celebration the other tower was renamed “Victoria Tower”.
    And since Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, it was decided to change the official name of Big Ben.

  11. Franklin says:

    Look kids, Elizabeth Tower, Parliament …

  12. Just Me says:

    I predict that very few people will begin to refer to the tower as Elizabeth Tower and will continue to use Big Ben.

    Some places just can’t be renamed-especially if the populace refuses to play along.

  13. PJ says:


    Look kids, Clock Tower, Parliament…


  14. PJ says:

    @Just Me:
    The official name is being changed, nothing more, where Clock Tower was used (I’m guessing official documents, etc) Elizabeth Tower will now be used.
    No one is pushing to have people refer to it as Elizabeth Tower instead of Big Ben.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    Why not the “John Tower” as a lure to get Texans to visit London?

  16. EMRVentures says:

    @Doug Mataconis: In the common parlance, though, at least in New York, it’s still called Sixth Avenue forty years after being renamed.