Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She celebrated 70 years on the throne in June 2022 with her Platinum Jubilee.
Who Was Queen Elizabeth II?
Elizabeth died on September 8, 2022, at age 96.
Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, to Prince Albert, Duke of York (later known as King George VI ), and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon .
At the time of her birth, most people did not realize Elizabeth would someday become the queen of Great Britain. Elizabeth, nicknamed Lilibet, got to enjoy the first decade of her life with all the privileges of being a royal without the pressures of being the heir apparent.
Elizabeth’s father and mother divided their time between a home in London and Royal Lodge, the family's home on the grounds of Windsor Great Park. Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret were educated at home by tutors. Academic courses included French, mathematics and history, along with dancing, singing and art lessons.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Elizabeth and her sister largely stayed out of London, having been relocated to Windsor Castle. From there she made the first of her famous radio broadcasts in 1940, with this particular speech reassuring the children of Britain who had been evacuated from their homes and families. The 14-year-old princess, showing her calm and firm personality, told them "that in the end, all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace."
Elizabeth soon started taking on other public duties. Appointed colonel-in-chief of the Grenadier Guards by her father, Elizabeth made her first public appearance inspecting the troops in 1942. She also began to accompany her parents on official visits within Britain.
In 1945, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service to help in the war effort. She trained side-by-side with other British women to be an expert driver and mechanic. While her volunteer work only lasted a few months, it offered Elizabeth a glimpse into a different, non-royal world. She had another vivid experience outside of the monarchy when she and Margaret were allowed to mingle anonymously among the citizenry on Victory in Europe Day .
Ascension to the Crown
When Elizabeth’s grandfather George V died in 1936, his eldest son (Elizabeth’s uncle) became King Edward VIII . Edward, however, was in love with American divorcée Wallis Simpson and had to choose between the crown and his heart. In the end, Edward chose Simpson and abdicated the crown.
The event changed the course of her life, making her the heir presumptive to the British crown. Her father was crowned King George VI in 1937, taking on the name George to emphasize continuity with his father. Her mother became Queen Elizabeth; on King George's death in 1952, she became Queen Mother and her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey , at the age of 25.
Elizabeth assumed the responsibilities of the ruling monarch on February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died. For the first time ever, the coronation ceremony was broadcast on television, allowing people from across the globe to witness the pomp and spectacle of the event.
Husband Prince Philip
Elizabeth married her distant cousin Philip Mountbatten (a surname adopted from his mother's side) on November 20, 1947, at London's Westminster Abbey.
Elizabeth first met Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, when she was only 13. She was smitten with him from the start. The two kept in touch over the years and eventually fell in love.
They made an unusual pair. Elizabeth was quiet and reserved while Philip was boisterous and outspoken. Her father, King George VI, was hesitant about the match because, while Mountbatten had ties to both the Danish and Greek royal families, he didn't possess great wealth and was considered by some to have a rough personality.
At the time of their wedding, Great Britain was still recovering from the ravages of World War II, and Elizabeth collected clothing coupons to get fabric for her gown.
The family took on the name Windsor, a move pushed by her mother and Prime Minister Winston Churchill which caused tension with her husband. In 1960, she reversed course, issuing orders that her descendants who did not carry royal titles (or needed last names for legal purposes such as weddings) would use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. Over the years, Philip inspired numerous public relations headaches with his off-the-cuff, controversial comments and rumors of possible infidelities.
Philip died on April 9, 2021, at age 99.
Elizabeth and Philip wasted no time in producing an heir: Son Charles was born in 1948, the year after their wedding, and daughter Anne arrived in 1950. Elizabeth had two more children—sons Andrew and Edward —in 1960 and 1964, respectively.
In 1969, she officially made Charles her successor by granting him the title of Prince of Wales. Hundreds of millions of people tuned in to see the ceremony on television.
In 1981 32-year-old Charles wed 19-year-old Diana Spencer (best known as Princess Diana ), with later rumors surfacing that he was pressured into the marriage by his family. The wedding drew enormous crowds in the streets of London and millions watched the proceedings on television. Public opinion of the monarchy was especially strong at that time.
Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren
Charles and Diana gave birth to Elizabeth’s grandsons Prince William, who was created Duke of Cambridge upon his own marriage in 2011, second-in-line to the throne, in 1982, and Prince Harry in 1984. Elizabeth has emerged as a devoted grandmother to William and Harry. Prince William has said that she offered invaluable support and guidance as he and Kate Middleton planned their 2011 wedding.
On July 22, 2013, Elizabeth's grandson William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed their first child, George Alexander Louis —a successor to the throne known officially as "His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge."
On May 2, 2015, William and Kate welcomed their second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana , the queen's fifth great-grandchild. On April 23, 2018, they followed with their third child, Prince Louis Arthur Charles .
On May 6, 2019, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife, Meghan Markle , gave the queen another great-grandchild with the birth of their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor .
In addition to Prince William and Prince Harry, the queen’s other grandchildren are Peter Phillips, Princess Beatrice of York; Princess Eugenie of York; Zara Tindall; Lady Louise Windsor; and James, Viscount Severn. She was also a great-grandmother to 10.
Elizabeth II’s father and mother were known as the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father, Prince Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of Queen Mary and King George V . Her mother was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
Elizabeth had ties with most of the monarchs in Europe. Her British ancestors include Queen Victoria (ruled 1837 to 1901) and King George III (ruled 1760 to 1820).
Elizabeth's long and mainly peaceful reign was marked by vast changes in her people's lives, in her country's power, how Britain is viewed abroad and how the monarchy is regarded and portrayed. As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth did not weigh in on political matters, nor did she reveal her political views. However, she confers regularly with her prime ministers.
When Elizabeth became queen, post-war Britain still had a substantial empire, dominions and dependencies. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, many of these possessions achieved independence and the British Empire evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations. Elizabeth II thus made visits to other countries as head of the Commonwealth and a representative of Britain, including a groundbreaking trip to Germany in 1965. She became the first British monarch to make a state visit there in more than five decades.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Elizabeth continued to travel extensively. In 1973 she attended the Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa, Canada, and in 1976 traveled to the United States for the 200th-anniversary celebration of America’s independence from Britain. More than a week later she was in Montreal, Canada, to open the Summer Olympics. In 1979, she traveled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which garnered international attention and widespread respect.
In 1982, Elizabeth worried about her second son, Prince Andrew, who served as a helicopter pilot in the British Royal Navy during the Falklands War. Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, a clash that lasted for several weeks. While more than 250 British soldiers died in the conflict, Prince Andrew returned home safe and well, much to his mother's relief.
In 2011, Elizabeth showed that the crown still had symbolic and diplomatic power when she became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since 1911 (when all of Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom).
As queen, Elizabeth modernized the monarchy, dropping some of its formalities and making certain sites and treasures more accessible to the public. As Britain and other nations struggled financially, Britain abolished the Civil List in 2012, which was a public funding system of the monarchy dating back roughly 250 years. The royal family continues to receive some government support, but the queen cut back on spending.
Despite the occasional call to step aside for Charles, Elizabeth remained steadfast in her royal obligations as she passed her 90th birthday. She continued making more than 400 engagements per year, maintaining her support of hundreds of charitable organizations and programs.
However, in late 2017 the monarchy took what was considered a major step toward transitioning to the next generation: On November 12, Charles handled the traditional Remembrance Sunday duty of placing a wreath at the Cenotaph war memorial, as the queen watched from a nearby balcony.
In August 2019, Elizabeth made a rare intrusion into political matters when she agreed to a request by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prorogue (suspend) Parliament until October 14, less than three weeks before Britain's planned departure from the European Union.
Relationship With Prime Ministers
Elizabeth had 15 prime ministers placed into power during her reign, with queen and PM having a weekly, confidential meeting. (Elizabeth also met about a quarter of all the U.S. presidents in history, most recently receiving Joe Biden for a state visit in June 2021.)
She enjoyed a father-figure relationship with the iconic Winston Churchill and was later able to loosen up a bit and be somewhat informal with Labour leaders Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. In contrast, she and Margaret Thatcher had a very formal, distant relationship, with the PM tending to be a grating lecturer to the queen on a variety of issues.
Tony Blair saw certain concepts around the monarchy as somewhat outdated, though he did appreciate Elizabeth making a public statement after the death of Diana.
Later, Conservative leader David Cameron, who is Elizabeth's fifth cousin removed, enjoyed a warm rapport with the queen. He apologized in 2014 for revealing in a conversation that she was against the Scottish referendum to seek independence from Great Britain.
Theresa May was described as being tight-lipped about Brexit plans to leave the European Union, with a rumor circulating that Elizabeth was perturbed over not being informed about future exit strategies.
Threats to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family
Elizabeth worked tirelessly to protect the image of the monarchy and to prepare for its future. But she saw the monarchy come under attack during her lifetime. The once-revered institution weathered a number of storms, including death threats against the royal family.
In 1979, Elizabeth suffered a significant personal loss when Lord Mountbatten, her husband's uncle, died in a terrorist bombing. Mountbatten and several members of his family were aboard his boat on August 27th, off the west coast of Ireland, when the vessel exploded. He and three others, including one of his grandsons, were killed. The IRA (Irish Republican Army), which opposed British rule in Northern Ireland, took responsibility for the attack.
In June 1981, Elizabeth herself had a dangerous encounter. She was riding in the Trooping the Colour, a special military parade to celebrate her official birthday when a man in the crowd pointed a gun at her. He fired, but, fortunately, the gun was loaded with blanks. Other than receiving a good scare, the queen was not hurt.
Elizabeth had an even closer call the following year when an intruder broke into Buckingham Palace and confronted her in her bedroom. When the press got wind of the fact that Prince Philip was nowhere to be seen during this incident, they speculated about the state of the royal marriage.
The marriage of Elizabeth’s son, Charles, to Diana made headlines for years before the couple announced their separation in 1992, followed by their formal divorce in 1996. In the wake of Diana's death in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, Elizabeth experienced intense media scrutiny. Her incredibly popular ex-daughter-in-law had been called the “People's Princess.”
The queen was at her Balmoral estate in Scotland with Charles and his and Diana's two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, at the time. For days, Elizabeth remained silent while the country mourned Diana's passing, and she was sharply criticized for her lack of response.
Stories circulated that the queen did not want to give Diana a royal funeral, which only fueled public sentiment against the monarch. Nearly a week after Diana's death, Elizabeth returned to London and issued a statement on the late princess.
Elizabeth also initially objected to the relationship between her son Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles . Charles and Camilla had dated years before he met his family, but the relationship ended under family pressure, only to resume during Charles and Diana’s marriage. Known to be a stickler for ceremony and tradition, she eventually showed signs of softening her stance over the years. When Charles and Camilla wed in 2005, Elizabeth and Prince Philip did not attend the civil ceremony but attended a religious blessing and held a reception in their honor at Windsor Castle.
In 1992, another of Elizabeth’s children, Prince Andrew, ended up in the tabloids, after photos emerged of his wife Sarah Ferguson and another man engaged in romantic activity. The couple divorced soon after.
In November 2017, the media reported the queen had some $13 million invested in offshore accounts. The news came following the leak of the so-called "Paradise Papers" to a German newspaper, which shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The Duchy of Lancaster, which holds assets for the queen, confirmed that some of its investments were overseas accounts, but insisted they were all legitimate.
Also in 2017, the former owner of the lingerie company Rigby & Peller, which had serviced Elizabeth for more than 50 years, wrote a tell-all autobiography that included some of her experiences with the royal family. Although the author insisted that "the book doesn’t contain anything naughty," the queen responded in early 2018 by revoking Rigby & Peller's royal warrant.
In 2019, following years of scandal surrounding his controversial business pursuits and friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein , Prince Andrew was forced to step down from public duties, following a media firestorm.
Just weeks later, in January 2020, the family again found themselves in the spotlight, following the bombshell decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step away from their roles as senior royals.
After the start of the 21st century, Elizabeth experienced two great losses. She said goodbye to both her sister Margaret and her mother in 2002, the same year she celebrated her Golden Jubilee or 50th year on the throne.
Margaret, known for being more of an adventurous soul than other royals and who was barred from marrying an early love, died in February after suffering a stroke. Only a few weeks later, Elizabeth's mother, known as the Queen Mother, died at Royal Lodge on March 30th at the age of 101.
Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years as queen. As part of the jubilee festivities, a special BBC concert was held on June 4th featuring the likes of Shirley Bassey , Paul McCartney , Tom Jones , Stevie Wonder and Kylie Minogue. Elizabeth was surrounded by family at this historic event, including her husband Philip, son Charles and grandsons Harry and William.
On September 9, 2015, she surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria as Britain's longest-ruling monarch, who reigned for 63 years.
On February 6, 2017, the queen celebrated 65 years on the throne, the only British monarch to ever celebrate her Sapphire Jubilee. The date also marks the anniversary of the death of her father. The queen chose to spend the day quietly at Sandringham, her country estate north of London, where she attended a church service.
In London, there were royal gun salutes at Green Park and at the Tower of London to mark the occasion. The Royal Mint also issued eight new commemorative coins in honor of the queen's Sapphire Jubilee.
In 2022, the nation celebrated Elizabeth's platinum jubilee year. She was the first British monarch to reach that milestone, which marks 70 years on the throne.
Elizabeth died peacefully at her Balmoral estate on September 8, 2022. She was 96 years old.
For much of her life, the queen surrounded herself with dogs. She was especially known for her love of corgis, owning more than 30 descendants of the first corgi she received as a teenager, until the death of the final one, Willow, in 2018.
Elizabeth was also a horse enthusiast who bred thoroughbreds and attended racing events for many years.
Not one for the spotlight, Elizabeth liked quiet pastimes. She enjoyed reading mysteries, working on crossword puzzles and, reportedly, even watching wrestling on television.
- Name: Elizabeth
- Birth Year: 1926
- Birth date: April 21, 1926
- Birth City: London
- Birth Country: United Kingdom
- Gender: Female
- Best Known For: Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She celebrated 70 years on the throne in June 2022 with her Platinum Jubilee.
- World Politics
- Astrological Sign: Taurus
- Interesting Facts
- Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
- Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip were distant cousins.
- Queen Elizabeth enjoyed reading mysteries, working on crossword puzzles and even watching wrestling on television.
- Death Year: 2022
- Death date: September 8, 2022
We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us !
- Article Title: Queen Elizabeth II Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/royalty/queen-elizabeth-ii
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- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: September 12, 2022
- Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
- I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
- 1992 is not a year I shall look back on with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'annus horribilis.'
- When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.
- Discrimination still exists. Some people feel that their own beliefs are being threatened. Some are unhappy about unfamiliar cultures. They all need to be reassured that there is so much to be gained by reaching out to others; that diversity is indeed a strength and not a threat.
- Grief is the price we pay for love.
- I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.
- In remembering the appalling suffering of war on both sides, we recognize how precious is the peace we have built in Europe since 1945.
- We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.
- Have you been playing a long time?" (To Eric Clapton at a palace reception)
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The life of Queen Elizabeth II – a timeline
Key dates in the life of the Queen, from her birth in April 1926 to her death in September 2022
21 April 1926
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor is born at 2.40am at 17 Bruton Street, London, her maternal grandparents’ house. It was home to her parents, Elizabeth (née Bowes-Lyon), and Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. She was third in line to the throne behind her father and Edward, Prince of Wales.
21 August 1930
Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret Rose , is born.
20 January 1936
George V dies. Edward VIII becomes king .
10 December 1936
Edward VIII abdicates so that he can marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
11 December 1936
Bertie, the Duke of York, is formally proclaimed King George VI. Princess Elizabeth is now heiress presumptive.
Elizabeth becomes a Girl Guide at the age of 11.
12 May 1937
Coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey.
21 April 1939
Elizabeth celebrates her 13th birthday , and begins a course of study at home under the vice-provost of Eton College.
22 July 1939
Princess Elizabeth meets Cadet Capt Philip of Greece at the Royal Dartmouth naval college.
3 September 1939
Britain declares war on Germany.
7 September 1940
The blitz on London begins. While the King and Queen stay in the city, Elizabeth and Margaret are evacuated to Windsor.
13 October 1940
Elizabeth makes her first broadcast to the nation.
21 April 1942
On her 16th birthday, Elizabeth carries out her first public engagement when she inspects the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed colonel-in-chief.
21 April 1944
Elizabeth receives her first corgi , Susan, as an 18th birthday present.
4 March 1945
Elizabeth joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service , learning how to drive and maintain vehicles.
Elizabeth makes her first overseas visit, to South Africa , and gives a speech dedicating herself to the Commonwealth.
10 July 1947
Buckingham Palace announces the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lt Philip Mountbatten , her third cousin.
20 November 1947
The couple marry at Westminster Abbey. He is thenceforth known as the Duke of Edinburgh.
14 November 1948
Prince Charles is born.
15 August 1950
Princess Anne, now the Princess Royal, is born.
31 January 1950
Elizabeth and Philip leave for a tour of east Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
6 February 1952
George VI dies and Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne. She is in Kenya when her father dies – the first British monarch since George I to be out of the country at the time of succession.
15 February 1952
Funeral of George VI takes place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
7 April 1952
Proclamation issued declaring the family’s dynastic surname will remain Windsor.
2 June 1953
Coronation of Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in the first televised coronation service.
24 November 1953
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh embark on a tour of the Commonwealth.
15 May 1954
The royal couple return to England after six months abroad.
31 October 1955
Princess Margaret releases a statement confirming she will not marry Gp Capt Peter Townsend. Her relationship with him had been controversial because he was divorced, and her request to marry him – with its echoes of the abdication crisis – had been opposed by large sections of the establishment.
Britain and France invade Egypt in a botched attempt to seize control of the Suez canal. Lord Mountbatten later claimed the Queen disapproved of the venture.
21 October 1957
The Queen visits New York and addresses the UN general assembly.
19 February 1960
Prince Andrew, now the Duke of York, is born.
Princess Margaret marries the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.
10 March 1964
Prince Edward, now the Earl of Wessex, is born.
The Queen visits West Germany, the first British monarch to do so since the first world war.
20 September 1967
The Queen launches the Cunard cruise liner the Queen Elizabeth II (popularly known as the QE2).
21 June 1969
First broadcast of Royal Family , a documentary with unprecedented access to the family’s daily life.
1 July 1969
Prince Charles is invested Prince of Wales. Lord Snowdon designs a new coronet for the occasion as the Duke of Windsor took the previous one with him to Paris.
First walkabout during a state visit of Australia and New Zealand.
20 October 1973
The Queen opens Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House in Australia.
14 November 1973
Princess Anne marries Capt Mark Phillips.
The Queen’s tour of Australia and Polynesia is interrupted after the prime minister Edward Heath calls a snap general election. She flies back to Britain.
The Queen refuses to intervene in an Australian constitutional crisis when the prime minister Gough Whitlam is dismissed by the governor general Sir John Kerr.
7 June 1977
Queen’s silver jubilee. More than a million people line the streets of London, and a chain of beacons is lit across the country.
27 August 1979
Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle, is killed by an IRA bomb off the coast of Sligo in the west of Ireland.
Sir Anthony Blunt, the former surveyor of the Queen’s pictures, is exposed as a communist spy.
24 February 1981
Prince Charles announces his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer.
29 July 1981
Charles and Diana marry in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
13 June 1981
Shots are fired at the Queen as she attends Trooping the Colour. Marcus Serjeant, a 17-year-old air cadet from Folkestone, Kent, pleads guilty under the 1842 Treason Act and is jailed for five years. The shots were blanks.
21 June 1982
Diana gives birth to Prince William.
9 July 1982
Michael Fagan breaks into the Queen’s bedroom during the early hours, evading alarms, guards and police. He sits on the edge of her bed, talking for 10 minutes, before being led away by footman Paul Whybrew, given a whisky and arrested.
15 September 1984
Diana gives birth to Prince Harry.
23 July 1986
Andrew marries publishing executive Sarah Ferguson , known as Fergie.
7 June 1992
The first instalment of the serialisation of Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, appears in the Sunday Times , revealing that Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles continued to have an affair during his marriage to Diana, that Diana tried to kill herself and had bulimia. It later emerges that much of the information had been supplied by Diana herself.
20 November 1992
Windsor Castle is partly destroyed by fire.
24 November 1992
The Queen gives a speech at Guildhall to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession. In it, she refers to recent events as part of an “annus horribilis”.
9 December 1992
The prime minister John Major announces in the House of Commons that Charles and Diana are to separate.
Buckingham Palace is opened to the general public for the first time to help fund the restoration of Windsor Castle.
The Queen and the French president François Mitterrand open the Channel Tunnel.
28 August 1996
Charles and Diana’s marriage is dissolved
31 August 1997
Diana dies in a car crash in Paris. The Queen stays in seclusion for several days, and is heavily criticised in the press for her silence. Then, on the eve of Diana’s funeral, she does a walkabout to meet mourners outside Buckingham Palace and gives a televised address, speaking “as your Queen and as a grandmother” and paying tribute to Diana. “She was an exceptional and gifted human being,” she said. “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.”
11 December 1997
Her Majesty’s yacht Britannia is decommissioned; the government decides against funding a replacement.
24 November 1998
The Queen’s speech at the opening of parliament announces plans to abolish the traditional rights of 700 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords.
26 May 1999
The Queen opens the national assembly in Wales.
1 July 1999
The Queen opens the Scottish parliament.
Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, dies .
30 March 2002
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, dies .
30 April 2002
Elizabeth launches her golden jubilee celebrations with a speech to both houses of parliament.
9 April 2005
Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall. The Queen attends the service of blessing held for the couple at St George’s Chapel.
21 April 2006
The Queen celebrates her 80th birthday.
19 Nov 2007
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh mark their 60th wedding anniversary.
22 December 2007
Elizabeth II surpasses Victoria to become the UK’s oldest reigning monarch.
14 Oct 2010
The Queen cancels a planned Christmas party at Buckingham Palace after deciding it would be inappropriate to celebrate as Britons feel the effects of the economic crisis.
29 April 2011
Prince William, second in line to the throne , marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
17-20 May 2011
The Queen visits Ireland , becoming the first British monarch to do so since its independence in 1921. She expresses sympathy to those who suffered during hundreds of years of conflict between the two neighbours.
The 60th anniversary of the death of George VI and of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.
2-5 June 2012
Events take place throughout the country to celebrate Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee , including a pageant of 670 boats sailing along the Thames in London.
27 July 2012
The Queen opens the London Olympics . In her first acting role, a film shows her leaving Buckingham Palace with James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, and appearing to parachute into the stadium in Stratford, east London.
25 April 2013
The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 receives royal assent , so that the eldest child inherits the throne regardless of gender. The act also ends the disqualification from the line of succession of a person married to a Catholic.
4 June 2013
The Queen joins 2,000 guests for a service at Westminster Abbey to mark 60 years since her coronation.
22 July 2013
The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a son at 4.24pm. Prince George is third in line to the throne.
The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a daughter at 8.34am. Princess Charlotte is fourth in line to the throne.
9 September 2015
The Queen surpasses her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, and becomes Britain’s longest ever reigning monarch.
21 April 2016
The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday.
2 August 2017
Prince Philip, aged 96, retires from his official royal duties as the Queen’s consort, having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952.
6 February 2017
The Queen becomes the first British monarch to commemorate a sapphire jubilee.
20 November 2017
The Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary after 70 years of marriage. She is the first British monarch to do so.
23 April 2018
The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a second son at 11.01am. Prince Louis is fifth in line to the throne.
19 May 2018
Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, marries Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a son at 5.26am. Archie Mountbatten-Windsor is seventh in line to the throne.
20 November 2019
The Queen in effect suspends Prince Andrew from duties by giving him permission to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” after intense public reaction to a BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
8 January 2020
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce they will step back from their roles in public life as senior members of the royal family, and will divide their time between the UK and North America. The couple confirm they will become financially independent and cease to represent the Queen. They retain their HRH stylings but are not permitted to use them.
19 March 2020
The Queen and Prince Philip move to Windsor Castle and sequester there as a precaution as the coronavirus hits the UK. Public engagements are cancelled and Windsor Castle follows a strict sanitary protocol nicknamed HMS Bubble.
5 April 2020
The Queen gives a rare televised address to the nation , the fifth in her 68-year reign, as an unprecedented lockdown is enforced. The monarch thanks her subjects for following government rules to stay at home, praises key workers, and asks people to “take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return”. She adds: “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” The broadcast is watched by an estimated 24 million viewers.
7 March 2021
In a hotly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey , the Duchess of Sussex claims members of the royal family had openly expressed concerns about how dark her son Archie’s skin would be and says they had tried to deny him a royal title. Both Meghan and Prince Harry make a point of praising the Queen and instead direct their criticism at the royal household. Two days later, the Queen issues a statement saying “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning” and that “some recollections may vary”.
9 April 2021
Prince Philip dies “peacefully” at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle, two months before his 100th birthday. The Queen, who was at his bedside, describes his death as leaving “a huge void” in her life. Philip is the longest-serving royal consort in history.
17 April 2021
Funeral of Prince Philip at Windsor. He had indicated wishes for a smaller funeral, though amendments were still made to bring his service in line with Covid regulations, including quarantine for members of his family travelling from abroad.
4 June 2021
The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a daughter. Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor is eighth in line to the throne.
20 October 2021
The Queen reluctantly cancels a planned two-day visit to Northern Ireland after advice from her doctors that she should rest.
The Queen spends a night at King Edward VII’s hospital after being admitted for “preliminary investigations” having cancelled a two-day trip to Northern Ireland on the advice of doctors that she should rest for a few days. A palace source said a “cautious approach” had been taken by the medical team aiding the monarch and the overnight stay was for practical reasons, adding that she returned to Windsor and was undertaking “light duties” the next day. It was her first overnight stay in hospital since 2013, when she was treated for gastroenteritis.
13 Jan 2022
The Queen further distances the monarchy from the Duke of York by stripping him of his military affiliations and royal patronages. The palace also says he will not use the style His Royal Highness in any official capacity. The move means Prince Andrew is completely removed from royal life.
15 February 2022
Prince Andrew settles the sexual assault case filed against him by Virginia Giuffre for an undisclosed sum, avoiding having to give evidence in a trial and protecting the royal family from further reputational damage.
2-5 June 2022
The Queen celebrates her platinum jubilee after a record 70 years on the throne. She crowns the historic celebrations with a last-minute appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, bringing to a close four days of festivities over a bumper bank holiday weekend. In a written message, she says she is “humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate”.
6 September 2022
In a break from tradition as a result of her ongoing mobility issues, the Queen appoints the 15th prime minister of her reign , Liz Truss, at Balmoral Castle rather than Buckingham Palace. The outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson, also travels to Scotland to offer his resignation to the Queen. The following day she postpones a privy council meeting, which she was due to attend virtually, under doctors’ advice to rest.
This article was amended on 14 September 2022 because an earlier version incorrectly referred to Mitterrand as the prime minister of France. He was the president.
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Queen Elizabeth II
By: History.com Editors
Updated: April 25, 2023 | Original: May 23, 2018
Queen Elizabeth II served from 1952 to 2022 as reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and numerous other realms and territories, as well as head of the Commonwealth, the group of 53 sovereign nations that includes many former British territories. Extremely popular for nearly all of her long reign, the queen was known for taking a serious interest in government and political affairs, apart from her ceremonial duties, and was credited with modernizing many aspects of the monarchy.
Childhood and Education of a Princess
When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the elder daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was born on April 21, 1926, she apparently had little chance of assuming the throne, as her father was a younger son of King George V.
But in late 1936, her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. As a result, her father became King George VI, and 10-year-old “Lilibet” (as she was known within the family) became the heir presumptive to the throne.
Though she spent much of her childhood with nannies, Princess Elizabeth was influenced greatly by her mother, who instilled in her a devout Christian faith as well as a keen understanding of the demands of royal life. Her grandmother, Queen Mary, consort of King George V, also instructed Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret in the finer points of royal etiquette.
Educated by private tutors, with an emphasis on British history and law, the princess also studied music and learned to speak fluent French. She trained as a Girl Guide (the British equivalent of the Girl Scouts) and developed a lifelong passion for horses.
As queen, she kept many thoroughbred racehorses and frequently attended racing and breeding events. Elizabeth’s famous attachment to Pembroke Welsh corgis also began in childhood, and she owned more than 30 corgis over the course of her reign.
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth and Margaret spent much of World War II living apart from their parents in the Royal Lodge at Windsor Castle, a medieval fortress outside London. In 1942, the king made Elizabeth an honorary colonel in the 500 Grenadier Guards, a Royal Army regiment.
Two years later, he named her as a member of the Privy Council and the Council of State, enabling her to act on his behalf when he was out of the country.
In 1947, soon after the royal family returned from an official visit to South Africa and Rhodesia, they announced Elizabeth’s engagement to Prince Philip of Greece, her third cousin (both were great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) and a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. She had set her sights on him when she was only 13, and their relationship developed through visits and correspondence during the war.
Though many in the royal circle viewed Philip as an unwise match due to his lack of money and foreign (German) blood, Elizabeth was determined and very much in love. She and Philip wed on November 20, 1947 , at Westminster Abbey .
Their first son, Charles (Prince of Wales, then King Charles III ) was born in 1948; a daughter, Anne (Princess Royal) arrived two years later. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's third child and second son, Prince Andrew, was born in 1960 and the couple's youngest child, Prince Edward, was born in 1964.
Elizabeth and Phillip were married for an extraordinary 73 years, until the Prince died in April 2021 at the age of 99.
Queen Elizabeth's Coronation
With her father’s health declining in 1951, Elizabeth stepped in for him at various state functions. After spending that Christmas with the royal family, Elizabeth and Philip left on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, making a stopover in Kenya en route.
They were in Kenya on February 6, 1952, when King George VI succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 56, and his 25-year-old daughter became the sixth woman in history to ascend to the British throne. Her formal coronation as Queen Elizabeth II took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey.
In the first decade of her reign, Elizabeth settled into her role as queen, developing a close bond with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (the first of 15 prime ministers she would work with during her reign), weathering a foreign affairs disaster in the Suez Crisis of 1956 and making numerous state trips abroad.
In response to pointed criticism in the press, the queen embraced steps to modernize her own image and that of the monarchy, including televising her annual Christmas broadcast for the first time in 1957.
Elizabeth and Philip had two more children, Andrew (born 1960) and Edward (born 1964). In 1968, Charles was formally invested as the Prince of Wales , marking his coming of age and the beginning of what would be a long period as king-in-waiting.
Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, marking her 25 years on the throne, proved a bright spot in an era of economic struggles. Always a vigorous traveler, she kept a punishing schedule to mark the occasion, traveling some 56,000 miles around the Commonwealth, including the island nations Fiji and Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the British West Indies and Canada.
In 1981, all eyes were on the royal family once again as Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Though the couple soon welcomed two sons, William and Harry , their marriage quickly imploded, causing considerable public embarrassment for the queen and the entire royal family.
In 1992, Elizabeth’s 40th year on the throne and her family’s “Annus Horribilis” (according to a speech she gave that November) both Charles and Diana and Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, separated, while Princess Anne and her husband, Mark Phillips, divorced.
A fire also broke out at Windsor Castle that same year, and amid public outcry over the use of government funds to restore the royal residence, Queen Elizabeth agreed to pay taxes on her private income. This was not required by British law, though some earlier monarchs had done so as well.
At the time, her personal fortune was estimated at $11.7 billion. In another modernizing measure, she also agreed to open the state rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public for an admission fee when she was not in residence.
Response to Lady Diana's Death
After Charles and Diana divorced in 1996, Diana remained incredibly popular with the British (and international) public. Her tragic death the following year triggered a tremendous outpouring of shock and grief, as well as outrage at the royal family for what the public saw as its ill treatment of the “People’s Princess.”
Though Queen Elizabeth initially kept the family (including Princes William and Harry) out of the public eye at Balmoral, the unprecedented public response to Diana’s death convinced her to return to London, make a televised speech about Diana, greet mourners and allow the Union Jack to fly at half-mast above Buckingham Palace.
A Modern Monarchy
The queen’s popularity, and that of the entire royal family, rebounded during the first decade of the 21st century. Though 2002 marked Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee—50 years on the throne—the death of her mother (the beloved Queen Mum) and sister early that year cast a pall on the celebrations.
In 2005, the queen enjoyed public support when she gave her assent to Prince Charles’ once-unthinkable marriage to his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles.
In her seventh decade on the throne, Queen Elizabeth presided over the pomp and circumstance of another royal wedding at Westminster Abbey, that of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in April 2011. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are in line to become Britain’s next king and queen, continued the line of succession with their children, Prince George (born 2013), Princess Charlotte (born 2015) and Prince Louis (born 2018).
In September 2015, Elizabeth surpassed the record of 63 years and 216 days on the throne set by Queen Victoria (her great-great-grandmother) to become the longest-reigning British monarch in history. A consistent presence by his wife’s side and one of Britain’s busiest royals for much of her reign, Prince Philip stepped down from his royal duties in 2017, at the age of 96. That same year, the royal couple celebrated 70 years of marriage, making theirs the longest union in the history of the British monarchy. Philip died in 2021, at the age of 99.
In May 2018, Prince Harry wed the American actress Meghan Markle , a biracial divorcée. The couple had a son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, in 2019, and a daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, in 2021. Harry and Meghan announced they would be stepping back from senior royal duties in January 2020 and subsequently relocated to Los Angeles.
Rumors swirled at various times that Queen Elizabeth would step aside and let Prince Charles take the throne. In 2017, she delegated some of her royal obligations, such as the official Remembrance Day ceremony, to him, fueling speculation that she was preparing to bequeath the throne to her eldest son. Instead, she remained a consistent, stable presence at the head of Britain’s reigning family until her peaceful death on September 8, 2022 at her beloved country residence, Balmoral Castle.
In the final years of her reign, she continued many of her official duties, public appearances and spent plenty of time outside with her beloved dogs and horses. Two days before her death, she officially installed a new prime minister, Liz Truss.
HISTORY Vault: Profiles: Queen Elizabeth II
Chart the unexpected rise and record-breaking reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which unfolded in the turbulent modern history of the English monarchy.
Her Majesty the Queen, The Royal Household website . Sally Bedell Smith, Elizabeth the Queen ( Penguin Random House, 2012 ). Queen Elizabeth II – Fast Facts, CNN . “Will Queen Elizabeth Give Prince Charles the Throne in 2018?” Newsweek .
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