Queen Elizabeth II recorded her annual Christmas Day message, in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace on December 24, 20181990s In 1991, in the wake of coalition victory in the Gulf War, the Queen became the first British monarch to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress.
The Queen, 94, typically hosts a series of holiday traditions that have become highly anticipated by royal fans on Christmas Day and the days leading up to it. But with her family split this year — Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and their son Archie are more than 5,000 miles away in California — and the coronavirus pandemic still affecting how people can gather, it will be very different.
'Christmas is something the Queen has always done with enormous, genuine family style, and is facing not doing so sadly,' royal biographer Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers, says in this week's issue. But 'she is accepting of that.'
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York . Her father ascended the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She was educated privately at home and began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947 she married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, accession of the United Kingdom to the European Communities, Brexit, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence, and as realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon , became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch. She is the longest-serving female head of state in world history, and the world's oldest living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, and oldest and longest-serving current head of state.
Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992, and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy in the United Kingdom has been and remains consistently high, as does her personal popularity.
Early life Elizabeth as a thoughtful-looking toddler with curly, fair hair On the cover of Time, April 1929 Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born at 02:40 on 21 April 1926, during the reign of her paternal grandfather, King George V. Her father, the Duke of York , was the second son of the King. Her mother, the Duchess of York , was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She was delivered by Caesarean section at her maternal grandfather's London house: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair. She was baptised by the Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Gordon Lang, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May, and named Elizabeth after her mother; Alexandra after George V's mother, who had died six months earlier; and Mary after her paternal grandmother. Called 'Lilibet' by her close family, based on what she called herself at first, she was cherished by her grandfather George V, and during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits were credited in the popular press and by later biographers with raising his spirits and aiding his recovery.
Elizabeth as a rosy-cheeked young girl with blue eyes and fair hair Portrait by Philip de László, 1933 Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford. Lessons concentrated on history, language, literature, and music. Crawford published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses in 1950, much to the dismay of the royal family. The book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, and her attitude of responsibility. Others echoed such observations: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as 'a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.' Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as 'a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved'.
Heir presumptive During her grandfather's reign, Elizabeth was third in the line of succession to the British throne, behind her uncle Edward and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, she was not expected to become queen, as Edward was still young and likely to marry and have children of his own, who would precede Elizabeth in the line of succession. When her grandfather died in 1936 and her uncle succeeded as Edward VIII, she became second in line to the throne, after her father. Later that year, Edward abdicated, after his proposed marriage to divorced socialite Wallis Simpson provoked a constitutional crisis. Consequently, Elizabeth's father became king, and she became heir presumptive. If her parents had had a later son, he would have been heir apparent and above her in the line of succession, which was determined by male-preference primogeniture at the time.
Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, and learned French from a succession of native-speaking governesses. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed specifically so she could socialise with girls her own age. Later, she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.
In 1939, Elizabeth's parents toured Canada and the United States. As in 1927, when they had toured Australia and New Zealand, Elizabeth remained in Britain, since her father thought her too young to undertake public tours. She 'looked tearful' as her parents departed. They corresponded regularly, and she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call on 18 May.
Second World War
In Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform, April 1945 In September 1939, Britain entered the Second World War. Lord Hailsham suggested that Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret should be evacuated to Canada to avoid the frequent aerial bombing. This was rejected by their mother, who declared, 'The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave.' The princesses stayed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, until Christmas 1939, when they moved to Sandringham House, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodge, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castle, where they lived for most of the next five years. At Windsor, the princesses staged pantomimes at Christmas in aid of the Queen's Wool Fund, which bought yarn to knit into military garments. In 1940, the 14-year-old Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated: 'We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers, and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.'
In 1943, Elizabeth undertook her first solo public appearance on a visit to the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed colonel the previous year. As she approached her 18th birthday, parliament changed the law so she could act as one of five Counsellors of State in the event of her father's incapacity or absence abroad, such as his visit to Italy in July 1944. In February 1945, she was appointed as an honorary second subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service with the service number of 230873. She trained as a driver and mechanic and was given the rank of honorary junior commander five months later.
Elizabeth on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her family and Winston Churchill on 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe Day At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and Margaret mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London. Elizabeth later said in a rare interview, 'We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised ... I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.'
During the war, plans were drawn up to quell Welsh nationalism by affiliating Elizabeth more closely with Wales. Proposals, such as appointing her Constable of Caernarfon Castle or a patron of Urdd Gobaith Cymru , were abandoned for several reasons, including fear of associating Elizabeth with conscientious objectors in the Urdd at a time when Britain was at war. Welsh politicians suggested she be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday. Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison supported the idea, but the King rejected it because he felt such a title belonged solely to the wife of a Prince of Wales and the Prince of Wales had always been the heir apparent. In 1946, she was inducted into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
Princess Elizabeth went in 1947 on her first overseas tour, accompanying her parents through southern Africa. During the tour, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she made the following pledge: '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.'
Marriage Main article: Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and 1937. They are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth—though only 13 years old—said she fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. She was 21 when their engagement was officially announced on 9 July 1947.
Elizabeth and Philip, 1950 The engagement was not without controversy; Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born , and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Marion Crawford wrote, 'Some of the King's advisors did not think him good enough for her. He was a prince without a home or kingdom. Some of the papers played long and loud tunes on the string of Philip's foreign origin.' Later biographies reported Elizabeth's mother had reservations about the union initially, and teased Philip as 'The Hun'. In later life, however, the Queen Mother told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was 'an English gentleman'.
Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, officially converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother's British family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style His Royal Highness.
Elizabeth and Philip were married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. They received 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world. Because Britain had not yet completely recovered from the devastation of the war, Elizabeth required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, which was designed by Norman Hartnell. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for Philip's German relations, including his three surviving sisters, to be invited to the wedding. The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, was not invited either.
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948. One month earlier, the King had issued letters patent allowing her children to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess, to which they otherwise would not have been entitled as their father was no longer a royal prince. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.
Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor, near Windsor Castle, until July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in the British Crown Colony of Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently in Malta for several months at a time in the hamlet of Gwardamanga, at Villa Guardamangia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children remained in Britain.
Reign Accession and coronation
Coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953 During 1951, George VI's health declined, and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. When she toured Canada and visited President Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C., in October 1951, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration in case the King died while she was on tour. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of the King and consequently Elizabeth's immediate accession to the throne. Philip broke the news to the new queen. Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name; she chose to remain Elizabeth, 'of course'. She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.
With Elizabeth's accession, it seemed probable the royal house would bear the Duke of Edinburgh's name, in line with the custom of a wife taking her husband's surname on marriage. The Duke's uncle, Lord Mountbatten, advocated the name House of Mountbatten. Philip suggested House of Edinburgh, after his ducal title. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, favoured the retention of the House of Windsor, and so on 9 April 1952 Elizabeth issued a declaration that Windsor would continue to be the name of the royal house. The Duke complained, 'I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.' In 1960, after the death of Queen Mary in 1953 and the resignation of Churchill in 1955, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Philip and Elizabeth's male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles.
Amid preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret told her sister she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorcé‚ 16 years Margaret's senior, with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Charteris, 'the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought—she hoped—given time, the affair would peter out.' Senior politicians were against the match and the Church of England did not permit remarriage after divorce. If Margaret had contracted a civil marriage, she would have been expected to renounce her right of succession. Margaret decided to abandon her plans with Townsend. In 1960, she married Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon the following year. They divorced in 1978; she did not remarry.
Despite the death of Queen Mary on 24 March, the coronation on 2 June 1953 went ahead as planned, as Mary had asked before she died. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of the anointing and communion, was televised for the first time. Elizabeth's coronation gown was embroidered on her instructions with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries: English Tudor rose; Scots thistle; Welsh leek; Irish shamrock; Australian wattle; Canadian maple leaf; New Zealand silver fern; South African protea; lotus flowers for India and Ceylon; and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute.
Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth Further information: Commonwealth realm § From the accession of Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth's realms and their territories and protectorates at the beginning of her reign in 1952. From Elizabeth's birth onwards, the British Empire continued its transformation into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of her accession in 1952, her role as head of multiple independent states was already established. In 1953, the Queen and her husband embarked on a seven-month round-the-world tour, visiting 13 countries and covering more than 40,000 miles by land, sea and air. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen her. Throughout her reign, the Queen has made hundreds of state visits to other countries and tours of the Commonwealth; she is the most widely travelled head of state.
In 1956, the British and French prime ministers, Sir Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet, discussed the possibility of France joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union. In November 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez Canal. Lord Mountbatten claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.
A formal group of Elizabeth in tiara and evening dress with eleven politicians in evening dress or national costume. Elizabeth II and Commonwealth leaders at the 1960 Commonwealth Conference The absence of a formal mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader meant that, following Eden's resignation, it fell to the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government. Eden recommended she consult Lord Salisbury, the Lord President of the Council. Lord Salisbury and Lord Kilmuir, the Lord Chancellor, consulted the British Cabinet, Churchill, and the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, resulting in the Queen appointing their recommended candidate: Harold Macmillan.
The Suez crisis and the choice of Eden's successor led, in 1957, to the first major personal criticism of the Queen. In a magazine, which he owned and edited, Lord Altrincham accused her of being 'out of touch'. Altrincham was denounced by public figures and slapped by a member of the public appalled by his comments. Six years later, in 1963, Macmillan resigned and advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home as prime minister, advice she followed. The Queen again came under criticism for appointing the prime minister on the advice of a small number of ministers or a single minister. In 1965 the Conservatives adopted a formal mechanism for electing a leader, thus relieving her of involvement.
Wikisource has original text related to this article: Queen Elizabeth II's Address to the United Nations General Assembly In 1957 she made a state visit to the United States, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Commonwealth. On the same tour, she opened the 23rd Canadian Parliament, becoming the first monarch of Canada to open a parliamentary session. Two years later, solely in her capacity as Queen of Canada, she revisited the United States and toured Canada. In 1961 she toured Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Iran. On a visit to Ghana the same year, she dismissed fears for her safety, even though her host, President Kwame Nkrumah, who had replaced her as head of state, was a target for assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote, 'The Queen has been absolutely determined all through ... She is impatient of the attitude towards her to treat her as ... a film star ... She has indeed 'the heart and stomach of a man' ... She loves her duty and means to be a Queen.' Before her tour through parts of Quebec in 1964, the press reported extremists within the Quebec separatist movement were plotting Elizabeth's assassination. No attempt was made, but a riot did break out while she was in Montreal; the Queen's 'calmness and courage in the face of the violence' was noted.
Elizabeth's pregnancies with Princes Andrew and Edward, in 1959 and 1963, mark the only times she has not performed the State Opening of the British parliament during her reign. In addition to performing traditional ceremonies, she also instituted new practices. Her first royal walkabout, meeting ordinary members of the public, took place during a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970.
Acceleration of decolonisation
In Queensland, Australia, 1970 The 1960s and 1970s saw an acceleration in the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. Over 20 countries gained independence from Britain as part of a planned transition to self-government. In 1965, however, the Rhodesian Prime Minister, Ian Smith, in opposition to moves towards majority rule, unilaterally declared independence while expressing 'loyalty and devotion' to Elizabeth. Although the Queen formally dismissed him, and the international community applied sanctions against Rhodesia, his regime survived for over a decade. As Britain's ties to its former empire weakened, the British government sought entry to the European Community, a goal it achieved in 1973.
In February 1974, the British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, advised the Queen to call a general election in the middle of her tour of the Austronesian Pacific Rim, requiring her to fly back to Britain. The election resulted in a hung parliament; Heath's Conservatives were not the largest party, but could stay in office if they formed a coalition with the Liberals. Heath only resigned when discussions on forming a coalition foundered, after which the Queen asked the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Harold Wilson, to form a government.
A year later, at the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, was dismissed from his post by Governor-General Sir John Kerr, after the Opposition-controlled Senate rejected Whitlam's budget proposals. As Whitlam had a majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker Gordon Scholes appealed to the Queen to reverse Kerr's decision. She declined, saying she would not interfere in decisions reserved by the Constitution of Australia for the Governor-General. The crisis fuelled Australian republicanism.
Elizabeth, in formal dress, holds a pair of spectacles to her mouth in a thoughtful pose Philip and Elizabeth in Germany, October 1992 In a speech on 24 November 1992, to mark her Ruby Jubilee on the throne, Elizabeth called 1992 her annus horribilis . Republican feeling in Britain had risen because of press estimates of the Queen's private wealth—which were contradicted by the Palace—and reports of affairs and strained marriages among her extended family. In March, her second son, Prince Andrew, and his wife, Sarah, separated; in April, her daughter, Princess Anne, divorced Captain Mark Phillips; during a state visit to Germany in October, angry demonstrators in Dresden threw eggs at her; and, in November, a large fire broke out at Windsor Castle, one of her official residences. The monarchy came under increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, the Queen said that any institution must expect criticism, but suggested it be done with 'a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding'. Two days later, Prime Minister John Major announced reforms to the royal finances planned since the previous year, including the Queen paying income tax from 1993 onwards, and a reduction in the civil list. In December, Prince Charles and his wife, Diana, formally separated. The year ended with a lawsuit, as the Queen sued The Sun newspaper for breach of copyright when it published the text of her annual Christmas message two days before it was broadcast. The newspaper was forced to pay her legal fees and donated £200,000 to charity.
In the years to follow, public revelations on the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. Even though support for republicanism in Britain seemed higher than at any time in living memory, republicanism was still a minority viewpoint, and the Queen herself had high approval ratings. Criticism was focused on the institution of the monarchy itself and the Queen's wider family rather than her own behaviour and actions. In consultation with her husband and the Prime Minister, John Major, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and her private secretary, Robert Fellowes, she wrote to Charles and Diana at the end of December 1995, saying a divorce was desirable.
In August 1997, a year after the divorce, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. The Queen was on holiday with her extended family at Balmoral. Diana's two sons by Charles—Princes William and Harry—wanted to attend church and so the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took them that morning. Afterwards, for five days the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the intense press interest by keeping them at Balmoral where they could grieve in private, but the royal family's seclusion and the failure to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace caused public dismay. Pressured by the hostile reaction, the Queen agreed to return to London and do a live television broadcast on 5 September, the day before Diana's funeral. In the broadcast, she expressed admiration for Diana and her feelings 'as a grandmother' for the two princes. As a result, much of the public hostility evaporated.
In November 1997, the Queen and her husband held a reception at Banqueting House to mark their golden wedding anniversary. She made a speech and praised Philip for his role as a consort, referring to him as 'my strength and sta'y.
Greeting NASA employees at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, May 2007 In 2002, Elizabeth marked her Golden Jubilee. Her sister and mother died in February and March respectively, and the media speculated whether the Jubilee would be a success or a failure. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, which began in Jamaica in February, where she called the farewell banquet 'memorable' after a power cut plunged the King's House, the official residence of the governor-general, into darkness. As in 1977, there were street parties and commemorative events, and monuments were named to honour the occasion. A million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London, and the enthusiasm shown by the public for the Queen was greater than many journalists had expected.
Though generally healthy throughout her life, in 2003 the Queen had keyhole surgery on both knees. In October 2006, she missed the opening of the new Emirates Stadium because of a strained back muscle that had been troubling her since the summer.
In May 2007, The Daily Telegraph, citing unnamed sources, reported the Queen was 'exasperated and frustrated' by the policies of the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that she was concerned the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she had raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair. She was, however, said to admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. She became the first British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary in November 2007. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the Queen attended the first Maundy service held outside England and Wales.
Diamond Jubilee and longevity Elizabeth addressed the UN General Assembly for a second time in 2010, again in her capacity as Queen of all Commonwealth realms and Head of the Commonwealth. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, introduced her as 'an anchor for our age'. During her visit to New York, which followed a tour of Canada, she officially opened a memorial garden for British victims of the September 11 attacks. The Queen's 11-day visit to Australia in October 2011 was her 16th visit to the country since 1954. By invitation of the Irish President, Mary McAleese, she made the first state visit to the Republic of Ireland by a British monarch in May 2011.
Visiting Birmingham in July 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour The Queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee marked 60 years on the throne, and celebrations were held throughout her realms, the wider Commonwealth, and beyond. In a message released on Accession Day, Elizabeth wrote: In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness ... I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart.
She and her husband undertook an extensive tour of the United Kingdom, while her children and grandchildren embarked on royal tours of other Commonwealth states on her behalf. On 4 June, Jubilee beacons were lit around the world. In November, the Queen and her husband celebrated their blue sapphire wedding anniversary . On 18 December, she became the first British sovereign to attend a peacetime Cabinet meeting since George III in 1781.
The Queen, who opened the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, also opened the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London, making her the first head of state to open two Olympic Games in two countries. For the London Olympics, she played herself in a short film as part of the opening ceremony, alongside Daniel Craig as James Bond. On 4 April 2013, she received an honorary BAFTA for her patronage of the film industry and was called 'the most memorable Bond girl yet' at the award ceremony. On 3 March 2013, Elizabeth was admitted to King Edward VII's Hospital as a precaution after developing symptoms of gastroenteritis. She returned to Buckingham Palace the following day. A week later, she signed the new Charter of the Commonwealth. Because of her age and the need for her to limit travelling, in 2013 she chose not to attend the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting for the first time in 40 years. She was represented at the summit in Sri Lanka by Prince Charles. She had cataract surgery in May 2018. In March 2019, she opted to give up driving on public roads, largely as a consequence of a car crash involving her husband two months beforehand.
The Queen's Birthday Party, 2018 The Queen surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest-lived British monarch on 21 December 2007, and the longest-reigning British monarch and longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state in the world on 9 September 2015. She became the oldest current monarch after King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died on 23 January 2015. She later became the longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state following the death of King Bhumibol of Thailand on 13 October 2016, and the oldest current head of state on the resignation of Robert Mugabe on 21 November 2017. On 6 February 2017, she became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee, and on 20 November, she was the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. Prince Philip had retired from his official duties as the Queen's consort in August. On 23 April 2019, she became the oldest living monarch following the death of Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The Queen does not intend to abdicate, though Prince Charles is expected to take on more of her duties as Elizabeth, who celebrated her 94th birthday in 2020, carries out fewer public engagements. On 20 April 2018, the government leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations announced that she will be succeeded by Charles as head of the Commonwealth. The Queen stated it was her 'sincere wish' that Charles would follow her in the role. Plans for her death and funeral have been prepared by British government and media organisations since the 1960s.
Public perception and character Main article: Personality and image of Elizabeth II Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, little is known of her personal feelings. As a constitutional monarch, she has not expressed her own political opinions in a public forum. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, she is a member of that church and also of the national Church of Scotland. She has demonstrated support for inter-faith relations and has met with leaders of other churches and religions, including five popes: Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. A personal note about her faith often features in her annual Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth. In 2000, she said:
To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example.
Elizabeth and Ronald Reagan on black horses. He bare-headed; she in a headscarf; both in tweeds, jodhpurs and riding boots. Elizabeth and Ronald Reagan riding at Windsor, June 1982 She is patron of over 600 organisations and charities. Her main leisure interests include equestrianism and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Her lifelong love of corgis began in 1933 with Dookie, the first corgi owned by her family. Scenes of a relaxed, informal home life have occasionally been witnessed; she and her family, from time to time, prepare a meal together and do the washing up afterwards.
In the 1950s, as a young woman at the start of her reign, Elizabeth was depicted as a glamorous 'fairytale Queen'. After the trauma of the Second World War, it was a time of hope, a period of progress and achievement heralding a 'new Elizabethan age'. Lord Altrincham's accusation in 1957 that her speeches sounded like those of a 'priggish schoolgirl' was an extremely rare criticism. In the late 1960s, attempts to portray a more modern image of the monarchy were made in the television documentary Royal Family and by televising Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales. In public, she took to wearing mostly solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd.
At her Silver Jubilee in 1977, the crowds and celebrations were genuinely enthusiastic, but in the 1980s, public criticism of the royal family increased, as the personal and working lives of Elizabeth's children came under media scrutiny. Her popularity sank to a low point in the 1990s. Under pressure from public opinion, she began to pay income tax for the first time, and Buckingham Palace was opened to the public. Discontent with the monarchy reached its peak on the death of the former Princess of Wales, Diana, although Elizabeth's personal popularity—as well as general support for the monarchy—rebounded after her live television broadcast to the world five days after Diana's death.
In November 1999, a referendum in Australia on the future of the Australian monarchy favoured its retention in preference to an indirectly elected head of state. Polls in Britain in 2006 and 2007 revealed strong support for Elizabeth, and in 2012, her Diamond Jubilee year, approval ratings hit 90 percent. Referendums in Tuvalu in 2008 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 both rejected proposals to become republics.
Elizabeth has been portrayed in a variety of media by many notable artists, including painters Pietro Annigoni, Peter Blake, Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy, Terence Cuneo, Lucian Freud, Rolf Harris, Damien Hirst, Juliet Pannett, and Tai-Shan Schierenberg. Notable photographers of Elizabeth have included Cecil Beaton, Yousuf Karsh, Annie Leibovitz, Lord Lichfield, Terry O'Neill, John Swannell, and Dorothy Wilding. The first official portrait of Elizabeth was taken by Marcus Adams in 1926.
Finances Further information: Finances of the British royal family View of Sandingham House from the south bank of the Upper Lake Sandringham House, Elizabeth's private residence in Norfolk Elizabeth's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. In 1971, Jock Colville, her former private secretary and a director of her bank, Coutts, estimated her wealth at £2 million . In 1993, Buckingham Palace called estimates of £100 million 'grossly overstated'. In 2002, she inherited an estate worth an estimated £70 million from her mother. The Sunday Times Rich List 2020 estimated her personal wealth at £350 million, making her the 372nd richest person in the UK. She was number one on the list when it began in the Sunday Times Rich List 1989, with a reported wealth of £5.2 billion, which included state assets that were not hers personally, .
The Royal Collection, which includes thousands of historic works of art and the British Crown Jewels, is not owned by the Queen personally but is held in trust, as are her official residences, such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued at £472 million in 2015. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are personally owned by the Queen. The British Crown Estate—with holdings of £14.3 billion in 2019—is held in trust and cannot be sold or owned by her in a personal capacity.
Queen Elizabeth II became queen on February 6, 1952, and was crowned on June 2, 1953. She is the mother of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, as well as the grandmother of Princes William and Harry. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she has tried to make her reign more modern and sensitive to a changing public while maintaining traditions associated with the crown.
Early Life Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, to Prince Albert, Duke of York , 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 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 27.
Elizabeth had 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 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 would use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. Over the years, Philip has inspired numerous public relations headaches with his off-the-cuff, controversial comments and rumors of possible infidelities.
Children 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 , with later rumors surfacing that he was pressured into the marriage from 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.
Family Tree 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 has ties with most of the monarchs in Europe. Her British ancestors include Queen Victoria and King George III .
PHOTOS: The British Royal Family Tree: 10 Members in Line to Succeed the Throne Royal Family-Queen Elizabeth II-GettyImages-143380262
Reign Elizabeth's long and mainly peaceful reign has been 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 does not weigh in on political matters, nor does 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 has 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 .
As queen, Elizabeth has 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 has had to 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 Parliament until October 14, less than three weeks before Britain's planned departure from the European Union.
Relationship With Prime Ministers Elizabeth has had 14 prime ministers placed into power during her reign, with queen and PM having a weekly, confidential meeting.
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.