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Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent sovereign states known informally as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdommarker, Canadamarker, Australia, New Zealandmarker, Jamaicamarker, Barbadosmarker, the Bahamasmarker, Grenadamarker, Papua New Guineamarker, the Solomon Islandsmarker, Tuvalumarker, Saint Luciamarker, Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker, Belizemarker, Antigua and Barbudamarker, and Saint Kitts and Nevismarker. She holds each crown separately and equally in a shared monarchy, as well as acting as Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and Head of State of the Crown Dependencies. As a constitutional monarch, she is politically neutral and by convention her role is largely ceremonial.

When Elizabeth was born, the British Empire was a pre-eminent world power, but its influence declined, particularly after World War II, and the empire evolved into the modern Commonwealth of Nations. Her father, George VI, was the last Emperor of India. On his death in 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth, and queen of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. During her reign, which at years is one of the longest for a British monarch, she became queen of 25 other countries within the Commonwealth as they gained independence from Britain. She has been the sovereign of 32 individual nations, but half of them later became republics.

Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947. The couple have four children and eight grandchildren.

Early life

Princess Elizabeth in 1929.
Elizabeth was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and his wife Elizabeth. She was born by Caesarean section at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfairmarker, Londonmarker, on 21 April 1926, and on 29 May she was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palacemarker by the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang. Her godparents were her paternal grandparents King George V and Queen Mary; her aunts, Princess Mary and Lady Elphinstone; her great-great-uncle, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn; and her maternal grandmother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Elizabeth was named after her mother, great-grandmother Queen Alexandra, and grandmother Queen Mary, and was called "Lilibet" by her close family. She had a close relationship with her grandfather, and was credited with aiding in his recovery from illness in 1929. Her only sibling was Princess Margaret, born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, who was casually known as "Crawfie". To the dismay of the royal family, Crawford later published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses. The book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, and her attitude of responsibility. Such observations were echoed by others. 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".

Heiress presumptive

As a granddaughter of the monarch in the male line, Elizabeth held the title of a British princess, with the style Her Royal Highness, her full style being Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York. At birth, she was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, The Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, and her father. Although her birth did generate public interest, there was no reason to believe then that she would ever become queen, as it was widely assumed that the Prince of Wales would marry and have children of his own. In 1936, when her grandfather, the King, died and her uncle Edward succeeded, she was second in line after her father. Later that year, Edward abdicated and her father became king. Elizabeth became heiress presumptive, and was thereafter known as Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth.

Elizabeth studied constitutional history with Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton Collegemarker. She learned modern languages, and still speaks French fluently. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed specifically so Elizabeth could socialise with girls her own age. Later she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.

In 1939, the Canadian government wanted Elizabeth to accompany her parents on their upcoming tour of Canada. However, the King decided against this, stating that his daughter was too young to undertake such a strenuous tour, which ended up being over a month long. Elizabeth had probably met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in 1934 and 1937. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouthmarker in July 1939, Elizabeth, though only 13 years old, fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters.

World War II

Princess Elizabeth changing a vehicle wheel during World War II.
In September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, stayed at Balmoral Castlemarker, Scotland, from September to Christmas 1939, until they moved to Sandringham Housemarker, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodgemarker, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castlemarker, where they stayed for most of the next five years. The suggestion that the two princesses be evacuated to Canadamarker was rejected by Elizabeth's mother; she said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." The princesses remained at Windsor, where they staged pantomimes at Christmas in aid of the Queen's Wool Fund. It was from Windsor that Elizabeth, in 1940, made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated:

During the war, plans were drawn up to affiliate Elizabeth more closely with Wales, in order to quell the growing influence of Welsh nationalists. In a report to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, the constitutional expert Edward Iwi proposed appointing Elizabeth as Constable of Caernarfon Castlemarker (a post then held by David Lloyd George); the idea was rejected by Morrison, on the grounds that it might cause conflict between north and south Wales. Morrison did, however, take forward a suggestion by civil servant Thomas Jones to make her patron of the Welsh League of Youth, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, and planned to have her tour Wales as such. The idea was rejected by the King, who refused to subject his young daughter to the pressures of official tours and because two leading members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru were conscientious objectors.

In 1945, Elizabeth accompanied her parents on visits to Commonwealth service personnel, and began to carry out solo duties, such as reviewing a parade of Canadian airwomen. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. Elizabeth trained as a driver and mechanic and drove a military truck, eventually rising to the rank of Junior Commander. She is now the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during World War II.

At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and her sister mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London. She 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." Two years later, the Princess made her first official overseas tour, when she accompanied her parents to Southern Africa. On her 21st birthday, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth from South Africa, she pledged: "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."


Elizabeth married Philip on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother's family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness.

The marriage was not without controversy: Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject), and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Elizabeth's mother was reported, in later biographies, to have opposed the union initially, even dubbing Philip "The Hun". In later life, however, she told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was "an English gentleman". The country had not yet completely rebounded from the devastation of the war; the Princess still required rationing coupons to buy the material for her gown, designed by Norman Hartnell. Elizabeth and Philip received 1347 wedding gifts from around the world. At the ceremony, Elizabeth's bridesmaids were her sister; her cousin, Princess Alexandra of Kent; Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott; Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester; her second cousin, Lady Mary Cambridge; Lady Elizabeth Mary Lambart (now Longman), daughter of Frederick Lambart, Earl of Cavan; The Honourable Pamela Mountbatten (now Hicks), Philip's cousin; and two maternal cousins, The Honourable Margaret Elphinstone (now Rhodes) and The Honourable Diana Bowes-Lyon (now Somervell). Her page boys were her young paternal first cousins, Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for any of the Duke of Edinburgh's Germanmarker relations to be invited to the wedding, including Philip's three surviving sisters. Elizabeth's aunt, Princess Mary, Princess Royal, allegedly refused to attend because her brother, the Duke of Windsor (who abdicated in 1936), was not invited due to his marital situation; she gave ill health as the official reason for not attending.

Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948, several weeks after letters patent were issued by her father allowing her children to enjoy a royal and princely status to which they otherwise would not have been entitled. Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed through a British Order-in-Council in 1960, that those male-line descendants of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip who were not princes and princesses of the United Kingdom should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor. In practice, however, all of their children have used Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.

Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moormarker, until 4 July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence Housemarker. However, at various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Maltamarker (at that time a British Protectorate) as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of Gwardamanġia, at the Villa Gwardamanġia, the rented home of Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The children remained in Britain.



George VI's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she toured Canadamarker, and visited the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, in Washington, D.C.marker; on that trip, the Princess carried with her a draft accession declaration for use should the King die while she was out of the United Kingdom. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealandmarker via Kenyamarker. At Sagana Lodge, about 100 miles north of Nairobimarker, word arrived of the death of Elizabeth's father on 6 February. Philip broke the news to the new queen. Martin Charteris, then her Assistant Private Secretary, asked her what she intended to be called as monarch, to which she replied: "Elizabeth, of course." Elizabeth was proclaimed queen in the various countries where she had acceded to the throne, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. The new Queen and Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palacemarker.

In the midst of preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorced commoner sixteen years older than Margaret, with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Martin Charteris, "the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought – she hoped – given time, the affair would peter out." After opposition from the Commonwealth prime ministers, and a British minister's threat of resignation should Margaret and Townsend marry, the Princess decided to abandon her plans.

Despite the death of the Queen's grandmother Queen Mary on 24 March 1953, the Queen's coronation went ahead in Westminster Abbeymarker on 2 June 1953, in accordance with Mary's wishes. The entire ceremony, save for the anointing and communion, was televised throughout the Commonwealth, and watched by an estimated twenty million people in Britain, with twelve million more listening on the radio. Elizabeth wore a gown commissioned from Norman Hartnell, which consisted of embroidered floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth: the Tudor rose of England, the Scots thistle, the Welsh leek, shamrocks for Ireland, the wattle of Australia, the maple leaf of Canada, the New Zealand fern, South Africa's protea, two lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute.

Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth

Elizabeth witnessed, over her life, the ongoing transformation of the old British empire into the new British Commonwealth, and its modern successor, the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, her role as nominal head of multiple independent states was already established. Spanning 1953–1954, the Queen and her husband embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour. 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 the Queen. Throughout her reign, Elizabeth has undertaken state visits to foreign countries, as well as tours of each Commonwealth country, including attending all Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM). Elizabeth II is the most widely-travelled head of state in history.

In 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden discussed the possibility of Francemarker joining in a union with the United Kingdom; among the ideas put forward was one in which Elizabeth was to be the French head of state. Mollet "had not thought there need be difficulty over France accepting the headship of Her Majesty". The proposal was never accepted, and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome. In November that year, Britain and France invaded Egyptmarker in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez canalmarker. Earl Mountbatten of Burma claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Prime Minister Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.

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 that Elizabeth consult Lord Salisbury (the Lord President of the Council). Lord Salisbury and Lord Kilmuir (the Lord Chancellor) consulted the Cabinet, Winston Churchill and the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, as a result of which the Queen appointed their recommended candidate: Harold Macmillan. Six years later, Macmillan himself resigned and advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home as Prime Minister, advice which she followed. In both 1957 and 1963, the Queen 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 choosing a leader, thus relieving her of the duty.

The Suez crisis and the choice of Eden's successor led, in 1957, to the first real 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 physically attacked by members of the public appalled at his comments. Her Majesty made a state visit to the United States that year, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly. On the same tour she opened the 23rd Canadian Parliament, becoming the first Canadian monarch to open a parliamentary session. Two years later, she revisited Canada and the United States. In 1961, she toured Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Iran. During a trip to Ghanamarker, she refused to keep her distance from President Kwame Nkrumah, despite him being a target for assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote at the time: "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."

Elizabeth's pregnancies with both Andrew and Edward, in 1959 and 1963, marked the only times Elizabeth did not perform the State Opening of the British Parliament during her reign. She delegated the task to the Lord Chancellor instead. Elizabeth inaugurated the first Canadian trans-Atlantic telephone cable (part of one devised to link all the Commonwealth countries) in 1961, by calling Canadian Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, from Buckingham Palacemarker with the words "are you there Mr. Prime Minister?" In 1965, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence from Britain. Although the Queen dismissed Smith in a formal declaration and the international community applied sanctions against Rhodesia, Smith's regime survived for another eleven years.

In 1969, Elizabeth sent a congratulatory message to the Apollo 11 crew on the first manned lunar landing; the micro-filmed message was left in a metal container on the moon's surface. She later met the crew at Buckingham Palace.

In February 1974, an inconclusive United Kingdom general election result meant that, in theory, the outgoing Prime Minister, Edward Heath, whose party had won the popular vote, could stay in office if he formed a coalition government with the Liberals. Rather than immediately resign as Prime Minister, Heath explored this option, and only resigned when discussions on forming a cooperative government 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, 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. The Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, Gordon Scholes, appealed to the Queen on behalf of the house to reverse Kerr's decision, on the basis that Whitlam's Labor Party still enjoyed the confidence of the house. Elizabeth declined, stating that it was not appropriate for her to intervene in affairs that are reserved for the Governor-General alone by the Constitution of Australia. The crisis fuelled Australian republicanism.

Silver Jubilee

In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Events took place in many countries throughout the Queen's associated Commonwealth tour, and included a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedralmarker attended by dignitaries and other heads of state. Parties were held throughout the Commonwealth realms, culminating in several Jubilee Days in the United Kingdom, in June. In Britain, commemorative stamps were issued. The Jubilee Line of the London Underground (though opened in 1979) was named for the anniversary, as were several other public locations and spaces, including the Jubilee Gardensmarker in London's South Bankmarker. In Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal was issued. In 1978, she endured a state visit by the brutal communist dictator of Romaniamarker, Nicolae Ceauşescu, but the following year brought two blows: one was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, as a communist spy; the other was the assassination of her relative and in-law Earl Mountbatten of Burma by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

According to Paul Martin, Sr., by the end of the 1970s the Queen was worried that the Crown "had little meaning for" Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Tony Benn said that the Queen found Trudeau to be "rather disappointing". Trudeau's supposed republicanism seemed to be confirmed by his antics, such as sliding down banisters at Buckingham Palace and pirouetting behind the Queen's back in 1977, and the removal of various Canadian royal symbols during his term of office. Martin—along with John Roberts and Mark MacGuigan—was sent to the UK in 1980 to discuss the patriation of the Canadian constitution. The Queen was deeply interested in the constitutional debate, particularly after the failure of Bill C-60, which would have affected her role as head of state. The entire party found the Queen "better informed on both the substance and the politics of Canada's constitutional case than any of the British politicians or bureaucrats". As a result of the constitutional patriation, the role of the British parliament in the Canadian constitution was removed, but the monarchy was retained. Trudeau said in his memoirs: "The Queen favoured my attempt to reform the Constitution. I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation."


Elizabeth's personal courage, as well as her skill as a horsewoman, was shown in 1981 during the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony. Six shots were fired at her from close range as she rode down The Mallmarker. She kept control of her horse, Burmese, and continued on, and later it was revealed that the fired shots were blanks. The Canadian House of Commons was so impressed by her display of courage that a motion was passed praising her composure. The following year, the Queen found herself in another precarious situation when she awoke in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace to find a strange man, Michael Fagan, in the room with her. Remaining calm throughout, for approximately ten minutes, and through two calls to the palace police switchboard, Elizabeth spoke to Fagan while he sat at the foot of her bed until assistance arrived. From April to September that year, the Queen remained anxious but proud of her son, Prince Andrew, who was serving with British forces during the Falklands War. Though she hosted President Ronald Reagan at Windsor Castle in 1982, and visited his California ranch in 1983, she was angered when his administration ordered the invasion of Grenadamarker, one of her Caribbean realms.

During Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 1980s, it was rumoured that Elizabeth was worried that Thatcher's economic policies fostered social divisions, and was reportedly alarmed by high unemployment, a series of riots, the violence of a miners' strike, and Thatcher's refusal to apply sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Thatcher told Brian Walden, "the Queen is the kind of woman who could vote SDP [Social Democratic Party]." Reports of strained relations between Elizabeth and Thatcher throughout the period varied over the extent of this difference and to what degree it was due to concerns over policy, or a personality clash. The Queen's feelings towards Thatcher were even described as "cordial dislike". Despite such speculation, Thatcher later clearly conveyed her personal admiration for the Queen in the BBC documentary Queen & Country, Thatcher described the Queen as "marvellous" and "a perfect lady" who "always knows just what to say", referring, in particular, to her final meeting as prime minister with Elizabeth. Belying reports of acrimony between them, after Thatcher retired from politics, Elizabeth conferred on her two personal gifts of the sovereign: the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter. Both the Queen and Prince Philip attended Thatcher's 80th birthday party.

In 1991, she became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United States Congress. The following year, she attempted to save the failing marriage of her eldest son, Charles, by counselling him and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, to patch up their differences. She was unsuccessful, and the couple formally separated.

Annus horribilis

The Queen called 1992 her "annus horribilis" in a speech on 24 November 1992. The year saw her daughter divorced, one son separated and another whose marriage was rocky. Windsor Castle had suffered severe fire damagemarker, and the monarchy had come under increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, she said any institution must expect criticism but asked, "Couldn't it be done with a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding?"

In the ensuing years, public revelations on the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. Eventually, in consultation with the British Prime Minister John Major, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, her private secretary Robert Fellowes, and her husband, she wrote to both Charles and Diana saying that a divorce was now desirable. A year after the divorce, Diana was killed in a car crash in Parismarker on 31 August 1997. At the time, the Queen was on holiday at Balmoral with her son and grandchildren. In their grief, Diana's two sons wanted to attend church, and so their grandparents took them that morning. For five days, the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the ensuing press interest by keeping them at Balmoral where they could grieve in private. The royal family's seclusion caused public dismay. Pressured by her family, friends, the new British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and public reaction, the Queen agreed to broadcast live to the world on 5 September. In it, she expressed admiration for Diana, and her feelings "as a grandmother" for Princes William and Harry. The public mood was transformed by the broadcast from hostility to respect.

Golden Jubilee and beyond

In 2002, Elizabeth marked her Golden Jubilee as queen. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, which began in Jamaica in February, where the Queen called the farewell banquet "memorable" after a power cut plunged the King's House, the official residence of the Governor-General, into darkness. Though public celebrations in the UK were more muted than those that had taken place 25 years earlier, due, in part, to the death of both the Queen Mother and her sister earlier that year, there were street parties and commemorative events in many locales. As in 1977, monuments were named and gifts offered to honour the occasion, including, in Canada, the Golden Jubilee Journalism New Media Centre at Sheridan Collegemarker, and the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Parkmarker.

In 2005, she was the first Canadian monarch to address the Legislative Assembly of Alberta; and, in 2007, the first British monarch to address the Virginia General Assemblymarker. In May 2007, it was reported that the Queen was "exasperated and frustrated" by the policies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Elizabeth was rumoured to have shown concern that the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraqmarker and Afghanistanmarker, and she was supposed to have raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair repeatedly. Elizabeth did, however, apparently admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Irelandmarker. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armaghmarker, the Queen attended the first Maundy Service held outside England and Wales.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007, with a special service at Westminster Abbeymarker and private dinner hosted by Prince Charles at Clarence Housemarker on 19 November, and, the following day (their actual anniversary) a dinner party with other members of the Royal Family, former and present Prime Ministers, and the surviving bridesmaids and pages from the original wedding party. On 21 November, Elizabeth and Philip travelled to Malta, where a Royal Navy ship that was docked in the vicinity arranged its crew members on deck in the form of the number 60.

Health and reduced duties

The Queen's reign is longer than those of her four immediate predecessors combined (Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI). She is the third-longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, the second-longest-serving current monarch of a sovereign state (after King Bhumibol of Thailandmarker), and the oldest reigning British monarch.

Elizabeth could become the longest-lived British head of state (surpassing Richard Cromwell) on 29 January 2012 at age 85, the longest-reigning monarch in British history and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history (surpassing Queen Victoria) on 10 September 2015 at age 89, and the longest-reigning monarch in European history (surpassing King Louis XIV of France) on 26 May 2024 at age 98.

Elizabeth has enjoyed good health throughout her life, and continues to have what is described as excellent health and is seldom ill. In June 2005, the Queen cancelled several engagements after contracting what the Palace described as a bad cold. In October 2006, she suffered a burst blood vessel in her right eye. While the Queen would have suffered no pain or lasting damage, burst blood vessels, though common in the elderly, could be a sign of hypertension. Later that month, the Queen cancelled her appointment to officially open the new Emirates Stadiummarker, because of a strained back muscle that had been troubling her since the summer. Elizabeth's back began to cause more serious concerns; in November 2006, there were worries that the Queen would not be well enough to open the British parliament, and, though she was able to attend, plans were drawn up to cover her possible absence. In December, there were rumours of ill health when she was seen in public with a bandage on her right hand. However, the bandage was because one of her corgi bit her while she was separating two that were fighting.

At the time of her 80th birthday, the Queen made it clear that she had no intention of abdicating. For a number of years, both Prince Charles and Princess Anne had been standing in for their mother at events such as investitures, and acting as Counsellors of State. This led to some speculation in the British press that Prince Charles would start to perform many of the day-to-day duties of the monarch while Elizabeth effectively went into retirement. However, Buckingham Palace announced that Elizabeth would continue with her duties, both public and private, well into the future.

Public perception and character

Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, her personal feelings and character remain distant. As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth has not expressed her personal political opinions in a public forum, maintaining this discipline throughout her reign. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. She is known for her conservative clothes, consisting mostly of solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd. Her main leisure interests include horse racing, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

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 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 she was a "priggish schoolgirl" was an extremely rare criticism. In the late 1960s, attempts to portray a more modern image of monarchy were made in the television documentary Royal Family, and by televising Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales. At her silver jubilee, 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. Elizabeth's 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 Diana, Princess of Walesmarker, and only faded once the Queen had broadcast to the world. In November 1999, a referendum in Australia on the future of the monarchy favoured its retention. Later polling, however, indicated that the Republic referendum failed as much because of dissatisfaction with the way the Republican options were proposed as with respect for the monarchy. As her Golden Jubilee year began, the media speculated whether it would be a success or a failure. The year began sombrely with the death of Elizabeth's sister and mother, but a million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London. The enthusiasm shown by the public for Elizabeth was greater than many journalists had predicted. Polls in 2006 revealed strong support for Elizabeth; the majority of respondents desired that she remain on the throne until her death, and many felt that she had become an institution in herself.


Elizabeth's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at around US$450 million (GB£270 million) in 2009, but official Buckingham Palace statements in 1993 called estimates of £100 million "grossly overstated". The Royal Collection, which includes artworks and the Crown Jewels, is not owned by the Queen personally and is held in trust, as are the occupied palaces in the United Kingdom such as Buckingham Palacemarker and Windsor Castlemarker, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued at £323 million in 2009. As with many of her predecessors, Elizabeth is reported to dislike Buckingham Palace as a residence, and prefers Windsor Castle. Sandringham Housemarker and Balmoral Castlemarker are privately owned by the Queen. Income from the British Crown Estate—with holdings of £6 billion in 2009—is transferred to the British treasurymarker in return for Civil List payments. Both the Crown Estate and the Crown Land of Canada—comprising 89% of Canada's land area—are owned by the Sovereign in trust for the nation, and cannot be sold or owned by Elizabeth in a private capacity.


Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, Elizabeth personally worships with that church, and with the national Church of Scotlandmarker. She regularly attends Sunday service at Crathie Kirkmarker when in Balmoralmarker. Frequently, the Queen will add a personal note about her faith to her annual Royal Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth, such as in the 2000 edition, wherein she spoke about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ:

Elizabeth has also demonstrated support for inter-faith relations, often meeting with leaders of other religions, and granting her personal patronage to the Council of Christians and Jews.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

Elizabeth has held a number of titles throughout her life, as granddaughter of the monarch, as a daughter of the monarch, through her husband's titles, and eventually as sovereign of multiple states. In common practice, she is referred to most often as simply The Queen or Her Majesty. Officially, she has a distinct title in each of her realms: Queen of Canada in Canada, Queen of Australia in Australia, Queen of New Zealand in New Zealand, etc. In the Channel Islands and Isle of Manmarker, which are Crown dependencies rather than separate realms, she is known as Duke of Normandy and Lord of Man respectively. Additional styles include Defender of the Faith and Duke of Lancaster. When in conversation with the Queen, the practice is to initially address her as Your Majesty and thereafter as Ma'am (which, properly pronounced rhymes with "ham").

Elizabeth has received many honours and awards from countries around the world, and has held many honorary military positions throughout the Commonwealth, both before and after her accession.


The arms of The Princess Elizabeth, before her marriage.
From 21 April 1944 until her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth's arms consisted of a lozenge bearing the same charges as the shield of the Royal coat of arms, and a label of three points argent, the centre bearing a Tudor Rose and the first and third a cross of St George. Following her marriage, these arms were impaled with those of the Duke of Edinburgh. After her accession as Sovereign, she adopted the royal coat of arms undifferenced.

Similarly, Elizabeth bears a number of personal flags for use in some of her realms: two in the United Kingdom (one for Scotlandmarker and another for all other areas), and one each for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Barbados. These consist of the banners of the associated Royal Arms, all, save for those of the UK, defaced with Elizabeth's personal badge: a crowned letter E within a circle of roses on a blue disk. This same badge is also used as the Queen's personal flag for her role as Head of the Commonwealth, or for visiting Commonwealth countries where she is not head of state.


Name Birth Marriage Issue Divorce
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales 14 November 1948 29 July 1981 Lady Diana Spencer Prince William of Wales

Prince Henry of Wales
28 August 1996
9 April 2005 Camilla Parker-Bowles
Princess Anne, Princess Royal 15 August 1950 14 November 1973 Mark Phillips Peter Phillips

Zara Phillips
28 April 1992
12 December 1992 Timothy Laurence
Prince Andrew, Duke of York 19 February 1960 23 July 1986 Sarah Ferguson Princess Beatrice of York

Princess Eugenie of York
30 May 1996
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex 10 March 1964 19 June 1999 Sophie Rhys-Jones Lady Louise Windsor

Viscount Severn


See also


  1. Brandreth, p.103 and Roberts, p.74
  2. Brandreth, p.103
  3. Crawford, p. 26; Shawcross, p.21
  4. Brandreth, pp.108–110
  5. Quoted in Brandreth, p.105 and Shawcross, pp.21–22
  6. Quoted in Brandreth, pp.105–106
  7. Bond, p.8
  8. Brandreth, p.124; Crawford, p. 85; Shawcross, p.25
  9. Brandreth, pp.133–139
  10. Bond, p.10 and Brandreth, pp.132–136, 166–169
  11. Crawford, pp. 104–114
  12. Crawford, pp. 114–119
  13. Crawford, pp. 137–141
  14. "Left Out of D-Day Events, Queen Elizabeth Is Fuming", New York Times, May 27, 2009
  15. Bond, p.10
  16. Hoey, pp. 55–56
  17. Hoey, p. 58
  18. Hoey, p. 58
  19. Hoey, p. 59
  20. Hoey, pp. 69–70
  21. Brandreth, pp.226–238
  22. Brandreth, pp.240–241
  23. Brandreth, pp.245–247; Lacey, pp.150–151; Shawcross, p.16
  24. Charteris quoted in Shawcross, p.17
  25. Brandreth, pp.269–271
  26. Robert, p.82
  27. Brandreth, p.278; Shawcross, p.59
  28. Roberts, p.84
  29. Shawcross, p.75
  30. Lord Altrincham in National Review quoted by Brandreth, p.374 and Roberts, p.83
  31. Brandreth, p.374; Shawcross, p.76
  32. Full text of the speech
  33. Shawcross, p.83
  34. Bond, p.66
  35. Shawcross, pp.109–110
  36. Bond, p.96; Shawcross, p.110
  37. Roberts, pp.88–89; Shawcross, p.178
  38. Roberts, pp.88–89
  39. Shawcross, p.192
  40. Davidson, Spencer. "God Save the Queen, Fast", Time (26 July 1982), p. 33.
  41. Bond, p.115
  42. Shawcross, p.127
  43. Bond, p.188
  44. Shawcross, pp.129–132
  45. Roberts, p.101; Shawcross, p.139
  47. Brandreth, p.349
  48. Brandreth, p.377; Roberts, p.94; Shawcross, p.204
  49. Brandreth, p.377
  50. Brandreth, p.356; Roberts, p.94; Shawcross, p.168
  51. Brandreth, p.357
  52. Brandreth, p.358
  53. Bond, p.134
  54. Brandreth, p.358; Bond, p.134; Roberts, p.98; Shawcross, p.8
  55. Brandreth, pp.358–359
  56. Bond, p.134 and Brandreth, p.359
  57. Brandreth, p.31
  59. Shawcross, pp.194–195
  60. Bond, p.22
  61. Bond, p.35; Roberts, p.82; Shawcross, p.50
  62. Bond, p.35; Shawcross, p.76
  63. Bond, pp.66–67, 84, 87–89 and Roberts, pp.84–86
  64. Bond, p.97; Roberts, p.87; Shawcross, pp.114–117
  65. Bond, p.117 and Roberts, p.91
  66. Roberts, p.101; Shawcross, p.218
  67. Bond, p.156
  68. Bond, pp.166–167
  69. Bond, p.157
  70. Lord Chamberlain Lord Airlie quoted in Hoey, p.225


  • Bond, Jennie (2006). Elizabeth: Eighty Glorious Years. London: Carlton Publishing Group. ISBN 10-1-8442-360-7; 13-978-1-8442-360-9
  • Brandreth, Gyles (2004). Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage. London: Century. ISBN 0-7126-6103-4
  • Crawford, Marion (1950). The Little Princesses. London: Cassell and Co.
  • Hoey, Brian (2002). Her Majesty: Fifty Regal Years. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0006531369
  • Roberts, Andrew (2000). The House of Windsor. (Edited by Antonia Fraser) London: Cassell & Co. ISBN 0304354066
  • Shawcross, William (2002). Queen and Country. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 0771080565

Further reading

External links

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