The life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been one full of spectacular events, some that have changed the course of history. Who, at the time, would have thought that the fair-haired baby princess born in Mayfair would grow up to become the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch. Today the Queen celebrates 90 glorious years of life surrounded by her devoted husband, her loving children, her adoring grandchildren, and also her loyal subjects and admirers from all over the world. Let us rewind and reflect back over the magnificent life of Her Majesty The Queen.
In the early morning hours of 21 April in 1926, a little girl was born to Albert and Elizabeth, The Duke and Duchess of York at 17 Bruton Street. Prince Albert was the second son of King George V. The Princess was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 29 May in the Private Chapel of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of York. While carrying the first name of her mother, she honoured her grandmother, Queen Mary, and her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, with her middle names.
Soon after the Princess’s birth, duty called for the Duke and Duchess of York. They were called upon to take a six-month royal tour of Australia, and keeping with royal tradition, they did not bring their new bundle of joy along, much to the dislike of the Duchess of York.
Elizabeth spent most of her childhood with her parents, at their houses in London and in Windsor Great Park, or at the country houses of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary. She spent the first years of her life free of the pressures of being heir apparent, for she was only the third in line to the throne. Her nickname to her family was “Lillibet”, which humorously came from her inability to correctly pronounce her name. When Princess Elizabeth was four years old, she gained a sister, Margaret Rose. The family of four were very close.
The two young Princesses were educated by a tutor from Eton College. They were schooled in the subjects of History, Mathematics, and French, in which The Queen is now fluent. They were also tutored in subjects such as dance, singing, and art. Princess Elizabeth was very bright as a child, to the delight of Winston Churchill who cheerfully remarked, “She’s a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.”
On 20 January 1937, King George V died at Sandringham House in Norfolk, thus making the Princess’s uncle, Prince Edward, the new king. This put an end to the quiet family life of the Duke of York, who was now the next in line to the throne. Prince Edward became King Edward VIII and had the intentions of marrying the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson; this was met with great disapproval from the Church of England. The Church gave him the option to either give up the woman or give up the throne. Fatefully, Edward VIII chose love over the crown and abdicated on 10 December 1937, instantly causing the Duke of York to become King George VI. Elizabeth was only ten and was now the heir apparent.
Now that she was next in line to the throne, Princess Elizabeth began a course of study under the Vice-Provost of Eton College, studying constitutional history and law, to prepare her for her future role as Queen. Since the British monarch is also the head of the Church of England, she was also tutored in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
World War II
When war broke out in Europe, the two princesses were relocated to Windsor Castle; this was due mainly to the dangerous bombings that were taking place in London. It was from here that they made their first public speech, in which they addressed to the children of Britain over the radio.
As Princess Elizabeth advanced through her teenage years she took on more and more royal duties. On her sixteenth birthday, she was appointed colonel-in-chief of the Grenadier Guards by her father; that day she also made her first solo public appearance inspecting the guards. When she was eighteen, she launched her first ship and the very next year she started to help in the war effort. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service at the age of nineteen, and she even learned to drive and was trained as a mechanic.
When VE Day finally arrived, and the war was won, all of the nation gathered together and celebrated. There were thousands of people dancing gaily in the streets of London, and included in the never-ending sea of uniforms was Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Anonymously dressed, the two princesses convinced their father to let them mingle with the jubilant crowd out in front of the palace. They even got the chance to cheer on the King and Queen with the rest of the people. Her Majesty now remembers this as one of the most memorable days in her life.
Love & Marriage
Princess Elizabeth first saw Philip Mountbatten when she was thirteen and ever since their first meeting the two were taken with each other; throughout her teenage years, there was romantic correspondence between the two. When the Queen was twenty, her father finally allowed the two to become engaged. However, it was kept secret until the Princess turned twenty-one the next year.
The two were married on 20 November 1947 in Westminster Abbey. Because it was just after the war and Britain were still recovering, the wedding was not too spectacular; in fact, the princess had to save up clothing coupons in order to purchase her dress.
Just a year later on 14 November, the couple had their first child, Prince Charles, and two years later they had a daughter, Princess Anne. The family of four lived, for a short while in Malta, where Prince Philip was an officer; soon they finally settled in Clarence House. After the Princess had become Queen Elizabeth II, she had two more children, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
In 1951, King George VI’s health began to decline rapidly, due to the detrimental stress caused by the war and to his diagnosis with lung cancer. In 1952 Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were seen off by the King and the rest of their family as they were about to embark on a tour of the Commonwealth on behalf of the King, whose health made it impossible. This would be the last time she saw her father.
On the 6th of February 1952, King George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham House. Prince Philip was given the duty to inform his wife of her father’s death. Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. There were over eight thousand guests from all over the world in attendance at this magnificent ceremony that was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fischer, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. The Queen wore a silk gown embroidered with emblems of The Commonwealth designed by Norman Hartnell. This was the first coronation ever to be televised, and practically the whole world had the privilege to watch Her Majesty being crowned.
The Queen Spent the first decade of her reign touring The Commonwealth and the other British dominions with her husband, Prince Philip.
The sixties was a decade of great social change. The Queen’s reign saw events such as the civil rights movement in America and the rise of The Beatles in the music world. The British Empire also began to lose countries. However, most of the countries lost re-joined as a part of The Commonwealth. In the sixties, The Queen gave birth to two sons, Edward and Andrew. During the last year of this decade, Prince Charles was made Prince of Wales by Her Majesty at Caernarfon Castle.
The Queen’s third decade of her reign was opened with the celebration of love. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in 1972, and a year later Princess Anne married Lieutenant Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. In 1977 Her Majesty celebrated her Silver Jubilee. The Queen heard loyal addresses given by both Houses of Parliament before she gave an address in which she said, “When I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people…I do not regret nor retract one word of it.” Then, on 7 June, there was a Service of Thanksgiving held in St. Pauls Cathedral, which was attended by Her Majesty and her family. She then embarked on a large tour, for she wanted to commemorate her jubilee by “meeting as many of her people as she could”. The close of the seventies was drenched in tragedy, as Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by members of the IRA.
The opening of the eighties saw the marriage of another one of The Queen’s children. In 1981, the wedding of the century took place: Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in St. Pauls Cathedral. In that same year, while riding down the Mall on horseback during the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, Marcus Sarjeant fired six blank shots at the Queen. However, keeping her composure, she managed to calm down her startled horse and kept on riding. In 1982, the Queen gained a grandson, Prince William, who was born to The Prince and Princess of Wales; two years later they had Prince Harry. This decade closed with The Queen becoming the first British monarch to visit China in 1986.
For The Queen, the nineties would be a very eventful decade, marked by events both joyful and tragic. 1992 went down in history as The Queen’s “annus horribilis ”. That year saw the breakdown of the marriages of three of her four children and the fire that destroyed many parts of Windsor Castle, The Queen’s favourite home. In 1996 the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana was officially over and the following year tragedy struck yet again. On 31 August 1997, Lady Diana Spencer died in a car collision in Paris, while being chased at high speeds by paparazzi. Much of the public’s grief was aimed at The Queen and her family, and the monarchy’s popularity was at its lowest. The end of the decade was blessed with much happier occasions. The Queen launched the British Monarchy’s first website, and Buckingham Palace opened for tours. In the final year of the nineties, The Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel.
The beginning of the new millennium was marked by celebration. The Queen watched her mother with delight as she celebrated her one-hundredth birthday. However two years later her sister Princess Margaret, seventy-one, and her mother, one-hundred one, died.
She celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002, and in 2005 The Queen finally got to see her son find love with the marriage of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles. Two years later The Queen became the longest-living British Monarch, surpassing her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria.
The last six years have been quite happy for The Queen. In 2011 she saw her grandson Prince William marry Katherine Middleton in Westminster Abbey and later that year she mad a historic visit to the Republic of Ireland, which healed many national wounds.
The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. This momentous occasion was celebrated with a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a boat pageant on the Thames River, and a concert in front of the Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen celebrated the birth of her great-grandson Prince George in 2013, and two years later she gained another, Princess Charlotte. Her Majesty became the longest reigning British Monarch in 2015, once again taking the torch from Queen Victoria.
“My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” These are the words pledged by The Queen when she was only twenty-one. Throughout her long and eventful life, she has time and time again fulfilled her promise by whole heartedly serving her people.
Royal Central Wishes Her Majesty The Queen a Happy 91st Birthday.
Photo Credit: Princess Elizabeth of York via Wikimedia Commons, HRH Princess Elizabeth in the Auxiliary Territorial Service via Wikimedia Commons, Elizabeth and Philip 1953 via Wikimedia Commons, PATNIXONandQEII via Wikimedia Commons, EIIR Time Magazine via Blake Johnson