Famous the world over, Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the United Kingdom for just over 62 years. Her family history can be traced back to William the Conqueror who came to England in 1066 and essentially founded the royal dynasty as we know it today. Queen Elizabeth II is revered the world over and her birthday is currently celebrated in more than 10 different countries! So just who is Queen Elizabeth II? Read on to find out more!
Born at her maternal grandparents’ house in Mayfair, London (17 Bruton Street to be exact!) on the 21st of April 1926, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was never intended to be heir to the throne. Her father’s brother, King Edward VIII, was the heir to the United Kingdom and it was not until Elizabeth was 10 that her uncle abdicated – giving up his claim to the throne – and her father succeeded as King George VI, making Elizabeth next in line.
Known to her close family as ‘Lilibet’ Queen Elizabeth grew up incredibly close to her mother, father, and her sister Margaret. King George VI often referred to his family as “we four.” As a child Elizabeth was described by Winston Churchill as “a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.” Her cousin declared that she was “a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved.”
In 1939 when Elizabeth was 13 and with her family on a visit to Dartmouth she met her eighteen year old distant cousin Prince Philip Mountbatten – the man she would marry 8 years later. Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast at age 14 in 1940, speaking of the efforts the public were making the keep the spirits of soldiers fighting in World War II high. It is reported that when the war was ended, both Elizabeth and Margaret secretly went out amongst the public in London, mingling anonymously with those who were celebrating all over the capital.
Accession to the Throne and Coronation
Whilst she and her husband were visiting Kenya in 1952, Elizabeth’s father died. She was informed of this – and her accession to the throne – while she was abroad. Elizabeth returned to the United Kingdom, exiting the aircraft that brought her home dressed in somber mourning clothes. She was welcomed home by Winston Churchill in a meeting that was filmed and shown all over the world. The public rallied around the young Queen, remarking on her impressive composure during her homecoming as well as taking on the mantle of ruler of the United Kingdom and the relatively young age of only twenty-five.
On the 2nd of June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was broadcast internationally. The first coronation ceremony to ever be filmed for public consumption, the iconic act of the crown being placed on the young queen’s head is familiar the world over. In the lead up to the coronation, the Queen wore her Imperial State Crown as she went about her daily business to get used to the fit and weight.
The entire coronation took 16 months of preparation and no detail was overlooked. For example, the gown she wore was decorated with English Tudor roses, Scots thistles, Welsh leeks, Irish shamrocks, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaves, New Zealand silver fern, South African protea, Indian lotus flowers and Pakistani wheat, cotton and jute. This dress, cleverly incorporating symbolism from commonwealth countries, also bore a secretly sewn four-leaf clover resting on the dress’ left hand side, where Elizabeth’s hand would be resting throughout the day.
Diamond Jubilee and Other Records Broken
In 2012 Queen Elizabeth celebrated 60 years on the throne – only the second sovereign in 1,000 years to do so (the other was Queen Victoria in 1897)! For her Diamond Jubilee, commemorating this event, jubilee beacons were lit around the world and the Queen embarked on a nation wide royal tour as well as leading a 1,000 strong flotilla that sailed down the Thames in a widely broadcast and watched public parade.
She also broke other records that year: She became the first head of state to open two Olympic Games in two different countries (London 2012 and Montreal in 1976). She also became the first British sovereign to attend a peace-time Cabinet meeting since King George III in 1781.
Elizabeth II is the longest-lived and second-longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. She is also the second-longest-serving current head of State (after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand).
Should she still reign in September 2014, Queen Elizabeth II will also become our longest serving sovereign – breaking Queen Victoria’s current record of 63 years 216 days. As of this blog post, there’s only 448 days to go!
Family – Past and Future and Succession
Elizabeth’s parents were King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later known as the Queen Mother – who lived until she was 101! When Elizabeth was born her grandfather, King George V was on the throne and it was widely reported that Elizabeth was his favourite grandchild.
Our Queen herself has had four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Elizabeth has 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. When the Queen no longer reigns, it is her eldest son Prince Charles who will succeed her. After him will come Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. After William, it will be his son Prince George of Cambridge.
Not many people realise that our Queen is not just ‘The Queen of England.’ Her titles are many, varied, and vast! Officially her title is given as: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
She is the constitutional monarch of 16 realms and is the head of a 53-member Commonwealth of Nations. She is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She also holds titles from the Order of the Garter, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and the Imperial Order of the Crown in India – just to name a few! In Canada she also holds the title Chief Hunter of the Order of the Buffalo Hunt!
She is a member of numerous institutes such as the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. She holds military titles and is Colonel-in-Chief of over a dozen military branches both at home and abroad and has been awarded honorary degrees from five different universities in the UK – including two from the University of London (Bachelor of Music and Doctor of Laws).
In 2013 she was also awarded a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) in a ceremony that was held at Windsor Castle. The BAFTA was given to her for her “lifelong support of the British film and television industry.” This also goes hand-in-hand with the Queen’s most recent impressive appearance as a Bond girl in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics!