Queen Elizabeth II
(Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926)
is the Queen regnant of sixteen independent states and their overseas
territories and dependencies. Though she holds each crown and title separately
and equally, she is resident in and most directly involved with the United
Kingdom, her oldest realm, over parts of whose territories her ancestors have
reigned for more than a thousand years. She ascended the thrones of seven
countries in February 1952 (see Context below).
Queen Elizabeth II greets employees on her walk from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Centre - 2007
In addition to the United
Kingdom, Elizabeth II is also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica,
Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu,
Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and
Saint Kitts and Nevis, in each of which she is represented by a
Governor-General. The 16 countries of which she is Queen are known as
Commonwealth realms, and their combined population, including dependencies is
over 129 million. In theory her powers are vast; in practice (and in accordance
with convention) she herself never intervenes in political matters. In the
United Kingdom at least, however, she is known to take an active
behind-the-scenes interest in the affairs of state, meeting regularly to
establish a working relationship with her government ministers.
Queen Elizabeth II
here in unique pictures, taken by members of the Press Association over a period
of 80 years, is an extraordinary documentation of the life of an extraordinary
Monarchy : The Royal
Family at Work - Complete BBC Series [DVD]
"For the first time in history, The Queen and her family have opened their doors to the world in this landmark BBC series. This DVD features all 5 episodes plus 30 mins of additional unbroadcast
footage of The Queen and her family"
Elizabeth II holds a variety of other positions, among them Head of the
Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord
of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. Her long reign has seen sweeping changes
in her realms and the world at large, perhaps most notably the dissolution of
the British Empire (a process that began in the last years of her father's
reign) and the consequent evolution of the modern Commonwealth of Nations.
Since 1947, the Queen has been married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,
born a prince of Greece and Denmark but after naturalisation known as Philip
Mountbatten and subsequently created Duke of Edinburgh. To date the couple have
four children and eight grandchildren; the eighth (Viscount Severn) was born on
17 December 2007 to Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) upon the death of her father,
George VI, on 6 February 1952. As other colonies of the British Empire attained
independence from the UK during her reign, she acceded to the newly created
thrones as Queen of each respective realm so that throughout her 56 years on the
throne she has been the sovereign of 32 nations, half of which subsequently
became republics. She is currently the only monarch of more than one independent
Elizabeth II is currently the second longest reigning monarch of the United
Kingdom ranking behind Victoria (who reigned over the UK for 63 years). She is
also one of the longest-reigning monarchs of any of its predecessor states,
ranking behind George III (who reigned over Great Britain and subsequently the
UK for 59) and James VI (who reigned over Scotland for 57). In March 2008 she
surpassed Henry III of England.
Following tradition, she is also styled Duke of Lancaster and Duke of
Normandy. She is also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of many of her
realms (and Lord Admiral of the United Kingdom), and is styled Defender of the
Faith in various realms for differing reasons.
Elizabeth was born at 17 Bruton Street, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926,
the firstborn child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (the future King George VI)
and the Duchess of York (born the Hon. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen
Elizabeth, and, after her daughter's accession to the throne, the Queen Mother).
She was baptised in the Private Chapel on the grounds of Buckingham Palace
(it no longer exists, as it was destroyed during World War II) by Cosmo Lang,
the Archbishop of York. Her godparents were her paternal grandparents, King
George V and Queen Mary; the Princess Royal; the Duke of Connaught; her maternal
grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore; and Lady Elphinstone.
Elizabeth was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of
her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and grandmother, Queen Mary,
respectively. As a child, her close family knew her as "Lilibet".
She had a close relationship with her grandfather, George V, and was credited
for aiding his recovery from illness in 1929.
On 29 April 1929, the young "P'incess Lilybet" appeared on the cover of TIME
magazine, in an article that described her third birthday.
Princess Elizabeth's only sibling was the late Princess Margaret, who was
born in 1930. The two young princesses were educated at home, under the
supervision of their mother. Their governess was Marion Crawford, better known
as "Crawfie". She studied
history with C. H. K. Marten, Provost of Eton, and also learned modern
languages; she speaks French fluently.
She was instructed in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury and has remained
a devout member of the Church of England.
As a granddaughter of the British sovereign in the male line, she 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 the time of her birth,
she was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, the
Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and her father. Although her birth
generated public interest, there was no reason at the time to believe that she
would ever become queen, as it was widely assumed that the Prince of Wales would
marry and have children in due course. However, Edward did not produce any
legitimate heirs, and Elizabeth's parents had no sons (who would have taken
precedence over her). Therefore, she would eventually have become queen whether
Edward had abdicated or not.
Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip. Duke of Edinburgh on the day of the Queen's coronation
When her father became King in 1936 upon the abdication of her uncle, King
Edward VIII, she became heiress presumptive and was thenceforth known as "Her
Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth". There was some demand in Wales for her
to be created The Princess of Wales, but the King was advised that this was the
title of the wife of the Prince of Wales, not a title in its own right. Some
feel the King missed the opportunity to make an innovation in royal practice by
re-adopting King Henry VIII's idea; in 1525 Henry had proclaimed his eldest
daughter, Lady Mary, Princess of Wales in her own right.
But the possibility, however remote, remained that Elizabeth's father could have
a son, who would have been heir apparent, supplanting Elizabeth in the line of
succession to the throne.
Elizabeth was thirteen years old when the Second World War broke out, and she
and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, were evacuated to Windsor Castle,
Berkshire. There was some suggestion that the two princesses be evacuated to
Canada, where they were to live at Hatley Castle in British Columbia. To this
proposal their mother made the famous reply: "The children won't go without me.
I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."
While at Windsor, Princess Elizabeth and her sister staged pantomimes at
Christmas when family and friends were invited with the children of members of
staff of the Royal Household. In 1940, Princess Elizabeth made her first radio
broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had
been evacuated. When she was 13 years old, she first met her future husband
Prince Philip. She fell in love
with him and began writing to him when he was in the Royal Navy.
Elizabeth made her first official overseas visit in 1947, when she
accompanied her parents to South Africa. During her visit to Cape Town, she and
her father were accompanied by Prime Minister Jan Smuts when they went to the
top of Table Mountain by cable car. On her 21st birthday, she made a
broadcast to the British Commonwealth and Empire, pledging:
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.
During the Second World War, plans were developed to counter the growing
Welsh Nationalist influence of Plaid Cymru in Wales, which included
"rolling out" a member of the British Royal Family to "smooth things over,"
according to a report by then constitutional expert Edward Iwi.
In a report he gave to then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, Iwi proposed to
make the then Princess Elizabeth as Constable of Caernarfon Castle (a post then
held by the Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor), and patroness of Urdd Gobaith Cymru
and a touring of Wales as Urdd's patroness.
The idea of posting the princess as constable of Caernarfon Castle was
rejected by the Home Secretary as it might cause conflict between north and
south Wales, and King George VI refused to let the then princess tour Wales as
to not add undue pressure on her.
Additionally, the plan to make the princess patroness of Urdd Gobaith Cymru
was dropped as two of the leading members were conscientious objectors.
In 1945, Princess Elizabeth convinced her father that she should be allowed
to contribute directly to the war effort. She joined the Women's Auxiliary
Territorial Service, where she was known as No 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth
Windsor, trained as a driver, and drove a military truck while she served.
This training was the first time she had been taught together with other
students. It is said that she greatly enjoyed this and that this experience led
her to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home.
She was the first, and so far only, female member of the royal family to
actually serve in the armed forces,
although every monarch is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of both the British
and Canadian Armed Forces, and other royal women have been given honorary ranks.
During the VE Day celebrations in London, she and her sister, Princess Margaret,
mingled with the crowd after midnight to celebrate with everyone.
Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of
Greece and Denmark) on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once
removed: they are both descended from Christian IX of Denmark – Elizabeth II is
a great-great-granddaughter through her paternal great-grandmother Alexandra of
Denmark, and the Duke is a great-grandson through his paternal grandfather
George I of Greece. As well as second cousins once removed, the couple are third
cousins: they share Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth's
great-grandfather was Edward VII, while Edward's sister Alice, Grand Duchess of
Hesse and by Rhine was the Duke's great-grandmother. Prince Philip had renounced
his claim to the Greek throne and was simply referred to as Lieutenant Philip
Mountbatten before being created Duke of Edinburgh prior to their marriage. As a
Greek royal, Philip is a member of the house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg,
the Danish royal house and a line of the House of Oldenburg. "Mountbatten" was
an anglicisation of his mother's titular designation, Battenberg. The marriage
was controversial; Philip was Greek Orthodox, with no financial resources behind
him, and had sisters who had married Nazi supporters. Elizabeth's mother was
reported in later biographies to have strongly opposed the marriage, even
referring to Philip as "the Hun".
Still, the wedding was seen as the first glimmer of hope in a post-war
Commonwealth, and, though the royal couple received over 2,500 wedding gifts
from around the world, rationing required that the Princess save up her ration
coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress.
At the wedding itself, the Princess' bridesmaids were: her sister, The
Princess Margaret; her cousin Princess Alexandra of Kent; Lady Caroline
Montagu-Douglas-Scott, a cadet relative via their mutual aunt, the Duchess of
Gloucester; her second cousin, Lady Mary Cambridge; Lady Elizabeth Mary Lambart
(now Longman), daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan; The Hon. Pamela Mountbatten
(now Hicks), Prince Philip's cousin; and two maternal cousins, The Hon. Margaret
Elphinstone (now Rhodes) and The Hon. Diana Bowes-Lyon (now Somervell).
The Princess' page boys were her young paternal first cousins, Princes William
of Gloucester and Michael of Kent.
After their wedding, the couple leased their first home, Windlesham Moor
until 4 July 1949, when
they took up residence at Clarence House, London. At various times between 1946
and 1953, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta as a serving Royal Navy
officer. Lord Mountbatten of Burma had purchased the Villa Gwardamangia (also
referred to as the Villa G'Mangia), in the hamlet of Gwardamangia in Malta, in
about 1929. Princess Elizabeth stayed there when visiting Philip in Malta.
Philip and Elizabeth lived in Malta for a period between 1949 and 1951 (Malta
being the only other country in which the Queen has lived, although at that time
Malta was a British Protectorate).
On 14 November 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Charles.
Several weeks earlier, letters patent had been issued so that her children would
enjoy a royal and princely status to which they would not otherwise have been
entitled, instead being styled merely as children of a duke.
The couple had four children in all:
- The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (born 14 November 1948)
- The Princess Anne, Princess Royal (born 15 August 1950)
- The Prince Andrew, Duke of York (born 19 February 1960)
- The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (born 10 March 1964)
Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed, via a 1960
Order-in-Council, that those descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
who were not Princes or Princesses of the United Kingdom should have the
personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
In practice all of their children, in honour of their father, have used
Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname (or in Anne's case, her maiden
surname). Both Charles and Anne used Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname
in the published banns for their first marriages.
Her father's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently
standing in for him at public events. She visited Greece, Italy and Malta (where
Philip was then stationed) during that year. In October, she toured Canada and
visited President Harry S Truman in Washington, D.C. In January 1952, Elizabeth
and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had reached
Kenya when word arrived of the death of her father, on 6 February 1952, from
Elizabeth was staying at Sagana Lodge in Kenya when she was told of her
father's death and of her own succession to the throne. It was Prince Philip who
broke the news of her father's death to Elizabeth.
After that, Martin Charteris, then Assistant Private Secretary to the new Queen,
asked her what she intended to be called. "Oh, my own name; what else?" she
replied. The royal party returned
immediately to the United Kingdom.
Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen in Canada first, by the Queen's Privy Council
for Canada, on 6 February 1952.
Her British proclamation was read at St. James's Palace the following day.
One year later, the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary, died of lung cancer on
24 March 1953. Reportedly, the dowager queen's dying wish was that the
coronation not be postponed. Elizabeth II's coronation took place in Westminster
Abbey, on 2 June 1953. Her coronation gown, commissioned from Norman Hartnell,
was embroidered with the floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth:
the Tudor rose of England, the Scots thistle, the Welsh leek, shamrock of
Ireland, 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.
Elizabeth and Margaret with their Grandmother Queen Mary - 1939
Life as Queen
After the Coronation, The Queen and Prince Philip moved to Buckingham Palace,
in central London, the main official residence of the monarch. It has been
reported, however, that, as with many of her predecessors, she dislikes the
Palace as a residence and considers Windsor Castle, another official residence,
to be her home.
Not long after, the Queen and Prince Philip, from 1953 to 1954, made a
six-month, around the world tour, becoming the first monarch to circumnavigate
the globe. She also became the first reigning monarch of Australia, New Zealand
and Fiji to visit those nations. Since then, Elizabeth II has undertaken many
overseas voyages. In October 1957, she made a state visit to the United States,
addressing the United Nations General Assembly, and proceeded to tour Canada,
wherein she became the first Canadian monarch to open a session of that nation's
parliament. She made another state visit to the United States, as Queen of
Canada, hosting the return dinner for President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the
Canadian Embassy in Washington. In February 1961, she visited Ankara with Cemal
Gursel, and later toured India, Iran, Pakistan and Nepal for the first time. She
has made state visits to most European countries and to many outside Europe. In
1969, Elizabeth II sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the
historic first lunar landing. The message is etched onto a tiny silicon disc and
still rests on the lunar surface today. She greeted the Apollo 11 crew during
their tour of the world. In 1991,
she became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United
States Congress during another state visit to that country, and in 2007 became
the first British monarch to address the Virginia General Assembly. She has also
regularly attended Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings since the practice
was established in Canada in 1973. Altogether, Elizabeth II is the most
widely-travelled head of state in history.
Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth
The British Empire began its metamorphosis following the Balfour Declaration
at the Imperial Conference of 1926, followed by the formalization of the
declaration in the Statute of Westminster, 1931.
By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, there was much talk of a "new
Elizabethan age". Since then, one of the Queen's roles has been to preside over
the United Kingdom as it has shared world economic and military power with a
growing host of independent nations and principalities. As nations have
developed economically and culturally, the Queen has witnessed, over the past 50
years, a gradual transformation of the British Empire into its modern successor,
the Commonwealth of Nations. She has worked hard to maintain links with former
British possessions, and in some cases, such as South Africa, she has played an
important role in retaining or restoring good relations.
In 2007, papers from 1956 were declassified in which the then French Prime
Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden discussed the
possibility of France joining in a union with the United Kingdom; among the
ideas put forward was having Elizabeth II as the French head of state. A paper
from 28 September 1956 stated that Mollet "had not thought there need be
difficulty over France accepting the headship of Her Majesty." This proposal was
never accepted, and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome.
Views and perceptions
She has a strong sense of religious duty and takes her Coronation Oath
seriously. This is one reason (as
well as the example set by her uncle who abdicated) why it is considered highly
unlikely that she will ever abdicate.
The Queen has shown a strong constitution in the face of turmoil; for
example, during a trip to Ghana in 1961 she pointedly refused to keep her
distance from the then President, Kwame Nkrumah, despite the fact that he was 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." One author describes
another incident thus: " …in 1964, when the Queen was invited to Quebec,
according to Robert Speaight in Vanier, Soldier, Diplomat and Governor
General: A Biography. There were fears for the Queen’s safety, while the
media whipped up a campaign of fear around the risks involved from separatist
threats, and there was talk of cancelling the tour. The Queen’s Private
Secretary replied that the Queen would have been horrified to have been
prevented from going because of the activities of extremists."
Further, during the Trooping the Colour in 1981 there was an apparent attempt on
the Queen's life: six rounds of blanks were fired at her from close range as she
rode down The Mall. Her only reaction was to duck slightly and then continue on.
The Canadian House of Commons was so impressed by her display of courage that a
motion was passed praising her composure.
As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth II does not express her personal
political opinions publicly. She has maintained this discipline throughout her
reign, doing little in public to reveal what they might be, and thus her
political views are not clearly known. However, there is some evidence to
suggest that, in economic terms, she leans towards a One Nation point of view.
During Margaret Thatcher's years as British Prime Minister, it was rumoured that
the Queen worried that Mrs. Thatcher's economic policies were fostering social
divisions, and she was reportedly alarmed by high unemployment, a series of
riots in 1981, and the violence of the miners' strike.
Mrs. Thatcher once said to Brian Walden, referring to the Social Democratic
Party: "The problem is, the Queen is the kind of woman who could vote SDP."
Canadian national unity
While not speaking directly against Quebec sovereignty in Canada, she has
publicly praised Canada's unity and expressed her wish to see the continuation
of a unified Canada, sometimes courting controversy over the matter. Like her
mother, the Queen has shown an affection for Canada, stating in 1983, when
departing California, "I am going home to Canada tomorrow," and at a dinner in
Saskatchewan in 2005: "this country and Canadians everywhere have been a
constant presence in my life and work."
She has also stated that Canada feels like "a home away from home".
In a speech to the Quebec Legislature, at the height of the Quiet Revolution
of 1964, she ignored the national controversy (including riots during her
appearance in Quebec City – see History of Monarchy in Canada) in favour of
praising Canada's two "complementary cultures", speaking, in both French and
English, about the strength of Canada's two founding peoples, stating, "I am
pleased to think that there exists in our Commonwealth a country where I can
express myself officially in French," and, "whenever you sing [the French words
of] 'O Canada' you are reminded that you come of a proud race."
After she proclaimed the Constitution Act in 1982, which was the first time
in Canadian history that a major constitutional change had been made without the
agreement of the government of Quebec, the Queen attempted to demonstrate her
position as head of the whole Canadian nation, and her role as conciliator, by
privately expressing to journalists her regret that Quebec was not part of the
In 1995, during a separatist referendum campaign, the Queen was tricked into
speaking, in both French and English, for fourteen minutes with 29-year-old
Pierre Brassard, a DJ for Radio CKOI-FM Montreal, pretending to be the then
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. When told that the separatists were
showing a lead, the Queen revealed that she felt the "referendum may go the
wrong way," adding, "if I can help in any way, I will be very happy to do so."
However, she pointedly refused to accept Chrétien's advice that she intervene on
the issue without first seeing a draft speech sent by him. (Her tactful handling
of the call won plaudits from the DJ who made it.)
Chrétien later, in his memoirs, recounted the Queen's tongue-in-cheek comments
to him regarding this affair: "'I didn't think you sounded quite like yourself,'
she told me, 'but I thought, given all the duress you were under, you might have
On 18 November 1965, the Governor of Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Vicary Gibbs, was
made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, an honour in the
personal gift of the Queen, a week after Ian Smith had made his Unilateral
Declaration of Independence (UDI). Gibbs was intensely loyal to Rhodesia, and,
although he had refused to accept the UDI, the award was criticised by some as
badly timed. Others praised it as indicating support for her Rhodesian
representative in the face of an illegal action by her Rhodesian prime minister.
During an event in Westminster Hall marking her Silver Jubilee in 1977, the
Queen stated, "I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland." This reference came at a time when the
Labour government was attempting to introduce a controversial devolution policy
to Scotland and Wales, and was interpreted as opposition to devolution. Her
reference in the Silver Jubilee speech is also believed, by some, to refer to
the disturbances in Northern Ireland at that time.
Her statement of praise for the Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement raised
some complaints among some Unionists (who were traditionally strong
monarchists). Ian Paisley, leader of the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party
and founder of the evangelical Free Presbyterian church, famously broke with
Unionism's traditional deference for the British Crown by calling the Queen "a
parrot" of Tony Blair. He suggested that her support for the Belfast Agreement
would weaken the monarchy's standing among Northern Irish Protestants, a
substantial number of whom remained opposed to certain parts of the Agreement.
However, Paisley's criticism of the Queen on this matter was rejected by more
traditional and moderate unionists.
In the late 1990s, after referendums approved a devolution policy, the Queen
sent her best wishes to the new Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly of
Wales, the first sessions of which she opened in person. Several MSPs stayed
away from the ceremony, attending a republican rally instead. A number of AMs
boycotted her opening of the first session of the National Assembly for Wales.
Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood AM also boycotted the opening of National Assembly's
new building (the Senedd) in 2006 and was thrown out of chamber for calling the
Queen 'Mrs. Windsor' during an Assembly debate.
Elizabeth II, as the Monarch of the United Kingdom, is the Supreme Governor
of the Church of England and sworn protector of the Church of Scotland. She
holds no religious role as Sovereign of the other Realms.
The Queen takes a keen personal interest in the Church of England, but, in
practice, delegates authority in the Church of England to the Archbishop of
Canterbury. She regularly worships at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, or
at St. Mary Magdalene Church when staying at Sandringham House, Norfolk.
The Royal Family also regularly attends services at Crathie Kirk when
holidaying at Balmoral Castle, and when in residence at the Palace of
Holyroodhouse, the family attends services at the Canongate Kirk. The Queen has
attended the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on several
occasions, most recently in 1977 and 2002, although, in most years, she appoints
a Lord High Commissioner to represent her.
The Queen made particular reference to her Christian convictions in her
Christmas Day television broadcast in 2000, in which she spoke about the
theological significance of the Millennium as marking the 2000th
anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ:
||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.
The Queen often meets with leaders from other religions as well. She is
Patron of The Council of Christians and Jews in the UK.
The Jubilee year coincided with the deaths, within a few months, of the
Queen's mother and sister. Her relations with her children have become much
warmer in recent years. She is particularly close to her daughter-in-law,
Sophie, Countess of Wessex and is very close to her grandchildren, noticeably
Prince William, Princess Beatrice and Zara Phillips.
Health and longevity
In late February 2003, the Queen's reign, then just over 51 years, surpassed
the combined reigns of her four immediate predecessors: Edward VII, George V,
Edward VIII and George VI. She is currently the second-longest-serving head of
state in the world, after King Bhumibol of Thailand (fourth if one includes the
rulers of the sub national entity Ras Al Khaimah and of the Government of Tibet
in Exile), and the third-longest serving British or English monarch. Her reign
of over half a century has seen eleven different Prime Ministers of the United
Kingdom (twelve terms) and numerous Prime Ministers in the Commonwealth Realms.
In June 2005, she was forced to cancel several engagements after contracting
what the Palace described as a bad cold. Nonetheless, the Queen has been
described as being in excellent health, and is seldom ill.
In October 2006, she suffered a burst blood vessel in her right eye, causing
her entire eye to appear deep red in colour.
While the palace would not comment on the Queen's condition, medical experts
stated that the Queen would be in no pain and that her eye would heal within a
week or two with no lasting damage. They also stated that blood vessel bursts
are common amongst the elderly, but can also be a sign of high blood pressure.
Later that month, on 26 October, she was due officially to open the new Emirates
Stadium, the home of Arsenal F.C., but she was forced to cancel the engagement
due to a strained back muscle that had troubled her since the end of her
Balmoral holiday. Her back
troubles appear to be ongoing. There was serious concern in November 2006 that
she wouldn't be well enough to open Parliament, and plans were drawn up to cover
her possible absence. However, she was able to attend. The following month, the
Queen faced more rumours that she was in declining health when she was seen in
public with a plaster on her right hand. The positioning of the plaster seemed
to suggest that the Queen may have been fitted with an intravenous drip. Medical
experts suggest that given her back troubles and age she may be suffering from
osteoporosis. Buckingham Palace refused to comment.
However, it was later revealed that the plaster was as a result of one of her
corgis biting her hand as she separated her two fighting pets.
On 21 December 2007, the Queen surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen
Victoria as the oldest reigning monarch in both British and the Commonwealth
realms' history. Should she still be living on 29 January 2012, she would
surpass Richard Cromwell as the longest-lived British ruler, including those who
did not hold the office to their death. If she lives until 19 September 2013 but
is still survived by the Prince of Wales, he would be the oldest to succeed to
the throne, surpassing William IV, who was 64. Should she still be reigning on
10 September 2015, at the age of 89, her reign will surpass that of Queen
Victoria and she will become the longest reigning monarch in British history.
In 1977, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th
anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
The occasion was marked by a royal procession in the golden state coach and a
service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral attended by dignitaries and
heads of state. Millions watched events on television and numerous public street
parties were held across the UK to mark the occasion, culminating in several
"Jubilee Days" held in June. Five commemorative stamps were also printed.
The Jubilee line of the London Underground, which opened in 1979, was also
named in honour of the anniversary, and several other locations and public
spaces were named to commemorate the Jubilee, including the Jubilee Gardens in
London's South Bank.
In 2002, Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th
anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
The year saw an extensive tour of the Commonwealth realms, including the first
ever pop concert in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, and as had been held in
1977, a service of thanksgiving took place at St Paul's Cathedral. Public
celebrations in the UK were more muted than they had been 25 years previously,
in part because earlier the same year both the Queen's mother and sister had
died, and in part due to changing public attitudes towards the monarchy.
However, street parties and commemorative events were still organised in many
Diamond Wedding Anniversary
The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their sixtieth (Diamond) wedding
anniversary on Monday 19 November 2007, with a special service at Westminster
Abbey, where they wed sixty years prior. Their actual anniversary came a day
later, on 20 November. Distinguished guests included immediate members of the
Royal Family, Sir John Major, Baroness Thatcher, Prime Minister Gordon Brown,
David Cameron, Jack Straw and the surviving bridesmaids and pages from the
wedding. The night before, Prince Charles hosted a private dinner at Clarence
House for twenty of the most immediate members of the Royal Family in
recognition of his parents' enduring marriage.
On the following day, 20 November, The Queen and Prince Philip embarked on a
visit to Malta, where they had stayed from 1949 to 1951 after getting married. A
Royal Navy ship which had docked in the vicinity arranged for its sailors to
assemble on deck in the formation of the number '60' in recognition of the
couple's sixtieth wedding anniversary.
On Saturday, 21 April 2007, the Queen turned 81 years old and has since begun
to hand over some public duties to her children and other members of the Royal
The 2007 State Visit to the United States tends to show this to be an unfounded
rumour. The British press has speculated that Prince Charles will start to
perform many of the day-to-day duties of the monarch, while the Queen will
effectively go into "retirement".
It was later confirmed by the Palace
that Prince Charles will begin to hold the regular audiences with the Prime
Minister and other Commonwealth leaders. However, while the Queen would be
increasing the length of her weekends by two days,
she would continue with public duties well into the future.
However, the Queen still meets with the Prime Minister – she has not handed over
this duty to the Prince of Wales. Buckingham Palace already gives the Prince
access to government papers. For a
number of years, Prince Charles and the Princess Royal have each been standing
in for the Queen when she has been unavailable for investitures. Whilst the
Prince regularly meets foreign dignitaries, he does not, and cannot, take the
place of the Queen in welcoming ambassadors at the Court of St. James's unless
he is acting as a Counsellor of State with another senior member of the royal
family in the same role.
In early 2006, reports began to
surface that the Queen planned to reduce her official duties significantly,
though she has made it clear that she has no intention of abdicating.
Unproven media speculation rumoured that her recent trip to Canada and
Australia will be amongst her last visits to her overseas realms. The Canadian
and Australian governments and the Palace have denied it.
In May 2007, the Queen and Prince Philip made a state visit to the United
States, in honour of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown
Despite her good health and intention to stay on the throne, some saw the
wedding of the Prince of Wales to Camilla as a message from the Queen that, by
allowing Charles to marry, she is attempting to ensure that Charles' succession
to the throne will be smooth. In 2004, a copy of the Queen's newly-revised
funeral plans was stolen. And for
the first time, in September, 2005, a mock version of the Queen's funeral march
was held in the middle of the night (this was also done once a year after the
late Queen Mother turned 80).
Shortly before her 80th birthday, polls were conducted that showed
the majority of the British public wish for the Queen to remain on the throne
until her death – many feel that the Queen has become an institution in herself.
Role in government
Constitutionally, the Queen is an essential part of the legislative process
of her Realms. In practice, much of the Queen's role in the legislative process
is ceremonial, as her reserve powers are rarely exercised.
She does decide the basis on which a person is asked to form a government;
that is, whether a government should be formed capable of surviving in
the House of Commons — the standard requirement — or capable of commanding
majority support in the House of Commons (i.e. forming a coalition if no one
party has a majority). The requirement is normally only made in emergencies or
in wartime, and, to date, Elizabeth II has never set it.
On three occasions during her reign, Elizabeth II has had to deal with
constitutional problems over the formation of UK governments. In 1957 and again
in 1963, the absence of a formal open mechanism within the Conservative Party
for choosing a leader meant that following the sudden resignations of Sir
Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan it fell to the Queen to decide whom to
commission to form a government. In 1957, Eden did not proffer advice, and so
the Queen consulted Lords Salisbury and Kilmuir for the opinion of the Cabinet,
and Winston Churchill, as the only living former Conservative Prime Minister
(following the precedent of George V consulting Salisbury's father and Arthur
Balfour upon Andrew Bonar Law's resignation in 1923). In October 1963, the
outgoing Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, advised the Queen to appoint Alec
Douglas-Home, the Earl of Home.
On the third occasion, in February 1974, an inconclusive general election
result meant that in theory the outgoing Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had
won the popular vote, could stay in power if he formed a coalition government
with the Liberals. Rather than immediately resign as prime minister he explored
the option and only resigned when the discussions foundered. (Had he chosen to,
he could have stayed on until defeated in the debate on the Queen's Speech.)
Only when he resigned was the Queen able to ask the Leader of the Opposition,
the Labour Party's Harold Wilson, to form a government. His minority government
lasted for eight months before a new general election was held.
In all three cases, she appears to have acted in accordance with
constitutional tradition, following the advice of her senior ministers and Privy
Councillors. Indeed, since constitutional practice in the UK is based on
tradition and precedent rather than a written set of rules, it is generally
accepted that the sovereign cannot be acting unconstitutionally when acting on
the advice of her or his ministers.
Relations with ministers
Since becoming Queen, Elizabeth spends an average of three hours every day
"doing the boxes" – reading state papers sent to her from her various
departments, embassies, and government offices.
The Queen also has regular meetings with her individual British ministers,
the First Minister of Scotland, and occasional meetings with ministers from her
other realms, either when she is in the particular country, or the minister is
in London. Though bound by convention not to intervene directly in politics, her
having reviewed state documents from all her realms since 1952 means she has
seen more of public affairs from the inside than any other person presently in
any of her governments. This, coupled with her many interactions with a great
many prime ministers in all of her realms, as well as with her knowledge of
world leaders, means that when she does express an opinion, however cautiously,
her words are taken with gravity. British Prime Ministers take their weekly
meetings with the Queen very seriously; one Prime Minister said he took them
more so than Prime Minister's Questions, because she would be better briefed and
more constructive than anything he would face at the dispatch box.
In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher offered the following description of her
weekly meetings with the Queen: "Anyone who imagines that they are a mere
formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly
business like and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current
issues and breadth of experience."
Paul Martin, Sr., who, along with John Roberts and Mark MacGuigan, was sent to
the UK in 1980 to discuss the patriation of the Canadian constitution, noted
that during this time the Queen had taken a great and deep interest in the
constitutional debate, especially following the failure of Bill C-60, which
affected her role as head of state. They found the Queen "better informed on
both the substance and politics of Canada's constitutional case than any of the
British politicians or bureaucrats."
The Queen was thought to have had strained relations with Thatcher during
Thatcher's eleven years as British Prime Minister. Reports throughout the period
varied over the extent of this difference and to what degree it was due to
concerns over policies of the Thatcher government, or a personality clash
between the two women themselves.
During the 1980s, the Queen was even reported to "cordially dislike" Mrs
Thatcher. During an argument
within the Commonwealth over sanctions on South Africa, the Queen made a pointed
reference to her role as Head of the Commonwealth, which was interpreted at the
time as a disagreement with Thatcher's policy of opposing sanctions. However,
whatever the differences between them, Thatcher has clearly conveyed her
personal admiration for the Queen and believes that the image of animosity
between the two of them has been played up because they are both women. In the
aforementioned BBC documentary Queen & Country, Thatcher describes the
Queen as "marvellous" and "a perfect lady" who "always knows just what to say,"
referring in particular to her final meeting with the sovereign as prime
minister. Since leaving office, Thatcher has been awarded a life peerage, the
Order of Merit, and the Order of the Garter, which would seem to indicate a
basic respect for Thatcher on the part of the Queen, as membership of the two
Orders is entirely the personal gift of the sovereign. In October, 2005, the
Queen and Prince Philip attended Thatcher's 80th birthday party in
The Queen's relations with her Canadian Prime Ministers have varied
throughout the years. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau seemed to have caused her
some concern, perhaps due to his documented antics around the monarch, such as
his sliding down Buckingham Palace banisters, and his famous pirouette behind
the Queen, captured on film in 1977, as well as the removal of various royal
symbols from Canada during his premiership. The Queen was reported, by Paul
Martin, Sr., as worrying that the Crown "had little meaning for [Trudeau]."
However, as part of the patriation of Canada's Constitution in 1982,
orchestrated by Trudeau, the Monarchy was entrenched within Canada's governing
system. Following this, Trudeau stated in his memoirs: "I always said it was
thanks to three women that we were eventually able to reform our Constitution.
The Queen, who was favourable, Margaret Thatcher, who undertook to do everything
that our Parliament asked of her, and Jean Wadds, who represented the interests
of Canada so well in London... 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 relations with the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand
have been much less direct, with the notable exception of the great and
remarkably complex Australian constitutional crisis of 1975, when Prime Minister
Gough Whitlam was summarily removed from office by the Governor-General of
Australia, Sir John Kerr. Kerr was the Queen's official representative in
Australia. Gough Whitlam appealed to the Queen and the Privy Council to reverse
the decision, but she declined to act, saying it was not constitutional to
intervene in the affairs of a Commonwealth Nation's elective party politics.
However, recent documents released in the Australian press, along with the
release in Australia of the 1975 Cabinet papers, show that Sir John Kerr may
have in fact acted illegally in getting advice from both the sitting head of the
High Court of Australia and, according to an article published in 2006 in the
Sydney Morning Herald, entitled "Why that old Whitlam fire just won't die",
the sitting Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler. Also, it has been
rumoured based on some statements attributed to (but not verified) Queen
Elizabeth II's long time, and now retired, private secretary Sir Robert Fellowes
that there were several discussions of in fact intervening in the crisis.
Nothing was ultimately done, speculation being because of concern about the
dangers of strengthening the Australian Republican movement and the ultimate
possibility, reflected in the holding of the failed 1999 Republic Referendum, of
the Queen's role in Australia being completely abolished by the Australians. In
the end, Labor faced an election which it lost convincingly.
Elizabeth was thought to have had very good relations with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, during the first years of his time in office. However,
evidence mounted that their relationship had hardened over the years,
until it was revealed in May of 2007 that the Queen was "exasperated and
frustrated" by the actions of then Prime Minister Tony Blair, especially by what
she saw as detachment from rural issues, as well as a too-casual approach (he
requested that the Queen call him "Tony"), and a contempt for British heritage,
on his part. She was also rumoured to have shown concern with the over-taxation
of the British Armed Forces through overseas engagements, particularly in Iraq
and Afghanistan, as well as "surprise" over Blair's shifting of their weekly
meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday afternoons. She was supposed to have raised
her concerns with Blair repeatedly at these meetings, though she has never
revealed her opinions on the Iraq War itself.
The relationship between the Queen and her husband and Blair and his wife was
also reported to be distant, as the two couples shared little common interests.
The Queen did, however, apparently admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in
On a BBC documentary broadcast in 1992, Elizabeth R., she was shown
teasing former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath about how he could travel to
world trouble spots like Iraq because politicians saw him as "expendable." He
laughed at the comment.
Relations with foreign leaders
Elizabeth II's personal relationships with world leaders are warm and
informal, and she has developed friendships with many foreign leaders, including
Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, and George W. Bush, who was the first American
President in more than 80 years to stay at Buckingham Palace.
Mary McAleese, now President of Ireland, recounted how, as Pro
Vice-Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast, she was, to her shock,
invited to a lunch with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, on the basis that
the Queen wished to talk to her, as a leading Northern Ireland nationalist, and
hear her views on Anglo-Irish relations. The two women struck up an instant
rapport, with McAleese, during the 1997 Irish presidential election, calling the
Queen "a dote" (a Hiberno-English term meaning a "really lovely person") in an
Irish Independent interview. Nelson Mandela, in the BBC documentary,
repeatedly referred to her as "my friend, Elizabeth".
Personality and image
The Queen's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many
years. Sometimes estimated at US$10 billion, recently Forbes magazine
conservatively estimated her fortune at around US$500 million (£280 million).
This figure seems to agree with official Palace statements that called reports
of the Queen's supposed multibillion-dollar wealth "grossly over-exaggerated;"
however, it conflicts with a total addition of the Queen's personal holdings.
Her personal art collection is worth at least £10 billion, but is held in trust
for the nation, and cannot be sold.
The Queen also privately owns large amounts of property that have never been
valued, including Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle. Press reports, upon the
death of the Queen Mother, speculated that the Queen inherited estate worth
around £70 million. Furthermore
there is control and ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster, which is valued at
£310 million and transferred a private income to the monarch of £9.811 million
The Queen also technically owns the Crown Estate with holdings of £6 billion;
however, the income of this is transferred to the Treasury in return for the
civil list payments.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 21 April 1926 – 11 December 1936: Her Royal Highness
Princess Elizabeth of York
- 11 December 1936 – 20 November 1947: Her Royal Highness
The Princess Elizabeth
- 20 November 1947 – 6 February 1952: Her Royal Highness The
Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh
- 6 February 1952 – present: Her Majesty The Queen
Following the Queen's accession, a decision was reached by Commonwealth Prime
Ministers at the Commonwealth Conference of 1953, whereby the Queen would be
accorded different styles and titles in each of her Realms, reflecting that in
each state she acts as the monarch of that state, regardless of her other roles.
Traditionally, Elizabeth II's titles as Queen Regnant are listed by the order in
which the remaining original Realms first became Dominions of the Crown: The
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (original dominion), Canada
(1867), Australia (1901), and New Zealand (1907); followed by the order in which
the former Crown colony became an independent Realm: Jamaica (1962), Barbados
(1966), the Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Papua New Guinea (1975), the Solomon
Islands (1978), Tuvalu (1978), Saint Lucia (1979), Saint Vincent and the
Grenadines (1979), Antigua and Barbuda (1981), Belize (1981), and Saint Kitts
and Nevis (1983).
The Queen has many titles within her various Realms and territories. In
common practice, however, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as "The
Queen" or "Her Majesty". When in conversation with The Queen, one initially uses
"Your Majesty", and thereafter "Ma'am".
In common practice, styled as Her Majesty The Queen (and, when the
distinction is necessary, Her Britannic Majesty, Her Australian
Majesty, or Her Canadian Majesty, etc.)
However, in Scotland, the title Elizabeth II caused some controversy,
as there has never been an Elizabeth I in Scotland. In a rare act of
sabotage, new Royal Mail post boxes in Scotland, bearing the initials "E II R",
were vandalised. (Prior to Queen Elizabeth, Scottish boxes had borne the
monarch's initials, but no crown.) To avoid further problems, post boxes and
Royal Mail vehicles in Scotland now bear only the Crown of Scotland and no Royal
A legal case, MacCormick v. Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), was taken to
contest the right of the Queen to style herself Elizabeth II within
Scotland, arguing that to do so would be a breach of the Act of Union. The case
was lost on the grounds that the pursuers had no title to sue the Crown, and
also that the numbering of monarchs was part of the royal prerogative, and not
governed by the Act of Union.
Less publicised controversies included the argument that the monarch was
addressed as Your Grace, rather than Majesty, in pre-Union
Scotland, and, second, that the preferred title had been King/Queen of Scots
rather than of Scotland (although the latter was by no means unknown).
At the royal opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the presiding
officer David Steel referred to her as, "not only the Queen of the United
Kingdom but seated as you are among us in the historic and constitutionally
correct manner as Queen of Scots."
Future British monarchs will be numbered according to either English or
Scottish predecessors, whichever number is higher. Applying this policy
retroactively to monarchs since the Act of Union yields the same numbering.
However, equivalent rules have not been established in the Commonwealth Realms.
The Queen has coats of arms in each of her Realms; these arms are also
sometimes used by government agencies or ministries to symbolise the Crown. In
the UK, they are known as the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. Every
British monarch has used these arms since the reign of Queen Victoria. A
separate Royal Arms exists, for use in Scotland, which gives priority to
Scottish elements and features the insignia of the Order of the Thistle. The
Royal Coat of Arms of Canada has been used by each monarch of Canada since
George V; it is based on the British Royal Arms but contains unique Canadian
elements. The Queen also has Arms for use as sovereign of Australia, New
Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon
Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and
Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Each of these is different from the
Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
The Royal Standard is the Queen's flag, and is a banner of the Royal Arms. In
some of the Commonwealth Realms, the Queen has an official standard for use when
acting as Queen of that Realm. Australia, Barbados, Canada, Jamaica, and New
Zealand have their own Royal Standard, each one a defaced banner of the relevant
coat of arms, including the Queen's personal badge: a crowned letter E inside a
circle of roses on a blue disc. This badge was also used as the Queen's personal
flag which is used in her role as Head of the Commonwealth and for visiting
Commonwealth countries where she is not the head of state.
From 21 April 1944 until her
accession, Princess Elizabeth's arms were the Royal Arms, differenced by a label
of three points argent (white), the centre bearing a Tudor Rose and the first
and third points bearing a red cross.
I really enjoyed looking
and reading this. it has inspired m to do
her for my school project