Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II
In 2012 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, having spent 60 years on the throne. This makes The Queen the second longest reigning British monarch, after her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Her Majesty is 38th in direct line of descent from Egbert (c. 775-839), King of Wessex from 802 and of England 827 to 839.
Christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, she is the elder daughter of King George VI (then Duke of York) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
Princess Elizabeth’s early years were spent at 145 Piccadilly, the London house taken by her parents shortly after her birth, and at White Lodge in Richmond Park. She also spent time at the country homes of her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and her mother's parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
In 1930, Princess Elizabeth gained a sister, with the birth of Princess Margaret Rose. The family of four was very close.
However her quiet family life was shattered in 1936, when her grandfather, King George V, died. His eldest son came to the throne as King Edward VIII, but, before the end of the year, the new king had decided to relinquish the throne in order to marry the woman he loved, divorcee Wallis Simpson. With her father crowned king, Princess Elizabeth became next in line to the throne.
In 1942, Princess Elizabeth was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards, and on her sixteenth birthday she carried out her first public engagement, when she inspected the regiment. Her official duties would now increase as she began to accompany the King and Queen on many of their tours around Britain.
On 6 February 1952, whilst visiting Kenya, Princess Elizabeth received the news of her father's death and her own accession to the throne. Her coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. She was 25.
Queen Elizabeth was still a Princess when she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in November 1947.They have four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. The couple also have eight grandchildren: Peter and Zara Phillips (b.1977 and 1981); The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry (b.1982 and 1984); Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York (b.1988 and 1990); and The Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn (b.2003 and 2007). The Queen and Prince Philip are now great grandparents to Savannah Phillips, born in December 2010.
Although the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed that The Queen’s decedents should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
After the Coronation, Elizabeth and Philip moved to Buckingham Palace. It is reported, however, that, as with many of her predecessors, she dislikes the Palace as a residence and considers Windsor Castle to be her home.
The Queen is the most widely-travelled head of state in history. From 1953 to 1954 she and Philip 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.
As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth 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 so her political views are not known. However, she is believed to hold centre, even slightly left of centre views. She was seen as closer to Harold Wilson than Edward Heath and was certainly closer to Tony Blair than Margaret Thatcher. She also enjoys especially close relations with Ireland, having expressed support for the Good Friday Agreement which eventually brought peace to Northern Ireland.
The Queen’s personal relationships with a host of world leaders have been particularly warm and informal, developing friendships with Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, and George W. Bush - who was the first U.S. President in over 80 years to stay at Buckingham Palace.
Despite a succession of controversies surrounding the rest of the royal family, particularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s (including wide reporting of Prince Philip's propensity for verbal gaffes, and the marital difficulties of her children), Queen Elizabeth remains a remarkably uncontroversial and widely respected figure. However, this was tested in 1997, when she and other members of the Royal Family were perceived to be unmoved by the public outpouring of grief following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Golden Jubilee of 2002 marked the 50th anniversary of The Queen's Accession in 1952. However, it began with personal sadness for The Queen when her sister, Princess Margaret, died at the age of 71, following a stroke
Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, died only a few weeks later. She was 101. The Queen attended her funeral at Westminster Abbey before a private committal at St George's Chapel, Windsor
The Queen celebrated her 80th birthday on 21 April 2006, when she became the third-oldest reigning monarch in British and Commonwealth history. Despite being in excellent health she has started to hand over some public duties to her children, as well as to other members of the Royal Family.
However, her popularity among British people has remained extremely high, largely thanks to her dedication to charitable courses as patron of more than 600 charities and other organisations. Her reign is not without opposition from some quarters, but polls conducted in Britain in 2006 and 2007 revealed strong support for her.
In the 2006 Ipsos MORI poll conducted on behalf of the Sun newspaper, an overwhelming 72 per cent of respondents were in favour of retaining the monarchy and this may have been down to the country’s undoubted respect and affection for Queen Elizabeth. An even greater percentage (85 per cent) were satisfied with the way the Queen carries out her role as monarch. When asked about if and when the Queen should retire, 64 per cent stated that she should "never retire".
Queen Elizabeth's popularity is not just restricted to the British Isles as more recently, referendums in Tuvalu in 2008 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 rejected proposals to abolish the monarchy.
During her Diamond Jubilee year The Queen and other members of the Royal Family will makes visits to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to mark Her Majesty’s sixty years on the throne. The celebrations will centre around the long weekend beginning 2 June, ending on a special bank holiday on 5 June. The festivities will include a concert at Buckingham Palace, and river pageant on the Thames, the Big Jubilee Lunch and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Her Majesty will be 86 on her next birthday, an age at which most people would have been retired for many years. And although she and Prince Philip will be handing some of their responsibilities on to younger members of the Royal Family, 2012 is set to be packed full of visits and celebrations.