Queen Elizabeth II ruled for 70 years and 214 days before her death on 8th September 2022, at the age of 96 years.
On February 6, 1952, when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne, she was 25 years old. In the intervening 70 years, she saw many changes, weathered scandals with grace and dignity, and kept a very full schedule of engagements and overseas visits. As of September 2015, she was the longest-ruling monarch in British history.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926, at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. That’s her true birthday, although in keeping with a tradition begun by King George II in 1748, the monarch’s official birthday was celebrated with a Trooping the Colour parade each June.
The early years of her childhood were spent between 145 Piccadilly, her parents’ London house, and White Lodge in Richmond Park—originally built as a hunting lodge for George II it now houses the Royal Ballet Lower School. In 1930 her sister Margaret was born, and soon after the family moved into Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. On the grounds, Princess Elizabeth had her own small house Y Bwthyn Bach (the Little Cottage), which was gifted to her by the people of Wales in 1932.
Princess Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V, died in 1936, and his eldest son, King Edward VIII soon decided to give up the throne in order to marry American divorcée, Mrs Wallis Simpson. In 1937 the two young princesses saw their father crowned King George VI in Westminster Abbey. Princess Elizabeth was now first in line to the throne.
As World War II progressed, the young Royals were moved to Windsor Castle for safety, as bombs rained down on London. They were educated at home and Princess Elizabeth began a study of constitutional history and law in preparation for her future role. She was also an adept student of French, as well as enjoying lessons in art, music, swimming and horse riding. A strong swimmer, she won the Children's Challenge Shield at London's Bath Club when she was thirteen. A Girl Guide since the age of eleven, she later became a Sea Ranger.
Always an animal lover since her childhood days, her greatest passions are for horses and dogs— an owner and breeder of thoroughbreds, she takes a keen interest in horseracing. She was given a corgi, named Susan, for her eighteenth birthday, from whom numerous successive dogs were bred.
Love and marriage
Princess Elizabeth’s and Prince Philip’s paths first crossed in 1934, at the wedding of his cousin, Princess Marina of Greece to The Duke of Kent, (Elizabeth’s uncle).
However, it was not until 1947 that they married, announcing their engagement on 9 July, and marrying in Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. In the aftermath of World War II, the occasion was relatively simple and like any other young bride of the time, Princess Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress. Their honeymoon was spent at Broadlands, Hampshire, the home of Lord Mountbatten, and at Birkhall, Balmoral in Scotland.
In the early years of married life, they lived as normal - a naval officer and his wife. Prince Charles was born in 1948, followed by Princess Anne in 1950. The family lived in Malta from 1949 to 1951, where Prince Philip was stationed as an officer in the Mediterranean Fleet. Princes Andrew and Edward were born in 1960 and 1964 respectively after Princess Elizabeth became Queen.
In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth was on a tour of Kenya, in place of her father, whose health was failing. On February 6 he passed away and she returned to England, as Queen, greeted upon landing by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The spectacular Coronation ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. The delay left the devastated Queen time to grieve her beloved father, before throwing herself into such a huge public celebration. Crowds braved heavy rain to gather all along the procession route, hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful young Queen as she passed by in her fairytale carriage. The Coronation ceremony was broadcast on radio around the world, as well as television, for the first time, at the Queen’s request.
The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and Gold Jubilee in 2002. Both of these years saw her undertake extensive engagements. In 1977, she embarked on a large-scale tour, wishing to mark the occasion by meeting as many of her people as possible. With trips all over the country and overseas to Commonwealth countries, it was estimated that The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled 56,000 miles during that year. The Golden Jubilee year in 2002 was similarly strenuous with tours, concerts and all manner of events, while for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, as they grew older, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped back their travels to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, leaving other members of the Royal Family to tackle the long-haul journeys.
Throughout 2022, the Queen and members of the Royal Family travelled around the country to undertake a variety of engagements to mark the Platinum Jubilee, with an extended bank holiday enjoyed from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5, to celebrate the historic milestone over four days of celebrations.
The traditional birthday parade, Trooping the Colour, saw over 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians parading down a route beginning at Buckingham Palace, joined by Members of the Royal Family on horseback and in carriages. The Parade closed with an RAF fly-past, watched by The Queen and Members of the Royal Family from the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Beacons were lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories. A service of Thanksgiving was held at St Paul’s Cathedral. Then on Saturday, June 4, was the annual Epsom Derby—surely a highlight for the keen racing fan Queen. Later that evening the BBC staged and broadcasted a special live concert from Buckingham Palace featuring some of the world’s biggest stars. Finally, on Sunday, the Big Jubilee Lunch was celebrated in every community, with street parties, picnics and barbecues. In London, the festivities closed with a pageant featuring a cast of over 5,000 people, combining street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival and costume.
Queen Elizabeth II passed away peacefully at her Scottish residence, Balmoral, near Aberdeen on September 8, 2022.
* Originally published in 2022, updated in 2023.