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Queen Elizabeth II

By: Editors

Updated: April 25, 2023 | Original: May 23, 2018

HISTORY: Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II served from 1952 to 2022 as reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and numerous other realms and territories, as well as head of the Commonwealth, the group of 53 sovereign nations that includes many former British territories. Extremely popular for nearly all of her long reign, the queen was known for taking a serious interest in government and political affairs, apart from her ceremonial duties, and was credited with modernizing many aspects of the monarchy.

Childhood and Education of a Princess

When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the elder daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was born on April 21, 1926, she apparently had little chance of assuming the throne, as her father was a younger son of King George V.

But in late 1936, her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. As a result, her father became King George VI, and 10-year-old “Lilibet” (as she was known within the family) became the heir presumptive to the throne.

Though she spent much of her childhood with nannies, Princess Elizabeth was influenced greatly by her mother, who instilled in her a devout Christian faith as well as a keen understanding of the demands of royal life. Her grandmother, Queen Mary, consort of King George V, also instructed Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret in the finer points of royal etiquette.

Educated by private tutors, with an emphasis on British history and law, the princess also studied music and learned to speak fluent French. She trained as a Girl Guide (the British equivalent of the Girl Scouts) and developed a lifelong passion for horses.

As queen, she kept many thoroughbred racehorses and frequently attended racing and breeding events. Elizabeth’s famous attachment to Pembroke Welsh corgis also began in childhood, and she owned more than 30 corgis over the course of her reign.

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Elizabeth and Margaret spent much of World War II living apart from their parents in the Royal Lodge at Windsor Castle, a medieval fortress outside London. In 1942, the king made Elizabeth an honorary colonel in the 500 Grenadier Guards, a Royal Army regiment.

Two years later, he named her as a member of the Privy Council and the Council of State, enabling her to act on his behalf when he was out of the country.

In 1947, soon after the royal family returned from an official visit to South Africa and Rhodesia, they announced Elizabeth’s engagement to Prince Philip of Greece, her third cousin (both were great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) and a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. She had set her sights on him when she was only 13, and their relationship developed through visits and correspondence during the war.

Though many in the royal circle viewed Philip as an unwise match due to his lack of money and foreign (German) blood, Elizabeth was determined and very much in love. She and Philip wed on November 20, 1947 , at Westminster Abbey .

Their first son, Charles (Prince of Wales, then King Charles III ) was born in 1948; a daughter, Anne (Princess Royal) arrived two years later. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's third child and second son, Prince Andrew, was born in 1960 and the couple's youngest child, Prince Edward, was born in 1964.

Elizabeth and Phillip were married for an extraordinary 73 years, until the Prince died in April 2021 at the age of 99.

Queen Elizabeth's Coronation

With her father’s health declining in 1951, Elizabeth stepped in for him at various state functions. After spending that Christmas with the royal family, Elizabeth and Philip left on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, making a stopover in Kenya en route.

They were in Kenya on February 6, 1952, when King George VI succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 56, and his 25-year-old daughter became the sixth woman in history to ascend to the British throne. Her formal coronation as Queen Elizabeth II took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey.

In the first decade of her reign, Elizabeth settled into her role as queen, developing a close bond with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (the first of 15 prime ministers she would work with during her reign), weathering a foreign affairs disaster in the Suez Crisis of 1956 and making numerous state trips abroad.

In response to pointed criticism in the press, the queen embraced steps to modernize her own image and that of the monarchy, including televising her annual Christmas broadcast for the first time in 1957.

Elizabeth and Philip had two more children, Andrew (born 1960) and Edward (born 1964). In 1968, Charles was formally invested as the Prince of Wales , marking his coming of age and the beginning of what would be a long period as king-in-waiting.

Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, marking her 25 years on the throne, proved a bright spot in an era of economic struggles. Always a vigorous traveler, she kept a punishing schedule to mark the occasion, traveling some 56,000 miles around the Commonwealth, including the island nations Fiji and Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the British West Indies and Canada.

Royal Scandals

In 1981, all eyes were on the royal family once again as Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Though the couple soon welcomed two sons, William and Harry , their marriage quickly imploded, causing considerable public embarrassment for the queen and the entire royal family.

In 1992, Elizabeth’s 40th year on the throne and her family’s “Annus Horribilis” (according to a speech she gave that November) both Charles and Diana and Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, separated, while Princess Anne and her husband, Mark Phillips, divorced.

A fire also broke out at Windsor Castle that same year, and amid public outcry over the use of government funds to restore the royal residence, Queen Elizabeth agreed to pay taxes on her private income. This was not required by British law, though some earlier monarchs had done so as well.

At the time, her personal fortune was estimated at $11.7 billion. In another modernizing measure, she also agreed to open the state rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public for an admission fee when she was not in residence.

Response to Lady Diana's Death

After Charles and Diana divorced in 1996, Diana remained incredibly popular with the British (and international) public. Her tragic death the following year triggered a tremendous outpouring of shock and grief, as well as outrage at the royal family for what the public saw as its ill treatment of the “People’s Princess.”

Though Queen Elizabeth initially kept the family (including Princes William and Harry) out of the public eye at Balmoral, the unprecedented public response to Diana’s death convinced her to return to London, make a televised speech about Diana, greet mourners and allow the Union Jack to fly at half-mast above Buckingham Palace.

A Modern Monarchy

The queen’s popularity, and that of the entire royal family, rebounded during the first decade of the 21st century. Though 2002 marked Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee—50 years on the throne—the death of her mother (the beloved Queen Mum) and sister early that year cast a pall on the celebrations.

In 2005, the queen enjoyed public support when she gave her assent to Prince Charles’ once-unthinkable marriage to his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles.

In her seventh decade on the throne, Queen Elizabeth presided over the pomp and circumstance of another royal wedding at Westminster Abbey, that of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in April 2011. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are in line to become Britain’s next king and queen, continued the line of succession with their children, Prince George (born 2013), Princess Charlotte (born 2015) and Prince Louis (born 2018).

In September 2015, Elizabeth surpassed the record of 63 years and 216 days on the throne set by Queen Victoria (her great-great-grandmother) to become the longest-reigning British monarch in history. A consistent presence by his wife’s side and one of Britain’s busiest royals for much of her reign, Prince Philip stepped down from his royal duties in 2017, at the age of 96. That same year, the royal couple celebrated 70 years of marriage, making theirs the longest union in the history of the British monarchy. Philip died in 2021, at the age of 99. 

In May 2018, Prince Harry wed the American actress Meghan Markle , a biracial divorcée. The couple had a son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, in 2019, and a daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, in 2021. Harry and Meghan announced they would be stepping back from senior royal duties in January 2020 and subsequently relocated to Los Angeles.

Rumors swirled at various times that Queen Elizabeth would step aside and let Prince Charles take the throne. In 2017, she delegated some of her royal obligations, such as the official Remembrance Day ceremony, to him, fueling speculation that she was preparing to bequeath the throne to her eldest son. Instead, she remained a consistent, stable presence at the head of Britain’s reigning family until her peaceful death on September 8, 2022 at her beloved country residence, Balmoral Castle. 

In the final years of her reign, she continued many of her official duties, public appearances and spent plenty of time outside with her beloved dogs and horses. Two days before her death, she officially installed a new prime minister, Liz Truss.

biography queen

HISTORY Vault: Profiles: Queen Elizabeth II

Chart the unexpected rise and record-breaking reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which unfolded in the turbulent modern history of the English monarchy.

Her Majesty the Queen, The Royal Household website . Sally Bedell Smith, Elizabeth the Queen ( Penguin Random House, 2012 ). Queen Elizabeth II – Fast Facts, CNN . “Will Queen Elizabeth Give Prince Charles the Throne in 2018?” Newsweek .

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The life of Queen Elizabeth II – a timeline

Key dates in the life of the Queen, from her birth in April 1926 to her death in September 2022

The Queen Mother (then the Duchess of York) with her husband, King George VI (then the Duke of York), and their daughter Princess Elizabeth at her christening

21 April 1926

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor is born at 2.40am at 17 Bruton Street, London, her maternal grandparents’ house. It was home to her parents, Elizabeth (née Bowes-Lyon), and Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. She was third in line to the throne behind her father and Edward, Prince of Wales.

21 August 1930

Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret Rose , is born.

20 January 1936

George V dies. Edward VIII becomes king .

Princess Elizabeth hugging a corgi dog, 1936

10 December 1936

Edward VIII abdicates so that he can marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

11 December 1936

Bertie, the Duke of York, is formally proclaimed King George VI. Princess Elizabeth is now heiress presumptive.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret as guide and brownie, in 1937

Elizabeth becomes a Girl Guide at the age of 11.

12 May 1937

Coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey.

King George VI after the coronation ceremony with his wife Queen Elizabeth and daughters Elizabeth and Margaret

21 April 1939

Elizabeth celebrates her 13th birthday , and begins a course of study at home under the vice-provost of Eton College.

22 July 1939

Princess Elizabeth meets Cadet Capt Philip of Greece at the Royal Dartmouth naval college.

3 September 1939

Britain declares war on Germany.

7 September 1940

The blitz on London begins. While the King and Queen stay in the city, Elizabeth and Margaret are evacuated to Windsor.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret making a broadcast to the children of the Empire during World War II

13 October 1940

Elizabeth makes her first broadcast to the nation.

21 April 1942

On her 16th birthday, Elizabeth carries out her first public engagement when she inspects the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed colonel-in-chief.

Princess Elizabeth holding Sue, a corgi pup, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, 1944

21 April 1944

Elizabeth receives her first corgi , Susan, as an 18th birthday present.

4 March 1945

Elizabeth joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service , learning how to drive and maintain vehicles.

Elizabeth makes her first overseas visit, to South Africa , and gives a speech dedicating herself to the Commonwealth.

10 July 1947

Buckingham Palace announces the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lt Philip Mountbatten , her third cousin.

Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip 20 November 1947

20 November 1947

The couple marry at Westminster Abbey. He is thenceforth known as the Duke of Edinburgh.

14 November 1948

Prince Charles is born.

15 August 1950

Princess Anne, now the Princess Royal, is born.

31 January 1950

Elizabeth and Philip leave for a tour of east Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Queen Elizabeth II of England gets off plane, greeted by (from R to L) Sir Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden and Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton and Lord President of the Council, 8 February 1952, as she returns from Kenya

6 February 1952

George VI dies and Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne. She is in Kenya when her father dies – the first British monarch since George I to be out of the country at the time of succession.

Queen Elizabeth II (right) and Princess Margaret Rose (1930 - 2002), wearing black veils in the mourning cortege of their late father, King George VI between Sandringham House, Norfolk and Westminster Hall, London

15 February 1952

Funeral of George VI takes place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with their two young children

7 April 1952

Proclamation issued declaring the family’s dynastic surname will remain Windsor.

biography queen

2 June 1953

Coronation of Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in the first televised coronation service.

24 November 1953

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh embark on a tour of the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh leave the House of Assembly in Hamilton, Bermuda, during a six-month tour of the Commonwealth nations, November 1953

15 May 1954

The royal couple return to England after six months abroad.

Princess Margaret in a limousine on her way to Clarence House after a weekend in the country where Peter Townsend was also a guest, 17 October 1955

31 October 1955

Princess Margaret releases a statement confirming she will not marry Gp Capt Peter Townsend. Her relationship with him had been controversial because he was divorced, and her request to marry him – with its echoes of the abdication crisis – had been opposed by large sections of the establishment.

November 1956

Britain and France invade Egypt in a botched attempt to seize control of the Suez canal. Lord Mountbatten later claimed the Queen disapproved of the venture.

21 October 1957

The Queen visits New York and addresses the UN general assembly.

Prince Andrew in Queen Elizabeth II’s arms, 22 March 1960, Buckingham Palace

19 February 1960

Prince Andrew, now the Duke of York, is born.

Newly-wed Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband, the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones wave 6 May 1960 from Buckingham Palace in London on their wedding day

Princess Margaret marries the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.

The Queen with Her New Baby: H.M. Queen Elizabeth II with her fourth child, Prince Edward, who was born 10 March 1964

10 March 1964

Prince Edward, now the Earl of Wessex, is born.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Pictured here passing the Berlin Wall in the Potsdamer Platz , Berlin in an open top car, 27 May 1965

The Queen visits West Germany, the first British monarch to do so since the first world war.

20 September 1967

The Queen launches the Cunard cruise liner the Queen Elizabeth II (popularly known as the QE2).

21 June 1969

First broadcast of Royal Family , a documentary with unprecedented access to the family’s daily life.

Queen Elizabeth II crowns her son Charles, Prince of Wales, during his investiture ceremony at Caernarvon Castle

1 July 1969

Prince Charles is invested Prince of Wales. Lord Snowdon designs a new coronet for the occasion as the Duke of Windsor took the previous one with him to Paris.

First walkabout during a state visit of Australia and New Zealand.

Sir Roden and Lady Cutler, and Sir Robert and Lady Askin with Queen Elizabeth and the Duke at the opening of the Opera House, 20 October 1973

20 October 1973

The Queen opens Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House in Australia.

14 November 1973

Princess Anne marries Capt Mark Phillips.

Queen Elizabeth II pays an official visit to the Cook Islands, 1974

February 1974

The Queen’s tour of Australia and Polynesia is interrupted after the prime minister Edward Heath calls a snap general election. She flies back to Britain.

November 1975

The Queen refuses to intervene in an Australian constitutional crisis when the prime minister Gough Whitlam is dismissed by the governor general Sir John Kerr.

biography queen

7 June 1977

Queen’s silver jubilee. More than a million people line the streets of London, and a chain of beacons is lit across the country.

The Union flag-draped coffin of Lord Mountatten rests on a catafalque during the funeral service in Westminster Abbey

27 August 1979

Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle, is killed by an IRA bomb off the coast of Sligo in the west of Ireland.

November 1979

Sir Anthony Blunt, the former surveyor of the Queen’s pictures, is exposed as a communist spy.

Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales pose for photographs following the announcement of their engagement in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on February 24, 1981 in London

24 February 1981

Prince Charles announces his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, following their wedding at St. Pauls Cathedral, June 29, 1981

29 July 1981

Charles and Diana marry in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

13 June 1981

Shots are fired at the Queen as she attends Trooping the Colour. Marcus Serjeant, a 17-year-old air cadet from Folkestone, Kent, pleads guilty under the 1842 Treason Act and is jailed for five years. The shots were blanks.

Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales look on lovingly at baby Prince William on the day of his Christening at Buckingham Palace in 1982

21 June 1982

Diana gives birth to Prince William.

9 July 1982

Michael Fagan breaks into the Queen’s bedroom during the early hours, evading alarms, guards and police. He sits on the edge of her bed, talking for 10 minutes, before being led away by footman Paul Whybrew, given a whisky and arrested.

Princess Diana at St Mary’s Hospital after the birth of her baby son Prince Harry Birth of Prince Harry, Lindo Wing, St Mary’s Hospital, London, September 1984

15 September 1984

Diana gives birth to Prince Harry.

23 July 1986

Andrew marries publishing executive Sarah Ferguson , known as Fergie.

7 June 1992

The first instalment of the serialisation of Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, appears in the Sunday Times , revealing that Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles continued to have an affair during his marriage to Diana, that Diana tried to kill herself and had bulimia. It later emerges that much of the information had been supplied by Diana herself.

The fire at Windsor Castle

20 November 1992

Windsor Castle is partly destroyed by fire.

24 November 1992

The Queen gives a speech at Guildhall to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession. In it, she refers to recent events as part of an “annus horribilis”.

9 December 1992

The prime minister John Major announces in the House of Commons that Charles and Diana are to separate.

Buckingham Palace is opened to the general public for the first time to help fund the restoration of Windsor Castle.

The Queen and the French president François Mitterrand open the Channel Tunnel.

28 August 1996

Charles and Diana’s marriage is dissolved

31 August 1997

Diana dies in a car crash in Paris. The Queen stays in seclusion for several days, and is heavily criticised in the press for her silence. Then, on the eve of Diana’s funeral, she does a walkabout to meet mourners outside Buckingham Palace and gives a televised address, speaking “as your Queen and as a grandmother” and paying tribute to Diana. “She was an exceptional and gifted human being,” she said. “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.”

Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia returns to Portsmouth flying her paying-off pennant for the last time

11 December 1997

Her Majesty’s yacht Britannia is decommissioned; the government decides against funding a replacement.

Queen Elizabeth II making her speech in the House of Lords

24 November 1998

The Queen’s speech at the opening of parliament announces plans to abolish the traditional rights of 700 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

Queen Elizabeth II, In Cardiff for the Official Opening of the National Assembly of Wales

26 May 1999

The Queen opens the national assembly in Wales.

The Queen and Prince Phillip leave Holyrood House in Edinburgh

1 July 1999

The Queen opens the Scottish parliament.

Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, dies .

30 March 2002

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, dies .

30 April 2002

Elizabeth launches her golden jubilee celebrations with a speech to both houses of parliament.

9 April 2005

Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall. The Queen attends the service of blessing held for the couple at St George’s Chapel.

21 April 2006

The Queen celebrates her 80th birthday.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh re-visit Broadlands, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary on November 20

19 Nov 2007

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh mark their 60th wedding anniversary.

22 December 2007

Elizabeth II surpasses Victoria to become the UK’s oldest reigning monarch.

14 Oct 2010

The Queen cancels a planned Christmas party at Buckingham Palace after deciding it would be inappropriate to celebrate as Britons feel the effects of the economic crisis.

29 April 2011

Prince William, second in line to the throne , marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.

17-20 May 2011

The Queen visits Ireland , becoming the first British monarch to do so since its independence in 1921. She expresses sympathy to those who suffered during hundreds of years of conflict between the two neighbours.

The 60th anniversary of the death of George VI and of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.

2-5 June 2012

Events take place throughout the country to celebrate Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee , including a pageant of 670 boats sailing along the Thames in London.

Actor Daniel Craig playing James Bond escorting Queen Elizabeth II through the corridors of Buckingham Palace

27 July 2012

The Queen opens the London Olympics . In her first acting role, a film shows her leaving Buckingham Palace with James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, and appearing to parachute into the stadium in Stratford, east London.

25 April 2013

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 receives royal assent , so that the eldest child inherits the throne regardless of gender. The act also ends the disqualification from the line of succession of a person married to a Catholic.

4 June 2013

The Queen joins 2,000 guests for a service at Westminster Abbey to mark 60 years since her coronation.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they sit with their son Prince George in the garden of the Middleton family home in Bucklebury, Berkshire

22 July 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a son at 4.24pm. Prince George is third in line to the throne.

The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a daughter at 8.34am. Princess Charlotte is fourth in line to the throne.

Queen Elizabeth at her desk in her private audience room in Buckingham Palace

9 September 2015

The Queen surpasses her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, and becomes Britain’s longest ever reigning monarch.

21 April 2016

The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh raises his hat in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, makes his final individual public engagement as he attends a parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge

2 August 2017

Prince Philip, aged 96, retires from his official royal duties as the Queen’s consort, having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952.

Queen Elizabeth II posing wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery given to her by King George VI as a wedding gift in 1947

6 February 2017

The Queen becomes the first British monarch to commemorate a sapphire jubilee.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, taken in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle

20 November 2017

The Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary after 70 years of marriage. She is the first British monarch to do so.

23 April 2018

The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a second son at 11.01am. Prince Louis is fifth in line to the throne.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex emerge from the West Door of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, after their wedding ceremony.

19 May 2018

Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, marries Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Prince Harry, Meghan and Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, show their newborn son Archie to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle, 8 May

The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a son at 5.26am. Archie Mountbatten-Windsor is seventh in line to the throne.

20 November 2019

The Queen in effect suspends Prince Andrew from duties by giving him permission to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” after intense public reaction to a BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

8 January 2020

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce they will step back from their roles in public life as senior members of the royal family, and will divide their time between the UK and North America. The couple confirm they will become financially independent and cease to represent the Queen. They retain their HRH stylings but are not permitted to use them.

19 March 2020

The Queen and Prince Philip move to Windsor Castle and sequester there as a precaution as the coronavirus hits the UK. Public engagements are cancelled and Windsor Castle follows a strict sanitary protocol nicknamed HMS Bubble.

Queen Elizabeth during her address to the nation and the Commonwealth in relation to the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19), recorded at Windsor Castle

5 April 2020

The Queen gives a rare televised address to the nation , the fifth in her 68-year reign, as an unprecedented lockdown is enforced. The monarch thanks her subjects for following government rules to stay at home, praises key workers, and asks people to “take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return”. She adds: “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” The broadcast is watched by an estimated 24 million viewers.

7 March 2021

In a hotly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey , the Duchess of Sussex claims members of the royal family had openly expressed concerns about how dark her son Archie’s skin would be and says they had tried to deny him a royal title. Both Meghan and Prince Harry make a point of praising the Queen and instead direct their criticism at the royal household. Two days later, the Queen issues a statement saying “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning” and that “some recollections may vary”.

9 April 2021

Prince Philip dies “peacefully” at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle, two months before his 100th birthday. The Queen, who was at his bedside, describes his death as leaving “a huge void” in her life. Philip is the longest-serving royal consort in history.

Elizabeth II takes her seat for the funeral service of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh inside St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle

17 April 2021

Funeral of Prince Philip at Windsor. He had indicated wishes for a smaller funeral, though amendments were still made to bring his service in line with Covid regulations, including quarantine for members of his family travelling from abroad.

4 June 2021

The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a daughter. Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor is eighth in line to the throne.

20 October 2021

The Queen reluctantly cancels a planned two-day visit to Northern Ireland after advice from her doctors that she should rest.

Queen Elizabeth II records a video message to attendees on the opening day of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, 1 November

The Queen spends a night at King Edward VII’s hospital after being admitted for “preliminary investigations” having cancelled a two-day trip to Northern Ireland on the advice of doctors that she should rest for a few days. A palace source said a “cautious approach” had been taken by the medical team aiding the monarch and the overnight stay was for practical reasons, adding that she returned to Windsor and was undertaking “light duties” the next day. It was her first overnight stay in hospital since 2013, when she was treated for gastroenteritis.

13 Jan 2022

The Queen further distances the monarchy from the Duke of York by stripping him of his military affiliations and royal patronages. The palace also says he will not use the style His Royal Highness in any official capacity. The move means Prince Andrew is completely removed from royal life.

15 February 2022

Prince Andrew settles the sexual assault case filed against him by Virginia Giuffre for an undisclosed sum, avoiding having to give evidence in a trial and protecting the royal family from further reputational damage.

Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, along with Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as part of Trooping the Colour parade during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London on 2 June 2022

2-5 June 2022

The Queen celebrates her platinum jubilee after a record 70 years on the throne. She crowns the historic celebrations with a last-minute appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, bringing to a close four days of festivities over a bumper bank holiday weekend. In a written message, she says she is “humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate”.

Queen Elizabeth II welcomes Liz Truss during an audience at at Balmoral, Scotland

6 September 2022

In a break from tradition as a result of her ongoing mobility issues, the Queen appoints the 15th prime minister of her reign , Liz Truss, at Balmoral Castle rather than Buckingham Palace. The outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson, also travels to Scotland to offer his resignation to the Queen. The following day she postpones a privy council meeting, which she was due to attend virtually, under doctors’ advice to rest.

This article was amended on 14 September 2022 because an earlier version incorrectly referred to Mitterrand as the prime minister of France. He was the president.

  • Queen Elizabeth II

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The life and legacy of Britain’s longest-serving monarch

LONDON — She was born a royal but with little hope of wearing the crown. 

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, known by her family as Lilibet , was born April 21, 1926 — third in line to the throne after her uncle and her father. But a scandalous royal love affair changed the course of Lilibet’s life and paved the way for her to become the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch, a much-admired symbol of comfort and continuity and arguably the most famous woman in the world. 

Elizabeth’s reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age — 70 years of endurance and stoicism in which she met generations of legendary, mostly male, global leaders and helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire and its emergence as a midsized multicultural nation.

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From a young queen to the grandmother of the nation, decade after decade she smiled, waved, shook hands and chatted with a vast number of her subjects and admirers, despite family scandals and the tragedy of a dead princess.  

Royal Pets

Her cool, reliable cheerfulness made her overwhelmingly popular with the British public.

Queen Elizabeth II died Thursday . Her eldest son, Charles, is now king.

On the eve of World War II, her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 after his marriage proposal to an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, erupted in a scandal that engulfed the royal family and embroiled the country’s politicians. 

Elizabeth’s father became a reluctant King George VI, making Elizabeth the direct heir to the crown. 

Elizabeth assumed the throne in 1952 at the age of 25 after the sudden death of her father in his sleep at 56. In the 70 years since, she worked with 15 British prime ministers and met every U.S. president during her time as queen except Lyndon Johnson. The vast majority of Britons have never known another monarch, and she remained overwhelmingly popular until her death.

Coronation Scene

She reigned against the backdrop of vast cultural and political transformations — the end of Britain’s age of deference and its empire, and the advent of globalization and the multimedia age. Throughout, she and her family experienced unprecedented levels of public exposure and, at times, a fractious relationship with the media.

Elizabeth also oversaw the monarchy’s evolution into a champion of a diminished United Kingdom at home and abroad, and she worked tirelessly to keep the crown relevant in a changing world. A source of unending fascination to many, she’s been the subject of movies, plays and TV series, including “The Crown,” “The Queen,” and “The Royal House of Windsor.”

“She has throughout her reign managed to make people feel that she is the spirit and the soul of the country,” said Clive Irving, the author of “The Last Queen: How Queen Elizabeth II Saved the Monarchy.” “She gives over a maternal feeling. She’s a safe pair of hands at the top. No one else has ever been able to convey that as she did.”

That was evident most recently during the pandemic, when early on the queen addressed the U.K. in a rare broadcast to urge her subjects to show the same “self-discipline” and “quiet good-humored resolve” that characterized previous generations.

The queen, whose image adorns stamps, money and mailboxes, is more than a mere figurehead: She played an essential role in the functioning of the U.K. as a constitutional monarchy. After an election, it is the U.K.’s monarch who calls on the political parties to form a government. The monarch also must give assent to all legislation passed by Parliament, and meets weekly with the prime minister to discuss government matters. They are legally allowed to “advise and warn” the government’s ministers.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at the end of a dinner he hosted at No. 10 Downing Street in London on April 4, 1955. Lady Churchill stands in the doorway as she follows the queen.

Crucial to what is widely seen as a successful reign was Elizabeth’s ability to appear ubiquitous and at the same time remain an enigma. She accomplished this by avoiding expressing her political views or making controversial statements in public — no mean feat for someone constantly in the limelight. This meant keeping her own counsel during thousands of events, appearances and speeches, according to Philip Murphy, the director of history and policy at the University of London.

“She has an incredible capacity for repeating the same sorts of rather dull official events which clearly mean an awful lot to other people,” said Murphy. “So much of being a constitutional monarch is the repetition of boring regimes, and there’s something about her that has never rebelled against that. She would call that a sense of duty.”

During the war, Elizabeth and her sister went to live in Windsor, while their parents stayed in London despite the heavy bombardment from German bombers. She made her first radio address in 1940, speaking to other children who had been separated from their families to keep them safe. 

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret make a broadcast to the children of the Empire during World War II on Oct. 10, 1940.

Toward the end of the conflict, the princess joined the all-female Auxiliary Territorial Service and trained as a mechanic. 

It was during the war that the young royal began to date her future husband.  

Philip , her third cousin, was a Greek prince but had spent most of his childhood in the U.K. His family fled Greece after a revolution and were largely penniless. The couple first crossed paths in 1934 at a family wedding and then met again in 1939 when she was 13 and he was 18. While he was stationed abroad during the war, they wrote letters to each other, but his background and her youth were a cause of concern to other members of the royal family. 

During their courtship, Philip and Elizabeth would go out driving in Philip’s tiny MG sports car, as well as dancing at London nightclubs. The couple announced their engagement in July 1947 after Elizabeth returned from her first trip abroad to South Africa. They wed that November, and Philip renounced his Greek title and became a British citizen.

Two years later, they moved to Malta, where Philip was stationed with the British Navy and she lived as an officer’s wife, far from the public eye. Royal observers have speculated that these were some of the happiest years of Elizabeth’s life, a time when she was able to drive her own car and mingle with other officers’ wives without the layers of security and protocol that have defined her reign. 

Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, look out over the harbor and city of Valetta, Malta, on Nov. 23, 1949.

Their relative freedom was cut short when King George, who’s health had long been precarious, suddenly deteriorated. At the time of his death in February 1952, Elizabeth was in Kenya on a royal tour with Philip. After word reached an aide, Philip broke the news to Elizabeth during a walk.

Royal experts say it was Elizabeth’s husband, five years her senior, who helped guide the young queen in the early years.

“She was so young when she ascended the throne,” royal biographer Ingrid Seward said, adding that Elizabeth followed much of the tradition her father had established. “Everything was completely archaic. It was so old-fashioned. I think more than anyone, Prince Philip helped move the monarchy up.”

That was particularly evident in the way he helped revamp the royal estates — the land and holdings belonging to the crown — making their operations profitable, she said.

Philip’s influence on the monarchy as an institution was mirrored in their personal lives, as well.

In one of her more revealing speeches about her husband on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1997, the queen referred to his “constant love and help” and said, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

Philip, who retired from his official royal duties in 2017, died in April 2021 at the age of 99. He and Elizabeth were married for 73 years.

In addition to Prince Charles, Elizabeth is survived by two sons, Princes Andrew and Edward; a daughter, Princess Anne; four grandsons; four granddaughters; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Over her 70-year reign , the queen eased the U.K. into its new post-World War II role, which had been diminished after the loss of its colonies around the world.

The queen placed a strong emphasis on her position as the head of the Commonwealth , a loose alliance of more than 50 countries, many of which are former British colonies.

“The queen had to work out how to manage decline — the dissolution of the empire, coming to terms with diminished power — but she also understood that diminished power does not have to mean diminished quality,” Irving said.

Her extensive travels around the globe, many on her beloved royal yacht Britannia, helped raise the profile of the U.K. and brought a dose of glamor to the places she visited. In 1961, she visited the former British colony of Ghana, which had gained independence just a few years earlier in 1957. During that trip, a charm offensive in one of the first members of the Commonwealth , she was filmed dancing with the country’s leader, Kwame Nkrumah, at a time when segregation still existed in the U.S.

Like with so much else that the queen does, it was her actions and not her words that carried weight. 

“A man could not have done it,” historian Nat Nunoo Amarteifio said in the BBC documentary “The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story.” “Here is our president, being respected enough by the queen of England for her to put her arms around him.”

While she was lauded for her work abroad, she was also praised for opening up the royal household and giving the public a glimpse of the family’s life at home.

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Anne, Princess Royal, and Charles, Prince of Wales at Frogmore Cottage during the filming of the documentary, "Royal Family," on April 21, 1968.

A 1969 documentary, “Royal Family,” revealed the royal couple’s private life for the first time, showing Elizabeth and Philip having dinnertime conversations and engaging in other regular activities, including barbecuing.

“People realized they weren’t gods. They were real people,” Seward said. “A lot of people said this was a turning point.”

While the queen’s steady consistency was largely considered a boon for the monarchy, her children and grandchildren’s lives have occasionally been a thorn in the side of monarchists. 

Most recently, her grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan , accused an unnamed member of the royal family of asking how dark the skin of their children would be. The couple gave up their royal duties and left the U.K. in 2020. 

Just before their departure, the queen was faced with a growing scandal around her son Prince Andrew’s friendship with the accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew stepped down from his public duties in support of the queen in November 2019, and she stayed largely silent on the topic.  

Despite the recent challenges facing the monarchy, its popularity has remained high. That hasn’t always been the case. 

In the early 1990s, Charles’ rocky marriage to Princess Diana was all over the news, eventually ending in divorce in 1992. In one of the queen’s most famous speeches marking the 40th anniversary of her ascension, she referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” or disastrous year. Speaking just days after a blaze destroyed a large part of her Windsor Castle residence, the queen made a plea for understanding, saying that “most people try to do their jobs as best they can, even if the result is not always entirely successful.”  

Princess Diana with her mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth II watching polo on May 31, 1987.

Five years later, when Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris and the world mourned, Elizabeth was criticized for staying silent for days and hunkering down at her home in Scotland with Charles and Diana’s sons, her grandsons Princes William and Harry. Satisfaction with the way she was doing her job dipped to 66 percent after that, according to the U.K. polling company Ipsos Mori. (At the time of her 60th anniversary on the throne in 2012, her popularity had risen to 90 percent.)

“I think that was an extremely challenging time for the monarchy, because people couldn’t understand why the royal family weren’t responding as they wanted to,” Seward said of Diana’s death. “In times of great tragedy, they just always lock down. ... They don’t grieve in public. And people wanted more than that.”

When the queen finally returned to London nearly a week later, she paid tribute to Diana . “I for one believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death,” Elizabeth said.

She acknowledged in a 1997 speech that the monarchy “exists only with the support and consent of the people.” 

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince , Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge watch a flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Color on June 2, 2022 in London.

In September 2015, she became the longest-serving monarch in British history, surpassing her great-great-grandmother Victoria’s record of 63 years, 216 days.

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception,” the queen noted at the time.

While she carried on working until the end, meeting foreign dignitaries, visiting cities around the U.K., supporting charities and promoting her kingdom at home and abroad, she had canceled a number of appearances and events toward the end. 

Perhaps the greatest measure of Elizabeth’s success in carrying the House of Windsor into the future will be how it continues on in her absence. Charles, 73, now becomes king , a role he’s been groomed for since birth. 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waits in the Drawing Room before receiving Liz Truss for an audience at Balmoral, where Truss was be invited to become Prime Minister and form a new government, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on Sept. 6, 2022.

At his 70th birthday celebration, in November 2018, Elizabeth called him “a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history — and a wonderful father.”

Yet his popularity is nowhere near as high as his mother’s, coming in sixth on YouGov’s royal popularity ranking, behind his sister, Anne.

While most Britons “love” the queen, Irving said, “the question is how relevant does the monarchy remain after the queen.”

Rachel Elbaum is a London-based editor, producer and writer. 


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9 Books to Read About Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth, famously reticent during her decades in the public eye, was a source of fascination for many. These books offer a deeper understanding of her life, family and world.

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By The New York Times Books Staff

During the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, through times of turbulence and peace, celebration, controversy and scandal, the monarchy has been an object of fascination.

Elizabeth, who died on Thursday at 96 , became Britain’s sovereign in 1952. Her reign, which spanned 15 British prime ministers and 14 American presidents, coincided with tremendous social and cultural change at home and abroad, as its empire overseas fell away.

Her duties were largely ceremonial, but supporters felt that she, and the monarchy, played an important and stabilizing role as the anchor of the country. Critics, on the other hand, considered the institution expensive and increasingly irrelevant in modern life.

Her coronation in 1953 was the first in Britain to be broadcast on television almost from beginning to end, and she struggled throughout her life to balance the norms and traditions with 24-hour news cycles and a far more public age. All the while, she worked to keep intact the public consensus the monarchy needed to survive.

Here are nine books we recommend for a deeper understanding of Elizabeth, her family and her time as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. — Elizabeth A. Harris

‘Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch,’ by Sally Bedell Smith

This thorough but deferential biography was published to coincide with the queen’s diamond jubilee. Smith — who has also written books about Princess Diana, Prince Charles and various American presidents — “curtsies before the British throne as deeply as a lady-in-waiting,” as wrote Alan Riding in The Times in 2012. Smith consulted public sources, friends and former courtiers of the queen who shared “intimate tidbits (all too often about horses and corgis). But despite that,” Riding goes on, “She faces a problem encountered, I suspect, by other royal biographers. Elizabeth has lived a remarkable life yet one that, quite frankly, is a bit dull to recount. Put differently, her somewhat dysfunctional family has provided far livelier copy.” — Elisabeth Egan

Read the review

‘Queen of the World: The Global Biography,’ by Robert Hardman

In this 2018 biography, Hardman, a journalist known for his reporting on the royal family, explores the queen’s global standing, her role as the head of the British Commonwealth and her extensive international travels. He catalogs her most significant international trips, and lists some of the memorable gifts she received during her journeys — including a pair of Brazilian jaguars and a baby crocodile, presented in a biscuit tin by a boy in Senegal. He details the byzantine protocols and security measures that were part of her travels to at least 126 nations and territories. “No one is entirely sure how many miles she has traveled,” he writes. “No monarch — perhaps no world leader — has seen as much of the planet and its peoples as Queen Elizabeth II.” — Alexandra Alter

‘The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil,’ by Tina Brown

Even if you think you know all there is to know about the difficult last decade in the life of the royal family — and even if you think you don’t care — you’ll find yourself riveted. This book is Brown at her best: acerbically funny, compassionate, and fully sourced. Ingeniously structured, the narrative has chapters devoted to central players whose stories tell the broader story of the Windsors through their many rises and falls. Brown is particularly sympathetic when it comes to imagining the romantic lives of her protagonists — and everyone here is a protagonist. The result has the exhilaration of real-life gossip, while offering a moving depiction of a family, and a nation, at a moment of monumental change. — Sadie Stein

‘The Queen’s Speech: An Intimate Portrait of the Queen in Her Own Words,’ by Ingrid Seward

Seward, a tireless chronicler of the monarchy, profiles the famously private Elizabeth by analyzing what little she shared with her subjects: seven decades’ worth of speeches. While this may seem like a narrow framework, in fact it’s a savvy workaround. Starting with Elizabeth’s first broadcast in 1940 — a segment on the Children’s Hour directed to young refugees when she was 14 — and continuing through a lifetime’s worth of national highs, lows, and Christmases, Seward manages to paint a surprisingly vivid portrait.

While the author has a wealth of respectful sources, it’s the queen’s words that drive the book. And that’s probably how she’d want it; she was known for the exacting attention she paid to every comma and fully aware of the implications of even the most oblique reference. Her public addresses are probably as close to a memoir as could exist. — Sadie Stein

‘Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits,’ by Cecil Beaton

Beaton, a prominent fashion and society photographer, first received a request to photograph Elizabeth, who was then a teenage princess, some 80 years ago. Over the next three decades, Beaton, who died in 1980, helped to shape the monarchy’s public image through his carefully choreographed and curated portraits . He photographed the queen during some of the most significant moments in her private and public life: in a military uniform as war broke out in England; shortly after the birth of her first child, Charles, and at her coronation in 1953. The book, which contains text by Susanna Brown, a photography curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is as much a celebration of Beaton’s talents as of his subject, Elizabeth. — Alexandra Alter

‘Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage,’ by Gyles Brandreth

“Biographers sometimes borrow the attitudes of their subjects,” our critic, Janet Maslin, wrote of this comprehensive examination of the royal union. “Perhaps that is why Gyles Brandreth would like you to know this about the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: what goes on between them, Dear Reader, is really none of your affair.” However: Brandreth, who knew Prince Philip for 25 years, does “spin little bits of information into long stories” and “ramble reasonably charmingly about royal history.” For instance, Brandreth writes, “Thanks to servants’ tittle-tattle (reliable in this instance) we do know that Prince Philip, in the early days of his marriage, did not wear pajamas.” — Elisabeth Egan

‘Elizabeth and Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters,’ by Andrew Morton

Before they were regal women waving white-gloved hands at adoring crowds, Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret , were a formidable, and occasionally antagonistic pair, leading an “insulated and carefree” life, according to Morton. “The king of royal tea,” as our reviewer described him, may rely on oft-shared sagas (for instance, the particulars of Margaret’s love life), but he makes an important point: The Windsors were regular siblings before they were royals. Morton writes, “The two sisters were contradictory and conflicted, butting heads over matters both small and monumental, but they also loved one another.” — Elisabeth Egan

‘Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret,’ by Craig Brown

Brown’s biography of the queen’s younger sister is as irreverent and untraditional as Margaret herself. Elizabeth figures into the book mainly as a foil, with a “distrust of the unexpected” that contrasts sharply with Margaret’s taste for outlandish remarks, a bohemian crowd, scandal — and vodka and orange juice. As Brown (who recounts his own in-person meeting with the queen) described the monarch: “It was her duty and destiny to be dull, to be as useful and undemonstrative as a postage stamp, her life dedicated to the near-impossible task of saying nothing of interest.” — Joumana Khatib

‘All the Queen’s Corgis: The Story of Elizabeth II and Her Most Faithful Companions,’ by Penny Junor

Everything you always wanted to know about royal corgis but were afraid to ask! The biting of footmen! The pack power struggles! The nipping at foreign dignitaries! The illicit liaisons! (A corgi who shall remain nameless mated with one of Margaret’s dachshunds, resulting in several “dorgis.”) From the time she was 7, the future queen had a Welsh corgi trotting at her heels. Her hands-on affection for her pets — she fed and walked them, even traveled with them — provides a rare window into her life, or, at any rate, those of Candy, Disco, Pundit (yes, really), Vulcan and their generations of predecessors . — Sadie Stein

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to one of aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s tenure. As queen for 70 years she was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, but not the world’s. (Louis XIV of France ruled for 72 years.)

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20 of the Best Books About Queen Elizabeth II

From exhaustive biographies, to illustrated coffee table books, and dishy accounts from former palace staffers.

queen elizabeth books

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

On the one year anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's passing, you may find yourself wanting to deepen your knowledge of the longest-reigning female monarch in world history. There's a wealth of books out there to delve into. From exhaustive biographies, to illustrated coffee table books, to dishy accounts from former palace staffers, here are 20 of the best books you can read about the queen.

Sally Bedell Smith Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

Angela Kelly The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe

The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe

To be fascinated by the Queen is to be fascinated by her wardrobe, and The Other Side of the Coin is a must-read for anyone wanting the inside scoop on those impeccably coordinated suits. Angela Kelley is the Queen’s personal dresser , and was given permission to share this exclusive glimpse into the royal costuming process, complete with never-before-seen images.

Hearst Home Town & Country: The Queen: A Life in Pictures

Town & Country: The Queen: A Life in Pictures

This carefully curated coffee table book from T&C was created by longtime royal reporter Victoria Murphy. The photographic tribute to Queen Elizabeth II features more than 300 photographs from the seven decades of her reign, spotlighting significant moments from both her public and private spheres, all accompanied by commentary and context from Murphy. The collection encompasses her coronation, her marriage to Prince Philip, her numerous royal tours around the world, her evolving wardrobe through the years, the births of her children and grandchildren, and much more.

Ingrid Seward My Husband and I: The Inside Story of the Royal Marriage

My Husband and I: The Inside Story of the Royal Marriage

If you were gripped by season two of The Crown ’s deep dive into Elizabeth and Philip’s once-troubled marriage , you’ll want to prioritize this one. Seward delves into the couple’s 70-year long marriage with a lightness of touch, detailing their courtship and ups and downs as well as their formidable bond.

Robert Lacey The Crown, The Official Companion

The Crown, The Official Companion

If while watching The Crown , you're simultaneously fact-checking each episode, this is the book for you. Written by the show's historical consultant, Robert Lacey, it offers an in-depth look at the true story behind the drama. While this volume only addresses seasons two and three, hopefully Lacey will offer a season four version soon.

Elizabeth and Philip: A Royal Love Story

Elizabeth and Philip: A Royal Love Story

Similar to Seward's text, this special edition of Town & Country centers on the Queen and Prince Philip's romance, and features the true story of their courtship and 70+ year marriage alongside rarely seen photos of the royal couple.

Sali Hughes Our Rainbow Queen: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and Her Colorful Wardrobe

Our Rainbow Queen: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and Her Colorful Wardrobe

This beautiful coffee table book by Welsh journalist Sali Hughes offers a photographic voyage through nine decades of the Queen’s wardrobe, and more importantly her color schemes .

Brian Hoey Not in Front of the Corgis: Secrets of Life Behind the Royal Curtains

Not in Front of the Corgis: Secrets of Life Behind the Royal Curtains

Admit it, this one had you at the title. Though this book isn’t exclusively about Queen Elizabeth’s famous collection of corgis (disappointing), it’s still a fun, deliberately lightweight collection of trivia and tidbits about royal life.

Sarah Bradford The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952

The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952

In order to fully understand Queen Elizabeth, and the turbulent circumstances of her ascension to the throne, you need to understand her father, King George VI. Now most famous as the subject of 2010's The King's Speech , George was forced to become King after his brother abdicated the throne, a saga which Sarah Bradford chronicles in fascinating detail.

The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

As important as King George VI is to Queen Elizabeth's story, the Queen Mother played a far more central role in her daughter's reign, having lived to see its first five decades. William Shawcross’s official biography, published seven years after the Queen Mother's death in 2002, is a weighty tome packed with details and insight into her daily life.

Carol Ann Duffy Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets for 60 Years

Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets for 60 Years

Though not technically a book about Queen Elizabeth at all, Jubilee Lines is nevertheless an evocative portrait of her reign. In this collection, published in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, 60 poets are each assigned one of the 60 Jubilee years, and write a poem related in some way to the events or reality of that year.

Ben Pimlott The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II

The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II

Originally published in 1996, this definitive and acclaimed biography of Queen Elizabeth was updated in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee. Written by the late, highly respected historian Ben Pimlott, The Queen was described by The Independent newspaper as “the standard work on its sovereign subject, while The New York Times Book Review called it a “superbly judicious biography of Elizabeth II.”

Pegasus Books Queen of the World: Elizabeth II: Sovereign and Stateswoman

Queen of the World: Elizabeth II: Sovereign and Stateswoman

Veteran royal chronicler Robert Hardman focuses his 2019 biography on a specific aspect of Queen Elizabeth – her role as the head of Commonwealth of Nations—and thus avoids retreading familiar ground. Queen of the World was described by the BBC as “an intimate portrait of the Royal commitments at home and abroad.”

Andrew Marr The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People

The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People

Scottish journalist Andrew Marr has a unique perspective as royal biographer, having once been a diehard republican (i.e. opposed to the existence of monarchy). Now an admirer of the Queen, Marr argues in this biography that “Britain without her would have been a greyer, shriller, more meagre place."

Sarah Bradford Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life In Our Times

Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life In Our Times

In this relatively recent biography of the Queen—published in 2012—Sarah Bradford places the Queen’s life in a broader historical context. Per The Telegraph , the book represents “a familiar story being sparked into new life by a skilled practitioner.”

Marion Crawford The Little Princesses

The Little Princesses

For a truly one-of-a-kind perspective on the Queen’s formative years, look no further than this extraordinary biography by Marion Crawford, who was governess to the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret for 17 years (they called her “Crawfie”). The 1950 publication of The Little Princesses caused a stir, and Crawford was reportedly shunned by the royal family for writing it.

Gyles Brandreth Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage

Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage

Another option for those fascinated by the Elizabeth/Philip dynamic, this biography by Gyles Brandreth is unusual for being focused primarily on Philip’s perspective.

Catherine Ryan The Queen: The Life and Times of Elizabeth II

The Queen: The Life and Times of Elizabeth II

This beautifully presented coffee table book takes a photo-centric approach to chronicling Queen Elizabeth’s life and reign.

Dickie Arbiter On Duty With The Queen

On Duty With The Queen

In his part-autobiography and part-royal biography, former palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter recounts how he went from working in broadcast journalism to being appointed as press secretary to the Royal family in 1988. Given Arbiter’s unparalleled access to the Queen—not to mention Princess Diana—it’s no surprise that this is a compelling, if restrained, read.

Cecil Beaton Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits by Cecil Beaton

Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits by Cecil Beaton

Society photographer Cecil Beaton was chosen to take the official photographs of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, and his portraits became some of the most iconic images from her entire reign. Along with the pictures themselves, this book offers insight into Beaton’s long relationship with the royals, and the role his work played in their public image.

Headshot of Emma Dibdin

Emma Dibdin is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles who writes about culture, mental health, and true crime. She loves owls, hates cilantro, and can find the queer subtext in literally anything.

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Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 — the second-longest reign of any British monarch.

queen victoria


Who Was Queen Victoria?

Victoria's reign saw great cultural expansion; advances in industry, science and communications; and the building of railways and the London Underground.

Born Alexandrina Victoria on May 24, 1819, Queen Victoria’s father died when she was 8 months old. Her mother became a domineering influence in her life. As a child, she was said to be warm-hearted and lively.

Educated at the Royal Palace by a governess, she had a gift for drawing and painting and developed a passion for journal writing.

Despite a feisty temperament, Victoria was famously tiny in stature, measuring just 4 feet 11 inches tall. Later in life, her weight ballooned, with her waist reportedly measuring 50 inches.

Parents and Half-Sister

Queen Victoria was the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, who was King George III 's fourth son. Her mother was Victoria Saxe-Saalfield-Coburg, sister of Leopold, king of the Belgians.

Queen Victoria also had a half-sister who was 12 years her senior, Princess Feodora, from her mother’s first marriage to Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen. When Princess Feodora was 6 years old, her father died. Her mother remarried Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, and promptly moved from Germany to England for the future queen’s birth.

Ascension to the Throne

At birth, Victoria was fifth in line to the throne. However, upon her father’s death in 1820, Victoria became the heir apparent, since her three surviving uncles — who were ahead of her in succession — had no legitimate heirs who survived childhood. When King William IV died in June 1837, Victoria became queen at the age of 18.

Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s First Prime Minister

Lord Melbourne was Victoria’s first prime minister, who served in 1834 and again from 1835 to 1841. When she first took the crown at the young age of 18 in 1837, Melbourne helped teach Victoria the intricacies of being a constitutional monarch. He acted as the queen’s political advisor and confidant during the early years of her reign.

In 1840, when Great Britain was fighting wars with Afghanistan and China and facing a working-class movement, Melbourne helped the queen work with an uncooperative Conservative government and suggested she let her husband, Albert, take the reigns of state responsibilities.

Victoria ascended to the throne at age 18 on June 20, 1837, and she served until her death at the age of 81 on January 22, 1901. Under Victoria's reign, Great Britain experienced unprecedented expansion in industry, building railways, bridges, underground sewers and power distribution networks throughout much of the empire. Seven assassination attempts were made on Victoria's life between 1840 and 1882.

There were advances in science ( Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution) and technology (the telegraph and popular press), with vast numbers of inventions; tremendous wealth and poverty; growth of great cities like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham; increased literacy; and great civic works, often funded by industrial philanthropists.

During Victoria’s reign, Britain expanded its imperial reach, doubling in size and encompassing Canada, Australia, India and various possessions in Africa and the South Pacific. The Queen was emblematic of the time: an enthusiastic supporter of the British Empire, which stretched across the globe and earned the adage: “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

At various points in her reign, Victoria exercised some influence over foreign affairs, expressing her preference, but not pressing beyond the bounds of constitutional propriety. During this time, the British Empire experienced only a few small wars, exerting its authority over foreign possessions.

One of the major factors that helped Britain avoid European entanglements was the marriage of Victoria's children: either directly or by marriage, she was related to the royal houses of nearly every major European power. Though the English constitutional arrangement denied her powers in foreign affairs, she ruled her family with an iron hand that helped keep Great Britain away from the intrigues of European politics.

During Victoria’s reign, the political climate in British Parliament went through a major transition. The Tory Party split, forming the Liberal and Conservative parties, and started a succession of opposing administrations. Victoria played a crucial role as a mediator between arriving and departing prime ministers.

Though she detested Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, she found ways to work with him, even during her mourning period. She was particularly fond of Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who linked the monarchy to the expansion of the empire, which helped restore public opinion following Victoria’s long seclusion after the death of her beloved husband Albert.

Victoria continued in her duties up to her death. In keeping with tradition, she spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, where her health quickly declined to the point that she was unable to return to London.

Queen Victoria in February 1892

The Victorian Era

Life in Britain during the 19th century was known as Victorian England because of Victoria’s long reign and the indelible stamp it and her persona placed on the country. Her strict ethics and personality have become synonymous with the era.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

In 1840, Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the son of her mother’s brother. The couple met when Victoria was just 16; their uncle Leopold suggested they marry.

Since Victoria was queen, Albert couldn’t propose to her. So she proposed to him on October 15, 1839.

At first, the British public didn’t warm up to the German prince and he was excluded from holding any official political position. At times, their marriage was tempestuous, a clash of wills between two extremely strong personalities.

However, the couple was intensely devoted to each other. Prince Albert became Victoria’s strongest ally, helping her navigate difficult political waters.

After several years of suffering from stomach ailments, Victoria's beloved Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861 at the age of 42. Victoria was devastated, sleeping with a plaster cast of his hand by her side, and went into a 25-year seclusion. For the rest of her reign, she wore black.


Queen Victoria Fact Card

Queen Victoria's Children

Victoria and Albert had nine children together:

  • Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise (1840-1901), who married the future emperor of Germany Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia in 1858. On his death three months after taking the throne, their eldest son became Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
  • Prince Albert Edward Wettin (1841-1910), who succeeded his mother to the crown as King Edward VII in 1901.
  • Princess Alice Maude Mary (1843-1878), whose daughter Alix married Nicholas II , the last Russian tzar.
  • Prince Alfred Ernest Albert (1844-1900), who married the daughter of Tzar Alexander II of Russia. His oldest daughter, Marie, wed the crown Prince of Romania.
  • Princess Helena Augusta Victoria (1846-1923)
  • Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939) created quite a scandal when she married a commoner, John Douglas Sutherland Campbell (later the Duke of Argyll).
  • Prince Arthur William Patrick (1850-1942), who married Princess Louise Margarete of Prussia.
  • Prince Leopold George Duncan (1853-1884)
  • Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria (1857-1944)

Relationship with John Brown

John Brown was Victoria’s Scottish servant and one of her closest friends, with some suggestions that the two may have been lovers. Seven years her junior and many ranks below her, the queen said Brown was her dearest friend — an unthinkable relationship at the time. He became known as “the queen’s stallion” in the royal household and pledged his lifelong loyalty to her.

There were rumors that Brown and Victoria were lovers, especially after the death of Albert. Historians have since parsed through her journals — which were edited by her daughter Beatrice — and never found evidence of an affair. But one thing is clear: She loved him. When Brown died suddenly in March 1883, Victoria told his sister-in-law that he was the “best, the truest heart that ever beat.”

Relationship with Abdul Karim

Following Brown’s death in 1883, Victoria’s servant Abdul Karim ascended into the queen’s inner circle and became her closest confidant. Karim was the son of a hospital assistant in Northern India and was brought to England to serve at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. He quickly impressed the queen with his cooking, and she asked him to teach her Urdu. Victoria lavished Karim with gifts including a private carriage, titles and honors. She also commissioned several portraits.

In letters to Karim, the queen referred to herself as “your loving mother” and “your closest friend.” However, historians do not believe that the two had a physical relationship.

Abdul’s great-grandson Javed Mahmood told The Telegraph in 2010 that they shared “a mother and son relationship. She became an Indophile in part because of her affection for him. But the prejudice of her family percolated down to Victoria’s staff.”

Victoria and Karim’s close relationship was scandalous to the royal family. Upon the queen’s death in 1901, they had all of the pair’s letters burned, and Victoria’s daughter Beatrice removed all references of Karim from the queen’s journals. Although the family followed through with the queen’s wish for Karim to be among a small group of mourners at her funeral, they later evicted Karim from the home Victoria gave to him and sent him back to India.

Karim’s relationship with Victoria was uncovered decades later by journalist Shrabani Basu, who visited the queen’s summer home in 2003 and noticed several paintings and a bust of Karim. Basu investigated their relationship and wrote a book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant .

Death and Successor

Victoria died after a lengthy period of poor health on January 22, 1901, at the age of 81. Her son, the future King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were both at her bedside.

Prince Albert Edward Wettin, Victoria’s eldest son, succeeded her to the British throne as King Edward VII upon her death in 1901.


  • Name: Victoria
  • Birth Year: 1819
  • Birth date: May 24, 1819
  • Birth City: London, England
  • Birth Country: United Kingdom
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Queen Victoria was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 — the second-longest reign of any British monarch.
  • World Politics
  • Astrological Sign: Gemini
  • Interesting Facts
  • Queen Victoria was tiny, standing at 4 feet, 11 inches tall.
  • Queen Victoria's reign lasted 63 years, surpassed by great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.
  • Death Year: 1901
  • Death date: January 22, 1901
  • Death City: Near Cowes, Isle of Wight, England
  • Death Country: United Kingdom

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  • Article Title: Queen Victoria Biography
  • Author: Editors
  • Website Name: The website
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  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: March 15, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014
  • We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.
  • Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.
  • I don't dislike babies, though I think very young ones rather disgusting.

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Marcus Aurelius

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