The life of Queen Elizabeth II
As Queen Elizabeth turns 90, we take a look at some pivotal moments in her life and reign, complemented by our related free learning resources.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is born
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 02:40 on 21 April 1926 to Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. Her grandfather was King George V. Her birth generated public interest but, as third in line to the throne, she was not expected to become queen.
- Find out more about the era Queen Elizabeth was born in with our free course Roaring Twenties? Europe in the inter-war era.
George V dies and Edward VIII abdicates
Elizabeth's uncle Edward took to the throne in 1936 after the death of her grandfather. Later that year Edward abdicated, after his proposed marriage to divorcee Wallis Simpson caused a constitutional crisis. As a result, Elizabeth's father (King George VI) took the position and Elizabeth became heir presumptive.
- Explore how different the world may have been if Edward VIII, an alleged Nazi sympathiser, had remained on the throne with our article 'Former King wanted England bombed and an Anglo-German alliance, archives reveal.'
Britain enters World War Two
In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Margaret, spent their time in Windsor castle. In 1940, the 14-year-old Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities.Later on in the war she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.
- Discover how some nations suffered harshly during the shortages of wartime and others adapted and managed to keep their populace well-fed in our Wartime Farm: Food in the World War map.
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret mingle with VE day crowds
On Victory in Europe Day, Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret mingled anonymously with the crowds in London. She later said, "We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised ... I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief."
- Discover how one country in the Commonwealth, New Zealand, celebrated Victory in Europe Day with our article: VE day half a world away: How New Zealand celebrated victory in Europe.
Elizabeth marries Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark
Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and they married in 1947 at Westimster Abbey. Due to criticism on the fact Prince Philip was foreign, beefore the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles and converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism. Their first child, Prince Charles, was born on 14 November 1948. Their second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.
- How does a relationship last as long as Queen Elizabeth's and Prince Philips? Explore with our Enduring Love video and article.
Elizabeth becomes Queen
On 6 February 1952, the Queen received news that her father King George VI had died. As she was on tour in Kenya at the time, the Royal family flew back to the UK immediately and moved into Buckingham Palace. The Queen's coronation took place on 2nd June 1953 and was televised. She decided her regnal name should remain Elizabeth.
- Find out about the life and turbulent times of the original Queen Elizabeth with our article Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603).
The British Empire Declines
The Queen's reign has seen the decline of the British Empire. In 1965 the Rhodesian Prime Minister, Ian Smith declared unilateral independence from Britain while still extending "loyalty and devotion" to Elizabeth. While not as hasty, other countries gradually became independent and the 1960s and 1970s saw the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean from the British Empire. As a result, the UK looked to Europe for stronger trade ties.
- Discover how British colonialism changed the English language with our podcast series Postcolonial English.
The Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee
In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession to the throne. The Commonwealth celebrated with street parties, concerts and other events, these went hand-in-hand with her national and Commonwealth tours.
- Read up on how festivals and other social events like street parties can bring brilliant social bonding within towns with our article 'We all look forward to it': The social value of a festival in the town.
The Queen's eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales marries Lady Diana Spencer
The the 'fairytale' wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer took place on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral. All of the Queen's governors-general, as well as Europe's crowned heads, attended the ceremony. It was expected that Princess Diana would eventually become Queen and millions across the globe watched the event.
- Princess Diana was the most photographed woman during her life, explore why we are obsessed with certain people with our free course Understanding media: The celebrity in the text.
The Queen has her annus horribilis
Queen Elizabeth refers to 1992 as her annus horribilis (horrible year). In March, her second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and his wife, Sarah (Fergie), separated. Then in April, her daughter, Princess Anne, divorced Captain Mark Phillips. She had eggs thrown at her on a trip to Germany and then there was a large fire at Windsor Castle. The Prime Minister, John Major, announced reforms to the royal finances, the Queen had to start paying income tax from 1993 onwards. The big blow happened in December when Prince Charles and his wife, Diana, formally separated.
- Explore the words 'annus horribilis' and other latin words and phrases in our free course Getting started on classical Latin.
The Queen's popularity nosedives following Diana's death
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris, France. The Queen kept her grandson's, William and Harry, at Balmoral where they could grieve for their mother in private. However, the public were outraged with the Royal family and the failure to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace. The Queen returned to London to do a live television broadcast the day before Diana's funeral to express admiration for the late Diana and alleviate public feelings of hostility.
- Look at how British national identity has changed over the years with the state funerals of Sir Winston Churchill in 1962 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 with our article A Tale of Two Funerals: Shifting Britishness.
The Queen marks her Golden Jubilee
2002 saw 50 years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. A million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London and enthusiasm for the Queen was at a high. The public and media were initially unsure if the Queen would want to celebrate given that her sister and mother died in February and March of that year respectively. However, the celebrations were huge and the Queen undertook another extensive tour of her realms, starting in Jamaica.
- Discover how we can determine whether something is gold in our article Properties of gold.
The Queen becomes the longest reigning monarch
The Queen excelled her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest-lived British monarch in December 2007, and the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September 2015. She is now the world's oldest reigning monarch.
- Find out how the Queen has managed to keep her job for so long in this article Strange job: being Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
The Queen is 90
The Queen is 90 on April 21st 2016. Some celebrations will be carried out on her actual birthday, although her official birthday in June will see some big summer events to honour her life. Prince Charles is expected to take on more public engagements but the Queen does not intend to abdicate.