Queen Elizabeth II is the best known and most popular monarch in the world. Since February 6, 1952, the date of the death of her father King George VI, she has reigned over Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the sovereign states of the Commonwealth of Nations. She will be crowned queen in London on June 2, 1953. In September 2015, she broke the record for longevity on the throne held so far by Queen Victoria, her grandmother.

At 95, the one who is also commonly called ” the Queen of England ” has gone through the ages, has seen eras, changes in the world, and incidentally fourteen British Prime Ministers and nine French presidents!

Secret and seemingly rigid, we have seen her unfold over time, especially thanks to the love and kindness she shows towards her grandchildren, Prince William and Prince Harry, and her great-grandchildren, children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Birth and family

Élisabeth Alexandra Mary is the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI) and his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Her father is the second son of King George V and Queen Mary and his mother is the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Strathmore. Elizabeth born by Caesarean section at 2 h 40 on April 21, 1926 in the London residence of his maternal grandparents, located at 17 Bruton Street, in Mayfair. She was baptized by the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on May 29.

She is named Elizabeth in honor of her mother, Alexandra in honor of her great-grandmother, the queen mother of King George V, who died six months previously, and Mary in honor of her paternal grandmother, Queen Mary. Her relatives nicknamed her “Lilibet”. George V adored his granddaughter and when he fell seriously ill in 1929, the popular press and subsequent biographers attributed his recovery to the frequent visits of the little Elizabeth, who was three years old. Great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Empress of India deceased in 1901, she knew three of the children of her famous grandmother and can be considered a child of the Victorian era.

Childhood

Queen Elizabeth has a sister, Margaret, who is four years her junior. The two princesses are educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, nicknamed “Crawfie”. Teaching focuses on history, speech, literature and music. To the dismay of the royal family, Crawford published in 1950 a book about the childhood of Elizabeth and Margaret, entitled The Little Princesses ( The Little Princess ), in which she described the love of Elizabeth for horses and dogs, discipline and sense of responsibility. Other witnesses corroborate these observations; Winston Churchill wrote about Elizabeth when she was two years: “She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing for a child”. Her cousin Margaret Rhodes describes her as a “jovial but extremely sensible and well-behaved little girl”. In 1933, aged seven, the princess was portrayed by the painter of the royal courts and the aristocratic world, Philip de László.

Edward VIII abdication crisis

As the granddaughter of a monarch in the male line, the predicate and full title of the granddaughter is Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York. She was then third in order of succession to the British throne after her uncle, Edward of Wales and her father, the Duke of York. Even though her birth attracts public attention, there are no plans for her to ever become Queen, as the Prince of Wales is only 31 years old and many believe he will marry and have 14 children. In 1936, when her grandfather King George V died, her uncle ascended to the throne under the name of Edward VIII and she became second in the order of succession. In December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated because his intention to marry Wallis Simpson, divorced twice, because a constitutional crisis.

Elizabeth’s father then becomes king under the name of George VI and she is now, at the age of 10, the heir apparent with the title of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth. If her parents had had a son later, it would have lost its heir apparent position and his brother would become the heir to the British throne. Elisabeth receives private instruction in constitutional history from Henry Marten, vice-president of Eton 18 quorumand she learns French from housekeepers whose mother tongue is. A Girl Guiding Company, the First Company at Buckingham Palace, is specially trained so that she can meet girls her age.

Second World War

September 3, 1939, the United Kingdom enters World War II. During this period of conflict, when English towns were frequently bombed by German air force, children were evacuated to rural areas. Politician Douglas Hogg suggests that the two princesses be evacuated to Canada, but this proposal is refused by Elisabeth’s mother, who declares: “My children will not go anywhere without me. I will not leave without the king. And the king will never leave.” The princesses Elizabeth and Margaret remain at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, until Christmas 1939 and were taken to Sandringham House in Norfolk County.

In 1943, at the age of 16, Elisabeth made her first public appearance alone during an inspection of the Grenadier Guards, of which she was appointed Colonel-in-Chief the previous year. As she approaches her 18th birthday, the law is changed so that it can become one of five state councilors in case of incapacity of his father or while traveling abroad, as during his visit to Italy in July 1944. In February 1945, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service with the honorary rank of second lieutenant. She received training in driving and mechanics, and was promoted to honorary captain ( junior commander ) five months later.

Marriage to Philip Mountbatten

Elisabeth met her future husband, Prince Philippe of Greece and Denmark (five years his senior), in 1934, and saw him again in 1937. They are first cousins by the King of Denmark, Christian IX, and second cousins ​​by Queen Victoria. They meet again at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939. When she is only 13 years old, Elisabeth declares that she has fallen in love with Philippe, and they begin to exchange letters. Their engagement is officially announced on July 9, 1947.

This relationship raises some controversies: Philippe is only a member of a younger branch of the Royal House of Greece which has known many vicissitudes since the beginning of the century. Moreover, this prince of foreign origin (even if he was naturalized following his service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War) is not fortunate. Some of her sisters also married German princes close to the Nazi Party. Marion Crawford writes: “Some of the king’s advisers felt he was not good enough for her. He was a prince without a house or a kingdom. Certain documents clearly and strongly supported the foreign origins of Philip ”. Later biographies suggest that Elizabeth’s mother initially opposed the union, even calling Philip de Hun. At the end of her life, however, she indicated to her biographer Tim Heald that Philip was an “English gentleman”.

Before marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, abandon the Orthodox Church of Greece for Anglicanism and adopts the title of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the British name of his mother. Just before the wedding, he was made Duke of Edinburgh and received the predicate of Royal Highness.

Accession to the throne and coronation

In 1951, the health of George VI declining, Elisabeth frequently replaced him in public ceremonies. During her visit to North America where she visited Canada and met President Truman in Washington in October 1951, his private secretary, Martin Charteris, is provided with the draft of a declaration of accession to the throne in case the king should die during his trip. At the beginning of 1952, Elisabeth and Philip embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand with a stopover in Kenya. the February 6, 1952, as they have just returned to their Kenyan residence at Sagana Lodge after a visit to Aberdare National Park, they learn of the death of King. Martin Charteris asks the princess to choose a name for the reign and she decides to keep Elisabeth, obviously. She then proclaimed queen in all her kingdoms by the name of Elizabeth II (an Elizabeth who already reigned xvi th century) and the members of the court hastily returning to the United Kingdom. As the new monarch, she moved to Buckingham Palace.

Evolution of the Commonwealth

During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II witnessed the transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth. By the time of his accession to the throne in 1952, her role as head of state of multiple independent states was already established. Between 1953 and 1954, the queen and her husband embarked on a six-month world tour. She thus becomes the first monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit these 75 countries. The Queen’s visits draw large crowds and it is estimated that three quarters of the Australian population saw her on this occasion. During her reign, the Queen made more than 170 visits to Commonwealth 77 states and nearly 100 to non- Commonwealth states; she is thus the head of state who has traveled the most in history.

In 1956, the President of the French Council Guy Mollet and the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden raised the possibility of France joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted and France signed the Treaty of Rome the following year establishing the European Economic Community, the precursor of the European Union. In November 1956 The UK and France invaded the Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal; the operation ends miserably and Eden resigns two months later. If Louis Mountbatten affirms that the queen was opposed to the offensive, Eden contradicts this hypothesis.

The 1960s and 1970s were marked by an acceleration of decolonization in Africa and the Caribbean. More than twenty countries gain independence through negotiated transitions to greater autonomy. In November 11, 1965, Ian Smith, the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, however, unilaterally declares the country’s independence vis-à-vis the United Kingdom to maintain white domination while expressing his “loyalty and devotion” to Elizabeth II. Even though the Queen rejected it in a formal declaration and Rhodesia was hit by international sanctions, Smith’s regime survived until 1979.

Royal family

During this period, she enlarged the royal family by giving birth to two children in 1960 (Andrew) and in 1964 (Edward). Pregnancies that preceded these births are the only occasions on which she not taking part in the opening ceremony of the British Parliament during her reign.

She gives her eldest son Charles the title of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on July 26, 1958. However, his enthronement is only effective on 1st July 1969, when she presented him with the Crown of the Princes of Wales at Caernarfon Castle, during a ceremony broadcast on British television. The Prince delivers part of his speech in the Welsh language.

Relationship with Margaret Thatcher

It was reported, primarily by The Sunday Times, that the Queen was concerned that the economic policies of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were accentuating divisions in society and that she was alarmed by the high unemployment rate, a series riots in 1981, the violence of the miners’ strike and the government’s refusal to sanction the apartheid regime in South Africa. The rumors originated from the Queen’s Assistant, Michael Shea, and Commonwealth Secretary General, Shridath Ramphal , but Shea argued that his words had been taken out of context and then amplified by reporters 135. Thatcher is said to have said that the queen was going to vote for her opponents of the Social Democratic Party. Thatcher’s biographer, John Campbell, claimed that this was “an example of journalistic nonsense”.

Contradicting reports of their poor relationship, Thatcher subsequently expressed his personal admiration for the Queen 138 and after his replacement by John Major, the Queen conferred on him the Orders of Merit and the Garter.

Death of Diana

The revelations about Charles and Diana’s marriage continue after their separation in 1992. Even though Republican ideas seem more popular than ever in the UK, Republicanism remains in the minority and the Queen maintains high approval levels. Critics focus more on the monarchy and the extended family of the queen that his actions and his behavior. After discussing it with Prime Minister John Major, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, her private secretary Robert Fellowes and her husband, she wrote to Charles and Diana at the end of the month December 1995 to tell them that a divorce was preferable.

A year after the divorce which took place in 1996, Diana died in a road accident in Paris on Aug 31, 1997. The Queen was on vacation with Charles and his grandchildren, William and Harry, at Balmoral Castle. Diana’s two children wanting to go to church, the royal couple accompanied them there in the morning. After this one-time public appearance, the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh shield their grandchildren from the media whirlwind by keeping them at the castle for five days, but public opinion is dismayed that the Royal Family has not set half-mast flags from Buckingham palace. Pressed by the hostile reactions, the Queen returned to London and agreed to deliver a televised address on September 5, the day before Diana’s funeral. In it she expresses her admiration for Diana and her “grandmother” feelings for Princes William and Harry; this act was favorably appreciated by public opinion and hostility was weakened.

A dark decade 

Between the untimely death of her father at the age of 56, the assassination of her husband’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, the tragic death of Lady Di under the Alma Bridge, in Paris, in 1997, and the death of her mother and sister the same year, in 2002, this reign, however long it may be, was not just a quiet river. The queen retains the year 1992 in particular, which she qualified as “annus horribilis”, because it was the scene of the divorce of three of her children (Charles, Anne and Andrew), but also that of a serious fire. from Windsor Castle, his favorite residence. 

Health problems

Although she, the queen, had few health problems during her life, she was operated on on both knees in 2003. She inaugurated the October 9, 2004 the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh – although MPs from the constituent nation held their first sitting there on 7 September – as a consequence of the Scotland Act 1998.

In October 2006, she does not participate in the inauguration of the new Emirates Stadium in London due to a muscle tear in the back which had handicapped her since the summer.

Reconciliation with Ireland

The relations of Ireland with the Crown are very tense since independence theDecember 6, 1922 and since the proclamation of the republic on April 18, 1949. During her reign, the Queen was also deeply affected by the assassination of her uncle by marriage Louis Mountbatten, carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on Aug 27, 1979.

In March 20, 2008 ten years after the Good Friday Agreement, the Queen attended the first Mass of Holy Thursday organized outside England and Wales, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh in the Church of Ireland (in Northern Ireland ).

At the invitation of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, the Queen performs in May 2011, the first official visit by a British monarch to Ireland since his separation from the kingdom onDecember 6, 1922.

Covid-19 pandemic

In March 19, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II withdraws as a precaution to Windsor Castle as the Covid-19 pandemic hits the United Kingdom. The 93-year-old sovereign had announced a few days earlier the postponement of several public commitments due to the 200 pandemic. The queen and her husband are thus confined and surrounded by a very strict sanitary protocol nicknamed “HMS Bubble”. In April 5, 2020, Elizabeth II addresses the British nation and the Commonwealth in a televised address, the fourth since the start of her reign, recorded from Windsor Castle where the Queen is confined with her husband. She says: “I hope that in the years to come everyone can be proud of how [the British people] have responded to this challenge. Those who succeed us will say that the British of this generation were as strong as any. May the attributes of self-discipline, good quiet resolve and comradeship always characterize this country ”. In May 8 following the commemoration of the end of World War II, the Queen gives a new speech, broadcast on the BBC at 8 p.m., the exact time at which her father King George VI spoke in radio in 1945, in which she notably called on the British “never to lose hope”.

Death of Prince Philip

In April 9, 2021, after more than seventy-three years of marriage, her husband, Prince Philip, died at Windsor Castle at the age of 99. Queen Elizabeth II said in a statement to be very affected by his death. Philip was considered the second “pillar” of the monarchy after Sovereign. For many commentators, royalty experts and international media, Queen Elizabeth II has entered the “twilight” of her reign after the disappearance of her husband, who at the same time reminded the British that “the Queen is not immortal ”. She is, moreover, the first British monarch to reign widowed since Queen Victoria. The Queen made her first public appearance after the death of her husband in his 67 th speech of opening of Parliament, in May 11 following. For the first time since 1967, she is sitting alone in front of the House of Lords, the Prince Consort’s chair having been withdrawn.

Exceptional length of reign

Queen Elizabeth II is the oldest British monarch with the longest reign before Victoria (since September 9, 2015). She has reigned for over 69 years, and is the oldest ruler still in office since the death of King Rama IX of Thailand on the October 13, 2016.

In november 2019, Rumors relayed by some British media suggest that the queen would consider abdicate by “a few years”, specifically on the occasion of its 95th anniversary in 2021, but relatives of the royal family as well as experts deny these rumors. According to them, the Queen has no intention of abdicating, even though her public engagements are now partly assured by the Prince of Wales.

Queen Elizabeth, who now lives alone in Windsor Castle, celebrates its 95th anniversary on April 21, 2021. This anniversary comes twelve days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip. A public celebration of the Queen’s birthday is taking place in a reduced format, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle on June 12, 2021. The Queen is accompanied by her cousin, the Duke of Kent. During the military parade, the Scots Guards, a regiment of the Royal Guard, march past the Queen. A flyby of the Red Arrows takes place at the end of the ceremony, and 41 cannon shots are fired from the lawn of Castle. From October 2021, she is regularly seen moving around leaning on a cane, which arouses great emotion across the country.

Personality and public image

Elizabeth II having granted only rare public interviews, little is known of her private opinions. As a constitutional monarch, she does not express her political opinions in public. She has a reputation for possessing a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and for taking her coronation oath very seriously. Besides her official religious role as supreme governor of the Church of England, she attends this Church and that of Scotland. She shows her support for interreligious dialogue and meets several heads of other Churches and religions, including five popes: Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and François.

Elizabeth II is a patron of more than 600 organizations. Among her main interests are horseback riding and dogs, in particular the Welsh Corgis which she has been passionate about since 1933, when Dookie arrived, the first Corgi owned by her family.

In the 1950s, at the start of her reign, Elizabeth II was considered a “fairy tale queen 232 “. After the trauma of the war, the period of progress and modernization is presented as a “new Elizabethan era”. In this the words of Lord Altrincham of 1957 accusing his speeches of being those of a “sufficient schoolgirl” turn out to be particularly unusual. In the 1960s, the monarchy tried to offer a more modern image by making the television documentary Royal Family showing the royal family in everyday life and broadcasting the investiture of Prince Charles on television. The queen takes usually wear overcoats in bright colors and decorated hats that allow it to be easily visible in a crowd.

Personal wealth

Elizabeth II’s personal fortune has been the subject of much speculation over the years. The magazine Forbes estimated in 2010 that his property would have a value of about 450 million dollars. However, an official statement from Buckingham Palace in 1993 qualifies estimates of 100 million pounds of “grossly exaggerated”. Jock Colville, who was one of his private secretaries and the director of his bank, Coutts, estimated his wealth in 1971 at 2 million pounds (the equivalent of about 23 million pounds in 2012).

The Royal Collection(which includes artwork and the British Crown Jewels ) is not personally owned by the Queen and is managed by Trust as are royal residences like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Duchy of Lancaster, an investment portfolio valued in 2011 at 383 million pounds. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are personal properties of the Queen. The Crown Estate portfolio managing the assets of the British Crown is estimated to be worth £ 7.3bn in 2011, but is independent from the Queen.

Elizabeth II, queen of style

The queen is perfectly identified with her colorful outfits and elegant hats. During all her years of reign, she unveiled retro clothing styles, the Roaring Twenties, flowery, extravagant in color but always chic. She has even been seen often in campaign dress when she goes to rest in Scotland, in her castle of Balmoral, equipped with green boots and a scarf on her head.

Always in tune with the times, Queen Elizabeth II pays special attention to her looks. His plain or monochrome suits-suits, drawn from a wide range of colors, delight photographers and the public. It is not just a question of coquetry, since this allows him, above all, to be easily visible, even from afar. 

If she has always been the queen of hype, we still remember that her first trip to Fashion Week took place in February 2018, when she was 91 years old.

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