Elizabeth II: Britain’s longest reigning monarch

Her Majesty the Queen by Isobel Peachey
Her Majesty the Queen by Isobel Peachey. Credit www.isobelpeachey.com

HM The Queen’s sense of duty has made her one of the world’s most respected heads of state. She has been on the throne since 1952

Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Windsor on 21 April 1926, and was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. During the Second World War, the 18-year-old princess joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She later raised post-war spirits when she married Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in 1947, and had her first two children, Prince Charles, in 1948, and Princess Anne, in 1950. Her relatively quiet life as a wife and mother ended in 1952 when she learned of the death of her father, King George VI, while on a royal tour of Kenya. She was crowned Queen aged 27 in 1953.

HM The Queen has two more sons, Andrew and Edward, in the early 1960s. While Britain led the way in fashion and culture, the Sixties were also a time of political and social change. A public outpouring of respect for the diligent monarch followed in 1977 to mark her Silver Jubilee.

Annus horribilis

Another decade, the 1990s, proved more challenging. In particular, the Queen’s self-proclaimed “annus horribilis” in 1992, which saw Princess Anne divorce and Prince Andrew and Prince Charles separate from their wives amid tabloid scandal. Then, in November, fire ripped through her favourite home, Windsor Castle. The next few years continued in a tragic vein with the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and the loss of her mother and sister in 2002. Yet the Queen would ride out these storms, charting a course to smoother waters for a modernised monarchy and, today, she enjoys unprecedented popularity, borne out by celebrations for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and 90th birthday in 2016.

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, HM the Queen’s tenure can be defined by a sense of duty that has made her one of the world’s most respected heads of state.

Key dates

  • 1973 – Britain joins the European Economic Community
  • 1979 – Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first female prime minister
  • 1989 – English scientist Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web

Read more

10 things you might not know about Queen Elizabeth II

Three portraits of HM The Queen