Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Having ruled for over 68 years (at the time of writing), there have been literally millions of coins bearing her image. The next-longest serving monarch was Queen Victoria, who reigned from 20th June 1837 to 22nd January 1901 – a period of 63 years and 216 days.
Born on the 21st April 1926, she was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father became King George VI in 1936, following the abdication of Edward VIII. During World War 2, Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret spent most of the conflict living at Windsor Castle. She joined the ATS (Auxiliary Transport Service) in February 1945, training as a driver and mechanic.
Marriage and family
She had already met Philip, her future husband, before the war. His official title then was Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, but before they married he became Lord Mountbatten – his mother’s family surname. They married at Westminster Abbey on 20th November 1947 and their first child, Prince Charles, was born almost a year later, on 14th November 1948. Their second child and only daughter, Anne, was born on the 15th August 1950.
King George’s health started to deteriorate around this time, and Elizabeth took his place at several royal events – useful experience for this monarch-in-waiting.
Elizabeth becomes Queen
Born in 1895 during the reign of Victoria, King George VI passed away on 6th February 1952. Only a few days earlier, he had gone to London Airport to see Elizabeth and Philip set off for Kenya. His journey was contrary to medical advice, but perhaps he sensed he would not survive to see her return. In Kenya, Philip passed on the sad news to his wife. The couple quickly returned to England, with Elizabeth now Queen.
Coronation watched by millions
With much to prepare and plan for in a country still struggling from post-war austerity, the new Queen’s Coronation was not held until 2nd June 1953. This was the first televised coronation in Britain, prompting a considerable boom in sales of the then rather rare (in the UK) and expensive television sets.
Following the ceremony, the Queen and Prince Philip began a tour of the British Commonwealth. At this time there was almost universal support and enthusiasm for the monarchy in Commonwealth countries, and she has subsequently visited them, and many other nations, during her reign.
An eventful life
Queen Elizabeth II has witnessed the Second World War, Cold War, Korean War and many other conflicts. She has seen the UK join and subsequently leave the European Union. She has attended all State openings of Parliament except two (when expecting her sons Andrew and Edward) and celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977, her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. In 2015 she became the world’s longest-serving monarch and in 2017, celebrated her Platinum wedding anniversary (70 years) with Philip.
The most enduring monarch
She has also endured several family crises – notably the separation of Charles and his wife Diana, Diana’s subsequent death in a car crash, the failed marriages of Andrew and Anne, and the tremendous fire at Windsor Castle in 1992. Although the monarchy is criticised by some as an expensive anachronism, Queen Elizabeth II, as patron of over 600 charities and organisations and Britain’s most widely travelled monarch, still enjoys support and affection not only in the country she rules, but around the world.