The longest-reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth the Second, has died. She was 96.
- She was born on April 21st, 1926 to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and George the Sixth.
- Elizabeth married Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947.
- Their four children include Prince Charles, who becomes King.
- She was the head of state for the majority of Britain’s transition from empire to commonwealth.
- Elizabeth was the first reigning monarch to visit Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. She was also the first to open a session of Canada’s Parliament and to attend a joint session of the United States Congress.
- In addition to her four children, she leaves behind eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
- Although she did come under scrutiny on numerous occasions, particularly following the death of Lady Diana Spencer, Elizabeth largely enjoyed enthusiastic popularity in Britain and abroad.
- Her life has been chronicled in the Netflix series The Crown.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21st, 1926 to to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and George the Sixth. At the time of her birth, she was third in line to the throne. When her grandfather George the Fifth died in 1936, her uncle Edward became monarch — but he abdicated the throne that year amid a constitutional crisis when he sought to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. Thus, when her father passed away in 1952, she ascended to the throne.
She married Phillip Montbatten in 1947, though some in the royal circle were against the match, because he was foreign-born and unmoneyed — and because his families had some links to Nazi Germany. They had four children: Charles — who now becomes king — Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Elizabeth ascended to the throne in February 1952 upon the death of George the Sixth, and was coronated on June 2nd, 1953. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey was televised for the first time.
She was the head of state of Britain through much of its transition from empire to commonwealth, though that process had begun before her ascension. Coupled with advances in transportation, particularly air travel, her reign featured dozens of visits to foreign countries. She was the first sitting monarch to visit Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. She was also the first to open a session of Canadian Parliament and to attend a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
Although Elizabeth sought largely to stay outside the business of politics, she did occasionally become involved — notably choosing Harold Macmillan to form a government following the Suez Canal crisis in 1957. She also exerted influence in Canada and Australia’s moves to become more independent from British Parliament.
Perhaps her biggest crisis was one that technically didn’t involve the Royal Family: the death of Lady Diana Spencer in a car crash in 1997. Because Charles and Diana had divorced a year earlier, she was no longer royalty, and Elizabeth viewed her death as a private, family matter. In addition, she sought to shield her grandsons William and Harry from the press frenzy around Diana’s passing. However, the British media criticized her extensively for seeming aloof and uncaring about “the People’s Princess,” and she eventually relented and made a televised address that dulled the criticism.
Elizabeth maintained an active public schedule throughout her reign, even into her 80s. She opened the Summer Olympics in London in 2012, and even good naturedly took part in a TV skit with James Bond actor Daniel Craig that ended with a stunt double dressed as her parachuting from a helicopter into the stadium where the Opening Ceremony was about to begin.
In 2017, she took part in her Sapphire Jubilee, marking 65 years on the throne. However, she did begin to transfer her responsibilities to Charles during the final few years of her life and remained largely out of public during the coronavirus pandemic.
10 rock stars were knighted by Queen Elizabeth: Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Ray Davies, Ringo Starr and Barry Gibb. Actors Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart are among the other celebs who Elizabeth knighted.
As Elizabeth had become Queen as a result of a scandal involving her uncle’s desire to marry a divorced American commoner, so the last years of her life were spent embroiled in a scandal triggered by her grandson Harry, Duke of Sussex, marrying divorced American commoner Meghan Markle.
In April 2021, her husband, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, died two months shy of his 100th birthday.
She was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, and before her death the longest-reigning living monarch and head of state in the world. Had she lived into May 2024, she would have been the longest-reigning monarch in verifiable world history.
The Queen’s last official act was to ask new Prime Minister Liz Truss to form a government.
In addition to her four children, Elizabeth leaves behind eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
King Charles has issued his first statement as monarch, mourning his mother.