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Queen Elizabeth II Dies: The UK’s Longest-Serving Monarch

Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip greeting the public in Birmingham as part of her Diamond Jubilee Tour in 2012. Credit: West Midlands Police/TM/CC BY-SA 2.0

Queen Elizabeth II, the beloved Queen who reigned longer than any other monarch in British history, passed away at age 96 on September 8, 2022.

Born to a father who at that time was not in line to become king, the trajectory of her life changed irrevocably when her uncle David gave up the crown to marry the thrice-divorced Wallis Simpson in 1936.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history. Credit: Noel Rouse (UK Ministry of Defence)

A symbol of the permanence of the Crown despite the seismic changes that swept through society in the seven decades of her reign, Elizabeth II persevered through great personal trials, including the divorces of her children, the death of her former daughter-in-law Princess Diana, and challenges to the monarchy from republicans who believed the institution is outdated.

Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). Her father ascended the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive.

She was educated privately at home by a series of nannies, beginning with her beloved nanny “Crawfie,” who wrote a book about her time tutoring the princesses called The Little Proncesses.

Princess Elizabeth
A young Princess Elizabeth,  painted by Philip de Laszlo. Credit: Philip de László Public domain

Elizabeth began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, as much of England was being pummeled by bombings, serving as a car mechanic and driver in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

She met Prince Philip, a prince of Greece and Denmark, when she was only thirteen. Squired about a Naval ship by Philip, who was her third cousin, Elizabeth was smitten and would have no other as her spouse.

In 1947, she married Philip and made him Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she had four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

Elizabeth II with Charles, her firstborn, now the King of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Credit: Holland’sNationaal Archief – CC0.

When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth, then 25 years old, became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon.

The British Royal Family in 1957 with the Queen and Prince Philip in back and Princess Anne and Prince Charles in the front before the birth of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, e010949328 / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, e010949328 – BY 2.0

Queen Elizabeth reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, accession of the United Kingdom to the European Communities, Brexit, Canadian patriation, and the decolonization of Africa.

Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied, as territories gained independence, and as realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. Elizabeth’s many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes.

Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee.

President Reagan and Elizabeth II
President Reagan riding horses with Queen Elizabeth II during visit to Windsor Castle in 1982. Credit: Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989 Collection: White House Photographic Collection, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989 Public Domain.

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