Perhaps the most recognisable face in the world, the queen’s enduring popularity is showing no signs of waning after 90 years. Unexpectedly thrust into the royal line of succession as a child, her life has been wrought not only with the tragedies of loss and war, but with the joys of marriage and family, as well as her success as one of Britain’s most popular monarchs.
Discover the key moments in the life of Queen Elizabeth II, from her carefree youth in the 1930s to her regal coronation in the 1950s and all the years up to now, where she celebrates the birth of her great-grandchildren.
21 April 1926 – A queen is born
Princess Elizabeth is born at 17 Brunton Street, Mayfair, in London, England, at 2.40am. Named after her mother, she will later be christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.
21 August 1930 – The royal sister
Four years after the young princess had been born, a second daughter follows. Named Margaret Rose, the two sisters and their parents will become a very close family.
10 December 1936 – King Edward VIII abdicates
Choosing love over power, King Edward VIII abdicates. The next day, his younger brother, Bertie, is named king, becoming King George VI. Elizabeth becomes first in line to the throne.
22 July 1939 – Elizabeth meets Philip
As a naval officer, Philip is asked to escort the two young princesses around HMS Dartmouth base. Here, 13-year-old Elizabeth takes an immediate liking to 18-year-old Philip.
13 October 1940 – First public speech
As WWII breaks out, the young princess makes her first public speech to British children who face evacuation. Princess Margaret joins in at the end of the broadcast to wish the children goodbye.
4 March 1945 – Joins the ATS
Determined to do her bit in the war, Princess Elizabeth joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She remains the only female royal to have ever joined the armed forces.
20 November 1947 – A royal wedding
As soon as Elizabeth reaches 21, she marries Philip. As their wedding is held in the post-war recovery years, the young bride saves up and pays for her wedding dress using ration coupons.
14 November 1948 – Prince Charles is born
Almost exactly a year after their wedding, the happy couple welcomes their first child into the family. Prince Charles is born at 9.14pm at Buckingham Palace.
15 August 1950 – Princess Anne is born
Only two years after the young Prince Charles’s birth, a princess is born to Elizabeth and Philip. Birthed at Clarence House, the child will later be christened Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise.
6 February 1952 – King George VI dies
The princess learns of her father’s peaceful death while on tour in Kenya. The rest of the visit is cancelled and the new queen flies back to Britain to take her place as monarch.
2 May 1953 – First football match
As the new queen of England, Elizabeth II attends her first football match. It is the 1953 FA Cup Final between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers, with the former team boasting a win.
2 June 1953 – Queen Elizabeth’s coronation
A respectable 18 months after her father’s death, Elizabeth II is crowned at Westminster Abbey. An estimated 27 million people watch the event on TV, while 11 million listen on the radio.
24 November 1953 – Commonwealth tour begins
With the coronation behind her, Queen Elizabeth II sets off on a tour of the Commonwealth. It is a continuation of the tour she had been on when her father died.
25 December 1957 – First televised Christmas speech
Queen Elizabeth II continues her father’s tradition of a speech on Christmas Day, but in 1957, she gives her speech on television – live.
19 February 1960 – Prince Andrew is born
The second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip – and the couple’s third child – Prince Andrew is born inside Buckingham Palace and named after his paternal grandfather.
10 March 1964 – Prince Edward is born
The youngest of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s children, young Prince Edward follows four years after his brother Andrew, and is also born at Buckingham Palace.
May 1965 – The queen visits Germany
Elizabeth becomes the first reigning British monarch to set foot in Germany in 52 years. Staying in West Germany, the queen sees the Berlin Wall on her 11-day trip.
21 June 1969 – Royal Family airs
Now locked away from the public eye, a film following the lives of the royal family is aired. Princess Anne particularly hates the show, stating: “I thought it was a rotten idea.”
1970 – The royal walkabout
On a trip to Australia and New Zealand the first royal walkabout takes place, with the queen and her husband greeting as many people in the country as possible.
28 May 1972 – Edward VIII dies
Having lived most of his post-monarch life in Paris, Edward VIII passes away. He will be buried at Windsor Castle. When Wallis Simpson dies 14 years later, she will be buried alongside him.
29 March 1976 – The first email
While at an army base, Elizabeth becomes one of the first heads of state to send an email. Given the username HME2 – Her Majesty Elizabeth II – in a few clicks, she sends her first email.
7 June 1977 – Silver Jubilee
After 25 years on the throne, the queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee. In the summer months, she takes part in a tour, intending to meet as many of her people as possible.
29 July 1981 – Prince Charles marries Diana
After becoming engaged in February, the future king marries the people’s princess, Diana, at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. The ceremony is watched by a global TV audience of 750 million.
21 June 1982 – Prince William is born
The eldest son – and the second in line to the throne – William Arthur Philip Louis is born to Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, London.
9 July 1982 – Buckingham Palace break in
In one of the worst breaches of security in history, a man named Michael Fagan breaks into the royal residence through the queen’s bedroom. He wanders the corridors before the police are called.
15 September 1984 – Prince Harry is born
The birth of the younger brother to the future king shortly follows. Like his sibling, Prince Henry Charles Albert David – known as Prince Harry – is born in St Mary’s Hospital in London.
20 November 1992 – Windsor Castle fire
A devastating fire sweeps through Windsor Castle, ravaging anything in its path. More than £36 million worth of damage is done. The year becomes known as the queen’s ‘annus horribilis’.
28 August 1996 – Prince Charles and Diana divorce
The people’s princess and Prince Charles have been separated for years by this time, but at last their marriage is officially dissolved.
31 August 1997 – Diana dies
Just over a year after her divorce with Prince Charles, Diana tragically dies in a car accident in Paris. Her sudden death will send Great Britain into a state of national mourning.
20 November 1997 – Golden wedding anniversary
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrate their Golden wedding anniversary. They held a garden party at Buckingham Palace for other couples celebrating the same anniversary.
9 February 2002 – Princess Margaret dies
The queen’s only sibling passes away at the age of 71 after suffering a stroke. Over the course of her life, she had been the subject of much controversy, particularly about her personal life.
30 March 2002 – The Queen Mother dies
Only a matter of weeks after her sister’s death, the queen experiences another tragic loss. At the age of 101, the Queen Mother was then the longest-lived member of the royal family.
30 April 2002 – 50 years on the throne
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Golden Jubilee. For the first time ever, the gardens of Buckingham Palace are opened up to the public for several celebration concerts.
20 December 2007 – Longest living monarch
On this day, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest living monarch. She overtakes her great-great-grandmother, Victoria, who passed away at the ripe old age of 81.
29 April 2011 – William marries Catherine
In a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey, Prince William marries his sweetheart Kate Middleton. The wedding is broadcast around the world, and the streets are lined with well wishers.
2-5 June 2012 – Diamond Jubilee
To mark the queen’s 60-year reign, a weekend of celebrations take place across the country. Over the course of the year, she travels the length of the country to mark the occasion.
9 September 2012 – Longest-serving monarch
Having overtaken Victoria as the longest living monarch, Elizabeth overtakes her as the longest-serving monarch, too. Victoria managed 63 years, seven months and two days on the throne.
21 April 2016 – The 90th birthday
While the queen’s actual birthday is 21 April, and on it she turns 90, she also celebrates an official birthday on a Saturday in June with the Trooping the Colour.
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