Early life Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926, in London, England; she was the eldest child of the Duke of York and his wife Elizabeth. In 1936, her father became King George VI of Great Britain and Ireland when his elder brother Edward VIII (1894-1972) renounced the throne. Elizabeth, together with her younger sister Margaret, was homeschooled by private instructors. She had a particular passion for history, languages, and music, and subsequently acquired an interest in national affairs. She started to make her first public appearances when she was a teenager. In November 1947, the 21-year-old married Philip Mountbatten, and they gave birth to four children: Prince Charles (1948- ), Princess Anne (1950- ), Prince Andrew (1960- ), and Prince Edward (1964- ).
The new Queen After ascending to the throne in 1952, Elizabeth, in her own way, attempted to make Britain’s monarchy more modern and more responsive to the community. She started hosting casual luncheons at Buckingham Palace, (the Queen’s London residence) to which a diversity of people from areas including industry, theater, and sports, were invited. The attendants of her garden parties became more and more varied. She displayed interest and ability in using the first broadcast media, prominently in her yearly Christmas television messages, in royally endorsed documentaries, and in television broadcasts of occurrences like Prince Charles’ naming observance as the Prince of Wales and royal weddings. Perhaps the most admired of Elizabeth’s efforts was the “walkabout,” where she met, shook hands, and conversed with regular people in the crowds that assembled around her. These strolls disclosed her belief that “I have to be seen to be believed.”
Princess Anne and Prince Charles the day after Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne
A popular traveler Elizabeth’s international visits partly contributed to her fame. Her attracting and courteous attitude during these visits attributed to the kindness and eagerness of the receptions that greeted her. She had an amazingly busy schedule between 1970-1985. She traveled to France in 1972, attended the Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa in 1973, and participated in the United States celebrations of the two- hundredth anniversary of U.S. independence from Britain, in 1976; she subsequently went north to Montreal to preside over the opening of the 1976 Summer Olympics. She also voyaged almost fifty-six thousand miles as part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977, marking her twenty-fifth year as Queen; in 1979, she traveled to the Middle East in 1979 and visited Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. In April 1982, Elizabeth went on an important trip to Ottawa, Canada, where she declared Canada’s new constitution, cutting the remaining legal ties between the UK and Canada. While in California, her first trip to North America’s west coast, she made nearly twenty public appearances, which included a visit with Prince Philip to President Ronald Reagan’s (1911-2004) Santa Barbara farm and to Yosemite National Park. In 1984, she went on another visit to North America and went to Canada for the fourteenth time and subsequently the United States.
Queen Elizabeth II in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Happy events In the midst of all the visits, Elizabeth observed many happy personal occurrences. The Queen and Prince Philip observed their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on November 20, 1972. One hundred couples from across Britain who had the same anniversary day were invited to join the celebration. On November 14, 1973, Princess Anne married Mark Philips; they gave birth to two children, Peter and Zara. Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981; they gave birth to two sons, Prince William and Prince Henry. On July 23, 1986, Prince Andrew (made Duke of York) married Sarah Ferguson; they gave birth to two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
Happy events – cont. Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 was perhaps the happiest occurrence. Numerous sports occurrences, festivals, carnivals, races, concerts, commemorative stamps, and other activities began an expression of loyalty to the Queen and to the royal family as an institute. Both Houses of Parliament delivered dedicated addresses to Elizabeth II in Westminster Hall on May 4, 1977. The Queen and her family observed a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in June. The Queen hinted her worry for her associates by stating her wish that the Silver Jubilee year be a special time “for people who find themselves the victims of human conflict.” She traveled far and wide to meet her associates during the year; she founded the Silver Jubilee Trust Fund, led by the Prince of Wales, which was intended “to help the young to help others.” One of Queen Elizabeth’s writers, Elizabeth Longsford, has hinted that only after the jubilee, when she saw the devotion and admiration her associates exhibited, that she recognized her opportunities as a monarch. She became more certain, more open, and more prepared to disclose her sense of humor, strong common sense, great power, and personal nature.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Westminster Hall
Troubles on the Horizon In the late 1980s, however, Elizabeth grew worried over the state and the royal family’s future. The British press increasingly brought the problems up in her children’s marriages. To many, it seemed that Prince Charles had no interest in succeeding to the throne; there were rumors that Elizabeth II would pass the throne to her grandson Prince William. Her troubles reached a climax in 1992; she herself considered it a terrible year. Princess Anne’s twenty-year marriage ended in divorce. Prince Charles and Prince Andrew separated from their wives. A fire badly destroyed a significant part of Windsor Castle (one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residencies). A public objection immediately came up when it was announced that the castle’s rebuilding would be paid for with taxpayers’ money. The British people felt that Queen Elizabeth, who benefited from a tax-exempt (untaxed) revenue in the millions, should pay for the rebuilding. Just two days later, Buckingham Palace declared that Queen Elizabeth and her family would no longer be excused from taxation. This declaration was seen as a signal of political smarts and care. 1992 closed on a happier note, as Princess Anne remarried on December 12.
Troubles on the Horizon – cont. In 1995, Elizabeth wrote a letter to Prince Charles and Princess Diana advising them to divorce; this was prompted by separate television interviews in which they talked about their failed fourteen-year marriage. They divorced in 1996, as did Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. In spite of these public legal family problems, Elizabeth mostly remained popular. However, her resolve had second thoughts after the death of her former daughter-in-law Princess Diana in August 1997. Some Britons denounced the Queen for “being too bound up by protocol [the expected conduct of a king or queen].” Elizabeth, shocked by the criticism, broke with tradition and spoke to the nation in a live broadcast a day ahead of the funeral, paying honor to Diana. This signal was seen as important, as the Queen normally spoke to the nation only on Christmas Day; this was only the second exclusion to that regulation in her reign of forty-five years.
An energetic Queen Despite legal difficulties and public strains, Elizabeth does not slow down. She still enjoys time with her family, country life, horse- breeding, and horse-racing. Similarly, Elizabeth still exercises her royal duties. As head of state, the Queen retains close contact with the PM, with whom she meets every week. She also gets important foreign office messages and a daily summary of Parliament events. She hosts both British and foreign leaders and gets other distinguished visitors from abroad. Elizabeth also leads the navy, army, and air force of Great Britain; she additionally succeeded her father as colonel in chief of every Guards Regiment and the Corps of Royal Engineers, along with captain-general of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Honorable Artillery Company. She is president or economic sponsor of well over seven hundred organizations. In 1998, some of her many activities included the official opening the new British Library in London, erecting a statue of former PM Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in Paris, meeting with ex-Far East POWs, and organizing state visits to Brunei and Malaysia. 2002 marked fifty years since Elizabeth II rose to the throne; on February 6 that year, she gave her Golden Jubilee message to the UK. Elizabeth II is only the fifth British monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee.
YT links “God Save the Queen”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwziS2aE6Ww Diana Princess of Wales tribute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_moIV4wDQsY Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee 2002: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Waby2yVKNU