Despite her busy program of engagements, The Queen has links – as Royal Patron or President – with over 600 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organizations
The Queen has ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British history, becoming a much loved and respected figure across the globe. Her extraordinary reign has seen her travel more widely than any other monarch, undertaking many historic overseas visits. Known for her sense of duty and her devotion to a life of service, she has been an important figurehead for the UK and the Commonwealth during times of enormous social change.
When she was born in Mayfair in 1926, Princess Elizabeth (now The Queen) and her family did not expect that she would one day become Monarch. She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York – who later became King George VI – and Queen Elizabeth. She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary at Buckingham Palace on 29 May that year. The Princess’s early years were spent at 145 Piccadilly, the London house taken by her parents shortly after her birth, and at White Lodge in Richmond Park. She also spent time at the country homes of her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and her mother’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. In 1930, Princess Elizabeth gained a sister, with the birth of Princess Margaret Rose. The family of four was very close.
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were educated at home like many girls from wealthy families at that time. After her father succeeded to the throne in 1936 and Princess Elizabeth became heir presumptive (first in line to the throne), she started to study constitutional history and law as preparation for her future role.
She received tuition from her father, as well as sessions with Henry Marten, the Vice-Provost of Eton. Princess Elizabeth also studied art and music, learned to ride, and became a strong swimmer. She won the Children’s Challenge Shield at London’s Bath Club when she was thirteen. Princess Elizabeth enrolled as a Girl Guide when she was eleven, and later became a Sea Ranger. She was engaged with Duke of Edinburgh on 9 July 1947 and the couple was married in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. The event was fairly simple, as Britain was still recovering from the war, and Princess Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, like any other young bride. They spent their honeymoon at Broadlands, Hampshire, the home of Lord Mountbatten, and at Birkhall, Balmoral.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh’s enduring marriage has seen them support each other through many years of Royal duties, and has produced four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
On 6 February 1952, King George VI died following a prolonged illness. Princess Elizabeth immediately acceded to the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II and taking on all of the responsibilities which came with her new title. Later in the year, the date was set for the Coronation at Westminster Abbey and preparations began for the spectacular ceremony.
The Coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. It was a solemn ceremony conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Representatives of the peers, the Commons and all the great public interests in Britain, the Prime Ministers and leading citizens of the other Commonwealth countries, and representatives of foreign states were present.
In 1977 The Queen’s Silver Jubilee was marked with celebrations throughout the UK and Commonwealth and in 2002 a packed program was arranged to celebrate fifty years of The Queen’s reign. Six key Jubilee themes shaped events: Celebration, Community, Service, Past and future, Giving thanks and Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh undertook extensive tours of the Commonwealth and the UK, leading to an extraordinarily busy year for the royal couple. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness visited Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia and Canada as well as every region of the UK, from Falmouth in Cornwall to the Isle of Skye.
The Queen turned 80 on 21 April 2006 and celebrated her official birthday on 17 June 2006. A number of events took place to celebrate the birthday, both around Her Majesty’s actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on 17 June. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 20 November 2007.
Despite her busy program of engagements and duties as Head of State, The Queen manages to maintain hobbies and interests away from her official work. An animal lover since childhood, her greatest passions are for horses and dogs.
The Queen takes a keen and highly knowledgeable interest in horses. She annually attends the Derby at Epsom, one of the classic flat races in Britain, and the Summer Race Meeting at Ascot, which has been a Royal occasion since 1911. As an owner and breeder of thoroughbreds, Her Majesty often visits other race meetings to watch her horses run, and also frequently attends equestrian events.
Her Majesty continues to carry out a full program of engagements, from visits to charities and schools, to hosting visiting Heads of State, to leading the nation in Remembrance and celebratory events – all supported by other members of the Royal Family.
The Queen sees public and voluntary service as one of the most important elements of her work. The Queen has links – as Royal Patron or President – with over 600 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organizations. These vary from well-established international charities to smaller bodies working in a specialist area or on a local basis only. Her patronages and charities cover a wide range of issues, from opportunities for young people, to the preservation of wildlife and the environment. Having Her Majesty as Royal patron or president provides vital publicity for the work of these organizations, and allows their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognized. Her Majesty supports and encourages achievement in all walks of life through the annual program of Investitures (at which she presents members of the general public with their honours), Garden Parties, receptions and other awards given in her name, which allow her to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have contributed to the life of the nation and the Commonwealth.
The Queen carries out all of her duties against the backdrop of a full personal life which has seen her raise four children and welcome grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren to the Royal Family. The Duke of Edinburgh has been – in her own words – her ‘strength and stay’ during her reign, whilst other members of the Royal Family continue to offer vital support through their work in the UK and overseas.