Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the Queen of sixteen independent countries and their territories. She is the queen each country separately, but she lives in the United Kingdom, her oldest "realm". Her family has reigned over parts of the United Kingdom for more than a thousand years. She became Queen when her father, King George VI, died on 6 February 1952. She has reigned for 56 years (in 2008) and is the oldest reigning monarch in British history. (The "longest" reigning is Queen Victoria: 63 years.)
As well as the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. She has a representative (someone to stand-in for her) in each of these countries. Her representative is known as the Governor-General. The 16 countries of which she is Queen are known as Commonwealth realms. Their total population is over 129 million.
Elizabeth II holds many other positions. She is the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Lancaster, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. She is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of many of her realms and Lord Admiral of the United Kingdom.
Queen Elizabeth II probably has a huge amount of power, but she does not use it. She has a very good understanding of politics, but she does not tell the government what to do. In the United Kingdom, she is very interested in the running of the nation, and has regular meetings with her government ministers.
Since 1947, the Queen has been married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark. Prince Philip became a citizen of the United Kingdom, and used the name Philip Mountbatten. Prince Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh on the day he married, and became a "Prince of the United Kingdom" in 1957. The Queen and Prince Philip have four children and eight grandchildren (in 2008).
Early life.
Elizabeth was born at 17 Bruton Street, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926. She was the oldest child of Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, the Duchess of York. Her father was the second son of King George V and brother to the Prince of Wales. No one knew, at that time, that one day he would become King George VI. His wife, the Duchess of York, was the daughter of a Scottish lord. Her name was the Hon. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She had grown up in one of Scotland's most famous castles, Glamis Castle.
Princess Elizabeth was baptised in the Private Chapel in the grounds of Buckingham Palace (it was destroyed during World War II) by the Archbishop of York. She was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of her father's grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and her grandmother, Queen Mary. As a child, her family called her "Lilibet". She was very fond of her grandfather, George V, and it is said that she helped him recover from a serious illness in 1929.
Princess Elizabeth had one sister Princess Margaret, who was born in 1930. The two young princesses were educated at home. They had a governess whose name was Marion Crawford, but was often called "Crawfie". The princesses had a special history teacher from Eton College, and a teacher of modern languages. Both princesses learnt to speak French very well. Because the Princess would one day be the Head of the Church of England, she was taught religion by The Archbishop of Canterbury. The Queen has always been a devout member of the Church of England.
As a granddaughter of the British sovereign (king), the princess was called "Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York". At the time of her birth, she was third in the line of succession to the throne. This meant that if the king died, then the next in line was her uncle the Prince of Wales and then her father, the Duke of York, and then Princess Elizabeth. But when she was born, there was no reason for people to believe that she would become queen. Everyone thought that one day, her uncle would get married and have children. But even though her uncle married, he and his wife never had children.
Her grandfather, King George V, died in 1936. Her uncle became King Edward VIII, but only for a short time. He wanted to marry a woman who was divorced. Because (at that time) this was against the law for the king, he "abdicated" (gave up his throne). His brother, the Duke of York, became King George VI. Elizabeth then became the next in line, the "heir presumptive" to the throne. (The throne that a ruler sits on, and the crown that they wear are often talked about as symbols for their power.) It was at this time that her grandmother Queen Mary and her mother, who was now called Queen Elizabeth, realised that the Princess's education in history, religion and languages was very important. Queen Mary also gave the Princess lots of good advice on how to behave like a Queen. It was clear that, unless her parents produced a male child, one day Princess Elizabeth would be Queen, not as the wife to a king, but in her own right, like her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who had reigned for 67 years.
When Elizabeth was thirteen years old, the Second World War broke out. Because London was being bombed, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were "evacuated" (moved to safety) to Windsor Castle in Berkshire. It was suggested that they should be sent to Canada but their mother said: "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave [England]."
In 1940, Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour. She spoke to other children who had been evacuated. When she was 13 years old, she first met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece. She fell in love with him and began writing to him when he was in the Royal Navy.
Military career.
In 1945, Princess Elizabeth asked her father to let her work for the war effort. She joined the "Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service", as "No 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor". She trained as a driver, and drove a military truck.
She enjoyed training with other young women, and decided to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home, the way she and her sister were. The Princess Elizabeth was the first, and so far only, female member of the royal family to actually serve in the armed forces, although other royal women have been given honorary ranks. During the Victory celebrations in London, she and her sister, Princess Margaret, went out into the crowd after midnight to celebrate with everyone else.
Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947. The couple are distantly related to each other, through Christian IX of Denmark and Queen Victoria. Prince Philip was not rich, he was Greek Orthodox and his sister had married someone who was thought to be a Nazi, so there were some people who were not happy about the marriage. But most people throughout the Commonwealth were full of joy. Even though people were still very poor because of the war, the royal couple received 2,500 wedding presents from all around the world. Many people helped the Princess save up "coupons", so she could buy a beautiful wedding dress. The wedding was held in Westminster Abbey. Princess Margaret was one of the nine bridesmaids.
After their wedding, the couple lived mainly at Clarence House in London. For a time, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer, so they lived in Malta at a house of Lord Mountbatten of Burma.
Although the Royal House is named Windsor, the princes and princess often use the name Mountbatten-Windsor.
In 1951, the King's health became too bad to go to many public events. Princess Elizabeth began to make official visits for him. She visited Greece, Italy and Malta (where Philip was then stationed) during that year. In October, she made a tour of Canada and visited President Harry S Truman in Washington, D.C. In January 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had reached Kenya when a message arrived telling of the death of the King, on 6 February 1952, from lung cancer. Elizabeth and Philip were staying at "Sagana Lodge" in Kenya when she was told of her father's death and that now she had succeeded to the throne. It was Prince Philip who broke the news of her father's death to Elizabeth. They returned to the United Kingdom immediately by plane.
Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen in Canada first, (an announcement was read to tell the people) on 6 February, 1952. The following day, on February 7 the proclamation was read at St. James's Palace in London.
Elizabeth II's coronation (crowning) took place in Westminster Abbey, on 2 June 1953. Her coronation gown, designed by Norman Hartnell, was embroidered with the floral symbols of the countries of the Commonwealth: the Tudor rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the leek of Wales, the shamrock of Ireland, the wattle of Australia, the maple leaf of Canada, the fern of New Zealand, the protea of South Africa, two lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and wheat, cotton and jute for Pakistan.
Life as Queen.
After the Coronation, The Queen and Prince Philip moved into Buckingham Palace, in central London, the main official home of the monarch. But it is believed that, like Queen Victoria, she doesn't like living at the Palace much. She has always thought of Windsor Castle, as her real home.
In 1953, the Queen and Prince Philip, set off on a six-month, around the world tour, in the "Royal Yacht, Britannia". Elizabeth became the first monarch to "circumnavigate" (sail around) the globe. She also became the first reigning monarch to visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Since then, Elizabeth has made many trips. In October 1957, she made a "state visit" (an official visit) to the United States, and spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. She then toured Canada, and she became the first monarch to open the nation's Parliament.
In February 1961, she visited Ankara in Turkey, and toured India, Iran, Pakistan and Nepal for the first time. Since then the Queen has made state visits to most Commonwealth countries, most European countries and to many countries outside Europe.
In 1969, Elizabeth II sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the historic first lunar landing. The message is etched onto a tiny silicon disc and still rests on the lunar surface today. She greeted the Apollo 11 crew during their tour of the world. In 1991, she became the first British monarch to speak to a joint session of the United States Congress during another state visit to that country. She regularly attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. Elizabeth II is the most widely-travelled head of state in history.
Changes to the Commonwealth.
When Elizabeth became Queen on 6 February 1952, she was officially Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka). These were the Commonwealth Countries. There were many more countries that she also ruled, because they belonged to the British Empire. Altogether, she was sovereign of 32 nations. One by one, many of the countries became independent. They now have their own governments. Some of the countries are republics and have a president as "Head of State". Some of them are now independent monarchies that still have the Queen as "Head of State". Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch of more than one independent nation. The old British Empire became the Commonwealth of Nations, which includes both monarchies and republics. It is now called "The Commonwealth", and the Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth. She works hard to keep peace and good communication between all the nations that are members.
The Queen is particularly fond of visiting Canada. She has called Canada her "home away from home". She also said "I am pleased to think that there exists in our Commonwealth a country where I can express myself officially in French," and, "whenever you sing [the French words of] 'O Canada' you are reminded that you come of a proud race."
The Queen's relationship with her governments and other countries.
Ever since she became the Queen, Elizabeth has spent about three hours every day "doing the boxes". The "boxes" are two large red boxes that are brought to her from the Parliament every day. The are full of state papers sent to her from her various departments, embassies, and government offices. One of the most famous photos taken of Elizabeth as a teenager shows her with her father, the King, learning about "the boxes". Because she has been doing this since 1952, she probably knows far more about the government of the UK than anybody else alive.
When the Queen is in London, she meets with her Prime Minister once a week, to discuss things that are affecting the nation. One Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher wrote: "Anyone who imagines that [these meetings] are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly business like and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience."
The Queen also has regular meetings with the First Minister of Scotland and other Ministers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. She also has meetings with Prime Ministers and Ministers of her other realms, when she is in their country, or when they visit London. She takes a strong interest in the government of her other realms. When Paul Martin, Sr. went to London to discuss the Constitution of Canada, he said later that the Queen knew and understood far more about the Canadian Constitution than any of the British politicians.
In the late 1990s, there were "referendums" in which the people of Scotland and Wales were asked if they wanted parliaments that were separate from the parliament of the United Kingdom. This was called a "devolution policy". As a result, the new Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly of Wales, were set up. The Queen opened the first sessions of these two bodies.
In Australia, ever since the states became one country at Federation, there has been a movement for Australia to become a republic, with an elected President as Head of State instead of the Queen. In 1999, the people of Australia were asked in a referendum whether they wanted a republic. The decision of the people was to remain a monarchy. The Queen visited Australia the following year and said that she would continue to serve Australians as she had done for 48 years.
The Queen surprised Mary McAleese, who is now President of Ireland, by inviting her to lunch with the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen wanted to hear the views of a leading Irish Nationalist, about Northern Ireland. Mary McAleese, said that the Queen was "a dote" which means "a really lovely person (in Hiberno-English).
Elizabeth II has warm friendly relationships with many world leaders. Her first Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies called her "my Dear" and recited a poem that said "I will love her till I die". She has friendships with Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1997-2002) and George W. Bush, who was the first American President in more than 80 years to stay at Buckingham Palace. Nelson Mandela, in the BBC documentary, called her "my friend, Elizabeth".
In May 2007, the Queen and Prince Philip made a state visit to the United States, in honour of the 400 anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.
Faith and Duty.
Elizabeth II, as the Monarch of the United Kingdom, is the "Supreme Governor" of the Church of England and sworn protector of the Church of Scotland. In fact, although she is very interested in the Church of England, she gives authority to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She sometimes attends the yearly meeting of "the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland".
The Queen regularly goes to church at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. When she stays at Sandringham House, in Norfolk she goes to St. Mary Magdalene Church. When the Royal Family is holidaying at Balmoral Castle, they go to Crathie Kirk. When the Queen is at Holyroodhouse, which is the Royal Palace in Edinburgh, she goes to Canongate Kirk.
The Queen often meets with leaders from other religions as well. In 1980 she became the first British Monarch to visit the Vatican, where she was welcomed by Pope John Paul II. She made another visit twenty years later on October 17, 2000. Queen Elizabeth II is Patron of "The Council of Christians and Jews" in the UK.
The Queen has shown a very strong sense of duty, ever since she was a girl. The "Coronation Oath" that she would serve her people all the days of her life has always been very important to her. Some people think that now that she is old, perhaps she will retire ("abdicate") and let her son Prince Charles take the throne. People who know her well, including Prince Charles, have said that this will never happen.
The Queen has often shown her courage, ever since she joined the military at 18, and drove an ambulance in London, while the city was being bombed. During a trip to Ghana in 1961 she was warned that it was dangerous to be near the President Kwame Nkrumah because people wanted to assassinate him. But she refused to be rude to him by keeping away. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Harold Macmillan wrote that the Queen got very impatient with people if they tried to treat her like "a film star".
In 1964, when the Queen was invited to Quebec, there were fears for her safety. There were suggestions that the tour should be cancelled. But The Queen’s Private Secretary replied that the Queen would be horrified if she was stopped from going to Quebec because of extremists. During the Trooping the Colour in 1981 there was an attempt on the Queen's life. Six rounds of blanks were fired at her from close range as she rode her horse down The Mall. Her only reaction was to duck slightly and then continue on.
In 1982 there was a surprising incident when a man called Michael Fagan successfully broke into Buckingham Palace in the morning, while the Queen's Police Guard was walking the dogs. He set off an alarm but one of the staff turned it off, because they thought it was faulty. Michael Fagan then wandered around, drank a bottle of wine and cut his hand on a broken ashtray. When he found the Queen's bedroom he woke her up, and sat on the end of the bed, to tell her his problems. The Queen kept quite calm. She got up to get him some cigarettes and was able to call a large "footman" (a servant) who held onto the man until the guards came. Michael Fagan was charged with stealing the wine.
Family relations.
Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth II has been supported in her many official duties by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip made an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen on the day of her Coronation. The Queen has also had the support of her mother Queen Elizabeth, known as "The Queen Mother", who lived to be 101 years old, and stayed very active in her old-age. The Queen is the patron of many organisations and charities. She has many invitations and official duties. Many of the duties have been shared by other members of the Royal Family, who have also become patrons of many organisations. Among the hard-working Royals are her son Charles, Prince of Wales and her daughter, Anne, the Princess Royal, as well as the Queen's cousins, the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Gloucester, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
The Queen has had a lot of sadness over the broken marriages and divorces of three of her children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. Prince Charles, to avoid scandal, and because of the position he would one day hold in the Church of England, had difficulty finding a wife who would be acceptable. His marriage to Lady Diana Spencer was thought of as a fairytale wedding because she was young, innocent and beautiful. But it soon became unhappy, and ended in divorce, and in the terrible tragedy of her death in 1997. In the year 2002, within a few months of each other, the Queen's mother and sister Princess Margaret both died.
On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles, whom he had loved for very many years. Their marriage was a "civil ceremony" in the Guildhall at Windsor, which the Queen did not attend. Some people thought that this was a sign that she did not approve. But the marriage was followed by a religious ceremony in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, which the Queen and all the Royal Family attended.
Of the younger members of the family, it is said that the Queen is very close to her daughter-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, wife of the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward. The Queen has a good relationship with all her grandchildren but particularly Prince William, Princess Beatrice and Zara Phillips.
As the Queen has got older, people have sometimes worried about her health. When she appeared with a plaster on her arm, there was a rumour that she was sick, and needed "intravenous" treatment. But in fact, she had been bitten while stopping her dogs from fighting. The Queen is very rarely sick, but lately, has had some problems with her back. Since her 80th birthday, the Queen is leaving more duties to the younger members of the Royal Family, particularly to Prince Charles, who will one day follow her as the reigning monarch.
Silver Jubilee.
In 1977, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee, marking the 25 anniversary of her coming to the Throne. There was a royal procession in the golden State Coach and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral. Millions of people watched on television. There were public "street parties" held across the UK. Five commemorative stamps were also printed. The Jubilee line of the London Underground, which opened in 1979, was named in honour of the anniversary.
Golden Jubilee.
In 2002, Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking the 50 anniversary of her coming to the Throne. The Queen made a tour of the Commonwealth realms. There was the first ever pop concert in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral. The celebrations were not so big as 25 years earlier, because the Queen's mother and sister had both died that year.
Diamond Wedding Anniversary.
The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their sixtieth (Diamond) wedding anniversary on Monday 19 November 2007, with a special service at Westminster Abbey. The night before, Prince Charles gave a private dinner party at Clarence House for twenty members of the Royal Family.
On the following day, 20 November, The Queen and Prince Philip went off on a visit to Malta, where they had stayed from 1949 to 1951 after getting married. A Royal Navy ship which was nearby, got its sailors to line up on deck, to form a big number '60', for the couple's sixtieth wedding anniversary.
People often wonder how rich the Queen really is. It is very hard to tell. The reason for this is because she owns several large properties, such as Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle which have never been valued. She also owns a fabulous collection of works of art, which she "holds in trust". This means that she cannot sell them. They belong to "the Crown" but not to Elizabeth as a person. The artworks and the properties are worth billions of dollars.
In 2006, "Forbes" magazine published an estimate of her personal fortune. They guessed (on evidence) that it was about US$500 million (Â$280 million).
At the time of the Tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004, it was said that Queen Elizabeth II gave more from her private money, than any other person. However, she did not give the money to the governments of the countries. She gave it to many charities such as the Save the Children Fund.
List of the countries of the Commonwealth Realm.
The Queen has a coat of arms in each of her Realms. In the UK, they are known as the "Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom". Every British monarch has used these arms since the reign of Queen Victoria.There is a separate "Royal Coat of Arms" for use in Scotland, which shows the insignia of the Order of the Thistle.

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