Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II turns 95 today.
To mark the occasion, we’re taking a look back at her remarkable life.
This article was originally written by Ian Lloyd, and published in time for the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016.
Our Queen was born at 2.40 on the morning of April 21, 1926.
To date she’s the only British monarch to have been born in a house with a door number – 17 Bruton Street, London.
Not that it was an “ordinary” house; it was a mansion in Mayfair that was leased by her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. These days a Cantonese restaurant stands on the spot.
Elizabeth wasn’t born to be Queen.
The heir to the throne was her uncle David, the Prince of Wales. He was thirty-one at the time and young enough to go on to marry, settle down, and have his own family.
Her parents were the Duke and Duchess of York, and Elizabeth was their firstborn child. Princess Beatrice is also the daughter of a Duke of York, one of the reasons the Queen is close to her.
The Queen was christened Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra, who had died the previous November, and Mary after Queen Mary, who was a role model to the princess and the royal lady many people think she resembles, with her blue eyes and serious expression.
To her close family she was known then, as now, as “Lilibet”, after her first unsuccessful attempts to say her own name.
Her grandfather, George V, was cold and remote to his own children, but adored his eldest granddaughter. In 1928 he came close to death with a bronchial infection.
He was sent to recuperate by the sea. When young Lilibet came to stay, she proved to be just the tonic. Elizabeth’s life changed for ever 80 years ago in 1936 when she was just ten.
In January, George V died at Sandringham and her uncle David became King Edward VIII.
High society was aware that David was in love with a twice-divorced American socialite called Wallis Simpson. The general public, and also the young Elizabeth, were kept in the dark until December of that year when the story broke in the press.
Edward decided to abdicate and Elizabeth’s father became George VI on December 11.
Continue their day-to-day life as before
The new King George and Queen Elizabeth were determined that Elizabeth and her six-year-old sister, Margaret Rose, should continue their day-to-day life as before.
There was, however, one obvious difference. The family had to move from their home, 145 Piccadilly, London, to Buckingham Palace.
At the palace the nursery was run by Clara Knight, known as “Alla” to the girls. Elizabeth had her own maid, Margaret “Bobo” MacDonald, who was born in the Black Isle, north of Inverness.
Another Scotswoman, Marion Crawford, who was raised in Dunfermline, Fife, was governess to the girls.
Elizabeth was a well-behaved little girl who was besotted from an early age with horses. George V gave her a pony called Peggy as a fourth birthday present.
Elizabeth met her distant cousin, Prince Philip of Greece
In July 1939, before the start of World War II, Elizabeth met her distant cousin, Prince Philip of Greece, during a royal visit to Dartmouth Naval College.
The thirteen-year-old princess was clearly enamoured with blond-haired Philip, who was five years her senior.
They corresponded during the war, and when he was on leave from the Navy he occasionally stayed with the royals at Windsor Castle.
Her parents were worried that Elizabeth was too young to marry. But as her grandmother Queen Mary noted, she knew her own heart.
Aged only twenty, she became unofficially engaged to Philip.
The King insisted that any formal announcement should be delayed until the Royal Family had returned from a very lengthy tour of South Africa in the spring of 1947.
By now Philip had taken British nationality. It was as Lt Philip Mountbatten RN, newly Duke of Edinburgh, that he married the future Queen in Westminster Abbey later that year.
The following year Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. The young Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh then moved in to Clarence House. Their daughter, Anne, was born there in the summer of 1950.
At the time Philip was stationed with the Mediterranean Fleet in Malta. Elizabeth joined him on that island for three lengthy stays.
The happy years weren’t to last
The happy years weren’t to last. Elizabeth and Philip were heading to Australia in February, 1952, when George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham at the age of only fifty-six.
Elizabeth herself was only twenty-five when she had to take on the burdens of a monarch.
The following year she was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth insisted that the service should be televised live so that millions of her subjects had a front-row seat for the ceremony.
In 1953 the Royal couple undertook a six-month tour of Commonwealth countries, while their children stayed at home.
Elizabeth’s main concern in these years was for her sister, Princess Margaret.
The Princess had embarked on an ill-fated romance with her father’s former equerry, Group Captain Peter Townsend. In 1955 she announced that she would not be marrying him, and went on instead to marry society photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960.
The early sixties saw Elizabeth becoming increasingly confident in her role. She decided to have a “second family”, and gave birth to Andrew in 1960, followed by Edward four years later.
The close-knit House of Windsor was seen by millions at the end of that decade in the landmark documentary “Royal Family”.
Viewers saw the Queen as a mother taking Edward to the shop at Crathie near her Balmoral home to buy sweeties, and also making the salad dressing for the barbecue picnic that Philip was cooking.
For the first time the nation heard the Queen speak in her normal voice. Prior to this, she’d only been heard making formal speeches or broadcasts.
The monarchy under Elizabeth II was clearly adapting to changing times . . .
Tomorrow, we’ll continue this look into the life of the Queen, reaching the year 2000 and beyond.
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