(April 21, 1926 AD～Present)
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926)[N 1] is the reigning queen and head of state of the 16 independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. In addition, as Head of the Commonwealth, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations and, as the British monarch, she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Elizabeth was educated privately at home. Her father, George VI, became King-Emperor of the British Empire in 1936. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, in which she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. After the war and Indian independence George VI's title of Emperor of India was abandoned, and the evolution of the Empire into the Commonwealth accelerated. In 1947, Elizabeth made the first of many tours around the Commonwealth, and married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They have four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.
In 1949, George VI became the first Head of the Commonwealth, a symbol of the free association of the independent countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations. On his death in 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth, and constitutional monarch of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. During her reign, which at 58 years is one of the longest for a British monarch, she became queen of 25 other countries within the Commonwealth as they gained independence. Between 1956 and 1992, half of her realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics.
In 1992, which Elizabeth termed her annus horribilis, meaning horrible year, two of her sons separated from their wives, her daughter divorced, and a severe fire destroyed part of Windsor Castle. Revelations on the state of her eldest son Charles's marriage continued, and he divorced in 1996. The following year, her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris. The media criticised the royal family for remaining in seclusion in the days before Diana's funeral, but Elizabeth's personal popularity rebounded once she had appeared in public and has since remained high. Her Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated in 1977 and 2002 respectively, and planning for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 is underway.
Elizabeth was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and his wife, Elizabeth. Her father was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary, and her mother was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She was born by Caesarean section at 2.40 am (GMT) on 21 April 1926 at her maternal grandfather's London house: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair; and was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, on 29 May.[N 2] She was named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V's mother, and Mary after her grandmother. Her close family called her "Lilibet". George V cherished his granddaughter, and during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits raised his spirits and were credited with aiding his recovery.
Elizabeth's only sibling was Princess Margaret, born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, who was casually known as "Crawfie". To the dismay of the royal family, Crawford later published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses. The book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, and her attitude of responsibility. Such observations were echoed by others: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as "a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved".
As a granddaughter of the monarch in the male line, Elizabeth's full style at birth was Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York. She was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, Edward, Prince of Wales, and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, she was not expected to become queen, as the Prince of Wales was still young, and it was widely assumed that he would marry and have children of his own. In 1936, when her grandfather, the King, died and her uncle Edward succeeded, she became second in line to the throne after her father. Later that year, Edward abdicated after his proposed marriage to divorced socialite Wallis Simpson provoked a constitutional crisis. Elizabeth's father became king, and she became heiress presumptive, with the style Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth.
Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, and learned French from a succession of native-speaking governesses. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed specifically so she could socialise with girls her own age. Later she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.
In 1939, Elizabeth's parents toured Canada and visited the United States. As in 1927, when her parents had toured Australia and New Zealand, Elizabeth remained in Britain as the King thought her too young to undertake public tours. Elizabeth "looked tearful" as her parents departed. They corresponded regularly, and on 18 May, she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call.
Second World War
From September 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, stayed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, until Christmas 1939, when they moved to Sandringham House, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodge, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castle, where they stayed for most of the next five years. The suggestion by senior politician Lord Hailsham that the two princesses should be evacuated to Canada was rejected by Elizabeth's mother; she declared, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." At Windsor, the princesses staged pantomimes at Christmas in aid of the Queen's Wool Fund, which purchased yarn to knit into military garments. It was from Windsor in 1940 that the 14-year-old Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated:
We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.
In 1943, at the age of 16, Elizabeth undertook her first solo public appearance on a visit to the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed Colonel-in-Chief the previous year. In February 1945, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as an honorary Second Subaltern with the service number of 230873. She trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and was promoted to honorary Junior Commander five months later. She is the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during the Second World War.
During the war, plans were drawn up to quell Welsh nationalism by affiliating Elizabeth more closely with Wales. Welsh politicians proposed that Elizabeth be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday. The idea was supported by Home Secretary Herbert Morrison but rejected by the King on the grounds that such a title belonged solely to the wife of a Prince of Wales, and the Prince of Wales had always been the heir apparent (usually the Sovereign's eldest surviving son) while Elizabeth was only heir presumptive (and could be supplanted in the line of succession if the Sovereign had a son). In 1946, she was inducted into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and her sister mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London. She later said in a rare interview, "we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised... I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief." Two years later, the princess made her first overseas tour, when she accompanied her parents to Southern Africa. On her 21st birthday, 21 April 1947, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth from South Africa, she pledged: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and 1937. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth – though only 13 years old – fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. They married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. The couple are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother's British family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness.
The marriage was not without controversy: Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject), and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Elizabeth's mother was reported, in later biographies, to have opposed the union initially, even dubbing Philip "The Hun". In later life, however, she told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was "an English gentleman".
Elizabeth and Philip received 2500 wedding gifts from around the world, but the country had not yet completely rebounded from the devastation of the war. She still required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, designed by Norman Hartnell. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for any of the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations to be invited to the wedding, including Philip's three surviving sisters. Ronald Storrs claimed that another notable absentee, Elizabeth's aunt, Mary, Princess Royal, refused to attend because her brother Edward, the former king, was not invited; she gave ill health as the official reason for not attending.
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948, less than one month after letters patent were issued by her father allowing her children to enjoy a royal and princely status to which they otherwise would not have been entitled. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.
Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor near Windsor Castle, until 4 July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta (at that time a British Protectorate) as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of Gwardamanġia, at the Villa Gwardamanġia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children remained in Britain.
George VI's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she toured Canada, and visited President of the United States Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C.; on the trip, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration for use if the King died while she was on tour. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand via Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan residence Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of Elizabeth's father. Philip broke the news to the new queen. Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name, to which she replied: "Elizabeth, of course." She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.
Elizabeth in crown and robes next to her husband in military uniform
Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, June 1953
With Elizabeth's accession it seemed likely that the royal house would bear her husband's name. Lord Mountbatten thought it would be the House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip's last name on marriage; however, Queen Mary and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill favoured the retention of the House of Windsor, and so Windsor it remained. The Duke complained,"I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children." In 1960, after the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Philip and Elizabeth's male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles.
In the midst of preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorced commoner 16 years older than Margaret with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Martin Charteris, "the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought – she hoped – given time, the affair would peter out." Senior politicians were against the match, and the Church of England did not permit re-marriage after divorce. If Margaret contracted a civil marriage, she would have to renounce her right of succession. Eventually, she decided to abandon her plans with Townsend. In 1960, she married Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. They were divorced in 1978. She did not remarry.
Despite the death of Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary on 24 March 1953, the coronation went ahead in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, in accordance with Mary's wishes. The entire ceremony, except the anointing and communion, was televised, and the coverage was instrumental in boosting the medium's popularity; the number of television licences in the United Kingdom doubled to 3 million, and many of the more than 20 million British viewers watched television for the first time in the homes of their friends or neighbours. In North America, just under 100 million viewers watched recorded broadcasts. Elizabeth wore a gown commissioned from Norman Hartnell, which was embroidered with floral emblems for the countries of the Commonwealth: English Tudor rose, Scots thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, New Zealand silver fern, South African protea, lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute.
Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth
Elizabeth witnessed, over her life, the ongoing transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, her role as nominal head of multiple independent states was already established. Spanning 1953–54, the Queen and her husband embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen the Queen. Throughout her reign Elizabeth has undertaken state visits to foreign countries, and tours of Commonwealth ones. She is the most widely travelled head of state in history.
In 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden discussed the possibility of France joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted, and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, the precursor of the European Union. In November 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez Canal. Lord Mountbatten claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Prime Minister Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.
The absence of a formal mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader meant that, following Eden's resignation, it fell to the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government. Eden recommended that Elizabeth consult Lord Salisbury (the Lord President of the Council). Lord Salisbury and Lord Kilmuir (the Lord Chancellor) consulted the Cabinet, Winston Churchill, and the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, as a result of which the Queen appointed their recommended candidate: Harold Macmillan. Six years later, Macmillan himself resigned and advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home as Prime Minister, advice which she followed.
The Suez crisis and the choice of Eden's successor led in 1957 to the first real personal criticism of the Queen. In a magazine, which he owned and edited, Lord Altrincham accused her of being "out of touch". Altrincham was denounced by public figures and physically attacked by a member of the public appalled at his comments. In 1963, the Queen again came under criticism for appointing the Prime Minister on the advice of a small number of ministers, or a single minister. In 1965, the Conservatives adopted a formal mechanism for choosing a leader, thus relieving her of any involvement.
In 1957, she made a state visit on behalf of the Commonwealth to the United States, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly. On the same tour she opened the 23rd Canadian Parliament, becoming the first monarch of Canada to open a parliamentary session. Two years later, she revisited the States as a representative of Canada. In 1961, she toured Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Iran. On a visit to Ghana the same year, she dismissed fears for her safety, even though her host President Kwame Nkrumah, who had replaced her as head of state, was a target for assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote: "The Queen has been absolutely determined all through... She is impatient of the attitude towards her to treat her as... a film star... She has indeed 'the heart and stomach of a man'... She loves her duty and means to be a Queen."
Elizabeth and Pat Nixon walk out of a red-brick building in step
Elizabeth (left) with US First Lady Pat Nixon, 1970; President Nixon is hidden from view behind Elizabeth, next to British Prime Minister Edward Heath (far left)
Elizabeth's pregnancies with Princes Andrew and Edward, in 1959 and 1963, mark the only times she has not performed the State Opening of the British Parliament during her reign. Instead, Parliament was opened by Royal Commission and the Lord Chancellor delivered the speech from the throne.
The 1960s and 1970s saw an acceleration in the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. Over 20 countries gained independence from Britain as part of a planned transition to self-government. In 1965, however, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence in opposition to moves toward majority black rule. Although the Queen dismissed Smith in a formal declaration and the international community applied sanctions against Rhodesia, Smith's regime survived for over a decade.
In February 1974, British Prime Minister Edward Heath called a general election in the middle of the Queen's tour of the Austronesian Pacific Rim, and she had to fly back to Britain interrupting the tour. The inconclusive result of the election meant that Heath, whose Conservative party had the largest share of the popular vote but no overall majority, could stay in office if he formed a coalition with the Liberals. Heath only resigned when discussions on forming a cooperative government foundered, after which the Queen asked the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Harold Wilson, to form a government.
A year later, at the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed from his post by Governor-General Sir John Kerr after the Opposition-controlled Senate rejected Whitlam's budget proposals. As Whitlam had a majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker Gordon Scholes appealed to the Queen to reverse Kerr's decision. Elizabeth declined, stating that it was not appropriate for her to intervene in affairs that are reserved for the Governor-General by the Constitution of Australia. The crisis fuelled Australian republicanism.
In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Parties and events took place throughout the Commonwealth, many coinciding with the Queen's associated national and Commonwealth tours. The celebrations re-affirmed the Queen's popularity, despite virtually coincident negative press coverage of Princess Margaret's separation from her husband. In 1978, Elizabeth endured a state visit by the communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu. The following year brought two blows: one was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, former Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, as a communist spy; the other was the assassination of her relative and in-law Lord Mountbatten by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
According to Paul Martin, Sr., by the end of the 1970s the Queen was worried the Crown "had little meaning for" Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau was suspected of being in favour of a Canadian republic, which he publicly denied. In 1980, Canadian politicians sent to London to discuss the patriation of the Canadian constitution found the Queen "better informed on... Canada's constitutional case than any of the British politicians or bureaucrats". Patriation removed the role of the British parliament in the Canadian constitution, but the monarchy was retained. Trudeau said in his memoirs: "The Queen favoured my attempt to reform the Constitution. I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation."
During the 1981 Trooping the Colour ceremony, and only six weeks before the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, six shots were fired at the Queen from close range as she rode down The Mall on her horse, Burmese. Later, it was discovered that the shots were blanks. The 17-year-old assailant, Marcus Sarjeant, was sentenced to five years in prison and released after three. The Queen's composure, and skill in controlling her mount, were widely praised. The following year, the Queen found herself in another precarious situation when she awoke in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace to find an intruder, Michael Fagan, in the room with her. Remaining calm, and through two calls to the palace police switchboard, Elizabeth spoke to Fagan while he sat at the foot of her bed until assistance arrived seven minutes later. From April to September that year, the Queen remained anxious but proud of her son, Prince Andrew, who was serving with British forces during the Falklands War. Though she hosted President Ronald Reagan at Windsor Castle in 1982, and visited his Californian ranch in 1983, she was angered when his administration ordered the invasion of Grenada, one of her Caribbean realms, without her foreknowledge.
Intense media interest in the opinions and private lives of the royal family during the 1980s led to a series of sensational stories in the press, not all of which were entirely true.[N 3][N 4] It was reported that Elizabeth was worried that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic policies fostered social divisions, and was alarmed by high unemployment, a series of riots, the violence of a miners' strike, and Thatcher's refusal to apply sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa.[N 5] Thatcher reputedly said the Queen would vote for the Social Democratic Party—Thatcher's political opponents. Despite such speculation, Thatcher later conveyed her personal admiration for the Queen on film and in her memoirs. Further belying reports of acrimony between them, after Thatcher's replacement by John Major, Elizabeth gave two honours in her personal gift to Thatcher: the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter. She also attended Thatcher's 70th and 80th birthday parties.
By the start of 1991, republican feeling had risen as a result of press estimates of the Queen's private wealth, which were contradicted by the palace, and reports of affairs and strained marriages among her extended family. The involvement of the younger royals in the charity game show It's a Royal Knockout was ridiculed, and the Queen was the target of satire.
In 1991, in the wake of victory in the Gulf War, she became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United States Congress. The following year, she attempted to save the failing marriage of her eldest son, Charles, by counselling him and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, to patch up their differences.
Behind her husband, Elizabeth holds a pair of spectacles to her mouth in a thoughtful pose
Prince Philip and Elizabeth II, October 1992
In a speech on 24 November 1992, to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession, the Queen called 1992 her "annus horribilis", meaning horrible year. In March, her second son Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and his wife Sarah, Duchess of York, separated. In April, her daughter Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Captain Mark Phillips. During a state visit to Germany in October, angry demonstrators in Dresden threw eggs at her, and in November Windsor Castle suffered severe fire damage. The monarchy received increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, Elizabeth said that any institution must expect criticism but suggested it be done with "a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding". Two days later, Prime Minister John Major announced reforms of the royal finances that had been planned since the previous year, including the Queen paying income tax for the first time starting in 1993 and a reduction in the civil list. In December, Charles and Diana formally separated. The year ended with a lawsuit as the Queen sued The Sun newspaper for breach of copyright when it published the text of her annual Christmas message two days before its broadcast. The newspaper was forced to pay her legal fees, and donated £200,000 to charity.
Charles and Diana
In the ensuing years, public revelations on the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. At the end of December 1995, in consultation with Prime Minister Major, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, her private secretary Robert Fellowes, and her husband, she wrote to both Charles and Diana saying that a divorce was now desirable. A year after the divorce, which took place in 1996, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. At the time, the Queen was on holiday at Balmoral with her son and grandchildren. Diana's two sons wanted to attend church, and so their grandparents took them that morning.
After that single public appearance, for five days the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the intense press interest by keeping them at Balmoral where they could grieve in private. The royal family's seclusion caused public dismay. Pressured by the hostile public reaction, the Queen returned to London and agreed to a live broadcast to the world on 5 September, the day before Diana's funeral. In the broadcast, she expressed admiration for Diana, and her feelings "as a grandmother" for Princes William and Harry. As a result, much of the public hostility evaporated.
Golden Jubilee and beyond
In evening wear, Elizabeth and President Bush hold wine glasses of water and smile
Elizabeth II and George W. Bush share a toast during a state dinner at the White House, 7 May 2007
Elizabeth II (centre, in pink) during a walkabout in Queen's Park, Toronto, 6 July 2010
In 2002, Elizabeth marked her Golden Jubilee as queen. Her sister and mother died in February and March, respectively, and the media speculated whether the Jubilee would be a success or a failure. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, which began in Jamaica in February, where she called the farewell banquet "memorable" after a power cut plunged the King's House, the official residence of the Governor-General, into darkness. As in 1977, there were street parties and commemorative events, and monuments were named to honour the occasion. A million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London, and the enthusiasm shown by the public for Elizabeth was greater than many journalists had predicted.
Though Elizabeth has enjoyed good health throughout her life, in 2003 she had keyhole surgery on both knees, and in June 2005 she cancelled several engagements after contracting a bad cold. In October 2006, the Queen missed the opening of the new Emirates Stadium because of a strained back muscle that had been troubling her since the summer. Two months later, she was seen in public with a plaster on her right hand, which led to press speculation of ill health. She had been bitten by one of her corgis while she was separating two that were fighting.
In May 2007, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported claims from unnamed sources that the Queen was "exasperated and frustrated" by the policies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that she had shown concern that the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she had raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair repeatedly. She was, however, said to admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the Queen attended the first Maundy Service held outside of England and Wales.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007; their marriage is the longest of any British monarch. The Queen's reign is longer than those of her four immediate predecessors combined (Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI). She is the third-longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, the second-longest-serving current monarch of a sovereign state (after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand), and the oldest reigning British monarch. She has no intention of abdicating, though the proportion of public duties performed by Prince Charles may increase as Elizabeth reduces her commitments.
Elizabeth addressed the United Nations for a second time in 2010, 53 years after her first address, again in her capacity as queen of all of her realms and Head of the Commonwealth. She was introduced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as "an anchor for our age". In her speech, which followed a tour of Canada and was considered by her staff to be one of her most important recently, she said that she had "witnessed great change, much of it for the better... But", she continued, "The aims and values which inspired the United Nations Charter endure." She concluded, "In tomorrow's world, we must all work together as hard as ever if we are truly to be united nations." While in New York, she also officially opened a memorial garden for the British victims of the 11 September attacks.
Elizabeth plans to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years as Queen. Elizabeth could become the longest-lived British head of state (surpassing Richard Cromwell) on 29 January 2012 at age 85, and the longest-reigning monarch in the history of any of her realms as well as the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history (surpassing Queen Victoria, who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897) on 10 September 2015 at age 89.
Public perception and character
Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, little is known of her personal feelings. As a constitutional monarch, she has not expressed her own political opinions in a public forum. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, she personally worships with that church and with the national Church of Scotland. She has demonstrated support for inter-faith relations, and has met with leaders of other religions, and granted her personal patronage to the Council of Christians and Jews. A personal note about her faith often features in her annual Royal Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth, such as in 2000, when she spoke about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ:
accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example.
Elizabeth and Ronald Reagan on black horses. He bare-headed; she in a headscarf; both in tweeds, jodhpurs and riding boots.
Elizabeth II and Ronald Reagan riding at Windsor, 1982
Elizabeth is the patron of over 600 charities and other organisations. Her main leisure interests include equestrianism and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Her clothes consist mostly of solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd.
In the 1950s, as a young woman at the start of her reign, Elizabeth was depicted as a glamorous "fairytale Queen". After the trauma of the war, it was a time of hope, a period of progress and achievement heralding a "new Elizabethan age". Lord Altrincham's accusation in 1957 that she was a "priggish schoolgirl" was an extremely rare criticism. In the late 1960s, attempts to portray a more modern image of monarchy were made in the television documentary Royal Family, and by televising Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales. At her Silver Jubilee, the crowds and celebrations were genuinely enthusiastic, but in the 1980s public criticism of the royal family increased, as the personal and working lives of Elizabeth's children came under media scrutiny. Elizabeth's popularity sank to a low point in the 1990s; under pressure from public opinion she began to pay income tax for the first time, and Buckingham Palace was opened to the public. Discontent with the monarchy reached its peak on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, though the Queen's popularity rebounded after her live broadcast to the world five days after Diana's death. In November 1999, a referendum in Australia on the future of the monarchy favoured its retention in preference to an indirectly elected head of state. Polls in Britain in 2006 and 2007 revealed strong support for Elizabeth, and referendums in Tuvalu in 2008 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 both rejected proposals to abolish the monarchy.
Elizabeth's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at around US$450 million in 2009, but official Buckingham Palace statements in 1993 called estimates of £100 million "grossly overstated", and Jock Colville estimated her wealth at £2 million in 1971 (the equivalent of about £21 million today). The Royal Collection, which includes artworks and the Crown Jewels, is not owned by the Queen personally and is held in trust, as are the occupied palaces in the United Kingdom such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued at £348 million in 2010. As with many of her predecessors, Elizabeth is reported to dislike Buckingham Palace as a residence, and prefers Windsor Castle. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are privately owned by the Queen. Income from the British Crown Estate – with holdings of £6.6 billion in 2010 – is transferred to the British treasury in return for Civil List payments. Both the Crown Estate and the Crown Land of Canada – comprising 89% of Canada's area – are owned by the Sovereign in trust for the nation, and cannot be sold or owned by Elizabeth in a private capacity.
Titles, styles, honours, and arm
Elizabeth has held titles throughout her life, as a granddaughter of the monarch, as a daughter of the monarch, through her husband's titles, and eventually as Sovereign. In common parlance, she is The Queen or Her Majesty. Officially, she has a distinct title in each of her realms: Queen of Canada in Canada, Queen of Australia in Australia, etc. In the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies rather than separate realms, she is known as Duke of Normandy and Lord of Man respectively. Additional styles include Defender of the Faith and Duke of Lancaster. When in conversation with the Queen, the practice is to initially address her as Your Majesty and thereafter as Ma'am.
Elizabeth has received honours and awards from countries around the world, and has held honorary military positions throughout the Commonwealth, both before and after her accession.
From 21 April 1944, Elizabeth's arms consisted of a lozenge bearing the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, differenced with a label of three points argent, the centre bearing a Tudor Rose and the first and third a cross of St. George. After her accession as Sovereign, she adopted the royal coat of arms undifferenced. The design of the shield is also used on the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom. Elizabeth has personal flags for use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, and elsewhere.