Elizabeth II

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Elizabeth II in March 2015
British royal family
Badge of the House of Windsor.svg

HM The Queen

Elizabeth II ( English Elizabeth II ; born April 21, 1926 as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in Mayfair , London ) from the House of Windsor has been Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland since 1952 as well as in a personal union of 14 other sovereign states known as Commonwealth Realms , including their territories and dependent areas, namely: Antigua and Barbuda , Australia , the Bahamas , Belize , Grenada , Jamaica , Canada , New Zealand , Papua New Guinea , Saint Kitts and Nevis , Saint Lucia , Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu .

She is also the head of the 53-state Commonwealth of Nations , liege lady of the British Crown Dependencies and secular head of the Anglican Church of England , the state church of England .

From 1956 to 1992, the number of Commonwealth realms varied as various British colonies gained independence and several states declared themselves republics . Only in the United Kingdom does the Queen personally exercise her almost exclusively representative rights and duties. In the remaining Commonwealth realms it is represented by governors-general . By virtue of centuries of customary law, she acts as a de facto constitutional , parliamentary monarch .

Elizabeth II was born after her uncle Edward VIII and her father George VI. third in line to the British throne . Her father ascended the throne in 1936, after his older brother's abdication . A heiress presumptive (probable heir to the throne), Elizabeth first took on public duties during the Second World War and served in the Women's Section of the British Army . On 20 November 1947 she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark , the Duke of Edinburgh , with whom she has four children: Charles , Anne , Andrew and Edward . Prince Philip died after 73 years and 140 days of marriage on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99 years and 303 days.

After the death of her father, Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952. Her coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 and was the first to be televised. She has held the throne longer than any British monarch before her, and she is currently the longest-serving head of state in the world . Significant political processes during her rule were the decolonization of the British Empire , the Cold War , the Northern Ireland conflict and Brexit . Despite increasing criticism of the royal family by the mass media and growing support for the republican form of government – ​​especially in Australia – the population's loyalty to the monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II remained intact.



Elisabeth at the age of three ( Time magazine cover of April 29, 1929)

Elizabeth is the elder of two children born to Prince Albert, then Duke of York and later King George VI. , and his wife Elizabeth, Duchess of York ( Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon , later Queen Elizabeth). Her father was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary . Her mother was the youngest daughter of Earl Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne of Scotland . Elisabeth was born by caesarean section on 21 April 1926 , the place of birth being her maternal grandfather's home at 17 Bruton Street in the London Borough of Mayfair . Cosmo Gordon Lang , the Anglican Archbishop of York , baptized her in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May . The godparents were her parents, Lord Strathmore, Prince Arthur (paternal great-great-uncle), Princess Mary (paternal aunt) and Mary Elphinstone (maternal aunt). She was given the name Elisabeth Alexandra Mary - after her mother, her great-grandmother Alexandra of Denmark , who died the year before, and her aunts. The closest family members called her "Lilibet".

The only sister, Princess Margaret , was four years younger. Both princesses were homeschooled, under the supervision of their mother and Scottish governess Marion Crawford. Classes focused on history, languages, literature and music. In 1950, without royal approval, Crawford published a biography of the childhood years of Elizabeth and Margaret entitled The Little Princesses . The book describes Elisabeth's love for horses and dogs, her orderliness and sense of responsibility. Others confirmed these observations: Winston Churchill said of Elizabeth, who was then two years old, that she was a personality and exuded authority and thoughtfulness, which was amazing for a child. Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a lively little girl, but basically sensible and well-behaved".

heir to the throne

Elisabeth at the age of seven, by Philip de László (1933)

During her grandfather's reign, Elizabeth was third in line to the British throne , behind her uncle Edward of Wales and her father. Her birth had attracted public attention, and in April 1929, the American magazine Time had her on the front page. Still, she was not expected to become Queen as the Prince of Wales was still young, likely to marry and have children of his own. When her grandfather George V died on 20 January 1936, her uncle succeeded him as Edward VIII and she became second in line to the throne. On December 11, 1936 , her uncle abdicated after his intention to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson sparked a constitutional crisis. In his place, her father became the new king. If the parents had had another son later, Elisabeth would have slipped behind them in the line of succession due to the preference given to male offspring at the time.

Elizabeth received tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Deputy Headmaster of Eton College . With the help of various French and Belgian governesses, she learned to speak French fluently, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was responsible for religious instruction. A Girl Scout group was formed especially for her in 1937 so that she could come into contact with people of her own age; the 1st Buckingham Palace Company included daughters of members of the household and of palace employees. In later years she was a member of the Sea Rangers .

In May and June 1939, Elisabeth's parents embarked on an extended state visit to Canada and the United States . As in 1927, when her parents visited Australia and New Zealand , she stayed at home. Her father thought his daughter was too small for public appearances. They corresponded regularly and made the first royal transatlantic telephone call on 18 May .

Second World War

In September 1939, the United Kingdom entered World War II . During the war, London was subject to regular air raids and many London children were temporarily evacuated . Former Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham suggested taking the princesses to safety in Canada. Elisabeth's mother categorically refused and said: "The children will not go without me. I won't go without the king. And the king will never go.' The children stayed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland until Christmas 1939, after which they lived at Sandringham House in Norfolk and at the Royal Lodge in Windsor , then at Windsor Castle from May 1940 until the end of the war . At Windsor, the princesses put on comedic plays at Christmas to raise money for the Queen's Wool Fund ; the proceeds were earmarked for the purchase of thread used to sew military garments. On 13 October 1940, Elisabeth made her first radio address on the BBC 's Children's Hour programme. In it she addressed the children who had been evacuated from the cities.

Elisabeth in the Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform (April 1945)

On her 16th birthday, Elisabeth made her first public appearance; she attended the Grenadier Guards , of which she had been made honorary colonel the year before. Shortly before her 18th birthday, parliament passed a change in the law: she was now a member of the five -member State Council , which took over his father's duties when she was abroad or was otherwise unable to do so. This was the case, for example, in July 1944 when he visited British troops in Italy . In February 1945, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), where she served under service number 230873 as " Honorary Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor". At the ATS she received training as a truck driver and mechanic. After five months, she was promoted to junior commander on an honorary basis. On May 8, 1945, VE Day , the princesses mingled unrecognized with the reveling crowd on the streets of London.

During the war, the Home Office was concerned that Welsh nationalism might flourish. For this reason a closer relationship between Elizabeth and Wales should be developed. Her appointment as Constable of Caernarfon Castle or Patron of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru youth organization has been suggested . These plans fell through for a variety of reasons, including fears that the princess would be associated with conscientious objectors in the Urdd ranks. Welsh politicians proposed that she be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday . Home Secretary Herbert Morrison supported this idea, but the King rejected it. In his opinion, this title should be reserved for the wife of a Prince of Wales. In 1946, on the occasion of the National Eisteddfod , Elisabeth was accepted into the bards' association Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain . In 1947 she accompanied her parents in an official capacity for the first time on a trip through southern Africa. On her 21st birthday, in a radio address to the countries of the Commonwealth, she made a pledge that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the people of the Commonwealth.


In 1934 and 1937 Elisabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark . He is her third cousin; Queen Victoria is their great-great-grandmother. Both also come from the Danish king Christian IX. she is the great-granddaughter of Alexandra of Denmark and he is the grandson of George I of Greece. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth, then only 13 years old, is said to have fallen in love with Philip, then 18 years old, and they began to write letters. During the Second World War they kept in regular contact. The engagement was officially announced on July 9, 1947.

The engagement was controversial: Philip had no assets, was foreign-born (but a British national who had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War ) and his sisters were married to German nobles with Nazi ties . Marion Crawford wrote: "Some royal advisers felt he wasn't good enough for them. He was a prince without a home and a kingdom. Some newspapers often and extensively referred to his foreign origin.” According to later published biographies, Elisabeth's mother is said to have initially spoken out against the marriage and referred to Philip as “Hunnen” (an English swear word for Germans, derived from the Hun speech ). In later years, however, she called him an "English gentleman ". Prior to marriage, Philip renounced his Danish and Greek titles, converted to Anglicanism from the Greek Orthodox Church , and took the name Philip Mountbatten (the anglicised Battenberg surname of his mother's British family). Immediately before the wedding he received the title of Duke of Edinburgh and was henceforth allowed to call himself His Royal Highness . Until her accession to the throne in 1952, Elizabeth bore the title of Duchess of Edinburgh as his wife . In 1957 Elizabeth awarded Philip the title of prince.

Elisabeth and Philip were married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947 . With Britain still reeling from the ravages of war, she had to resort to ration coupons to purchase the fabrics for her wedding dress, designed by Norman Hartnell . In addition, it was unacceptable for the British in the post-war period to invite the groom's German relatives to the wedding, including his three sisters. The Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, also did not receive an invitation.

On November 14, 1948, Elisabeth gave birth to their first child, Prince Charles . The second child, Princess Anne , followed on August 15, 1950. After the wedding, the couple rented the Windlesham Moor country estate near Windsor, on July 4, 1949 they moved to Clarence House in London . Between 1949 and 1951 Philip was stationed several times in the British Crown Colony of Malta , where he served as an officer in the Royal Navy. He and Elisabeth lived for a time in the hamlet of Gwardamanġa near Pietà , where they occupied the Villa Guardamangia (or Gwardamanġa), a house rented by Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten . Meanwhile, the children stayed in the UK. This was the only time Elisabeth lived abroad.


Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand (1953)

In 1951 George VI's health deteriorated and Elisabeth regularly filled in for him at public events. When she toured Canada in October and then visited President Harry S. Truman in Washington, DC , her private secretary, Martin Charteris , carried with her a draft declaration of accession, in case the king should die during her trip. In early 1952, Elisabeth and Philip embarked on a journey to Kenya , which would later take them to Australia and New Zealand. A few hours after spending a night at the Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park near Nyeri , they learned of George's death on February 6, 1952.

Charteris asked Elizabeth, who had automatically become queen by the death of her father, to choose a ruler's name, after which she settled on her first name. The proclamation in London was carried out by the Accession Council responsible for proclaiming the respective monarch , but only formally because of Elizabeth's absence. The couple promptly returned to the UK and moved into Buckingham Palace.

Accession and Proclamations

After the accession to the throne on February 6, 1952, the proclamations were ceremoniously announced in the following order: on the same day for Elizabeth's rule over Canada, on the 7th for South Africa, on the 8th the later ceremonial proclamation as Queen of the United Kingdom, also on the 8th Australia and on the 11th to New Zealand.

With the accession to the throne, there was a possibility that the royal house would take the surname of Elizabeth's husband and thus be called House Mountbatten. Her grandmother, Queen Mary , and Prime Minister Winston Churchill preferred keeping the Windsor name and prevailed with their opinion. Philip complained: "I am the only man in the country who cannot pass his name on to his own children." In 1960, Mountbatten-Windsor was introduced as a surname for those descendants of Philip and Elizabeth who did not hold a royal title.

Coronation and increasing importance of the mass medium television

Amid preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend , a divorced fighter pilot 16 years her senior with two sons from a previous marriage. The queen asked her to wait a year. According to Martin Charteris, Elisabeth hoped the romance would fizzle out over time. Political leaders were opposed to this union, and the Church of England , of which Elizabeth was now secular head, did not permit the remarriage of the divorced. In the event of a civil marriage, Margaret would have been expected to relinquish her right of succession to the throne. Eventually, she decided against plans to marry Townsend. In 1960 she married Antony Armstrong-Jones , who was made Earl of Snowdon by Elizabeth a year later . The marriage ended in divorce in 1978 and Margaret never remarried.

Before her death on March 24, 1953, Queen Mary had wished that the coronation should take place on June 2 as planned. The ceremony at Westminster Abbey, with the exception of the anointing and communion , was televised for the first time. Elizabeth's coronation robe had been commissioned from Norman Hartnell and embroidered with the floral emblems of the Commonwealth countries according to her instructions. Around 8,000 guests were present at the ceremony, including numerous dignitaries . Elizabeth swore to uphold the laws of her nations and to protect the Church of England.

The coronation was not only shown publicly for the first time in the relatively new medium of television, but the medium itself gained mass distribution for the first time as a result of the event. The number of devices in Great Britain jumped from a few hundred thousand to four million, and a total of around 300 million viewers worldwide are said to have followed the ceremony. This mediatization gave the British monarchy a character that was unknown until then, but one that Elisabeth's mother had already recognized and used. Without this interaction, Elisabeth's interpretation of the role remains incomprehensible.

Development of the Commonwealth

Queen Elizabeth II and Commonwealth politicians at Windsor Castle (1960)

During her reign of more than six decades, the Queen saw the British Empire transform into the Commonwealth of Nations . When she ascended the throne, her role as head of state of various independent states was already established. In 1953/54 she and her husband undertook a six-month trip around the world. She was the first monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those countries during her reign. It is estimated that three quarters of all Australians saw them at the time. During her reign, she made over 100 state visits and over 180 trips to the Commonwealth realms; she is considered the most widely traveled head of state in history.

In 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden discussed the possibility of Franco-British union or France 's accession to the Commonwealth. Elizabeth would also have become French head of state ( George III had given up his theoretical claim to the French throne in 1801). Both proposals failed. France signed the Treaties of Rome the following year , establishing the European Economic Community , the forerunner of the European Union . In November 1956, British and French troops invaded Egypt to take control of the Suez Canal in the wake of the Suez Crisis . Lord Mountbatten claimed the Queen was against the invasion. Eden, who resigned two months later, denied this.

In 1957, the Queen visited the United States and addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on behalf of the Commonwealth. On the same trip, in Ottawa , she became the first Canadian monarch to personally open Parliament . On a state visit to Ghana in 1961, she shrugged off fears for her safety, even though her host , Kwame Nkrumah , who had succeeded her as head of state, was the target of assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote: “The Queen was absolutely determined all along […]. She was upset with the attitude towards her, treating her like […] a movie star […]. Indeed she has 'the heart and marrow of a man'” (a reference to Queen Elizabeth I 's Tilbury speech ). Prior to a 1964 tour of Quebec , there were rumors in the media that extremist Quebec separatists were planning an assassination of the Queen. Although there was no attack, a riot broke out when she was in Montreal . The media reported on "her composure and courage in the face of violence".

Only twice during her reign, in 1959 and 1963, did Elizabeth fail to open Parliament; at that time she was pregnant with Andrew and Edward respectively. In addition to performing traditional ceremonies, she also established new customs. She didn't just want to meet officials and dignitaries on her travels, and she undertook royal walkabouts for the first time during a state visit to Austria in 1969 and also during a trip through Australia and New Zealand in 1970 , during which she approached "ordinary people" to meet with them to have conversations with them.

The Queen dances with US President Gerald Ford (1976)

The decolonization of Africa and the Caribbean accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s. More than 20 countries gained independence from the UK as part of a planned transition to self-government. Rhodesia was expected to do the same, but in 1965 Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith opposed British proposals to transfer power to the black majority. His government unilaterally declared the country's independence while expressing "loyalty and devotion" to Elizabeth. The Queen dismissed him in a formal statement and sanctions were imposed on Rhodesia by the international community. Nonetheless, Smith stayed in power until 1979.

Political influence

For a long time, the Conservative Party had no set rules for electing a new party leader. After Anthony Eden's resignation, the Queen was therefore given the task of appointing a candidate to form a government. Eden recommended that she consult with Lord Salisbury , the Lord President of the Council . Lord Salisbury and Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir then spoke to the Cabinet, Winston Churchill and the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee . Eventually, Elizabeth installed the proposed candidate, Harold Macmillan . When he resigned in 1963, the Queen followed his advice to install Alec Douglas-Home as Prime Minister. As in 1957, she was criticized for following the advice of a small group of ministers or a single minister. In 1965, the Conservative Party introduced a rule for electing a leader, eliminating the need for the Queen's involvement.

In February 1974, British Prime Minister Edward Heath advised the Queen to call new elections . At that time she was on a journey through the Pacific States and had to fly back to Great Britain. The elections did not result in a clear majority (a hung parliament ). Heath's Conservative Party, while losing four seats to the Labor Party , could have formed a coalition with the Liberal Party . When coalition negotiations broke down, the Queen asked opposition leader Harold Wilson to form a government.

At the height of the 1975 constitutional crisis , Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was ousted by Governor-General John Kerr after the opposition-controlled Senate rejected the government's budget proposals. With Whitlam having a majority in the House of Representatives , the Speaker asked the Queen to reverse Kerr's decision. She declined the request on the grounds that she would not interfere in decisions reserved to the Governor-General under the Australian Constitution . The Whitlam crisis led to a strengthening of those political forces in Australia that were striving for a republican form of government.

Silver Jubilee, espionage

1977 was the year of Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee . Festivals and events were held throughout the Commonwealth, many related to their travels through the kingdoms. The festivities confirmed the Queen's popularity, despite the almost simultaneous press campaign against Princess Margaret, who had separated from her husband.

In June 1978, Elisabeth reluctantly received the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena , who had been invited to a three-day state visit by the British government. Her disgust was said to be so great that she hid behind a bush during a walk in the gardens of Buckingham Palace to avoid meeting them. After Ceaușescu's fall in December 1989, she revoked the knighthood bestowed on him and sent back her Star of the Socialist Republic of Romania . In 1979, Anthony Blunt , former Director of the Royal Collection of Paintings, was exposed as a Soviet spy and a member of the Cambridge Five . On August 27 of the same year, Prince Philip's uncle , Lord Mountbatten , with whom she was particularly friendly, was assassinated by the IRA .

Dissolution of Canada's constitutional ties

According to Paul Martin Sr. In the late 1970s, the Queen was concerned that the monarchy "meant little" to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau . According to Tony Benn , the Queen found Trudeau "rather disappointing". The Prime Minister of Canada openly showed his disapproval of the monarchy, for example by sliding down a railing at Buckingham Palace in 1977 or by performing a pirouette behind Elizabeth's back. His actions became more concrete when he had various royal symbols removed in Canada. In 1980, Canadian politicians went to London to discuss severing Canada's last constitutional ties with the United Kingdom. They found that the Queen was "better informed than any British politician or bureaucrat". With the Constitution Act of 1982 , the British Parliament lost its last chance of influencing Canada, but the monarchy survived. Trudeau wrote in his memoirs that the Queen supported his efforts to reform the Constitution. He was impressed "by the dignity she showed in public" and "by the wisdom she showed in private".

Threatened security, ambivalent relationship with the USA

Elisabeth on her horse Burmese at Trooping the Color (1986)

During the annual troop parade in honor of the royal birthday, Trooping the Color on The Mall in June 1981, six shots were fired at Elisabeth as she rode her horse Burmese . This happened just six weeks before Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer . As it turned out, these were blank cartridges. 17-year-old gunman Marcus Sarjeant, who originally intended to use a rifle with live ammunition, was sentenced to five years in prison and paroled after three years. In the early morning of July 9, 1982, Michael Fagan snuck into the Queen's bedroom. She engaged him in conversation for several minutes before police were able to take him away.

Elisabeth's son Andrew , who had trained as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, took part in combat operations of the Falklands War in 1982 aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible .

Her relationship with American President Ronald Reagan was ambivalent : although she had received him at Windsor Castle in 1982 and paid a return visit to his Californian ranch a year later, she was enraged when he ordered the US invasion of Grenada without her first to inform the military intervention in one of their kingdoms.

In the focus of the mass media, criticism of Thatcher's politics

During the 1980s there was a marked increase in interest in the views and private life of the royal family, leading to a series of sensational articles in the press, some of which contained fabrications. Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of The Sun , ordered his staff: "Give me a Sunday-to-Monday furore on the royals. Don't worry if it's not true - as long as it's not made too much of a fuss afterwards." Publisher Donald Trelford wrote in the Observer on September 21, 1986 : "The royal soap opera has now achieved such great public interest that the line between fact and fiction is no longer recognizable […]. It's not just that some newspapers don't check their facts or accept denials; they don't care if the stories are true or not.”

The Sunday Times of 20 July 1986 reported that the Queen was concerned that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 's economic policies were promoting social inequality; she was concerned about high unemployment, race riots, the violent miners' strike and Thatcher's refusal to order sanctions against South Africa 's apartheid regime . Sources of the rumors included Royal Press Secretary Michael Shea and Shridath Ramphal , Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. Shea claimed his statements were taken out of context and embellished with speculation. Thatcher's biographer John Campbell called the article "a piece of journalistic rabble-rousing". In her 1993 biography, Thatcher denied having a falling out and even showed admiration for Elizabeth. After her replacement by John Major , she received two personal honours, induction into the Order of Merit and into the Order of the Garter , from the Queen .

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney believed that Elisabeth was a "behind the scenes force" in ending apartheid in South Africa. In 1987, she publicly expressed her support for the Meech Lake Accord in Canada , drawing criticism from opponents of this controversial constitutional reform, including Pierre Trudeau. Fiji's elected government was overthrown in a military coup that same year. As monarch of Fiji, Elisabeth supported Governor-General Penaia Ganilau 's efforts to enforce executive rights and negotiate a settlement. Coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka impeached Ganilau and declared Fiji a republic.

In Britain there was growing support for the introduction of a republic. The press circulated estimates of the Queen's personal fortune, which were disputed by the royal house; there were also reports of love affairs and broken marriages in the extended family circle. The involvement of their children Andrew, Anne and Edward in the BBC's charity game show It's a Royal Knockout (an adaptation of Game Without Borders ) caused much derision in 1987, and the Queen became the butt of biting satire.

On May 17, 1991, a few months after the end of the Second Gulf War , Elizabeth became the first British monarch to appear before the United States Congress . In her speech, she noted that history has shown that gun barrel power never lasts long and that successful societies are based on mutual understanding.

"Annus horribilis", Elisabeth as the moral anchor of the monarchy

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II visit Germany (1992)

In a speech that Elisabeth gave on November 24, 1992 in the London Guildhall on the occasion of her 40th jubilee to the throne, she described the past year as an annus horribilis ("horrible year"). With this expression, she alluded to various events: In March, her son Andrew and his wife Sarah Ferguson separated; in April her daughter Anne divorced Mark Phillips ; in November Windsor Castle suffered extensive fire damage.

The monarchy had to face growing criticism and public scrutiny. In her unusually personal speech, the Queen said that any institution should expect criticism; but this can be just as effective if it is presented "with a little humor, gentleness and understanding". Two days later, Prime Minister John Major announced a reform of royal finances: Among other things, the Queen had to pay income taxes for the first time from 1993 and the civil list was reduced. In December, Major in the House of Commons announced the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana . The 'horror year' ended with the Queen suing the tabloid The Sun for copyright infringement , as the text of her traditional Christmas speech had been published two days before it was broadcast. The newspaper had to pay the Queen's legal fees and donate £ 200,000 to charity.

In the years that followed, revelations about the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. Although support for republicanism in Britain seemed to be high, only a minority of the population opposed the monarchy; especially the queen had high approval ratings. The criticism concerned the institution as such and her extended family circle, not her personally or her behavior. In Australia, where republican ideas have traditionally always been widespread, the November 6, 1999 referendum to abolish the monarchy was rejected. Such a referendum failed in Tuvalu on April 30, 2008 and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on November 25, 2009.

In agreement with the Prime Minister Major, Archbishop George Carey , Private Secretary Robert Fellowes and husband Philip, the Queen wrote a letter to Charles and Diana in late December 1995, stressing that a divorce was desirable. The marriage ended in divorce in 1996; Diana died in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997 . The Queen was on holiday at Balmoral Castle at the time. Grandsons William and Harry intended to mourn in the church, so the Queen and Prince Consort accompanied them there that morning. After this only public appearance, Elisabeth and Philip shielded their grandchildren from the immense media interest for five days. The royal family's seclusion and failure to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham caused a great deal of public irritation. Pressured by reactions, some hostile, the Queen returned to London and gave a televised address on September 5, the day before Diana's funeral. In it, she expressed her admiration for Diana and her "grandmotherly feelings" for Princes William and Harry. After this speech, most of the negative mood evaporated.

Golden Jubilee, reconciliation with Ireland

The Queen visits Toronto (July 2010)

In 2002 Elisabeth celebrated her golden jubilee on the throne . Her sister and mother died in February and March respectively, prompting media speculation as to whether the anniversary would be a success or failure. The Queen once again undertook extensive touring throughout the Commonwealth realms, beginning with Jamaica in February. The three-day main celebrations in London attracted over a million visitors a day, and enthusiasm for the Queen appeared greater than some journalists critical of the monarchy had predicted.

In May 2007, the Daily Telegraph reported that, according to unnamed sources, the Queen was "exasperated and frustrated" by Prime Minister Tony Blair 's policies . She was concerned British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were being overstretched; moreover, she had repeatedly expressed that he lacked understanding of the concerns of the rural areas. On the other hand, she admires Blair's efforts to bring about peace in Northern Ireland . Nine years earlier, she had spoken positively about the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement , prompting DUP leader Ian Paisley , who opposed the agreement, to dub her "Blair's parrot". In May 2011, at the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese , Elizabeth became the first British monarch to pay a state visit to the Republic of Ireland . The visit was seen as a symbol of the normalization of British-Irish relations.

Diamond Jubilee, Honors

The Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (June 2012)

In the year of her Diamond Jubilee , Elizabeth limited herself to traveling in Britain. Highlights of the celebrations included the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant , a parade of 1000 boats and ships on the River Thames in London; it was the largest parade of its kind that had ever taken place.

The Queen opened the 2012 Summer Olympics in London (as well as the 2012 Summer Paralympics ). She was thus the first head of state to have opened two Olympic Games in two different countries (after the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal ). During the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium , the short film Happy and Glorious directed by Danny Boyle was screened, in which she played herself alongside Daniel Craig in the role of secret agent James Bond . In April 2013, she received an honorary BAFTA award for her support of the British film industry and was dubbed "the most memorable Bond girl of all time" at the ceremony.

On December 18, 2012, Elizabeth became Britain's first female monarch since George III. in 1781, attending a peacetime cabinet meeting of the British government; on that occasion, part of British Antarctic Territory was designated Queen Elizabeth Land . Due to her advanced age, she did not travel to Sri Lanka for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in November 2013. It was the first time since 1973 that she was not present at that summit; instead she was represented by her son Charles.

Longest serving monarch in British history

Queen Elizabeth II (2018)

Elizabeth's reign is now the longest of any British monarch . She surpassed Queen Victoria 's previous record (reigning 63 years and 7 months) at 5:30 p.m. on 9 September 2015. Since the death of Saudi King Abdullah on January 23, 2015, Elisabeth is currently the oldest reigning monarch in the world. She has also served the longest term of any current living monarch since the death of King Bhumibol of Thailand on October 13, 2016.

On February 6, 2017, she celebrated her sapphire anniversary, after 65 years had passed since her accession to the throne. February 6, 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Elizabeth II gave five extraordinary televised addresses during her reign: in 1991 during the Gulf War, in 1997 before Princess Diana's funeral, in 2002 after the death of her mother, in 2012 on the occasion of her 60th jubilee and in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic .

In November 2020, the British government already announced celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the throne ( Platinum Jubilee ) from 2 to 5 June 2022.

personality and public perception

US President Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth (1982)

Elisabeth is a patron of over 600 charitable and voluntary organizations. Because she rarely gives interviews (and in which she speaks almost exclusively about her role as head of state), little is known about her personal feelings and views. As a parliamentary monarch, she never spoke publicly about her political views. Margaret Thatcher is said to have told journalist Brian Walden in the 1980s that if the Queen were allowed to, she would vote for the Social Democratic Party - Thatcher's political rival. What is known is that Elisabeth has a deep understanding of her religious and state duties and takes her coronation oath very seriously. As the supreme governor of the Church of England , she has repeatedly supported interreligious dialogue and met with leaders of other churches and religions, including the three Popes John XXIII. , John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Personal reflections on matters of faith are often part of her annual royal Christmas address .

In her free time, Elisabeth is particularly interested in equestrian sport . Every year she attends the horse races at Ascot and Epsom . As an owner and breeder of English Thoroughbreds , she often follows other races in which her horses compete. She is also fond of dogs , particularly the Pembroke Welsh Corgi herding breed . She received her first Corgi in 1933, and since her accession to the throne she has owned more than 30 of these animals. They are known worldwide and have been immortalized in various works of art; a 1977 Silver Jubilee Crown coin features Elizabeth with a corgi. In addition, she owns several English Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers .

In the 1950s, as a young woman at the beginning of her reign, the media portrayed Elizabeth as a glamorous 'fairytale queen'. After the traumatic events of the war, this seemed to be a time of hope and progress, the dawn of a 'new Elizabethan age'. Criticism was extremely rare at the time; In 1957, Lord Altrincham wrote in a controversial article in National Review magazine that the Queen was "yesterday" and her speeches sounded like those of a "smug schoolgirl". At the end of the 1960s there were increased efforts to present a more modern image of the monarchy. To this end, the BBC produced the documentary Royal Family , which was seen by around two-thirds of all British television viewers in 1969 and gave an unprecedented insight into the private life of the royal family. The documentary remained largely classified afterward - allegedly because the Queen was worried her family was looking too ordinary in it. In order to be particularly visible in large crowds, Elisabeth began to wear brightly colored dresses and unusual hats - a fashion style that developed into her trademark. One of her three tailors was the German Karl-Ludwig Rehse .

Criticism of the royal family increased significantly in the 1980s as the media focused on the work and private lives of their children. Under pressure from the public, the Queen began paying income taxes for the first time and opened Buckingham Palace to visitors. In 1992 the BBC produced another documentary, Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of the Queen , which critics felt came off as aloof and failed to address the issues of the time. Dissatisfaction with the monarchy peaked in 1997 with the death of Princess Diana , but the Queen's live speech five days after the fatal accident saw her and the royal family's popularity ratings begin to soar again. Fifteen years later, an opinion poll by Ipso MORI revealed a record 90% approval rating. A third documentary, Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work , was released in 2007 and led to a lawsuit against the BBC over the fact that the trailer had been edited in a way that gave the false impression that the Queen had broken off a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz in anger.

Elizabeth II receives First Lady Michelle Obama and US President Barack Obama at Buckingham Palace (2009)

Elisabeth has been portrayed by numerous well-known artists, including painters such as Lucian Freud , Peter Blake , Terence Cuneo and Pietro Annigoni , and photographers such as Cecil Beaton , Yousuf Karsh , Lord Lichfield and Terry O'Neill , and court photography by AC Cooper . Various actors embodied her in theater and film productions. Her double Jeannette Charles gained particular notoriety in several comedies, e.g. B. 1988 in The Naked Gun . Helen Mirren received the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the Queen in the drama film The Queen , which deals with the events after Diana's death . Elisabeth inspired numerous pop musicians to write songs. Paul McCartney wrote Her Majesty , which appeared on the Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road . In 1977 (the year of the silver jubilee) the punk band Sex Pistols caused a scandal with God Save the Queen , because it portrayed the queen as a representative of a fascist state. In 1986, The Smiths released the album The Queen Is Dead . In Sue Townsend 's novel The Queen and I , Elizabeth finds herself living in council housing and struggling to support herself and her corgis on a pension. The German comedy Willi and the Windzors by Hape Kerkeling filmed this idea in 1996. In the 2015 animated film Minions , the main characters steal the crown from the Queen in 1968, after which she is shown as a former monarch drinking beer with a wink in an English pub . The series The Crown has been airing since 2016, portraying her in the first two seasons by Claire Foy , in the third and fourth seasons by Olivia Colman , and in the fifth and final sixth season by Imelda Staunton .

In July 2015, The Sun published an article using images from a 17-second private film believed to have been made in 1933, showing Elisabeth at the age of six or seven giving the Nazi salute . Also seen is her uncle Edward VIII , who is described in the article as a sympathizer of Nazi Germany.

Following reporting by The Guardian in February 2021, it was revealed that during her reign, Elizabeth reviewed at least 1,062 laws before they were put to a vote in Parliament, according to the National Archives . This was done as part of the Queen's Consent (translated: Queen's consent ); a regulation according to which the British throne holders can inspect draft laws and, if they affect the private interests of the British royal family , not only give formal approval for the passing of laws, but can also influence the drafting of laws in advance of the legislation .


See also: British Monarchy - Finances

The financial situation of Elizabeth II caused speculation for many years, since there is hardly any reliable information about it. The Keeper of the Privy Purse (since 2002: Sir Alan Reid) is responsible for the finances of the royal household .

In July 2010, Forbes magazine put her net worth at $ 450 million . In 1993, the New York Times put the fortune at £100 million; David Ogilvy , then Lord Chamberlain of the Household , called this estimate "madly exaggerated". John Rupert Colville , her former private secretary and a director of her bank Coutts , put it at £2m in 1971 (equivalent to around £24m in 2013). In the 2013/14 financial year, the Queen received a total of £37.9m from taxpayers' money. Private assets also include the estates of Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle .

The Royal Collection , which includes the Royal Art Collection and the Crown Jewels , is not part of the Queen's private estate but is held in trust by a foundation. The same applies to the royal residences such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle . Another fiduciary foundation is the Duchy of Lancaster , whose portfolio was valued at £472 million in 2015. The Crown Estates managed by HM Treasury , valued at £11.6 billion (FY2014/15), belong to the Queen solely in her capacity as Head of State; as a private person, she has no access to the portfolio of this public corporation.

Documents emerged in November 2017 showing Elizabeth II investing £10m in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda through her Duchy of Lancaster . It holds shares in the controversial British rent-to-own provider Bright House through the Dover Street VI Cayman Fund and Vision Capital Partners VI B LP .



In the United Kingdom , the Queen's full title is as follows:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith"

"Elizabeth the Second, by the grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other kingdoms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith "

The Queen at the opening of the Welsh Parliament - Cardiff, Wales (2011)

As the head of state of the Commonwealth Realms , she each holds her own title, for example Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia . The reference to the defense of the faith and to the United Kingdom is also mostly missing. The practice differs in the Crown Dependencies , which are not part of the United Kingdom but report directly to the Crown: in the Channel Islands she is referred to as Duke of Normandy , in the Isle of Man as Lord of Mann (both in the masculine form).

Whether the Queen could refer to herself as Elizabeth "the Second" caused controversy in Scotland , as there was never an Elizabeth I there. After the accession to the throne, several new post boxes , decorated with the royal monogram E II R, were vandalized. Since then, only the Crown of Scotland has appeared on Royal Mail letter boxes and vehicles in Scotland . In 1953 Scottish nationalists brought a lawsuit (MacCormick v Lord Advocate) . They disputed the Queen's right to call herself Elizabeth II in Scotland, arguing that this was against the Act of Union 1707 . The Scottish Supreme Court dismissed the suit, ruling that the choice of name was a private matter for the Queen and one of her royal rights. Winston Churchill suggested that future monarchs should consider both English and Scottish predecessors when choosing a name. At the opening session of the Scottish Parliament , reinstated in 1999, Speaker David Steel greeted the Queen with the words Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, in keeping with the traditions of the Scottish monarchy.

Since acceding to the throne on February 6, 1952, her title has been shortened to Her Majesty The Queen . At her birth the title was HRH (Her Royal Highness) Princess Elizabeth of York . After her father became king on 11 December 1936, her name was HRH The Princess Elizabeth , after marriage on 20 November 1947 HRH The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh .

coat of arms

Since her accession to the throne, Elizabeth has carried the coat of arms of the British monarch , which has existed in this form since 1837, as a symbol of royal power . Depicted on the escutcheon are three leopards for England (double), a lion for Scotland and a harp for Northern Ireland. There are also decorative elements such as shield holders (lion and unicorn), helmet , crest , pedestal and the motto of the Order of the Garter . There is a different version for Scotland , in which the lion is shown twice instead of the leopard on the coat of arms; the differences include i.a. the helmet ornaments, swapped shield holders and the motto of the Scottish Order of the Thistle . Other variants of the royal coat of arms are used by other members of the royal family and by the British government.

In 1944 Elisabeth received her first coat of arms. It consisted of a lozenge shield bearing the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, complemented by a three-bib silver jousting collar (the middle bib with a Tudor rose , the other two with a George 's cross ). In 1947 the motto of the Order of the Garter was added to the coat of arms. In her capacity as queen of one of the other 15 Commonwealth realms, the queen bears the respective national coat of arms.


Personal flag

The Royal Standard is the flag used by the Queen in her capacity as Head of State. Shown on it is the escutcheon of the royal coat of arms, which means that the flag is actually a banner . It is hoisted on royal residences where the monarch is staying and is also hoisted on official vehicles such as B. the Bentley State Limousine used. The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom features the heraldic symbols of England (double), Scotland and Northern Ireland. When the Queen is in Scotland, a different Royal Standard applies, on which the Scottish heraldic symbol is shown twice instead of the English one. When she visits Australia , Jamaica , Canada or New Zealand , the Royal Standards of those countries are hoisted, which differ greatly from the British one. In those states of the Commonwealth of Nations that are not Commonwealth Realms, the Queen's personal ensign is used, consisting of a crowned 'E' wreathed in gold roses on a blue background.

Overview of the Commonwealth Realms

A gold sovereign bearing the effigy of Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth II on a British postage stamp (1958)
Signature of Elizabeth II on an Australian flag law, 14 February 1954

Currently, Elizabeth II is the head of state of 15 Commonwealth realms :

In addition, she was head of state of 17 other Commonwealth realms that became republics since her coronation:



Genealogy of Elizabeth II
great grandparents

Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
King Edward VII (1841–1910)
⚭ 1863
Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844–1925)

Duke Francis of Teck (1837–1900)
⚭ 1866
Princess Mary Adelaide (1833–1897)

Claude Bowes-Lyon (1824-1904)
⚭ 1853
Frances Smith (1833-1922)

Charles Cavendish-Bentinck (1817-1865)
⚭ 1859
Caroline Burnaby (1832-1918)


Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
King George V (1865–1936)
⚭ 1893
Princess Mary of Teck (1867–1953)

Claude Bowes-Lyon (1855-1944)
⚭ 1881
Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck (1862-1938)


Crown of Saint Edward (Heraldry).svg
King George VI (1895–1952)
⚭ 1923
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (1900–2002)


Surname wedding date spouse grandson wedding date spouse great-grandchildren
Charles, Prince of Wales
b. November 14, 1948
⚭ July 29, 1981
(⚮ August 28, 1996)
Lady Diana Spencer
Born July 1, 1961; † August 31, 1997
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
b. June 21, 1982
⚭ April 29, 2011 Catherine Middleton
Born January 9, 1982
Prince George of Cambridge
* July 22, 2013
Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
* May 2, 2015
Prince Louis of Cambridge
* April 23, 2018
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
* September 15, 1984
⚭ May 19, 2018 Meghan Markle
Born August 4, 1981
Archie Mountbatten-Windsor
* May 6, 2019
Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor
* June 4, 2021
⚭ April 9, 2005 Camilla Shand
* July 17, 1947
Anne, Princess Royal
b. August 15, 1950
⚭ November 14, 1973
(⚮ April 28, 1992)
Mark Phillips
Born September 22, 1948
Peter Phillips
Born November 15, 1977
⚭ May 17, 2008 Autumn Kelly
Born May 3, 1978
Savannah Phillips
* September 29, 2010
Isla Phillips
* March 29, 2012
Zara Phillips
Born May 15, 1981
⚭ July 30, 2011 Mike Tindall
Born October 18, 1978

Mia Tindall
* January 17, 2014

Lena Tindall
* June 18, 2018
Lucas Tindall
* March 21, 2021
⚭ December 12, 1992 Timothy Laurence
Born March 1, 1955
Andrew, Duke of York
b. February 19, 1960
⚭ July 23, 1986
(⚮ May 30, 1996)
Sarah Ferguson
Born October 15, 1959
Princess Beatrice of York
born August 8, 1988
⚭ July 17, 2020 Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi
Born November 19, 1983
Sienna Mapelli Mozzi
* September 18, 2021
Princess Eugenie of York
Born March 23, 1990
⚭ October 12, 2018 Jack Brooksbank
b. May 3, 1986
August Brooksbank
* February 9, 2021
Edward, Earl of Wessex
b. March 10, 1964
⚭ June 19, 1999 Sophie Rhys Jones
Born January 20, 1965
Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
* November 8, 2003
James, Viscount Severn
* December 17, 2007



  • Jennie Bond: Elizabeth: Eighty Glorious Years . Carlton Publishing Group, London 2006, ISBN 1-84442-260-7 .
  • Sarah Bradford: Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times . Penguin, London 2012, ISBN 978-0-670-91911-6 .
  • Gyles Brandreth: Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage . Century, London 2004, ISBN 0-7126-6103-4 .
  • Marion Crawford: The Little Princesses . Cassell & Co., London 1950.
  • Robert Hardman: Our Queen . Hutchinson, London 2011, ISBN 978-0-09-193689-1 .
  • Tim Heald: Princess Margaret: A Life Unraveled . Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-297-84820-2 .
  • Robert Lacey : Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II . Little, Brown, London 2002, ISBN 0-316-85940-0 .
  • Andrew Marr: The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People . Macmillan, London 2011, ISBN 978-0-230-74852-1 .
  • Ben Pimlott : The Queen: Elizabeth II and the Monarchy . HarperCollins, London 2001, ISBN 0-00-255494-1 .
  • Andrew Roberts: The House of Windsor . Cassell & Co., London 2000, ISBN 0-304-35406-6 .
  • William Shawcross: Queen and Country . McClelland & Stewart, Toronto 2002, ISBN 0-7710-8056-5 .


  • Paola Calvetti: The Queen. Elizabeth II - Portrait of a Queen. Piper publisher. Munich 2021, ISBN 978-3-492-07025-6
  • Thomas Kielinger: Elizabeth II: The Life of the Queen . 3rd Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62360-8 .

web links

Commons : Elizabeth II  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


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predecessor government office successor
George VI Queen of the United Kingdom
and other Commonwealth realms
since 1952
Countess of Southesk Councilor of State in the UK
Earl of Harewood