Elizabeth II

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Elisabeth II in March 2015
British royal family
Badge of the House of Windsor, svg

HM The Queen
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

. Elizabeth II ( English Elizabeth II * 21st April 1926 as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in Mayfair , London ) from the House of Windsor since 1952 Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as in personal union further 15, as Commonwealth realm called sovereign states , including their territories and dependent areas, namely: Antigua and Barbuda , Australia , the Bahamas , Barbados , Belize , Grenada , Jamaica , Canada , New Zealand , Papua New Guinea , St. Kitts and Nevis , St. Lucia , St. Vincent and the Grenadines who have favourited Solomon Islands and Tuvalu .

In addition, she is the head of the 53- nation Commonwealth of Nations , feudal lord of the British crown possessions , 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 exercise her almost exclusively representative rights and duties personally. In the other Commonwealth Realms it is represented by governors-general . Due to centuries-old customary law, she acts de facto as a constitutional , parliamentary monarch .

Elizabeth II was born after her uncle Edward VIII and her father Georg VI. third in line to the British throne . Her father ascended the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his older brother . As heiress presumptive (probable heir to the throne), Elisabeth took on public duties for the first time during World War II and served in the women's division of the British Army . In 1947 she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark , now the Duke of Edinburgh , with whom she has four children: Charles , Anne , Andrew and Edward .

After the death of her father, Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952. Her coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 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 and the Northern Ireland conflict . Despite increasing criticism of the royal family from the mass media and growing approval of the republican form of government - especially in Australia - the support of the monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II still seems to be high.



Elisabeth as a three-year-old (cover picture of Time magazine from April 29, 1929)

Elisabeth is the older of two children of Prince Albert, the 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 the Scottish Count Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne . Elisabeth was born by caesarean section on April 21, 1926 , the place of birth was her maternal grandfather's house at 17 Bruton Street in the London borough of Mayfair . Cosmo Gordon Lang , the Anglican Archbishop of York , baptized her on May 29th in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace . The godparents were her parents, Lord Strathmore, Prince Arthur (paternal great-great-uncle), Princess Mary (paternal aunt) and Mary Elphinstone (maternal aunt). She was named 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 Crawford published a childhood biography of Elizabeth and Margaret called The Little Princesses, without the approval of the royal family . The book describes Elisabeth's love for horses and dogs, her neatness and her sense of responsibility. Others confirmed these observations: Winston Churchill said of the then two-year-old Elisabeth 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, painting 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 met with public interest, and American Time magazine featured her on the front page of April 1929. However, it was not expected that she would become queen, since the Prince of Wales was young, likely to get married and have children of her own. When her grandfather Georg V died on January 20, 1936, her uncle succeeded the throne as Edward VIII, and she moved up to second place in the line of succession. Her uncle abdicated on December 11, 1936 after his intention to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson sparked a constitutional crisis. Her father became the new king in his place. Had the parents later had a son, Elisabeth would have slipped behind them in the line of succession due to the preference for male offspring that applied at the time .

With Henry Marten, the assistant principal of Eton College , Elisabeth received instruction in constitutional history. 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 the same age; the 1st Buckingham Palace Company had daughters of members of the court and of palace employees. In later years she was a member of the Sea Rangers .

In May and June 1939, Elisabeth's parents went 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 to appear in public. They corresponded regularly and made the first royal transatlantic phone call on May 18 .

Second World War

In September 1939, the United Kingdom entered World War II . During the war, London was regularly exposed to air raids and many London children were temporarily evacuated . Former Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham proposed that the princesses be brought to safety in Canada. Elisabeth's mother categorically refused and announced: “The children will not go without me. I will not go without the king. And the King will never go. ”The children stayed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland until Christmas 1939 , then they lived at Sandringham House in Norfolk and the Royal Lodge in Windsor , from May 1940 until the end of the war at Windsor Castle . In Windsor, the Princesses put on comedic plays at Christmas to raise money for the Queen's Wool Fund ; the proceeds were used to purchase yarn that was used to sew military clothing. On October 13, 1940, Elisabeth made her first radio address on the BBC 's Children's Hour program. In it she addressed the children who had been evacuated from the cities.

Elisabeth in the uniform of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (April 1945)

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

During the war, the Home Office was concerned that Welsh nationalism was about to flourish. For this reason, a closer relationship between Elizabeth and Wales should be developed. Her appointment as Constable of Caernarfon Castle or as patron of the youth organization Urdd Gobaith Cymru was proposed . These plans failed for a variety of reasons, including fears that the princess might be associated with conscientious objectors in the ranks of the Urdd. Welsh politicians suggested making her 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 Elisabeth was accepted into the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain bard association on the occasion of the National Eisteddfod . In 1947 she accompanied her parents in an official capacity for the first time, on a trip through southern Africa. On her 21st birthday, she made a radio address to the Commonwealth of Nations, promising that her entire life would be devoted to serving the Commonwealth of Nations.


In 1934 and 1937 Elisabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark . He is her third cousin; Queen Victoria is their common great-great-grandmother. Both also come from the Danish King Christian IX. from, whereby 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, the then 13-year-old Elizabeth is said to have fallen in love with Philip, whereupon they began to write letters. The engagement was officially announced on July 9, 1947.

The engagement was controversial: Philip had no assets was (but British citizen, who during the Second World War in the foreign-born Royal Navy had served) and his sisters were married to German noblemen, the connections to the Nazis had. Marion Crawford wrote: “Some royal advisors said he was not good enough for them. He was a prince with no home or kingdom. Some newspapers often and extensively referred to his foreign origin. ”According to later biographies, Elisabeth's mother is said to have initially spoken out against the marriage and called Philip the“ Huns ”(an English swear word for Germans, derived from the Hun speech ). In later years, however, she called him an "English gentleman ". Before marriage, Philip renounced his Danish and Greek titles, converted from the Greek Orthodox Church to Anglicanism, and adopted the name Philip Mountbatten (the Anglicised surname Battenberg 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 . In 1957 Elisabeth awarded him the title of prince.

Elisabeth and Philip were married on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey . With Britain not yet out of the ravages of war, she had to resort to rationing stamps to purchase the fabrics for her wedding dress, which was 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 received no invitation.

On November 14, 1948, Elisabeth gave birth to her 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, and 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 temporarily in the hamlet of Gwardamanġa near Pietà, where they lived in the Villa Guardamangia (or Gwardamanġa), a house rented by Philip's uncle Lord Mountbatten . Meanwhile, the children stayed in Great Britain. 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 stood in for him on public occasions. When she toured Canada in October and then visited President Harry S. Truman in Washington, DC , her private secretary, Martin Charteris , carried a draft declaration of accession with her in case the king died during her trip. At the beginning of 1952, Elisabeth and Philip set out on a trip to Kenya , which would later take them to Australia and New Zealand. A few hours after spending the night at the Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park near Nyeri , they learned of Georg's death on February 6, 1952.

Charteris asked Elisabeth, who had automatically become queen through the death of her father, to choose a ruler name, whereupon she chose her first name. The procession 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 Britain and moved to Buckingham Palace.

Accession to the throne and proclamations

After the accession to the throne on February 6, 1952, the proclamations were ceremonially announced in this order: On the same day to Elizabeth's rule over Canada, on the 7th to South Africa, on the 8th the subsequent 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 the possibility that the royal family would bear the family name of Elisabeth's husband and would therefore be called House Mountbatten. Her grandmother, Queen Mary , and Prime Minister Winston Churchill preferred to keep the name Windsor and their opinions prevailed. Philip complained: "I am the only man in the country who is not allowed to pass his name on to his own children." In 1960, Mountbatten-Windsor was introduced as a family name for those descendants of Philips and Elizabeth who do not have royal titles.

Coronation and increasing importance of the mass medium television

In the midst of preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she was going to marry Peter Townsend , a divorced fighter pilot 16 years her senior with two sons from her first marriage. The queen asked her to wait a year. According to Martin Charteris, Elisabeth hoped the romance would fizzle out over time. Leading politicians opposed this association, and the Church of England , of which Elizabeth was now secular leader, did not allow divorced people to remarry. In the case of a civil marriage, Margaret would have been expected to give up her right to the throne. Eventually she decided against the marriage plans with Townsend. In 1960 she married Antony Armstrong-Jones , who a year later received the title of Earl of Snowdon from Elisabeth . The marriage ended in divorce in 1978 and Margaret was no longer married.

Before her death on March 24, 1953, Queen Mary had requested that the coronation take place on June 2 as planned. The ceremony at Westminster Abbey was televised for the first time , with the exception of the anointing and communion . Elisabeth's coronation robe had been commissioned from Norman Hartnell and embroidered with the floral emblems of the Commonwealth of Nations according to her instructions. Around 8,000 guests attended the ceremony, including numerous dignitaries . Elizabeth swore to uphold the laws of her nations and 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 circulation for the first time through the event. The number of devices in Great Britain jumped from a few hundred thousand to four million, with a total of around 300 million spectators watching the ceremony. This medialization gave the British monarchy a hitherto unknown character, which, however, had already been recognized and used by Elizabeth's mother. Without this interaction, Elisabeth's interpretation of the role remains incomprehensible.

Development of the Commonwealth

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

During her reign of over six decades, the Queen witnessed the transformation of the British Empire 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 went on a six-month trip around the world. She was the first monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit these 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 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 a Franco-British union or France joining the Commonwealth. Elisabeth would have become the French head of state (in 1801 George III had given up the theoretical claim to the French throne). Both proposals failed. The following year France signed the Treaty of Rome , which established the European Economic Community , the forerunner of the European Union . In November 1956 British and French troops invaded Egypt in order to bring the Suez Canal under their control in the course 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, saying in New York before the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Commonwealth. On the same trip, she was the first Canadian monarch in Ottawa to personally open parliament . During a state visit to Ghana in 1961, she dismissed fears for her safety, although her host Kwame Nkrumah , who had replaced her as head of state, was the target of assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote: “The Queen has been absolutely determined all along [...]. She was upset about the attitude towards her, treating her like [...] a movie star [...]. She actually has 'the heart and marrow of a man' ”(a reference to Queen Elizabeth I's Tilbury speech ). Prior to a trip to Québec in 1964, there were rumors in the media that extremist Quebec separatists were planning an attack on the Queen. There was no attack, but a riot broke out while she was in Montreal . The media reported "their serenity and courage in the face of violence".

Only twice during her reign, in 1959 and 1963, did Elizabeth fail to open the British Parliament; at the time she was pregnant with Andrew and Edward, respectively . In addition to performing traditional ceremonies, she also established new habits. She did not only want to meet officials and dignitaries on her travels and undertook royal walkabouts ("royal tours") for the first time during a state visit to Austria in 1969 and also in 1970 during a trip through Australia and New Zealand , during which she went to "ordinary people" to go with to talk to them.

The Queen Dances with US President Gerald Ford (1976)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the decolonization of Africa and the Caribbean accelerated. More than 20 countries gained independence from the UK as part of a planned transition to self-government. This practice was also intended for Rhodesia , but in 1965 the Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith opposed the British request to transfer power to the black majority of the population. His government unilaterally declared the country's independence, while at the same time expressing "loyalty and devotion" to Elisabeth. The Queen issued a formal statement dismissing him, and the international community imposed sanctions on Rhodesia. Still, 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 given the task of appointing a candidate to form a government. Eden recommended that she consult with Lord Salisbury , Lord President of the Council . Lord Salisbury and Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir then spoke to the Cabinet, Winston Churchill and the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers . Finally, Elisabeth installed the proposed candidate Harold Macmillan . When he resigned in 1963, the Queen followed his advice to appoint Alec Douglas-Home as Prime Minister. As in 1957, she was criticized for following the advice of a small group of ministers or of a single minister. In 1965 the Conservative Party introduced a set of rules for the election of a chairman, which meant that the queen's participation was no longer necessary.

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 had four seats fewer than the Labor Party , but could have formed a coalition with the Liberal Party . When the coalition negotiations failed, the Queen asked opposition leader Harold Wilson to form a government.

At the height of the constitutional crisis of 1975 , Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was removed from office by Governor General John Kerr after the opposition-controlled Senate rejected the government's budget proposals. Since Whitlam had 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 that were reserved for 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 of the throne, espionage

1977 was the year of Elizabeth's silver jubilee on the throne . Feasts and events were held throughout the Commonwealth, many in connection with their journeys 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 Ceaușescu and his wife Elena , who had been invited by the British government on a three-day state visit. Their revulsion is said to have been so great that she is said to have hid behind a bush during a walk in the garden of Buckingham Palace to avoid meeting them. After Ceaușescu's fall in December 1989, she revoked the knighthood he had been awarded and returned her star to the Socialist Republic of Romania . In 1979, Anthony Blunt , former director of the Royal Collection's painting collection , was exposed as a Soviet spy and a member of the Cambridge Five . On August 27 of the same year, Prince Philips' uncle Lord Mountbatten , with whom she had a particularly friendly relationship, fell victim to an attack by the IRA .

Dissolution of the constitutional ties of Canada

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 "quite disappointing". The Canadian Prime Minister openly indicated his disapproval of the monarchy, for example by sliding down a railing in Buckingham Palace in 1977 or by pirouette behind Elizabeth's back. His approach became more concrete when he had various royal symbols in Canada removed. In 1980, Canadian politicians went to London to discuss the severance of Canada's final constitutional ties with the United Kingdom. They found that the Queen was "better informed than any of the British politicians or bureaucrats". With the constitutional law of 1982 , the British Parliament lost its last influence in Canada, but the monarchy was preserved. Trudeau wrote in his memoir 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”.

Security at risk, conflicting relationship with the USA

Elisabeth on her Burmese horse 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 while riding her Burmese horse . This happened just six weeks before Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer . As it turned out, these were blank cartridges. The 17-year-old shooter Marcus Sarjeant, who originally wanted to use a rifle with live ammunition, was sentenced to five years in prison and released early after three years. In the early morning of July 9, 1982, Michael Fagan snuck into the queen's bedroom. She engaged him in a conversation for several minutes before the police could take him away.

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

Her relationship with the American President Ronald Reagan was ambivalent : Although she had received him in 1982 at Windsor Castle and paid a return visit to his Californian ranch a year later, she was angry 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

Interest in the views and personal life of the royal family increased significantly in the 1980s, leading to a number of high-profile articles in the press, some of which were made up. Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of The Sun , ordered his employees, “Give me a Sunday-to-Monday furore about the royals. Don't worry if it's not true - as long as there isn't too much fuss about it afterwards. "Publisher Donald Trelford wrote in the Observer on September 21, 1986 :" The royal soap opera has now achieved such public interest that the line between facts is drawn and fiction can no longer be recognized [...]. It is not just that some newspapers fail to verify their facts or accept denials; they don't care whether the stories are true or not. "

The Sunday Times on July 20, 1986 reported that the Queen was concerned that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic policies were promoting social divisions; she was concerned about the high unemployment rate, race riots, the violent miners' strike and Thatcher's refusal to impose sanctions on the South African 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 described the article as "a piece of journalistic agitation". In her 1993 biography, Thatcher denied a falling out and even showed admiration for Elisabeth. After her replacement by John Major , she received two personal honors from the Queen, acceptance into the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter .

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney believed that Elizabeth 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 , which aroused criticism from opponents of this controversial constitutional reform, including Pierre Trudeau. In the same year, the elected government of Fiji was overthrown in a military coup. As monarch of Fiji, Elisabeth supported the efforts of Governor General Penaia Ganilau to enforce executive rights and negotiate an agreement. Coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka removed Ganilau from office and declared Fiji a republic.

In Britain there was growing support for the establishment of a republic. The press circulated estimates of the Queen's personal fortune which were contested by the royal family; there were also reports of love affairs and broken marriages in extended families. The involvement of their children Andrew, Anne and Edward in the BBC's charity game show It's a Royal Knockout (an adaptation of Games Without Frontiers ) attracted a lot of ridicule in 1987, and the Queen became the target of biting satire.

On May 17, 1991, a few months after the end of the Second Gulf War , Elizabeth was the first British monarch to appear before the United States Congress . In her address, she noted that history has shown that power from the barrel of a gun 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 Elisabeth II visit Germany (1992)

In a speech that Elisabeth gave on November 24, 1992 in the Guildhall in London on the occasion of her 40th throne jubilee, she described the past year as the Annus horribilis (" Year of Terror"). 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 significant fire damage.

The monarchy had to face growing criticism and public scrutiny. In her unusually personal speech, the Queen said that every institution should expect criticism; However, 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 the royal finances: Among other things, the Queen had to pay income taxes for the first time from 1993 and the civil list was cut. In December, Major announced the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the House of Commons . The "year of horror" ended with the Queen bringing a lawsuit against the tabloid The Sun for copyright infringement because the text of her traditional Christmas address was 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 continued about the state of the marriage of Charles and Diana. Although support for republicanism in Great Britain appeared to be high, only a minority of the population always opposed the monarchy; especially the queen had high approval ratings. The criticism concerned the institution as such and its broader family, not itself or its behavior. In Australia, where Republican ideas were traditionally always widespread, the referendum to abolish the monarchy was rejected on November 6, 1999. Such a referendum failed in Tuvalu on April 30, 2008 and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on November 25, 2009.

In agreement with 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 was divorced in 1996; Diana died in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997 . The Queen was on vacation at Balmoral Castle at the time. The grandchildren William and Harry wanted to mourn in the church, so the Queen and the Prince Consort accompanied them that morning. After this single public appearance, Elisabeth and Philip shielded their grandchildren from the immense media interest for five days. The remoteness of the royal family and the fact that they did not fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham caused great public irritation. Pressured by the sometimes hostile reactions, the Queen returned to London and gave a televised address on September 5th, 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 address, most of the negative mood evaporated.

Golden jubilee of the throne, 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, after which the media began to speculate as to whether the anniversary would be a success or a failure. The Queen made extensive journeys through the Commonwealth Realms again, starting with Jamaica in February. The three-day main celebrations in London drew over a million visitors every day, and the enthusiasm for the Queen seemed greater than had been predicted by some journalists critical of the monarchy.

In May 2007, the Daily Telegraph reported that, according to unnamed sources, the Queen was "upset and frustrated" with Prime Minister Tony Blair's policies . She was concerned that British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were being overused; She also said repeatedly that he lacked understanding of the concerns of the rural areas. But she admired Blair's efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland . Nine years earlier she had been positive about the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement , whereupon DUP chairman Ian Paisley , who rejected the agreement, referred to her as "Blair's Parrot". At the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese , Elisabeth became the first British monarch to pay a state visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011 . 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 , Elisabeth limited herself to traveling in Great Britain. The highlights of the celebrations included the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant , a parade of 1,000 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 London 2012 Summer Olympics (as well as the 2012 Summer Paralympics ). She was the first head of state to open two Olympic Games in two different countries (after the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal ). During the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium , the short film Happy and Glorious , directed by Danny Boyle, was shown, in which she played herself, alongside Daniel Craig in the role of secret agent James Bond . In April 2013 she received a BAFTA Prize for her support to the UK film industry and was named "Most Unforgettable Bond Girl Ever" during the ceremony .

On December 18, 2012, Elizabeth was the first British monarch since George III. in 1781, attending a peacetime cabinet meeting of the British Government; on that occasion, part of the British Antarctic Territory was named Queen Elizabeth Land . Due to her advanced age, she did not travel to Sri Lanka in November 2013 for the biennial conference of the Commonwealth of Heads of Government. It was the first time since 1973 that she was absent from 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 (with a reign of 63 years and 7 months) on September 9, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. Since the death of the Saudi King Abdullah on January 23, 2015, Elisabeth is currently the oldest reigning monarch in the world. Since the death of the Thai King Bhumibol on October 13, 2016, she has also held the longest term of office of any currently living monarch.

She celebrated her sapphire anniversary on February 6, 2017, after 65 years had passed since her accession to the throne. A total of 68.5 years have passed since her accession to the throne to today's August 24, 2020. Elizabeth II gave five extraordinary televised addresses during her reign: in 1991 during the Gulf War, in 1997 before the funeral of Princess Dianas, in 2002 after the death of her mother, in 2012 on the occasion of her 60th jubilee on the throne and in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic .

Personality and public perception

US President Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth (1982)

Elisabeth is the patron of over 600 charitable and voluntary organizations. Since she hardly gives interviews (and in them 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 in public about her political views. Margaret Thatcher is said to have told journalist Brian Walden in the 1980s that if the Queen were allowed to vote, she would vote for the Social Democratic Party - Thatcher's political rivals. It is known that Elisabeth has a deep understanding of her religious and state duties and takes her coronation oath very seriously. As the nominal supreme governor of the Church of England , she has repeatedly supported interfaith dialogue and met with leaders of other churches and religions, including the three Popes John XXIII. , John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Personal thoughts on questions of faith are often part of their annual royal Christmas address .

In her free time, Elisabeth is mainly interested in equestrian sports . Every year she attends the horse races at Ascot and Epsom . As the owner and breeder of English Thoroughbreds , she often follows other races in which her horses participate. She is also fond of dogs , especially the Pembroke Welsh Corgi herding dog 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 Crown coin issued in 1977 on the occasion of the silver jubilee shows Elisabeth with a corgi. She also owns several English Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers .

In the 1950s, as a young woman at the beginning of her reign, the media portrayed Elisabeth as a glamorous “fairy tale queen”. After the traumatic events of the war, this seemed a time of hope and progress, the beginning 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 that her speeches sounded like those of a "complacent student". 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 provided an unprecedented glimpse into the private life of the royal family. The documentation remained largely under lock and key - allegedly because the Queen was concerned that her family would make an impression of being too ordinary. In order to be particularly visible in large crowds, Elisabeth began to wear dresses in strikingly bright colors and fancy hats - a fashion style that developed into her trademark. One of her three tailors was the German Karl-Ludwig Rehse .

In the 1980s, criticism of the royal family increased markedly when the work and private life of their children came into the focus of the media. Under public pressure, 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, in the opinion of critics, appeared aloof and did not address the problems then prevailing. Dissatisfaction with the monarchy peaked in 1997 with the death of Princess Diana , but the Queen's live address five days after the fatal accident resulted in her popularity and that of the royal family beginning to rise again. Fifteen years later, an opinion poll by Ipso MORI showed a record high approval rating of 90%. A third documentary, Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work , was released in 2007 and led to a lawsuit against the BBC: The trailer had been cut in such a way that the false impression could be created that the Queen was furious and canceled a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz .

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 as well as photographers such as Cecil Beaton , Yousuf Karsh , Lord Lichfield and Terry O'Neill as well as photographic works by AC Cooper . She embodied various actors in theater and film productions. Her double Jeannette Charles achieved particular fame in several comedies, e. B. 1988 in The Naked Cannon . Helen Mirren received the 2007 Oscar for best actress for portraying the Queen in the film drama 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' album Abbey Road in 1969 . In 1977 (the year of the silver jubilee) the punk band Sex Pistols caused a scandal with God Save the Queen , because they portrayed the queen as the representative of a fascist state. 1986 The Smiths released the album The Queen Is Dead ("The Queen Is Dead"). In the novel, The Queen and I ( "The Queen and I") by Sue Townsend Elisabeth place in a council flat again and herself and her Corgis has to bring a pension. The series The Crown has been broadcast since 2016 , in which it is portrayed in the first two seasons by Claire Foy , and since the third season by Olivia Colman .

On July 17, 2015, The Sun published an article with pictures from a 17-second private film that was probably shot in 1933 and shows Elisabeth showing the Hitler salute at the age of six or seven . You can also see her uncle Edward VIII , who is referred to in the article as a sympathizer of National Socialist Germany.


See also: British Monarchy Finance

The financial situation of Elizabeth II caused speculation for many years, as 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, the magazine estimated Forbes their assets to 450 million US dollars . In 1993 the New York Times assumed a fortune of 100 million pounds; David Ogilvy , then Lord Chamberlain of the Household , described this estimate as "grossly exaggerated". John Rupert Colville , her former private secretary and a director of her house bank, Coutts , estimated it at £ 2 million in 1971 (equivalent to around £ 24 million in 2013). In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Queen received a total of £ 37.9 million in taxpayers' money. The Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle estates also belong to the private wealth .

The Royal Collection , which includes the royal art collection and the crown jewels , is not part of the Queen's private assets, but is managed in trust by a foundation. The same applies to the royal residences such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle . Another trust 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 pounds (fiscal year 2014/15), belong to the Queen only in her capacity as head of state; as a private person, she has no access to the portfolio of this public corporation.

In November 2017, documents emerged showing that Elizabeth II was investing £ 10 million 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 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 "

As head of state of the Commonwealth Realms , she has her own title, for example Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia . Usually there is also no reference to the defense of the faith or to the United Kingdom. The practice is different in the crown possessions , which are not part of the United Kingdom but directly subordinate to the crown: on the Channel Islands she is referred to as the Duke of Normandy , on the Isle of Man as the Lord of Mann (both in the male form).

Whether the Queen could call herself Elizabeth "the Second" caused controversy in Scotland , as there was never an Elizabeth I there. After the accession to the throne, several new letter boxes decorated with the royal monogram E II R were vandalized. Therefore, since then, only the Crown of Scotland has been shown on letterboxes and vehicles of the Royal Mail in Scotland . In 1953 Scottish nationalists filed a lawsuit (MacCormick v Lord Advocate) . They denied the Queen's right to be allowed to call herself Elizabeth II in Scotland, as doing so was against the Act of Union 1707 . The Scottish Supreme Court dismissed the suit, ruling that choosing a name was a private matter for the Queen and was one of her sovereign 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 , which was re-established in 1999, Speaker of Parliament David Steel greeted the Queen with the words Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, in keeping with the traditions of the Scottish monarchy.

Since her accession to the throne on February 6, 1952, the short form of her title has been Her Majesty The Queen ("Her Majesty the Queen"). At birth, the title was HRH (Her Royal Highness) Princess Elizabeth of York . After her father became king on December 11, 1936, her name was HRH The Princess Elizabeth , after marriage on November 20, 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 rule . The coat of arms shows three leopards for England (double), a lion for Scotland and a harp for Northern Ireland. In addition, as decorative elements there are shield holders (lion and unicorn), helmet , crest , pedestal and the motto of the Order of the Garter . For Scotland there is a different version in which the lion is depicted twice instead of the leopard on the escutcheon; the differences include a. the helmet decorations, exchanged shield holders and the motto of the Scottish thistle order . 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 diamond shield with the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, supplemented by a silver tournament collar with three bibs (the middle bib with a Tudor rose , the other two with a George 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 carries the respective national coats of arms.


Personal flag

The Royal Standard is the flag of the Queen in her capacity as Head of State. It shows the coat of arms 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 currently staying and is also used on official vehicles such as B. the Bentley State sedan used. On the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom, the symbols of England (double), Scotland and Northern Ireland are depicted. If the Queen is in Scotland, a different Royal Standard is used, on which the Scottish symbol is shown twice instead of the English coat of arms. When she visits Australia , Barbados , Jamaica , Canada or New Zealand , the Royal Standards of these countries are hoisted, which differ greatly from the British. In those states of the Commonwealth of Nations that are not Commonwealth Realms, the Queen's personal flag is used, consisting of a crowned "E" on a blue background and surrounded by gold roses.

Overview of the Commonwealth Realms

A gold sovereign with the image of Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth II on a British postage stamp (1958)
Elizabeth II's signature on an Australian flag bill, February 14, 1954

Elizabeth II is currently the head of state of 16 Commonwealth Realms :

She was also the head of state of 16 other Commonwealth Realms that have become republics since her coronation:



Pedigree Elizabeth II
Great grandparents

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

Duke Franz von 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 Maria von 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
* November 14, 1948
⚭ July 29, 1981
(⚮ August 28, 1996)
Lady Diana Spencer
* July 1, 1961; † August 31, 1997
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
* June 21, 1982
⚭ April 29, 2011 Catherine Middleton
* 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
* August 4, 1981
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor
* May 6, 2019
⚭ April 9, 2005 Camilla Shand
* July 17, 1947
Anne, Princess Royal
* August 15, 1950
⚭ November 14, 1973
(⚮ April 28, 1992)
Mark Phillips
* September 22, 1948
Peter Phillips
* November 15, 1977
⚭ May 17, 2008 Autumn Kelly
* May 3, 1978
Savannah Phillips
* September 29, 2010
Isla Phillips
* March 29, 2012
Zara Phillips
* May 15, 1981
⚭ July 30, 2011 Mike Tindall
* October 18, 1978

Mia Tindall * Jan.
17, 2014

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


  • Thomas Kielinger: Elizabeth II: The life of the Queen . 3. Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62360-8 .

Web links

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


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predecessor Office successor
George VI. Queen of the United Kingdom
and other Commonwealth Realms
since 1952
This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on December 17, 2013 in this version .