Queen Elizabeth II: A life in pictures

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she visits Cyfarthfa High School and Castle on April 26, 2012

Chris Jackson WPA – Pool | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II was admired at home and around the world during her reign — the longest in British and world history.

Having ascended to the throne in 1952 at age 25, Elizabeth became the U.K.’s longest reigning monarch in September 2015 when she surpassed Queen Victoria’s record of nearly 64 years. Elizabeth became the world’s longest-reigning monarch and head of state when Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died in October 2016 after he spent 70 years on the throne.

During her life, the queen was a patron to hundreds of charities and organizations and was one of the most traveled world leaders.

CNBC looks back at some of the British monarch’s most memorable moments.

A portrait of Princess Elizabeth (L) | Princess Elizabeth with two corgi dogs at her home (R)

Getty Images: Picture Post / Lisa Sheridan | Hulton Royals Collection

Elizabeth was born April 21, 1926, the first child of the then-Duke and Duchess of York. In 1930, Elizabeth’s parents gave birth to her sister, Princess Margaret Rose.

“Lilibet” ascended to the throne sooner than anyone had expected. Her uncle, childless King Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936 over his romance with divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, putting her next in the succession.

Princess on duty

Then-Princess Elizabeth learns how to change a car tire as an auxiliary officer of the English Army, 1945.

Roger Viollet | Getty Images

During World War II, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service at age 18 in 1945, with the rank of subaltern. By the time the war ended, she had become a junior commander.

Falling in love

The royal family at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Fox Photos | Hulton Royals Collection | Getty Images

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, her third cousin and a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg, met in 1934 at the wedding of Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. However, it wasn’t until July 1947 until the pair were officially engaged. They married on Nov. 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey.

Motherhood

The royal family at Buckingham Palace, London, 1972. Left to right: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and Prince Charles.

Fox Photos | Hulton Royals Collection | Getty Images

A year later, Nov. 14, 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to the first of her four children, Prince Charles. Before ascending to the throne, Elizabeth had two children, Charles and Princess Anne (1950), who were then followed by Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.

Queen Elizabeth II begins her reign

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave from the balcony at Buckingham Palace during the queen’s coronation celebrations June 2, 1953.

Keystone | Getty Images

King George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952, making the 25-year-old Elizabeth queen. More than a year later, on June 2, 1953, she was formally crowned at Westminster Abbey in the first British coronation to be televised.

Charities

Queen Elizabeth with Audrey Callaghan (right), wife of then-Prime Minister James Callaghan, during a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, Nov. 10, 1977.

Evening Standard | Hulton Royals Collection | Getty Images

Members of the royal family represent numerous organizations and charities worldwide. More than 3,000 groups list a royal as a patron or president. In recent years, the queen was the patron of over 600 organizations, with the causes including the environment, education and health.

Attending royal events

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive for Day Two at the Royal Ascot Racecourse on June 17, 2015

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Being a member of the royal family means attending numerous gatherings from sport and charity to gardening. However, as an avid racegoer and owner of several horses, Elizabeth especially looked forward to attending the Royal Ascot race in Berkshire, a county west of London, every June.

Tradition

Queen Elizabeth II records her Christmas message to the Commonwealth, in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace

John Stillwell – WPA Pool | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Ceremony and pageantry are a core part of the British royal family. Among the regular duties Elizabeth carried out were making the annual Christmas speech and attending “Trooping the Colour.”

An ever-expanding family

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are joined by members of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour ceremony.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Elizabeth wasn’t alone in undertaking national duties.

International relations

President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Winfield House.

Yui Mok – WPA Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Beloved by many

Mark Cuthbert | UK Press | Getty Images

Elizabeth’s relationship with the British public was almost always warm, although she was criticized for remaining at Balmoral Castle in Scotland for several days after the 1997 death of Diana rather than to immediately return to London. The family later said they stayed at Balmoral to protect and prepare the grieving Princes William and Harry, then 15 and 12, for their mother’s funeral.

Celebrating 50 years as queen

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip ride in the Golden State Carriage at the head of a parade celebrating the queen’s Golden Jubilee, June 4, 2002

Sion Touhig | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

In June 2002, the U.K. celebrated 50 years of Elizabeth’s reign. Celebrations were held across the country and the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh traveled to every region of the U.K. and the Commonwealth to mark the occasion.

Staying strong in times of trouble

The queen with a firefighter inspecting damage at Windsor Castle.

Getty Images: Tim Graham | Corbis Historical/Tim Graham Photo Library

On Nov. 20, 1992, the queen’s 45th wedding anniversary, a fire at Windsor Castle caused extensive damage that took years to repair. But that was just one of a string of events that prompted the queen declare 1992 to be “annus horribilis.” Prince Andrew’s separation with the former Sarah Ferguson was announced in March. The next month, Princess Anne divorced Capt. Mark Phillips. In June, Princess Diana’s tell-all book was published. Its revelations included husband Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The queen’s speech

A message from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is displayed on a screen in Piccadilly Circus, during the early days of the Covid pandemic, London, Britain, April 8, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

During the coronavirus outbreak, the queen delivered a rare video speech on April 5, 2020, to promise her subjects that they will prevail over the coronavirus. “We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said from Windsor Castle.

A love for animals

Queen Elizabeth takes a photograph while with her corgis at Windsor Park in 1960 in Windsor, England.

Anwar Hussein | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Aside from horses, another animal the queen loved was the Pembroke Welsh corgi. As her husband was undergoing treatment for his final illness in early 2021, the queen acquired two puppies, a corgi she named Muick and a dorgi, a cross with a dachshund, she called Fergus. They were named, respectively, after Loch Muick on the Balmoral estate and her late uncle Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who was killed during World War I. Sadly, Fergus the pup died of a heart problem in May at age 5 months.

A new generation

The official wedding family photo of the royal family from the wedding of Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

Alexi Lubomirski | The Royal Family

Being a royal, keeping up with appearances and official photographs was just one of the many duties the queen undertook.

A sad farewell

Queen Elizabeth II (upper left) watches as pallbearers carry the coffin of Prince Philip during his funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, Britain, April 17, 2021.

Dominic Lipinski | Reuters

The queen sat alone as her husband’s casket was held by a military honor guard at his funeral at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. Philip died April 9, 2021, at age 99. The funeral was four days before Elizabeth’s 95th birthday.

Platinum Jubilee

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, along with Princess Charlotte, Prince George and Prince Louis appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as part of Trooping the Colour parade during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London, Britain, June 2, 2022.

Hannah Mckay | Reuters

The 96-year-old monarch made an appearance in June on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the first day of her Platinum Jubilee, marking the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. She waved to tens of thousands of people gathered below and watched an aviation display in her honor, but was not able to attend many of the events that took place over the four days of celebration due to her declining health.

15 prime ministers

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, left, welcomes Liz Truss during an audience at Balmoral, Scotland, where she invited the newly elected leader of the Conservative party to become Prime Minister and form a new government, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Jane Barlow | AP

Elizabeth appointed Liz Truss as prime minister on Sept. 6 during a meeting at her Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The meeting was part of a routine in which the queen fulfilled her constitutional role of appointing a new prime minister — a sequence of events she oversaw 15 times. However, she broke with tradition and appointed Truss from Scotland rather than traveling to Buckingham Palace, as is typical.


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