Queen Elizabeth II

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The QueenMomQueen Elizabeth II

Athough born a princess, Queen Elizabeth was not originally in direct line to the throne. Had Edward VIII not abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936, his younger brother George Elizabeth's father would not have been crowned King, thus making the young princess heir presumptive.

The first child of the Duke and Duchess Of York, Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, and christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor in the chapel at Buckingham Palace. Educated at home with her younger sister Princess Margaret, she later went on to serve during World War II as a subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she reached the rank of Junior Commander.

In 1947, she married a handsome young naval officer, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a distant cousin she met when she was just 13 and the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Their first child, Prince Charles, was born in 1948 and his sister Princess Anne came along two years later.

When her father's illness forced him to abandon a proposed visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1952, the Princess, accompanied by Prince Philip, undertook the journey in his place. On February 6, while in Kenya on the first stage of her trip, she received the news of King George VI's death and her own accession to the throne.

The coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, and was broadcast on radio around the world and - at the young Queen's request - on television, bringing the splendour of the event to hundreds of thousands of people in a way never before thought possible. When the Queen's youngest sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, were born in 1960 and 1964 respectively, they were the first children to be born to a reigning monarch since Queen Victoria.

The Queen has experienced the marriage break-ups of three of her four offspring, and the demise of Charles and Andrew's relationships, combined with a major fire at Windsor Castle, led her to describe 1992 as an annus horribilis in her Christmas speech for that year. Recent years may have been turbulent ones for the royal family, but there is no doubt that its titular head has helped uphold the traditional image of the monarchy while contributing significantly to the creation of a modern role for it.

The British monarch maintains close contact with the prime minister, with whom she has a weekly audience when she is in London, and acts as host to visiting heads of state. In the course of her reign she has visited nearly every county in the realm, and as her 80th birthday celebrations in 2006 proved, the energetic monarch shows no sign of slowing down.


Profile: Queen Elizabeth

The abdication changed Elizabeth's life foreverAs the Public Record Office releases more documents concerning the abdication of King Edward VIII, BBC News Online looks at the life of Queen Elizabeth - later to become Queen Mother - in her role as Queen Consort.

By Bob Chaundy, BBC News Profiles Unit

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon twice rejected proposals of marriage from King George V's second son Bertie because she was frightened of the restrictions that being a member of the Royal Family would place on her life.

Eventually, though, she was persuaded to accept.

But had she any inkling that she would end up as the Queen Consort, she may not have been talked into marrying. Had she not, the nature of the monarchy might have been very different.

For when Elizabeth and Bertie tied the knot in 1923, neither had any reason to believe they would become King and Queen.

She was the first "commoner" to enter the Royal Family since Henry VIII's last wife.

But she wasn't exactly common. Her father was fined for failing to register her birth in time. He'd been out shooting grouse.

He was the Earl of Strathmore, an hereditary peer whose family seat was at Glamis Castle in Scotland.

The family turned Glamis into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during World War I and the young Elizabeth would help nurse them.

Her own brother, Fergus, died at the Battle of Loos.

With the war over, Elizabeth threw herself into London's social scene.

She loved partying and gained a reputation as a good dancer. Her bonhomie and gregariousness never left her; neither did some of the values of the Edwardian age in which she was steeped.


Once married, the Duke and Duchess of York, as they became, led relatively sedentary lives with their two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, until the abdication turned everything upside down.

When her brother-in-law David, now the uncrowned Edward VIII, was deliberating between Mrs Simpson and the throne, Elizabeth personally pleaded with him to put the nation before love.

She was concerned that her husband was not temperamentally suited to be King.

Bertie was notoriously shy and diffident, and had a pronounced stammer.

When Edward chose Mrs Simpson, Bertie broke down and "sobbed like a child".

Elizabeth berated Edward for his "shameful dereliction of duty".

She never forgave Edward and Mrs Simpson who became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after the abdication.

In her view, Edward had let the monarchy down. Her sense of duty, imbued in her from an early age, was offended.


Elizabeth, who was deeply religious, was also offended by the thought of Edward marrying a divorcee.

She regarded Mrs Simpson as a sleazy social climber whom she famously referred to in a letter as "the lowest of the low".

Elizabeth maintained a life-long feud with the Duchess of Windsor, engineering a wholesale clear-out of her friends from Court and ensuring that the duchess was denied the title of Her Royal Highness.

At the heart of her animosity was her firm belief that Wallis's behaviour had placed an intolerable strain upon her husband, contributing to his early death at 56.

Even at the Duke of Windsor's funeral in 1972, Elizabeth remained stony-faced, though the two did exchange words briefly. After the Coronation, Elizabeth took steps for her husband to attend a speech therapist to help cure his stammer, a radical move at the time.

With her able support, he rose to the occasion. The standing of the monarchy, dented badly by the upheavals of the abdication, was restored during World War II.


By refusing to leave the country, and by repeatedly visiting the bombed out areas of London and elsewhere during the Blitz, the royal couple were a huge boost to morale.

Widowed at 51, Elizabeth continued to carry out public duties in support of her daughter, the current Queen, for another half a century.

She took pleasure in going out and meeting the people, and gave the monarchy a family image that still holds today.

She was also a great traditionalist who held back plans to modernise the monarchy.

But, for many people, she embodied the great British virtues of family and dignity, laced with the odd eccentricity and an endearing sense of humour.

Source: BBC, 29 January 2003



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