UK Constitution and Government/British Monarchs/Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

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Elizabeth II (1926 - Present)


Elizabeth II Queen since 1952, Elizabeth is the elder daughter of Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She initially had little prospect of succeeding to the throne until her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in December 1936. Her father then became king and she became heir.

During World War II, she and her sister, Princess Margaret, spent much of their time safely away from the London Blitz, living mostly at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and at Windsor. Early in 1947 she went with her parents to South Africa. After her return, her engagement to her distant cousin Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) was announced. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 20th November 1947. On the eve of the wedding the king conferred various titles on Philip, including Duke of Edinburgh.

In the summer of 1951 the health of King George VI entered into a serious decline. He died the following February, while Elizabeth was in Kenya. Now queen, she returned home. Her coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953.

From November 1953, she and the Duke of Edinburgh made a six-month tour of the Commonwealth. In 1957, after state visits to various European nations, they visited Canada and the United States. During her Silver Jubilee in 1977, she presided at a London banquet attended by the leaders of the 36 members of the Commonwealth, travelled all over Britain and Northern Ireland, and toured overseas in the South Pacific and Australia, in Canada, and in the Caribbean.

Over the course of her reign, the queen has tried to square the circle of a modern monarchy commanding respect in the age of global media. She allowed the televising of the royal family's domestic life in 1970 but has had to deal with its consequences: an insatiable hunger for information. She was known to favour simplicity in court life and was also known to take a serious and informed interest in government business, aside from the traditional and ceremonial duties. Privately she has become a keen horsewoman; she keeps racehorses, frequently attends races, and periodically visits the stud farms of Kentucky, US. Her financial and property holdings have made her one of the world's richest women