Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Reign February 6, 1952 - Present
Coronation June 2, 1953
Predecessor George VI
Heir Apparent Charles, Prince of Wales
Spouse Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Issue Charles, Prince of Wales
Anne, Princess Royal
Andrew, Duke of York
Edward, Earl of Wessex
Royal House Windsor
Father George VI
Mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Born April 21, 1926
London, United Kingdom

Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor), born 21 April 1926, is the Queen regnant of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. About 125 million people live in the countries of which she is Head of State. She is thirty-eighth in line of descent from Egbert, King of Wessex.

She also holds the positions of Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Lord of Mann since the death of her father, King George VI on 6 February 1952. She is the second-longest-serving current head of state in the world, after King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great of Thailand. Her reign of over five decades has seen ten different Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and numerous Prime Ministers in the other personal union nations of which she is or was Head of State.


Early life

British Royal Family

Elizabeth was born at 21 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. Her father was HRH The Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), the second eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary. Her mother was HRH The Duchess of York (née Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon), the daughter of Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and his wife, the Countess of Strathmore. She was baptised in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace by Cosmo Lang, the then Archbishop of York and her godparents were King George and Queen Mary, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Connaught, the Earl of Strathmore and Lady Elphinstone.

"Princess Lilibet" (here spelled "Lilybet") made the cover of Time in 1929, at age three.
"Princess Lilibet" (here spelled "Lilybet") made the cover of Time in 1929, at age three.

Elizabeth was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of her paternal great-grandmother Queen Alexandra and grandmother Queen Mary respectively. As a child she was known as 'Lilibet' by her close family.

As a granddaughter of the British sovereign in the male line, she held the title of a British princess with the style Her Royal Highness. Her full style was HRH Princess Elizabeth of York. At the time of her birth, she was third in the line of succession to the crown, behind her father and her uncle, HRH The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. Although her birth generated public interest, no one could have predicted that she would become Queen. It was widely assumed that her uncle, the enormously popular Prince of Wales, would marry and have children in due course.


The young Princess Elizabeth was educated at home, as was her younger sister, Princess Margaret, under the supervision of her mother, then the Duchess of York. Her governess was Marion Crawford, better known as "Crawfie". She studied history with C. H. K. Marten, Provost of Eton, and also learned modern languages. She now speaks fluent French, as she has shown on several occasions, most recently during her 2004 state visit to France to commemorate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale but also on numerous visits to Canada. She was instructed in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury and has always been a strong believer in the Church of England.

Heiress Presumptive

When her father became King in 1936 upon her uncle King Edward VIII's abdication, she became heiress presumptive and was henceforth known as HRH The Princess Elizabeth. She was thirteen years old when World War II broke out. She and her younger sister Princess Margaret were evacuated to Windsor Castle, Berkshire. There was some suggestion that the princesses be sent to Canada, but their mother the Queen refused to consider this, saying, "The children could not possibly go without me, I wouldn't leave without the King, and the King won't leave under any circumstances". In 1940 Princess Elizabeth made her first broadcast, addressing other children who had been evacuated.

Military service

Princess Elizabeth changing the wheel of a lorry during the war.
Princess Elizabeth changing the wheel of a lorry during the war.

In 1945 Princess Elizabeth convinced her father that she should be allowed to contribute directly to the war effort. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the ATS) where she was known as No 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, and was trained as a driver. This training was the first time she had been taught together with other students. It is said that she greatly enjoyed this and that this experience led her to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home. She was the first (and as of 2005 the only) female member of the royal family to actually serve in the military, though other royal women have been given honorary ranks.

Elizabeth made her first official visit overseas in 1947, when she accompanied her parents to South Africa. On her 21st birthday she made a broadcast to the British Commonwealth and Empire, pledging to devote her life to the service of the people of the Commonwealth and Empire.

Marriage and motherhood

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day.

Elizabeth married HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947. The Duke is Queen Elizabeth's third cousin; they share Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. They are also both descended from Christian IX of Denmark (she being a great-great granddaughter through Alexandra of Denmark, and the Duke is a great-grandson through George I of Greece). Prince Philip had renounced his claim to the Greek throne and was simply referred to as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten before being created Duke of Edinburgh before their marriage. This marriage, although not arranged as such, was eminently suitable for a female heir to the throne, as Philip had been trained for royal responsibilities.

After their wedding Philip and Elizabeth took up residence at Clarence House, London. On 14 November 1948 she gave birth to her first child Prince Charles of Edinburgh. Several weeks earlier letters patent had been issued so that her children would enjoy a royal and prince status they would not otherwise have been entitled to. Otherwise they would have been styled merely as children of a duke. They had four children (see below) in all. Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed via a 1960 Order-in-Council that the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

Children and grandchildren


Monarchical Styles of
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Reference style: Her Majesty
Spoken style: Your Majesty
Alternative style: Ma'am

King George's health declined during 1951 and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. She visited Greece, Italy and Malta (where Philip was then stationed) during the year. In October she toured Canada and visited President Harry S. Truman in Washington, DC. In January 1952 Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had reached Kenya when word arrived of the death of her father, on 6 February 1952, from lung cancer.

At the exact moment of succession, she was in a treetop hotel – a unique circumstance for any such event. She was the first British monarch since the Act of Union in 1801 to be out of the country at the moment of succession, and also the first in modern times not to know the exact time of her accession. The Treetops Hotel, where she went up a princess and came down a queen, is now a very popular tourist retreat in Kenya. Elizabeth's coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953.

Life as Queen

Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown and fur cape and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb at her Coronation (2 June 1953).
Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown and fur cape and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb at her Coronation (2 June 1953).

After the Coronation, Elizabeth and Philip moved to Buckingham Palace in central London. It is believed, however, that like many of her predecessors she dislikes the Palace as a residence and considers Windsor Castle, west of London, to be her home. She also spends time at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and at Sandringham House in Norfolk.

Queen Elizabeth is the most widely travelled head of state in history (in front of Pope John Paul II). In 195354 she and Philip made a six-month round-the-world tour, becoming the first reigning monarch to circumnavigate the globe, and also the first to visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji (which she visited again all at once during the 1977 jubilee). In October 1957 she made a state visit to the United States, and in 1959 she made a tour of Canada. In 1961 she toured India and Pakistan for the first time. She has made state visits to most European countries and to many outside Europe. She regularly attends Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings.

At the time of Elizabeth's accession there was much talk of a "new Elizabethan age". Elizabeth's role has been to preside over the United Kingdom as it has shared world economic and military power with a growing host of independent nations and principalities. As nations have developed economically and in literacy, Queen Elizabeth has witnessed over the past 50 years a gradual transformation of the British Empire into its modern successor, the Commonwealth. She has worked hard to maintain links with former British possessions, and in some cases, such as South Africa, she has played an important role in retaining or restoring good relations.

Views and Perceptions

Elizabeth is a conservative in matters of religion, moral standards and family matters. She has a strong sense of religious duty and takes seriously her Coronation Oath. This is one reason why it is considered highly unlikely that she will ever abdicate. Like her mother, she blamed Edward VIII for, as she saw it, abandoning his duty and forcing her father to become King — a strain which she believed shortened his life by many years. She used the authority of her position to prevent her sister, Princess Margaret, from marrying a divorced man, Peter Townsend. For years she refused to acknowledge her son Prince Charles's relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles but since their marriage an appearance of acceptance has been established.

Elizabeth's political views are supposed to be less clear-cut (she has never said or done anything in public to reveal what they might be). She preserves cordial relations with politicians of all parties. It is believed that her favourite Prime Ministers have been Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson. She was thought to have very good relations with her current Prime Minister, Tony Blair, during the first years of his term in office; however, there has been mounting evidence in recent months that her relationship with Blair has hardened. She reportedly feels that he does not keep her informed well enough on affairs of state.

The only public issue on which Elizabeth makes her views known are those affecting the unity of each of her Realms, including Canada and the United Kingdom. She has spoken in favour of the continued union of England and Scotland, angering some Scottish nationalists. Her statement of praise for the Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement raised some complaints among some Unionists in the Democratic Unionist Party who opposed the agreement, Ian Paisley calling her a parrot of Tony Blair. Also, while not speaking directly against Quebec Sovereignty in Canada, she has publicly praised Canada's unity and expressed her wish to see the continuation of a unified Canada. However when during a separatist referendum campaign she was tricked into speaking with a DJ pretending to be then Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien she pointedly refused to accept "Chrétien"'s advice that she intervene on the issue without first seeing a draft speech sent by him. (Her tactful handling of the call won plaudits from the DJ who made it.)

Despite a series of controversies about the rest of the royal family, particularly the marital difficulties of her children throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Queen Elizabeth remains a remarkably uncontroversial figure and is generally well-respected by the people of her Realms. However, her public persona remains formal, though more relaxed than it once was.

Queen Elizabeth has never suffered from severe public disapproval. However, in 1997 she and other members of the Royal Family were perceived as cold and unfeeling when they were seen not to participate in the public outpouring of grief at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This brought sharp criticism from the normally royalist tabloid press.

It is widely believed that Elizabeth held negative feelings towards Diana and thought that she had done immense damage to the monarchy. However, the sight of the entire Royal Family bowing to Diana's coffin as it passed Buckingham Palace, together with a rare live television broadcast by Queen Elizabeth, addressed the public grief. Elizabeth's change of attitude is believed to have resulted from strong advice from the Queen Mother and Tony Blair.

Elizabeth remains a highly respected head of state. However, she and her family have come under increasing pressure from U.K. based newspapers. In 2002 she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The year saw an extensive tour of the Commonwealth Realms, including numerous parades and official concerts.

The Jubilee year coincided with the deaths, within a few months, of Elizabeth's mother and sister. Elizabeth's relations with her children, while still somewhat distant, have become much warmer since these deaths. She is particularly close to her daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She is known to have disapproved of Prince Charles's long-standing relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, but with their recent marriage, has come to accept it. On the other hand, she is very close to her grandchildren, noticeably Prince William and Zara Phillips.

In late February 2003, Queen Elizabeth II's reign, then just over 51 years, surpassed the reigns of all four of her immediate predecessors (King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI) combined.

Queen Elizabeth II leaving hospital after having a knee operation in late 2003
Queen Elizabeth II leaving hospital after having a knee operation in late 2003

In 2003 Elizabeth, who is often described as robustly healthy, underwent three operations. She had two operations by the end of the year concerning both of her knees, and also had several lesions removed from her face. This had prompted some debate in the media about whether the evolving monarchy should have monarchs abdicating as in some other nations, or even enforce a retirement age for reigning monarchs. In June 2005 she was forced to cancel several engagements after contracting what the Palace described as a bad cold.

As Elizabeth approaches her 80th birthday, she has made it clear that she has no intention of abdicating. Those who know her best have stated that she intends to reign as Queen until the day she dies. She has, however, begun to hand over some public duties to her children, as well as other members of the royal family. It was rumoured in 2005, that she and Prince Philip would be reducing their international travel. The subsequent, perhaps pointed, announcements that they would be visiting Canada, Malta, Australia, and Singapore in the space of the next year served to effectively deny these rumours, however. It is often made clear that she intends to do as much as she can until she is physically unable.

If the Queen lives until 2008, she will become the oldest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing King George III and Queen Victoria, both of whom died before the age of 82.

Should she still be reigning on September 9, 2015 at 89 years old, her reign will surpass that of Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth's public image has noticeably softened in recent years, particularly since the death of the Queen Mother. Although she remains reserved in public, she has been seen laughing and smiling much more than in years past, and to the shock of many she has been seen to shed tears during emotional occasions such as at Remembrance Day services, the memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral for those killed in the 11 September terrorist attacks and in Normandy, France for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, where, for the first time, she addressed the Canadian troops.

Constitutional role

Role in government

British Royalty
House of Windsor

George V
   Edward VIII
   George VI
   Princess Mary, Princess Royal
   Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
   Prince George, Duke of Kent
   Prince John
   Elizabeth II
   Princess Margaret
   Prince William of Gloucester
   Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
   Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
   Prince Michael of Kent
   Princess Alexandra of Kent
Edward VIII
George VI
   Elizabeth II
   Princess Margaret
Elizabeth II
   Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
   Princess Anne, Princess Royal
   Prince Andrew, Duke of York
   Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
   Prince William of Wales
   Prince Henry of Wales
   Princess Beatrice of York
   Princess Eugenie of York
   Lady Louise Windsor

In theory, the Queen is an essential part of the legislative process of her Realms. The Queen-in-Parliament (the Queen, acting with the advice and consent of Parliament), in each country, is an integral part of Parliament, along with the upper and lower houses. In practice, however, the Queen's role in the legislative process is in all forseeable circumstances entirely ceremonial. The Queen may legally grant or withhold Royal Assent to Bills, but no monarch has refused his or her assent to a Bill since 1708. The Queen, or her Governors-General in the realms outside the United Kingdom, also gives a speech at the annual State Opening of Parliament, outlining the government's legislative agenda for the year, but the speech is written by ministers.

The Queen also has a functional role in executive government. Constitutionally she chooses her prime minister (though in reality no actual choice is required as the issue of whom to ask to form a government is clear from who controls the House of Commons, except in exceptional circumstances). She also decides the basis on which a person is asked to form a government. That is, whether a government should be formed capable of surviving in the House of Commons - the standard requirement - or capable of commanding majority support in the House of Commons - i.e., a requirement to form a coalition if no one party has a majority. This requirement was last set in 1940, leading to the formation of the National Government of Winston Churchill. This request is normally only made in emergencies or in war-time. The Queen also appoints ministers and all government is carried out legally in her name.

Orders-in-Council are issued only when approved by her at Privy Council meetings. She has access to all government minutes and documentation, and has a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister when parliament is in session. She also signs executive order, financial and treasury papers, with her signature required on all major financial transactions of state (countersigned by the relevant minister). The role of Commander-in-Chief is held in each realm either by the Queen or by her Governor-General as her representative.

Appointment of prime ministers: 3 controversies

On three occasions during her reign the Queen has had to deal with constitutional problems over the formation of governments. In 1957 and again in 1963 the absence of a formal open mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader meant that following the sudden resignation of Sir Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan it fell on the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government. In both these cases Rab Butler was passed over, in controversial circumstances in October 1963 when outgoing Prime Minister Harold Macmillan advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home instead.

On the third occasion, in February 1974, an inconclusive general election result meant that in theory outgoing prime minister Edward Heath, who had won more of the popular vote, could stay in power if he formed a coalition government with the Liberals. Rather than immediately resign as prime minister he explored the option and only resigned when the discussions floundered. (Had he chosen to, he could have remained on until defeated in the debate on the Queen's Speech.) Only when he resigned was the Queen able to ask the Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party's Harold Wilson, to form a government. His minority government lasted for 8 months before a new general election was held.

In all three cases, she appears to have acted in accordance with constitutional tradition, following the advice of her prime minister.

Relations with ministers

British Prime Ministers take their weekly meetings with the Queen very seriously. One Prime Minister said he took them more seriously than Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, because she would be better briefed and more constructive than anything he would face at the dispatch box. Elizabeth also has regular meetings with her individual British ministers, and occasional meetings with ministers from her other Realms. Even ministers known to have republican views speak highly of her and value these meetings.

As with her British Prime Ministers, some Canadian Prime Ministers have commented on The Queen’s knowledge of Canadian and international affairs. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stated: "I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation." (Memoirs, Pierre E. Trudeau)

The Queen also meets the Scottish First Minister. The royal palace in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, once home to Scottish kings and queens like Mary, Queen of Scots, is now regularly used again, with at least one member of the Royal Family (often the Prince of Wales or Princess Royal) in residence. She also receives reports from the new Welsh Assembly, and is continually kept abreast of goings on with her other governments.

Elizabeth with Commonwealth Prime Ministers, in the 1950s. To her right, Sidney Holland of New Zealand; Sir Winston Churchill; to her left, Robert Menzies of Australia and Louis St. Laurent of Canada
Elizabeth with Commonwealth Prime Ministers, in the 1950s. To her right, Sidney Holland of New Zealand; Sir Winston Churchill; to her left, Robert Menzies of Australia and Louis St. Laurent of Canada

Though bound by convention not to intervene directly in politics, her length of service, the fact that she has been a confidante of every prime minister since Winston Churchill in the United Kingdom, Louis St. Laurent in Canada, Alexander Bustamante in Jamaica, Sidney Holland in New Zealand, and many others, combined with her knowledge of world leaders, means that when she does express an opinion, however cautiously, her words are taken seriously. In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher offered this description of her weekly meetings with Elizabeth:

"Anyone who imagines that they are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience."

During an argument within the Commonwealth over sanctions on South Africa, Elizabeth made a pointed reference to her role as Head of the Commonwealth which was interpreted at the time as a disagreement with Thatcher's policy of opposing sanctions.

The Queen and the Judiciary

The Queen's role in the judiciary is again ceremonial: the courts act in her name and prosecutions are brought on her behalf.

The Queen may not be brought to trial in the courts in her capacity as head of state, nor can she be sued personally for any official act carried out by her or in her name (although the Crown may be sued as a legal entity). The Queen is, however, a natural person under common law, subject to the law like any other person. The question of whether the monarch could be tried for an offence committed in a personal capacity has never been tested. During the English Revolution of the 17th century, Parliament tried Charles I for treason, but after the Restoration of Charles II these proceedings were deemed to have been unlawful.

Constitutional controversies

Elizabeth has been involved in some political controversies during her reign, in some of which her actions appear to have stated her political views.


On 18 November 1965, the Governor of Rhodesia (Sir Humphrey Vicary Gibbs) was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, an honour in the personal gift of the Queen, a week after Ian Smith had made his Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Gibbs was intensely loyal to Rhodesia and although he had refused to accept UDI, the award was criticised as badly timed at the very least. Others praised it as indicating support for her Rhodesian representative in the face of an illegal action by the Rhodesian prime minister.

The United Kingdom

In her speech to Parliament at the Silver Jubilee in 1977, Elizabeth stated "I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". This reference came at a time when the Labour government was attempting to introduce a controversial devolution scheme to Scotland and Wales, and was interpreted as opposition to devolution. However, in the late 1990s after referenda approved a devolution scheme, Elizabeth sent her best wishes to the new Scottish Parliament.

Relations with world leaders

Elizabeth has developed friendships with many foreign leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson and George H. W. Bush, whose son, George W. Bush, was the first American president in more than 80 years to stay at Buckingham Palace. On occasion such contacts have proved highly beneficial for the United Kingdom. For example, John Major as prime minister once had difficulty working with a particular Commonwealth leader. The Queen informed Major that he and the leader shared a mutual sporting interest. Major then used that information to establish a personal relationship, which ultimately benefited both countries. Similarly she took the initiative when Irish President Mary Robinson began visiting Great Britain, by suggesting that she invite Robinson to visit her at the Palace. The Irish Government enthusiastically supported the idea. The result was the first ever visit by an Irish President to meet the British monarch.

Elizabeth's reign has also seen an increase in a republican movement in Commonwealth realms. The percentage support for republicanism in the United Kingdom, however, has remained relatively static, with an average of between 15% and 20% according to long term tracker polls. See British republicanism.

Religious role

The Queen is the Sovereign "by Grace of God" and is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. As with her predecessors, the coronation itself took place within the context of a church service (at Westminster Abbey) imbued with theological as well as constitutional meaning. The Queen retains the ancient title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) - a title first granted in 1521 by Pope Leo X to King Henry VIII prior to the Reformation. The Church of England remains the established church in England; archbishops and bishops are formally appointed by the Crown. The Queen takes a keen personal interest in the Church, but in practice delegates authority in the Church of England to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Queen regularly worships at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle or at St Mary Magdalene Church when staying at Sandringham House, Norfolk. Certain churches have royal patronage and are outside the normal diocesan administrative structures; these are known as Royal Peculiars.

The role of the Sovereign differs considerably in the other three countries of the United Kingdom. In Scotland the Church of Scotland (with a Presbyterian system of church government) is recognised in law as the "national church" in which the Queen is an ordinary member. The Royal Family regularly attend services at Crathie Kirk when holidaying at Balmoral Castle and attend at the Kirk of the Canongate when in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The Queen has attended the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on several occasions, most recently in 1977 and 2002, although in most years she appoints a Lord High Commissioner to represent her. Unusually for the Church of Scotland, Glasgow Cathedral and Dunblane Cathedral are both owned by the Crown.

In Wales, Northern Ireland and the other Realms, there is no official religion established by law. The Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland have both been disestablished.

The Queen made particular reference to her Christian convictions in her Christmas Day television broadcast in 2000, in which she spoke about the theological significance of the Millennium as the marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. "To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example."

The United Kingdom has become an increasingly multiethnic society with considerable diversity in religious practice. The Queen often meets with leaders from a wide range of religions. She is Patron of the Council of Christians & Jews (CCJ) in the UK. CCJ external link


Queen Elizabeth is the male-line great-grandaughter of Edward VII, who inherited the crown from his mother, Victoria. His father, Victoria's consort, was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; hence Queen Elizabeth is a patrilineal descendant, through him, of the German princely house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha). Other notable members of the princely house are Albert II of Belgium and Simeon II of Bulgaria. Through Victoria (as well as several other of her great-great-grandparents), she is descended from many English monarchs extending back to the House of Wessex in the 7th century, and from the Scottish royal house, the House of Stuart, which can be traced back to the 9th century. As a great-great granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she is related to the heads of most other ruling European royal houses and the former Hohenzollern royal houses of Germany and Romania. Through her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra she is descended from the Danish royal house Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a line of the North German house of Oldenburg, one of the oldest in Europe. Other members are the Duke of Edinburgh, Margrethe II of Denmark, Harald V of Norway, Juan Carlos I of Spain, Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Constantine II of Greece, who are also all descended from Queen Victoria. She is also a cousin of Albert II of Belgium. She is related to all ruling monarchs of Europe.


Elizabeth II in uniform  as Colonel-in-Chief of the Coldstream Guards at the Trooping of the Colour ceremony.
Elizabeth II in uniform as Colonel-in-Chief of the Coldstream Guards at the Trooping of the Colour ceremony.

In the United Kingdom, her official title is 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. In common practice Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as "The Queen", "Her Majesty" or in conversation as "Ma'am".

At her succession, the title Elizabeth II caused some controversy in Scotland, where there has never been an Elizabeth I. In a rare act of sabotage in Scotland, new Royal Mail post boxes bearing the initials E.R.II were blown up. As a result, post boxes in Scotland now bear only a crown and no royal initials. A legal case, MacCormick v. Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), was taken to contest the right of the Queen to style herself Elizabeth II within Scotland, arguing that to do so would be a breach of the Act of Union (1707). The case was lost on the grounds that the pursuers had no title to sue the Crown, and also that the numbering of monarchs was part of the royal prerogative and not governed by the Act of Union. There are also two other matters of controversy, which are much less publicised. Firstly, the argument that the monarch was addressed as Your Grace, rather than Majesty, in pre-Union Scotland and secondly, that the preferred title had been King/Queen of Scots rather than of Scotland (although this was by no means unknown).

At the royal opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the presiding officer David Steel introduced her to the assembled parliamentarians as 'Elizabeth, Queen of Scots'. Use of this style seems to have increased in Scotland subsequently.

Future British monarchs are now to be numbered according to either that of their English or Scottish predecessors, whichever number is higher. Applying this policy retroactively to monarchs since the Act of Union yields the same numbering. See List of regnal numerals of future British monarchs.

Following a decision by Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the Commonwealth conference of 1953, Queen Elizabeth uses different styles and titles in each of her realms. In each state she acts as the monarch of that state regardless of her other roles.

Properly styled as "Her Majesty The Queen" (and when the distinction is necessary e.g. "Her Britannic Majesty" or "Her Canadian Majesty"), her previous styles were -:

Though now the postnominal letters "LG" are used by Ladies of the Garter, a Lady of the Garter was not a full member of the Order back then. Thus, the postnominal letters "LG" were not used, so "KG" was used by Princess Elizabeth.

Personality and image

Elizabeth has never given press interviews, and her views on political issues are largely unknown except to those few heads of government who have private conversations with her. She is also regarded privately as an excellent mimic. Rather conservative in dress, she is well-known for her solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd. Although she attends many cultural events as part of her public role, in her private life Elizabeth is said to have little interest in culture or the arts. Her main leisure interests include horse racing, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

The four portraits of Elizabeth on British coinage.
The four portraits of Elizabeth on British coinage.

Elizabeth has given an annual Christmas Message to the Commonwealth every year apart from 1969 since she became Queen.

In diplomatic situations Elizabeth is extremely formal, and royal protocol is very strict. Though some of the traditional rules for dealing with the Monarch have been relaxed during her reign (bowing is no longer required, for example) other forms of close personal interaction, such as touching, are still discouraged. At least two people are known to have broken this rule, the first being Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, when he was photographed with his arm around the Queen in 1992 (and was afterwards dubbed the "Lizard of Oz" by the British media). The second was Louis Garneau, who did the same ten years later. [1]

Her former prime ministers speak highly of her. Since becoming Queen, she spends an average of three hours every day "doing the boxes" — reading state papers sent to her from her various departments, embassies, and government offices. Having done so since 1952, she has seen more of public affairs from the inside than any other person, and is thus able to offer advice to Tony Blair based on things said to her by Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Winston Churchill and many other senior leaders. She takes her responsibilities in this regard seriously, once mentioning an "interesting telegram" from the Foreign Office to then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill, only to find that her prime minister had not bothered to read it when it came in his box.

Coat of arms

The Queen's Coat of Arms in the United Kingdom
The Queen's Coat of Arms in the United Kingdom
The Queen's personal flag, used when she is representing the Commonwealth
The Queen's personal flag, used when she is representing the Commonwealth

The Queen's coat of arms are known as the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. These arms have been used by every British monarch since the reign of Queen Victoria. The shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three lions passant guardant of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure fleury-counter-fleury of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland. The crest is a lion statant guardant wearing the imperial crown, itself on another representation of that crown. The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned lion, symbolizing England; the sinister, a unicorn, symbolizing Scotland. The coat features both the motto of British monarchs Dieu et mon droit (God and my right) and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.

A separate coat of arms exists for use in Scotland, which gives priority to the Scottish elements. The Scottish arms feature the Order of the Thistle and its motto Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity).

The Royal Standard is the Queen's flag and is a banner of the Royal Arms. In some the Commonwealth Realms, the Queen has an offical standard for use when acting as Queen of that realm. Australia, Barbados, Canada, Jamaica, and New Zealand each have their own Royal Standard which is a defaced banner of the country's coat of arms, including the Queen's personal badge of a crowned letter E inside a circle of roses on a blue disc.

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

Preceded by:
George VI
Queen of the United Kingdom
6 February 1952–present
Preceded by:
The Earl Jellicoe
(First Lord of the Admiralty)
Lord High Admiral
1 April 1964–present

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Ancestry: Descent | Ancestors
Commonwealth: Prime Ministers | Queen of Canada | Queen of Australia | Queen of New Zealand
Overseas Visits: State visits | Commonwealth visits
Titles: British titles and honours | Commonwealth titles and honours
Public Celebrations: Silver Jubilee | Golden Jubilee | Queen's Official Birthday
Personal tools