Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent states known as the Commonwealth realms: 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, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All together, these countries have a combined population, including dependencies, of over 129 million. She holds each crown
separately and equally in a shared monarchy, and carries out duties in
and on behalf of all the states of which she is sovereign. She is also Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. In theory her powers are vast; however, in practice, and in accordance with convention, she rarely intervenes in political matters.
Her long reign has seen sweeping changes with the dissolution of the British Empire (a process that began before her accession) and the consequent evolution of the modern Commonwealth of Nations. Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) upon the death of her father, George VI,
on 6 February 1952. As other British colonies gained independence from
the United Kingdom, she became queen of several newly independent
countries. During her 57 years on the throne, she has been the
sovereign of 32 individual nations, but half of them subsequently
Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. The couple have four children and eight grandchildren. She is one of the longest-reigning British monarchs, after Victoria (who reigned over the United Kingdom for 63 years), George III (who reigned over Great Britain for 59 years), and James VI (who reigned over Scotland for over 57 years).
Elizabeth II became queen of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland in 1952. In addition she is head of the
Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926 in London, the first child of
Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, formerly 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
George VI and she became heir.
Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret were educated at home. On
the outbreak of war in 1939, they were evacuated to Windsor Castle. In
1945, Elizabeth joined the war effort, training as a driver in the
Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (WATS). In November 1947, she
married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten (formerly Prince Philip of
Greece and Denmark), who was created duke of Edinburgh. The couple have
George VI died on 6 February 1952 while Elizabeth and Philip were in
Kenya. She returned home immediately, and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey in June 1953. For more than 50 years, during a period of great
change in Britain, the queen has carried out her political duties as
head of state, the ceremonial responsibilities of the sovereign and a
large annual programme of visits in the United Kingdom as well as
numerous foreign tours.
Despite the controversies and scandals surrounding her children and
other members of the royal family, she remains a respected head of
state. In 2002, Elizabeth celebrated her golden jubilee (50 years on
the throne) and in 2006 her 80th birthday.