Queen Elizabeth, the second-longest reigning monarch in the world, has died at 96 years old.
Her Majesty passed peacefully at her Balmoral Estate in Scotland, with her whole family by her side. The news comes just hours after Buckingham Palace announced that she was under medical supervision.
Queen Elizabeth’s Early Life
Queen Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926 during her grandfather King George V’s reign — named Elizabeth after her mother. Her only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. The two grew up in London and were educated at home by their mother and their governess, a private tutor.
When she was 10 years old, Elizabeth was thrust into the spotlight. Her Uncle Edward abdicated the throne the same year his father George V died, making his younger brother Albert, Elizabeth’s father, king. Albert chose the regal name King George VI, and Elizabeth became the heir presumptive. This was a shocking development, as Edward was young when he took the throne and expected to marry and have children, moving Elizabeth and her father further down the line of ascension. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was quickly ushered into the role of heir presumptive and began to prepare for her would-be reign.
Queen Elizabeth’s Love Story
When she was just 13 years old, Elizabeth became enamored with Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark while on a visit to his college, Dartmouth, with her parents and sister, in 1939. And so began one of the most enduring and heartwarming love stories of our time. The two began to exchange letters, and continued to do so throughout World War II while Philip served in the Royal Navy. When the war ended, Philip came to court Elizabeth, taking her to concerts and restaurants.
The royal couple officially announced their engagement on July 8, 1947, when Elizabeth was 21. They married just four months later on November 20, in an extravagant wedding. (Who could forget the silk wedding dress embroidered with 10,000 pearls?) The now Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh welcomed their first child, Prince Charles, in 1948, and their second child, Princess Anne, in 1950. Princes Andrew and Edward were not born until 1960 and 1964, respectively (when Elizabeth was already Queen.)
Ascending the Throne
On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth’s world was turned upside down once again. While she and Philip were on a tour of Kenya, they got the news that King George VI died in his sleep at age 56, following many years of illness. Elizabeth, now Queen and just 25 years old, immediately flew back to England with Philip.
During the first three months of her reign, Queen Elizabeth remained in seclusion, mourning her father and adjusting to her new role. She and Prince Philip moved from the Clarence House to the less-private Buckingham Palace. To Philip’s dismay, he had to give up his naval role, and the royal family chose not to use his surname, Mountbatten. (Winston Churchill and Queen Mary were reportedly adamant that the surname remain Windsor.) On June 2, 1953, at 27 years old, Elizabeth was formally crowned monarch of the United Kingdom in a lavish ceremony, the first ever coronation to be broadcasted on live television.
Queen Elizabeth’s Reign
Throughout the years, Queen Elizabeth had to toe the line between a rapidly changing, modern world and a conservative monarchy with strict traditions. For instance, she took her role as the Head of State seriously, always remaining neutral in political matters. But she did allow the royal family’s domestic life to be filmed in 1970, and she also condoned the dissolution of her sister, Princess Margaret’s marriage, in 1978.
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest-serving monarch, and earlier this year, she accomplished an incredible feat. On February 6, 2022, she celebrated her 70th anniversary of becoming Queen, the only British monarch to reach the milestone.
Touching Millions of Lives
As the royal biographer, Robert Hardman (author of Queen of our Times) told BBC 5 Live, the Queen was one of a kind. “She is unlike any other monarch in our history,” he said on September 8. “She’s our longest-lived, longest-serving, longest-reigning monarch … She just stands for this constancy, this sense of permanence and stability.”
We’ll miss you, Queen Elizabeth.
This article was updated on September 8, at 2:31 p.m. EST.