Queen Elizabeth II was admired at home and around the world during her reign — the longest in British and world history.
Having ascended to the throne in 1952 at age 25, Elizabeth became the U.K.’s longest reigning monarch in September 2015 when she surpassed Queen Victoria’s record of nearly 64 years. Elizabeth became the world’s longest-reigning monarch and head of state when Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died in October 2016 after he spent 70 years on the throne.
During her life, the queen was a patron to hundreds of charities and organizations and was one of the most traveled world leaders.
CNBC looks back at some of the British monarch’s most memorable moments.
Elizabeth was born April 21, 1926, the first child of the then-Duke and Duchess of York. In 1930, Elizabeth’s parents gave birth to her sister, Princess Margaret Rose.
“Lilibet” ascended to the thronesooner than anyone had expected. Her uncle, childless King Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936 over his romance with divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, putting her next in the succession.
Princess on duty
During World War II, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service at age 18 in 1945, with the rank of subaltern. By the time the war ended, she had become a junior commander.
Falling in love
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, her third cousin and a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluecksburg, met in 1934 at the wedding of Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. However, it wasn’t until July 1947 until the pair were officially engaged. They married on Nov. 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey.
A year later, Nov. 14, 1948, Elizabeth gave birth to the first of her four children, Prince Charles. Before ascending to the throne, Elizabeth had two children, Charles and Princess Anne (1950), who were then followed by Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
Queen Elizabeth II begins her reign
King George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952, making the 25-year-old Elizabeth queen. More than a year later, on June 2, 1953, she was formally crowned at Westminster Abbey in the first British coronation to be televised.
Members of the royal family represent numerous organizations and charities worldwide. More than 3,000 groups list a royal as a patron or president. In recent years, the queen was the patron of over 600 organizations, with the causes including the environment, education and health.
Attending royal events
Being a member of the royal family means attending numerous gatherings from sport and charity to gardening. However, as an avid racegoer and owner of several horses, Elizabeth especially looked forward to attending the Royal Ascot race in Berkshire, a county west of London, every June.
Ceremony and pageantry are a core part of the British royal family. Among the regular duties Elizabeth carried out were making the annual Christmas speech and attending “Trooping the Colour.”
An ever-expanding family
Elizabeth wasn’t alone in undertaking national duties.
Elizabeth’s travels circled the world several times. She met countless leading figures inside and out of Europe. She met with every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Joe Biden (in June 2021) except Lyndon Johnson.
Beloved by many
Elizabeth’s relationship with the British public was almost always warm, although she was criticized for remaining at Balmoral Castle in Scotland for several days after the 1997 death of Diana rather than to immediately return to London. The family later said they stayed at Balmoral to protect and prepare the grieving Princes Andrew and Harry, then 15 and 12, for their mother’s funeral.
Celebrating 50 years as queen
In June 2002, the U.K. celebrated 50 years of Elizabeth’s reign. Celebrations were held across the country and the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh traveled to every region of the U.K. and the Commonwealth to mark the occasion.
Staying strong in times of trouble
On Nov. 20, 1992, the queen’s 45th wedding anniversary, a fire at Windsor Castle caused extensive damage that took years to repair. But that was just one of a string of events that prompted the queen declare 1992 to be “annus horribilis.” Prince Andrew’s separation with the former Sarah Ferguson was announced in March. The next month, Princess Anne divorced Capt. Mark Phillips. In June, Princess Diana’s tell-all book was published. Its revelations included husband Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The queen’s speech
During the coronavirus outbreak, the queen delivered a rare video speech on April 5, 2020, to promise her subjects that they will prevail over the coronavirus. “We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said from Windsor Castle.
A love for animals
Aside from horses, another animal the queen loved was the Pembroke Welsh corgi. As her husband was undergoing treatment for his final illness in early 2021, the queen acquired two puppies, a corgi she named Muick and a dorgi, a cross with a dachshund, she called Fergus. They were named, respectively, after Loch Muick on the Balmoral estate and her late uncle Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who was killed during World War I. Sadly, Fergus the pup died of a heart problem in May at age 5 months.
A new generation
Being a royal, keeping up with appearances and official photographs was just one of the many duties the queen undertook.
A sad farewell
The queen sat alone as her husband’s casket was held by a military honor guard at his funeral at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. Philip died April 9, 2021, at age 99. The funeral was four days before Elizabeth’s 95th birthday.
The 96-year-old monarch made an appearance in June on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the first day of her Platinum Jubilee, marking the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. She waved to tens of thousands of people gathered below and watched an aviation display in her honor, but was not able to attend many of the events that took place over the four days of celebration due to her declining health.
15 prime ministers
Elizabeth appointed Liz Truss as prime minister on Sept. 6 during a meeting at her Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The meeting was part of a routine in which the queen fulfilled her constitutional role of appointing a new prime minister — a sequence of events she oversaw 15 times. However, she broke with tradition and appointed Truss from Scotland rather than traveling to Buckingham Palace, as is typical.
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