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Queen Elizabeth’s Remarkable Life In Photos

Stunning images capture the Queen in all facets of her life

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Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at age 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, was Britain’s longest reigning monarch, ruling seven decades, celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022. Though she could have passed her duties on to her son Prince Charles long ago, she honored the pledge of duty she made to the commonwealth on her 21st birthday in a now-famous radio speech: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” 

AARP’s Alanna Nash and Alison Maxwell take a look at Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable life in photos.

An Unsuspecting Queen

spinner image queen elizabeth the second after her coronation
Getty / Bettmann

Queen Elizabeth II never expected to become queen, her fate turning on the abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American socialite. With the premature death of her father, King George VI, at 56, she succeeded to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952. Princess Elizabeth was in Africa when he died, and became the first sovereign in more than 200 years to accede while out of the kingdom.

A Royal Wedding

spinner image queen elizabeth the second as princess elizabeth and her husband the duke of edinburgh
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1947, before she became Queen, Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, the Greek prince raised mostly in Britain who was an officer in the Royal Navy. Philip became known as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Here, they are pictured on their wedding day. In a 1946 letter to his future bride, Philip declared his love “completely and unreservedly.”​

Coronation Day

spinner image queen elizabeth the second and the duke of edinburgh on the day of their coronation
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh are pictured on the day of the Queen’s coronation at Buckingham Palace, June 2, 1953. Queen Elizabeth was 27 at her coronation, the first such event to be broadcast on television. The coronation was held more than one year after King George’s death.

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Family Life

spinner image the royal family at buckingham palace
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some of Queen Elizabeth II’s biographers believe that her royal duties superseded those as mother of her four children. It was her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who while prohibited from giving their children — Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward, and Princess Anne — his last name, took command of rearing them, along with nannies and the Queen Mum. Here, the royal family is pictured at Buckingham Palace in 1972. Left to right: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and Prince Charles.

The Top Dog

spinner image queen elizabeth the second at balmoral castle with her corgi nineteen fifty two
Getty / Bettmann

​If Queen Elizabeth II seemed chilly at times and overly serious, she softened at the sight of her dogs, mostly corgis and dorgis (dachshunds bred with corgis), and she had a keen passion for horses, as both a racing enthusiast and an owner/breeder of thoroughbreds. Here, she is pictured at Balmoral Castle with one of her corgis in September 1952.

A Lifetime of Love

spinner image queen elizabeth the second and prince philip on their diamond anniversary
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip revisited Broadlands to mark their diamond wedding anniversary on Nov. 20, 2007. The royals spent their wedding night in November 1947 at Broadlands in Hampshire, the former home of Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten. ​Though her position as queen isolated her somewhat even from Philip, who famously walked two paces behind her, they were described as having “an incredible instinctive chemistry.”

A Somber Queen

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Yui Mok-WPA Pool/Getty Images

When Prince Philip died in April 2021, royal watchers feared his death would be Queen Elizabeth’s final, unbearable weight. And indeed, her health declined steadily after that. At the prince’s funeral, which took place during the pandemic, a writer for Britain’s Independent noted that “the image of the tiny 94-year-old widow, frail, bowed, solitary in socially distanced grief,” broke hearts around the world. 

Heirs To The Throne

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Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

Prince Charles, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday in June 2016 during the Trooping the Colour. The ceremony is the Queen’s annual birthday parade and dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th century, when a regiment’s Colours were used as a rallying point in battle.

Grandmother In Action

spinner image queen elizabeth with prince william and harry
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Prince Charles’ two sons with the late Princess Diana — Prince William and Prince Harry — were close with the Queen, who was their grandmother. Here, the Queen huddles with the princes in the royal box at Guards Polo Club in Windsor. Prince William, 40, rushed to his grandmother’s side in Scotland when her health took a turn for the worse this week.

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The Queen’s Impact

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Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s accomplishments were many, if often understated. She brought stability to the monarchy after the abdication of her uncle and the death of her father; accelerated the establishment of Britain as a commonwealth; and quietly supported racial equality and advancement around the globe. She also reformed the monarchy’s finances to reduce its spending, and paid taxes on royal income that had long been exempt.

The Queen’s Final Engagement

spinner image queen elizabeth the second waiting to meet with new prime minister

Though she could have passed her duties on to Prince Charles long ago, she honored the pledge of duty she made to the commonwealth on her 21st birthday in a now-famous radio speech: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” ​The queen kept her promise to the end, welcoming ​the new prime minister, Liz Truss, to Balmoral Castle on the Tuesday before her death.

Prince Charles Becomes King

spinner image queen elizabeth and prince charles
Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, 73, immediately became King Charles III upon her death. His wife, Camilla, became Queen Consort Camilla. 

Buckingham Palace issued a statement from “His Majesty the King” shortly after her death. 

“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the statement said. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”