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
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
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.”
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.
Some of Queen Elizabeth II’s biographers believe that her royal duties superseded those as mother of her four children.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
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
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.”