Saturday, November 12, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, to Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, became queen on February 6, 1952, and was crowned on June 2, 1953. During her reign, she has tried to make the British monarchy more modern and sensitive to the public.

Early Life
Queen of England. Born April 21, 1926, in London, to Prince Albert, Duke of York (later crowned King George VI), and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Proclaimed queen on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, and crowned on June 2, 1953. Married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh (later named Prince Philip), in 1947. They have three sons, Charles Philip Arthur George (b. Nov. 14, 1948), Andrew Albert Christian Edward (b. Feb. 19, 1960), and Edward Anthony Richard Louis (b. March 10, 1964), and a daughter, Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise (b. Aug. 15, 1950).

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926, in the Mayfair section of London. She was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duchess of York, who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Her younger sister, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. As a child, Elizabeth was educated at home by her mother and a governess, Marion Crawford. She received her advanced education through private tutor Henry Marten, who worked for Eaton College, as well as other private instructors.

During the first year of World War II, Elizabeth and her sister were moved to various locations, finally settling in Windsor Castle in May 1940. Concerned for her safety, many suggested she and her sister be relocated to Canada, but this was rejected by her mother, who would not send the girls off alone and wouldn't leave her husband, the king, knowing that he would never leave the country in its time of need. It was in 1940, from Windsor Castle, that Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour. Speaking to the children of Britain who had been evacuated from the cities, Elizabeth assured them that & in the end, all will be well. In 1945, at the age of 19, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, and was trained as a driver and mechanic. She is the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during World War II.

Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip, when she was 8 years old. They met again at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England, in July 1939, whereupon the 13-year-old princess fell in love with the 18-year-old prince. They exchanged letters for a number of years, and on November, 20, 1947, they were wed. They went on to have three sons—Charles Philip Arthur George (b. Nov. 14, 1948), Andrew Albert Christian Edward (b. Feb. 19, 1960), and Edward Anthony Richard Louis (b. March 10, 1964)—and a daughter, Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise (b. Aug. 15, 1950).

In the years following the war, Elizabeth's father, George VI, fell into declining health, and she frequently stood in for him at public events. On February 6, 1952, George VI died while Elizabeth and Philip were touring Australia and New Zealand. Elizabeth quickly returned home. On June 2, 1953, she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey, in a televised ceremony. Millions watched the event, with millions more listening on the radio. This coronation gave her the responsibilities of a queen regnant, possessing and exercising all the powers of a monarchical ruler. As a constitutional monarch, however, Queen Elizabeth is politically neutral and, by convention, her role is largely ceremonial. As head of state, Elizabeth maintains close contact with the prime minister in weekly meetings and receives daily reports on the events in Parliament. Her duties include leading all branches of Great Britain's military, and she is the president or financial supporter of more than 700 organizations.

Lengthy Reign
Queen Elizabeth's long, and mainly peaceful, reign has been marked by vast changes in her people's lives, her country's power, how Britain is viewed abroad, and how the monarchy is regarded and portrayed. When Elizabeth became queen, postwar Britain still had a substantial empire, with a number of dominions and dependencies. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, many of these possessions achieved independence, and the British Empire evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations. During Elizabeth's reign she has tried to make the British monarchy more modern and sensitive to the public. She has used the media to present the royal family as accessible while they attend sports events, festivals, concerts and other public activities.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Queen Elizabeth attained international popularity with her worldwide travels at several high-profile events. She endeared herself to millions with her engaging and gracious manner. During this time she visited France and attended the Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa, Canada. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the United States for the 200th anniversary celebration of America's independence from Great Britain. She then headed to Montreal to open the 1976 Summer Olympics. In 1979, she traveled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. These activities commanded international attention and widespread respect.

Princess Diana Controversy
The 1990s were a problematic period for the royal family. Prince Charles was said to not be interested in becoming king, and there were rumors that Elizabeth would hand the throne to her grandson, Prince William. In November 1992, Windsor Castle sustained a fire, and controversy immediately arose when it was announced that the restoration would be paid for by British taxpayers. The outrage emanated from the royal family's tax-exempt status. The monarchy acted swiftly to quell the criticism, announcing that the queen would no longer be exempt from taxation. In 1996, the royal family also experienced two very public divorces: Prince Charles' divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales; and Prince Andrew's divorce from Sarah, Duchess of York. These were followed by Diana's death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Besides enduring the tragic loss of such a dynamic person, the royal family was criticized for what seemed a cold and unfeeling reaction to Diana's death. Breaking with tradition, the queen addressed the nation in a live broadcast a day before the funeral, paying tribute to Diana. Since then, Elizabeth has recovered public confidence and her personal popularity remains high.

The year 2002 marked Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee as queen. The event was preceded by the death of her mother and sister, and many speculated whether the Jubilee would be a success. Determined to press on, Elizabeth went on an extensive tour of her realms. There she was honored with street parties and commemorative events, and millions of people attended the three-day celebration in London. In 2006, she celebrated her 80th birthday with her family at Windsor Castle, and attended various public events to mark the occasion. In 2007, the queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, the longest marriage of any British monarch. She addressed the United Nations in July 2010, and plans to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years on the throne.

Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has been the United Kingdom's symbol of continuity, and her many visits to the various nations within the Commonwealth and other countries have won her wide respect. As queen, Elizabeth has weathered criticism, sorrow and tragedy, as well as high popularity and steady respect among her subjects and the world. She has increased the work of the monarchy, and in the tradition of her father, pursued her duties with diligence, duty, dignity and compassion. She has instituted new trends toward modernization and openness in the monarchy and has kept the institution relevant in rapidly changing and often all-too-inglorious times.

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