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Elizabeth II (1952 - )
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Elizabeth II (1952 - )'The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.' From the Coronation Oath

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 17 Bruton Street, London on 21 April 1926. A happy childhood was spent with her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, and younger sister Margaret Rose. Present at her parents' coronation in 1937, at the age of 14 she broadcast to the children of the empire.

Educated at home, in the Second World War she joined the Auxiliary Transport Service (ATS). In 1947 she visited South Africa, celebrating her 21st birthday there and broadcasting a moving promise to dedicate herself to the empire's service. In July came her engagement to Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, who had seen wartime service in the Royal Navy. The two were married on 20 November 1947.

Their first child, Prince Charles, was born in 1948, and Princess Anne in 1950. Just two years later, news of George VI's death came during Princess Elizabeth's visit to Kenya. A wave of optimism enveloped the new queen, amid expectations of 'a new Elizabethan age'. But her reign, though long, has not always been as happy and glorious as the coronation mood of 1953 suggested. That coronation was the last truly imperial event in British history. It was also the first to be televised.

The Queen is now the longest reigning British monarch since Queen Victoria. Her Silver (1977) and Golden (2002) Jubilees were marked by parties and parades that helped restore the image of a royal family battered by intrusive media in an age determined to ditch deference. Tabloid 'hounding', tempered somewhat after Princess Diana's death in 1997, included prolonged dissection of the monarchy's role, cost and size, and extensive coverage of young family members' marital breakdowns.

'... an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.'
The Queen on the Commonwealth

A lifetime's service
'I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.' These words, spoken on her 21st birthday, sum up the Queen's attitude to her position. This most travelled of all monarchs (she has visited over 100 countries and been seen by more people than all her ancestors put together) has always seen being sovereign as a lifetime commitment.

The monarchy has reacted to changing events: a more 'presidential' style of premiership; devolution in Scotland and Wales; the shift from Commonwealth to European Union. It has become less aloof. Buckingham Palace opened to the public to fund restoration work on fire-damaged Windsor Castle. The royal yacht went into retirement. The Queen's decision to pay income tax and fund family members is another sign of changing times. Although the Queen lost both her mother (at the age of 101) and her sister in 2002, the Duke of Edinburgh - 'my rock' - remained at her side to carry out the role of royal consort with humour and energy. Queen Elizabeth II stated clearly from the start that her service would be lifelong. Her dedication and example have ensured that the ancient Crown of these islands carries into the 21st century the inspirational echoes of over a thousand years of history.

Coronation day
On 2 June 1953 Elizabeth was crowned 'Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.'

Elizabeth II (1952 - )

Balcony scene
The balcony at Buckingham Palace, often the setting for national events, as the newly-crowned Queen appears before crowds gathered to wave, cheer, take photos-and remember.

Elizabeth II (1952 - )

Golden jubilee 2002
A youthful escort surrounds the Queen on her 50th anniversary walkabout in London.

Elizabeth II (1952 - )

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