LONDON (AP) — From her ambulance service in World War II to her immortalization in a Beatles song, Queen Elizabeth II was the only monarch most Britons have ever known. She reigned for seven decades over a Britain that rebuilt itself after the war and lost its empire before dying on Thursday aged 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
She went through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, becoming an institution and an icon – a fixed point and reassuring presence even for those who disliked the royal family. She was the longest reigning monarch in British history, famous for her life of public service but also for her beloved corgis and her playful sense of humor in private.
Ten things to know about the life of Queen Elizabeth II:
BRITAIN’S LONGEST-REIGNING MONARCH
Elizabeth, who celebrated 70 years on the throne this year, is the oldest and longest-serving monarch in British history. In September 2015, she surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and seven months.
In 2016, Elizabeth also became the world’s longest-serving monarch with the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. In 2022, she became the second longest-reigning monarch in world history, behind 17th-century French King Louis XIV, who took the throne at the age of 4.
Apart from Elizabeth and Victoria, only four other monarchs in British history have reigned for 50 years or more: George III (59), Henry III (56), Edward III (50) and James VI of Scotland (58). year). )
Like many royals of her time and before, Elizabeth never attended a public school and was never exposed to other students. Instead, she was educated at home with Margaret, her younger sister.
Among those who taught her were her father, as well as a head teacher at Eton College, several French and Belgian governesses who taught her French, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who taught her religion.
Elizabeth’s schooling also included learning horseback riding, swimming, dancing, and studying fine arts and music.
During World War II, young Princess Elizabeth briefly became known as No. 230873, Second Subordinate Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor of No. 1 Auxiliary Transport Service.
After months of campaigning for permission from her parents to do something for the war effort, the heir to the throne learned to drive and maintain ambulances and trucks. She achieved the rank of Honorary Junior Commander within months.
Elizabeth often gave the impression of a serious demeanor, and many noted her “poker face”, but those who knew her described her as having a mischievous sense of humor and a knack for mimicry. in private enterprise.
Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said the Queen could be “extremely funny in private – and not everyone appreciates how funny she can be”.
Bishop Michael Mann, the monarch’s domestic chaplain, once said that “the Queen imitating the landing of the Concorde is one of the funniest things you can see”. Ian Paisley, the Northern Irish clergyman and politician, also noted that Elizabeth was a “great imitator” of him.
More recently, she showed her mischievous side at Platinum Jubilee celebrations, when she starred in a comedy video alongside an animated Paddington Bear and talked about hiding marmalade sandwiches in her purse.
She may have been the queen, but she also paid taxes, at least since 1992.
When Windsor Castle, the Queen’s weekend residence, was ravaged by fire in 1992, the public rebelled against the payment of millions of pounds for repairs.
But she voluntarily agreed to pay taxes on her personal income. She said she would cover 70% of the cost of the restoration work and she also decided to open her home at Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time to generate additional funds from admission fees.
The Queen was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor of York, in honor of her mother, her paternal grandmother and her paternal great-grandmother. But as a child, she was affectionately known as young Lilibet by her family – it was said to be because she couldn’t pronounce “Elizabeth” correctly.
In a letter to her grandmother Queen Mary, the young princess wrote: “Dear grandmother. Thank you very much for the nice little jersey. We loved staying at Sandringham with you. I lost a top front tooth yesterday morning,” before signing, “Love from Lilibet.
The nickname became more widely known after Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex named their daughter Lilibet Diana in 2021.
A CONTINUED ROMANCE
Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, enjoyed a stable relationship for more than 70 years, a union that far outlived the marriages of three of her four children: Charles, Anne and Andrew.
“He was just my strength and remains all these years,” the Queen said of Philip on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Their story began in 1939, when Prince Philip of Greece, a handsome 18-year-old sea cadet, was assigned to entertain 13-year-old Elizabeth for a day. Several years later, Philip was invited to join the royal family at Windsor Castle over Christmas, and he quickly quietly asked if he would be considered an eligible suitor.
The couple married at Westminster Abbey in 1947. When Philip died in 2021 aged 99, Elizabeth described his passing as leaving a “huge void” in her life, according to their son, Andrew .
Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, but it was sometimes confusing for the public to know when to celebrate.
There was no universally fixed day for his “official birthday” – it is either the first, second or third Saturday in June, and was decided by the government.
In Australia, her birthday was celebrated on the second Monday in June, while in Canada it was marked on a Monday on or before May 24, Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Only the Queen and her relatives celebrated her birthday in private gatherings.
HOW MANY CORGIS?
It’s well known that Elizabeth loved corgis – Princess Diana is said to have called the dogs the Queen’s “moving carpet” because they accompanied her everywhere.
She has owned over 30 corgis over the years. She also had two “dorgis” – crosses of dachshund and corgi – named Candy and Vulcan.
Elizabeth was photographed hugging one of the dogs as early as 1936 when she was 10 years old and was given a corgi named Susan for her 18th birthday. The breed was introduced to the royal family by his father, King George VI, in 1933 when he purchased a male corgi called Dookie from a local kennel.
As queen, she also technically owned the thousands of mute swans in open British waters and had the right to claim all sturgeons, porpoises, whales and dolphins, according to a 1324 law.
‘A PRETTY GIRL’
The queen inevitably became the subject of pop songs.
The Beatles immortalized her with the ironic “Her Majesty”, calling her a “very nice girl” even though “she doesn’t have much to say”. The brief song, sung by Paul McCartney and recorded in 1969, appeared at the end of the “Abbey Road” album.
Other musical treatments weren’t as kind. The Sex Pistols’ anti-monarchist ‘God Save The Queen’, released just before its Silver Jubilee in 1977, was banned from British television.
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