• Her Majesty the Queen

    Elizabeth II
    Elizabeth II became queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1952. Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. Through her parents and grandparents, Elizabeth II can trace her ancestors back long before Elizabeth I!

    When did Elizabeth II become Queen?
    Queen Elizabeth's father was King George VI. When he died in February 1952 Elizabeth became Queen. Her coronation was on 2 June 1953.

    Why is the Queen so famous?
    Queen Elizabeth II is one of the most famous women in the world. She has visited many countries and met many world leaders. She has probably travelled more miles than any king or queen in history.

    2012 marks her 60th year as Queen. Only Queen Victoria has had a longer reign (63 years 216 days).

    Back to top

  • The Queen's family

    Her parents
    The Queen's father was Albert, Duke of York. He was the second son of King George V, and Albert changed his name to George when he became King in 1936. In 1923 he married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Her family owned an ancient castle in Scotland called Glamis, which is famous for its ghosts.

    Princess Elizabeth was the Yorks' first baby. She was born on 21 April 1926, at 17 Bruton Street, in London. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Her family name is Windsor.

    Family life
    The Duke of York enjoyed being in the Royal Navy. But he was shy. A stammer made public speaking (part of his royal job) a challenge. Helped by his wife, he worked hard to overcome the stammer.

    Princess Elizabeth's parents missed her first birthday. They were away for six months on an official visit to the West Indies, Australia and New Zealand. In the 1920s, royal trips could take a long time. This was before jet planes.

    Back to top

  • Early life

    A pony, a sister and lessons
    In 1929 Princess Elizabeth was given a pony for her 3rd birthday. So began a lifelong love of horses.

    In 1930 she gained a baby sister, Princess Margaret Rose. The two Princesses did not go to school. They had a governess, Marion Crawford ('Crawfie'). Other teachers came to their home to give lessons.

    Growing up at home
    Although the Princesses did not go to school, they had a number of friends of their own age and belonged to a special group of Girl Guides called '1st Buckingham Palace Company'. At home, the Princesses enjoyed stories and games with their parents. They liked playing the piano and dressing up for plays. They listened to the radio for entertainment (this was before TV).

    Elizabeth's family often called her 'Lilibet'. Sometimes their grandfather the King came to play. He crawled around the floor with the children on his back.

    Back to top

  • The young princess

    Changes
    In January 1936 King George V died. Elizabeth's uncle, the Prince of Wales, became King Edward VIII. But he was never crowned. He abdicated and married an American, Mrs Wallis Simpson.

    Elizabeth's father now became King George VI. It was a shock for the family. Suddenly Elizabeth realised she might one day be Queen.

    Royal family at war
    On 12 May 1937 George VI was crowned in Westminster Abbey. The two princesses wore robes and coronets (small crowns). After attending the service in the Abbey, they stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The crowd cheered.

    World War II began on 3 September 1939. Then came the Blitz of 1940-41. Buckingham Palace was hit by bombs. Many children were evacuated. The King and Queen refused to send the princesses to safety in Canada but they spent most of the war at Windsor.

    War work
    In March 1945 the 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth joined the women's branch of the Army, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. One month later she passed her tests for driving and repairing Army trucks.

    World War II in Europe ended in May 1945. Crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate. Elizabeth and Margaret slipped out to join the fun.

    Back to top

  • Marriage and becoming Queen

    Marriage and children
    In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married her cousin, Prince Philip of Greece. Their wedding ceremony was a very happy event after the long sad years of the war. For a time Prince Philip, who was made Duke of Edinburgh, continued his work in the Navy, and Princess Elizabeth enjoyed 'normal' life as the wife of a successful naval officer.

    In 1948 Princess Elizabeth had a son, Charles (now Prince of Wales). In 1950 Princess Anne (now the Princess Royal) was born.

    Elizabeth becomes Queen
    In the winter of 1951-1952 King George was very ill. He was too ill for trips abroad. Elizabeth and Philip set out on a long journey to Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia. While the princess was away, her father died.

    On 7 February 1952, the day after he died, she arrived back in London. She was now Queen.

    Coronation Day
    Elizabeth II's coronation was on 2 June 1953. Rain did not stop thousands of people coming to London to watch.

    The coronation was shown on television. Not many people had TV. Many families invited friends to watch the flickering black and white pictures.

    The Queen rode in a gold coach. Inside Westminster Abbey, the crown was placed on her head by the Archbishop of Canterbury. She promised to rule by 'the laws and customs of all her peoples', in the British Empire and Commonwealth.

    Back to top

  • Being Queen

    The Queen at work
    The Queen spends part of most days at her desk. She has a staff of people to help with her work. She gets 300 or more letters every day. And she is sent boxes of official papers to read.

    Queen Elizabeth II has less power than kings and queens in the past. But she does give advice to the government and has regular meetings with the Prime Minister. Because she has been Queen for so long, she has much more experience of governing than any of her ministers, or any other ruler around the world.

    Meeting the Queen
    New ambassadors from foreign countries call at the palace. Other people come to receive medals and awards. It is a special honour to be made a Knight or Dame, when the Queen touches people on the shoulders with a sword.

    The Queen meets lots of people. If you meet her, you start a conversation by calling her 'Your Majesty', and then, 'Ma'am'.

    World leaders and travels
    The Queen welcomes world leaders to the United Kingdom. She gives banquets at Buckingham Palace. Sometimes she drives through London in an open carriage with visitors.

    Every year the Queen travels thousands of miles. She visits all parts of the United Kingdom. She makes 'walkabouts' so she can chat to people. She makes many trips abroad, and has visited more than 116 countries!

    Back to top

  • More about the Queen

    Trooping the Colour
    The Queen has two birthdays. Her real birthday is on 21 April. Her official birthday as Queen is in June. To mark it, she attends a parade on Horse Guards in London. It's called Trooping the Colour. The 'colour' is a flag belonging to one of the regiments of Guards. Bands play and crowds line the streets to see the Queen and her soldiers pass by.

    What the Queen likes
    The Queen is used to parades in big cities. Yet she enjoys being in the country. She likes horses. Her favourite sports are horse riding, horse shows and horse racing. She owns some race horses herself.

    The Queen also owns a number of dogs. And she has royal racing pigeons! In the 1880s the King of Belgium gave Queen Victoria some pigeons. The royal family has kept pigeons ever since.

    Where does the Queen live?
    Buckingham Palace is the Queen's office as well as her London home. The part most tourists see is the East Front. Here is the balcony where the royal family appears sometimes. The gardens are used for summer garden parties.

    The Queen has a country house at Sandringham in Norfolk. In Scotland, her official residence is Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh. In summer the Queen holidays in Scotland, at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. While she is away, the state rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors.

    Windsor Castle
    Windsor Castle in Berkshire is a favourite royal home. It is the oldest and biggest castle still used as a home. Windsor Castle was begun in 1070 by William the Conqueror.

    In 1992 fire burned down parts of Windsor Castle. The Queen was sad, and helped to pay for repairs that have made the castle as splendid as ever.

    Back to top

  • Queen and country

    Do all countries have Kings and Queens?
    Many countries are republics. Their head of state is an elected president. France and the United States are examples.

    A monarchy is a country with a king or queen. Examples are Britain, Norway, Spain and Thailand. Japan has an emperor. Kings and queens in past times made laws and led armies. Today monarchs like the Queen have much less power.

    What is the Queen's job?
    The Queen is the head of state of the United Kingdom. She is also head of the Church of England.

    The Queen does not make laws. That is the job of Parliament. When the Queen opens Parliament, usually once a year, she reads a speech written for her by the government.

    The UK government in London is led by the Prime Minister.

    What is the Commonwealth?
    54 countries belong to the Commonwealth. Most have links with Britain from the time of the British Empire. Today, they help one another in various ways.

    The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth. To her it's like a very big family. She visits Commonwealth countries, and goes to the meetings of Commonwealth leaders. She is Queen of a number of Commonwealth countries as well as the United Kingdom.

    Can the Queen retire?
    Many people retire (stop working), usually in their 60s. The Queen is 86 in 2012. She expects to stay as Queen until she dies.

    The Queen's eldest son is Prince Charles. He will become King after her. After him in the 'line of succession' comes his son, Prince William.

    Back to top

Fun Facts
  • Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast, to children, in October 1940.
     

  • Since Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 she has met 12 UK Prime Ministers.
     

  • The Queen made her first Christmas TV broadcast in 1957.
     
     

  • The Queen's favourite dogs are corgis. She also likes Labradors and Spaniels.
     

  • Guns are fired in salutes to mark the Queen's official birthday.
     
     

  • During her reign the Queen has 'sat' to have her portrait painted 129 times.
     

  • For her 6th birthday, Princess Elizabeth was given a miniature Welsh cottage.
     

  • 'HRH' stands for His (or Her) Royal Highness. Only the Queen is 'HM' (Her Majesty).
     

  • All Royal Navy ships are HMS (Her Majesty's ships) - for example HMS Ocean.
     

  • The Queen's head appears on every British coin.
     
     
     

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

abdicated
gave up the throne
ambassador
someone sent to another country to represent their own country
Archbishop of Canterbury
leading bishop or church leader in the Church of England
banquet
a feast, often given by a leader to welcome an important visitor
Blitz
air raids on Britain during World War II
British Empire
in history, parts of the world that were settled or ruled by Britain (roughly 1600-1960s). The Empire became the Commonwealth.
carriage
a small passenger vehicle pulled by horses
coronation
ceremony for making a king or queen by putting a crown on their heads

E to G

evacuated
moved to safety in wartime. Many British children during World II became 'evacuees' from cities to the countryside
governess
a woman who looked after and gave lessons to a child at home

H to L

M to O

monarch
another name for a king or queen

P to S

Parliament
the House of Commons and House of Lords, which make laws for the UK
Prime Minister
the leader of the government
reign
the length of time a person is king or queen
stammer
an interruption to the normal flow of speech

T to Z

World War II
global war that began in 1939 and ended in 1945