A Royal Life: Queen Elizabeth II Timeline
Where It All Began
Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, Duchess of York have their first child: Princess Elizabeth (Lilibet to the family). Her grandfather King George V is reigning, and, as third in line to the throne, no one ever expects her to become the Queen…
1926 – 2.40am, 21st April, Princess Elizabeth is born at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair.
1928 – The first wax model of Princess Elizabeth, aged two, is displayed at Madame Tussauds. Since then, 22 more versions have appeared at the world-famous attraction. Nearby, you’ll also find lifelike figures of the royal family.
1932 – Her parents use the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as a country home.
1934 – Princess Elizabeth meets Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten for the first time while attending a wedding.
1936 – King George V dies and his eldest son Edward ascends the throne. By the end of the year, King Edward VIII gives it up to marry socialite Wallis Simpson. Princess Elizabeth’s father becomes King George VI and she is first in line to the throne, aged 10.
1940 – 13th October, Princess Elizabeth makes her first public speech aged 14. In a live radio broadcast on the BBC’s children’s programme, she reaches out to all the children of the Commonwealth and Britain, especially those evacuated.
1944 – She carries out her first official tour of Scotland and attends her first opening ceremony: the Aberdeen Sailors’ Home. Palace of Holyroodhouse and Balmoral Castle, both in Scotland, provide a safe haven during the World War II.
1945 – She serves as 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Windsor in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She is the first female from the royal family to work full-time in the Armed Forces.
1947 – 20th November, Princess Elizabeth marries Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in Westminster Abbey but the event is simple as Britain is still recovering from the war. The princess had to save coupons to buy material for her wedding dress, like any other bride.
1948 – 14th November, Prince Charles, The Heir Apparent is born.
1952 – King George VI dies peacefully in his sleep. Princess Elizabeth immediately becomes Queen while on holiday in Kenya at the age of 25. When asked to choose a regal name, she says: ‘My own of course – what else?’
1953 – The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II takes place in Westminster Abbey.
‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
For many of the 27 million viewers, it is the first time they watch an event on TV. The service lasts for three hours and is attended by 8,251 guests.
1953 – From the moment Elizabeth becomes Queen, the world’s top photographers are tasked with capturing her image, including Cecil Beaton, Pietro Annigoni and Dorothy Wilding (the first female official royal photographer), who emphasises the sovereign’s glamour in her 1950s portrait. See these images of the Queen at the National Portrait Gallery. In stark contrast, Annigoni says: ‘I did not want to paint her as a film star. I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.’
1957 – The Queen’s first televised Christmas Day broadcast. ‘I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion.’
1957 – Four of the Queen’s horses win during Royal Ascot week, Britain’s most prestigious race meeting. Over the years, the Queen has owned more than 20 winners and attended every Royal Ascot during her reign. If you head to this year’s races (14-18 Jun), look out for royals during the horse-drawn procession.
1958 – The number of garden parties increases as Her Majesty seeks to end old-fashioned royal traditions, such as debutante ceremonies, in favour of modern events.
1962 – The Queen’s Gallery, a public gallery, opened at Buckingham Palace to display items from the Royal Collection. Built in the bombed-out ruins of Queen Victoria’s former chapel, it is a success.
1964 – 19th February, Prince Andrew in born.
1969 – The first TV documentary about the royals is aired. Royal Family is watched by millions and shows a more relaxed side to the Queen.
1972 – The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh celebrate 25 years of marriage with a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. Visit the abbey and see graves including Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.
1977 – The Queen attends the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and sees Virginia Wade win the ladies’ singles Andy Murray was the next Brit to win a singles title in 2013.
1981 – 20th July Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer marry in St Paul’s Cathedral. Billed as the ‘wedding of the century’, the event is watched by 750 million people worldwide, and 600,000 people fill the streets of London to catch a glimpse of Diana in a dress with a dramatic 25ft train.
1986 – The Queen takes part in celebrations to mark her 60th birthday.
1992 – Windsor Castle is partly destroyed by a fire. The castle is fully repaired over the next few years. ‘1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,’ the Queen said.
1993 – In an effort to raise funds for the restoration of Windsor Castle, the Queen allows the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace to open to the public, a practice which now happens every summer. In this year’s opening, the palace will stage a display of Her Majesty’s wardrobe, called Fashioning a Reign.
1997 – 31st August, Diana, Princess of Wales, and her partner Dodi Fayed die after a car crash in Paris. People around the world react with huge shock and sadness, and lay thousands of tributes and flowers.
2002 – Her Majesty launches her Golden Jubilee celebrations in the Houses of Parliament. As part of the commemorations, guitarist Brian May performs God Save the Queen on the roof of Buckingham Palace.
2005 – 9th April, Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles at Windsor Guildhall. The media dubs it ‘a fairytale for grown-ups’.
2006 – The Queen turns 80 and enjoys a public walkabout in Windsor. She attends a party at Kew Palace – the landmark’s first dinner for a monarch in 200 years. The public can visit the site, located in Kew Gardens.
2011 – 29th April, Prince William and Catherine Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey, and become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Twenty four million people tuned in to see the nuptials, while street parties erupted around the UK.
2012 – The Queen celebrates 60 years on the throne – her Diamond Jubilee – with events across London, including a parade down the River Thames and a concert outside Buckingham Palace.
2013 – Prince George is born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Queen, now a great-grandmother, visits Kensington Palace two days after his birth.
2014 – ‘It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum.’ – The Queen’s first tweet is sent from @BritishMonarchy.
2015 – 9th September The Queen becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history (more than 63 years), surpassing Queen Victoria.
2018 – Crossrail is due to open. Named the Elizabeth Line, it will transform travel across London from east to west. Walk-through carriages, air conditioning and real-time travel information are all promised as part of the new fleet. It will have faster links to the city, too.
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