Queen Elizabeth Has Passed Away at the Age of 96

Queen Elizabeth II Opens Refurbished East Wing of Somerset House

Photo: Getty Images Europe

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21st, 1926 to to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and George the Sixth. At the time of her birth, she was third in line to the throne. When her grandfather George the Fifth died in 1936, her uncle Edward became monarch -- but he abdicated the throne that year amid a constitutional crisis when he sought to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. Thus, when her father passed away in 1952, she ascended to the throne.

She married Phillip Montbatten in 1947, though some in the royal circle were against the match, because he was foreign-born and unmoneyed -- and because his families had some links to Nazi Germany. They had four children: Charles -- who now becomes king -- AnneAndrew and Edward

Elizabeth ascended to the throne in February 1952 upon the death of George the Sixth, and was coronated on June 2nd, 1953. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey was televised for the first time.

She was the head of state of Britain through much of its transition from empire to commonwealth, though that process had begun before her ascension. Coupled with advances in transportation, particularly air travel, her reign featured dozens of visits to foreign countries. She was the first sitting monarch to visit Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. She was also the first to open a session of Canadian Parliament and to attend a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Although Elizabeth sought largely to stay outside the business of politics, she did occasionally become involved -- notably choosing Harold Macmillan to form a government following the Suez Canal crisis in 1957. She also exerted influence in Canada and Australia's moves to become more independent from British Parliament. 

Perhaps her biggest crisis was one that technically didn't involve the Royal Family: the death of Lady Diana Spencer in a car crash in 1997. Because Charles and Diana had divorced a year earlier, she was no longer royalty, and Elizabeth viewed her death as a private, family matter. In addition, she sought to shield her grandsons William and Harry from the press frenzy around Diana's passing. However, the British media criticized her extensively for seeming aloof and uncaring about "the People's Princess," and she eventually relented and made a televised address that dulled the criticism.

Elizabeth maintained an active public schedule throughout her reign, even into her 80s. She opened the Summer Olympics in London in 2012, and commemorated a Sapphire Jubilee marking 65 years on the throne in 2017. However, she did begin to transfer her responsibilities to Charles during the final few years of her life and remained largely out of public during the coronavirus pandemic.

10 rock stars were knighted by Queen Elizabeth: Paul McCartneyMick Jagger, Cliff RichardTom JonesElton JohnRod StewartVan MorrisonRay DaviesRingo Starr and Barry Gibb. Actors Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart are among the other celebs who Elizabeth knighted.

As Elizabeth had become Queen as a result of a scandal involving her uncle's desire to marry a divorced American commoner, so the last years of her life were spent embroiled in a scandal triggered by her grandson Harry, Duke of Sussex, marrying divorced American commoner Meghan Markle.

In April 2021, her husband, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, died two months shy of his 100th birthday.  

She was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, and before her death the longest-reigning living monarch and head of state in the world. Had she lived into May 2024, she would have been the longest-reigning monarch in verifiable world history.

In addition to her four children, Elizabeth leaves behind eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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