Elizabeth II, 1926–, queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1952–), elder daughter and successor of George VI. At age 18 she was made a State Counsellor, a confidante of the king. During World War II she trained as a junior subaltern (second lieutenant) in the women's services. On Nov. 20, 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten, duke of Edinburgh (see Edinburgh, Prince Philip Mountbatten, duke of). They were in Kenya (en route for a tour of Australia and New Zealand) when the king died (Feb. 6, 1952) and Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. Her coronation, on June 2, 1953, was the first to be televised. She is also head of state in a number of former British possessions and is head of the Commonwealth of Nations.
An extremely popular queen, Elizabeth has traveled more extensively than any previous British monarch. Throughout her reign, expanded media coverage has brought the monarchy closer to the British people. Although the queen, who in public is formal and unemotional, continues to be greatly admired and respected, since the mid-1980s a barrage of tabloid reports about her children and their spouses has seriously tarnished the royal image. In 1992 she celebrated her 40th year on the throne, but it was also a year in which part of Windsor Castle suffered a devastating fire; her son Prince Andrew (b. 1960) separated from his wife, the former Sarah Ferguson (they were divorced in 1996); her daughter, Princess Anne, divorced; and her son and heir to the throne Prince Charles and his wife Princess Diana separated (they were divorced in 1996). Elizabeth's youngest son is Prince Edward (b. 1964). In 1992 Elizabeth, the wealthiest woman in England, agreed to pay income tax for the first time. Although she was widely criticized for her seeming insensitivity in the days following Princess Diana's death (1997), she had regained the public's esteem by the time of her golden jubilee, less than five years later.
See biographies by E. Longford (1984), S. Bradford (1996), B. Pimlott (1997), and S. B. Smith (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.