Queen Elizabeth II: How 'Lilibet' became one of Britain's greatest ever monarchs – obituary
The Queen has died, Buckingham Palace has announced.
In a statement, the Palace said: "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.
"The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow."
Though she was not born to be queen, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor died on 8 September 2022 having become the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926 to the Duke and Duchess of York.
Nicknamed ‘Lilibet’ by her family, she made a lasting impression on people even at a young age.
Winston Churchill said in 1928: "She’s a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant."
Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret were privately educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford.
Lessons concentrated on history, language, literature and music.
Edward VIII abdicates
Born third in line to the throne, by rights Elizabeth should have lived her life as a minor royal.
However, her future changed forever in 1936 when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated less than a year after taking the throne – so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American socialite.
Elizabeth’s father became King George VI and the young princess was now heir to the throne.
Thrust into the public eye, Princess Elizabeth took her royal duties seriously. During the Second World War she helped boost morale by making a broadcast to the nation’s children in 1940, with her younger sister joining at the end.
She made public appearances on her own and joined the women auxiliary territorial service as a driver and mechanic to free up men for the front lines. The skills she learned lasted a lifetime.
Decades later, she once terrified her passenger Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by driving fearlessly around the winding roads of the Scottish Highlands in her Land Rover while he pleaded with her to keep her eyes on the road.
On VE day in 1945, the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret convinced their parents to let them sneak out of Buckingham Palace and mingle with the celebrating crowds outside.
She later recalled: “I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”
Moments of anonymity like this were rare, but she was able to enjoy several more over her lifetime. One biographer recalls the time she went shopping in the duty-free section of an airport while waiting for her flight to refuel.
“It was a secure area, no-one was expecting her and she had a lovely time browsing at the Clarins counter,” reported a member of the royal party.
On another occasion, while walking around the grounds of Balmoral with her bodyguards she was asked by a group of US tourists if she’d ever met the Queen. Apparently she replied “no” before pointing at her police guard and saying: “But he has.”
Philip, her ‘strength and stay’
It was during the war that she met a young naval officer, Philip of Denmark and Greece.
The couple married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947 with the princess wearing a dress she paid for with ration tokens.
There was fierce opposition to the union in royal circles at the time – he was penniless and thought of as "arrogant" – but they were a solid partnership and their 73-year marriage became the longest of any UK monarch.
The late Lord Charteris once said that Philip was the only person on earth who could tell the Queen to "shut up", and vice versa.
Another close friend said of the couple: "Those two, they’re just a real love story – taking tea together every day, talking about everything. He might take out a letter and read it to her, or crack a joke. They just adore each other."
During a speech to mark their golden wedding anniversary, the Queen said about Philip: "He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know."
Early family life
Their first child, Charles, was born in 1948 and Anne followed two years later.
But Princess Elizabeth’s life was one in which family life had to be balanced against royal duties.
At one point, she lived with Philip at his naval base in Malta, leaving the young Prince Charles back in the UK.
It is said to have been one of the happiest times of her life. The young princess would drive around the island unescorted in her open-topped car or pop to the local cinema to watch a film, holding hands with her husband.
On 6 February 1952, George VI passed away and Elizabeth became Queen, bringing a huge change to her life with Philip.
She was on a royal tour of Kenya at the time, visiting a treetop hotel and it was left to Prince Philip to tell his wife about her father’s death.
The next day, the new monarch requested no photographs be taken. One journalist said he could “feel her sadness” as she passed and waved to them.
More than a year later, on 2 June 1953, the Queen was crowned at Westminster Abbey in a televised event that was watched by an estimated 27 million people around the UK.
She was the 39th sovereign to be crowned at Westminster Abbey, in a service followed by a procession along a 7.2km route through London.
Later family life
By the 1970s, she had given birth to sons Andrew and Edward and become the first reigning monarch to visit Australia and New Zealand.
In 1977, she celebrated her Silver Jubilee and while the country was rocked by political turmoil and unrest, the Queen was still admired and respected.
Break-in at Buckingham Palace
In the early hours of 9 July 1982, 31-year-old painter and decorator Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace after scaling the site's 14 ft perimeter walls.
He then climbed up a drainpipe and entered the palace through an unlocked window.
Fagan eventually made it to the Queen's bedroom, where he happened upon the startled monarch.
An official Scotland Yard report into the incident found that the basic cause of the breakdown in security had been due to a series of failures by officers to act properly and security was improved.
In 1992, a series of unpleasant events rocked the Royal Family. The marriages of two of her children, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew, broke down.
A book detailing Princess Diana’s unhappiness was published and a fire swept through Windsor Castle. It led to the Queen making a speech in which she called it her 'Annus horribilis' – her horrible year.
Public support for the Royal Family was in decline but the Queen’s popularity hardly waned. Perhaps this was down to her selfless duty and service.
Tony Blair, one of the many prime ministers she presided over during her reign, said: “What I found to be her most surprising attribute is how streetwise she is.
"Frequently, throughout my time as prime minister, I was stunned by her total ability to pick up the public mood.”
There was one notable exception. In 1997, the world was stunned by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and for the first time the Queen seemed to misjudge what the public required of their monarch.
No doubt thinking of her beloved grandsons William and Harry who had lost their mother, she took them to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. There, she intentionally removed newspapers to as not to upset the youngsters further.
Prince Harry later explained: “It was a case of ‘how do we let the boys grieve in privacy, but at the same time when is the right time for them to put on their prince hats and carry out duties to mourn not just their mother but the Princess of Wales’.”
However, her public’s response was not as sympathetic. The Queen was accused of being “cold” and “out of touch”. Later, she made a broadcast paying tribute to Diana. But the swell of anger had shocked her.
As for showing anger herself, the Queen’s preferred method of expressing disapproval was to say: “Are you sure?” or simply to ask a lot of questions.
Throughout her reign, she remained neutral politically but her experience and knowledge of world affairs meant she was an invaluable source of good advice to politicians.
Former PM Blair remembers asking her about another head of state, saying: “I’m really struggling to get on with him.” She replied: “Try cricket, that’s his subject.”
A record-breaking monarch
Her incredible work ethic as well as her undivided loyalty towards her subjects meant that support for the Queen was galvanised in the 2000s.
Her Golden Jubilee was marked in 2002, despite the deaths that year of her sister Margaret and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Among the UK celebrations was proms at the palace, in Buckingham Palace's gardens, services across the country attended by various royals, and street parties were held.
When she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, her approval rating hit 90%, the highest it had ever been since she came to the throne.
The occasion was marked with a river pageant on the Thames in London, although poor weather on the day made it something of a washout.
2012 was also the year that she proved to the world what everyone in her inner circle had known for many years – she had a mischievous sense of humour.
Friends had always intimated that the Her Majesty was a talented mimic, taking off the Liverpool and Scottish accents with ease.
But no-one was prepared for the jaw-dropping moment she appeared to jump out of a helicopter in a James Bond spoof for the opening of the 2012 London Olympics.
Three years later, on 9 September 2015, Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest reigning monarch. To her public, she was admired and respected. To her family, she was loved.
She relished the role of grandmother and would often text her grandchildren from her mobile. When he was just a toddler, Prince William called her ‘Gary’ as he could not pronounce ‘Granny’ and she is known affectionately as ‘Gan Gan’ to the young Prince George.
In recent years, she was able to attend the marriages of her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry, granddaughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and has welcomed 12 great-grandchildren.
She became a symbol of stability when the UK and the Commonwealth was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.
Isolating with her husband Prince Philip in Windsor Castle, she adapted to the new normal, carrying out video engagements and making television and audio broadcasts.
The Queen was forced to steer her family through difficult times when Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle announced in January 2020 that they wanted to step back from their roles as senior royals, for a new life in the US.
She presided over the discussions between the couple and the rest of the Royal Family, eventually agreeing a deal which was dubbed 'Megxit'.
It saw the couple give up use of their HRH titles, relinquish the right to use the word 'royal' and stripped Prince Harry of honorary military positions.
And in March 2021 she had to navigate the fallout of the couple's explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, as they claimed there had been racist remarks made by a member of the Royal Family and that Meghan had not been offered support when she was dealing with suicidal thoughts.
The Queen's carefully worded short statement ensured the matters would be dealt with by the family members and not through the wider palace machinery.
The Queen faced heartbreak when Prince Philip died at the age of 99 on 9 April 2021, at Windsor Castle. He had spent four weeks in hospital about three weeks before his death.
Coronavirus restrictions at the time of his death meant the funeral had to be scaled back, reduced to just 30 mourners.
The Queen cut a solemn figure as she sat alone in the quire of St George's Chapel with 29 other mourners — mostly her children and grandchildren.
Her 95th birthday was spent in royal mourning for her husband of more than 73 years, who had been able to spend more time with her because of the stay at home rules during the pandemic.
In the days that followed she thanked the public for their messages of condolence, saying: "While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world.
"We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life."
Now a widow, the Queen would have to navigate the final years of her life without the man who had been by her side since she was a teenager.
However, she soon returned to public duties – both remotely and in-person – when possible.
The year 2022 marked 70 years of her reign, which was celebrated with a four-day Platinum Jubilee bank holiday in June, and the Queen joined in the celebrations a number of times over the weekend.
She didn't attend Trooping the Colour, with Charles taking the salute on her behalf during the event at Horse Guards Parade.
However, she made an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of the parade and watched the flypast with working members of the Royal Family – including Prince Louis, who arguably stole the show with a range of animated expressions.
Later in the day at Windsor Castle, she also symbolically led the lighting of the main Jubilee beacon as part of a chain of more than 3,500 flaming tributes to her 70-year-reign.
More than 3,000 towns, villages and cities throughout the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories, and each of the capital cities of Commonwealth countries, lit beacons to mark the Jubilee.
Other events over the weekend included the Platinum Party at the Palace and a street pageant, with the Queen appearing on the balcony once again on the final day of the long weekend.
She attended several events over the following summer, although was represented by Charles at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
On 6 September, she welcomed Liz Truss at an audience at Balmoral Castle, where she invited the newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party to become prime minister.
The historic audience was the first time that the Queen had carried out the duty at her Scottish retreat rather than at Buckingham Palace.
Using a walking stick, the event was also the first time she had been seen since publicly she had arrived for her summer holiday at Balmoral on 21 July.
But the following day it was announced the Queen had postponed her Privy Council meeting after being advised by her doctors to rest.
On 8 September, Buckingham Palace announced that she was under medical supervision at Balmoral with a statement saying: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.”
Members of the Royal Family rushed to be by her side. Shortly afterwards it was announced that she'd died peacefully that afternoon.
By the time of her death, Queen Elizabeth II had reigned for 70 years, a record that looks unlikely to be broken for many centuries.