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Elizabeth II
Reign 6 February 1952 – present
Coronation 2 June 1953
Predecessor George VI
Heir apparent Charles, Prince of Wales
Prime Ministers See list
Spouse Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (m. 1947–present)
Issue
Charles, Prince of Wales

Anne, Princess Royal Prince Andrew, Duke of York Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

Full name
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
House House of Windsor
Father George VI
Mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Born 21 April 1926 (1926-04-21) (age 85)Mayfair, United Kingdom
Religion Church of England

Church of Scotland

Early Life

Elizabeth was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and his wife, Elizabeth. Her father was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary, and her mother was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She was born by Caesarean section at 2.40 am (GMT) on 21 April 1926 at her maternal grandfather's London house: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair. The Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, baptised her in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May. She was named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V's mother, who had died six months earlier, and Mary after her paternal grandmother. Her close family called her "Lilibet". George V cherished his granddaughter, and during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits were credited in the popular press and by later biographers with raising his spirits and aiding his recovery.

Elizabeth's only sibling was Princess Margaret, born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, who was casually known as "Crawfie". Lessons concentrated on history, language, literature and music. To the dismay of the royal family, Crawford later published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses. The book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, and her attitude of responsibility. Others echoed such observations: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as "a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved".

Heiress presumptive

Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, and learned French from a succession of native-speaking governesses. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed specifically so she could socialise with girls her own age. Later she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.

In 1939, Elizabeth's parents toured Canada and visited the United States. As in 1927, when her parents had toured Australia and New Zealand, Elizabeth remained in Britain as the King thought her too young to undertake public tours. Elizabeth "looked tearful" as her parents departed. They corresponded regularly, and on 18 May, she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call.

Second World War

From September 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, stayed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, until Christmas 1939, when they moved to Sandringham House, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodge, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castle, where they stayed for most of the next five years. The suggestion by senior politician Lord Hailsham that the two princesses should be evacuated to Canada was rejected by Elizabeth's mother; she declared, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." At Windsor, the princesses staged pantomimes at Christmas in aid of the Queen's Wool Fund, which bought yarn to knit into military garments. In 1940, the 14-year-old Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated: We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.In 1943, at the age of 16, Elizabeth undertook her first solo public appearance on a visit to the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed Colonel-in-Chief the previous year. As she approached her 18th birthday, the law was changed so that she could act as one of five Counsellors of State in the event of her father's incapacity or absence abroad, such as his visit to Italy in July 1944. In February 1945, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as an honorary Second Subaltern with the service number of 230873. She trained as a driver and mechanic,[28] and was promoted to honorary Junior Commander five months later. During the war, plans were drawn up to quell Welsh nationalism by affiliating Elizabeth more closely with Wales. Welsh politicians proposed that Elizabeth be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday. The idea was supported by Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, but rejected by the King because he felt such a title belonged solely to the wife of a Prince of Wales, and the Prince of Wales had always been the heir apparent (usually the sovereign's eldest surviving son). Elizabeth was only heir presumptive and could be supplanted in the line of succession if the sovereign had a son. In 1946, she was inducted into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and her sister mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London. She later said in a rare interview, "we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised ... 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." Two years later, the princess made her first overseas tour, when she accompanied her parents to Southern Africa. During the tour, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she pledged: "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."

Marriage

Further information: Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of EdinburghElizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and 1937. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth – though only 13 years old – fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. They married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. They are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother's British family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness.

The marriage was not without controversy: Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject), and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links.[ Marion Crawford wrote, "Some of the King's advisors did not think him good enough for her. He was a prince without a home or kingdom. Some of the papers played long and loud tunes on the string of Philip's foreign origin." Elizabeth's mother was reported, in later biographies, to have opposed the union initially, even dubbing Philip "The Hun". In later life, however, she told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was "an English gentleman".

Elizabeth and Philip received 2500 wedding gifts from around the world, but Britain had not yet completely rebounded from the devastation of the war. She still required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, designed by Norman Hartnell. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations to be invited to the wedding, including Philip's three surviving sisters. Other notable absentees were Edward, the former king, who was not invited, and his sister, Mary, Princess Royal, who said she was ill. Ronald Storrs claimed that she did not attend in protest at her brother's exclusion.

Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948, less than one month after letters patent were issued by her father allowing her children to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess. They otherwise would not have been entitled to such a status as their father was no longer a royal prince. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.

Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor near Windsor Castle, until 4 July, 1949 when they took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in the British Protectorate of Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of Gwardamanġia, at the Villa Gwardamanġia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children remained in Britain.

Reign

Succession

George VI's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she toured Canada, and visited President of the United States Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C.; on the trip, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration for use if the King died while she was on tour. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of Elizabeth's father. Philip broke the news to the new queen. Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name; she chose to remain Elizabeth, "of course". She was proclaimed queen regnant throughout her realms, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.

With Elizabeth's accession it seemed likely that the royal house would bear her husband's name. Lord Mountbatten thought it would be the House of Mountbatten, as Elizabeth would typically have taken Philip's last name on marriage; however, Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill favoured the retention of the House of Windsor, and so Windsor it remained. The Duke complained,"I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children." In 1960, after the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Philip and Elizabeth's male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles.

Amid preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorced commoner 16 years older than Margaret with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Martin Charteris, "the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought – she hoped – given time, the affair would peter out." Senior politicians were against the match, and the Church of England did not permit re-marriage after divorce. If Margaret contracted a civil marriage, she would have to renounce her right of succession. Eventually, she decided to abandon her plans with Townsend. In 1960, she married Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. They were divorced in 1978. She did not remarry.

Despite the death of Queen Mary on 24 March 1953, the coronation went ahead on 2 June 1953. Before she died, Mary had asked that the coronation not be delayed. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey, except the anointing and communion, was televised for the first time, and the coverage was instrumental in boosting the medium's popularity; the number of television licences in the United Kingdom doubled to 3 million, and many of the more than 20 million British viewers watched television for the first time in the homes of their friends or neighbours. In North America, just under 100 million viewers watched recorded broadcasts. Elizabeth's coronation gown was commissioned from Norman Hartnell and embroidered on her instructions with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries: English Tudor rose, Scots thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, New Zealand silver fern, South African protea, lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute.[66]

Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth

Further information: Commonwealth of Nations and Historical development of the Commonwealth realm

Elizabeth witnessed, over her life, the ongoing transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, her role as nominal head of multiple independent states was already established. Spanning 1953–54, the Queen and her husband embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen the Queen. Throughout her reign, Elizabeth has undertaken state visits to foreign countries, and tours of Commonwealth ones. She is the most widely travelled head of state in history.

In 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden discussed the possibility of France joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted, and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, the precursor of the European Union. In November 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez Canal. Lord Mountbatten claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.

The absence of a formal mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader meant that, following Eden's resignation, it fell to the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government. Eden recommended that Elizabeth consult Lord Salisbury (the Lord President of the Council). Lord Salisbury and Lord Kilmuir (the Lord Chancellor) consulted the Cabinet, Winston Churchill, and the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, as a result of which the Queen appointed their recommended candidate: Harold Macmillan. Six years later, Macmillan resigned and advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home as prime minister, advice that she followed.

The Suez crisis and the choice of Eden's successor led in 1957 to the first major personal criticism of the Queen. In a magazine, which he owned and edited, Lord Altrincham accused her of being "out of touch". Altrincham was denounced by public figures and physically attacked by a member of the public appalled at his comments. In 1963, the Queen again came under criticism for appointing the Prime Minister on the advice of a small number of ministers, or a single minister. In 1965, the Conservatives adopted a formal mechanism for choosing a leader, thus relieving her of involvement.

In 1957, she made a state visit on behalf of the Commonwealth to the United States, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly. On the same tour, she opened the 23rd Canadian Parliament, becoming the first monarch of Canada to open a parliamentary session. Two years later, she revisited the United States as a representative of Canada. In 1961, she toured Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Iran. On a visit to Ghana the same year, she dismissed fears for her safety, even though her host President Kwame Nkrumah, who had replaced her as head of state, was a target for assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote: "The Queen has been absolutely determined all through ... She is impatient of the attitude towards her to treat her as ... a film star ... She has indeed 'the heart and stomach of a man' ... She loves her duty and means to be a Queen."


Elizabeth's pregnancies with Princes Andrew and Edward, in 1959 and 1963, mark the only times she has not performed the State Opening of the British Parliament during her reign. In addition to performing traditional ceremonies, she also instituted new practices. Her first royal walkabout, meeting ordinary members of the public, took place during a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an acceleration in the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. Over 20 countries gained independence from Britain as part of a planned transition to self-government. In 1965, however, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence in opposition to moves toward majority black rule. Although the Queen dismissed Smith in a formal declaration and the international community applied sanctions against Rhodesia, Smith's regime survived for over a decade.

In February 1974, British Prime Minister Edward Heath called a general election in the middle of the Queen's tour of the Austronesian Pacific Rim, and she had to fly back to Britain, interrupting the tour. The inconclusive result of the election meant that Heath, whose Conservative party had the largest share of the popular vote but no overall majority, could stay in office if he formed a coalition with the Liberals. Heath only resigned when discussions on forming a cooperative government foundered, after which the Queen asked the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Harold Wilson, to form a government.

A year later, at the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed from his post by Governor-General Sir John Kerr after the Opposition-controlled Senate rejected Whitlam's budget proposals. As Whitlam had a majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker Gordon Scholes appealed to the Queen to reverse Kerr's decision. Elizabeth declined, stating that she would not interfere in decisions reserved for the Governor-General by the Constitution of Australia. The crisis fuelled Australian republicanism.

Silver Jubilee

In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Parties and events took place throughout the Commonwealth, many coinciding with the Queen's associated national and Commonwealth tours. The celebrations re-affirmed the Queen's popularity, despite virtually coincident negative press coverage of Princess Margaret's separation from her husband. In 1978, Elizabeth endured a state visit by the communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu. The following year brought two blows: one was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, former Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, as a communist spy; the other was the assassination of her relative and in-law Lord Mountbatten by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

According to Paul Martin, Sr., by the end of the 1970s the Queen was worried the Crown "had little meaning for" Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Tony Benn said that the Queen found Trudeau "rather disappointing". Trudeau's supposed republicanism seemed to be confirmed by his antics, such as sliding down banisters at Buckingham Palace and pirouetting behind the Queen's back in 1977, and the removal of various Canadian royal symbols during his term of office. In 1980, Canadian politicians sent to London to discuss the patriation of the Canadian constitution found the Queen "better informed on ... Canada's constitutional case than any of the British politicians or bureaucrats". She was interested in the constitutional debate after the failure of Bill C-60, which would have affected her role as head of state. Patriation removed the role of the British parliament in the Canadian constitution, but the monarchy was retained. Trudeau said in his memoirs: "The Queen favoured my attempt to reform the Constitution. I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation."

1980s

[1][2]Elizabeth riding Burmese at a Trooping the Colour ceremonyDuring the 1981 Trooping the Colour ceremony, and only six weeks before the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, six shots were fired at the Queen from close range as she rode down The Mall on her horse, Burmese. Police later discovered that the shots were blanks. The 17-year-old assailant, Marcus Sarjeant, was sentenced to five years in prison and released after three. The Queen's composure and skill in controlling her mount were widely praised. The following year, the Queen awoke in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace to find an intruder, Michael Fagan, in the room with her. Remaining calm, and through two calls to the palace police switchboard, the Queen spoke to Fagan while he sat at the foot of her bed until assistance arrived seven minutes later. From April to September that year, the Queen remained anxious but proud of her son, Prince Andrew, who was serving with British forces during the Falklands War. Though she hosted President Ronald Reagan at Windsor Castle in 1982, and visited his Californian ranch in 1983, she was angered when his administration ordered the invasion of Grenada, one of her Caribbean realms, without her foreknowledge.

Intense media interest in the opinions and private lives of the royal family during the 1980s led to a series of sensational stories in the press, not all of which were entirely true. As Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of The Sun, told his staff: "Give me a Sunday for Monday splash on the Royals. Don't worry if it's not true – so long as there's not too much of a fuss about it afterwards." Newspaper editor Donald Trelford wrote in The Observer of 21 September 1986: "The royal soap opera has now reached such a pitch of public interest that the boundary between fact and fiction has been lost sight of ... it is not just that some papers don't check their facts or accept denials: they don't care if the stories are true or not." It was reported, most notably in The Sunday Times of 20 July 1986, that Elizabeth was worried that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic policies fostered social divisions, and was alarmed by high unemployment, a series of riots, the violence of a miners' strike, and Thatcher's refusal to apply sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. The sources of the rumours included royal aide Michael Shea and Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal, but Shea claimed his remarks were taken out of context and embellished by speculation. Thatcher reputedly said the Queen would vote for the Social Democratic Party—Thatcher's political opponents. Thatcher's biographer John Campbell claimed "... the report was a piece of journalistic mischief-making". Belying reports of acrimony between them, Thatcher later conveyed her personal admiration for the Queen, and after Thatcher's replacement by John Major, Elizabeth gave two honours in her personal gift to Thatcher: the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter.

In 1987, the elected Fijian government was deposed in a military coup. Elizabeth, as head of state, supported the attempts of the Governor-General, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, to assert executive power and negotiate a settlement. Coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka deposed Ganilau, abolished the monarchy, and declared Fiji a republic. By the start of 1991, republican feeling in Britain had risen because of press estimates of the Queen's private wealth, which were contradicted by the palace, and reports of affairs and strained marriages among her extended family. The involvement of the younger royals in the charity game show It's a Royal Knockout was ridiculed, and the Queen was the target of satire.

1990s

In 1991, in the wake of victory in the Gulf War, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United States Congress. The following year, she attempted to save the failing marriage of her eldest son, Charles, by counselling him and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, to reconcile.


In a speech on 24 November 1992, to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession, the Queen called 1992 her annus horribilis, meaning horrible year. In March, her second son Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and his wife Sarah, Duchess of York, separated. In April, her daughter Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Captain Mark Phillips. During a state visit to Germany in October, angry demonstrators in Dresden threw eggs at her, and in November Windsor Castle suffered severe fire damage. The monarchy received increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, Elizabeth said that any institution must expect criticism, but suggested it be done with "a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding". Two days later, Prime Minister John Major announced reforms of the royal finances that had been planned since the previous year, including the Queen paying income tax for the first time, starting in 1993, and a reduction in the civil list. In December, Charles and Diana formally separated. The year ended with a lawsuit as the Queen sued The Sun newspaper for breach of copyright when it published the text of her annual Christmas message two days before its broadcast. The newspaper was forced to pay her legal fees, and donated £200,000 to charity.


In the ensuing years, public revelations on the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. Even though support for a British republic seemed higher than at any time in living memory, republicanism remained a minority viewpoint and Elizabeth herself had high approval ratings. Criticism was focused on the institution of monarchy itself and the Queen's wider family rather than the Queen's own behaviour and actions. In consultation with Prime Minister Major, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, her private secretary Robert Fellowes, and her husband, she wrote to Charles and Diana at the end of December 1995, saying that a divorce was desirable. A year after the divorce, which took place in 1996, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. The Queen was on holiday at Balmoral with her son and grandchildren. Diana's two sons wanted to attend church, and so their grandparents took them that morning. After that single public appearance, for five days the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the intense press interest by keeping them at Balmoral where they could grieve in private. The royal family's seclusion caused public dismay. Pressured by the hostile public reaction, the Queen returned to London and agreed to a live broadcast to the world on 5 September, the day before Diana's funeral. In the broadcast, she expressed admiration for Diana, and her feelings "as a grandmother" for Princes William and Harry. As a result, much of the public hostility evaporated.

Golden Jubilee and beyond

Though generally healthy throughout her life, in 2003 she had keyhole surgery on both knees, and in June 2005 she cancelled several engagements after contracting a bad cold. In October 2006, she missed the opening of the new Emirates Stadium because of a strained back muscle that had been troubling her since the summer. Two months later, she was seen in public with a plaster on her right hand, which led to press speculation of ill health. She had been bitten by one of her corgis while she was separating two that were fighting.

In May 2007, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported claims from unnamed sources that the Queen was "exasperated and frustrated" by the policies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that she had shown concern that the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she had raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair repeatedly. She was, however, said to admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the Queen attended the first Maundy service held outside of England and Wales. At the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese, in May 2011 the Queen made the first state visit to the Republic of Ireland by a British monarch.[139]

Elizabeth addressed the United Nations for a second time in 2010, again in her capacity as queen of all her realms and Head of the Commonwealth. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon introduced her as "an anchor for our age". During her visit to New York, which followed a tour of Canada, she officially opened a memorial garden for the British victims of the 11 September attacks.

Elizabeth plans to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years as Queen. She is the longest-lived and second-longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, and the second-longest-serving current head of state (after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand). She does not intend to abdicate, though the proportion of public duties performed by Prince Charles may increase as Elizabeth reduces her commitments.

Public perception and character

Main article: Personality and image of Queen Elizabeth II

Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, little is known of her personal feelings. As a constitutional monarch, she has not expressed her own political opinions in a public forum. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, she personally worships with that church and with the national Church of Scotland. She has demonstrated support for inter-faith relations, and has met with leaders of other religions, and granted her personal patronage to the Council of Christians and Jews. A personal note about her faith often features in her annual Royal Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth, such as in 2000, when she spoke about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ: To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example. Elizabeth in the patron of over 600 charities and other organisations. Her main leisure interests include equestrianism and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Her clothes consist mostly of solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd.

In the 1950s, as a young woman at the start of her reign, Elizabeth was depicted as a glamorous "fairytale Queen". After the trauma of the war, it was a time of hope, a period of progress and achievement heralding a "new Elizabethan age". Lord Altrincham's accusation in 1957 that her speeches sounded like those of a "priggish schoolgirl" was an extremely rare criticism. In the late 1960s, attempts to portray a more modern image of monarchy were made in the television documentary Royal Family, and by televising Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales.

At her Silver Jubilee in 1977, the crowds and celebrations were genuinely enthusiastic, but in the 1980s public criticism of the royal family increased, as the personal and working lives of Elizabeth's children came under media scrutiny. Elizabeth's popularity sank to a low point in the 1990s. Under pressure from public opinion, she began to pay income tax for the first time, and Buckingham Palace was opened to the public. Discontent with the monarchy reached its peak on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, though the Queen's popularity rebounded after her live broadcast to the world five days after Diana's death.

In November 1999, a referendum in Australia on the future of the monarchy favoured its retention in preference to an indirectly elected head of state. Polls in Britain in 2006 and 2007 revealed strong support for Elizabeth, and referendums in Tuvalu in 2008 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 both rejected proposals to abolish the monarchy.

Finances

Further information: Finances of the British Royal Family

Sandringham House, Elizabeth's private residence in Sandringham, Norfolk. Elizabeth's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at around US$450 million in 2010, but official Buckingham Palace statements in 1993 called estimates of £100 million "grossly overstated". Jock Colville, who was her former private secretary and a director of her bank, Coutts, estimated her wealth in 1971 at £2 million (the equivalent of about £21 million today). The Royal Collection, which includes artworks and the Crown Jewels, is not owned by the Queen personally and is held in trust, as are the occupied palaces in the United Kingdom such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued at £383 million in 2011. Elizabeth is reported to dislike Buckingham Palace as a residence, and prefers Windsor Castle. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are privately owned by the Queen. The British Crown Estate—with holdings of £7.3 billion in 2011—is held in trust for the nation, and cannot be sold or owned by Elizabeth in a private capacity.

Titles, styles, honours, and arms

Titles and styles

Main article: List of titles and honours of Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth has held titles throughout her life, as a granddaughter of the monarch, as a daughter of the monarch, through her husband's titles, and eventually as Sovereign. In common parlance, she is The Queen or Her Majesty. Officially, she has a distinct title in each of her realms: Queen of Canada in Canada, Queen of Australia in Australia, etc. In the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies rather than separate realms, she is known as Duke of Normandy and Lord of Man respectively. Additional styles include Defender of the Faith and Duke of Lancaster. When in conversation with the Queen, the practice is to initially address her as Your Majesty and thereafter as Ma'am.

She has received honours and awards from around the world, and has held honorary military positions throughout the Commonwealth, both before and after her accession.

Arms

See also: Flags of Elizabeth II

From 21 April 1944, Elizabeth's arms consisted of a lozenge bearing the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, differenced with a label of three points argent, the centre point bearing a Tudor rose and the first and third a cross of St. George. After her accession as Sovereign, she adopted the royal coat of arms undifferenced. The design of the shield is also used on the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom. Elizabeth has personal flags for use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, and elsewhere.

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