Monday, February 6, 2012

Royal Profile: HM Queen Elizabeth of The United Kingdom

Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York (today known as Queen Elizabeth II) was born 21 April 1926 in London, the oldest daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. She was named after her mother, her paternal great-grandmother, and her paternal grandmother. Princess Lilibet as she was known became a big sister to Princess Margaret of York on 21 August 1930.

She and her sister were educated in history, language, literature and music by their mother and governess as children. Princesss 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 socialize with girls her own age. Later she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.

At her birth, she was third in line for succession, after her uncle, Prince Edward (later King Edward), and her father. Growing up, it was unexpected that she would ever become queen as the world expected that her uncle would marry and have a family of his own. In 1936, her grandfather died and her uncle succeed the throne. Later that same year, her uncle would abdicate to marry an American divorcee socialite, leaving her father to become King, and she to become first in line.

In the mid 1920s and 1930s, Princess Elizabeth's parents took on many tours of duty to the United Kingdom's overseas territories. More often than not, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret remained in the care of governesses in England as their father thought they were too young to undertake public tours abroad. In 1927, her parents toured Australia and New Zeland, and in 1939, they toured Canada and the United States.

During the second world war, Princess Elizabeth spent much of her time traveling throughout England to the families various estates. It was suggested by senior politicians that the young princesses be evacuated to Canada, but Queen Elizabeth (their mother), dismissed that idea claiming they would not go without her, and she would not go with out their father-who would never leave England. 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.

In 1942, she was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards. She took on her first solo public appearance on a visit to the Grenadier Guards in 1943. When the budding ruler began to reach her 18th birthday in April of 1944, laws were changed so that she could act as one of five Counsellors of State in the event of her father's incapacity or absence abroad. In February 1945, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as an honorary Second Subaltern with the service number of 230873, where she trained as a driver and mechanic, and five months later in July 1945, she was promoted to honorary Junior Commander.

Her father feeling that the title "the Princess of Wales" was more suited for the wife of the heir apparent, chose not to give Princess Elizabeth the title on her 18th birthday. Instead, she was inducted into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1946.

Before her marriage, she met her future husband several times. The first time she met the love of nearly sixty years now was in 1934, when he was 13 years old and she was only 8 years old at a mutual cousin Princess Marina of Greece & Denmark's wedding. The pair would meet again later in 1937 when he was 16 years old and she was 11 years old. However the sparks began to fly after Princess Elizabeth toured the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (where Prince Philip was a cadet at the time) in 1939. Upon sight of him, she immediately fell in love and the two began to exchange letters. The pair dated for six years before being secretly engaged in 1946. The formal announcement of their engagement took place on 9 July 1947, a few months after Princess Elizabeth's 21st Birthday. The Royal pair wed on 20 November 1947, and would go on to have four children, and eight grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter (and another on the way).

In 1951, her father was declining in health, so she was more frequently seen standing in his place at events. In October 1951, she toured Canada and the United States. On that trip, her secretary carried a drafter of the accession declaration for use in case of the death of Princess Elizabeth's father. Early in 1952, when her children were young (Prince Charles was only 4 years old, and Princess Anne was only two years old at the time), she and her husband began a tour of Kenya, Australia and New Zeland. They never made it to Australia or New Zeland. Shortly after their arrival in Kenya, they received word of the death of King George V, her father. Prince Phillip broke the news to the new queen. They returned to the United Kingdom quickly, where they moved into Buckingham Palace.

Today, the Queen remains a popular figure in The United Kingdom and commonwealth realms, as well as abroad. She is mother to four, grandmother to eight, great-grandmother to (almost) two, aunt to 21, godmother to 29.

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