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The Queen’s lifelong service as the nation’s longest-reigning monarch





For more than 70 years – the longest reign of any monarch in British history – The Queen displayed her unparalleled dedication to royal duty, for which she received the enduring affection and gratitude of the citizens of the nation.

The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace for the State Opening of Parliament in 2009. Picture: PA/Chris Radburn
The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace for the State Opening of Parliament in 2009. Picture: PA/Chris Radburn

Elizabeth II was head of state, head of the armed forces, head of the Commonwealth, and supreme governor of the Church of England. Her knowledge and professionalism were unprecedented and her reign as a constitutional monarch saw 15 prime ministers. Her reign provided continuity during troubled times, and a focus of celebration when things went well.

During her lifetime, penicillin was discovered, man landed on the Moon, Britain got its first woman prime minister, and the internet was invented.

She symbolised the stability of the nation, and most people have known no other monarch on the British throne. At her side for 73 years was the Duke of Edinburgh, her outspoken consort, with whom she fell in love as a teenager when he was a handsome naval cadet.

His death in 2021 at the age of 99 was devastating for the Queen, but she continued with her duties at head of state, composed and committed, working and in the public eye, unflinching and without complaint. Abdication, for The Queen, was never even hinted at.

Two-year-old Princess Elizabeth waves to crowds as she arrives back in Piccadilly in 1928. Picture: PA
Two-year-old Princess Elizabeth waves to crowds as she arrives back in Piccadilly in 1928. Picture: PA

The woman who won respect from pontiffs, presidents and prime ministers the world over was also a mother of four, grandmother to eight grandchildren and great-grandmother – or Gan-Gan – to a large brood of great-grandchildren.

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born at 2.40am on April 21, 1926 at the home of her maternal grandparents in Mayfair.

She was never expected to be Queen, but the 1936 abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, changed everything, leaving her father as King George VI and thereby making his eldest daughter – sensible, bright and methodical Elizabeth – the heiress presumptive.

On her 21st birthday, the princess vowed in a radio broadcast from South Africa that “my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service”.

The new Queen, Elizabeth II, returns to Clarence House with the Duke of Edinburgh after the sudden death of her father. Picture: PA
The new Queen, Elizabeth II, returns to Clarence House with the Duke of Edinburgh after the sudden death of her father. Picture: PA

Elizabeth and her distant cousin, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, who became the Duke of Edinburgh, had been married for less than five years when their lives were altered irrevocably by the death of the King on February 6, 1952. The princess was just 25.

Her marriage to Philip produced four children – Prince Charles, born in 1948; Princess Anne, born in 1950; followed by Prince Andrew, in 1960; and Prince Edward, in 1964.

In 1977, record crowds greeted the monarch during her Silver Jubilee celebrations and thousands held street parties in her honour. Untainted by royal scandals, her own personal popularity remained solid when the antics of others shook the House of Windsor.

The Queen with her corgis in 1973. Picture: PA
The Queen with her corgis in 1973. Picture: PA

She dubbed 1992 her “annus horribilis” as during that year the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated, the Prince and Princess of Wales were splitting up, and Windsor Castle went up in flames. Three of her four children were to divorce and, with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the monarchy faced its gravest crisis since the abdication of Edward VIII.

In 2002, she suffered the tragic double blow of losing both the Queen Mother and her sister, Princess Margaret, within weeks. It was her Golden Jubilee year, but the celebrations continued, with one million people turning out in June to party on the streets of London, much like during her Diamond Jubilee 10 years later.

The Queen and Philip with their four children. Picture: PA
The Queen and Philip with their four children. Picture: PA

The dawn of the new millennium was a happier period for the Queen, with Charles settled after marrying Camilla Parker Bowles, who became the Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005.

There was delight in 2011 with the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, followed by the births of their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

In September 2015, the Queen passed the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the country’s longest-ever reigning monarch.

The Duke of Edinburgh retired in August 2017 after decades of royal service: the Queen continued, her commitment to public service undimmed. Like the rest of the nation, she went into lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the country in 2020.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh view the floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace. Picture: PA
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh view the floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace. Picture: PA

Staying at Windsor with Philip, the monarch made not one but two rare televised addresses to the nation just weeks apart, telling a troubled country separated from their loved ones: “We will meet again.”

Just weeks later, Philip died at Windsor after a month in hospital, and the grieving monarch sat socially distanced and alone at his funeral because of the restrictions during the pandemic.

However, she quickly returned to public duties and was also seen out and about at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and Ascot, enjoying her life-long love of horses.

The Queen on board the Spirit of Chartwell during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012. Picture: The Sunday Times/PA.
The Queen on board the Spirit of Chartwell during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012. Picture: The Sunday Times/PA.

She caught Covid in February 2022, suffering from mild cold-like symptoms, but continued with light duties from Windsor.

Her Platinum Jubilee – a first for a British monarch – was a time of celebration and millions took to the streets in her honour during four days of festivities. Gradually, the public heard of her ‘mobility issues’, and engagements became more limited. Her Jubilee weekend engagements were limited to a beacon lighting and three appearances on the Palace balcony.

The Queen attends a reception for 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, who have been honoured with the Freedom of The City of Edinburgh, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
The Queen attends a reception for 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, who have been honoured with the Freedom of The City of Edinburgh, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

She remained one of the most famous faces on the planet, recognisable by her brimmed hats, her grey curled hair, brightly-coloured coats and pristine white gloves. Stoical, composed, pragmatic, private and with an unshakeable Christian faith, the Queen possessed a dry sense of humour and a sharp wit and was known for her love of outdoor life, horses, racing and corgis.

She will be missed by a grateful nation – never privy to her innermost thoughts – which must have left her in no doubt that she was loved, valued, and respected: despite all of her family’s ups and downs, Elizabeth II’s reign as monarch was consistent and dependable, her devotion unwavering.



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