Elizabeth II |
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.
Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, in the United Kingdom support for the monarchy has been and remains consistently high, as does her personal popularity.
Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford. Lessons concentrated on history, language, literature, and music. Crawford published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses in 1950, much to the dismay of the royal family. 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".
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.
During the war, plans were drawn up to quell Welsh nationalism by affiliating Elizabeth more closely with Wales. Proposals, such as appointing her Constable of Caernarfon Castle or a patron of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh League of Youth), were abandoned for several reasons, including fear of associating Elizabeth with conscientious objectors in the Urdd at a time when Britain was at war. Welsh politicians suggested she be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday. Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison supported the idea, but the King rejected it 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. In 1946, she was inducted into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948. One month earlier, the King had issued letters patent allowing her children to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess, to which they otherwise would not have been entitled as their father was no longer a royal prince. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.
In 1956, the British and French prime ministers, Sir Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet, 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 to 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.
In February 1974, the British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, advised the Queen to call a general election in the middle of her tour of the Austronesian Pacific Rim, requiring her to fly back to Britain. The election resulted in a hung parliament; Heath's Conservatives were not the largest party, but could stay in office if they formed a coalition with the Liberals. Heath only resigned when discussions on forming a coalition foundered, after which the Queen asked the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Harold Wilson, to form a government.
Months later, in October, the Queen was the subject of another attack while on a visit to Dunedin, New Zealand. New Zealand Security Intelligence Service documents, declassified in 2018, revealed that 17-year-old Christopher John Lewis fired a shot with a .22 rifle from the fifth floor of a building overlooking the parade, but missed. Lewis was arrested, but never charged with attempted murder or treason, and sentenced to three years in jail for unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm. Two years into his sentence, he attempted to escape a psychiatric hospital in order to assassinate Charles, who was visiting the country with Diana and their son Prince William.
In May 2007, The Daily Telegraph, citing unnamed sources, reported the Queen was "exasperated and frustrated" by the policies of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, that she was concerned the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she had raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair. She was, however, said to admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. She became the first British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary in November 2007. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the Queen attended the first Maundy service held outside England and Wales.