Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, she was in many ways a woman of her time: a wife and mother with abiding affections for dogs, horses, and long walks in the country. Except that she was born a princess and fate made her a queen. Few people of any era—male or female—have led more storied or complex lives than Queen Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth, as a child, rides a tricycle in Hyde Park, London.
Princess Elizabeth (far right) is seated next to her sister, Princess Margaret, and across from their parents, King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth, in 1939. Princess Elizabeth's father had unexpectedly assumed the throne some three years earlier, and her parents became widely popular for their courage in the face of German attacks on Britain during World War II.
Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Buckingham Palace after their wedding in 1947. She would become queen regnant four years later, and Prince Philip would be at her side until his death in 2021. They were married for 73 years.
Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, at the christening of their first child, Charles, on December 15, 1948. Charles would succeed his mother as British monarch more than 73 years later.
Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace on horseback for Trooping the Colour on June 4, 1952. The annual ceremony, which is the official celebration of the British monarch’s birth, was Elizabeth’s first as queen. She was 26 years old.
Queen Elizabeth II is surrounded by guests in the throne room of Buckingham Palace after her coronation on June 2, 1953.
Elizabeth II gave birth to Andrew—here shown sitting on Prince Philip’s lap, with Anne and Charles flanking their parents—in February 1960. Elizabeth and Philip would have one more son, Edward, in 1964. The family would become familiar to the British public through the media as Elizabeth sought to modernize the monarchy.
The queen is shown in 1969 with four of her corgi dogs. She received her first corgi as a present from her father when she was just seven years old. She owned corgis for most of the rest of her life.
Elizabeth II dances with U.S. President Gerald Ford during a state dinner in her honor at the White House in 1976. She would meet with 13 American presidents during her reign, starting with Harry Truman. Only Lyndon B. Johnson did not meet with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth II leaves Westminster Abbey after the funeral for Princess Diana, on September 6, 1997. The queen faced rare criticism for what many considered her cold response to Diana’s death, but she remembered the princess in an address to Great Britain as “an exceptional and gifted human being.”
The queen greets children at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center during a visit to the United States in 2007. That visit, which included a stop at the historic Jamestown settlement, was her last trip to America.
“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.” — Queen Elizabeth II, in her 2008 Christmas speech
One of the most significant ceremonial duties the British monarch performs is the State Opening of Parliament. Here, Elizabeth II performs the function in 2013 accompanied by Camilla, duchess of Cornwall; Charles, prince of Wales; and Philip, duke of Edinburgh. Only three times during her 70-year reign did Elizabeth not open Parliament: in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant, and in 2022, when Charles performed the duty on her behalf.
Four generations of the British royal family appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2015 for the annual Trooping the Colour. From left to right are Camilla, duchess of Cornwall; Charles, prince of Wales; George, prince of Cambridge; William, duke of Cambridge; Catherine, duchess of Cambridge; Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Harry; and James, Viscount Severn.
In an image seen around the world, Elizabeth II sits alone in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle during the 2021 funeral service for her husband of 73 years, Philip.
In what would be her last public function as British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II meets incoming prime minister Liz Truss on September 6, 2022, in a ceremony known as the “kissing of the hands.” Truss was the 15th British prime minister during the queen's 70-year reign. Elizabeth died two days later. She was 96 years old.