The Transformation Of Queen Elizabeth From 1 To 94 Years Old
When it comes to living life in the spotlight, Queen Elizabeth II might hold a record. Her entire 95 years were of public interest, which means the life of the queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is a well-documented one. Her milestones have been the milestones for an entire country and its people. By 2017, for 81% of Britons, Elizabeth was the only monarch they had ever known, as Insider has noted. In fact, Elizabeth became the only British monarch to celebrate a sapphire jubilee in 2017, which marks 65 years of a monarch on the throne, as Time reported at the time.
With the rise of television and the later invention of the internet, interest in the British royal family steadily climbed, seeping through the U.K.’s borders and across several oceans. Having reigned in the age of technology, from radio to television to social media, Elizabeth and the royal family have made a mark in the world’s cultural fabric. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, for example, was shown in upwards of 60 countries, as Forbes reported, making the family’s reach and popularity impossible to ignore.
Having lived such a long and full life in the limelight, Elizabeth has grown up and grown old in front of the eyes of many generations in and outside of Britain. Keep scrolling to check out her amazing transformation over the decades.
Queen Elizabeth wasn't expected to ascend to the throne
Britons didn’t know they were welcoming their future queen when Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926, at 2:40 a.m., though the doctor who delivered her via Caesarean section at the home of her maternal grandparents in London might have had an inkling. According to Royal Central, after the arduous procedure, surgeon Harry Simpson exclaimed, “She was born a queen!”
Elizabeth, pictured at age 1, was third in the line of succession during the reign of King George V, her paternal grandfather. As the daughter of the king’s second son, Albert, the Duke of York, she wasn’t an obvious candidate to ascend to the throne, as Mental Floss explained. Her uncle Edward was expected to rule and to have children of his own, pushing her down the line. When he became King Edward VIII in January 1936, when she was 9, everything seemed to be going according to tradition. However, the abdication of the fatherless monarch and the fact that her father didn’t have any sons put her at the top of the line of succession early on.
Despite the seemingly remote possibility that young Lilibet, as she was known, would become their queen, crowds of proud Britons stood outside her home in hopes of catching a quick glimpse of their new princess, per Royal Central. She was 1 when she made her first public appearance in June 1927 on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, per the report.
Queen Elizabeth was mature and responsible from an early age
Elizabeth, pictured at age 7, was raised in a home on Piccadilly Street in London amid what The Atlantic described as “the comfort of an English home like a thousand others, rather than the luxury, or imagined luxury, of a palace” in a 1943 report. According to History Extra, her playmates were the children of businessmen rather than other young royal members. The then-princess was educated at home by her mother, who taught Elizabeth to read, and by tutors, according to The Atlantic. She didn’t receive a regular education, being taught mainly languages (German and French) and music, according to the report. Later on, she also studied history and Biblical history and is said to be well-versed in British literature, The Atlantic’s Wilson Harris continued.
From an early age, Elizabeth proved that she was “conscientious, dutiful and orderly,” per History Extra. Before going to bed each night, she had to unsaddle and feed her toy horses. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who met Elizabeth when she was just a little girl, described her as “a character [with] an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant,” according to the website WinstonChurchill.Org.
The young princess loved dogs and horses, an interest she carried on throughout her life, as detailed by the Express. In fact, as a child, she reportedly said she wanted to marry a farmer so she could be surrounded by her favorite animals, per History Extra.
Queen Elizabeth met Prince Philip when she was 13
Queen Elizabeth was only 13 when she met 18-year-old Prince Philip, who was then the prince of Greece and Denmark living in exile. Though they had briefly met a few years before at a wedding, they were properly introduced in 1939, when her parents took Elizabeth and Princess Margaret to visit Britain’s Royal Naval College, where Philip was a cadet, according to NBC News. According to Oprah Daily, Elizabeth was impressed by Philip’s ability to jump over tennis nets and the two began to exchange letters.
The courtship lasted several years. King George and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) had doubts about Philip’s suitability, given he wasn’t a Briton and due to his turbulent childhood and early life, according to History Extra. But Elizabeth had made up her mind; she was in love and so was Philip. “To have been spared in the war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to re-adjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes all one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty,” he wrote in a letter, according to Oprah Daily.
Despite the worries, George had a favorable opinion of Philip, describing him as “intelligent, has a good sense of humor and thinks about things in the right way,” per Oprah Daily. Elizabeth and Philip announced their engagement a year later when she was 21. They married four months later in November 1947.
Queen Elizabeth celebrated her silver jubilee in 1977
Having ascended to the throne at 25, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Silver Jubilee shortly after she turned 51. The celebration marked the 25th anniversary of her reign, a ceremony held in June 1977. She and Prince Philip rode through the streets of London aboard a gilded carriage as they waved at the crowds, as Town & Country described. In her keynote speech, Elizabeth reminded Britons of her unwavering dedication to the country by referencing the pledge she made even before being crowned. “When I was 21, I pledged my life to the service of our people and asked for God’s help to make good that vow,” she said, as noted by the Evening Standard. “Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgment, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.”
The 1970s marked an important decade for Elizabeth. In 1970, she made history when she walked among the people during a tour of Australia and New Zealand, accompanied by Philip and Princess Anne, her second child and only daughter, according to The Telegraph. The tour gave rise to what is known today as a royal “walkabout,” characterized by members of the royal family smiling and shaking hands with the public — a practice at which Princess Diana excelled as does Princess Kate, as Harper’s Bazaar pointed out. “Everybody teases me in the family that I spend far too long chatting,” Kate said.
Queen Elizabeth presses on after Prince Philip's death
Queen Elizabeth has weathered many a storm in her nearly 70 years as monarch. For every single crisis and milestone, Elizabeth counted with the love and support of Prince Philip. On their 50th anniversary in 1997, the queen described her husband as her “strength and stay all these years,” per a transcription published on Royal.UK. “I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage was far from perfect, but it was unbreakable. Lasting until his death on April 9, 2021, at age 99, their marriage is the longest of any British monarch, according to History Extra. Their union persevered even when the ones around them shattered. In 1992, three of her four children separated from their spouses, per History. In 1992, Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced their divorce after many scandals that brought huge amounts of unwanted attention to the royal family, which was followed by Princess Anne’s divorce and Prince Andrew’s separation. Elizabeth went on to call 1992 an “Annus horribilis.”
Following a period of mourning, Elizabeth is pressing on, as CBS News noted. She continues to manage the family’s and country’s affairs and shows no signs of slowing down. “That ability of hers, to adapt to changing times, is perhaps the secret to the survival of the British monarchy,” Simon Bates told CBS.
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