Elizabeth II is the older daughter of King George VI of Great Britain. She was born 21 April 1926. When her uncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 and her father became king, Elizabeth became the heir to the throne. She was privately educated and enjoyed amateur drama and horseback riding. During World War II she drove trucks and heavy cargo vehicles in an auxiliary service for the military (her father would not let her train as a nurse, her first choice to serve in the war).

After the war, Elizabeth went with her parents on tours of the Commonwealth countries, and eventually became engaged to Philip Mountbatten, her third cousin. Philip was a prince of Greece and Denmark but had served in the English Royal Navy and become a naturalized citizen of Britain in February 1947. He and Elizabeth were married in November 1947. They have four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

In February 1952, George VI died and Elizabeth found that she was now queen while she was touring Africa. Hers was the first coronation to be broadcast on television (at her own request). Since then, she and the rest of the royal family have visited nearly every part of Great Britain and the Commonwealth as well as other parts of the world. Elizabeth has tried to keep up the dignity of the monarchy (sometimes despite her descendants) while still keeping in touch with the people of her country. At http://www.royal.gov.uk/family/hmqueen.htm, it says she entertains 48,000 people per year at garden parties and other royal functions, and in 1997 made 343 public appearances.

One of the biggest questions in Elizabeth’s reign has been when and if she will abdicate in favour of her eldest son, Prince Charles. In 2002 the queen was 76, and Charles was 54. If the queen were to live to 101, like her mother, by the time Charles inherited he would be 79, hardly an auspicious age to begin a reign. Furthermore, the queen now has two generations of heirs, as Princes William and Harry reach adulthood.

The queen, however, appears to be set against abdication, and confirmed her intention to continue in a speech in 2002, as she celebrated her Golden Jubilee. On hearing that her Dutch counterpart, Queen Juliana had abdicated in favour of her daughter Beatrix, she is reported to have said ‘Typical Dutch!’

In the meantime, public and media speculation can only continue to guess what her plans are for the future.


Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (who were the Duke and Duchess of York at the time). Her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary were also involved in her upbringing, as she spent a great deal of time at their summer residences. Her early years were not the subject of much of the world's attention, as her father was not the direct heir to the British throne1.

The focal point of Elizabeth's childhood was her education, which she and her sister received from private tutors at home. Biographers and other sources agree that she enjoyed studying the humanities and language. She also enjoyed several extra-curricular pursuits, including theater and some forms of athletics (specifically swimming and horseback riding)1.

Her uncle, Edward VIII, became King of England in 1936 but abdicated later that year so he could marry his twice-divorced lover, Wallis Simpson. As Edward did not have any children, the Duke of York was the subsequent heir to the throne1.

A Little Princess

After Edward's abdication, the Duke and Duchess and York were crowned King and Queen Consort of England. The ten-year-old Elizabeth became the heir presumptive. Preparations for her future began almost immediately, and she was coached and trained in etiquette, history and law so she would have a solid background when she eventually ascended to the throne2. As she got older, Elizabeth took on more responsibilities in preparation for her future as Queen. She worked with several children's organizations and began to make radio addresses1.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Elizabeth and Margaret were moved to Scotland to protect their safety3. The number and frequency of attacks on London posed a great threat to the safety of the Royal Family. Several of the family's security advisors suggested that Scotland was not a far enough haven for the princesses (and some suggested they be relocated to Canada, but their mother insisted that they not leave the United Kingdom3.

Towards the end of the war (and once the risks of attack had diminished), Elizabeth returned to England and began to take an active role in the war effort. She originally wanted to be trained as a nurse but her father refused to allow it, as he believed the dangers of a warzone posed numerous direct threats his daughter's safety2. The fact that she was heir to the throne was probably not on the 'pro' list, either. Instead, she was trained to transport cargo (as a driver)3.

Once the war was over, Elizabeth began to make her own official trips and visits. At first she merely went along on her parents' state visits3 but began touring without them after her marriage.


Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark on November 20, 1947. While each of them were members of royal families, Philip had given up his royal ties in Greece and Denmark2 and took British citizenship. George VI had also appointed him Duke of Edinburgh during their engagement3.

Many biographies and profiles of Elizabeth stress the fact that their marriage was not arranged5, despite previous royal traditions of arranging marriages across royal bloodlines in order to create alliances and strengthen bonds. It's also interesting to note that, because of the aforementioned practices, Queen Victoria was Philip’s great-great-grandmother5. This makes Elizabeth and Philip third cousins3.

The marriage brought about a unique dilemma. As the British monarch had been male for generations, there was never a need for the monarch to change his last name because of his marriage. George VI was part of the House of Windsor and, thus, so was Elizabeth5. Her marriage to Philip, however, would have had her change her surname to Mountbatten. Since she would be the head of the House of Windsor once she became Queen, however, she retained 'Windsor' as her surname5. Some sources suggest she has a personal surname of Mountbatten-Windsor2 but others insist that only their children use this3.

The couple's first child, Prince Charles, was born in 1948. Elizabeth and Philip welcomed their second child, Princess Anne, in 19505.

Becoming Queen

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh had been touring the Commonwealth for some time in 1951. In early 1952, they also traveled to Australia, New Zealand and Africa in place of her father who was too ill to travel6. King George VI died while Elizabeth was in Kenya. The trip was immediately cut short and the couple returned to England.

British tradition dictates that the heir to the throne becomes the monarch at the moment of the predecessor's death7. The same set of traditions also dictates that the new monarch must be anointed and crowned in order to commemorate the beginning of his or her rule. Though Elizabeth had, technically, already become Queen of England, her coronation would not take place for more than a year after her father's death (so that a proper period of mourning could be observed)7.

Princess Elizabeth truly became Queen Elizabeth II in the minds of many people on June 2, 1953. The coronation took place at Westminster Abbey after a lengthy and lavish procession through the streets of London. This was also the first coronation to be broadcast on television; the Queen wanted as many people to "see" the ceremony as possible7. A few objected to the idea (people were concerned that "men watching in establishments of questionable moral value would neglect to remove their headwear at the correct moments2") but the Queen insisted.

She received the symbols of her reign (the Sovereign's Orb, the Scepter with the Cross and the Scepter with the Dove) and was crowned with St. Edward's Crown2. The anointing, long considered to be one of the most religious and important parts of the ceremony, was deemed "too sacred2" for television and a tent was placed around the Queen for the duration of the anointing28.

The coronation ceremony was ranked by The Observer as the 14th greatest moment in the United Kingdom's television history.

The Second Elizabethan Age

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh continued to travel frequently after the coronation. When Prince Charles and Princess Anne became of schooling age she opted to send them to boarding school5 rather than have them home schooled. Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, their third and fourth children, were born in 1960 and 1964, respectively5.

Due to the increased importance of parliament, the Queen has remained largely a ceremonial figure. She continues to uphold several ceremonial traditions, including opening parliament. She insists on maintaining good relations with an overwhelming majority of the world's countries, including former Commonwealth nations. She has also conducted more official visits than any other head of state6.

Family Problems

All families may have their share of problems but the current Royal Family has had to deal with their problems becoming common knowledge. While the Queen hasn't been at the center of any major scandals herself, the exploits of her children and other members of the family have been tabloid fodder for several years:

The media had a field day when rumors of marital trouble between Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales broke out. It's widely believed that the Queen had a few issues with Diana and wasn't entirely fond of the media attention she got at all times2. Diana's alleged infidelities were believed to have made the entire Royal Family look bad. The Queen was not amused. She also never so much as acknowledged Camilla Parker-Bowles, Charles' divorced companion, until very recently3. Any alleged tensions between them have been put to rest (at least publicly), as the Queen attended the blessing of their marriage and hosted their wedding reception.

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's marriage troubles brought a smaller amount (but no less unwelcome or unflattering) of media attention to the Queen and her family3. After these problems (and the destruction of a large part of Windsor Castle2, the Queen dubbed 1992 an "annus horribilis8."

Princess Margaret, the Queen's own sister, wanted to marry a divorced man. The Queen used her authority to prevent the marriage.3

After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen and most other members of the Royal Family distanced themselves from the massive public display of grief. The Queen's own popularity decreased after this3, however she did deliver a televised address and bowed to Diana's coffin as her funeral procession passed on the way to her funeral.

Recent Years

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and 2003. While 2002 was the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne, it was also the 50th anniversary of George VI's death4. Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother also died during 2002. Therefore, some events were held in 2003 to mark the 50th anniversary of the coronation. One of the major celebratory events was a large outdoor concert at Buckingham Palace. Paul McCartney, Brian May, Shirley Bassey and Ozzy Osbourne were among the performers. Prince Charles concluded the festivities with a toast to his mother -- he addressed her as "Your Majesty". Once the laughter died down he rolled his eyes and called her "Mummy."

The Queen continues to make state visits (including a recent visit to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day) and is involved with charities and other organizations. She also still enjoys horses. She and Prince Philip have seven grandchildren5.

Titles and Roles

Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis3. She was also formerly Queen of several African nations (who became independent from the monarchy system), Pakistan, Malta and Sri Lanka3. She is also the Head of the Commonwealth3. She has few official political duties, which include the opening and disolution of parliament, reading the Speech from the Throne and granting Royal Assent to bills, which formalizes them as law. She has also met regularly with every British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill2.

The Queen's Royal standard (which is also the British coat of arms) is comprised of two English coat of arms and the Irish and Scottish coat of arms1. See Royal Coat of Arms for more information.

1Her Majesty The Queen > Background. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page412.asp. 8 June 2004.
2Queen Elizabeth II. http://www.royalty.nu/Europe/England/Windsor/ElizabethII.html. 8 June 2004.
3Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_II_of_the_United_Kingdom. 8 June 2004.
4Her Majesty The Queen > Anniversaries. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page431.asp. 8 June 2004.
5Her Majesty The Queen > Marriage and Family. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page428.asp. 8 June 2004.
6The Queen at 70. http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/qe70.html. 8 June 2004.
7Her Majesty The Queen > Accession and Coronation. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page429.asp. 8 June 2004.
8mblase. Annus horribilis. http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=727268&lastnode_id=176682. 8 June 2004.

On the changing constitutional role of Elizabeth II

An Englishman's reactionary rant at the mother of the nation

The British constitution is a strange creature, incomprehensible to many, and at its centre lies a number of contradictions: a vehemently secular society with an Established Church the bishops of which have a role in Government, a constitutionally bizarre second house, a regional system of government that doesn't apply in England, the area of largest population. The whole edifice is built on tradition and convention, and in the heart of this interwoven muddle lies The Monarchy, sovereign of the country and currently embodied by Elizabeth II. Britain's long-running arguments over the Monarchy almost always revolve around principle, those in favour of the Monarchy elevate The Queen to a special status, those opposed to the Monarchy prefer to argue on grounds on idealism. The specific competence of the Monarch, and how well this role has been executed is rarely discussed publicly. But the Monarchy - like any other political role - reshapes itself to whoever has the job. Elizabeth II has had the role of Queen for quite such a long time (she ascended in February 1952) that there is almost no collective memory of what the Monarchy used to be like before she came along. As the trends of each era have changed, Elizabeth has undermined many of her historical roles, and left Britain's sovereignty no longer fit for purpose. Elizabeth II is among the worst queens England has ever had.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (most known as the book that kick-started the American Revolution) has a nice summary (in hostile terms) of the role of the monarch in the British system that is a good place to start in viewing The Monarchy in context:

I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the English Constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new republican materials.

First.—The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the king.

Secondly.—The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the peers.

Thirdly.—The new republican materials, in the persons of the commons, on whose virtue depends the freedom of England.

The two first, by being hereditary, are independent of the people; wherefore in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the state. To say that the constitution of England is a union of three powers reciprocally checking each other, is farcical, either the words have no meaning, or they are flat contradictions.

To say that the commons is a check upon the King, presupposes two things.

First.—That the King is not to be trusted without being looked after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy.

Secondly.—That the Commons, by being appointed for that purpose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the crown.

But as the same constitution which gives the Commons a power to check the King by withholding the supplies, gives afterwards the King a power to check the Commons, by empowering him to reject their other bills; it again supposes that the King is wiser than those whom it has already supposed to be wiser than him. A mere absurdity!

Paine's obviously hostile to the whole system, but if you read through his propaganda you see an idealised view of what the Monarch is for. The Monarch is the vessel that has to be used by Parliament in order to use its executive powers and get things done, and by withholding this executive privilege they act as a check on government (and of course this has changed over the last 300 years). They can't actually say no, but by paying attention and withholding their powers, a competent monarch is a check and balance on corrupt government. Bills don't become law till the Queen signs them, the Queen has national standardised addresses to the nation in which she is supposed to be politically impartial, and a number of executive powers can only be followed through in the name of the Queen. Basically the Queen is supposed to be an non-partisan leadership role for the country, and use her powers in the interests of the country at times of crisis.

It was on this basis that her great-grandfather declared War on Germany in 1914, and there followed a number of situations in the first half of the century where The Monarch leant on The Government in the interests of the country as a whole. The most notable occasion would be when her grandfather had a pivotal role in the formation of the National Government, an administration composed of all the main parties that was formed after the economic crash at the beginning of the Thirties. This was a move that went completely against normal politics, but was significantly the King's doing. But from this position of genuine influence, the Elizabethan era has shown a succession of major Royal privileges either being executed poorly, or being allowed to slip into the hands of her vassals, particularly the Prime Minister. Some examples: up until the mid-'60s The Queen was responsible for choosing the leader of The Conservative Party (on the grounds that they changed leaders when in government, and the Party deferred to her authority in choosing Prime Minister), The Dismissal Crisis in Australia occurred when another of her vassals, The Governor-General, used her supreme authority to dismiss the elected government and demand a new election. This was, again, a situation where she was wilfully asleep at the wheel.

This can only be described as an era of managed decline, and it the nature of this decline that shows Elizabeth II in such a poor light. Elizabeth is, to be brutally frank, hideously poorly educated. She lacks any leadership skills, any real interest/understanding of the political process, and is quite obviously primarily interested in her family rather than the country. For her entire reign she has mistaken her role of being non-partisan for meaning totally apolitical, showing little more national leadership than a village pastor. In a fantastically amusing article in The Guardian, one of Britain's leading public authorities on the monarchy — David Starkey — described her in a less than appealing light, titled "Queen is poorly educated and a Philistine, says Starkey"(1), it's worth reading for some historical context. Because of her exceptionally long reign, this flawed individual has allowed The Government and her minor officials to usurp many of her executive powers, and the defining feature of these hand-overs has been a respect for privilege and tradition at the expense of constitutional logic. This means that when a genuine crisis occurs in which the Government could be viewed as acting against the interests of the nation (The David Kelly affair is a perfect example), there is no constitutional body who can do the job of taking them to task. All these powers now reside in the government. We are left depending on the constitutional procedures of political parties, rather than of the country itself. We are all so used to this Queen that if she actually did start doing her constitutional job, there would be dismay.

So, following up the example of the aftermath of Dr David Kelly's death: at the time the entire country suspected the Government (and the PM's personal team in particular) of having a key public servant's blood on its hands as a result of their desire to go to war. This period showed a clear role for a non-partisan leader. In this case, the Government was proving extremely reserved about setting the terms of a public enquiry, a situation that could have been akin to Watergate if there was an independent body to intervene. At this point the Queen would, according to the British system, have the authority to step in and act as a check on the Executive when it comes to the terms and remit of the public enquiry.

But even accepting that she has irretrievably lost all executive powers, as any sort of matriarch of the nation she has proved woefully inadequate. Some further examples of the neglect of duty in the House Of Windsor is the disdain they have for their roles as Head of State in the Commonwealth countries. Elizabeth is Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis; Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. It's quite a list, but the family themselves act in an extremely provincial fashion spending the vast majority of their time on large estates in the countryside of England and Scotland. They have a clear tendency to treat visits to the countries where they are equally Head of State as if they were foreign visits. There are no state-houses that her family are sent to actually live in at all. No wonder The Commonwealth is a toothless international organisation if for its entire existence it has been embodied by a family who refuse to take their responsibilities to it seriously.

Now the role of the Queen is seen to be to perform certain ceremonies in a dramatic and austere fashion, and for her family's life to be documented at length in the national and international media... They are vessels for the media to enjoy as a narrative,a constitutionally important celebrity. It appears that their main job is to allow people to feel sentimental and nostalgic about the country - to somehow embody Britishness for the tourists. She makes the occasional international visit, and her family are supposed to shake hands with people to make those people feel important. As leaders, and as a check and balance on the government, they are totally incompetent. And in return for this woefully inadequate leadership, they are allowed to live in incomparable luxury at the taxpayers expense.

If a different person were monarch, and that person tried in some way to act in the interests of the country/countries rather than defending their own selfish clan, then the case for a monarchy could be defensible. Unfortunately Elizabeth II is a moron, her son is a fool despised by the country, and her family have spent far too long doing things Elizabeth's way. Furthermore it is impossible to depose a monarchical clan and replace them with another simply because they aren't up to it.

The Queen is a half-wit, and has done serious damage to the constitution... We'd be better off with a President. I wish her ill, preferably abdicated. Better yet she would never have been born.


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