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Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom's longest-serving monarch, died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022. She was 96. Her historic 70-year reign spanned several wars, a pandemic, 15 British prime ministers, and 14 US Presidents! Her eldest son, Prince Charles, was sworn in as King of England on September 10, 2022.
Queen Elizabeth II was born in London as Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926. She was the first child of Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). The young princess was just 13 when World War II broke out on September 1, 1939. But her youth did not stop her from contributing to the British war efforts.
On October 13, 1940 — a month after Germany's intense attack on the UK began — Elizabeth appeared on BBC's The Children's Hour to comfort kids living away from home during the war. The future queen enlisted in the women's branch of the British military as second lieutenant in 1945. She served as a driver and mechanic and was later promoted to a Junior Commander, the UK equivalent of a Captain in the US military.
In 1947, Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, at Westminster Abbey in London. The couple had four children: Charles in 1948, Anne in 1950, Andrew in 1960, and Edward in 1964.
Over the course of her 70-year-reign, the British monarch visited 117 countries and hosted more than 100 international heads of state in the UK. Her historic visit to Germany in 1965 was the first by a British sovereign in 52 years. It symbolized the reconciliation of the two nations after World War II.
The Queen also witnessed the dissolution of the British Empire in the decades following World War II. When Elizabeth came to the throne, Britain commanded over 70 overseas territories. At the time of her death, the monarch was recognized as the Head of State by just 15 Commonwealth countries. The voluntary political association comprises former British colonies including Australia and Canada.
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II broke Queen Victoria's record as the longest-serving British monarch (63 years). Two years later, she became the first British sovereign to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee — 65 years on the throne. In February 2022, the Queen made further history when she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne. The milestone made her the second-longest reigning monarch in world history. French King Louis XIV, who ruled for over 72 years, remains in the top spot.
The record-breaking reign is ironic given that Elizabeth was never expected to become the queen when she was born. But soon after the death of her grandfather, King George V, his oldest son Edward VIII gave up the throne. Since he did not have any children at the time, Elizabeth's father, Albert, inherited the crown, positioning her first in line to become monarch.
Queen Elizabeth's funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022. She will be laid to rest in St. George's Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, beside her husband, Prince Philip, her parents, and her sister Princess Margaret. The beloved monarch is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.
Resources: Royal.UK, Washingtonpost.com, historypress.co.uk,pbs.org,nbcnews.com