Most likely the most famous living queen in the world, Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary) is the Head of State and reigning queen of the United Kingdom. She is also the Head of State of the fifteen independent, sovereign Commonwealth realms: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbados, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over these countries for more than five decades—since she was twenty-five years old—and is married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21, 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. Her parents were the Duke and Dutchess of York. When Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V died in 1936, her uncle, assumed the throne as King Edward VIII, but gave up his title to marry Wallis Simpson. Edward VIII’s decision to abdicate his position caused Elizabeth’s father to come to the throne as King George VI in 1937, placing Princess Elizabeth II next in line for the throne.
Princess Elizabeth was educated with her sister Princess Margaret at home. As she knew from the time she was eleven years old that she would succeed her father, she studied constitutional history and law with her father to prepare for this role. She studied religion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and studied French with French and Belgian governesses. To round out her education, Elizabeth also studied art and music, swam, and learned to ride.
Queen Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. The Duke of Edinburgh, now known as Prince Philip, was Lieutenant Mountbatten, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and a great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria. They had four children: Prince Charles (born in 1948) now Prince of Whales and heir to the throne), Princess Anne (born in 1950), Prince Andrew (born in 1960), and Prince Edward (born in 1964). Queen Elizabeth also has eight grandchildren: Peter and Zara Phillips Prince William and Prince Henry of Wales, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.