When the Queen was born on April 21, 1926, at her maternal grandparents’ home in Mayfair, there was little fanfare. It was a difficult birth and her weight was not announced.
There was none of the excitement afforded to the birth of a future monarch, as, at that time, it wasn’t expected her father, the Duke of York, would become king – let alone that his first child might become queen.
But fate intervened and Queen Elizabeth II, as she was crowned 27 years later, has gone on to become not only our longest reigning monarch, but the nation’s oldest – and perhaps best-loved – too.
Over her nine decades, she has experienced the highs and lows of many other women, love, motherhood, bereavement, family crises - but all in public.
And from her first tentative speech, at 14, to her Diamond Jubilee flotilla, the Queen has kept smiling and carrying out her royal duties with aplomb.
A six-year-old Princess Elizabeth strides bare-headed through the rain. Tongue out, she’s both concentrating hard, so she doesn’t slip on the wet pavement, and perhaps giving a cheeky nod to the photographer. Taken in May 1932, the photo captures her childish innocence – four years before her uncle, King Edward VII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, changing the course of the young Elizabeth’s life.
In 1940, aged 14 and now heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth makes her first public speech with her sister, Princess Margaret, by her side. It was just months after the outbreak of World War II and her words were broadcast on the BBC’s iconic Children’s Hour. She spoke to wartime evacuees around the globe, saying: “When peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.”
Aged just 25, Queen Elizabeth II sets foot on British soil for the first time since her accession to the throne, following the death of her father, King George VI. She landed at London Airport after her flight from Kenya, where she had been staying at Sagana Lodge with her husband of five years, Prince Philip.
Queen Elizabeth II and her brood: baby Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and the Prince of Wales, with the Duke of Edinburgh in the gardens of Frogmore House, Windsor, as they celebrate the Queen’s 39th birthday. The same pram was used to ferry the Queen’s great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte to her christening in July 2015.
Mother of the bride
The Queen waves proudly from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the wedding of her daughter Anne, Princess Royal to Captain Mark Phillips on November 14, 1973, when Elizabeth was a youthful 47. The first of the Queen’s four children to marry, Anne would also give birth to her first grandchild, Peter Phillips, four years later.
Queen Elizabeth II on a walkabout in Portsmouth, in June 1977, during her Silver Jubilee tour of Great Britain, to mark 25 years on the throne. Little did she know at the age of 51, there would be Golden and Diamond celebrations to come and she’d become Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
A ‘horrible year’
The Queen, aged 66, inspects the ruins of her beloved Windsor Castle with a fireman in November 1992. She dubbed 1992 her ‘annus horribilis’ because it was also the year that the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated and the Prince and Princess of Wales were also splitting up.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh view the floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace in 1997. Aged 71, the Queen and the monarchy faced one of its gravest crises when Diana was killed in a Paris car crash. She was seen as being out of step with the feelings of mourners, who wondered why she had taken so long to speak publicly about the tragedy.
Looking to the future
A proud great-grandmother, the Queen bends to speak to future king Prince George, on the occasion of his baby sister, Princess Charlotte’s christening, in July 2015. Her eighties have seen much happier times, with the wedding of her grandson and future monarch the Duke of Cambridge, her Diamond Jubilee and the birth of her great grandchildren.
As a young princess, the Queen smiles delightedly as she watches a Scottish drummer – and, as Head of the Armed Forces inspecting soldiers at Howe Barracks in Canterbury in 2013, she is beaming yet again. In the passing of 90 years, little changes.