At the age of 89, Queen Elizabeth II is now the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch (king or queen). As of Wednesday, September 9, she had spent 63 years and 217 days on the throne. She beat the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 until her death in 1901.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign (time as king or queen) began when she was 25 years old. She had not grown up expecting to be in line for the throne. When she was 10, her uncle, Edward VIII, became king. But in 1936, after only 10 months, he abdicated (stepped down). Her father became King George VI. After his death in 1952, Elizabeth became the country’s new monarch.
For many years, Great Britain has been a constitutional monarchy. That means Queen Elizabeth II cannot rule in any way she wishes, as her nation’s kings and queens once did. Political power there rests in the hands of Parliament and the prime minister. The queen’s job is largely ceremonial. She represents her nation at many official events but does not control the government. Mostly, she provides a focus for national identity, unity, and pride.
A LONG LEGACY
Queen Elizabeth II has seen a lot of change over her more than six decades on the throne. When she was crowned queen in 1953, her coronation (crowning ceremony) was the first ever to be shown on television. She is also the first British monarch to send out an e-mail or a tweet. And she has met with most of the 12 U.S. presidents—from Harry Truman to Barack Obama—who have been in office since she was crowned queen.
The queen’s 68-year marriage to her husband, Prince Philip, has also lasted longer than that of any other British monarch. He was with her Wednesday, September 9 when she humbly acknowledged the tributes she has received in honor of her long reign.
"Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones," she said. "My own is no exception. But I thank you all . . . for your touching messages of great kindness."