Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the Queen regnant of sixteen independent sovereign states known informally as the Commonwealth realms, listed here in order of length of possession by the crown: the United Kingdom, 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 Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. She holds each crown separately and equally in a shared monarchy, as well as acting as Head of the Commonwealth, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. As a constitutional monarch, she is politically neutral and by convention her role is largely ceremonial.
When Elizabeth was born, the British Empire was a pre-eminent world power, but its influence declined – particularly after the Second World War – and the empire evolved into the modern Commonwealth of Nations. Her father, George VI, was the last Emperor of India. On his death in 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth, and queen of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, later renamed Sri Lanka. During her reign, which at 58 years is one of the longest for a British monarch, she became queen of 25 other countries within the Commonwealth as they gained independence from Britain. She has been the sovereign of 32 individual nations, half of which are now republics.
Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, and the couple have four children and eight grandchildren. In the 1980s and 1990s, the love lives of their children were subject to great press attention, and contributed to increased discontent with the monarchy, which reached its peak on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Since then, she has recovered public confidence, and her personal popularity remains high.
Elizabeth was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and his wife, Elizabeth. She was born by Caesarean section on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, and was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, on 29 May. Her godparents were her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary; her aunts, Princess Mary and Lady Elphinstone; her great-great-uncle, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn; and her maternal grandmother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Elizabeth was named after her mother, great-grandmother Alexandra, and grandmother Mary. Her close family called her "Lilibet".
She had a close relationship with her grandfather George V and was credited with aiding in his recovery from illness in 1929. Her only sibling was Princess Margaret, born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, who was casually known as "Crawfie". To the dismay of the royal family, Crawford later published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses. The book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, and her attitude of responsibility. Such observations were echoed by others: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as "a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved".
As a granddaughter of the monarch in the male line, Elizabeth held the title of a British princess, with the style Her Royal Highness, her full style being Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York. At birth, she was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle, Edward, Prince of Wales, and her father. Although her birth did generate public interest, there was no reason to believe then that she would ever become queen, as it was widely assumed that the Prince of Wales would marry and have children of his own. In 1936, when her grandfather the King died and her uncle Edward succeeded, she became second in line to the throne after her father. Later that year, Edward abdicated and her father became king. Elizabeth became heiress presumptive, and was thereafter known as Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth.
Elizabeth studied constitutional history with Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College. She learned modern languages, and still speaks French fluently. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed specifically so Elizabeth could socialise with girls her own age. Later she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger.
Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and again in 1937. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth – though only 13 years old – fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters.
In 1939, the Canadian government wanted Elizabeth to accompany her parents on their upcoming tour of Canada. However, the King decided against this, stating that his daughter was too young to undertake the month-long tour.
Second World War
In September 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, stayed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, from September to Christmas 1939, until they moved to Sandringham House, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodge, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castle, where they stayed for most of the next five years. The suggestion that the two princesses be evacuated to Canada was rejected by Elizabeth's mother; she said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." The princesses remained at Windsor, where they staged pantomimes at Christmas in aid of the Queen's Wool Fund. It was from Windsor that Elizabeth, in 1940, made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated:
We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.
During the war, plans were drawn up to affiliate Elizabeth more closely with Wales, in order to quell the growing influence of Welsh nationalists. In a report to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, the constitutional expert Edward Iwi proposed appointing Elizabeth as Constable of Caernarfon Castle (a post then held by David Lloyd George); the idea was rejected by Morrison, on the grounds that it might cause conflict between north and south Wales. Morrison did, however, take forward a suggestion by civil servant Thomas Jones to make her patron of the Welsh League of Youth, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, and planned to have her tour Wales as such. The idea was rejected by the King, who refused to subject his young daughter to the pressures of official tours and because two leading members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru were conscientious objectors. In 1946, she was made an Ovate of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
In 1945, 18-year-old Elizabeth began to carry out solo duties, such as reviewing a parade of Canadian airwomen. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. She trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and rose to the rank of Junior Commander. She is the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during the Second World War.
At the end of the war in Europe, on Victory in Europe Day, Elizabeth and her sister mingled anonymously with the celebratory crowds in the streets of London. She later said in a rare interview, "we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised ... I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief." Two years later, the Princess made her first official overseas tour, when she accompanied her parents to Southern Africa. On her 21st birthday, in a broadcast to the British Commonwealth from South Africa, she pledged: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
Elizabeth married Philip on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother's family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness.
The marriage was not without controversy: Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject), and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Elizabeth's mother was reported, in later biographies, to have opposed the union initially, even dubbing Philip "The Hun". In later life, however, she told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was "an English gentleman". The country had not yet completely rebounded from the devastation of the war; the Princess still required rationing coupons to buy the material for her gown, designed by Norman Hartnell. Elizabeth and Philip received 1347 wedding gifts from around the world. Elizabeth's bridesmaids were her sister; her cousin Princess Alexandra of Kent; Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott; Lady Mary Cambridge; Lady Elizabeth Lambart; Philip's cousin The Honourable Pamela Mountbatten; and two maternal cousins, The Honourable Margaret Elphinstone and The Honourable Diana Bowes-Lyon. Her page boys were her young paternal first cousins, Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for any of the Duke of Edinburgh's German relations to be invited to the wedding, including Philip's three surviving sisters. Elizabeth's aunt, Princess Mary, Princess Royal, allegedly refused to attend because her brother, the Duke of Windsor (who abdicated in 1936), was not invited due to his marital situation; she gave ill health as the official reason for not attending.
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948, several weeks after letters patent were issued by her father allowing her children to enjoy a royal and princely status to which they otherwise would not have been entitled. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950. Though Philip's surname was Mountbatten, the Royal House is named Windsor, and the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted in 1960 for his and Elizabeth's descendants.
Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor, until 4 July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence House. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta (at that time a British Protectorate) as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of Gwardamangia, at the Villa Gwardamangia, the rented home of Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The children remained in Britain.
George VI's health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth was soon frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she toured Canada, and visited the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, in Washington, D.C.; on the trip, the Princess carried with her a draft accession declaration for use if the King died while she was out of the United Kingdom. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand via Kenya. At Sagana Lodge, about 100 miles north of Nairobi, word arrived of the death of Elizabeth's father on 6 February. Philip broke the news to the new queen. Martin Charteris, then her Assistant Private Secretary, asked her what she intended to be called as monarch, to which she replied: "Elizabeth, of course." Elizabeth was proclaimed queen throughout her realms, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.
In the midst of preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorced commoner sixteen years older than Margaret, with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Martin Charteris, "the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought – she hoped – given time, the affair would peter out." After opposition from the Commonwealth prime ministers, and a British minister's threat of resignation should Margaret and Townsend marry, the Princess decided to abandon her plans with Townsend. Margaret later married Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. They were divorced in 1978. She did not remarry.
Despite the death of the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary, on 24 March 1953, the Queen's coronation went ahead in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, in accordance with Mary's wishes. The entire ceremony, save for the anointing and communion, was televised throughout the Commonwealth, and watched by an estimated 20 million people in Britain, with 12 million more listening on the radio. Elizabeth wore a gown commissioned from Norman Hartnell, which was embroidered with floral emblems for the countries of the Commonwealth: English Tudor rose, Scots thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Australian wattle, Canadian maple leaf, New Zealand fern, South African protea, lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute.
Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth
Elizabeth witnessed, over her life, the ongoing transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, her role as nominal head of multiple independent states was already established. Spanning 1953–54, the Queen and her husband embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen the Queen. Throughout her reign Elizabeth has undertaken state visits to foreign countries, as well as tours of each Commonwealth country, including attending all Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. Elizabeth II is the most widely-travelled head of state in history.
In 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden discussed the possibility of France's joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted, and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, the precursor of the European Union. In November 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez canal. Earl Mountbatten of Burma claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Prime Minister Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.
The absence of a formal mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader meant that, following Eden's resignation, it fell to the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government. Eden recommended that Elizabeth consult Lord Salisbury (the Lord President of the Council). Lord Salisbury and Lord Kilmuir (the Lord Chancellor) consulted the Cabinet, Winston Churchill and the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, as a result of which the Queen appointed their recommended candidate: Harold Macmillan. Six years later, Macmillan himself resigned and advised the Queen to appoint the Earl of Home as Prime Minister, advice which she followed.
The Suez crisis and the choice of Eden's successor led in 1957 to the first real personal criticism of the Queen. In a magazine, which he owned and edited, Lord Altrincham accused her of being "out of touch". Altrincham was denounced by public figures and physically attacked by members of the public appalled at his comments. In 1963, the Queen again came under criticism for appointing the Prime Minister on the advice of a small number of ministers, or a single minister. In 1965, the Conservatives adopted a formal mechanism for choosing a leader, thus relieving her of the duty.
In 1957, she made a state visit on behalf of the Commonwealth to the United States, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly. On the same tour she opened the 23rd Canadian Parliament, becoming the first monarch of Canada to open a parliamentary session. Two years later, on behalf of Canada, she revisited North America. In 1961, she toured Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Iran. During a trip to Ghana, she refused to keep her distance from President Kwame Nkrumah, even though he was a target for assassins. Harold Macmillan wrote at the time: "the Queen has been absolutely determined all through. She is impatient of the attitude towards her to treat her as ... a film star ... She has indeed 'the heart and stomach of a man' ... She loves her duty and means to be a queen."
Elizabeth's pregnancies with Princes Andrew and Edward, in 1959 and 1963, marked the only times she did not perform the State Opening of the British Parliament during her reign. She delegated the task to the Lord Chancellor instead.
Elizabeth inaugurated the first Canadian trans-Atlantic telephone cable in 1961, by calling Canadian Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, from Buckingham Palace. In 1969, Elizabeth sent a congratulatory message to the Apollo 11 crew on the first manned lunar landing; the micro-filmed message was left in a metal container on the moon's surface. She later met the crew at Buckingham Palace.
The 1960s and 1970s saw an acceleration in the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. Over 20 countries gained independence from Britain as part of a planned transition to self-government. In 1965, however, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence from Britain in opposition to moves toward majority black rule. Although the Queen dismissed Smith in a formal declaration and the international community applied sanctions against Rhodesia, Smith's regime survived for another eleven years.
In February 1974, an inconclusive United Kingdom general election result meant that, in theory, the outgoing British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, whose Conservative party had won the popular vote, could stay in office if he formed a coalition government with the Liberals. Rather than immediately resign as Prime Minister, Heath explored this option, and resigned only when discussions on forming a cooperative government foundered, after which the Queen asked the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Harold Wilson, to form a government.
A year later, at the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed from his post by Governor-General Sir John Kerr after the Opposition-controlled Senate rejected Whitlam's budget proposals. The Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, Gordon Scholes, appealed to the Queen on behalf of the house to reverse Kerr's decision, on the basis that Whitlam's Labor Party still enjoyed the confidence of the house. Elizabeth declined, stating that it was not appropriate for her to intervene in affairs that are reserved for the Governor-General alone by the Constitution of Australia. The crisis fuelled Australian republicanism.
In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Events took place in many countries throughout the Queen's associated Commonwealth tour, and included a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral attended by dignitaries and other heads of state. Parties were held throughout the Commonwealth realms, culminating in several Jubilee Days in the United Kingdom, in June. In Britain, commemorative stamps were issued. The Jubilee Line of the London Underground (though opened in 1979) was named for the anniversary, as were several other public locations and spaces, including the Jubilee Gardens in London's South Bank. In Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal was issued. In 1978, she endured a state visit by the brutal communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, but the following year brought two blows: one was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, as a communist spy; the other was the assassination of her relative and in-law Earl Mountbatten of Burma by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
According to Paul Martin, Sr., by the end of the 1970s the Queen was worried that the Crown "had little meaning for" Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Tony Benn said that the Queen found Trudeau to be "rather disappointing". Trudeau's supposed republicanism seemed to be confirmed by his antics, such as sliding down banisters at Buckingham Palace and pirouetting behind the Queen's back in 1977, and the removal of various Canadian royal symbols during his term of office. Martin—along with John Roberts and Mark MacGuigan—was sent to the UK in 1980 to discuss the patriation of the Canadian constitution. The Queen was interested in the constitutional debate, particularly after the failure of Bill C-60, which would have affected her role as head of state. The entire party found the Queen "better informed on both the substance and the politics of Canada's constitutional case than any of the British politicians or bureaucrats". As a result of the constitutional patriation, the role of the British parliament in the Canadian constitution was removed, but the monarchy was retained. Trudeau said in his memoirs: "The Queen favoured my attempt to reform the Constitution. I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation."
During the 1981 Trooping the Colour ceremony, six blank cartridges were fired at the Queen from close range as she rode down The Mall on her horse "Burmese". Nobody was hurt, and the 17-year-old assailant, Marcus Sarjeant, was later sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The Canadian House of Commons passed a motion praising the Queen's bravery. The following year, the Queen found herself in another precarious situation when she awoke in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace to find a strange man, Michael Fagan, in the room with her. Remaining calm throughout, for about seven minutes, and through two calls to the palace police switchboard, Elizabeth spoke to Fagan while he sat at the foot of her bed until assistance arrived. From April to September that year, the Queen remained anxious but proud of her son, Prince Andrew, who was serving with British forces during the Falklands War. Though she hosted President Ronald Reagan at Windsor Castle in 1982, and visited his Californian ranch in 1983, she was angered when his administration ordered the invasion of Grenada, one of her Caribbean realms, without her foreknowledge.
During Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 1980s, it was rumoured that Elizabeth was worried that Thatcher's economic policies fostered social divisions, and was reportedly alarmed by high unemployment, a series of riots, the violence of a miners' strike, and Thatcher's refusal to apply sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. The Queen was even said to "cordially dislike" Thatcher. It was claimed that Thatcher told Brian Walden, "the Queen is the kind of woman who could vote SDP the Social Democratic Party—Thatcher's political opponents." Despite such speculation, Thatcher later conveyed her personal admiration for the Queen. In the BBC documentary Queen & Country, Thatcher described the Queen as "marvellous" and "a perfect lady" who "always knows just what to say", referring, in particular, to her final meeting as prime minister. Belying reports of acrimony between them, after Thatcher retired from politics, Elizabeth conferred on her two personal gifts of the Sovereign: the Order of Merit and the Order of the Garter. Both the Queen and Prince Philip attended Thatcher's 80th birthday party.
In 1991, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to address a joint session of the United States Congress. The following year, she attempted to save the failing marriage of her eldest son, Charles, by counselling him and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, to patch up their differences. She was unsuccessful, and the couple formally separated.
The Queen called 1992 her "annus horribilis" in a speech on 24 November 1992. During a state visit to Germany in October, angry demonstrators in Dresden had thrown eggs at her. More importantly the year had seen her daughter divorced, one son separated and another whose marriage was rocky. Windsor Castle suffered severe fire damage, and the monarchy received increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, she said that any institution must expect criticism, but suggested it be done with "a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding".
Diana, Princess of Wales
In the ensuing years, public revelations on the state of Charles and Diana's marriage continued. Eventually, in consultation with the British Prime Minister John Major, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, her private secretary Robert Fellowes, and her husband, she wrote to both Charles and Diana saying that a divorce was now desirable. A year after the divorce, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. At the time, the Queen was on holiday at Balmoral with her son and grandchildren. In their grief, Diana's two sons wanted to attend church, and so their grandparents took them that morning. For five days, the Queen and the Duke shielded their grandsons from the ensuing press interest by keeping them at Balmoral, where they could grieve in private. The royal family's seclusion caused public dismay. Pressured by her family, friends, the new British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and public reaction, the Queen agreed to a live broadcast to the world on 5 September. In it, she expressed admiration for Diana, and her feelings "as a grandmother" for Princes William and Harry. The public mood was transformed by the broadcast from hostility to respect.
Golden Jubilee and beyond
In 2002, as Elizabeth marked her Golden Jubilee as queen, her sister and mother died in February and March, respectively. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, which began in Jamaica in February, where she called the farewell banquet "memorable" after a power cut plunged the King's House, the official residence of the Governor-General, into darkness. As in 1977, there were street parties and commemorative events, and monuments were named to honour the occasion. Though Elizabeth has enjoyed good health throughout her life, in 2003 she had keyhole surgery on both knees, and in June 2005 she cancelled several engagements after contracting a bad cold. In October 2006, the Queen cancelled her appointment to officially open the new Emirates Stadium, because of a strained back muscle that had been troubling her since the summer. In December, there were rumours of ill health when she was seen in public with a plaster on her right hand. She had been bitten by one of her corgis while she was separating two that were fighting.
In May 2007, the Queen was reported to be "exasperated and frustrated" by the policies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Elizabeth was rumoured to have shown concern that the British Armed Forces were overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she was supposed to have raised concerns over rural and countryside issues with Blair repeatedly. Elizabeth was, however, reported to admire Blair's efforts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. On 20 March 2008, at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, the Queen attended the first Maundy Service held outside of England and Wales.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2007; their marriage is the longest of any British monarch. The Queen's reign is longer than those of her four immediate predecessors combined (Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI). She is the third-longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, the second-longest-serving current monarch of a sovereign state (after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand), and the oldest reigning British monarch. She has no intention of abdicating, though the proportion of public duties performed by Prince Charles may increase as Elizabeth reduces her commitments.
Elizabeth could become the longest-lived British head of state (surpassing Richard Cromwell) on 29 January 2012 at age 85, the longest-reigning monarch in British history and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history (surpassing Queen Victoria) on 10 September 2015 at age 89, and the longest-reigning monarch in European history (surpassing King Louis XIV of France) on 26 May 2024 at age 98.
If still reigning, Elizabeth will again address the United Nations on 6 July 2010 as queen of all of her realms, and celebrate in 2012 her Diamond Jubilee as queen, marking 60 years on the throne. Queen Victoria in 1897 is the only other British monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee.
Public perception and character
Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, little is known of her personal feelings. As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth has not expressed her own political opinions in a public forum. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. Her clothes consist mostly of solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd. Her main leisure interests include equestrianism, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
In the 1950s, as a young woman at the start of her reign, Elizabeth was depicted as a glamorous "fairytale Queen". After the trauma of the war, it was a time of hope, a period of progress and achievement heralding a "new Elizabethan age". Lord Altrincham's accusation in 1957 that she was a "priggish schoolgirl" was an extremely rare criticism. In the late 1960s, attempts to portray a more modern image of monarchy were made in the television documentary Royal Family, and by televising Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales. At her silver jubilee, the crowds and celebrations were genuinely enthusiastic, but in the 1980s public criticism of the royal family increased, as the personal and working lives of Elizabeth's children came under media scrutiny. Elizabeth's popularity sank to a low point in the 1990s; under pressure from public opinion she began to pay income tax for the first time, and Buckingham Palace was opened to the public. Discontent with the monarchy reached its peak on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, though the Queen's popularity rebounded after her live broadcast to the world five days after Diana's death. In November 1999, a referendum in Australia on the future of the monarchy favoured its retention. As her Golden Jubilee year began, the media speculated whether it would be a success or a failure. The year began sombrely with the death of Elizabeth's sister and mother, but a million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London. The enthusiasm shown by the public for Elizabeth was greater than many journalists had predicted. Polls in 2006 revealed strong support for Elizabeth; the majority of respondents desired that she remain on the throne until her death, and many felt that she had become an institution in herself. Referenda in Tuvalu in 2008 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 both rejected proposals to abolish the monarchy.
Elizabeth's personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at around GB£270 million (US$450 million) in 2009, but official Buckingham Palace statements in 1993 called estimates of £100 million "grossly overstated". The Royal Collection, which includes artworks and the Crown Jewels, is not owned by the Queen personally and is held in trust, as are the occupied palaces in the United Kingdom such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued at £323 million in 2009. As with many of her predecessors, Elizabeth is reported to dislike Buckingham Palace as a residence, and prefers Windsor Castle. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are privately owned by the Queen. Income from the British Crown Estate—with holdings of £6 billion in 2009—is transferred to the British treasury in return for Civil List payments. Both the Crown Estate and the Crown Land of Canada—comprising 89% of Canada's area—are owned by the Sovereign in trust for the nation, and cannot be sold or owned by Elizabeth in a private capacity.
Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, Elizabeth personally worships with that church and with the national Church of Scotland. She regularly attends Sunday service at Crathie Kirk when in Balmoral. Frequently, the Queen will add a personal note about her faith to her annual Royal Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth, such as in 2000, when she spoke about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ:
To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example.
Elizabeth also demonstrated support for inter-faith relations, often meeting with leaders of other religions, and granting her personal patronage to the Council of Christians and Jews.
Photograph Hand Oil Tinted by Artist Margaret A. Rogers