On this day in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II is formally crowned monarch of the United Kingdom in a lavish ceremony steeped in traditions that date back a millennium. A thousand dignitaries and guests attended the coronation at London’s Westminster Abbey, and hundreds of millions listened on radio and for the first time watched the proceedings on live television. After the ceremony, millions of rain-drenched spectators cheered the 27-year-old Queen and her husband, the 30-year-old Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, as they passed along a five-mile procession route in a gilded horse-drawn carriage.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor ascended to the throne the previous year at the age of 25, upon the death of her father, King George VI, and is proclaimed queen by her various privy and executive councils shortly afterwards. As such, she is Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth and Queen of 12 countries that have become independent since her accession: Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother), and was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother Edward VIII in 1936 (The Year of Three Kings), from which time she was the heir presumptive.
She began to undertake public duties during WW2, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Andrew, Duke of York; and Edward, Earl of Wessex.
Significant public events have included the above coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world’s longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.
Should you run across her around town, protocol is at a premium. The simple title since February 1952 is Her Majesty The Queen. Additionally, Elizabeth has held many titles and honorary military positions throughout the Commonwealth, is Sovereign of many orders in her own countries, and has received honors and awards from around the world. In each of her realms she has a distinct title that follows a similar formula: Queen of Jamaica and her other realms and territories in Jamaica, Queen of Australia and her other realms and territories in Australia, etc. In the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies rather than separate realms, she is known as Duke of Normandy and Lord of Mann, respectively. Additional styles include Defender of the Faith and Duke of Lancaster. When in conversation with the Queen, the practice is to initially address her as Your Majesty and thereafter as Ma’am.
Though generally media-shy, the Queen is quite quotable, including her observation “Grief is the price we pay for love.”