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  Wikipedia: Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Wikipedia: Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Golden Jubilee photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth II
(wearing her Canadian orders)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor) (born April 21, 1926) is the Queen regnant and head of state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and 15 other Commonwealth Realms, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Jamaica. She has reigned since February 6, 1952. Her coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

Titles

Main article: List of Titles and Honours of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Following a decision by Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the Commonwealth conference of 1953, Her Majesty uses different styles and titles in each of her realms. In each state she acts as the monarch of that state regardless of her other roles.

In the United Kingdom, her official title is, in English, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith and in Latin, Elizabeth II, Dei Gratia Britanniarum Regnorumque Suorum Ceterorum Regina, Consortionis Populorum Princeps, Fidei Defensor.

In Canada, her official title is Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Likewise, her other titles in other commonwealth realms make some references to "...and Her other Realms and Territories" as a symbol of unity. Some Commonwealth realms omit "By the Grace of God" from her title. In common practice Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as "The Queen".

As there has never been a Queen Regnant of Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom called Elizabeth, it is sometimes claimed that Her Majesty is simply "Queen Elizabeth" in Scotland, a idea that is encouraged by the fact that postboxes in Scotland do not show the numeral "II". In fact, she is "Queen Elizabeth II" in all her realms and territories, and the postboxes do not bear the numeral because the first postbox in Scotland with "E II R" (the royal cipher, "E R" being an abbreviation of "Elizabeth Regina", "Queen Elizabeth" in Latin) engraved on it was blown up in protest. Since then, the Queen has announced that in future all monarchs of the United Kingdom will use the higher of the two numerals they would have if they ruled England and Scotland as separate kingdoms. Thus, the next King George will be "King George VII" and the next King James will be "King James VIII".

Properly styled as Her Majesty The Queen, her previous styles were:

  • Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York (1926-1936)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth (1936-1947)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (1947-1952)

Family

Born in London, England, by Caesarean section she is the elder daughter of King George VI (then Duke of York) and his Queen consort, Elizabeth, her younger sister being the late Princess Margaret.

Her first public engagement was in 1942 when she inspected the Grenadier Guards on her 16th birthday.

During World War Two Elizabeth convinced her father that she should be allowed to contribute directly to the war effort. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the ATS) where she was known as No 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. She was trained as a driver. This training was the first time she had been taught with other students. It is said that she greatly enjoyed this and that this experience lead her to send her own children to school rather than have them educated at home.

She married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on 20 November 1947 (Prince Phillip had renounced his claim to the Greek throne and was simply referred to as Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten, RN prior to being created Duke of Edinburgh the night before the marriage). They have four children (see below). Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed that the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor. (The personal surname change came via an Order-in-Council in 1960. Source: Buckingham Palace.)

Elizabeth succeeded to the throne following the death of her father in 1952. At the exact moment of succession, she was actually up a tree - in a tree-top hotel in Africa; possibly a unique circumstance for any such event. Her coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

Despite a succession of controversies about the rest of the royal family, particularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s (including wide reportage of Prince Philip's propensity for verbal gaffes, and the marital difficulties of her children), Queen Elizabeth remains a remarkably uncontroversial and widely respected figure. She has managed to reflect the expectations of the British public for the role near-perfectly, with one notable exception when she and the other royals were perceived to be unmoved by the public outpouring of grief following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997.


Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

Personality and Image

She is both a public figure, and, by all accounts, an exceedingly private person. She has never given press interviews, and her views on political issues are largely unknown except for those few heads of government who have private conversations with her. She reportedly has few close friends, instead preferring the company of horses and corgis, areas in which she, like many of the other royals, is regarded as an expert. She is also regarded as a excellent mimic, whose impressions of people are regarded as first rate. One British impressionist once said if the British monarchy was abolished, he would hire her for his show the next day, so good are her impressions.

The Queen is considered to be a very fashionable woman, and has a large team of dress makers and clothiers. Rather conservative in dress, the Queen is paticularly well-known for her solid-color overcoats and decorative hats. Her personal image is very distinct, and is often parodied by cartoonists and impersonators.

In diplomatic situations the Queen is extremely formal, and protocol in dealing with her is very strict. Though some of the strict traditional rules for dealing with the British Monarch have been relaxed during her reign (bowing is no longer required, for example) other forms of close personal interaction, such as touching, remain taboo.

Her former prime ministers speak highly of her. Since becoming Queen, she spends an average of three hours every day 'doing the boxes', i.e. reading state papers sent to her from her various departments, embassies, etc. Having done so since 1952, she has probably seen as much of world affairs in that period as anyone, and is thus able to offer observations to Tony Blair based on things said to her by Harold Wilson, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Winston Churchill and many other senior leaders she had spoken to. She takes her responsibilities in this regard seriously, once mentioning an "interesting telegram" from the Foreign Office to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, only to find that her prime minister had not bothered to read it when it came in his box.

In 2002 the Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th year of her accession to the throne.

Political Role

Prime Ministers take their weekly meetings with her very seriously. One said it he took it more seriously than Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, because she would be better briefed and more constructive than anything he would face at the dispatch box. She also has regular meetings with her individual ministers. Even ministers known to have republican views speak highly of her and value those meetings. She receives daily reports also on what is on in Parliament, as well as frequent meetings with the Scottish First Minister, whom she (nominally) appoints. (The royal palace in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, once home to Scottish kings and queens like Mary, Queen of Scots, is now regularly used again, with at least one member of the Royal Family, often the Prince of Wales or Princess Royal frequently in residence). She also receives reports on the Welsh Assembly.

Though bound by convention not to intervene directly in politics, her length of service, the fact that she has been a confidante of every prime minister since Sir Winston Churchill, and her knowledge of world leaders, means that when she does express an opinion, however cautiously, her words are taken seriously. In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher offers this description of her weekly meetings with the Queen:

"Anyone who imagines that they are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience."

The Rhodesia controversy of the late 1970's is a prominent example of the Queen subtly influencing policy. In 1973, a report by Lord Grenville on his visit to Rhodesia initially depressed the then Labour government, as it reported only slight movement from Ian Smith's government. However, after a conversation with James Callaghan at a state dinner in Buckingham Palace, the Queen through her Private Secretary noted that though the scale of the movement was slight, any movement was a change from what had happened before, and might indicate the beginning of change. Her observation, based on many years reading Foreign Office reports (including years when those Labour ministers were not in office), was influential in convincing the Labour government not to abandon contact with Smith's Rhodesia. That contact was the genesis of what ultimately became the Lancaster House Agreement that produced Zimbabwe. When Margaret Thatcher, who was known to hold pro-Ian Smith views, became prime minister, it was feared that those contacts might be scaled back, but according to one Thatcher cabinet minister, an "intoxicating mix" of the Queen and Thatcher's Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington kept her attached to the process developed by the previous Labour government.

Though her political views are never expressed publicly, she is believed to hold centre, even slightly left of centre views. She was seen as closer to Harold Wilson than Edward Heath and certainly closer to Tony Blair than Margaret Thatcher. During Thatcher's period in government, an unnamed source in Buckingham Palace reported that the Queen was worried that the right wing policies of the Thatcher government were dividing Britain and hurting the Commonwealth. Her statement of praise for the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement raised some complaints in Northern Ireland among some unionists in the Democratic Unionist Party who opposed the Agreement, including the role given to the Irish government, the downgrading of British symbols in the North and the presence of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Foreign relations

Her personal friendship with leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Bill Clinton and others have made her exceptionally well informed on world affairs. On occasion such contacts have proved highly beneficial for Britain. John Major as prime minister once had difficulty at a Commonwealth Conference working with a particular Commonwealth leader. The Queen, knowing that leader, guessed that there might be problems and informed her British Prime Minister that he and the leader shared a mutual interest in sport. Major used that information to establish a personal relationship between both men, which ultimately benefited both countries. Similarly she took the initiative when Irish President Mary Robinson began visiting Britain, by suggesting to Her Government that she invite her Irish counterpart to pay courtesy call on her in the Palace. The Irish Government enthusiastically supported the idea. The result was a groundbreaking first ever visit by an Irish president to meet the British monarch.

In its aftermath, Mary Robinson was invited to pay an official visit to Britain. Since then, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Earl of Wessex and the Duke of Edinburgh have all visited Ireland, many travelling to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet the Irish President. Successive Irish presidents and taoisigh (prime ministers) have also visited Buckingham Palace, while President McAleese, in a break with precedent, attended a major royal event, the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (co-incidentially the last Queen of Ireland [1936-1949]) in 2002. Expectations are high that the Queen will pay a state visit to Ireland as the guest of the Irish President in the near future. (Mary McAleese once paid a public compliment to the Queen, whom she had known before she became president, calling her a 'dote' (a term of affection meaning a lovely person) in an Irish newspaper interview.)

On January 2 2003 the Queen, following advice from her Government in the United Kingdom, rejected a claim from Jamaican Rastafarians for compensation for slavery following representations made by Rastafarians to the Queen on a visit to Jamaica in 2002. In a letter addressed to the Rastafarian brethren and widely reported in the Jamaican media (see for instance this report in the Jamaica Gleaner), she wrote "Under the statute of the International Criminal Court, acts of enslavement committed today... do constitute a crime against humanity. But the historic slave trade was not a crime against humanity or contrary to international law at the time when the UK Government condoned it... It is a fundamental principle of international law that events have to be judged against the law as it stood at the time when they occurred. We regret and condemn the inequities of the slave trade, but these shameful activities belong to the past. Governments today cannot accept responsibility for what happened over 150 years ago.... [My Government] is looking at ways to commemorate all victims of the slave trade. The aim is to express the profound regret we feel about slavery while looking positively to the future."

Republicanism

Queen Elizabeth II's reign has probably seen more calls for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic than any since the English Civil War. Generally the calls for republicanism tend to be academic criticism directed at the monarchy as a political institution, and are unrelated to Queen Elizabeth's personal conduct. Some have proposed the Queen herself should embrace the movement, and serve as the country's first interim non-monarchial Head of State.

Certain Labour Party M.P.s such as Tony Benn have several times proposed the Commonwealth of Britain Bill to turn the United Kingdom into a republic. Several notable publications, including The Guardian, The Economist, and numerous tabloids, also profess republicanism. Nevertheless, despite frequent claims in the tabloids of "the monarchy in crisis" in response to the various personal scandals within the royal family, the monarchy seems to be well-ensconced for the time being.

Commonwealth titles, past and present

Besides being Queen of the United Kingdom, at her accession she was also proclaimed Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (to 1961), Pakistan (to 1956), and Sri Lanka (to 1972).

During the Queen's reign many of the former British colonies in Africa became independent countries. When independence was granted to these nations, as is the British colonial pratice, they became constitutional monarchies by default, with Queen Elizabeth as Head of State. The new African leaders usually proceeded to quickly abolish the monarchy (and usually the parliamentary system, as well) and establish executive presidencies (effectively dictatorships) in its place.

Queen Elizabeth was briefly:

From 1965 to 1970 she was also proclaimed Queen of Rhodesia by the White minority government there, although she never accepted this office.

When independence was granted to the British Caribbean colonies, Queen Elizabeth became Queen of the West Indies Federation. When the Federation broke up in 1962, she eventually became Queen of each former member state.

Of the former British colonies in the West Indies, the only Caribbean nations that have ceased to be monarchies are Trinidad and Tobago (1962-1976) and the Commonwealth of Dominica (1978). Unlike Trinidad and Tobago, which was a constitutional monarchy for 14 years after independence, Dominca, not to be confused with the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, became a republic at independence in 1978 with its own elected president as Head of State. Queen Elizabeth's other titles in the Caribbean include:

When Papua New Guinea became independent of Australia in 1975, Queen Elizabeth was styled "Queen of Papua New Guinea," the first time she became Queen of a nation that was never a direct British colony. Her other Pacific titles include:

Her role as Queen of Fiji (1970-1987) was ended by a military coup. Although Fiji has been readmitted to the Commonwealth, it has not restored its ties to the monarchy. However, the Council of Chiefs continues to recognise the Queen as its "Great Chief," though she has no longer has any formal constitutional power.

The Queen was also previously

Relationship among Realms

Generally, Commonwealth Realms have all got along well, with few diplomatic problems. The concern is sometimes raised, however, that with Queen Elizabeth being head of state of so many different countries, her neutrality and dual loyalty could come into question should a conflict ever emerge between two of "her" countries.

In Operation Urgent Fury, for example, Queen Elizabeth was the Queen of Grenada while it was being invaded by many other Carribbean countries of which she was also Queen. Even more confusingly, the invasion was also opposed by several other countries in which she was Queen, notably Britain and Belize. The Queen did not make a statement on the invasion, likely because, had she done so, no statement could adequately represent all those involved countries of which she was Queen.

Republicans in Commonwealth Realms often argue that ultimately, the Queen will express loyalty to the actions of the British Government above all other realms. This is due to the simple fact that the Queen resides in Britain, and is more involved in the British political process than in any other nation.

Coat of Arms

The Queen bears quarterly, I and IV England, II Scotland, III Northern Ireland, which serves as the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. This coat of arms has been unchanged since Queen Victoria.

Children of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Famous Quotes

External links

Preceded by:
George VI
List of British monarchs Heir apparent:
Charles, Prince of Wales

  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona