Elizabeth II lives a most remarkable public life. It all began on her Coronation Day June 2, 1953.
She inspired mankind as she rode in her golden coach through the streets of London, drawn by grand white horses. The young Queen waved to all whom she passed by, smiling bravely as she headed toward her destiny awaiting her at Westminster Abbey. Her husband, Prince Philip, rode beside her. Dressed in his naval uniform, he wore layers of shining gold epaulets, waving and occasionally saluting the crowds with a white-gloved hand.
Once they arrived at Westminster Abbey, they were heralded by trumpets, and throngs of people cheered. Elizabeth, at only twenty-five years of age, was the first reigning queen since Victoria.
The ceremony was broadcast on the radio around the world. At Elizabeth’s request, it was also broadcast live on the television, the newest media device at the time. With the coronation televised, it brought home the splendor and the significance never before seen to hundreds of thousands of people.
In the Beginning
The Queen was born in London on April 21, 1926. She was the first child for Prince Albert, the Duke of York, and his wife Elizabeth. Five weeks after her birth the baby Princess was christened with the beautiful name of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the chapel at Buckingham Palace. She was named for her mother, her grandmother Queen Mary, and great-grandmother Queen Alexandra. As a toddler, too young to pronounce her own name, Elizabeth called herself “Lilibet”. The name stuck, and to this day that is what members of her family still call her.
Baby Lilibet with her mother, the Duchess of York
Princess Elizabeth lived at 145 Piccadilly, the elegant London townhouse taken by her parents shortly after her birth. She also resided at White Lodge in Richmond Park and at the country homes of her grandparents. At six years of age, Elizabeth, along with her sister Princess Margaret, then 2, were moved to Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park officially as their own country home.
Princess Elizabeth was educated at home with Princess Margaret. The two sisters would mainly be schooled in the importance of social graces and how to behave as a proper lady. When not practicing social ettiquette, Elizabeth and Margaret would put on plays and pantomimes for their parents and other royal friends. It was clear that Princess Margaret was the star of these performances, and the enthusiastic youngster would remain a lifelong fan of theatre and the arts.
As a young girl, Elizabeth was always dressed exactly like Princess Margaret, despite the four years between them. The Duchess of York felt that would serve to bridge the age gap. That’s where the similarities ended however. Margaret was an impish little girl who would sing and dance at the drop of a hat and frequently spoke her mind, while Elizabeth was more logical, serious, and reserved. She wanted to please her parents and adhered to the path of duty and decorum.
When her sister was born – whose full name is Margaret Rose – the little Elizabeth declared, “I shall call her Bud.” When asked why she called Margaret this, Elizabeth replied logically, “Well, she’s too young to be a rose. She is only a bud.”
In 1936, upon the abdication of his elder brother, Prince Albert ceased being the Duke of York and became King George VI. Elizabeth automatically became heiress presumptive, and as such had the royal “The” appended to her title as the child of the Sovereign. Her education turned sharply away from that of Margaret’s. Elizabeth would one day be Queen and her studies now focused on geography, constitutional history, and law. She still studied art and music, her mother’s greatest loves, and learned to ride. The Queen is still a keen horsewoman and breeder today.
Princess and Papa
Much of the Queen’s personality and devoted work habits are credited to her father, George VI, who was concerned that she receive the proper apprenticeship for the throne. The king, perfectly content as the Duke of York, had been thrust onto the throne when his elder brother abdicated. He had no training for his role. The Duke was the second son of the monarch, never expecting this mantle of responsibility. George decided that his daughter, now the heir to the throne, would not face the same surprises.
Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, was also a huge influence on the young princess’ life. Mary had instilled in her the importance of keeping up appearances and how to endure, with aplomb, endless rounds of public duties.
Princess Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip, during a tour of Dartmouth Royal Naval College with her parents. Philip was eighteen, she was thirteen, and was completely smitten by the handsome naval cadet. Philip was following in the footsteps of his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who had been the Admiral of the Fleet in the British Navy. Mountbatten was such an effective leader he had been posted to India as Viceroy after the war.
Prince Philip had been born a prince of Greece and Denmark, the youngest child of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice of Greece. As a baby, Philip’s family had been forced to flee when Greece was invaded by Turkey. Philip, his parents, and his four sisters escaped with the help of the British Royal Navy.
Prince Andrew was a cousin of King George V, in whose reign these events transpired. The old king remembered his Russian cousin’s horrible execution and was determined not to make the same mistake again by abandoning family. George V’s forces saved not only a cousin but the family of Mountbatten’s sister Alice.
Philip’s four sisters eventually came of age to marry, and one by one left the family to marry German noblemen. Deciding that they were now secure with husbands, Prince Andrew ran off a few years later to be with his mistress. Princess Alice had a nervous breakdown and was sent for treatment in Switzerland. The only member of the family left, the future Consort of Queen Elizabeth II, was only ten years old.
When it was thought that he might marry Elizabeth, Philip had to renounce his title and his Orthodox Greek religion and become a member of the Church of England. After WWII, Philip eventually made his intentions known to the king about Elizabeth, and the Princess was thrilled. George VI was wary, worried that she was too young. The King took his family on a trip to South Africa while Philip stayed behind. He figured it would give his daughter time to think about her impending engagement. After they returned from the 6 month tour, Elizabeth’s mind was still made up – she wanted to marry Philip. He officially proposed, giving her an engagement ring fashioned from a few diamonds from his mother’s old tiara. The engagement was announced publicly July 10, 1947 and the wedding was set for November 20 of that year.
Being of a traditional sort, Philip discussed with Elizabeth about the taking of his new surname, Mountbatten. As a royal prince, he never had a last name, so Lord Mountbatten, his mother’s younger brother, offered his own name as a solution when Philip was to marry Elizabeth. The king and many other members of the family were extremely cagey towards Lord Louis and were agitated beyond belief that he had actually publicly toasted to the House of Mountbatten, which had now “risen from obscurity from the banks of the Rhine”. The thought of Elizabeth changing her name or the name of the royal house was not an idea her father or Queen Mary wanted to entertain. Elizabeth put off the name controversy for a few years, but eventually, when she became Queen, she instituted that all her descendants will bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor. That way, the official name of the house would not be changed, but her children and their descendants would bear Mountbatten as part of their names.
The Prince and Princess, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, took on more and more of the king’s official engagements as his health was declining. George had cancer, and it was building up in his lungs. He went ahead with an operation to have one of his lungs removed, which proved successful. For a time he was well and back to his old self, but unfortunately it would not last long. Elizabeth and Philip went on an African tour – one of her father’s engagements – and George saw them off at the airport with the Queen and Princess Margaret. It would be the last time Elizabeth would see her beloved father again.
Life Without Father
King George VI died in his sleep February 6, 1952, emaciated by cancer. The healthful effects of the operation had lasted a greviously short time, and the king died during his daughter’s tour in Africa.
A courtier from the palace contacted Philip’s servant and friend Michael Parker to tell him to inform the Princess, now Queen Elizabeth II, that her father had passed away. Lilibet, as royal protocol declared, had her funeral clothes on hand, and during the plane ride home changed from her summer cottons to a plain black dress. At Heathrow, the new Queen was greeted by Winston Churchill, among others, with the Royal black Daimlers.
“Oh, they’ve brought the ‘hearses’,” she commented sadly of the large, black royal automobiles.
In accordance to what she had been taught all of her life, the new Queen did not show much emotion. She greeted the men waiting for her on the tarmac, and then set off in the Royal Daimlers towards Buckingham Palace to sign the Accession Papers, cementing her destiny. Elizabeth II’s reign had begun.
“She didn’t cry – at that moment – but, my God, she was crying inside,” said Lady Pamela Hicks (younger daughter of Lord Mountbatten and Philip’s first cousin). Elizabeth had been very much her father’s daughter and she loved him dearly, and taking on the new responsibilities as Queen and to have him gone like this was going to be a great deal to bear.
One of the first acts of her reign was to bring back her father’s old Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. He was by far her most favorite PM, and got along with him very well. He provided her with guidance in her early years of reign, and he was, as several people noted, a “little in love” with his monarch. Everyone, in fact, adored her; as a princess and as queen. She reigned well, and the monarchy was more popular than ever.
At age twenty-five, Elizabeth became Queen not only of Britain but also of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Much of the Empire had dwindled during her father and grandfather’s reign, becoming a Commonwealth of countries. There are 13 British dependent territories, which are: British Indian Ocean Territory, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, St Helena and its dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, and the Pitcairn Group of Islands. (Hong Kong, a former dependent territory, was handed back to China on 1 July 1997.)
Her Majesty carries out hundreds of official engagements every year – but it’s all in a day’s work for the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Visits around the country and overseas give Elizabeth the chance to meet people from many backgrounds.
The Queen also attends many meetings with the government, including government ministers in the Privy Council and the Prime Minister, and gives audiences to foreign and British ambassadors.
Elizabeth contends with truckloads of paperwork, consisting of letters from the public, government officials, and the top secret papers in the “red boxes” – Government and Commonwealth policy documents and other State papers – which arrive every day of the year, wherever she is. She even “does the boxes” at her holiday residence of Balmoral (working while on vacation – now that’s dedicated!)
The Queen cannot just rule arbitrarily. She conducts weekly meetings with the Prime Minister – usually on Tuesdays – to see what is happening in the government and the general political goings on. She, on almost all matters, acts on the advice of the government of the day. Her Majesty is only a constitutional monarch, meaning she does not have absolute rule over her country. She must take Parliament’s and other members of government’s views into consideration.[top]
HRH The Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales
In a speech to the House of Commons two days after Charles’ birth, Winston Churchill remarked: Our ancient Monarchy renders inestimable services to our country and to all the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. Above the ebb and flow of party strife, the rise and fall of Ministries and individuals, the changes of public opinion and fortune, the British Monarchy presides ancient, calm and supreme within its functions, over all the treasures that have been saved from the past and all the glories we write in the annals of our country. Our thoughts go out to the mother and father and, in a special way today, to the little Prince, now born into this world of strife and storm.”
The little Prince was soon followed by a sister, Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise. She was two years younger, and was a boisterous little girl. Younger but tougher, she took after their father, Prince Philip. When she grew older, her personality was certainly that of Philip’s. Anne had a no-nonsense approach to life and often spoke her mind, although sometimes it was a bit gruff. Charles, on the other hand, was gentle and shy like his mother.
When approached by photographers, he would let them snap a few shots and offer a small ‘Hello’. Anne would not have it. If she was not in the mood to be photographed, she would crinkle her nose in disgust and hold up her hand to shoo them away. But despite different personalities, Charles and Anne were very close, bonded by the fact that they were the only children of the Queen and Prince Philip at the time and very close in age. When they were older, they even went on royal tours together, representing their mother during her reign.
Even though Charles had Anne for companionship, a large part of his life was spent in the care of nannies and his grandparents, the king and queen. While he loved and admired his parents, it was the nannies and his grannie with whom he formed personal relationships. When Charles was little, his mother was quite busy with royal duties. She was having to take on more and more as her father’s illness grew worse.
Prince Philip, meanwhile, was often away at sea as a naval officer in command of his own ship. When King George died February 6, 1952, Elizabeth succeeded him as Monarch. This was quite a change in everyone’s life, especially that of the little Prince. When she became Queen, Philip had to leave the Navy and the workload increased 100-fold for both of them. With all of that, the time for their children grew even slimmer. Everyone’s time was now being devoted to arranging royal tours to present the new Sovereign to her people. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother stepped in most times, doting on the young lad. Their bond was as strong as ever into Charles’ adulthood due to her care and devotion when he was a child.
Travel plans aside, the most important thing now was to organize Elizabeth II’s coronation. At four years old, Charles probably did not understand the significance of the grand event, but little did he realize that he was witnessing his own future.
Royal School Days
Elizabeth had ascended the throne, and Philip was now in charge of the household and the heir’s schooling.
Philip was educated at Cheam School and at Salem, a spartan and rigorous school in Southern Germany. Salem’s headmaster, Kurt Hahn, moved to Scotland to start Gordonstoun, a British version of Salem. Philip followed Hahn to Gordonstoun and was a promising student. He excelled in sport and enjoyed the challenging way of life it presented. Philip thought it fit for his son, but the sensitive and quiet Charles was of a completely different opinion.
He was not comfortable at Gordonstoun at all. Even after being there for a couple of years, life was still miserable. Charles wrote letters home complaining of the bullying:
It’s such hell here, especially at night… The people in my dormitory are foul. Goodness they are horrid… They throw slippers all night long or hit me with pillows or rush across the room and hit me as hard as they can… It’s such a HOLE this place!”
He was teased mercilessly about his ears, which was cruel to say the least. Lord Mountbatten, his great-uncle and mentor, told the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to surgically fix the problem, but to no avail. As Charles grew older though, he ‘grew into’ his ears, thus eliminating a need for surgery.
Charles spent part of the school year in 1966 as an exchange student in Melbourne, Australia – the first member of the British Royal family to attend an overseas school in the Commonwealth. He had a delightful time there, and although activities could be just as strenuous as Gordonstoun’s at times, Charles felt happy being part of a group and making friends. The boys with him at Timbertop were much nicer than in Scotland’s spartan school, and although he was much farther from home, Charles was not stricken with homesickness.
Between 1967 and 1970, the Prince read archaeology and anthropology and, for his last two years, history at the University of Cambridge. He particularly enjoyed appearing in several college revues and gaining his University Colours for polo. In 1969 he spent one summer term in Aberystwyth at the University of Wales, before his formal investiture as Prince of Wales in Caernarvon Castle on July 1 of that same year. Soon after, he graduated from Cambridge with a BA degree in 1970. He is the first Prince of Wales to obtain a university degree.
King Edward VIII, Charles’ great-uncle ‘David’, said he dreaded having to dress in the uniform of silk breeches and carry out the investiture. He claimed it was a “perposterous rig” and felt embarassed at the thought of his schoolmates seeing him in this costume. Young Edward felt he had no choice, however, and noted that it would most likely be “helpful to Papa [George V]…”. Charles, however, took the ceremony very seriously and greatly enjoyed carrying on the tradition.
The Prince of Wales took up his first Service appointment in 1969 as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regiment of Wales. He became Colonel of the Welsh Guards in 1975, succeeding his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, and now holds a number of Service appointments. He learned to fly jet aircraft and obtained his RAF wings at the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell. In the Fall of 1971 the Prince joined the Royal Navy. He operated the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and in early 1976 he took command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington.
Charles had also qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1974 at the Royal Naval Air Station and joined the Naval Air Squadron on flying duties. He currently holds the rank of Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy, Major-General in the Army and Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force.
On July 29th, 1981, The Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Lady Diana was the daughter of Earl Spencer and Frances (née Roche) Spencer.
The Spencers were one of the old aristocratic families of England. Diana’s father, known as Johnnie, served as Equerry to King George VI (1950–52) and to Queen Elizabeth II for two more years. With this pedigree, Johnnie’s daughters were seen as extremely suitable for the Prince of Wales. The eldest, Sarah, dated Charles briefly in the 1970s, unknowingly ending the relationship after she spoke to openly to the press.
The Prince moved on to Sarah’s younger sister, Diana, whom he had met several years previous. When they met again at a shooting party, the 19-year-old Diana had blossomed into a lovely young lady and Charles took an interest.
Their engagement became official on February 24th, 1981. Diana wanted their July 29th wedding to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral because Westminster Abbey would remind her too much of her parents’ marriage. Johnnie and Frances were married in the Abbey and their tumultuous relationship ended with Frances walking out. Diana was only 6 years old at the time.
Fifteen years later, Charles and Diana’s own marriage would be dissolved. However, during their union, they produced the future king, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis (“the heir”) and his brother Prince Henry Charles Albert David (“the spare”).
Charles adores his sons, and as they have grown older he has tried to keep them as safe as possible from the prying lenses of the media. He knows that their lives are of public interest, just as his has been, but Charles is very aware that things have changed since his youth. The level of press intrusion was keenly apparent during his marriage to Diana. Her death was an especially traumatic time for the Princes, and the necessity to keep the boys shielded became even more crucial.
Charles has allowed orchestrated photo sessions with his sons, but he tries as hard as he can to help retain their privacy. The Prince is supported in this endevour whole-heartedly by Her Majesty, who has since given William and Harry the task of representing the Crown abroad. The royal family hopes that the media will be satiated by the Princes at official events, rather than come after them in their private time.
In April 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles. Upon marriage, Camilla officially became Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, but instead goes by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. It is the feminine form of Charles’ other title, Duke of Cornwall. This was done to circumvent any controversy in regards to the Prince of Wales’ first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Charles at Home
Charles’ home, Highgrove, was purchased for him by the Duchy of Cornwall, the hereditary estate of the Prince of Wales. The Gloucestershire home had once belonged to the son of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
When The Duchy of Cornwall bought Highgrove in 1980, the grounds were decidedly sparse. However, The Prince of Wales is a bit of a greenthumb and over the past 20 years has been the central figure in the transformation of the grounds into a well-renowned organic garden. It is not a grandiose area, but one of intimacy and the love of the environment.
The Prince has written a book with Charles Clover about Highgrove’s garden and how he has developed it with advice from professional garden designers. The royalties from the sale of Highgrove: An Experiment in Organic Gardening and Farming, benefit The Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation.
Full Name: Charles Philip Arthur George
Titles: HRH The Prince of Wales; Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland
Date of Birth: November 14th, 1948
Residence: Highgrove Estate (Gloucestershire); Clarence House (London)
Education: Cheam Preparatory School; Gordonstoun; Geelong Grammar School (AU); Trinity College, Cambridge
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Prince William of Wales
Duke of Cambridge
HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge
Prince William is the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
An Unusual Royal Childhood
Prince William’s childhood was anything but typical. As the future king, he is expected to take on responsibilities not required of many young men. His late mother tried to make life as normal as possible for him, taking him to McDonald’s, shopping, or to visit members of her charitable organizations. Prince Charles, though more inclined to give William a traditional royal upbringing, allowed Diana to show their son everyday life.
However, at the age of five, he told friends that he wasn’t allowed to know the name of his school “for security reasons.” As one of the two most senior heirs to the throne, William has never been able to fly on the same aircraft with his father in case of an attack or accident. And wherever Prince William goes, personal policemen are never far off. Not an everyday occurrence for a young boy!
Prince William has one sibling, his younger brother Harry, who was born in 1984. The two are very close and have been known for their good-natured ribbing of each other in front of the press. In fact, it is said William gets along very well with everyone, and has a very cheerful nature. His father had trouble fitting in and was cruelly hazed while at Cheam, his preparatory school, whereas William has had an easier time with classmates.
His first school was Mrs. Mynors’ Nursery School in London, a first for a future king. At age eight, Prince William was sent to Ludgrove where he shared a room with four other boys. He spent five years there, and it was during this time that Charles and Diana separated and began divorce proceedings. When on holiday from school, William and Harry divided their time between Charles and Diana, at either St.James’ Palace and Highgrove, (Charles’ offices and private home,respectively) or Kensington Palace.
The prince was close to both his mother and father. Charles was a good father, but was criticized in the press when his duties took him away from his boys. They usually made up for lost time during family holidays in Switzerland or at Balmoral.
At Ludgrove, Prince William proved to be an excellent athlete. He was on the school soccer,basketball, and swimming teams, and became captain of hockey and rugby teams. He also participated in clay pigeon shooting and cross country running, and is an excellent skier.
After Ludgrove came Eton. Eton was a very traditional establishment which was known for producing future Prime Ministers, diplomats, Civil Servants, poets, and historians. After graduating from Eton, William spent his gap year working in Chile and visiting several countries in Africa. As the year came to a close, William had to choose which university he would attend – he chose to study at St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland.
While at St. Andrews, William met the dashing, sporty brunette Catherine Middleton. She was one of his roommates during their time at college, but their romantic relationship came to light in 2001 over a cuddle during a skiing holiday.
The Prince graduated from St Andrews with a 2:1 in Geography in 2005. He and Middleton continued their relationship, but at one point decided to break it off in early 2007. Reports said it was due to the prince’s military career and his move to an army camp in Dorset; others said the intense media pressure caused Kate to flee. Happily, the pair stayed friends.
After getting together a few months later for the “Concert For Diana”, love blossomed once more. The pair became engaged in October 2010 during a holiday in Africa.
HM The Queen bestowed the Dukedom of Cambridge upon William for his wedding on April 29th, 2011. Kate is now known as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.
Full Name: William Arthur Philip Louis
Titles/Honors: Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus; Knight of the Garter (2008)
Date of Birth: June 21, 1982
Hometown: London, England
Education: Eton College
University: St. Andrews
Residence: Anglesey, Wales/Kensington Palace
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HRH Prince Henry of Wales
Prince Harry at a 2009 charity match at Ham Polo Club, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Prince Harry of Wales was born September 15th, 1984 at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. He is the second son of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Harry was third in line to the throne after his father and elder brother Prince William, born in 1982. As number three in the line of succession, Harry was not under as much pressure as William, but he was still a highly visible member of the Royal Family as a son of the Prince of Wales.
Last year Harry said goodbye to his lifelong position at third in line to the throne when his nephew George was born in 2013. Now with the impending arrival of a second baby for Prince William and his wife Kate, Harry will move down to fifth in line. He’ll still be highly visible, but knows his life as a senior royal will eventually diminish. The prince has thus carved out an admirable role for himself. The ginger-haired Harry hasn’t disappointed.
After graduating from historic Eton College, Harry took the traditional gap year and went to Australia, Argentina and Africa. It was in Africa that he made a documentary about the plight of orphans in Lesotho. Harry was deeply moved by the children whose families were devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It was a cause that his mother had championed, and Harry took up the reins in her memory.
It was in the tiny landlocked African country that Sentebale was born in 2006. With help from royal compatriot Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, Harry created this organization to help the local children get an education, access to recreational activities and other community projects to enrich their lives.
That same year, Harry was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals). He now holds the rank of Captain. With his full-time career in the military, Harry has been very keen on the welfare of those who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. The prince has performed many charitable acts to help injured soldiers.
Full Name: Henry Charles Albert David
Date of Birth: September 15, 1984
Education: Ludgrove School; Eton
Residence: Clarence House, London
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