Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926[a]) is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states, known as the Commonwealth realms, and their territories and dependencies, and head of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations. She isSupreme Governor of the Church of England and, in some of her realms, carries the title ofDefender of the Faith as part of her full title.
On her accession on 6 February 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth andqueen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom,Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. From 1956 to 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and some realms became republics. At present, in addition to the first four aforementioned countries, Elizabeth is Queen of 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. Her reign of 61 years is currently thesecond longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer at over 63 years.
Elizabeth was born in London and educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne as George VI in 1936 on the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, in which she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she marriedPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with whom she has four children: Charles, Anne,Andrew, and Edward. Her coronation service took place in 1953 and was the first to be televised.
The Queen’s many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and reciprocal visits to and from the Pope. The Queen has seen major constitutional changes in her realms, such as devolution in the United Kingdom and thepatriation of the Canadian constitution. Times of personal significance have included the births and marriages of her children, the births of her grandchildren, the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and the celebration of milestones such as her Silver, Golden, andDiamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively.
Major events in the Queen’s reign have included the Troubles in Northern Ireland, theFalklands War, wars with Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. There have been times of personal sorrow for her which include the death of her father at 56, the assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, the breakdown of her children’s marriages in 1992 (a year deemed her annus horribilis), the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law,Diana, Princess of Wales, and the deaths of her mother and sister in 2002. The Queen has occasionally faced severe press criticism of the royal family and republican sentiments, but support for the monarchy and her personal popularity remain high.