Queen Elizabeth II marks her 91st birthday on Friday as Britons and many throughout the world celebrate her long and dignified reign. She will celebrate again in June with national events to mark her official birthday.
Elizabeth’s life was changed forever in 1936 when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated so he could marry his divorced lover Wallis Simpson. This made her father the king and Elizabeth, heir to the throne. King George VI’s health failed and he was too ill for a planned tour of the Commonwealth in 1952, so he sent Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, in his place. They were staying in a remote part of Kenya on 6 February 1952 when she was told that the king had died. She automatically became queen upon her father’s death, although the official coronation did not take place for more than a year.
The strong-willed and able-bodied queen has given no indication of her plans to leave the throne and has described her unique position as a “job for life.” Her own mother lived to be 101 and was generally in fine fettle in her final years. Still, it is possible Elizabeth would step down if she developed severe problems that made it impossible for her to carry out her duties.
(Originally published on 21 April 2016)