Her Majesty The Queen
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
Born on 21 April 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was the oldest child of Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. Her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, was born in 1930.
Third in line to the throne, with the title of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York, there was no reason to believe that she would ever become Queen. But in 1937 when King Edward, her uncle, abdicated over his affair with the divorced American, Mrs Wallis Simpson, her father was suddenly thrust into the limelight, and was crowned King George VI.
Elizabeth was tutored at home but, in order to avoid too sequestered a childhood, she became a Girl Guide - the 1st Buckingham Palace Company was formed so that she could socialise with girls her own age.
Elizabeth had met her future husband Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, when she was just eight years old. When they met again, five years later, she fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters.
The royal family moved to Windsor Castle in 1940, where they spent most of the war years. The royal family were applauded for their refusal to ship their daughters away from the dangers of wartime London - in fact Elizabeth trained as a driver and mechanic, and drove a military truck in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.
In 1947 Elizabeth married Prince Philip, who renounced his Greek and Danish titles, was created the Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style of His Royal Highness. Although there were some reservations about Philip's family links with German noblemen, the post-war austerity of the country was lifted by the wedding, which was seen as a glimmer of hope after the privations of the war years - true to the spirit of the day, Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her wedding dress.
Her first son, Charles, was born on 14 November 1948, and a few weeks later the King issued letters patent, allowing her children to enjoy a royal and princely status to which they would not otherwise have been entitled.
In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out on a tour of Australia and New Zealand via Kenya. It was here that she heard the news of her father's death. Elizabeth hastily returned home and, on 8 February, was proclaimed Queen. Her official coronation was not held until 2 June 1953, in Westminster Abbey. Watched by a worldwide television audience of 20 million, Elizabeth was crowned Queen, with much pomp and ceremony, in a specially commissioned Norman Hartnell gown.
Elizabeth has presided over a period of great transition. The post-war years saw the dismantling of the old British Empire, and the emergence of the British Commonwealth, a confederation of independent states around the world, which looked to The Queen as their nominal head. Over the past 50 years and more The Queen has been a tireless visitor to the countries of the Commonwealth, undertaking countless tours of each Commonwealth country - she is the most widely-travelled head of state in history.
She went on to have three more children: Anne (1950), Andrew (1960) and Edward (1964), and only her pregnancies have interrupted her official duties, such as presiding over The State Opening of Parliament. The Queen is patron of over 600 charities, ranging from voluntary organisations for young people to charities promoting the preservation of wildlife and the countryside.
She is celebrated for her devotion to duty and her sang-froid (she barely flinched in 1981 when shots - later discovered to be blanks - were fired at her as she rode down the Mall during the Trooping of the Colour). At times she has struggled to deal with more volatile personal lives of her close family: the divorces of her daughter Anne and son Andrew, the very public breakdown of the marriage between Charles and Diana, the Princess's death in a Paris car crash, and the subsequent outpouring of public grief.
The Queen is a private person, who does not give interviews, and has a deep sense of civic duty. Away from her public duties, she is a skilled horsewoman, who loves country life. She is an enthusiastic dog-breeder - her 'royal' corgis have become iconic. Like her mother she is a passionate follower of horse-racing, and regularly attends the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. She also owns and breeds racing thoroughbreds, and has recorded many major wins. In 2000 she was presented with the Cartier Millennium Award honouring her achievements as an owner-breeder and patron of the Turf. Her family is of prime importance - she has eight grandchildren - and they gather together each Christmas at her country estate in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 was celebrated with genuine public conviction. In 2002, enthusiasm for her Golden Jubilee (despite the sombre news of the death of her mother and sister earlier in the year) was high, and opinion polls overwhelmingly confirm that the public would like to see her remain on the British throne until her death.
When The Queen turned 80, she made it clear that she had no intention of abdicating. She has always enjoyed excellent health, and has every intention of continuing with her public and private duties for the foreseeable future.
In 2012 the Queen celebrates her diamond jubilee. As well as a bank holiday weekend (2-5 June) of celebrations, including fireworks, a pop concert and a Thames pageant, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will embark on an extensive tour of the UK, including Scotland and Wales.
HM The Queen declared in Council 9 April 1952 that she and her children would be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor and, on 8 February 1960, that her descendants other than those enjoying the style, title or attribute of HRH, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess, and female descendants who marry and their descendants should bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor, though this declaration was overridden when Lady Louise Windsor was born in 2003.