Once upon a time—60 years ago—a beautiful young princess became Queen of England. Queen Elizabeth II was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926. After her father, King George VI, died unexpectedly on February 6, 1952, 26-year-old Elizabeth was immediately proclaimed the Queen. Elizabeth's official coronation occurred a year later.
Now 86, Queen Elizabeth II is currently celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, which marks the 60th anniversary of her rise to the throne. On Saturday, May 19, the Queen watched as thousands of Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force troops paraded outside of her home at Windsor Castle to the sound of six military bands.
The parade is part of a series of events celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Queen re-dedicates herself to the service of the country and tours the United Kingdom. Parades, concerts, pageants and more are being held in her honor. The Jubilee will end in a nationwide celebration on a 4-day weekend beginning June 2.
A Monarch’s Duties
Queen Elizabeth II is England’s second-longest reigning monarch. Officially, the Queen is Britain's head of state. But the Queen doesn't rule as monarchs did in previous centuries. At one time, the Kings and Queens of England were powerful rulers. But the Reform Bill of 1832 moved the country toward a democratic system of government. Its current leader is Prime Minister David Cameron. The House of Commons operates much like the U.S. House of Representatives.
The powers of Queen Elizabeth II are limited by law. The royal family performs mainly ceremonial duties. Still, the Queen serves as a living symbol of her nation and represents it around the world. In her years as Queen, she has become the most widely traveled of any previous monarch.
England’s Busy Year
After the Jubilee celebrations come to an end, Britain’s focus will shift to hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London, England. The 70-day torch relay for the games kicked off on May 19 in Land’s End, England. British sailing hero Ben Ainslie was the first to carry the torch. The relay will end with the lighting of the cauldron to start the games on July 27. Click here to visit our London 2012 Olympics Mini-Site to learn more about the Games.