Queen Elizabeth II 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 is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and, in some of her realms, carries the title of Defender of the Faith as part of her full title.
On her accession on 6 February 1952, Queen Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth and queen 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 the second longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer at 63 years 7 months.
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 married Prince 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 the patriation 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, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively.
Major events in the Queen’s reign have included the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Falklands 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.
Queen Elizabeth II’s personal fortune has been the subject of speculation for many years. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at around US$450 million in 2010, but official Buckingham Palace statements in 1993 called estimates of £100 million “grossly overstated”. Jock Colville, who was her former private secretary and a director of her bank, Coutts, estimated her wealth in 1971 at £2 million (the equivalent of about £21 million today). The Royal Collection (which includes artworks and the Crown Jewels) is not owned by the Queen personally and is held in trust, as are the occupied palaces, such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the Duchy of Lancaster, a property portfolio valued in 2011 at £383 million. Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle are privately owned by the Queen. The British Crown Estate—with holdings of £7.3 billion in 2011 is held in trust for the nation and cannot be sold or owned by Elizabeth in a private capacity.
How Queen Elizabeth II Made Her Money – Queen of England
Estimated Net Worth: $472 Million
Birthday: April 21, 1926
[image via NASA/Bill Ingalls]