Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926 is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms, and head of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations. She is also head of state of the Crown Dependencies. On her accession in 1952, she became Head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of many independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and some realms became republics. Today, in addition to the aforementioned countries, Elizabeth is Queen of Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada,Trinidad & Tobago,Fiji,Guyana,Honduras,
Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, The Falklands, Gibraltar, Tuvalu,Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, Dominica, Montserrat,Singapore,Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Her reign of 60 years is the second longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer (63 years 7 months). Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee is being celebrated during 2012.
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. 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.
Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and reciprocal visits to and from the Pope. In the United Kingdom, the Queen has seen major constitutional changes, opening both the National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament.
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 and Golden Jubilees in 1977 and 2002.
Major events in the Queen’s life have included the involvement of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in a number of wars, including the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Korean War, the Falkland Islands War, wars with Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. There have been times of personal grief which include the early loss of her father, the assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten, the breakdown of her children’s marriages in 1992 (a year that she deemed annus horribilis), the death in 1997 of her daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, and the deaths of her mother and sister in 2002. The Queen has at times faced severe criticism of the royal family from the press, and republican sentiments, both in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, but her personal popularity remains high.