Elizabeth II: from Princess to Queen

Early Life and Childhood

The Queen was born Princess Elizabeth of York on 21 April 1926 in Mayfair, London.

She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York. Despite being third in line to the throne after Edward, Prince of Wales and her father it was never expected that the young princess would be Queen.

Princess Elizabeth aged 4 at the Royal Tournament at Olympia, London
Princess Elizabeth aged 4 at the Royal Tournament at Olympia, London Credit: PA

The Princess's early life was spent in London, but after her younger sister Princess Margaret Rose was born in 1930, the family moved to Windsor where they led a quiet life.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret with their mother in London in 1934
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret with their mother in London in 1934 Credit: PA

That all changed in 1936, when Elizabeth's grandfather King George V died.

His eldest son came to the throne as King Edward VIII, but before the end of the year he gave up the crown for the love of American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

In 1937, after Edward's abdication, Princess Elizabeth's father relunctantly acceded to the throne as King George VI.

Princess Elizabeth was now first in line to the throne.

At 14, with her sister alongside, Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast on the BBC's Children's Hour in 1940 to children across the world during the Second World War.

This picture of Princess Elizabeth aged 20 was taken by royal photographer Cecil Beaton in 1946.

A Cecil Beaton photograph of Princess Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace
Princess Elizabeth aged 20 is photographed at Buckingham Palace Credit: PA/Cecil Beaton

On April 21 1947, Princess Elizabeth made a radio broadcast from Cape Town in South Africa on her first official overseas visit in which she pledged to devote her whole life "whether short or long" to "your service".

Marriage and family

In 1947, the Princess's engagement to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, was announced.

The couple, had known each other for many years.

In the picture below, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and Prince Philip are seen playing croquet in 1939 - it is believed to be the first time or the second time they met.

Princesses Elizabeth & Margaret Rose & Prince Philip playing croquet in 1939
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose & Prince Philip playing croquet in 1939 Credit: THE BRITANNIA ASSOCIATION

On 20 November 1947, Lieutenant Mountbatten married Elizabeth in London's Westminster Abbey.

The event was fairly simple by Royal standards; rationing was the norm in post-war Britain.

Princess Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, like any other young bride at the time.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip after their wedding on 20 November 1947
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip after their wedding on 20 November 1947

The couple spent their honeymoon at Broadlands, Hampshire and at Birkhall, Balmoral.

Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh walking in the grounds of Broadlands on their honeymoon
Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh walking in the grounds of Broadlands on their honeymoon Credit: Reuters

In 1948, Prince Charles was born. He was introduced to the world's media at the Queen's country home in Sunningdale aged 8 months.

The Prince was joined by Princess Anne two years later.

Princess Anne with her brother, Prince Charles
Princess Anne with her brother, Prince Charles Credit: PA

Accession

On Wednesday, 6 February 1952, Princess Elizabeth's father King George VI died at the age of 56.

Crowds at Ludgate Circus as they read news of the death of King George VI
Crowds at Ludgate Circus as they read news of the death of King George VI Credit: PA

The princess received the news of her father's death and her own accession to the throne, while on a trip to Kenya with Prince Philip.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in the grounds of the Royal Lodge, Sagana, their wedding present from the people of Kenya
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in the grounds of the Royal Lodge, Sagana, their wedding present from the people of Kenya Credit: PA

This archive report on the Queen's Accession has been uploaded to the Royal Channel on YouTube.

The Coronation

There were more than 8000 guests at the Queen's Coronation on the 2 June 1953 and an estimated 3 million people lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of her.

A crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square, London,  to get a glimpse of the Queen's coach as it passed in procession for the Coronation
A crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, to get a glimpse of the Queen's coach as it passed in procession for the Coronation Credit: PA Wire

The Queen agreed that the Coronation could be be televised so that as many people as possible could observe the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

In a new age of colour broadcasting, it was a televisual treat. Over 20 million people in Britain watched the ceremony on TV and millions more around the world.

Former Tory MP and keen film-maker Lord John Wakehurst charted many key royal events including the Queen's Coronation in "Long to Reign Over Us: The Queen’s Accession

At the age of 25, the Princess had become a Queen.

 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with members of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after her Coronation
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with members of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after her Coronation Credit: PA