A Look Back at the Extraordinary Life of Queen Elizabeth II, the Longest-Reigning British Monarch

The Queen was a beloved figure around the world. Having ascended the throne in 1952, she became the longest-reigning monarch in UK history. It's estimated that 90% of people alive today have known no other British monarch.

It's been estimated that 90% of the people alive today have known of no other monarch of England than Queen Elizabeth II. She was just 26 when she ascended to the throne, and her enduring presence transcended the United Kingdom to become a beloved figure all over the world.

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign began in 1952 when the 25-year-old princess was on a visit to Africa and learned that her father had died.

In 1957, she made her first state visit to the United States, and over the years, met 13 U.S. presidents.

She dined with President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy in 1961 and went horse-riding with President Ronald Reagan at Windsor Castle in 1982. 

She also welcomed then-President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to Buckingham Palace in 2009.

"Michelle and I were lucky enough to come to know Her Majesty, and she meant a great deal to us. Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as President and First Lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity," Obama said, in part, in a tribute to the queen. "Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance."

Ten years later, she gave former President Donald Trump the full pomp-and-circumstance when he and Melania made a state visit.

"Melania and I will always cherish our time together with the Queen, and never forget Her Majesty's generous friendship, great wisdom, and wonderful sense of humor. What a grand and beautiful lady she was—there was nobody like her!" Trump said in part in a statement released on Truth Social. 

President Joe Biden and Jill Biden visited just last year.

"Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era. In a word of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her," Biden said in part in a statement released after the queen's death. "In the years ahead, we look forward to continuing a close friendship with The King and The Queen Consort. Today, the thoughts and prayers of people all across the United States are with the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in their grief.

"We send our deepest condolences to the Royal Family, who are not only mourning their Queen, but their dear mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother," Biden continued. "Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world."

Over the decades, Queen Elizabeth became a cherished institution — her beloved corgis often at her side.

And she kept a stiff upper lip as her royal household suffered three marriage breakups in less than a year and a devastating fire at Windsor castle. The year 1992 was, in her words, "horrible."

When Princess Diana died in 1997, Buckingham Palace was initially silent about the tragedy, sparking widespread criticism in the grief-stricken nation. Then, the Queen made a televised address to the nation.

“I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being,” the Queen said.

In quick order, she won back the affections of her subjects.

The Diana drama was depicted in the movie "The Queen," in which actress Helen Mirren won an Oscar for playing the monarch.

Queen Elizabeth was a key figure in welcoming Meghan Markle into the Royal family in 2018. And even as Harry feuded with his father and brother, he always showed respect for his grandmother.

When asked what was the best thing about her, Harry said, “Her sense of humor, her ability to see humor in so many different things."

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020, Queen Elizabeth lifted spirits with a TV address. “Better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again,” she said.

A year later, she sat alone at a funeral for her beloved husband, Prince Phillip, who died at the age of 99.

Now, the world mourns the monarch who seems to have been a part of our lives forever. With her passing, Prince Charles has ascended the throne to become King Charles III.

Visit our latest coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's passing to stay up to date.

Related Stories