Queen Elizabeth II: A Life in Photos

The late Queen Elizabeth II was one of the U.K.’s few symbols of stability in an era that saw the swift decline of the British Empire

The young Elizabeth Windsor wasn’t in the direct line of succession to the throne. She was born to the Duke and Duchess of York.

Early Years

When Princess Elizabeth's uncle abdicated the throne, her father became King George VI in 1936, a year after this photo was taken, transforming her life.

She toured the world as the British Empire disintegrated, marking her 21st birthday in Natal National Park, South Africa.

The family often spent time at their royal estate at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Here she attended a horse race with her sister, Princess Margaret, with whom she shared many interests.

The queen, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, ruled alongside 15 British prime ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill, pictured here with her, Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1954.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip danced at a state ball at the palace in Valletta during a Commonwealth visit to Malta in 1967. She led a Commonwealth that now includes 54 countries and a combined population of over 2 billion people.

Britain’s royal couple were often depicted as a glamorous counterpart to U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, meeting in 1961.

Queen Elizabeth sipped tea while watching horse racing with the Emir of Bahrain in 1979.

The queen sometimes took snapshots herself, as she did during a visit to Tuvalu in 1982.

Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a joke with Prince Philip during one of their many military inspections. He was a constant presence at the queen's side and the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history.