Through 15 British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, through the UK’s post-World War II deprivations, crippling labor unrest and Brexit, the longest-reigning monarch that Britain has ever known, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday at age 96.
Her passing ends an era, the modern Elizabethan age, and her 73-year-old son, Charles, automatically became king upon her death.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in London on April 21, 1926. Her father’s elder brother, Prince Edward, was first in line for the throne, to be followed by any children he had.
伊麗莎白二世在1926年4月21號出生於倫敦，她的伯父 — 愛德華王子，原是王位的第一繼承人，而他的子女則是第二順位的繼承人。
However, in 1936, when she was 10, King Edward VIII abdicated, and Elizabeth’s father became King George VI.
Her younger sister, Princess Margaret, recalled asking Elizabeth whether this meant that she would one day be queen.
伊莉莎白的妹妹 — 瑪格麗特公主回憶道她曾問過伊莉莎白，父親登基為王是否意謂著伊莉莎白將來也會成為女王。
“Yes, I suppose it does,” Margaret quoted Elizabeth as saying. “She didn’t mention it again.”
Like many of her generation, Elizabeth was shaped by World War II.
She was 13 when Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. While the king and queen stayed in London during the Blitz and frequently toured bombed-out neighborhoods, Elizabeth and Margaret stayed at Windsor Castle, west of the capital.
Her first public broadcast, made in 1940 when she was 14, was a wartime message to children evacuated to the countryside or overseas.
“We children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage,” she said with a blend of stoicism and hope that would echo throughout her reign. “We are trying to do all we can to help out gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen.”
In 1945, she joined the British Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she enthusiastically learned how to drive and service heavy vehicles.
Two years after the end of the war, she married British Royal Navy officer Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark whom she had first when she was 13 and he 18. The marriage lasted more than 73 years, until Philip’s death last year at age 99.
The first of their four children, Prince Charles, was born on Nov. 14, 1948.
In February 1952, George VI died at age 56 after years of ill health. Elizabeth, on a visit to Kenya, was told she was now queen.
“In a way, I didn’t have an apprenticeship,” Elizabeth told a BBC documentary in 1992. “My father died much too young, and so it was all a very sudden kind of taking on and making the best job you can.”
As queen, she was obliged to meet weekly with the prime minister, and they generally found her well-informed, inquisitive and up to date.
Churchill became an ardent admirer shortly after his initial complaint that the new queen was “only a child.”
The one possible exception was former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, with whom her relations were said to be cool, if not frosty, although neither ever commented.
She was known to keep her life largely private, despite ever-increasing scrutiny of the royal family by the news media in Britain and elsewhere.
The public split of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1992 — “There were three of us in that marriage,” Diana said of her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles — was followed by the shock of Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in 1997.
For once, she appeared out of step with her people. Amid unprecedented mourning in the UK, Elizabeth’s failure to make a public show of grief appeared to many to be unfeeling. After several days, she made a televised address to the public.
The dent in her popularity was brief. She was by now a sort of grandmother to the UK, with a stern gaze, a kind smile and an inexhaustible repertoire of brightly colored outfits with matching hats.
She took the monarchy from the black-and-white era to the digital age and was a cautious modernizer: Her children were sent to school, rather than being privately tutored as she was. She was the first monarch to give the annual royal Christmas speech on TV, and the first to send an e-mail and post on Twitter.
Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest people, Elizabeth had a reputation for frugality and common sense. She was known as a monarch who took care to turn off lights in empty rooms.
She enjoyed robust health well into her 90s, although frailty eventually caught up with her. Public duties grew rarer, including when the UK celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June.
Pragmatic to the end, she began to prepare Britain for the transition to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the last big challenges of her reign.
In April 2020 — with the UK in lockdown and then-British prime minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with the virus — she made a rare video address.
She summoned the spirit of World War II by echoing Vera Lynn’s wartime anthem We’ll Meet Again.
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said. “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”