In Memoriam: Queen Elizabeth II, 1926–2022

September 8, 2022

Born London, England

In announcing Queen Elizabeth II’s passing on September 8, 2022, British Prime Minister Liz Truss noted, “She was the rock on which modern Britain was built.” Indeed, she was a constant figure as the United Kingdom profoundly changed during her seventy-year reign.

Queen Elizabeth unexpectedly became heir apparent in 1936 after her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated and her father became King George VI. She assumed the throne on February 6, 1952, and shortly thereafter set out on the first of her 285 official state tours. She went on to meet thirteen of the past fourteen U.S. presidents as she advised fifteen U.K. prime ministers and consulted many Commonwealth leaders.

For many, Queen Elizabeth will continue to symbolize stability and goodwill, but her recent death is also prompting discussions of the monarchy’s links to colonialism. The queen experienced the complicated transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth, multiple military conflicts, technological advances, and revolutionary social changes. Through it all, she remained dutiful and diplomatic, representing her many realms while remaining officially impartial.

Portrait of a young queen in a tiara
Queen Elizabeth II by Bernard Safran / Acrylic on Masonite, 1959 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine / © Estate of Bernard Safran