Queen Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom’s longest-ruling royal and among the world’s longest-ruling monarchs in history.
February 6 marks the queen’s platinum jubilee as she ascended to the throne 70 years ago in 1952, following the death of her father King George VI.
In June 1953, Elizabeth was officially crowned as the queen of the UK and queen regnant of seven Commonwealth countries at the time.
Succession to the British throne
Queen Elizabeth II is the third monarch of the House of Windsor, the official name adopted by the royal family in 1917.
She was 25 years old when she acceded to the throne, the eldest of King George VI’s children and next in line to rule. Succession to the British throne determines who will become the next king or queen. It is decided based upon descent, religion and primogeniture.
Protestant descendants of Princess Sophia, the granddaughter of James I, are eligible for the throne. The future monarch must also be “in communion” with the Church of England.
Previously, younger male heirs acceded to the throne displacing elder daughters. However, in 2013, a law was passed that allowed female heirs equal rights in the line of succession.
The current line of succession for the British crown is:
Charles, the prince of Wales (73)
Prince William, the duke of Cambridge (39)
Prince George (8)
Princess Charlotte (6)
Prince Louis (3)
On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the UK’s longest-ruling monarch overtaking her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for more than 63 years.
During Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign, the UK has been led by 14 different prime ministers.
The queen plays an important role in approving elected prime ministers and meets them regularly. However, the monarch must remain neutral in matters of politics and by convention does not vote in elections.
When the queen acceded to the throne, Winston Churchill was the first prime minister she had dealings with. When Churchill died in 1965, the queen broke royal protocol when she arrived at his funeral before his family.
In the span of the queen’s rule, many significant royal, national and world events have occurred, from the establishment of the European Union (EU) to the Iraq War and the UK’s exit from the EU.
In 2011, the queen made the first state visit by a monarch to Ireland, marking a significant moment in British and Irish history given the countries’ fraught historical relationship.
In 2021, Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 73 years, passed away. The couple were married in 1947 and the queen described him as her “strength and stay”.
The queen is currently the head of state to 15 countries, all part of the Commonwealth – a 54-member group of former British colonies – with a total population of 2.5 billion people.
During the 1960s, more than 20 former British colonies became independent. During this period, immigration from the Commonwealth states to the UK increased.
However, it was also a period of extensive emigration of Britons abroad. As such, the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was established to curtail immigration from Commonwealth states.
During the years, 17 countries have removed the queen as their head of state and became republics. In November 2021, the Caribbean island nation of Barbados became the most recent country to do so.
How much does the royal family cost?
The queen’s income comes from the Sovereign Grant, the privy purse and her personal investments. The government pays the queen a lump sum known as the Sovereign Grant which covers the queen’s official duties.
Last year, the royal family received 87.5 million pounds ($ 118.6m) from the UK government, 34.4 million pounds ($ 46.6m) of which was spent on the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
The Sovereign Grant is a percentage of the Crown Estate, which are profits made from the estates belonging to the monarchy.
Last year, the Crown Estate made 269.3 million pounds ($ 365.1m) in revenue.
Previously, 15 percent of the Crown Estate was set aside for the Sovereign Grant, but this has increased to 25 percent since 2017-18, partly put down to costs related to the renovation of royal properties.
The revenue of the Crown Estate dropped more than 20 percent during 2020-2021 compared to the previous year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and lack of tourism.
The platinum jubilee will be celebrated in June in the UK, as people mark the day with street parties and a long weekend.