Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926 in London, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was not destined to assume the throne - at the time of her birth she stood third in the line of succession. But after Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, Elizabeth's father became king and she became next in line.
In 1940, at the height of Germany's bombing offensive, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were moved for their safety to Windsor Castle, where they spent most of the war years.
In 1947 Elizabeth's engagement to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten was announced, and they were married in Westminster Abbey in November that year, in a simple ceremony befitting the rationed and austere post-war Britain. They have four children, and eight grandchildren.
Prince Charles, now The Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the throne, was born in 1948, and his sister, Princess Anne, now The Princess Royal, two years later. After Princess Elizabeth became Queen, their third child, Prince Andrew, arrived in 1960 and the fourth, Prince Edward, in 1964. Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were the first children to be born to a reigning monarch since Queen Victoria had her family. Their grandchildren are Peter and Zara Phillips (b. 1977 and 1981); Prince William of Wales and Prince Henry of Wales (b. 1982 and 1984); Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York (b. 1988 and 1990); and The Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn (b.2003 and 2007), children of The Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Elizabeth's new married life did not last long; her father died in February 1952. The young princess, and now young queen, received news of his death and her own accession to the throne while staying in a remote part of Kenya. The tour had to be abandoned, and the young Princess flew back to Britain as Queen. She was greeted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other officials at the airport. The Coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.
The Queen has subsequently presided over a rapidly changing Britain, with a country substantially different to the one her father inherited when he acceded to the throne in 1936. The break-up of the British Empire accelerated under Elizabeth, with the loss of most colonies and the emergence of the Commonwealth as the post-colonial association of nations, with the Queen as its head. Despite the end of the imperial reign, the Queen remains head of state of many countries around the world, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Queen has had to deal with her family's private troubles being very much in the media glare, with her son Charles and his late wife Diana being at the forefront of such attention. The couple's divorce in the 1990s and Diana's death in 1997 were trying times for the Queen, but recent years, culminating in the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, have heralded happier times ahead.