She Is the World’s Oldest Living Monarch and a National Treasure
A cherished pillar of strength, unity, and longevity, her reign of dedicated service is unparalleled in history. Her gift is an extraordinary pearl that has served as a beacon for the British Commonwealth, and the world. This is another installment of the Living like a Pearl series. Find the other stories here.
The longevity of her reign is so familiar to us, that it’s difficult to imagine someone else in her shoes.
The longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch entered the world on April 21, 1926, and almost a century later, she still captures the respect and adoration of the world.
As the first child of then Duke and Duchess of York (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor’s title of heir presumptive was established when her father ascended the throne in 1936, upon the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII.
Nicknamed "Lilibet" by her close family, after what she called herself as a toddler, Elizabeth's sister, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. A biography of their childhood years published by their governess in 1950 called ‘The Little Princesses’ described Elizabeth's early love of horses and dogs, her orderliness and her attitude of responsibility. She won the hearts of the British during World War II, when instead of evacuating, the family remained in England to endure the war and support the cause, instilling a sense of solidarity in the nation. At 14, Elizabeth made her first of many radio broadcasts in 1940, sharing a message of hope to other children of war, made many public appearances, and even joined the war effort in 1945 by training as a driver and mechanic with an appointment in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
In 1947, Elizabeth marked her 21st birthday with a radio broadcast to the British Commonwealth, with a pledge that encapsulated her role soon to follow:
"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
It was also at 21 when she wed Prince Philip on November 20, 1947 for what would be an incredible 73-year marriage. When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth became head of the Commonwealth at 25 years old. With her coronation on June 2, 1953 televised for the first time, her historic reign began. Together, Elizabeth and Philip had four children: Charles, Prince of Wales, Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren we fondly know in the Royal Family.
Throughout the decades of changes and upheaval not only in the world and politics, but in her family, the Queen is respected for her stoicism, etiquette, and cultivating a sense of national solidarity and pride. She is a patron of over 600 organizations and charities, and The Charities Aid Foundation estimated over £1.4 billion has been raised resulting from her patronages during her long reign.
Remarkably healthy into her mid-90’s, her love of equestrianism continues and she is still riding horses to this day. Her Pembroke Welsh Corgis are her constant companions. In April 2021, after 73 years of marriage, her husband Prince Philip died at the age of 99, and the world mourned with her.
A national treasure, Elizabeth’s extraordinary reign and dedicated service is history in the making, and will likely not ever be equaled. Long after she is gone, her pearl will serve as an example of a life dedicated to service for years to come.