17 Vintage Photos of Queen Elizabeth II Before She Became Queen
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom's longest reigning monarch, having ascended the throne in 1952 at age 25. Here are some snapshots of what her life was like before her coronation.
1926: Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is born
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born on April 21, 1926. She’s pictured here with her mother, Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, who was the wife of Prince Albert “Bertie” of York. Since Bertie was the second-born son of the reigning monarch, King George V, no one, and least of all the princess, herself, had any clue Elizabeth would one day be Queen. Here, she’s just a sweet firstborn daughter of the “spare” heir.
Check out these adorable photos of young royals turning one!
1927: Lilibet at 14 months
When Princess Elizabeth was learning to speak, she had trouble pronouncing her name, referring to herself as “Lilibet,” and the name stuck. Lilibet was a happy and friendly child and the darling of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary. Outgoing and plucky, Lilibet was one of the few people on the planet who wasn’t intimidated by the man she called “Grandpa England,” whom she led by his beard as if he were a horse, according to TIME.
Don’t miss these rarely seen photos of the royal family throughout history.
1932: Still a cozy, normal childhood
Arriving at the Royal Tournament in 1932, Princess Elizabeth was dressed like the proper princess that she was, but she generally lived a quiet life outside the spotlight. Until the birth of her sister, Princess Margaret Ann, she played with the children of businessmen and doctors, as opposed to the children of royals. Princess Margaret was a playful influence on her sister, who was, as is often the case with older siblings, more conscientious and responsible.
Find out why the Queen always wears gloves.
1936: Everything was about to change
Pictured with two of her Corgis in 1936, Princess Elizabeth likely has little awareness of the constitutional crisis brewing as a result of King Edward VIII’s romance with the still-married, once-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Her divorce, among other things, made her an inappropriate king’s “consort,” but Edward declared his intention to marry her and make her his queen. By the end of 1936, Edward would abdicate after learning the British people wouldn’t be able to support their King’s marriage to a divorcee, leaving Elizabeth’s father, Bertie, as King (King George VI) and Elizabeth as the presumptive heir.
One thing that hasn’t changed: Queen Elizabeth’s love of Corgis.
1937: The future Queen and her sister at play
It was around this time that Princess Elizabeth realized she was now the presumptive heir to the throne. (She could not be heir “apparent” because theoretically, her father could still have fathered a son, who in the days of male primogeniture, would bump Elizabeth from the line of succession.) Princess Margaret famously expressed her “sympathy” for what lay ahead of her dear older sister. Today, Queen Elizabeth II helped do away with male progeniture, as well as these other royal rules the Queen has broken.
1939: Elizabeth as a lover of animals
Queen Elizabeth II is one of, if not the, most famous animal lover in the world. Here she’s seen feeding one of the elephants at the London Zoo. Later in life, Elizabeth received one as a gift from the President of Cameroon in 1972.
From crocodiles to bear cubs, check out the royal family’s pets.
1943: All the pretty horses
Queen Elizabeth started riding at age three and has owned many horses throughout her life. Here she is, at age 17, with one of her many horses during Harvest Time at Sandringham in Norfolk.
Did you know that Queen Elizabeth is the world’s most famous introvert?
1944: The heir presumptive turns 18
The 18th birthday of an heir (apparent or presumptive) signifies the heir could become monarch at any time without the need for a regent to act on his/her behalf. Here, Elizabeth answers a telephone greeting on her 18th birthday, April 21, 1944.
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1945: A Princess does her military duty
It took a lot of cajoling, but eventually, Elizabeth got her father, King George VI to agree to allow her to join the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, for which she donned coveralls and trained as a mechanic and truck driver and was known as “Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor.” According to History, the Queen is the only female royal family member to have entered the armed forces. She may also be the only royal female who can change a spark plug.
Don’t miss these other hidden royal family talents.
1946: The Princess does her duty for fashion
The current Princesses of the United Kingdon are not the first to have been on almost constant style-watch. Here, Princess Elizabeth is pictured modeling what can only be described as a truly fabulous, fashion-forward hat.
1947: A future Queen’s promise
On April 21, 1947, on the occasion of her 21st birthday, Princess Elizabeth announces her intention to serve as Queen for life (when the time comes) and promises her loyalty and faithfulness in serving. Some say this speech was her commitment to never abdicate.
1947: Wedding day
On November 20, 1947, Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten were married at Westminster Abbey. To marry Elizabeth, Philip, who was born into the royal families of Greece and Denmark, had to renounce his birth titles (Prince of Greece and Denmark). In return, his father-in-law-to-be created him Duke of Edinburgh, Baron Greenwich, and Earl of Merioneth.
Prince Philip’s pet name for Queen Elizabeth will melt your heart.
1948: The pregnant Princess Elizabeth
During the summer of 1948, Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, are snapped arriving at Ballater Station en route to Balmoral for a family vacation (or “holiday,” as they say in England). At this time, Elizabeth is six months pregnant with her first child, Prince Charles.
Discover the funny reason why Queen Elizabeth never writes cheques.
1950: The Princess and her toddler
In September 1950, Princess Elizabeth is seen with Prince Charles, age two, on the train on their way to visit her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral in Scotland.
If you eat dinner with the Queen, you must follow these two rules.
1951: Princess Elizabeth and her baby daughter
Princess Anne is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Born Her Royal Highness Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise of Edinburgh on August 15, 1950, Anne will later become Princess Royal, a title the monarch may bestow on his/her eldest daughter.
Don’t miss these debunked myths about the Queen.
1951: The Princess cuts a rug
In 1951, during the Royal Tour, which she went on in place of her ailing father, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth dances a traditional Canadian square dance at Government House, Ottawa.
Dancing isn’t the only thing she loves—here are Queen Elizabeth’s guilty pleasures!
1952: A last look at the Princess
On February 2, 1952, Colonel Mervyn Cowie opens the visitor’s book for Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to sign upon their arrival at Nairobi National Park for a tour, during which they slept in a hotel built as a treehouse. Philip is chatting in the background with Cowie’s daughter, Mitzie. Four days later, King George VI would be dead, and the Princess would ascend the throne as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Next, check out these rare photos of the Queen with her father, King George VI.