Elizabeth II was the longest-serving monarch in English history—but things weren’t exactly supposed to happen the way they did. The world was very different back when Elizabeth was born, and no one ever expected her to ascend to the throne. That is, until a strange twist of fate changed the course of history.
Queen Elizabeth II passed on September 8, 2022, heralding the end of the second Elizabethan Era. Here, we remember her reign.
1. She Wasn’t Supposed To Be Queen
Most of us know her simply as “The Queen,” but she was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on April 21, 1926. At the time of her birth, her paternal grandfather George V was king, and her father was his second son. This meant that she was third in line for the throne—and unlikely to ever come close to it. Well, fate had something different in mind.
2. She Had A Sibling Rivalry
The Windsor family has been dotted with royal rebels—hello, Princess Margaret—but growing up, Elizabeth was decidedly not one of them. Even when she was still a child, she seemed to have a sense of her future purpose. Elizabeth was an exceptionally serious and responsible child, with an eye towards order, whereas her younger sister Margaret was more playful and prone to pulling pranks.
These differences would become more prominent as the years wore on…
3. She Was The King’s Favorite
Elizabeth may not have been King George V’s first grandchild, but she quickly became the favorite. While many of his family members seemed to shrink in George V’s presence, Elizabeth did not suffer the same anxiety. She even gave her grandfather an adorable nickname: “Grandpa England”.
In 1929, King George fell gravely ill, and Elizabeth’s parents brought her to his bedside regularly to help buoy his spirits. Sadly, their affectionate bond couldn’t last forever.
4. She Lost A Beloved Family Member
Maybe there was a reason Elizabeth took her duties as a member of the royal family so seriously, even as a child. The King had doubts about his eldest son, Edward VIII, but he always believed in Elizabeth and her father. King George never fully recovered from his illness, and his health deteriorated rapidly in the intervening years.
He passed on in his sleep in January 1936, leaving Elizabeth devastated. With his passing, her uncle Edward VIII ascended to the throne. The Windsors began to move on with their lives—but behind the scenes, trouble was brewing.
5. Everything Changed For Her
On December 10, 1936, Elizabeth was writing notes on what she’d learned during a swimming lesson when she began to hear people chanting “God save the King” outside. She asked a servant what was happening—and his answer was shocking. He told her that her uncle, Edward VIII, had abdicated the throne, and that her father was now King of England.
Even at that age, Elizabeth was not prone to dramatics. She went back to taking her notes, and wrote “Abdication Day” at the top of the page. She must have been aware that her life was about to change—but did she know just how serious of a change it was?
6. Her Parents Raised Her Differently
Elizabeth’s father—who had just become King George VI—did not have a pleasant childhood. His royal education had been stiff and serious. As a result, he and his wife had tried to create a more relaxed and open atmosphere for their children, hoping to create a host of happy memories for Elizabeth and Margaret. Well, all of that changed in an instant.
7. They Laid Her Future Out For Her
The family moved into Buckingham Palace, and the King and Queen became preoccupied with royal duties, leaving them little time to attend to their children. Not only had Elizabeth’s entire life changed, but she was now first in line for the throne. Her education had been somewhat relaxed, but it became a rigorous training in constitutional history.
Elizabeth adjusted—but there were more dramatic changes on the horizon.
8. She Was Loyal In The Face Of Danger
When England joined WWII in September 1939, officials suggested sending Elizabeth and her sister to safety in Canada. However, the Queen knew they’d never want to be separated from her, and she refused to leave the King behind. So, they stayed put, eventually moving into Windsor Castle.
It may have seemed as though they were safe there, but few know just how terrifying things were for Elizabeth there.
9. She Was In The Line Of Fire
The Palace told the public that the girls were sheltering at a secret location. They said they were rationing and growing their own vegetables, like the rest of the British public. While this was true, few knew just how close to danger they were. During their time at Windsor Great Park, the Axis forces dropped 300 bombs on the property.
Almost every time, especially if it happened at night, Elizabeth and Margaret went through the same routine. They would get into their “siren suits” made of warm fabric and shuffle down into the underground vaults of the Castle. It was a far cry from her early years, and she was about to get even more responsibility on her shoulders.
10. She Was A Fighter
Elizabeth’s mother was insistent that her daughter stay far removed from politics. However, things were getting especially dire in England by 1940, and they desperately needed the US to get involved. Elizabeth spoke to the children of North America via the BBC in order to shore up morale—but she was willing to do even more than that.
When she was old enough, she joined the women’s arm of the British Army. There, she learned to be a driver and mechanic. Elizabeth was clearly ready to take on more responsibilities in her role as heir to the throne…but not all her royal duties were so unpleasant.
11. She Had A Teenage Crush
Before the start of the war, Elizabeth rarely got to accompany her parents on royal trips—but in 1939, she had the rare chance to go with them to go to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. She was only 13 years old, but on that trip, her life changed forever. It was there that she met a distant cousin, then known as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.
He was 18, but despite their age difference—and the fact that they were cousins—she fell for him. They began exchanging letters, but there was more to their courtship than most people know…
12. She Had A Romeo And Juliet Love Story
When Elizabeth fell for Philip, she was hoping for a fairy tale—but it quickly turned into a nightmare. King George VI immediately disapproved of the match. He worried that his daughter, who’d once been so cautious and reasonable, was rushing into things. But there were also problems with Philip himself.
First, there was his German background—not a great look considering England’s leadership position in WWII. George VI also straight-up didn’t approve of Philip as a person. The King called him “rough” and “ill-mannered”. It was a battle of wills between a teenaged girl and the King of England—but Elizabeth simply bided her time.
13. She Got A Taste Of Freedom
After six long years, WWII ended, and England celebrated V-E Day on May 8, 1945. Princess Margaret suggested to her sister that they join the revelers in the streets. Elizabeth, usually so serious, actually agreed. For the first and pretty much only time in her life, she walked the streets of London in complete anonymity.
Elizabeth and Margaret joined in with the celebration, marching arm in arm down Whitehall. It was a wondrous moment of respite for the future Queen—but sadly, it was all too brief.
14. She Was In High Demand
Just because WWII was over didn’t mean that things immediately went back to normal. England was still lacking in basic supplies, including food, fuel, and clothing. King George VI was fatigued, and Elizabeth began to help out by taking on more royal responsibilities. She was young, beautiful, and glamorous, so the public was happy to have her. They weren’t the only ones.
When Prince Philip came back from Japan, he was finally able to pursue Elizabeth—and their courtship was a happy distraction for a populace living under austerity measures. And Elizabeth was about to make a big leap in other ways, too.
15. She Left Home For The First Time
Throughout her entire life, Elizabeth had never left England—not to accompany her parents on their royal visits, nor when she was in danger during WWII. Finally, in 1947, she made an official visit to South Africa with her family, and pledged to serve her country and the empire for the entirety of her life. And that wasn’t the only vow she was ready to take…
16. She Had A Secret Engagement
It was now clear to everyone that Elizabeth was ready to take over the throne when the need eventually arose—but few knew that she was keeping a thrilling secret. In 1946, Philip had asked King George V for her hand in marriage, and he’d accepted on one condition. He wanted to wait to make the announcement until after Elizabeth turned 21.
Finally, they announced their engagement in July 1947, with a royal wedding planned for November of that year. Only, the course of true love never does run smooth…
17. Her Wedding Planning Was A Huge Headache
Elizabeth was finally getting her fairy tale—but it was not without its hiccups behind the scenes. Austerity measures were still underway in England, so Elizabeth had to save up ration coupons for the fabric for her wedding gown. She wasn’t the only one to make sacrifices. Philip gave up his royal title of Prince of Greece and Denmark.
Then, there was the problem of the guest list. WWII was still a very recent memory. As a result, Philip’s German relations, including his three sisters, were not invited. They also excluded Elizabeth’s once-beloved uncle, Edward VIII. It somehow got worse on the day of.
18. She Had A Wedding Day Panic
Every bridesmaid, maid of honor, or bride knows that no wedding day is without its small disasters. Elizabeth’s was no exception. In fact, it was almost a huge calamity. First, her tiara snapped. Her aunt Mary, Princess Royal, was unable to attend because of illness—though some whispered it was because of the exclusion of her brother Edward VIII.
On top of it all, Elizabeth forgot a pair of pearl necklaces her father had given her at St. James’s Palace. Luckily, these incidents didn’t make for bad omens, and Elizabeth and Philip had the longest royal marriage in history. Soon enough, that happiness showed. Literally.
19. She Started A Family
There was a shining bright spot in the first few years of Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage. In 1948, they had their first child, Prince Charles. Soon after, their family grew again when Elizabeth gave birth to Princess Anne in 1950. Philip’s career flourished, and when he received a posting in Malta, the couple spent time together there.
Elizabeth had been a girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders, but for a brief period, she got to be a happy young wife like any other woman her age.
20. She Was Far Away From Her Father When He Died
In 1951, King George VI’s health declined, and the burden of royal responsibility came knocking on Elizabeth’s door once again. Luckily, this came in the form of travel, and Elizabeth began a series of tours of Commonwealth countries. But that’s right when she received devastating news.
Philip was the one to break it to her: George VI had passed, and it was time for Elizabeth to ascend the throne.
21. She Stepped Into Her Father’s Shoes
Elizabeth had no time to contemplate her grief over losing her beloved father. Immediately, she became Queen throughout the Commonwealth and had to choose what name she wanted to go by. It was an easy choice. She decided to keep the name Elizabeth, “of course,” making her Elizabeth II. With that settled, Elizabeth and Philip immediately returned to England.
When her father suddenly became King and their family moved in the palace, it had forever changed Elizabeth’s life. Now, just a little over 15 years later, she and her young family were doing the same—except, well, there were some additional difficulties. Big ones.
22. Her Husband Wanted Control
Traditionally, when a woman marries a man and they have children, they all take his name. Well, what happens when said woman has just become queen? Nobody knew. Philip’s family wanted the royal house to be called Mountbatten, though he was more in favor of Edinburgh, after his royal title, Duke of Edinburgh. There was just one thing.
When Elizabeth’s grandmother Mary of Teck caught wind of the news, she was furious. And for good reason.
23. She Bruised Her Husband’s Ego
Mary of Teck insisted that the family retain the Windsor name, and she roped in the prime minister to help her with her campaign. Eventually, Elizabeth II agreed—and Philip’s reaction was brutal. He complained, saying her felt like a “bloody amoeba,” and lamented that he was the only man in England who couldn’t give his name to his children.
It was the first of what we can assume were many ego checks for Philip. Soon, however, Elizabeth had an even more catastrophic headache to deal with.
24. Her Sister Rebelled
While Elizabeth II prepared for her coronation, her sister Margaret dropped an absolute bombshell on her. She confessed that she was in love with Peter Townsend, who had worked for their father. There was just one problem. He was married with two children when they met. Townsend eventually divorced his wife and proposed marriage to Margaret, but the melodrama was far from over.
25. She Forced Her Sister Into Hiding
Despite their differences, Elizabeth was ready and willing to make her sister happy to consent to the marriage—but it wouldn’t be so easy. Although she was unlikely to ever come close to the throne, Margaret was still in the line of succession, so her relationship garnered opposition from the Church of England and members of Parliament. In response, Elizabeth made a difficult choice.
Elizabeth begged her to delay the engagement until after the coronation and to keep the relationship a secret. Was it a sisterly request, or a way to drive Margaret and her beau apart? A fair question, considering what happened later.
26. She Was In The Middle Of A Family Feud
As the coronation approached, more problems materialized. Edward VIII had returned to England, ostensibly to spend time with his ailing mother, Mary of Teck. However, the question of whether or not he should be invited to the coronation hung heavy over Elizabeth’s head. And then, tragedy struck. Just two months before the coronation, Mary of Teck passed.
There were questions over whether or not the event should be postponed. However, the notoriously severe royal had foreseen this very problem; Mary’s will stated that the event should go ahead no matter what.
27. She Finally Got Her Crown
Ultimately, Edward VIII did not attend the coronation ceremony and watched it on TV from his home in Paris. It was the first—and so far, only—British coronation to be shown on television, which had been Philip’s idea. When all was said and done, it was time for Elizabeth to fully embrace her role as Queen and take on all the duties that went with it.
The first order of business was an extensive seven-month world tour—but there were still some important family issues she’d have to deal with first.
28. Her Family Secret Came Out
As any seasoned procrastinator knows, you can ignore a problem and hope it goes away, but it’s a strategy that often fails. The press had noticed Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend’s chemistry during the coronation and began to publish headlines about the pair. Many made comparisons of Margaret’s situation to that of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
Indeed, they predicted an even more grave outcome should they make it official. There was one horrific way out. Because Margaret wasn’t yet 25 years old, an old law stated that Elizabeth ultimately had veto power over the union. She knew what she had to do.
29. She Broke Up Her Sister’s Relationship
Once again, Elizabeth asked her sister for patience, requesting that she wait until her 25th birthday to go through with anything. Then, in order to avoid further scandal in the press, the Prime Minister had Townsend’s job transferred to Belgium. This forced him to leave before Margaret returned from a trip abroad, causing a further separation between the lovers.
It was the beginning of the end for their ill-fated romance, and they never made it to the altar. One has to think Elizabeth thought it was a bullet dodged. Still, she may have felt remorse for her part in her family’s foibles, given her next actions.
30. She Gave Her Husband A Luxury Gift
From the time of her coronation, dark rumors swirled about Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage. Many speculated that pressures of royal life were causing the pair to drift apart—so Elizabeth took drastic measures to shake off the stories. Philip had sacrificed his title for their marriage, so she gave him a new one, making him a British prince in 1957.
The surname “Mountbatten-Windsor” was also created in 1955 for their descendants without royal titles, making up for the issue that had plagued them years earlier at their wedding. Only, by now that wasn’t the only issue in their marriage.
31. The Crown Told Lies
It wasn’t just a battle over names that cast a dark shadow over the royal marriage. While The Crown might have portrayed a potential affair between Prince Philip and a ballerina, there’s no historical evidence that anything ever took place between the two. However, the truth might be even more dire.
32. Her Husband May Have Had A Wandering Eye
For years, gossip spread about the Prince’s relationship with actress Pat Kirkwood. Some said that he’d visited her dressing room numerous times. What’s even worse, it had happened when Elizabeth was pregnant with Prince Charles. One of Kirkwood’s friends repeated a story about a journalist asking Kirkwood about the Prince. Her reply was brutal.
She said: “I would have had a happier and easier life if Prince Philip, instead of coming uninvited to my dressing room, had gone home to his pregnant wife on the night in question”. Yikes.
33. She Had Her Own “Friendships”
Biographers, historians, and sources close to the couple remain split on whether or not Philip carried on any affairs. But Elizabeth wasn’t entirely scandal-free, either. In the same vein, people whispered about Elizabeth’s longtime friendship with Lord Carnarvon. Their spent a lot of time together, and she even put him in charge of her racing horses—one of her favorite hobbies.
However, an old demon was about to come haunt them.
34. She Had To Compete With Her Sister For Attention
After Princess Margaret’s separation with Peter Townsend, the princess finally moved on in the late 50s with photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. On the surface, it seemed like Margaret would finally get her happy ending—but beneath the surface, things were just as messy as before. When they got engaged, Elizabeth was pregnant with her third child.
Once again, Elizabeth had to beg her sister for patience, which she barely got. The Palace ended up having to announce the engagement just days after the birth of Prince Andrew. And the marriage that followed was no picnic, especially for the image-conscious Elizabeth.
35. She Had To Watch Over The Political Side
Elizabeth II was now mother to three young children—but unfortunately, “babysitting” also occupied the time allotted for royal duties. She had to put up with the petty squabbles and political schemings of Parliament, and whenever a leader of the Conservative party stepped down, she had to pick his replacement.
No matter what choices she made, it left her vulnerable to criticism—and that wasn’t the only way in which she was vulnerable.
36. She Faced Danger
Elizabeth II was the most widely traveled head of state. She made hundreds of royal visits throughout her tenure…a few of which have put her in mortal danger. Her bravery impressed many when she visited the new President of Ghana in 1961. As the new head of state, assassins frequently targeted him—but that was nothing compared to her next trip.
37. Her Presence Caused A Riot
Elizabeth II took a short break from traveling while pregnant with her fourth and final child, Prince Edward. After his birth, she visited Quebec during a time of great political and social unrest, and the press reported that extremists had plans for an attempt on her life. Despite this, Elizabeth put on a brave face—even as a riot broke out around her in Montreal.
British journalists watched in shock as law enforcement officers beat protestors with clubs, but commended Elizabeth on her “courage in the face of violence”. Not exactly the best time to be a monarch…but it pales in comparison to the next event of Elizabeth’s life.
38. Her Daughter Got Kidnapped
Sadly for Elizabeth II, her position and the turmoil of the era also put her family in grave danger. In 1974, her daughter Princess Anne was the subject of a violent and bloody kidnapping attempt. A combination of her guards and a few onlookers ended up saving Anne, although many of them were injured in the fray. When Elizabeth heard the news, her reaction was touching.
She bestowed medals upon everyone who’d helped Anne escape her assailant, and even paid the mortgage of a passing pedestrian who had come to her daughter’s aid.
39. She Celebrated An Important Milestone
As you might be able to tell, many areas of the world were less and less enamored of the British crown throughout the 60s and 70s, and many former colonies began gaining independence. The world was changing rapidly and the monarch was struggling to keep up. In 1977, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth’s accession was planned.
The event had the potential to boost the monarchy’s reputation and support for the Queen in a changing world. As always, it didn’t exactly go as planned.
40. Her Sister Ruined Things…Again
Can we talk about Princess Margaret’s sense of comedic timing? Once again, Margaret dropped a bombshell on Elizabeth before a huge celebration—but this one was more scandalous than ever before. Paparazzi had caught Margaret, while she was still married to Antony Armstrong-Jones, sunbathing with her much younger lover at her home in the Caribbean.
It may have been the first time someone caught them, but it wasn’t the first instance of infidelity in Margaret’s marriage. It all became too much for Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon to bear, and soon after, they announced their separation.
41. She Got Punked
Luckily, the news of Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee celebration helped to distract from the negative attention around Margaret’s failed marriage. However, the attention wasn’t all positive. Part of the celebrations included a river procession on the Thames, but before it happened, a wild publicity stunt overshadowed her big day.
A punk band planned an identical procession and performed their song “God Save the Queen” two days before the event. Law enforcement forced the boat to shore, and detained a number of the band and their entourage.
42. She Lost Someone Close To Her
The Silver Jubilee was generally a success despite all the distractions—but sadly, the worst was yet to come. Prince Philip had enjoyed a close relationship with his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who in turn had acted as a mentor to Prince Charles. He was easily the closest member of Philip’s family to the Windsors. Lord Mountbatten had a summer home in Ireland, close to the border with Northern Ireland. It was not a good idea.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army had targeted Lord Mountbatten before, but he didn’t let that deter him from enjoying his summer home in County Sligo. One day, he took his daughter and her family out for a fishing trip on his boat—not knowing that an IRA soldier had snuck onto the boat the night before and left a bomb. It was then that disaster struck.
43. Her Son Lost His Mentor
During the fishing trip, the device went off. The explosion took the lives of Lord Mountbatten and his twin grandsons, along with another guest. The horrible tragedy stopped Elizabeth and her family in their tracks. Few realize just how important of a role Lord Mountbatten played in the royal family—and how his passing changed the course of history.
As mentioned before, Mountbatten was a mentor to Prince Charles…particularly when it came to matters of the heart. Not only had Mountbatten encouraged Charles to sow his wild oats, he had also been the one to urge him to break up with his girlfriend in 1973—the future Camilla Parker-Bowles. And that’s not all.
44. She Might Never Have Had To Meet Diana
Lord Mountbatten then tried to get Prince Charles to marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull—but after his violent death, this petered out. After losing four close members of her family in one fell swoop, Amanda had seen how proximity to the Windsors put you in the line of fire. When Charles proposed, she said no.
Considering Elizabeth’s, ahem, fraught relationship with the woman Charles eventually tied the knot with, this was certainly a turning point.
45. She Accepted Someone New Into The Family
In fact, it was really Lord Mountbatten’s funeral that brought Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer together, as she noticed how sad he looked. Later, she approached him, and they began to date. In November 1980, Charles invited her to meet his family, and she made a good impression on Elizabeth, her mother, and Prince Philip.
As their relationship continued, Philip realized how much pressure the press was putting on the couple. He ended up urging Charles to make up his mind, lest Diana become a casualty of their coverage—a prediction that was both sad and ironic.
46. She Played Marriage Counsellor
Charles proposed and Diana accepted—and Queen Elizabeth II dutifully hosted a number of events leading up to the big day. It was a “fairytale wedding” that thousands tuned in or showed up to watch—but soon after, cracks began to show. Charles and Diana had only been on a handful of dates before tying the knot, and they barely knew each other. Diana turned to Elizabeth for help.
Elizabeth had once been a young newlywed with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She understood Diana’s position better than anyone. The Queen lent her a kind ear and sound advice—but there was only so much she could do.
47. She Worried About Her Young Son
Just a few months later, Elizabeth’s second son Prince Andrew fought in the Falklands as an officer of the British Forces, where he flew in a number of perilous missions. Elizabeth was proud of his bravery, but also deeply worried for his safety. More than ever, danger and fear were becoming a part of Elizabeth and her family’s daily life. And she was about to come face-to-face with that danger.
48. An Intruder Entered Her Bedroom
On July 9, 1982, Queen Elizabeth woke early in the morning—and was greeted by a truly horrifying sight. Despite all the palace security, an intruder had made his way to her bedroom. She fled the room immediately, and called the palace switchboard twice for aide…but no one came. It was a terrifying incident, and it exposed major flaws in Buckingham Palace’s security system and staff.
49. The Press Attacked Her
The dangers to physical safety were one thing—but throughout the 80s, another, more insidious threat was brewing. The British press began to transform from excited observers of the royal family to bloodthirsty vultures. Headlines about Elizabeth and her family sold, and so the demand for items to fill them intensified…even if there were no stories to be shared.
A quote from an editor of The Sun best characterized this hysteria. The editor said: “Don’t worry if it’s not true—so long as there’s not too much of a fuss about it afterward”. Elizabeth was in the lion’s den. We all know she was strong enough to last in there—but there was the rest of her family to worry about.
50. She Got A Bad Reputation
Even when the headlines were false, the repercussions deeply affected Elizabeth. The constant fake stories made it seem like Elizabeth was in opposition with the Prime Minister. They misrepresented her opinions on important issues, and caused divisions and paranoia within her staff. Whether they knew it or not, the British media were doing their best to undermine confidence in the monarchy…and in Elizabeth.
Well, if she thought the 80s were bad, the 90s were about to be downright horrible.
51. It All Began To Fall Apart
In the late 80s, some of the worst stories had targeted the marriages of Elizabeth’s children—but at the turn of the decade, the whispers reached a scandalous pinnacle. And it all started in the unlikeliest of places…with Princess Anne. Anne and her husband Mark Phillips had been together the longest out of all of Elizabeth’s children, but they both strayed from the marriage and announced their separation in 1989.
It wasn’t really a surprise to Elizabeth or the public—but there were plenty more of those in store.
52. She Turned Her Back On Princess Diana
Princess Diana suffered from loneliness, depression, and isolation (among other things) behind closed doors. Then, there was also the matter of Charles’ extramarital affair with his ex-girlfriend Camilla. At first, the Princess had been able to approach the Queen for help, but in time, Elizabeth reached a breaking point with her daughter-in-law.
Soon, Elizabeth turned the cold shoulder. She was famously stoic and had trouble handling Diana’s emotional volatility. Left in the cold by her husband and adopted family, Diana began to have affairs of her own—and the tabloids, for all their false stories, also got a lot of things right. The sordid dissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage was one of them.
53. She Staged An Intervention
Charles and Diana often looked so miserable in each other’s presence that the tabloids called them “The Glums”. It was a problem the Queen couldn’t ignore any longer. Elizabeth and Philip approached the couple and begged them to reconcile. Philip even wrote Diana letters disapproving of the extramarital affairs both she and his son had carried on.
They tried to put on a brave face—and “luckily” enough, there were more than enough scandals to distract from their problems.
54. Her Other Children Embarrassed Her
Prince Andrew must have had a real case of middle child syndrome, because the way his marriage to Sarah Ferguson spectacularly imploded definitely got him any attention he might have been starved for. At first, it all seemed so respectable. They announced their separation in March of 1992—but just a few weeks later, shocking photos came out.
They showed Prince Andrew’s estranged wife Sarah on vacation with another man…who was sucking her toes. For Queen Elizabeth, it was an ordeal, to say the least.
55. Her Children Ruined Her Celebration
As it happened, 1992 also marked Queen Elizabeth’s Ruby Jubilee on the throne. She was used to her sister Margaret causing drama behind-the-scenes during landmark events in her life—but her children really outshone anything Margaret ever did that year. Then after everything else, her daughter Princess Anne finally filed for divorce from her husband after three years of separation.
Ahh, but the worst—and most disgusting—was yet to come.
56. The Truth About Her Heir Came Out
In 1992, tabloid The Sun released secretly-recorded tapes of Diana complaining to one of her friends about her marriage and the royal family. Not one to be outdone, the Daily Mail published secretly-recorded tapes of Prince Charles engaging in dirty talk with his mistress Camilla, including that part where he talks about wanting to come back to life as her tampon.
Yes, you read that right. You can only imagine how humiliated, disgusted, angry, etc. Queen Elizabeth was with…everyone involved.
57. People Turned On Her
As if familial humiliation wasn’t enough, the public did not hold the royal family in high regard during this era. There was outcry over her wealth and expenses. Then, when she visited Germany that year, the public threw eggs at her. The Queen just couldn’t catch a break. Next, a fire broke out at Windsor Castle. In any other era, there might have been a great outpouring of public sympathy, but not this time.
58. Her Ex-Daughter-In-Law Spilled The Beans
At the end of the year, the Palace announced that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were formally separating—but this caused more disaster. Press attention only intensified, and in the years after the separation, Diana found the strength to speak out about her time as a member of the royal family, much to Elizabeth’s horror.
There was a tell-all book by notorious biographer Andrew Morton—but the last straw came later.
59. She Wanted It Over With
In a shocking 1995 interview, Princess Diana laid bare the details of her and her husband’s affairs, as well as her battles with mental illness, self-harm, and bulimia. It was the final nail in the coffin, and Queen Elizabeth wrote both Charles and Diana letters. Each letter had the same chilling demand. The Queen had decided their marriage was no longer worth saving, and urged Diana and Charles to get a divorce.
By August of 1996, her will was done. The young couple went their separate ways after a notoriously stressful marriage.
60. Tragedy Struck Her Family
Elizabeth had watched the British press’s transformation into cruel and barbaric vultures over the course of the 80s and 90s—but she could’ve never predicted just how terrible things were about to get. One year after the divorce, paparazzi were pursuing Princess Diana through a tunnel in Paris when her car crashed. After everything they’d been through, the Queen was heartbroken. Nonetheless, she leapt into action.
61. She Hid Her Grandchildren From The Public
Elizabeth and Philip kept Charles and Diana’s sons with them at Balmoral Castle after hearing the tragic news. For days, they remained in seclusion. The public’s reaction was brutal. Even though she was just trying to help her grandsons, the public read the Queen’s lack of response as a sign of hostility. Finally, she broke her silence.
62. She Won The People Back
Elizabeth II returned to London the day before the funeral and made a public statement where she praised Diana and conveyed her concerns for her two grandsons, who had so suddenly lost their mother. It was exactly what the public needed to hear, and they praised her for it—but she couldn’t please everyone.
63. People Whispered She Was Behind Diana’s Death
Following the passing of Princess Diana and her partner at the time, Dodi Fayed, sinister rumors began to swirl…and one was much more chilling than the others. Fayed’s father Mohamed Al-Fayed claimed that the car crash had been staged, and that there’d been a conspiracy to murder Diana. He pointed the finger at one man: Prince Philip.
No evidence has ever been found to support the theory, but the negative attention was yet another spot on the royal family’s armor.
64. She Was In True Love
Everyone agrees that Elizabeth and Philip ended their years together still completely and utterly in love. When they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1997, she made a speech where she called him “my strength and my star”. It’s too bad her children didn’t have the same luck in the romance department.
65. She Lost Two People Closest To Her
While Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as her “annus horribilis” on account of the dissolution of 75% of her children’s marriages, the year 2002 gave it a run for its money. Both Elizabeth’s mother and sister Margaret passed on early in the year—and to add insult to injury, she was supposed to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of her coronation.
66. Her Grandchildren Became Trouble Makers
Elizabeth’s kids eventually stopped causing so much controversy…just in time for the grandkids to start catching up to them. She watched as Prince William’s youthful relationship with Kate Middleton blossomed, and as Prince Harry got his wild years out of his system—but nothing could compare her to the ups and downs that followed when they should’ve been playing happy honeymooners.
67. People Worried She Wouldn’t Approve
With Charles (eventually) happily married to Camilla, the tabloids had to turn their attention to someone—and sadly, that glare fell squarely on Prince Harry. It intensified when he began to date American (gasp) actress (double gasp) and divorcee (triple gasp) Meghan Markle in 2016. People began to speculate relentlessly about whether or not the Queen approved of the match, and this only intensified after the couple’s engagement.
68. She Blessed Their Union
Despite their speculation, Elizabeth II played an active role in Harry and Meghan’s wedding. She lent Markle a stunning tiara from her own personal collection as a sign of her support, and gave them the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex the morning of the ceremony. There are whispers the Queen didn’t approve of one thing about the wedding, though—more on that later.
69. Her Grandson Gave Up His Position
In January 2020, Meghan and Harry announced that they’d be stepping back from palace life. Many tabloids made it seem as if they’d blindsided the Queen and Prince Charles—but as they explained, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Harry discussed his plan at length with his grandmother, but some reacted more graciously than others.
While Harry explicitly said that he is still in regular contact with the Queen, he described the situation with his father as one of “space”.
70. Her Grandson Aired The Family’s Dirty Laundry
During an interview with Oprah, Megan Markle made stunning revelations about her experience of royal life so far—and it bore a chilling resemblance to Princess Diana’s story. Diana had gone to Elizabeth for help when she was depressed, only to be met with a cold shoulder. Megan made a similar confession about the lack of help she received when she was suffering from post-partum depression.
She said that one palace official told her it “wouldn’t be good for the institution”.
71. She Was Blameless
Despite all the jaw-dropping sound bites that emerged from the interview—including the mystery family member who was preoccupied with baby Archie’s skin color—Prince Harry was quick to jump to his grandmother’s defense. He laid the blame for what he and Megan had suffered in the past few years elsewhere and said that the Queen had always been supportive of him.
72. She Had A Secret Language
Not long before Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, her aides revealed that she used a set of secret signals with them during her diplomatic visits. When she wanted to leave a conversation, she twisted her wedding ring. When she was at dinner, she put her handbag on the floor to convey the same message. And if she put her bag on the table? Watch out. That meant that her staff had five minutes to end the event.
73. She Had A Legendary Marriage
In 2021, one of the century’s greatest and most enduring love stories came to an end. On April 9, just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday, Prince Philip passed. According to his family, he left this world peacefully, and Elizabeth was at his side when it happened. Their marriage lasted 73 years, the longest of any monarch.
74. She Lost Her Closest Confidante
Sadly, that isn’t the only record Elizabeth holds. The loss of Prince Philip meant that she was the first widowed British monarch since Queen Victoria. The royal family each expressed their grief at Philip’s passing in their own way, and all were poignant—but Elizabeth’s confession was especially heartbreaking. She apparently said in private that his passing “left a huge void”.
75. She Was Raised By One Woman
Elizabeth is famously image-conscious—and this desire for privacy began years earlier. During her childhood, a governess named Marion Crawford raised the future Queen and her sister Princess Margaret. When I say Crawford gave them her all, I really mean it. She remained in service to the royal family until Elizabeth’s marriage, and it came at a great sacrifice.
Crawford delayed her own marriage for 16 years in order to dedicate her time to the girls—so what happened next was extra surprising.
76. Her Governess Betrayed Her
When Crawford retired, the royal family gave her a cottage on the grounds of the Kensington Palace—but when she betrayed the family, their reaction was absolutely brutal. See, Crawford began to publish an unfiltered column about her time with the Windsors, and even wrote a book. Ultimately, it came back to bite her.
Her columns were found to be fraudulent when she reported the details of an event that had been canceled and she lost all her credibility. Eventually, Crawford moved to a cottage meters from the royal family’s home in Balmoral. Every year, she would watch as the royal family drove past her without ever stopping. Elizabeth never forgave her, and never spoke to her again.
In her later years, Crawford attempted to take her own life. Years later, when she passed on, Elizabeth declined to send a wreath to her funeral.
77. She Had Spied In Her Midst
Marion Crawford wasn’t the only long-time staff member to betray Elizabeth’s trust. Anthony Blunt, a third cousin of Elizabeth’s mother, was an art historian who joined MI5 at the start of WWII. King George VI enlisted him for several important tasks and he also served Queen Elizabeth. Then, decades later, his dark secret came out.
Blunt confessed that he had actually been a Soviet spy in the 30s, and MI5 immediately informed Elizabeth. She soon stripped him of his knighthood.
78. She Lived Through An Another Attempt
Back in 1981, Elizabeth II had a lot more to worry about than Charles and Diana’s big wedding. Few remember, but just weeks before the ceremony, a terrifying incident threatened to overshadow the entire event. A 17-year-old man fired six shots at Queen Elizabeth as she rode her horse during a regimental ceremony.
Not only did she avoid death—the shots were actually blanks—she also managed to keep hold of her horse. Not bad for (at the time) a 55-year-old grandmother of two!
79. There Was Another Attempt On Her Life
As was the case with her previous brushes with danger, bad luck came in twos for Elizabeth—but this time, officials left the public in the dark. In 2018, declassified government documents revealed that there had been another attempt on the Queen’s life, this one in New Zealand. Once again, the assailant was a 17-year-old boy. Kids these days!
80. She Didn’t Approve Of Meghan Markle’s Dress
Meghan Markle’s wedding dress reportedly scandalized Queen Elizabeth II—for one obvious but little-known reason. Markle’s elegant dress was white, and since she is a divorcee, the Queen was disappointed the bride didn’t pick a different color.
81. She Went Out Like A Queen
On September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II passed peacefully at her beloved Balmoral Castle. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their deep connection, the Queen’s health has been slowly declining since Prince Philip’s death in 2021. Her last moments were beautiful and characteristic.
Not only was she working almost quite literally until the day she died—she had a meeting the day before that she “postponed” only on the advice of her doctors—but she went surrounded by her family. Present at her bedside were her four children, daughters-in-law, and Prince William and Prince Harry. Prince Charles will now take the name King Charles III.
82. She Had A Plan
Now that Queen Elizabeth II is gone, worry not: She always had a plan in place. It’s called “Operation London Bridge,” and it outlines almost every step needed to transmit the news of her passing. First, her secretary would have transmitted the news to the Prime Minister, who then told the Commonwealth countries and colonies.
There’s a similar plan for the media, and the symbolic rituals that usually happen when a monarch dies will soon begin to take place. As she died in Scotland at Balmoral, there’s actually a specific set of instructions under the name “Operation Unicorn” for this turn of events.