For more than 70 years Elizabeth II was "By the Grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other kingdoms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith", as her full title read. The 96-year-old was the longest-serving monarch, the greatest queen of all time.
"Lilibeth", as her late husband Prince Philip (1921-2021) affectionately called her, saw herself as a queen who did not rule but rather served her country and people and whose most important task was the iron fulfillment of duty. Nine questions explain the woman who will go down in England's history as a larger-than-life figure. As the most important Englishwoman of modern times.
The queen presided over a constitutional monarchy, which means that she had no political powers, only representative powers. Nonetheless, the Queen, who has held office with great dignity over the decades, has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors in Britain's inner workings. The "Tagesspiegel" wrote on her 90th birthday: "It doesn't matter that the country's constitution gives her little formal leeway. Her sphere of influence has long extended to the internal constitution of the English. She dominates the image that the make Englishmen of their country. And the whole world of England."
The distribution of power has always been clear: the prime minister is the head of government and governs the country, the queen is the head of state and represents the country. The Prime Minister had an audience at Buckingham Palace once a week. When she was on vacation at Balmoral Castle, the prime minister had to travel to Scotland, where he was allowed to stay and where he had royal family connections.
These talks were mostly informal, the prime minister explained the political situation and his plans, and the queen asked questions. They drank tea and ate shortcrust pastries. John Major (Head of Government 1990-1997) really enjoyed these meetings with the Queen, according to "Bild": "It was the only moment of the week when I could talk to someone who didn't want anything from me. It was like therapy sessions for me," he said after his tenure. "I was able to get rid of my worries in private". It's nice to be "a kind of sponge," the Queen is said to have said about her prime ministers, "they can unload their burdens on me. They know that one is impartial."
Elizabeth II has had dealings with 15 British Prime Ministers - three women, twelve men - since her coronation in 1952. Some she liked, others not so much. She had a good relationship with Harold Macmillan (1957-1963) and a very relaxed relationship with Harold Wilson (1964-1970 and 1974-1976). Wilson was often allowed to stay for a drink even after the audience.
Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990), on the other hand, was her most difficult contact. The Queen was not only irritated by Thatcher's penchant for strange handbags. She also often lamented the prime minister's social indifference and know-it-all attitude. Supposedly the Queen needed a whiskey after every meeting with Iron Maggie, as Thatcher was called. Tony Blair (1997-2007) also annoyed and worried her with his exaggerated self-confidence. And what irritated her about Boris Johnson (2019-2022) was his unpredictable volatility. Liz Truss (47) appointed the Queen as the new head of government a few days ago at Balmoral Castle.
Winston Churchill (1951-1955) was the Queen's favorite prime minister. The legendary politician initially had serious doubts about the ability and political acumen of the Queen, who was only 27 years old when she ascended the throne. That settled down quickly. He taught her, who had had no university education but had been taught only by private tutors, that the magnitude of achievement could also be measured by the magnitude of personal sacrifice. Churchill explained the world to the Queen, presumably these meetings provided a more thorough and useful education for the young Elizabeth than a formal college degree could ever have been. It is said that Churchill, 51 years his senior, even fell a little in love with his queen.
Incidentally, the Queen has personally met 13 incumbent US Presidents during her reign. With Dwight D. Eisenhower (invitation to Balmoral Castle), Gerald Ford (good dancer), Ronald Reagan (good rider) and Bill Clinton (guest on the royal yacht "Britannia"), almost friendly relations developed. With John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie, the Queen dined with Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. With Richard Nixon (trying to set his daughter Trixia up with Prince Charles), Jimmy Carter (kissed her mother, the Queen Mum, on the mouth) and Donald Trump (showed her back when the parade guards approached), the encounters were rather unfortunate. And she also received the incumbent US President Joe Biden in June 2021 at Windsor Castle.
Like any other mother, the Queen saw the births of her four children Charles (1948), Anne (1950), Andrew (1960) and Edward (1964) as highlights of her life. Other highlights include her marriage to her beloved Prince Philip in 1947, her coronation (1952), the opening of the 1976 Montreal and 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the marriage of her grandson Prince William (2011).
Less well known are the political achievements of the Queen, who was said to have an insatiable fondness for chocolate and chocolate mousse: Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1983-1993) took the view that Elizabeth II was a "driving force behind the scenes". the end of apartheid in South Africa. The Queen also actively supported the efforts of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to create peace in Northern Ireland. In 2011 she became the first British monarch to officially visit the Republic of Ireland. The state visit became a symbol of the normalization of British-Irish relations.
In addition, she described 1992 as an "annus horribilis" (horrible year): in March her son Andrew had separated from his wife Sarah Ferguson, in April her daughter Anne divorced her husband Mark Philips. That year, Prince Charles and Diana officially separated after Charles' ongoing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and Diana's relationship with Captain James Hewitt became known. Windsor Castle also burned.
The Queen has put an end to the sad spectacle of Charles' marriage: In a letter she had previously discussed with her husband and Prime Minister John Major, she told Charles and Diana in 1995 that a divorce was "desirable". The marriage was divorced in 1996.
The recent fuss surrounding the resignation and farewell of her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, as well as the antics of her son Prince Andrew, who was involved in the sex scandal involving American investment banker Jeffrey Epstein, have weighed heavily on the Queen.
On October 21, 1966, a dump in the Welsh mining village of Aberfan buried homes and a primary school. 144 people were dead, 116 of them children. The Queen did not visit the scene of the accident until eight days later. It was said to be one of the few times Elizabeth cried in public. She had initially decided, against the advice of her advisers, not to go to Aberfan for fear that people might pay more attention to her than to look for survivors. The Queen has regretted this decision her entire life.
Even after the accidental death of Princess Diana, criticism of the Queen's behavior was loud: she was emotionally cold, reacted far too late and "hid" with the royal family, including Diana's sons, William and Harry, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The royal housekeeper Sir Malcolm Ross found this criticism unfair: "Considering the fact that she was the grandmother of a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old whose mother was just killed in a car accident, she did everything right," he told TV -Station "BBC". "Why should the boys have been brought to London? Why not let them get over the first shock in the bosom of the family?" The Queen was "deeply hurt" by the allegation of emotional coldness, in fact she mourned Diana's death very much.
Her face adorns every British coin and bank note. She was allowed to enter any country in the world without a passport - she didn't have one at all. She had criminal immunity and could not be summoned to appear in court as a witness to a criminal offence. She could drive cars without a license and had no speed limit. And she was exempt from taxes, but since 1993 the Queen has voluntarily paid income and capital gains tax at the normal rate.
The Queen of England's private fortune has been a mystery for many years. Some estimate it at the equivalent of over a billion euros, which others consider excessively exaggerated. An estimate by the US business magazine "Forbes" amounted to the equivalent of 410 million euros. However, most estimates have included assets that did not belong to the Queen at all, such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle, the Royal Art Collection and the Crown Jewels, all of which are held in trust by the Crown.
The same applies to the Crown Estates, which includes land, buildings, lands, forests, stretches of coast, wind turbines, seabed and farms in the United Kingdom and have been administered by the Queen. The income - in 2020 it was the equivalent of around 400 million euros - was transferred completely to the British Treasury. The Queen received 15 percent of the profits every year: The official expenses of the Queen and her family, the court (approx. 1000 people) and the upkeep of the castles were covered with the Sovereign Grant from the state treasury.
In her early years as monarch, Elizabeth saw her role as queen as a very heavy burden to bow to. It had never been her wish to sit on the throne. As a young girl, Elizabeth would have loved to be a veterinarian. Or a farmer who lives in the country with her beloved horses and dogs and is happy there, as her butler Paul Burrell revealed. "We were feeding the dogs one day, and she said to me, 'I swore an oath to God, Paul, in Westminster Abbey the day I was crowned Queen, to serve my country as long as my body breathes and that's what I intend to do."
But she has increasingly found joy in this absolute fulfillment of duty. In a video salute to the Glasgow climate summit in November 2021, she said: "It is a source of great pride for me that the leadership role my husband has played in encouraging people to protect our fragile planet in the... work of our eldest son Charles and his eldest son William lives on."
One of the most beautiful quotes about Elizabeth II comes from Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of the Queen's grandson William: "The Queen is the constant for this country and for the rest of us."