Queen Elizabeth II marks her 90th birthday on Thursday as Britons and many throughout the world celebrate her long and dignified reign. She will celebrate again in June with national events to mark her official birthday. Here are answers to some questions about the queen's extraordinary life and times:
Why two birthdays a year? Isn't one enough?
It may seem excessive, but the British monarch celebrates his or her birthday twice a year, once on the actual day (for Elizabeth, April 21), and once in early June, when the event can be marked with the gala Trooping the Color parade in central London. The June date is chosen in part because the famously fickle British weather just might produce a few sunny hours at that time of year. And the Buckingham Gardens are gloriously in bloom.
How did Elizabeth weather World War II?
Elizabeth was a young princess during World War II, and her father King George VI was concerned for her safety as London came under the repeated German bombing raids known as The Blitz. She and her sister Princess Margaret were moved to Windsor Castle, 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of London for security reasons. She later persuaded her parents to let her serve in the Auxiliary Transport Service, where she learned how to drive and repair ambulances and trucks as part of the war effort. She was assigned number 230873 while in the service.
When did she become queen?
Elizabeth's life was changed forever in 1936 when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated so he could marry his divorced lover Wallis Simpson. This made her father the king and Elizabeth heir to the throne. King George VI's health failed, however, and he was too ill for a planned tour of the Commonwealth in 1952, so he sent Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, in his place. They were staying in a remote part of Kenya on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was told that the king had died. She automatically became queen upon her father's death, although the official coronation did not take place for more than a year.
Has the queen ever complained in public?
No, that's just not done. The closest Elizabeth has come to exhibiting human frailty to her subjects was in 1992, when she made a rare admission that her life, so picture perfect on the outside, was marred by the marital woes of three of her four children. She didn't complain in English, however, looking to Latin to proclaim it had been something of an "annus horribilus" — a horrible year that included a disastrous fire at her beloved Windsor Castle.
What was the low point for her monarchy?
This would undoubtedly be the stormy days that followed Princess Diana's sudden death in a car crash in September, 1997. The princess was tremendously popular, and many held the royal family responsible for her unpleasant divorce from Prince Charles. The queen was castigated in the press for not returning to London immediately after Diana's death and for not flying the royal standard atop the palace at half-staff as a sign of respect. Thousands of mourners placed flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace, Diana's residence, and many complained the queen was insensitive and out of touch.
Who was her favorite prime minister?
You'd have to ask her. And she won't tell.
Does the queen plan to retire?
The strong-willed and able-bodied queen has given no indication she plans to leave the throne, and has described her unique position as a "job for life." Her own mother lived to be 101, and was generally in fine fettle in her final years. Still, it is possible Elizabeth would step down if she developed severe problems that made it impossible for her to carry out her role.
Prince Charles is already 67. Could the queen arrange things so grandson William would succeed her?
No. This is a constitutional monarchy, with rules of succession.
In this 1927 photo, Princess Elizabeth is taken for a ride in the grounds of Windsor Castle, with her cousin, the honourable Gerald Lascelles, right, son of Princess Royal. Britain's Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth with her parents Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, The Duke and Duchess of York in the RoyalBbox for the Royal Tournament at Olympia, London on June 5, 1931. (AP Photo/Staff/Putnam)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, centre, waves as she stands on the on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, with her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary, in this May 6, 1935 photo. Princess Margaret is just visible over the balcony edge. The Queen will celebrate her 80th birthday on April 21, 2006. (AP Photo)
Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, riding with the riding master in Windsor Great Park, Windsor, in April 1935. (AP Photo)
Princess Elizabeth is seen in the Duchess's box at the "Dick Whittington" pantomime at the Lyceum Theater, Feb. 6, 1935. Princess Elizabeth and her little sister Princess Margaret Rose went with their mother Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, to the pantomime. (AP Photo)
Princess Elizabeth, left, and Princess Margaret Rose playing in the garden of No. 145 Piccadilly, London, in the warm December sun, on Dec. 19, 1936. (AP Photo)
Members of the British Royal Family in this radiophoto on May 15, 1937 in London. From left to right: the princess Royal, the Duchess and Duke of Gloucester, Queen Mary, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Princess Maud of Norway, the third daughter of King Edward VII of Great Britain. In the front are the Princess Margaret Rose and Elizabeth, Daughters of the King and Queen. (AP Photo)
In this June 9, 1937 photo, then Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left, with Queen Mary, second left, and Princesses Elizabeth, nearest camera, and Princess Margaret, obscured right, driving from Buckingham Palace to the Horse Guards Parade for the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Len Putnam)
Princess Elizabeth, left, and her younger sister, Princess Margaret Rose, sit in the royal box watching the jumping at the Pony Show, March, 1938, London, England. (AP Photo)
Princess Elizabeth attended the Albert Hall in London, United Kingdom for the national festival of the schools’ musical festivals of England (non-competitive). Boys and girls in a choir of 1,000 voices from all parts of the country sang. The choir functioned with the London Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Shaw and Mr. Cyril Winn. In this image Princess Elizabeth is being driven away from the Albert Hall in London, United Kingdom on May 6, 1938 after attending the festival. (AP Photo/Jim Pringle)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, enjoys a joke with her father King George VI, in the grounds of the Royal Lodge, Windsor, England, Aug. 20, 1946. (AP Photo)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, on her 21st birthday, seated in Natal National Park, South Africa, April 21, 1947. In the background are the Drakenberg Mountains. (AP Photo/Eddie Worth)
Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten are seen, Sept. 1947. They will be married in November. (AP Photo)
Britain's Princess Elizabeth smiles as she is seen with the Duke of Edinburgh, in an open Landau, as they drive from the Guildhall, in London, on June 8, 1948, where he was made a Freeman of the City of London. The Royal couple are going to the Mansion House for luncheon with the Lord Mayor of London. (AP Photo/Priest)
Prince Charles, two-year-old son of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, seems to be the center of attraction at Buckingham Palace in London on Oct. 22, 1950, when his two-month-old sister, Princess Anne, was christened. Here the young Prince walks to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth (seated right) and his great-grandmother, Queen Mary (right). Princess Elizabeth holds the infant Princess Anne while the Duke of Edinburgh watches proceedings from the rear. (AP Photo)
Princess Elizabeth sits with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Charles as they watch Princess Anne try to crawl away at their London residence, Clarence House, August 8, 1951. (AP Photo/Worth)
Queen Elizabeth II, right, shown playing with her two children, Prince Charles, left, and Princess Anne, climbing, at Balmoral Castle the Royal Residence on the River Dee, May 1, 1952, West Aberdeenshire, Scotland. (AP Photo)
Surrounded by peers and churchmen, Queen Elizabeth II sits on throne in Westminister Abbey, London, June 2, 1953 after her coronation. The young monarch wears St. Edward?s Crown and holds the Scepter with cross in her right hand and Rod with Dove in her left hand. Flanking the Queen are the Bishop of Durham, left, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells. In center foreground facing the Queen is the archbishop of Canterbury. (AP Photo)
Queen Elizabeth II poses in her coronation attire in the throne room of Buckingham Palace in London, after her coronation, June 2, 1953. (AP Photo)
The Rock towers over Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and the Duke of Edinburgh drive past the assembled ranks of troops and lines of bombers, during a review of the services at North Front Airfield after they had arrived in Gibraltar, on May 10, 1954. (AP Photo/Worth)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are a study in concentration in Schefferville, as they listen to explanation on workings of an iron ore mine on another stop in their royal tour of Canada, June 20, 1959. (AP Photo)
The royal box containing Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh and President Francisco Craveiro Lopes, and his wife Berta, of Portugal inside the Sao Carlos Opera House, in Lisbon, Portugal, on Feb. 19, 1957. The British royal couple were attending a gala performance in their honour, held on this the second day of their state visit to Portugal. (AP Photo)
General Assembly President Sir Leslie Munro points to large windows and view from the Security Council chamber as Britain's royal couple tours United Nations headquarters in New York City on Oct. 21, 1957. Left to Right, are: Britain's Selwyn Lloyd, U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Leslie. Sun coming through windows casts shadows on the group. (AP Photo)
Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, riding side-saddle on Imp, turns to Prince Philip (nearest camera) during the ceremony of trooping the color on Horse Guards Parade in London, United Kingdom on June 13, 1957. The Duke of Gloucester, on the Queen's left, is partly hidden. (AP Photo/Eddie Worth)
Mrs. Sidney Smart and her daughters, Sandra, 4, and Barbara, 15, look-in as Queen Elizabeth II makes her Christmas broadcast on television on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1957. Her Majesty spoke from the long library at Sandringham, and was seen by both B.B.C. and I.T.V. viewers. It was the first time that the occasion has been televised. The Smart family live at Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom. (AP Photo/Sidney Smart)
Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain strolls in the grounds of her Scottish home in Balmoral castle, Scotland, Sept. 13, 1960, with Princess Anne and Prince Andrew in the perambulator. (AP Photo)
This is a 1960 photo showing Queen Elizabeth II wearing a tiara. (AP Photo)
Queen Elizabeth II, who will celebrate her 42nd birthday, April 21, 1968, poses with her family at Frogmore, Windsor, England. From left, are: the Duke of Edinburgh, 46; Princess Anne, 17; Prince Edward, 4; the Queen; Prince Andrew, 8; and Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, 19. Dog is family?s pet Corgi. (AP Photo)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, pictured with U.S. President Richard Nixon, right, and Britain's Prime Minister Edward Heath at Chequers, Buckinghamshire, in 1970. (AP Photo)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II looks inside the Apollo 14 command module, a spaceship that visited the Moon in February 1971, during her tour of Rockwell International plant on Monday, Feb. 28, 1983 in Downey, Calif. Guiding the Queen's tour is Rockwell board chairman Robert Anderson, left, and Rockwell North American Space Operations President George Jeffs, background. (AP Photo)
President Ronald Reagan listens as he poses for photographers with Queen Elizabeth II at a formal state dinner, March 3, 1983, at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. At left are Prince Philip and first lady Nancy Reagan. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
In this Thursday, Nov. 24, 1983 photo, the Queen and Mother Teresa look at the Insignia of the Honorary Order of Merit which Her majesty has just presented to the Lady of Calcutta, at the Rashtrapati Shavar, in New Delhi. Britain's Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo)
In this Aug. 4, 1987 photo, Diana, Princess of Wales, left, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smile to well-wishers outside Clarence House in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II silhouetted during welcoming ceremonies at the airport in Barbados around March 8, 1989. (AP Photo/Peter Bregg)
Members of the British Royal Family gathered on the balcony of London's Buckingham Palace on Saturday, June 11, 1983 watch a fly past following the Trooping of the Colour at Horse Guards parade. Photo shows from left to right); Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Master peter Phillips (child in open neck shirt, son of Princess Anne) the Duke of Gloucester (glasses) Prince Charles (hand to face) Lord Nicholas Windsor, (sailor suit) and the Princess of Wales. (AP Photo/ Bill Foley)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, centre, surrounded by members of her family, watch a Royal Air Force fly pass by, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, during the Trooping The Colour parade, in London, Saturday, June 15, 2013. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her birthday with traditional pomp and circumstance _ but without her husband by her side. Prince Philip remains in the hospital, recovering from exploratory abdominal surgery. The queen invited her cousin, the Duke of Kent, to accompany her in a vintage carriage. Other royals — including Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge — joined in the celebration Saturday. More than 1,000 soldiers, horses and musicians are taking part in the parade known as “Trooping the Color,” an annual ceremony. From left, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, Lady Louise, James, Viscount Severn, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Anne, the Princess Royal, Timothy Laurence, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Harry, Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Princess Eugenie. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Philip arrive by horse drawn carriage in the parade ring on the third day, traditionally known as Ladies Day, of the Royal Ascot horse race meeting at Ascot, England, Thursday, June, 16, 2011. Ascot is celebrating its 300 years of horse racing at the Royal Racecourse, that began with Britain's Queen Anne spotting an open heath suitable for racing, the first race run in August 1711, with a prize of some 100 guineas. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives for an official state dinner, in front of Germany's President Joachim Gauck's residence Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip are on an official visit to Germany until Friday, June 26. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, second left, is shown the Ampulla and Coronation Spoon used at her coronation in 1953 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, left, as her husband Prince Philip, third from left, and other Christian guests watch as they attend a multi-faith reception to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen's Accession at Lambeth Palace in London, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham-Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles with The Duke of Edinburgh, right, as they leave after the State Opening of Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament in London, Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year, the Queen delivered a speech which set out the government's agenda for the coming year. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, left, inspect the horses in the parade ring before the Derby race at Epsom Derby, Epsom, southern England, Saturday June 2, 2012 the first official day of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Britain is marking Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne with a four-day holiday weekend of ceremony, symbolism and street parties. (AP Photo/Ben Stansall, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II escorted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, unseen, tours The Foreign and Commonwealth Office during an official visit which is part of her Jubilee celebrations in London, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, and the Duke of Edinburgh walk back into the Palace after attending the annual summer garden party held at Buckingham Palace in London, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. At a typical Buckingham Palace garden party around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed, with some 400 waiting staff involved in the serving. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth ll, left, receives flowers from waiting school childrenwith waiving national flags after the Commonwealth Day Service in Sydney, Australia, Monday, March 13, 2006. The Queen will open the melbourne Commonwealth Games on March 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)
This official photograph, released by Buckingham Palace on Wednesday April 20, 2016, to mark her 90th birthday, shows Queen Elizabeth II with her five great-grandchildren and her two youngest grandchildren in the Green Drawing Room, part of Windsor Castle's semi-State apartments in Windsor England. The children are: James, Viscount Severn, 8-years-old, left, and Lady Louise, 12-years-old, second left, the children of The Earl and Countess of Wessex; Mia Tindall, holding The Queen's handbag, the two year-old-daughter of Zara and Mike Tindall; Savannah 5-years-old, third right, and Isla Phillips, 3-years-old, right, daughters of The Queen's eldest grandson Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn; Prince George, 2-years-old, second right, and in The Queen's arms and in the tradition of Royal portraiture, the youngest great-grandchild, Princess Charlotte, 11-months-old, children of Prince William and Kate Duchess of Cambridge. (© 2016 Annie Leibovitz via AP)
In this official photograph released by Buckingham Palace on Wednesday April 20, 2016 to mark her 90th birthday, Queen Elizabeth II is pictured with her daughter, The Princess Royal, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle in England. (© 2016 Annie Leibovitz via AP)
In this official photograph released by Buckingham Palace Wednesday April 20, 2016 to mark her 90th birthday, Queen Elizabeth II is seen walking in the private grounds of Windsor Castle, in England, on steps at the rear of the East Terrace and East Garden with four of her dogs: clockwise from top left Willow (corgi), Vulcan (dorgie), Candy (dorgie) and Holly (corgi). (© 2016 Annie Leibovitz via AP)
Text from the AP news story, Queen Elizabeth II at 90: A look at highs, lows of her reign, by Gregory Katz.
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