Great Britain's longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has become a symbol of stability, tradition, and continuity in her country.
Elizabeth, born in 1926 and queen since 1952, is not a great visionary, preferring horse and dogs to statecraft and politics. Nonetheless, she has been a diligent and faithful servant to the state she heads.
Married and with four children, the queen is noted for her remarkable adherence to duty during her many decades of rule. She is content, as few people might be, to adhere to the same traditional round of events that she has been participating in since her youth.
The queen is not only head of the country, but of the British Commonwealth of nations and the Church of England.
Her reign has weathered upheavals in her royal family, including the highly publicized divorce of her son and heir, Prince Charles. Republicanism, the idea that there should not be a monarchy, has also been an ongoing threat. Elizabeth is often credited with holding the monarchy together due to her unwavering dedication to its ways and traditions.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (of the House of Windsor), Queen Elizabeth II is the current ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (and the recognized queen of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other British commonwealths). She was born on April 21, 1926 to Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later known as the Queen Mother). Elizabeth became Queen upon the death of her father in 1952. Elizabeth married Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, and the couple bore four children: Charles (the heir apparent), Anne, Andrew and Edward. Elizabeth is one of the longest-reigning monarchs ever, entering her 59th year as of 2011; among British rulers, only Queen Victoria served longer. Before becoming Queen, she served in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service in World War II, driving a truck and being trained as a mechanic. She is the world's last surviving ruler to have served in uniform in World War II. Blessed with a history of good health, Elizabeth will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee (60th year as ruler) in 2012.