Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 Thursday, making her the first British monarch to reach that landmark.
She’s already the longest-reigning monarch in British history having overtaken her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria last September. Though the queen is a very public figure, she has retained a certain mystique by saying very little over her 64-year reign.
Elizabeth was never supposed to be queen. It was only the decision of her uncle Edward VIII to abdicate in 1936 so he could marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson that pushed her father, Bertie, to the throne. The stuttering Bertie became King George VI and Elizabeth, barely 10 years old, was now first in line to the throne. King George’s reign was dominated by World War II, during which the monarchy restored much of its reputation.
With the war over and the rebuilding process underway, the country celebrated the marriage of the 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten in 1947. They had four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Princess Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 – far earlier than expected or desired, after her father, King George VI, died suddenly at the age of 56. Her coronation was a year later.
There’s nowhere near as much pomp and ceremony on display on Thursday on her 90th birthday. Some of that will have to wait for June, when the queen has her official birthday.