Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state of 16 countries worldwide, is marking her 94th birthday on Tuesday, but without the usual pomp and ceremony that accompanies the day due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Traditionally, the Queen’s birthday is marked by the firing of ceremonial field guns and a ringing of bells in Westminster Abbey, but those have been suspended in the monarch’s 94th year.
As well as being the British head of state and the head of its armed forces, the Queen is also the head of state of 15 other countries including Canada — the most senior Commonwealth Realm after the UK — Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. The Queen is also the longest-reigning monarch in the world, having marked 68 years of service earlier this year, and is the head of the Commonwealth, a global group of nations with a common history in the British Empire.
Head of the Commonwealth, Head of the Armed Forces, Head of State in 16 countries and the longest reigning Monarch in British History. Wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Happy birthday, Your Majesty! ✨🎂 pic.twitter.com/fusEVFsAJT
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 21, 2020
Queen Elizabeth II was born April 21st, 1926, as Princess Elizabeth of York, but was not expected to become the monarch as her uncle — and then his children after him — was first in line to the throne. Uncle Edward’s time as King, ruling as Edward VIII, was brief, however, and he abdicated after less than 12 months.
Because he had no children of his own, the throne then passed to his younger brother, who became King George VI. Due to the abdication crisis, Princess Elizabeth — then a comparatively minor royal and just ten years old — suddenly became a future Queen and started preparation for her coming role.
Princess Elizabeth later served as a driver and mechanic with the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War before becoming the monarch herself in 1952 at the death of her father.
The Associated Press reports the Queen is spending her birthday at Windsor Castle — the largest inhabited castle in the world — with her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Wishing Her Majesty The Queen a very happy 94th Birthday today! 🎂🎈 pic.twitter.com/X1ZUvtsRgn
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 21, 2020