Queen Elizabeth II: a lifetime of devotion to duty25 may 2012, 14:15
Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates her diamond jubilee next month, has spent a lifetime upholding her pledges to serve her peoples, earning a reputation in the process for calm shrewdness.
The four days of parties, pageantry and thanksgiving from June 2-5 will mark her 60 years on the throne and will serve to reflect on how she has been for many a reassuring figurehead throughout the vast changes witnessed during her reign.
Here are some of the key moments defining the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II:
Born in London on April 21, 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary -- nicknamed "Lilibet" by her family -- was third in line to the throne behind her uncle Edward, the prince of Wales, and her father Albert, the duke of York.
But the princess became the heir when her uncle abdicated as king Edward VIII in 1936 to marry US divorcee Wallis Simpson, and her father succeeded as king George VI.
She was brought up by governesses, and moved into Buckingham Palace in 1937 when her father was crowned.
1947 - BROADCAST TO THE COMMONWEALTH
The then-heiress presumptive Princess Elizabeth made a broadcast from Cape Town on her 21st birthday in which she dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth. It was to be the measure of her reign.
"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong," she said.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. ©AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT
In November that year, she married her third cousin, naval commander Philip Mountbatten, who renounced his titles as a prince of Greece and Denmark to wed.
The couple's first son, Prince Charles, was born in 1948, followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
1952 - PRINCESS ELIZABETH BECOMES QUEEN
Her father king George VI died aged 56 on February 6, 1952 while Elizabeth was visiting Kenya. She famously went to sleep in the Treetops Hotel a princess and came down a queen. Aged 25, she rushed back to Britain. Winston Churchill was her first prime minister and brought his experience to bear.
1953 - THE CORONATION
Queen Elizabeth was crowned in London's Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1952. It was the first major televised international event and sales of sets surged as people gathered in their front rooms to watch the ceremony.
She became the 40th monarch since king William I in 1066. She has been head of state of 32 realms, a figure now standing at 16 including Britain.
In the six decades since, Queen Elizabeth has been a symbol of constancy as Britain's empire dwindled, throughout the Cold War and through the huge social upheavals between the post-war gloom and the digital age.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. ©AFP PHOTO/Lewis Whyld
Despite the changing times and the very public ups and downs of the royal family, Elizabeth remains a popular figure and can lay claim to be the most recognised woman on the planet.
"To her, being Queen is a great role, much greater than her and it is a role she tries every day to keep up to," Kate Williams, the author of "Young Elizabeth: The Making Of Our Queen", told AFP.
"It's not just a full-time job: it's your whole life."
1977 - SILVER JUBILEE
The Queen toured Britain and the Commonwealth and reiterated her vows of service. Street parties were held across the land, with people getting out the bunting and putting tables in the streets. The celebration was a ray of light amid economic gloom.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. ©AFP PHOTO/Lewis Whyld
1992 - QUEEN'S 'ANNUS HORRIBILIS'
The lowest point of the Queen's reign. Her eldest son Prince Charles separated from Diana following a tell-all book, her second son Prince Andrew and her daughter Princess Anne both divorced, while Windsor Castle was seriously damaged by fire.
1997 - DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
Diana's death rocked the royal family to its core. The Queen was heavily criticised for keeping the family mourning privately in the Scottish Highlands -- a move designed to shelter Diana's young sons -- rather than decamping to London. Under pressure and accused of being out of touch, she made a rare live address to the nation from Buckingham Palace.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana are shown shortly after their marriage in July 1981. ©REUTERS
2002 - GOLDEN JUBILEE
The celebration allowed Britons to show their support for the monarchy again following the turbulent 1990s and the death of the queen's mother and sister, queen Elizabeth and princess Margaret, earlier in the year.
Street parties were back and a concert at Buckingham Palace was crowned by Queen guitarist Brian May playing the national anthem on the roof as a million people lined The Mall to join in the party.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves to the crowd as she travels to St Paul's Cathedral in the Coronation Carriage for the Golden Jubilee Service. ©REUTERS
2011 - STATE VISIT TO IRELAND
The highly-charged visit was the first by a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland since it won independence in 1922.
Seen as the last piece in the jigsaw of peace in Northern Ireland, the visit required the republic's biggest-ever security operation.
However, through some highly symbolic gestures -- including speaking in Irish -- she melted away enough post-colonial angst to permit a walkabout.
2012 - DIAMOND JUBILEE
Queen Elizabeth is touring every region of Britain ahead of the four-day party in June to mark the jubilee, while other royals are making visits across the Commonwealth.
Celebrations from June 2 to 5 will see a river pageant, beacons lit, street parties and a service of thanksgiving.
A garden bedding display celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. ©AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT
While her public image, with her trademark matching bright outfits and hats, is known to all the queen's private life remains something of an enigma.
She is an avid follower of horse racing and famously a lover of Corgi dogs, which she keeps as pets.
Three generations of Britain's Royal family, Queen Elizabeth II (C bottom) and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (R top ), their oldest son, the Prince of Wales (L top), and his oldest son, Prince William. ©REUTERS
Her duties have kept her busy -- she has toured the world, visiting every Commonwealth country, while at home she fulfils hundreds of official engagements each year, from garden parties to hospital openings and state banquets.
The punishing schedule has been helped by her robust health, and the support of her husband Prince Philip.
Behind the scenes, she only ever takes Christmas Day off from the red boxes of official state papers that she has to plough through.
Queen Elizabeth II stands in the 1844 Room of Buckingham Palace. ©REUTERS
She has seen 12 different British prime ministers from Churchill through to David Cameron. Many have attested to her level-headed wisdom and thorough grasp of affairs.
In her diamond jubilee message, Queen Elizabeth vowed to "dedicate myself anew to your service", reiterating her 1947 pledge.
"Her uncle gave it up because he wanted to go with Wallis Simpson; that's not her," author Williams said.
"She is going to do it until the absolute end. She is queen until she takes her last breath."