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The Life of a Queen

Queen Elizabeth has died after a long and eventful reign.

With corgis – Lisa Sheridan—Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images; 1953 coronation – Hulton Archive—Hulton Royals Collection/Getty images; 1950s family – Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; Aylesbury – Damon Mitchell—Stockimo/Alamy 2015;  Royal Family – © Lorna Roberts/

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (U.K.) died on September 8, 2022. She was 96 years old. 

Queen Elizabeth was the longest-serving monarch in the history of the U.K. She took the throne in 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. She was 25 years old. Queen Elizabeth’s reign spanned 70 years.

For many British people, the queen was an important part of their national identity. In the U.K., the monarch (the king or queen) doesn’t rule the people or play an active role in making laws and policies. The true head of the British government is the prime minister. Britain also has a lawmaking body called Parliament. But while monarchs don’t create policy, they do have many official and ceremonial duties. Queen Elizabeth made thousands of public appearances in the U.K. and around the world. She presided over charity events and met heads of state when they visited her country.

A map showing the UK in relation to Ireland and France, with England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland labeled.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The queen also gave speeches to mark certain occasions and, in some cases, when the country was experiencing a difficult time. In 2020, she addressed the public on the subject of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Together we are tackling this disease,” she said. “And I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.” 

The queen’s private life attracted as much attention as her public activities. In 1947, she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, and the couple had four children. (Prince Philip died in 2021.) The queen left behind eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. 

When the queen died, her oldest son, Charles, became the king. He is now called King Charles III.

Did You Know?

A baby sits on a throne and wears a cape and a crown.
© Lazarenka Sviatlana/, © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc—DigitalVision/Getty Images; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

England’s youngest monarch was King Henry VI. Henry VI became king after his father died in 1422. He was just nine months old when he became king. 

William Said What?!

Animation of William Shakespeare sitting at a desk and looking surprised as two geese run by
© Maslov Dmitry/, © duncan1980—DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

England (which is part of the United Kingdom) can lay claim to a legend. England was the home of William Shakespeare (1564–1616), who wrote Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, and many other plays that are still performed regularly today.

But even if you’re not into Shakespeare’s plays, there’s another way in which Shakespeare’s work endures. Many of the words and phrases we use today were first used or popularized by Shakespeare. Have you heard any of these Shakespearean expressions?

(Hover over cards to see what the expression means.)


Going on a wild goose chase

What it means:

Making a lot of effort for something that turns out to be pointless


Melted into thin air

What it means:

Disappeared suddenly


All that glitters isn’t gold.

What it means:

Not everything is as great as it seems.


Break the ice

What it means:

Do something to make an awkward situation more comfortable


My own flesh and blood

What it means:

Part of my family

Fit For a Queen

Queen Elizabeth II had a long and eventful life.

Closeup of Queen Elizabeth smiling in green hat and jacket
Chris Jackson—AFP/Getty Images

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 : a non-English person who greatly likes and admires England and English things

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