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public celebrations

Early life

Her Majesty the Queen was born on 21 April 1926 in London, the first child of Prince Albert, The Duke of York, and his wife, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.

Third in line to the throne, it seemed unlikely that Princess Elizabeth would be Queen. However, shortly after the death of George V, the new King – her uncle Edward VIII – dramatically abdicated so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. Princess Elizabeth’s father then became King George VI and she became heir to the throne.

Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret were educated at home. During the Blitz in 1940, they were moved to Windsor Castle and stayed there for most of the Second World War. In 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the war effort, training as a driver in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (WATS).



Princess, wife, mother

In November 1947, she married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, who was then created His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The wedding – which took place during the austere post-War years – was described by Winston Churchill as a ‘flash of colour’. The Princess used ration coupons to buy the material for her dress.

The couple have four children. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, is the eldest and next in line to throne. Both he and Princess Anne, The Princess Royal were born before their mother became Queen. Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex are the only two children to be born to a reigning monarch since Queen Victoria.

Accession and coronation

George VI died on 6 February 1952 while Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were touring Kenya. She returned home immediately and acceded to the throne. After months of preparation, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. For the first time, the ceremony and the huge public celebrations were broadcast by TV across the UK, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.

A young and glamorous Queen

On her accession, the Queen immediately began her political duties which included opening Parliament and receiving her prime ministers. Throughout the 1950s, the Queen and Prince Philip cut young and glamorous figures as they extensively toured the UK and the Commonwealth.

During the 1960s, the Queen made historic visits to West Berlin at the height of the Cold War, and welcomed Emperor Hirohito of Japan on a state visit to Britain. Against a backdrop of political and social unrest, she celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977. It was a huge success and tens of thousands of street parties were thrown by the public across the country.

The 1980s onwards

Five years later, the UK was at war over the Falkland Islands during which Prince Andrew served with the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot. The 1980s also saw the birth of her first grandchildren, Peter and Zara Phillips.

Disaster struck in 1992 when a devastating fire broke out in Windsor Castle. The same year the respective marriages of Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne disintegrated. The Queen deemed this her ‘annus horribilis’. Tragedy was to follow in 1997, when Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident.

And 2002 was another year of personal sadness for the Queen, as both her sister Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died, casting a shadow over the Golden Jubilee celebrations a few months later.

The Diamond Queen

For the last 60 years, during a period of great change in Britain, the Queen has continued to carry out her political duties as head of state, her role as head of the Commonwealth, the ceremonial responsibilities of the sovereign, and a large annual programme of visits in the UK as well as many foreign tours.

The Queen has also made numerous reforms to the monarchy during her reign. In 1992, she offered to start paying income and capital gains tax. She has opened her official residencies to the public – including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle – in order to finance their maintenance.

She supported ending the rule of male primogeniture, which now means the eldest child can succeed to the throne, regardless of gender. She also supported lifting the ban on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Catholic.

Her reign has heralded the introduction of less formal engagements and visits, and the introduction of the ‘walkabout’ – the meeting and greeting of large numbers of the public.

In 2002, the Queen celebrated 50 years on the throne; in 2006, her 80th birthday; and in 2012, her Diamond Jubilee. The Jubilee will be marked by celebrations across the UK throughout the year.


Official website of The Diamond Jubilee: http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/

Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December.

The moving St. Louis event brought tears to the eyes of Army Major Rich Radford.

“It’s not necessarily overdue, it’s just the right thing,” said Rich Radford, a Army veteran who served 23 years in the force and walked in the parade alongside his 8-year-old daughter, Aimee, and 12-year-old son, Warren.

Rich Radford was among about 600 veterans, many dressed in camouflage, who walked along downtown streets lined with rows of people clapping and holding signs with messages including “Welcome Home” and “Thanks to our Service Men and Women”.

Fire trucks with aerial ladders hoisted huge American flags in three different places along the route, with politicians, marching bands – even the Budweiser Clydesdales – joining in.

The large crowd was clearly there to salute men and women in the military, and people cheered wildly as groups of veterans walked by.

That was the hope of organizers Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum.

Neither man has served in the military but came up with the idea after noticing there had been little fanfare for returning Iraq War veterans aside from gatherings at airports and military bases. No ticker-tape parades or large public celebrations.

Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December

Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December

Tom Appelbaum, an attorney, and Craig Schneider, a school district technical coordinator, decided something needed to be done.

So they sought donations, launched a Facebook page, met with the mayor and mapped a route. The grassroots effort resulted in a huge turnout despite raising only about $35,000 and limited marketing.

Veterans came from around the country, and more than 100 entries – including marching bands, motorcycle groups and military units – signed up ahead of the event, Tom Appelbaum said.

Craig Schneider said he was amazed how everyone, from city officials to military organizations to the media, embraced the parade.

“It was an idea that nobody said no to,” Craig Schneider said.

“America was ready for this.”

All that effort by her hometown was especially touching for Gayla Gibson, a 38-year-old Air Force master sergeant who said she spent four months in Iraq – seeing “amputations, broken bones, severe burns from IEDs” – as a medical technician in 2003.

“I think it’s great when people come out to support those who gave their lives and put their lives on the line for this country,” Gayla Gibson said.

With 91,000 troops still fighting in Afghanistan, many Iraq veterans could be redeployed – suggesting to some that it’s premature to celebrate their homecoming.

In New York, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said there would be no city parade for Iraq War veterans in the foreseeable future because of objections voiced by military officials.

In St. Louis, there was clearly a mood to thank the troops with something big, even among those opposed to the war.

“Most of us were not in favor of the war in Iraq, but the soldiers who fought did the right thing and we support them,” said 72-year-old Susan Cunningham, who attended the parade.

“I’m glad the war is over and I’m glad they’re home.”

Several veterans of the Vietnam War turned out to show support for the younger troops.

Among them was Don Jackson, 63, of Edwardsville, Illionis, who said he was thrilled to see the parade honoring Iraq War veterans like his son, Kevin, who joined him at the parade.

Kevin Jackson, 33, an Air Force staff sergeant said he’d lost track of how many times he had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a flying mechanic.

“I hope this snowballs,” Kevin Jackson said of the parade. “I hope it goes all across the country. I only wish my friends who I served with were here to see this.”

Looking at all the people around him in camouflage, 29-year-old veteran Matt Wood said he felt honored. He served a year in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard.

“It’s extremely humbling, it’s amazing, to be part of something like this with all of these people who served their country with such honor,” Matt Wood said.

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