Queen Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch but was born a minor royal. Her father, George VI, became king when her uncle, Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcé, Wallis Simpson. He reigned during the Great Depression, World War II, and reconstruction. He died relatively young and having no male heirs Elizabeth began her rule at only 26. The ceremony was the first to be broadcast on television. She and her family would live in the eye of the camera more than any ruler in British history.

Princess Elizabeth served in the military’s Auxiliary Territorial Service after the Second World War in a ceremonial role.  She had married Prince Phillip in 1947. Phillip was closely related to the royal families of Denmark and Greece. 

Queen Elizabeth with Prince Philip, together with their two youngest sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward

Elizabeth is the head of House of Windsor, a name chosen during the First World War to replace the German-sounding Saxe-Coberg and Gothra. Phillip complained behind closed doors, "I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” The couple had four children. The eldest and heir apparent Charles was born in 1948: Princess Anne was born in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964. 

Princess Anne 

Elizabeth’s reign was marred in familial controversy and the end of the British Empire. The last colony was Hong Kong and was returned to China in 1997. She remains the monarch of 16 former colonies and ceremonial head of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of former colonies. It is an ill-defined organization mostly known for the Commonwealth Games. It is a sports event that excludes larger and competitive nations such as China and the United States.

Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir married Diana Spencer in 1981. Their romance captivated the world. Diana tried to give their sons, William and Harry, as normal of a life as possible, taking them into public to go to amusement parks and restaurants.

Princess Diana with William and Harry

Princess Diana was passionate about humanitarian work, using her popularity to educate the public about AIDS, land mines, and mental health. The royal couple’s relationship did not last amid affairs and constant media attention. They divorced in 1996 after a long public separation. Social norms had changed and Charles did not have to renounce his claim to the throne. Only a year later Lady Diana would die in a tragic car accident in Paris. The news shocked the world and striking images of the palace covered in flowers and the princes following the casket filled newspapers.

Prince Charles eventually married Camilla Parker Bowles with whom he had an affair. William and Harry have started their own families after university, military service, and some misadventures. Prince William married university friend Kate Middleton in 2011 and they have three children. Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle and they have one son together. Their weddings were watched by tens of millions and captured in many unique photographs.

Two of Elizabeth’s other children also divorced their first spouse. In addition to her state duties, Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, a conservative institution that was late to accept the practice. Anne divorced her first husband in 1992 after a three-year separation. They had two children together. Andrew divorced Sarah Ferguson the same year Charles and Diana called it quits. Andrew and Sarah are still close but have been embroiled in controversy, including a close association with Jeffrey Epstein. The youngest child, Edward married in 1999 and has two children.

 Prince Charles and Willian 

If you are interested in the Royal Family, IMS Vintage Photos has received amazing historic photos from several newspaper archives.

The historic collections document the lives of the Royal Family and the events that surround them.

The original photographs are available for purchase and can easily be found in the category "Royals".