How life could have been very different for Queen Elizabeth II

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Queen Elizabeth II is known as being the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch with a dedication to her people and her job as monarch.

On her 21st birthday, then Princess Elizabeth revealed just how important her duty was to her.

"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." And at 95, she continues in service to the people of the Commonwealth.

But while she was not born to be Queen, she may well have been destined for it.

Queen Elizabeth's life
The Queen's life could have panned out a lot different. Photo: Getty Images

She was the first-born child of Prince Albert, known as Bertie and his wife Elizabeth Duchess of York. 

Prince Albert was the second-born son of King George V and had things gone the way it was expected, Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret should have enjoyed a lower-key royal life, not unlike Prince Andrew's daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie today.


The Queen's mother and father holding her as a baby
Future King and Queen, George, Duke of York and Elizabeth Duchess of York holding their first child, future Monarch Princess Elizabeth at her christening ceremony in May 1926. Photo: Getty Images
Queen Mary with granddaughter Elizabeth of York in 1926
Queen Mary with granddaughter Elizabeth of York in 1926. Photo: Getty Images

Her early life was idyllic growing up with the love of her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary as well as her devoted parents.

When she was four, she gained a sibling in Princess Margaret and the sisters grew up in palaces and with the admiration of the British public.

The Queen Mother holding Princess Margaret and Elizabeth smiling at the camera.
The Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother) with the two princesses Margaret Rose and Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II). Photo: Getty Images
The Queen with her father, mother and sister as a child
The Royal Family at Windsor, 1930s. King George VI with his daughters and their pet dogs outside Y Bwthyn Bach (The Little House), a gift of the Welsh people to Princess Elizabeth. Photo: Getty Images

King George adored his eldest grandchild, giving her the nickname 'Lilibet', to which she would affectionately call him "Grandpa England".

King George V was a much-loved monarch but even he was aware that his eldest son and heir apparent, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales was not monarch material. 

"After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months", he's believed to have said of Edward.

"I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne," he added in what turned out to be surprisingly presentiment.

The Queen as a child waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London
The future Queen Elizabeth II waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, with her younger sister Margaret and her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary, on the occasion of their Silver Jubilee, 6th May 1935. Photo: Getty Images

King George V's health deteriorated quickly after his silver Jubilee and in January 1936 he passed away at the age of 70.

Prince Edward assumed the throne, becoming King Edward VIII.

King Edward VIII leaving Buckingham Palace after his coronation
King Edward VIII leaving Buckingham Palace for a levee at St James' s. From Coronation Souvenir Book 1937. Photo: Getty Images
King Edward VIII married Mrs Wallis Simpson
3rd June 1937 the wedding of the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) and Mrs Wallis Simpson at Chateau de Conde, France. Photo: Getty Images

However, Edward abdicated 326 days later rather than causing a constitutional crisis after proposing to American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Wallis was a twice divorced American and as the head of the Church of England, it was deemed morally corrupt for a King to marry a divorcee. The government gave the king three options – leave Wallis, marry her and the government would resign throwing the country into a constitutional crisis or abdicate.

King Edward VIII, wanting to be with Wallis, chose to abdicate.

On December 10, 1936, Edward, in front of his three brothers, signed a declaration saying: "[I] declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately"

The Daily Express newspaper headline carrying the story of the abdication of King Edward VIII
The Daily Express newspaper headline carrying the story of the abdication of King Edward VIII, and the coming coronation of his brother George in his place the following May as King George VI. Photo: Getty Images

The next day he addressed his subjects worldwide saying: "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

"[The] decision was mine and mine alone ... The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course"

This changed 10-year-old Elizabeth's life forever. Instead of enjoying life as a minor royal, she was propelled into the limelight as the heir presumptive.

Prince Albert was crowned king using one of his middle names, George, to restore confidence in the monarchy and have continuity with his father King George V.

From then on Elizabeth knew that her life was to become one of service to crown and country. 

Coronation of King George VI
Photograph taken during the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother, pictured with their children and Queen Mary of Teck. Dated 20th Century. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England with their daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England with their daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in their coronation robes. Photo: Getty Images

When she was just 25 years old, on the death of her father the king, mother-of-two Elizabeth became Queen to the UK and 15 Commonwealth realms including Australia. 

While publicly she is a dedicated monarch, not much is known about what she really thinks about what has happened to her or what is going on in the world as she does not give interviews. However her Christmas messages do from time to time give us insight into her private thoughts. 

"Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with their talents or their time," she said in her 2008 Christmas speech

"What they offer comes in the form of what can easily be recognised as service to the nation or service to the wider community. As often as not however, their unselfishness is a simply-taken-for-granted part of the life of their family or neighbourhood," she added.

Queen Elizabeth smiles at Ascot
Queen Elizabeth II attends Ascot Racecourse on October 16, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

But let's not forget she carries the strength of her whole linage of monarchs.

"When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future," she says.

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