the royal family

As of Today, Queen Elizabeth II Is Britain’s Longest-Ruling Monarch

From left: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria.
From left: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria. Photo: The Stapleton Collection/Art Resource, NY/William Hustler and Georgina Hustler/National Portrait Gallery, London

Today marks 63 years and 216 days since Elizabeth became queen, surpassing Victoria. Here, a dual look back at two royals, 127 years, and many, many pets.

Queen Victoria 

Rule: 1837–1901
b. Alexandrina Victoria, May 24, 1819; fifth in the line of succession.
m. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 1840.

During her reign: Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, the best-selling novel in British history, is published (1859) • Launch of the longest ship in the world, the Great Eastern (1858) • The Cleveland Street scandal, in which a male brothel in London is raided and rumors circulate that the queen’s grandson Prince Albert Victor is a client (1889) • Britain effectively annexes Egypt after buying up Suez Canal  shares (1875).

Assassination attempts: Edward Oxford fires two shots at Victoria as she rides out of Buckingham Palace, and misses (1840) • John Francis runs at the queen and fires a pistol one Sunday morning; misses and escapes, then tries again the next day and is caught (1842) • Retired army officer Robert Pate runs up and beats her with his cane (1850) • Roderick MacLean fires a shot at her and misses (1882).

Children: Victoria (b. 1840) • Albert Edward (b. 1841) • Alice, (b. 1843) • Alfred  (b. 1844) • Helena (b. 1846) • Louise (b. 1848) Arthur, (b. 1850) • Leopold  (b. 1853) • Beatrice (b. 1857). 42 grandchildren, 87 great-grandchildren.

Pets: A King Charles spaniel named Dash • a greyhound, Nero • a deerhound, Hector • a parrot, Lory • a collie, Noble (“guardian of the queen’s gloves”).

Year 1

1837: Awakens to learn that William IV, her uncle, has died, making her queen at 18. At her coronation, wears the newly rebuilt Imperial State Crown.

1838: The first of several incidents involving “Boy Jones,” a weirdo who snuck into the queen’s dressing room and stole her underwear.

1842–44: The queen is photographed and travels by train, each a royal first.

Year 15

1852: Albert buys Balmoral Castle. Unlike other royal properties, it’s purchased with personal funds. (Today, Queen Elizabeth II summers there.)

1853: National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights, the first group campaigning for Scotland’s independence, founded.

1858: The government grinds to a halt because the Thames smells so bad. Victoria and Albert try a boat ride but quit within minutes.

1861: Albert dies of typhoid fever. Victoria, in mourning, stays out of public view for several years, and wears black for the next 40.

Year 30

1867: Grants Canada semi-independence (it can govern itself, but is still part of the empire), amid fears that America is about to invade.

1868: William Gladstone’s first of four terms as prime minister. Victoria can’t stand him; calls him “arrogant, tyrannical and obstinate.”

1870: Near the peak of its industrial power, England produces one-third of all global output.

1877: Adds a new title, Empress of India. (Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, cedes the imperial title in 1948.)

Year 45

1896: Surpasses George III to become the longest-reigning British monarch. The next year, marks her Diamond Jubilee.

1900: Victoria’s son Alfred dies. “It is a horrible year,” writes Victoria, “nothing but sadness & horrors.”

Year 64

1901: Dies on the Isle of Wight at 81. Albert Edward (Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather) becomes King Edward VII.

Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: The Art Archive/V&A Images/Art Resource, NY

Queen Elizabeth II

Rule: 1952–present
b. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, April 21, 1926; third in the line of succession.
m. Philip Mountbatten, 1947.

During her reign: The Lord of the Rings, Britain’s second-best-selling novel of all time, is published (1954–55) • Christens the longest passenger ship in the world, the Queen Mary 2 (2004) • Homosexuality is decriminalized in England (1967) and same-sex marriage is legalized (2013), a change the queen reportedly calls “wonderful” • Britain loses control of the Suez Canal after Egypt tries to nationalize it (1956).

Assassination attempts: During a trip to Australia, a log is rolled onto the tracks ahead of her train, where it was presumably intended to cause a derailment (1970) • At her annual “Trooping the Colour” birthday celebration, Marcus Sarjeant fires six shots that turn out to be blanks (1981) • An assassination-by-knife plot by Islamic terrorists is foiled by Scotland Yard (2014).

Children: Charles  (b. 1948) • Anne (b. 1950) • Andrew (b. 1960) • Edward (b.1964) • Eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren.

Pets: More than 30 corgis, most descended from Susan, a dog given to Elizabeth in 1944. Today, she has two, Willow and Holly, as well as dachshund-corgi mixes Candy and Vulcan. She has also had cocker spaniels and Labradors.

Year 1

1952: On a visit to Kenya, she learns that her father has died, and, at 25, she returns to London as Queen Elizabeth II.

1953: Her coronation is televised, a royal first. Wears the Imperial State Crown, rebuilt for her father.

1965: Two decades after her stint in the army fixing trucks, makes the first official trip to Germany since 1913, in an unprecedented run of state visits.

Year 15

1969: Prince Philip suggests that being royal is not what it used to be: “We go into the red next year. I shall probably have to give up polo.”

1974: Meets Margaret Thatcher, then a member of Parliament with a rising national profile. Mrs. Thatcher faints shortly afterward.

1977–81: Elizabeth’s first grandchild, Peter Phillips, arrives. Victoria’s last grandchild, Alice, Countess of Athlone, dies at 97.

1981: Charles marries Diana Spencer, and they soon produce an heir, the (likely) future King William V.

Year 30

1982: Awakens one morning to find a crackpot named Michael Fagan sitting in her bedroom.

1980s: The prime minister and the monarch don’t get along. Mrs. Thatcher hectors her about policy; privately, Elizabeth mocks her accent.

1992: After the collapse of three of her children’s marriages and a fire at Windsor Castle, the queen calls 1992 an “annus horribilis.

1997: Diana dies, and the family’s response is too stoic for the public. In one poll, a quarter of all Britons want the monarchy abolished.

Year 45

2002: Elizabeth’s sister, Margaret (age 71), and her mother (101) die a few weeks apart.

2012: Diamond Jubilee, the first since 1897. Lately, when learning something of interest, she’s been heard telling Philip, “You’d better Google that.”

Year 64

2014: Scotland’s independence referendum, which the queen had all but openly opposed, fails.

September 9, 2015: Elizabeth breaks the regnal record: 63 years, 216 days.

*This article appears in the September 7, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

Elizabeth II Is Britain’s Longest-Ruling Monarch