Queen Elizabeth Turns 96: See the Most Iconic Moments from Her Historic Reign

Look back at some of the most notable moments from Queen Elizabeth's life

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WARTIME DUTY

Princess Drives Ambulance
Popperfoto/Getty

In 1945, a then-Princess Elizabeth did her part for the war effort when she served as an ambulance driver for the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.

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QUICK WIT

Elizabeth II [RF: England RF];Ronald W. Reagan
Diana Walker/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II made President Ronald Reagan laugh during a state dinner at Windsor Castle in 1982.

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ANNUS HORRIBILIS

Queen Elizabeth II making her "Annus Horribilis" speech at t
Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II gave her now-famous "Annus Horribilis" speech on the 40th anniversary of her succession. During that year, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew ended their marriages, Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage imploded in the press and Windsor Castle was extensively damaged in a fire.

04 of 41

A UNITED ROYAL FAMILY

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh stand on the balcony during the Trooping the Colour, this year marking the Queen's 90th birthday at The Mall on June 11, 2016 in London, England. The ceremony is Queen Elizabeth II's annual birthday parade and dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th Century when the Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle.
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty

Prince Charles, Princess Kate, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William and Prince Harry joined Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2016 for the special Trooping the Colour flypast in honor of her 90th birthday.

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SCOTTISH DAYS

Royal Family Group at Balmoral
Lichfield/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II posed with Prince Philip and their children at her favorite castle — Balmoral — in 1972.

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SAY CHEESE

Queen Elizabeth II And Duke Of Edinburgh Visit Northern Ireland
Peter Macdiarmid/Pool/Getty

A cheeky young man snapped a selfie with Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2014.

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THE WINDSOR WOMEN

Margaret Rose [RF: England RF];Elizabeth II [RF: England RF];Elizabeth [& Family] [RF: England RF]
Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II stepped out onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen Mother's 100th birthday in 2000. Both Margaret and the Queen Mother would pass away two years later.

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WOMEN IN POWER

ZMB: Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher visit Zambia
Anwar Hussein/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II was joined by Margaret Thatcher in Zambia for the Commonwealth conference in 1979.

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THE NEW QUEEN

Queen Elizabeth II
OFF/AFP/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Sir Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden and Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton and Lord President of the Council, as she arrived from Kenya, where she was on a royal tour when her father King George VI died in 1952.

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SISTER SISTER

Royal Couple
Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret played with their dogs outside the Royal Lodge in Windsor Castle during a portrait session in 1942.

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DIANA YEARS

Queen Elizabeth
Fox Photos/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II posed with Prince Charles and his then-fiancée Lady Diana Spencer at Buckingham Palace in 1981. Several months later, Diana and Charles would be married.

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AT THE WHEEL

Queen Behind The Wheel
Bob Haswell/Express/Getty

In 1958, Queen Elizabeth II flashed a smile when she drove herself to a polo match in Windsor.

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LIL' LILIBET

Childhood Portrait Of Queen Elizabeth II
Marcus Adams/Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty

A then-Princess Elizabeth posed for a portrait in 1928. One of the snaps from this sitting ended up on the cover of TIME that same year.

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TOUCH UPS

Queen Elizabeth II putting on lipstick
Queen Elizabeth. David Levenson/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II took a momeny during the Windsor Horse Show in 1985 to reapply her lipstick.

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QUEEN OF STYLE

Queen In Sydney
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II looked chic in white when she attended a garden party in Sydney in 1954.

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ROYAL GRANDMA

GBR: Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne with her first grandchild
Anwar Hussein/Getty

Queen Elizabeth attempted to calm her first grandchild, Peter Phillips, after her started to cry after his christening in 1977. Peter is being held by his mother Princess Anne.

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CRACKING UP

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Visit The East Midlands
Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth. Phil Noble/WPA Pool/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II made Kate Middleton laugh during an event in Nottingham, England, in 2012.

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MUST LOVE DOGS

The Queen Sitting By A Waterfall
Lichfield/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II posed with two of her beloved corgis during her annual summer vacation at Balmoral Castle in 1971.

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QUEENLY CALM

Queen Elizabeth II During Trooping The Colour Parade In London In 1970
GAMMA/Gamma-Keystone/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II didn't break her stride when a guard fainted during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 1970. The Queen showed similar calm when a man fired six blanks at her while she rode past during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 1981.

20 of 41

OPENING UP

queen-elizabeth
Jim Bennett

Queen Elizabeth II made headlines when she was spotted driving Princess Kate's mother Carole Middleton during an outing at Balmoral in 2016. The moment signified that the royal family had opened up more to their in-laws after several high-profile divorces.

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A ROSE FOR ENGLAND

Queen Elizabeth II with Young Mourners
Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II recieved a rose from a young mourner outside Princess Diana's funeral in 1997.

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GRANNY'S PRIDE

Queen Elizabeth II
Tim Graham/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II exchanged a smile with grandson Prince Harry while inspecting soldiers at the Sovereign's Parade at the Sandhurst Military Academy in 2006.

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HORSE GIRL

The Queen on horse looking to Balmoral
Queen Elizabeth. Lichfield/Getty

An avid horsewoman, Queen Elizabeth II rode on horseback during a family vacation at Balmoral Castle in 1971.

24 of 41

STIFF UPPER LIP

Britain Queen Elizabeth II (C) arrives d
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II kept a straight face during her hilarious entrance during the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Her stern expression from this event would later become a meme.

25 of 41

HAPPIER TIMES

The Queen on board HMY Britannia
Lichfield/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II appeared in high spirits onboard the HMY Britannia in 1972. The yacht, which was beloved by the Queen, was decommissioned by Parliament in 1997.

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GLITTER QUEEN

Queen Eliszabeth II - TOUT
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II sparkled in diamonds as attended the Opening of Parliament in 2000.

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A TIME FOR MOURNING

Queeen Lays Wreath
Tim Graham/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath outside the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland in 1996. The school was the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United Kingdom's history when a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher before taking his own life.

28 of 41

ROYAL WEDDING

London, England. 20th November, 1947. Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Philip Mountbatten pictured leaving Westminster Abbey after their wedding ceremony.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's wedding. Popperfoto/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip in 1947.

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THE BRITISH BULLDOG

Queen And Churchill
Central Press/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II chatted with Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1953. She was joined by a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

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SHARP SHOOTER

Queen Elizabeth II
Tim Ockenden/PA

Queen Elizabeth II fired a SA 80 rifle when she attended the centenary of the Army Rifle Association at Bisley, England, in 1993.

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LETTING LOOSE

Princess At Sea
Popper/Popperfoto/Getty

A then-Princess Elizabeth played around with crewmembers aboard the HMS Vanguard during the royal family's trip to South Africa in 1947.

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FULL REGALIA

8422901-5323.8362201 19501#corbis
Bettmann/CORBIS

Queen Elizabeth II posed for a formal portrait after her coronation in 1953.

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GIRL POWER

Queen With Spice Girls
Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty

Queen Elizabeth II met with the Spice Girls after a performance in London in 1997.

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MOTHER AND SON

queen-elizabeth-prince-charles-c
Nick Knight

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II posed for a portrait together in 2016.

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A HISTORIC ROYAL WEDDING

prince-harry-1
Alexi Lubomirski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The Queen posed alongside the royal family on the occassion of Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018.

36 of 41

A FIRST WITH MEGHAN MARKLE

The Duchess Of Sussex Undertakes Her First Official Engagement With Queen Elizabeth II
Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth in 2018. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The monarch had her first joint outing with Meghan Markle in June 2018, just weeks after the Duchess of Sussex officially joined the royal family — and the duo were all smiles throughout the event in Cheshire.

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KATE'S FIRST SOLO OUTING

Queen Elizabeth II And The Duchess Of Cambridge Visit King's College London
Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty

In March 2019, Kate Middleton joined Queen Elizabeth for a special joint outing — their first since Kate joined the royal family in 2011.

The future Queen got further insight into the life of the Sovereign when she and the monarch toured a high-tech university in central London. Kate and the Queen visited King's College's Strand campus, which is housed in the former BBC building, Bush House.

38 of 41

A CHRISTMAS TRADITION

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REX/Shutterstock

On Christmas Day 2018, the monarch delivered her annual broadcast to the Commonwealth. Since 1952, the message has been read by Queen Elizabeth.

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QUEEN IN LOCKDOWN

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth's address in April 2020. The Royal Family/Youtube

In a rare televised address that aired in the U.K. on April 5, 2020, paid tribute to healthcare workers and praised everyone who is making great changes to their lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again," she said. "But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all."

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IN MOURNING

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth. Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth takes her seat during the funeral of her beloved husband Prince Philip at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 30 guests were invited and they had to sit several feet apart.

41 of 41

Taking the Reins

queen elizabeth birthday portrait
Queen Elizabeth. henry dallal photography

In honor of her 96th birthday, a majestic new portrait shows Queen Elizabeth standing in front of a giant magnolia tree on the grounds of Windsor Castle while holding the reins of two of her favorite fell ponies.

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