Queen Elizabeth’s Incredible Life in 30 Quotes
As the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada and 14 other Commonwealth realms, Queen Elizabeth II is expected to remain above party politics and choose her words carefully. When she does speak, however, the world listens. To celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, we’re taking a look back at some of Queen Elizabeth's most significant quotes—from bon mots captured in casual conversations to rousing speeches delivered on the global stage.
Quotes from the young Princess Elizabeth
“I’ve got a baby sister, Margaret Rose, and I’m going to call her Bud… She’s not a real Rose yet, is she? She’s only a bud.” – Four-year-old Princess Elizabeth to Lady Cynthia Asquith on the birth of Princess Margaret Rose in 1930.
The vivacious Princess Margaret and her more reserved elder sister, the future Queen Elizabeth II, had very different personalities, but they remained close until Margaret’s death in 2002.
“I mostly go once or twice around the park before I go to sleep, you know… It exercises my horses.” – Six-year-old Princess Elizabeth to her governess Marion Crawford in 1932.
The future Queen loved horses and dogs from an early age. In her memoir, The Little Princesses, Princess Elizabeth’s Scottish governess recalled how when she first met the future Queen, she was playing with her toy horses.
“What! You mean forever?” – 10-year-old Princess Elizabeth to her governess Marion Crawford in December 1936, in response to the news that she would be moving into Buckingham Palace.
The Abdication of Princess Elizabeth’s uncle King Edward VIII in 1936 and the accession of her father King George VI meant that the young princess had to leave Clarence House and move into Buckingham Palace with her parents and sister, a change that was unwelcome for the young family.
Don’t miss these heartwarming vintage photos of Elizabeth with her father.
“I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did, too. The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.” – from “To Mummy and Papa [King George VI and Queen Elizabeth], In Memory of Their Coronation. From Lilibet, by Herself,” written by 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth in 1937.
As the new heiress presumptive to the throne, the young Princess Elizabeth was impressed by the solemnity of her father’s coronation. In a 2018 documentary about her own 1953 coronation, the Queen remarked to Alastair Bruce, “I’ve seen one coronation, and been the recipient in the other, which is pretty remarkable.”
Check out these rarely-seen photos of Elizabeth before she became Queen.
“How high he can jump!” – 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth watching Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark jump over tennis court nets at Dartmouth Naval College, 23 July 1939.
When Princess Elizabeth toured Dartmouth Naval College in 1939, she was especially impressed with one of the young naval cadets, 18-year-old Prince Philip. They would correspond over the course of the Second World War while Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy.
The Queen during the Second World War
“And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place. My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you. Come on, Margaret. Goodnight, children.” – 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth’s radio broadcast to the children of the Commonwealth, 13 October 1940.
Princess Elizabeth made her first-ever radio broadcast from Windsor Castle during BBC Children’s Hour in 1940. As Queen, she would reference this broadcast in another historic speech from Windsor Castle 80 years later: her April 2020 address during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m too nervous to feel the cold.” — 17-year-old Princess Elizabeth at the launch of the HMS Vanguard on 30 November 1944.
At 16, Princess Elizabeth began undertaking public engagements, starting with a review of her regiment, the Grenadier Guards in 1942. One of her most high-profile wartime public engagements was the launch of a Royal Navy Battleship, the HMS Vanguard, described in newsreel footage as “Britain’s greatest battleship.”
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“I defy anyone to recognize who that is,” — 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth on the photograph of a bearded Prince Philip, displayed on the mantlepiece of her sitting room.
At 18, Princess Elizabeth received her own suite of rooms and displayed a photograph of Prince Philip, who had visited Windsor Castle during his periods of leave from the navy during the war. When her governess Marion Crawford expressed concern that the photograph would lead to gossip, the Princess replaced it with one of Prince Philip with a full beard.
Don’t miss these rarely-seen photos of Prince Philip.
“I never knew there was quite so much advance preparation. I’ll know another time.” — Princess Elizabeth on a visit by her parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the Auxiliary Territorial Service, reported in Life magazine, 20 August 1945.
In 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a second subaltern, rising to the rank of junior commander by the end of the war. In the ATS, the Princess passed a military driving test and repaired vehicles. She also learned the amount of preparation that went into royal visits when she helped to clean the camp in anticipation of an inspection from her parents, the King and Queen.
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“I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes… I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, and all of us were swept along by tides of happiness and relief.” — Queen Elizabeth II speaking to the BBC in 1985 about joining street celebrations for VE Day in London on 8 May 1945.
On VE Day, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret joined the celebrations in London incognito, shouting “We Want the King” and “We Want the Queen” with the rest of the crowd until their parents appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Although you’re probably familiar with Buckingham Palace, how well do you know the other official residences of the British royal family?
The Queen on Marriage and Motherhood
“Philip enjoys driving and does it fast! He has his own tiny MG which he is very proud of—he has taken me about in it, once up to London, which was great fun, only it was like sitting on the road, and the wheels are almost as high as one’s head.” – Letter from Princess Elizabeth to the author Betty Shew, 1947.
After the Second World War ended, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent more time together, dancing, going to the theatre, and enjoying drives in the Prince’s car. The couple’s engagement was announced on 9 July 1947 and they were married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947.
Check out these fascinating royal wedding facts most people don’t know.
“Fine with long fingers—quite unlike mine and certainly unlike his father’s. It will be interesting to see what they become.” – Letter from Princess Elizabeth to a friend about the baby Prince Charles’s hands, November 1948, printed in Anthony Holden’s Charles Prince of Wales (1979).
In the months following the birth of her first child, Prince Charles, Princess Elizabeth was a hands-on mother and nursed him herself until she contracted measles. King George VI’s failing health and Prince Philip’s naval career, however, meant that she soon had a busy schedule of travel from extended periods at the Mountbatten residence near the naval base in Malta to an official visit to Canada in 1951.
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“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.” – Queen Elizabeth II at a luncheon at the Banqueting House (Whitehall Palace), London, in honour of the 50th anniversary of her marriage to Prince Philip, 20 November 1997.
In popular culture, the Queen and Prince Philip’s 50th wedding anniversary was overshadowed by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, that same year. Nevertheless, the Queen took the time to pay tribute to Prince Philip’s decades of personal and public support for her role as Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms.
Take a look back at Prince Philip’s life in 50 photos.
“Yes. It is the best job,” – The Queen discussing motherhood with actress Kate Winslet on 21 November 2012.
When the Queen made Kate Winslet a Commander of the British Empire for her contributions to the arts at Buckingham Palace in 2012, the monarch asked if acting was a satisfying way to make a living. Winslet replied that she liked her career, “but not as much as being a mother. [Motherhood] is the best job.” The Queen enjoys spending time with her four children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Get to know all of the Queen’s great-grandchildren, from oldest to youngest.
“Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the blessings of home and family and, in particular, for 70 years of marriage. I don’t know that anyone had invented the term ‘platinum’ for a 70th wedding anniversary. When I was born, you weren’t expected to be around that long.” – The Queen’s Christmas Message, 25 December 2017.
In December 2017, Season 2 of The Crown series on Netflix dramatized conflict in the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip in the late ’50s and early ’60s. In contrast, the Queen emphasized the success and longevity of her marriage a few weeks later in her 2017 Christmas message. Prince Philip would pass away on April 9, 2021, just two months shy of his 100th birthday.
Take a look back at the long, full life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The Queen on the Commonwealth
“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.” – Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday broadcast, Cape Town, South Africa, 21 April 1947.
In her most famous speech, delivered during her first overseas tour with her parents and sister, Princess Elizabeth pledged her whole life to public service in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. This pledge and the solemn rites of her coronation in 1953 emphasized that the Queen views her role as sovereign as a lifelong commitment.
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“It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult. That is why we can take a pride in the new Commonwealth we are building. This year Ghana and Malaya joined our brotherhood. Both these countries are now entirely self-governing. Both achieved their new status amicably and peacefully.” – The Queen’s First Televised Christmas Broadcast, 25 December 1957.
As dramatized in Season 2 of The Crown, the Queen delivered her first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957. The speech emphasized the transition from the British Empire to Commonwealth of equal nations as more countries achieved independence. The Queen also recalled how she “was overwhelmed by the loyalty and enthusiasm of my Canadian people” when she opened parliament in Ottawa that same year.
“The function of constitutional monarchy is to personify the democratic state, to sanction legitimate authority, to assure the legality of means, and guarantee the execution of the public will. It is my ardent desire that no citizen in my realms should suffer restraint.” — The Queen’s speech to the Quebec Provincial Legislature, 9 October 1964.
In 1964, the Queen emphasized the role of constitutional monarchy as a source of freedom and national unity in a speech delivered mostly in French to the provincial legislature in Quebec City. The Queen is fluently bilingual in French and English. The 1964 tour proved to be one of the most controversial Canadian royal tours as the Queen faced protestors and the speech was interpreted in the press as a gentle challenge to Quebec separatism.
Take a look back at the Queen’s Canadian milestones.
“It is as Queen of Canada that I am here—Queen of all Canadians, not just of one or two ancestral strains. I would like to be seen as a symbol of national sovereignty, a link between Canadian citizens of every national origin.” – The Queen’s speech at an official dinner at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, 26 June 1973.
In 1973, the Queen praised Canadian multiculturalism in a speech delivered at the Royal York Hotel, a hotel that has hosted four generations of the Royal Family during their visits to Toronto. At a time when there were questions raised about the continuing relevance of a “British” monarch as Queen of Canada, the Queen emphasized her role as sovereign for Canadians of all backgrounds.
Find out more Canadian hotels that have hosted royal guests.
“And I shall never forget the State Visit of President Mandela. The most gracious of men has shown us all how to accept the facts of the past without bitterness, how to see new opportunities as more important than old disputes and how to look forward with courage and optimism.” – The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast, 25 December 1996.
As dramatized in Season 4 of The Crown, the Queen supported the end of apartheid in South Africa and there is evidence and that the Queen and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher disagreed on whether or not to impose economic sanctions. The Queen first met Nelson Mandela in 1991, and in 1995, she returned to South Africa for the first time since 1947 for a state visit. The Queen and Mandela became good friends and the Queen raised a toast to “This wonderful man” when she hosted him for a return state visit to the United Kingdom the following year.
Don’t miss this collection of powerful Nelson Mandela quotes.
The Queen on Her “Annus Horribilis” (and its Aftermath)
“1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’.” – The Queen’s speech at the London Guildhall on the occasion of her Ruby Jubilee, the 40th anniversary of her accession, 24 November 1992.
1992 should have been a year of celebration as the Queen celebrated her Ruby Jubilee. Instead, the year famously became her “Annus Horribilis” as the marriages of three of her four children broke down with the royal scandals chronicled in lurid detail in the tabloid press. Delivering the speech at the Guildhall, the Queen’s voice was noticeably hoarse—she had caught a cold the previous week when her favourite residence, Windsor Castle, was severely damaged by fire.
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“I had her for an hour—and she cried non-stop,” — The Queen to a member of her household in the early 1990s.
As her marriage to Prince Charles broke down, Diana, Princess of Wales, made a series of unannounced visits to the Queen. According to the Queen’s biographer Ingrid Seward, the Queen commented on Diana’s distress after a footman remarked, “The Princess cried three times in a half an hour while she was waiting to see you.”
“We strongly disapprove of the publication of photographs taken in such circumstances.” – Buckingham Palace statement issued on the Queen’s behalf, 20 August 1992.
This terse announcement followed the publication of paparazzi photos of a topless Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, sunbathing and having her toes sucked by her “financial adviser” John Bryant. In her 1997 memoir My Story, the Duchess of York recalled that the photos were published while she was at Balmoral with the royal family, “Eyes wide and mouths ajar, the adults were flipping through the Daily Mirror.” The Duchess recalled that the Queen’s “anger wounded me to the core, the more because I knew she was justified. I had violated her trust.”
“I am very worried about the children.” – The Queen to a guest at a luncheon for King Hussein of Jordan’s 60th birthday, 5 November 1995.
That evening, Diana, Princess of Wales was interviewed about the breakdown of her marriage by Martin Bashir on BBC Panorama. It was during this infamous program that Diana stated, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” referring to Prince Charles’s ongoing relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
“So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart. First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself… I admired and respected her—for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys.” – The Queen’s broadcast in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, 5 September 1997.
When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car accident on 31 August 1997, the Queen initially remained at Balmoral Castle with her extended family, keeping her grandsons Prince William and Harry out of the public eye as they grieved the loss of their mother. After British newspaper headlines demanded that the Queen “Show Us You Care,” the royal family returned to London and the Queen spoke directly to the public about Diana’s legacy.
Find out about the little-known letter Queen Elizabeth wrote after Diana’s death.
The Queen as a 21st Century Monarch
“The theme this year is, ‘Women as Agents of Change’. It reminds us of the potential in our societies that is yet to be fully unlocked, and it encourages us to find ways to allow all girls and women to play their full part.” – The Queen’s speech at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting opening ceremony in Perth, Australia, 28 October 2011.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, all 16 prime ministers of the Commonwealth realms where the Queen is Head of State, agreed in principle to a gender-neutral royal succession. Coming into effect throughout the Commonwealth in 2015, a daughter would no longer be superseded by her younger brother in the line of succession.
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“The events that I have attended to mark my Diamond Jubilee have been a humbling experience. It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbours and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere.” – The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Address, 6 June 2012.
Queen Elizabeth II was only the second British and Commonwealth monarch to celebrate 60 years on the throne (the first was Queen Victoria in 1897). Throughout the Diamond Jubilee year, the Queen and Prince Philip undertook public engagements in the United Kingdom, while their children and grandchildren toured the Commonwealth.
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“While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour. Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us.” – The Queen’s broadcast to the United Kingdom and Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, 5 April 2020.
The Queen has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic at Windsor Castle, the same place she spent the Second World War. Her broadcast to the United Kingdom and Commonwealth drew parallels between these two historic events.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.” – Statement issued by Buckingham Palace on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, 9 March 2021.
On 7 March 2021, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey about their departure from the United Kingdom and their previous roles as senior members of the royal family. While the couple expressed great affection and admiration for the Queen, they were critical of “the firm” and “institution.” In her official statement, the Queen emphasized that Harry, Meghan and their son Archie are much-loved members of her family but noted significantly that “some recollections may vary.”
“It’s fascinating to see the pictures of Mars—it’s unbelievable, really, to think one can actually see its surface!” – The Queen on a video call to British scientists, educators and schoolchildren in honour of British Science Week, 12 March 2021.
The Queen’s 70-year reign has been a period of unprecedented political, cultural and technological change. At 95, the Queen continues to engage with the latest developments and discoveries in the United Kingdom, Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth.
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