17 Vintage Photos of Queen Elizabeth II Before She Became Queen

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom's longest reigning monarch, having ascended the throne in 1952 at age 25. Here are some snapshots of what her life was like before her coronation.

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Baby Queen Elizabeth
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1926: Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is born

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born on April 21, 1926. She’s pictured here with her mother, Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, who was the wife of Prince Albert “Bertie” of York. Since Bertie was the second-born son of the reigning monarch, King George V, no one, and least of all the princess, herself, had any clue Elizabeth would one day be Queen. Here, she’s just a sweet firstborn daughter of the “spare” heir.

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Baby Queen Elizabeth II
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1927: Lilibet at 14 months

When Princess Elizabeth was learning to speak, she had trouble pronouncing her name, referring to herself as “Lilibet,” and the name stuck. Lilibet was a happy and friendly child and the darling of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary. Outgoing and plucky, Lilibet was one of the few people on the planet who wasn’t intimidated by the man she called “Grandpa England,” whom she led by his beard as if he were a horse, according to TIME.

Discover these little-known facts about Queen Elizabeth.

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Queen Elizabeth as a child
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1932: Still a cozy, normal childhood

Arriving at the Royal Tournament in 1932, Princess Elizabeth was dressed like the proper princess that she was, but she generally lived a quiet life outside the spotlight. Until the birth of her sister, Princess Margaret Ann, she played with the children of businessmen and doctors, as opposed to the children of royals. Princess Margaret was a playful influence on her sister, who was, as is often the case with older siblings, more conscientious and responsible.

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Queen Elizabeth as a child
Photo: Historia/Shutterstock

1936: Everything was about to change

Pictured with two of her Corgis in 1936, Princess Elizabeth likely has little awareness of the constitutional crisis brewing as a result of King Edward VIII’s romance with the still-married, once-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Her divorce, among other things, made her an inappropriate king’s “consort,” but Edward declared his intention to marry her and make her his queen. By the end of 1936, Edward would abdicate after learning the British people wouldn’t be able to support their King’s marriage to a divorcee, leaving Elizabeth’s father, Bertie, as King (King George VI) and Elizabeth as the presumptive heir.

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Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret as kids
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1937: The future Queen and her sister at play

It was around this time that Princess Elizabeth realized she was now the presumptive heir to the throne. (She could not be heir “apparent” because theoretically, her father could still have fathered a son, who in the days of male primogeniture, would bump Elizabeth from the line of succession.) Princess Margaret famously expressed her “sympathy” for what lay ahead of her dear older sister. Today, Queen Elizabeth II helped do away with male progeniture.

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Queen Elizabeth as a kid playing with an elephant
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1939: Elizabeth as a lover of animals

Queen Elizabeth II is one of, if not the, most famous animal lover in the world. Here she’s seen feeding one of the elephants at the London Zoo. Later in life, Elizabeth received one as a gift from the President of Cameroon in 1972.

Here are 10 of the most memorable royal visits to Canada.

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Queen Elizabeth as a teenager
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1943: All the pretty horses

Queen Elizabeth started riding at age three and has owned many horses throughout her life. Here she is, at age 17, with one of her many horses during harvest time at Sandringham in Norfolk.

Don’t miss these rarely seen photos of the royal family throughout history.

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Art (Portraits) - various Princess Elizabeth 1926- at her desk answering telephone greetings on her 18th birthday, 21 April 1944
Photo: The Art Archive/Shutterstock

1944: The heir presumptive turns 18

The 18th birthday of an heir (apparent or presumptive) signifies the heir could become monarch at any time without the need for a regent to act on his/her behalf. Here, Elizabeth answers a telephone greeting on her 18th birthday, April 21, 1944.

Find out why Queen Elizabeth celebrates two birthdays every year.

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Photo: Shutterstock

1945: A Princess does her military duty

It took a lot of cajoling, but eventually, Elizabeth got her father, King George VI to agree to allow her to join the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, for which she donned coveralls and trained as a mechanic and truck driver and was known as “Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor.” According to History, the Queen is the only female royal family member to have entered the armed forces. She may also be the only royal female who can change a spark plug.

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Queen Elizabeth at 18
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1946: The Princess does her duty for fashion

The current Princesses of the United Kingdom are not the first to have been on almost constant style-watch. Here, Princess Elizabeth is pictured modeling what can only be described as a truly fabulous fashion-forward hat.

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Queen Elizabeth at 18
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1947: A future Queen’s promise

On April 21, 1947, on the occasion of her 21st birthday, Princess Elizabeth announces her intention to serve as Queen for life (when the time comes) and promises her loyalty and faithfulness in serving. Some say this speech was her commitment to never abdicate.

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Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1948
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1947: Wedding day

On November 20, 1947, Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten were married at Westminster Abbey. To marry Elizabeth, Philip, who was born into the royal families of Greece and Denmark, had to renounce his birth titles (Prince of Greece and Denmark). In return, his father-in-law-to-be created him Duke of Edinburgh, Baron Greenwich, and Earl of Merioneth.

Take a look back at the long, full life of Prince Philip.

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Queen Elizabeth in 1948
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1948: The pregnant Princess Elizabeth

During the summer of 1948, Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, are snapped arriving at Ballater Station en route to Balmoral for a family vacation (or “holiday,” as they say in England). At this time, Elizabeth is six months pregnant with her first child, Prince Charles.

Here’s what will happen when Prince Charles becomes king.

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Queen Elizabeth with a baby Prince Charles
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1950: The Princess and her toddler

In September 1950, Princess Elizabeth is seen with Prince Charles, age two, on the train on their way to visit her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral in Scotland.

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Queen Elizabeth with a baby Prince Charles
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1951: Princess Elizabeth and her baby daughter

Princess Anne is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Born Her Royal Highness Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise of Edinburgh on August 15, 1950, Anne will later become Princess Royal, a title the monarch may bestow on his/her eldest daughter.

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Queen Elizabeth in 1951
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1951: The Princess cuts a rug

In 1951, during the Royal Tour, which she went on in place of her ailing father, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth dances a traditional square dance at Government House in Ottawa.

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Queen Elizabeth in Nairobi, 1952
Photo: AP/Shutterstock

1952: A last look at the Princess

On February 2, 1952, Colonel Mervyn Cowie opens the visitor’s book for Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to sign upon their arrival at Nairobi National Park for a tour, during which they slept in a hotel built as a treehouse. Philip is chatting in the background with Cowie’s daughter, Mitzie. Four days later, King George VI would be dead, and the Princess would ascend the throne as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Next, check out these rare photos of the Queen with her father, King George VI.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest