30 Photos That Show The Extraordinary Life Of Queen Elizabeth II

source: getty images

Imagine being Queen Elizabeth II -- the young royal, aged 25 in 1952, assuming the throne of the most far-flung empire of the era. Regents are old, right? Prince Charles (her son) will be king -- in his 70s. Yet in 1952, with piles of rubble still lingering on London streets from World War II, Elizabeth stepped in as Queen of England at an age when high-achieving young people are, maybe, in grad school.

Elizabeth's status as an incredibly long-serving monarch overshadows her origins as an incredibly young monarch. We think of regal status as inevitable -- well, Elizabeth was not meant to be queen, and only got there because her uncle opted out. And while a royal monarch might be an anachronism, Elizabeth navigated her role as a figurehead impeccably through the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, 90s, and into the 21st century. 

Did the world need a queen, in the 20th century, as even the most traditional countries all over the world continued to move toward representative government? No, obviously not. But if the people wanted a queen, those people were fortunate to have such a deft one as Queen Elizabeth II.