Queen Elizabeth II is poised to become Britain's longest-reigning monarch. On 9 September she will beat the record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.

As the eldest child of the Duke and Duchess of York, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary would have been expected to play merely a supporting role in the monarchy. At the time of her birth on 21 April 1926, her father was only second in line to the throne. His brother, the Prince of Wales, was heir apparent to George V. Elizabeth's life changed abruptly on 11 December 1936, when her uncle, now King Edward VIII, announced he was renouncing the throne to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. The crown passed to his brother, who became George VI.

In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip were on a tour to Kenya when news of King George's death reached the royal couple. The princess returned to London as Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation, at the age of 27, took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. The ceremony was broadcast by television and radio throughout the world.

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queen Elizabeth II longest reign
8 February 1952: Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Sir Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden and Frederick James Marquis as she returns from Kenya. She was proclaimed Sovereign of each of the Commonwealth Realms two days earlier, upon the death of her father King George VI. Princess Elizabeth heard the news of her father's death while staying at Treetops, a game lodge in KenyaAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
8 February 1952: A ceremony is held in London for the proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throneAFP
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
2 June 1953: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose together after her coronationAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
2 June 1953: Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip, waves to the crowd from the balcony at Buckingham Palace after being crowned at Westminster Abbey. Her coronation was the first worldwide televised eventAFP

Queen Elizabeth's youth and gender caused some comment at the time, but turned out to be an asset in a country keen to make a fresh start after the war and years of austerity which followed. Social divisions and respect for the old order began to wane but the Queen was seen as a symbol of unity.

In July 1969, Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales at a ceremony in the 700-year-old Caernarfon Castle. During the ceremony the Prince, following ancient tradition, pledged his loyalty to the Queen before being vested with the emblems of office.

queen Elizabeth II longest reign
16 May 1954: Queen Elizabeth II and her children Prince Charles and Princess Anne wave to the crowd from a balcony at Buckingham Palace after returning from a tripAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
4 April 1955: Winston Churchill kisses Queen Elizabeth II's hand as she leaves 10 Downing Street in London after a dinner given by the Prime MinisterAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
September 1959: President Eisenhower poses with (left to right) Prince Philip, Princess Anne, the Queen, Prince Charles and Captain John Eisenhower, at Balmoral Castle, ScotlandFox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
26 January 1961: The Queen and Prince Philip pose with the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur after a tiger shoot in Jaipur, IndiaAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
30 July 1966: The Queen smiles after presenting England captain Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet trophy, following England's 4-2 victory over West Germany in the World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, LondonKeystone/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
11 July 1969: The Queen holds the hands of her 20-year-old son Charles during his investiture as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon CastleAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
15 February 1971: New British pounds notes and coins bearing the Queen's head are seen on Decimal DayBarnard/Fox Photos/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
April 1976: The Queen poses for her 50th birthday portrait, in Windsor(AFP)]
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
February 1977: Queen Elizabeth II poses for a special Jubilee picture in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace, after she had delivered the traditional Queen's speech at the 1976 official State Opening of Parliament. She wears the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State. Around her neck is the Jubilee Necklace of diamonds and pearls and the chain is the Collar of the Order of the Garter(AFP)]
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
July 1977: British tennis player Virginia Wade holds the trophy she won after defeating Holland's Betty Stove in the finals at Wimbledon. The trophy was presented by Queen Elizabeth II during her Silver Jubilee yearCentral Press/Getty Images

In 1981, 32-year-old Prince Charles married 20-year-old Princess Diana in a ceremony watched by an estimated worldwide television audience of 700 million people. Princess Diana gave birth to the couple's first son, William, in June 1982. Their second son, Harry, was born in 1984. In March 1986 Prince Andrew, the Queen's second son, announced his engagement to childhood playmate Sarah Ferguson, who brought with her what was initially seen as a breath of fresh air into a royal family hidebound by tradition.

The following decade saw the royal family under the public spotlight as never before. The Queen referred to 1992 as an "annus horribilis", or horrible year. Princess Anne's 18-year marriage ended in divorce amid speculation about her relationship with her future second husband Royal Navy Commander Timothy Laurence; Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson announced their formal separation after six years of marriage; the Queen's favourite royal home, Windsor Castle, was badly damaged by a fire; the perilous state of Prince Charles' and Princess Diana's marriage was revealed in the biography: "Diana, Her True Story", and in December they announced their separation.

The years following the break-up of her marriage saw Diana's popularity soar and thousands mourned her passing after she was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. The Queen came under unprecedented pressure to recognise the nation's grief and pay public tribute to the "people's princess".

During her reign, the Queen has broken new ground for the British monarchy during many of her overseas visits. She was the first British monarch to visit Japan. She met Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and became the first British monarch to walk on the Great Wall of China. In October 1994 the Queen arrived in Moscow for a ground-breaking visit aimed at healing nearly five decades of Anglo-Russian Cold War enmity.

queen Elizabeth II longest reign
29 July 1981: Members of the British and European royal families surround Prince Charles and Princess Diana after their wedding(AFP)]
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
18 September 1982: Prince Andrew talks to his mother as his father looks on, aboard the air carrier HMS Invincible, upon his return from the Falklands war, where he served as a helicopter pilot(AFP)]
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
23 July 1986: Prince Andrew and his bride Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, wave to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace while Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother look on(AFP)]
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
7 April 1989: Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev chats to the Queen at Windsor Castle at the end of his official visit to Great BritainAndre de Wet/AFP
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
26 April 1991: Polish President Lech Walesa talks to the Queen at Windsor Castle during his four-day state visit to BritainGerry Penny/AFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
6 May 1994: French President Francois Mitterrand welcomes the Queen to Calais during the opening of the Channel TunnelAFP
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21 December 1995: National newspaper front pages carry a report about the Queen sending a letter to both Prince Charles and the Princess Diana spelling out her desire for an early divorceAFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
5 September 1997: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh look at the mass of floral tributes laid outside Buckingham Palace in memory of Diana, Princess of WalesReuters

On New Year's Eve 1999, the Queen took part in London's New Millennium celebrations by joining hands with Prime Minister Tony Blair and singing Auld Lang Syne as thousands of revellers watched a spectacular fireworks display.

Another milestone was marked in August 2000 when the Queen joined her mother and her sister on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to cheers from the crowds gathered to celebrate the Queen Mother's 100th birthday.

The celebrations were soon to be followed by a period of loss and mourning for the Queen. Princess Margaret died in February 2002 after suffering a number of strokes and two months later the Queen Mother died, at the age of 101.

Less than a month after the Queen Mother's funeral the Queen began a gruelling Golden Jubilee tour marking her 50 years on the throne which culminated in four days of nationwide celebrations in June 2002.

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11 July 2000 : The Queen Mother declines the hand of her grandson Prince Charles as she walks down the steps of St Paul's Cathedral following a service for her 100th birthday. They are accompanied by Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Andrew and Princes Harry and WilliamJonathan Evans/AFP
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
15 February 2002: The Queen wipes her eyes as she stands with Sarah Chatto, Viscount Linley, the Duke of Edinburgh and Serena Linley on the steps of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, following the funeral of Princess MargaretReuters
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
9 April 2002: The Queen and Prince Charles walk behind the Queen Mother's coffin following her funeral at Westminster Abbey. She died on 30 March, aged 101Dan Chung/Reuters
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
4 June 2002: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travel back to Buckingham Palace after the Golden Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving held at St Paul's Cathedral. Thousands of people gathered in central London for the festivities on the final day of the celebratory weekend marking the Queen's 50th year on the throneMurray Sanders/Pool
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14 January 2003: The Queen leaves King Edward VII hospital in London with a cane after undergoing surgery to remove torn cartilage from her right kneeIan Waldie/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
24 June 2003: The Queen and the Russian President Vladimir Putin travel in an open carriage after a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade at the start of the first State Visit to the United Kingdom by a Russian leader since the reign of Queen VictoriaNicolas Asfouri/AFP
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13 December 2003: The Queen leaves London's King Edward VII hospital after undergoing surgery to remove skin lesions on her face and torn cartilage from her left knee. The knee operation had been announced in advance, but the removal of what Buckingham Palace described as "some minor benign skin lesions" from the Queen's face came as a surpriseLee Besford/Reuters
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7 May 2004: The Queen smiles during a visit to Heathrow Airport to mark the 10th anniversary of Unicef and British Airways' Change for Good programmeChris Young/AFP
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14 May 2005: The Queen is reflected in the wing mirror of her Land Rover as she follows The Duke of Edinburgh who was competing in the Driving Grand Prix Competition at the Royal Windsor Horse ShowJulian Finney/Getty Images

After a 35-year affair Prince Charles finally married the love of his life, Camilla Parker-Bowles, in April 2005. As titular head of the Church of England the Queen declined to attend the civil ceremony in Windsor Guildhall but together with Prince Philip and the rest of the royal family attended the service of blessing in St George's Chapel, Windsor.

She has shown little sign of slowing down in her ninth decade. She welcomed newly-elected US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to Buckingham Palace. During her reign the Queen has met all 12 serving US presidents except Lyndon B Johnson.

The wedding of the Queen's grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton took place on 29 April 2011 in Westminster Abbey. The ceremony was watched by an estimated two billion people around the world.

In May 2011 the Queen made a State visit to the Republic of Ireland, the first by a British monarch since Ireland won independence in 1921.

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9 April 2005: The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, pose with Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen and Camilla's father Major Bruce Shand, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle after their wedding ceremonyHugo Burnand/Pool
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12 April 2006: The Queen and Prince Harry smile during the Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy in SandhurstDylan Martinez/Reuters
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15 December 2006: The Queen looks up at a smiling Prince William during the Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy in SandhurstDylan Martinez/Reuters
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19 November 2007: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh walk at Broadlands in Romsey, southern England, as they prepare to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversaryFiona Hanson/Pool
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7 December 2009: The Queen meets Lady Gaga following the Royal Variety Performance in BlackpoolLeon Neal/AFP
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17 December 2009: The Queen boards a scheduled train at Kings Cross station in London on her way to Kings Lynn in Norfolk for ChristmasStefan Rousseau/Pool
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
29 April 2011: Newly-weds Prince William and Kate Middleton kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, watched by members of the royal familyPaul Gilham/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
18 May 2011: The Queen looks at a pint of Guinness in Dublin during the first state visit to Ireland by a British monarch since the country's independenceTony Maxwell/Reuters
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
24 May 2011: The Queen holds on to her hat in the wind as she speaks with US President Barack Obama at Buckingham Palace, during his two-day state visitMurray Sanders/Pool

On the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne and the beginning of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Queen and Prince Philip spent six months taking part in Jubilee events across the United Kingdom.

The celebrations included a spectacular flotilla of 1,000 vessels taking part in the largest display of pageantry ever seen on London's River Thames for 350 years. Typical British weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the thousands of well-wishers taking part or watching from the river embankments.

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25 May 2012: People watch workers erect a giant photograph of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 on a building on the Thames, ahead of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond JubileePeter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
3 June 2012: Man-powered boats row on The River Thames during The Diamond Jubilee River PageantPeter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
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The Queen waves to the crowds from the Spirit of Chartwell during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on the River Thames. She is accompanied by Prince Philip, Camilla and Kate Middleton in a gilded royal barge leading an armada of 1,000 boatsJohn Stillwell/Pool
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13 June 2012: Kate Middleton laughs as the Queen gestures while they watch part of a children's sports event during a visit to Vernon Park in NottinghamPhil Noble/Reuters
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24 July 2012: Her Majesty the Queen poses for a photograph with Prime Minister David Cameron and former Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street where they had lunch to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The Queen had special cause for celebrations in June 2013 when her horse, Estimate, won the Royal Ascot Gold Cup. It was the first time a reigning monarch's horse had claimed victory in the race's 207-year history. The Queen had been expected to present the winner's trophy, but instead received the cup from Duke of York, Prince Andrew.

With the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son in July 2013, for the first time in over a hundred years there were three generations of direct living heirs to the throne. Prince George, named after the Queen's father, became third in line to the throne, after his father and grandfather.

The Queen's first prime minister, Winston Churchill, served in Queen Victoria's army and was born in 1874. Current prime minister, David Cameron, was not born until 1966 and the Queen first saw him as a small boy dressed as a rabbit in a school play her son Edward was appearing in.

Events marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War One were held worldwide in 2014, and the sea of red ceramic poppies installation 'planted' in the dry moat of the Tower of London attracted an estimated five million visitors. The Queen and Prince Philip visited the site in October. Each of the 888,246 poppies commemorates a British or Colonial soldier who died in the four-year conflict.

Princess Charlotte, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's second child and the Queen's fifth great-grandchild, was christened at a small, family service at the church on the Sandringham estate.

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1 September 2012: Prince Philip, the Queen and Prince Charles cheer as competitors participate in a sack race at the Braemar Gathering in ScotlandRussell Cheyne/Reuters
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
20 June 2013: The Queen celebrates with members of her family and her racing team as her horse Estimate wins The Gold Cup at Royal AscotDarren Staples/Reuters
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
23 October 2013: The Queen looks on as Prince William and Kate Middleton carry Prince George for his christening at St James's Palace in LondonJohn Stillwell/Pool
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
11 April 2014: The Queen reacts as Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina prepare to leave Windsor Castle. Higgins was the first Irish president to make a state visit to Britain since independenceLeon Neal/AFP
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24 June 2014: A youth takes a selfie in front of the Queen during her visit to St George's indoor market in Belfast, Northern IrelandPeter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
16 October 2014: The Queen walks through a field of ceramic poppies that form part of "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" at the Tower of London, an installation commemorating the centenary of World War ILuke MacGregor/Reuters
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
5 July 2015: Prince William and Kate Middleton talk to the Queen, Prince Phillip and Camilla as they arrive at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate for the christening of Princess CharlotteChris Jackson/Getty Images

During her reign the Queen's personal approval ratings has remained high in spite of the occasionally strong criticism attracted by other members of the royal family. The 89-year-old monarch is seen as a dignified figure, much loved by royalists and respected even by republicans.

Elizabeth once said: "it's a job for life", and unlike some recent European monarchs – and even a pope – she is not expected to abdicate. That means Prince Charles, 66, already a record-holder himself as Britain's longest-serving heir apparent, will have to wait longer still before he becomes king.

Aides say the Queen wants little fuss over this milestone. She will be in Scotland, holidaying at her Balmoral Estate and will undertake an official engagement on the day itself with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Buckingham Palace said the Queen would rather save the public celebrations for next April, when she turns 90.

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24 October 2014: The Queen sends her first tweet during a visit to the Information Age exhibition at the Science Museum in LondonChris Jackson/Getty Images
queen Elizabeth II longest reign
13 June 2015: The Queen is accompanied by Camilla, Prince Charles, Prince William (holding Prince George), Kate Middleton and Prince Andrew on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade to honour the Queen's official birthdayStefan Wermuth/Reuters
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5 September 2015: The Queen arrives at the annual Braemar Gathering in Braemar, ScotlandCarl Court/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
In this official photo taken by Mary McCartney in July 2015 and released on 8 September 2015, the Queen is seated at her desk in her private audience room at Buckingham Palace with one of her official red boxes. She has received these almost every day of her reign. They contain important papers from government ministers in the United Kingdom and her Realms and from her representatives across the Commonwealth and beyondMary McCartney/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II via Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II longest reign
9 September 2015: The Queen meets Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Waverley Station in Edinburgh before boarding the steam locomotive Union of South Africa. She marked her record reign by opening the new Scottish Border's RailwayMark Runnacles/Getty Images