good my vow and God bless all of you.
If you haven't got a Queen, you make do with film stars and pop stars, but if you've got a Queen it obviously is so much better.
NARRATOR: For over six decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been among the most famous and influential women in the world.
SIMON LEWIS: The Queen has connected with the British people in the most extraordinary way.
She's been as constant as the Northern Star.
(EXPLOSIONS AND GUNFIRE) NARRATOR: She came of age amid the death and destruction of a world at war.
SIR BEN KINGSLEY: In her lifetime we have been grievously threatened by a power that would've annihilated us.
Her parents were putting their lives on the line.
And Elizabeth knew that.
A German plane dropped its bombs.
(EXPLOSION) And nearly killed the King and Queen.
(QUEEN ELIZABETH II READING) NARRATOR: In the tumultuous decades after World War II, Elizabeth II shepherded her realm through often violent political and social turmoil.
(SIRENS BLARING) Her reign has been a reign of extraordinary change and challenge.
SIR JOHN MAJOR: She has a very strong sense of duty.
In private, she's very human.
She's a warm human being.
And that comes through when you meet her.
NARRATOR: Through her eventful decades on the throne, she has endured scandal and tragedy.
It has turned out to be an annus horribilis.
But she showed her usual stiff upper lip.
NARRATOR: Her steadfast character forged in war and tempered in turbulent times, she's kept a promise made to her subjects.
She avowed that whether her life was long or short, she would devote it entirely to the people of England.
She said she'd stay and she's staying.
NARRATOR: This is the story of Queen Elizabeth II.
(ELIZABETH II SPEAKING) association with Nthe Commonwealth My own has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples.
NARRATOR: Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her diamond jubilee in 2012, marking her six decades as Britain's reigning monarch.
Her father had a great comment when he was congratulated for becoming King.
He said, well, you know, it's not that great a job.
There's no room for advancement.
In a way, she can do nothing and in a way, she can do a lot.
NARRATOR: Beginning in the Middle Ages, the British monarchy has evolved from a sovereign with absolute power into a constitutional monarchy in which an elected parliament has the power to govern and the King or Queen is a figurehead, a ceremonial head of state.
I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your councils.
It is the ceremonial head of state that represents the history, the tradition of the country, and she has performed that function absolutely brilliantly.
NARRATOR: While exercising her ceremonial role, the modern English monarch maintains strict neutrality in matters of state.
The Queen is above politics.
Indeed much of her influence is precisely because she is above politics.
She exercises her influence by example.
And her example particularly in terms of public duty and public responsibility is quite remarkable.
What we like about the monarchy is, first of all, the continuity.
The fact that the monarchy is a seemingly unending institution that passes from generation to generation.
She's really, for many people, a symbol of what Britain was and what Britain is, and in that kind of symbolic role, that's where the real power of monarchy kind of lies today.
NARRATOR: There have been 66 British monarchs since the year 827, when King Egbert ruled all of Anglo-Saxon England.
None reigned longer than Queen Victoria and her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II.
She is the living embodiment of 12 centuries of royal tradition.
The essence of something that is very hard to define and put into words.
But at the heart of that something is that extraordinary language, lineage, presence, comfort, reassurance, a steadfastness, but also a kindness and concern that has allowed us to have a mom.
And for us to be our mom in a reign of extraordinary change.
MAJOR: The monarchy, they say, is slow to change.
This queen has evolved.
At a time in history when the world has moved in all its aspects faster and more comprehensively than ever before.
Elizabeth II is as relevant now as she was in 1952.
ELIZABETH II: (OVER RADIO) I declare before you all that...
They became the House of Windsor because of World War I.
(CANNONS FIRING) NARRATOR: With his realm at war with Germany in 1917, Queen Elizabeth's grandfather, King George V, changes his family's name from the very German "Saxe-Coburg-Gotha" to the very British "Windsor."
SEIDLER: He thought, well, how can we get a good English name and somebody said, well, "You know, you stay at Windsor Castle, "wouldn't that be a good name," and that's what they picked.
NARRATOR: King George V and Queen Mary have six children.
The oldest are boys, David, the heir to the throne, and his younger brother Albert, known as "Bertie."
David is still a bachelor in 1923, when Bertie marries Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of a Scottish Earl.
She turned down the King quite often on his many proposals, uh, because she didn't really want to have a life that was particularly in the limelight.
SEIDLER: She accepted it the third time, partly because he stuttered and she realized, oh, well, they can't really push him forward for a lot of royal duties.
The whole notion that he would have to stand before the British people and be a leader was sort of terrifying to him.
NARRATOR: The Prince and Princess give birth to their first child, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, on April 21, 1926.
BEDELL SMITH: Princess Elizabeth had quite an idyllic childhood.
Her mother and father were for their generation quite involved in their children's lives.
They did some traveling for their royal duties.
They actually missed Elizabeth's first birthday because they were off on a royal tour.
But by and large it was a very loving family.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret Rose, is born in August of 1930.
BEDELL SMITH: Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth were very close.
Temperamentally, they couldn't have been more different.
Princess Elizabeth was quiet, reserved, conscientious, always did the right thing.
Margaret was the joker, the entertainer.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth's uncle David, the heir to the throne, is a jazz age bachelor playboy.
In contrast, her family projects an ideal of English domesticity.
The young princess is tutored at home, a tradition in the Royal Family for a child who isn't destined for the throne.
Princess Elizabeth is a few months shy of 10 years old on January 20, 1936, when her grandfather, George V dies, and her uncle David becomes King Edward VIII.
David had been adored by the British for being a playboy.
They actually loved it.
It was the flapper era.
It was the wild and gay twenties and so he personified that.
He spent much of his time playing polo and wining and dining and being a playboy.
NARRATOR: With the carnage of World War I fresh in the national memory and Adolf Hitler building a German war machine that threatens his European neighbors, Edward VIII has a problem.
David definitely had sympathies for the Nazi party and admiration for Adolf Hitler.
BEDELL SMITH: And any notion of sympathy toward what was going on in Germany in the 1930s was worrying.
O'NEILL: He wanted to be part of the international discussion and the Germans were happy to help him out with this.
He wanted to be a modern man and eventually a modern monarch and to have a modern kind of wife.
And that really got him into trouble.
NARRATOR: Soon after his accession to the throne, a scandal erupts over the King's desire to make Wallis Simpson his wife.
SEIDLER: That was a huge problem because she was a twice-divorced American.
How bad can it get?
LORD NORWICH: He was like a 15-year-old in love for the first time.
First of all, he thought she was the most beautiful thing since Helen of Troy.
We all thought she looked like the back of a bus.
And the government tried everything to discourage him.
NARRATOR: Intent on marrying Mrs. Simpson, Edward VIII yields to intense pressure and abdicates after just 10 months on the throne.
EDWARD VIII: (ON RADIO) You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne.
NARRATOR: The scandal has a profound effect on Princess Elizabeth.
BEDELL SMITH: She had a relatively normal childhood for 10 years.
And life changed obviously enormously after the abdication.
NARRATOR: On the day her uncle abdicates, 10-year-old Elizabeth's father is formally proclaimed King George VI.
Bertie was not brought up to be King.
Up until the abdication, he did not want that role, and felt himself to be unprepared for it.
And much of the country thought he would be unprepared for it.
There were articles in the British papers specifically saying, "Oh, he is such a frail man, "He just won't live very long."
They totally underestimated the man.
NARRATOR: "The Accidental King" is crowned at Westminster Abbey on May 12, 1937.
RADIO ANCHOR: Elizabeth, heiress to the throne is 11 years old.
One day she will be the principle in the stately and elaborate coronation rite which goes back more than 1,000 years.
BEDELL SMITH: Suddenly her father had this burden thrust upon him.
CROWD: God save the King!
And his daughter became the heiress presumptive.
LADY ELIZABETH: While her father was learning to be King, she was incredibly close to her father and was always with him.
When he knew that she was going to be his heir a program of preparation was set in motion.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth celebrates her 13th birthday in the spring of 1939, and soon begins an intensive course of private study under the vice-provost of Eton College.
BEDELL SMITH: In addition to that, she had her father, who was the only person who could really talk to her about the challenges of being a monarch.
Her mother also played a role.
Her mother knew that Elizabeth was innately shy.
So she would pretend to be various dignitaries and she would teach Princess Elizabeth how to have conversations with them.
All of which stood her in good stead when the time eventually came.
And she had no idea when it would come.
NARRATOR: In the summer of '39, with war on the horizon, the Royal Family visits the Royal Dartmouth Naval College, where 13-year-old Elizabeth meets cadet Prince Philip of Greece.
He was an 18-year-old naval officer in training.
He was extremely dishy, it has to be said, tall and upstanding and in the Navy, it was everything right.
NARRATOR: Philip is the son of Prince Andrew of Greece, and as a great-great grandson of Queen Victoria, he's Elizabeth's second cousin once removed.
SEIDLER: They clearly hit it off on this meeting and as the royal yacht sailed out of the harbor, here was young Philip stripped to the waist, quite a handsome young lad, rowing madly after the boat, waving goodbye to the princess.
NARRATOR: Philip's family has origins in Denmark and Germany.
Imported to Greece in the mid-19th century, they were deposed and exiled when Philip was just a year old.
Elizabeth's parents are not in favor of her interest in a banished and impoverished Greek prince.
BEDELL SMITH: Elizabeth's mother really wanted her daughter to marry an English aristocrat with a big estate and a title similar to her own.
SEIDLER: She didn't think that Philip was appropriate at all, she referred to him privately as Philip the Hun.
Princess Elizabeth's war years were a really important shaping experience for her.
NARRATOR: The second chapter of Elizabeth's life and the Second World War, both begin on September 1, 1939, with Hitler's crushing invasion of Poland.
Two days later, Britain declares war on Germany.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL: We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets.
We shall fight in the hills.
We shall never surrender.
Monarchs from all over Europe were leaving their countries and the Queen mother said, "You know, the King will never leave the country, "and if the King doesn't leave the country, neither will I or my daughters."
The war is depicted as the people's war, and the monarchy, by staying in London and by not sending the princesses away, kind of depicts themselves as one of the people.
BEDELL SMITH: They remained at Windsor Castle.
A very well fortified, very well guarded Windsor Castle, but there they remained.
In her lifetime, we have been grievously threatened by a power that would've annihilated us or tried to if they'd got on our shores.
NARRATOR: France falls to Hitler in June of 1940.
O'NEILL: Once France has fallen, there's a moment and it's a very fragile moment where England decides that it's gonna stand pretty much alone against Hitler.
LORD NORWICH: In the summer of 1940 we were absolutely convinced that we were going to be invaded.
The question is when are they going to invade?
Is it going to be next week or is it going to be the week after?
NARRATOR: While the British people worry about invasion, many English cities come under aerial bombardment.
The daily death and devastation of the Blitz.
Hitler tries to bomb the British into submission.
(EXPLOSIONS) MAN: (OVER RADIO) 60,000 civilians dead, row upon row of homes, nearly four million damaged or destroyed.
SEIDLER: It's very hard for people who have not lived through it to comprehend the all-encompassing fear and terror of those attacks.
And the King and Queen were under attack.
Her parents spent many of their days at Buckingham Palace in London, which was bombed nine times.
They were having breakfast together, they could hear an approaching plane and it seemed to be getting closer and closer, the King got up and he went to the window and looked out and he said, "Good God, it's one of theirs."
And a German plane came right over Buckingham Palace and dropped its bombs.
(EXPLOSIONS) BEDELL SMITH: And nearly killed the King and Queen.
They were putting their lives on the line.
And Elizabeth knew that.
Can you imagine a little girl growing up in that atmosphere?
Terrible bombing and destruction.
NARRATOR: Princess Elizabeth watches her parents conduct themselves amid the Blitz with dignity, good humor and firm resolve.
LORD POWELL: The Royal Family toured London and other places which were bombed to share people's experience of the horrors of war.
That was a very important demonstration of what the monarchy is about.
That you're there at times of danger for the country.
NARRATOR: Led by the example of her mother and father, 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth begins to take on a more public role.
In the fall of 1940, she makes her first public speech on radio, addressing children evacuated due to the war.
(ELIZABETH II SPEAKING) NARRATOR: For Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, life during wartime at Windsor Castle is dominated by men in uniform.
BEDELL SMITH: They were surrounded by all the officers who were assigned to protect the Royal Family.
Among the guests were visiting officers from places like the United States and Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
This was the world that she was gonna be in when she became Queen, surrounded by all these advisors who were men.
NARRATOR: Princess Elizabeth also does her part for the war effort.
In March of '45, she joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
She basically learned to be a car and truck mechanic, how to drive three-ton trucks through the streets of London, she learned how to strip an engine, how to change tires.
It acts as a doorway to adulthood for her in some ways.
It's a way to introduce Elizabeth as the young woman to the public at large, as someone who had served in this war, and was both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
NARRATOR: After six long, brutal years of war, the Germans surrender on May 8, 1945.
VE Day brings joy to a war-weary nation.
(CHEERING) BEDELL SMITH: London went wild, and there was a great kind of spontaneous thing that she and her sister did.
They saw these massive celebrating crowds and they wanted to be part of it.
MARGARET RHODES: The King and Queen were very, um, farsighted and kind and let the two girls come out and walk the streets with a lot of friends.
NARRATOR: Margaret Rhodes and her two royal cousins, Princess Elizabeth and Margaret, join the joyous throngs in the streets of London.
Everybody was slapping everybody on the back, kissed everybody, you could see.
And it was just such a wonderful moment of abandon after years of doom and gloom.
NARRATOR: A mature, 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth emerges from the bleak war years a bright star on the rise.
She was a babe.
She was a very lovely young lady, and the British public adored that.
NARRATOR: Elegant Elizabeth is already becoming a style and fashion icon, her clothes created by England's finest designers.
BEDELL SMITH: Elizabeth was a celebrity from a very early age.
I think she would cringe from being called a celebrity.
LORD POWELL: The monarchy dislikes the idea of celebrity, does not want it and feels it would be cheapened by it.
BEDELL SMITH: Her every move was chronicled and when she made speeches, they were followed very closely.
This is a happy day for me, but it is also one that brings serious thoughts, thoughts of life looming ahead with all its challenges and with all its opportunity.
O'NEILL: She's in South Africa for her 21st birthday and she gives this very famous broadcast in which she pledges her life basically to the service of what she calls, quote, "Our Imperial family."
I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth is keenly aware she'll one day succeed her frail father.
George VI helped lead his country to win the war, but the stress of his duties has further weakened his health.
I always get the impression that she was and is her father's daughter.
Her father had returned from a Commonwealth tour, the wind was blowing and a lock of hair fell across his forehead and his daughter reaches up and strokes his hair back.
And it's the most tender father-daughter moment that one could wish to see.
NARRATOR: After years of courtship, 21-year-old Elizabeth and 26-year-old Prince Philip are determined to marry.
Much has changed since they met before the war.
Philip's aristocratic uncle, Earl Louis Mountbatten, has given him the family name and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten is now a decorated naval officer.
BEDELL SMITH: He fought in several significant battles, he was awarded for his valor.
NARRATOR: The Palace announces their engagement on July 10, 1947.
SEIDLER: The King and the Queen were not terribly pleased, but young Elizabeth was very insistent.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Nationwide rejoicing marks the announcement of the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, who relinquished his title as Prince Philip of Greece to become a citizen of Britain.
BEDELL SMITH: For her to choose him and to be fairly adamant about it was a mark of her strength of character and independence.
NARRATOR: London still bears scars from the Blitz on November 20, 1947, when the bells of Westminster Abbey ring out for the royal wedding of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth, resplendent in a gown designed by Norman Hartnell.
O'NEILL: These were tough times, and there was a lot of concern among the Royal Family and among the powers that be that this was not a time for an elaborate royal wedding and so they thought maybe we can skip it this time.
But they didn't and that was a good thing, because people wanted that splash of color.
LORD NORWICH: There was great rejoicing, because we loved our princess who was jolly attractive and had seemed to hurl herself into the war effort in the most magnificent way.
We were all very pleased.
NARRATOR: A year after their wedding, Elizabeth and Philip welcome the royal heir, Prince Charles.
RHODES: It was just the usual story of a mother being delighted by producing a lovely baby boy.
NARRATOR: Six days after Charles' birth, Elizabeth travels to Malta, where Philip is stationed with the Mediterranean fleet.
RHODES: Some people criticized her for leaving the children, but I did the same with my children when I went abroad.
I mean, if you've got a nanny and you've got them comfortably installed, that baby will be much happier than being traipsed off to foreign parts.
NARRATOR: For the next two years, Elizabeth divides her time between London and Malta, where Philip rises to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in command of his own ship.
In August of 1950, their second child, Anne, is born.
BEDELL SMITH: He was moving smartly up the line of command when he and Elizabeth had to leave Malta and come back to London in 1951 as she was expected to take over more duties from her father.
It wasn't known widely, but it was known within the family that he had lung cancer.
NARRATOR: In January of '52, Elizabeth and Philip substitute for the ailing King on an ambitious tour of East Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
While visiting Kenya on February 6, they learn that Elizabeth's father has passed away.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: This is London, the following bulletin was issued at 9:25.
"The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close."
SEIDLER: The Queen Mother always felt that David's abdication and Bertie's being forced to be a reluctant King is what killed him and he died way too young.
NARRATOR: 25-year-old Elizabeth is now the Queen.
Despite her profound grief over losing her father at the young age of 56, she returns to England to bravely take on the heavy burdens of the crown.
Her father's state funeral is held on February 15,1952.
The lines of mourners are breathtaking.
It is thousands and thousands and thousands.
We're not very expressive as a culture, but when it's time to grieve, there is a solemnity and a dignity that is pretty well unparalleled in modern society.
NARRATOR: After a suitable period of official mourning for the late King, the coronation of Elizabeth II is celebrated on June 2, 1953, the first major international event to be broadcast on television.
It almost wasn't televised.
Elizabeth was actually not on board for quite some time, but she was convinced and it was great for the television industry.
ARCHBISHOP: Receive the royal scepter, the ensign of kingly power.
NARRATOR: An estimated 27 million Britons watch the ceremony on 2.7 million TV sets.
I was, uh, 10 years old.
Somehow my father had scraped together enough money to buy a small black and white television and invited half the street in, and I saw this spectacular ceremony.
We had a new television and it was close enough to World War II for our spirits to be lifted and celebrated.
The British public just responded to this.
It was the first time in years they saw color and glamour and luxury and it was wonderful and it started her reign off on a brilliant note.
NARRATOR: The new Queen's coronation gown is another design by Norman Hartnell.
Her clothes are an essential tool of her office, requiring four to five changes a day.
Following her coronation, she and Prince Philip embark on a six-month tour of the Commonwealth countries.
Her wardrobe for the trip includes more than 100 new custom-made outfits.
Yet for Elizabeth II, her first Commonwealth tour as monarch has far more to do with substance than style.
(TRIBAL SINGING) At its height in 1922, the British empire encompassed nearly a quarter of the Earth's dry land.
After the Second World War, many British colonies gain independence.
O'NEILL: The Commonwealth of Nations is basically a compromise between Britain and its former Imperial powers who want their freedom, but want those ties to Britain still.
So we go from an empire in which Britain rules over others, to a commonwealth of nations where everyone tries to work together as a whole.
NARRATOR: The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, a figurehead symbol of their voluntary association.
When the Queen became monarch in 1952, the Commonwealth were four, perhaps five nations, no more.
The Queen and the Commonwealth have grown up together.
O'NEILL: Elizabeth sees her role as someone whose life is pledged to that Imperial family, but that Imperial family becomes increasingly fractious and problematic as her reign goes on.
NARRATOR: The royal couple returns to England after six months abroad, and the Queen resumes regular meetings with 79-year-old Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
LORD NORWICH: She recognized how incredibly lucky she herself was to have a Prime Minister who happened actually to be one of the great men of history and who loved her in return.
One of the extraordinary things is to think that the Queen's first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, and there have been 14 since.
MAJOR: When you meet the Queen privately every week as Prime Ministers do, just the two of them sitting there, absolutely nobody else.
Of course you discuss policy.
She won't say to the Prime Minister, I think you should do this or I think you should do that.
But the drift of the conversation gives you a pretty clear impression of what the Queen's views really are.
And in that way, she exercises her influence.
HOWARD MORGAN: She has this immense knowledge of countries because many countries, she's not just been to once, twice, three times, she's been four, five, six times.
So she has an amazing, intimate knowledge of various countries around the world.
In a way that the Foreign Office can't match.
ELIZABETH II: I pray that Australia will continue to prosper in a happy and peaceful future.
Elizabeth is the one who knows them all and has been to them all.
She's the linchpin.
NARRATOR: The Queen must deal with her first government transition as Prime Minister Churchill resigns in 1955.
BEDELL SMITH: When he had a stroke, she was very protective of him and Anthony Eden was pressing pretty hard for her to encourage Churchill to move aside and she was quite delicate about that process.
NARRATOR: She will have to deal delicately with another difficult situation in the coming year, a deeply personal one.
Her sister, Princess Margaret, falls in love with a war hero, Group Captain Peter Townsend, an ace who shot down seven German planes in the skies over Britain.
BEDELL SMITH: They had this quiet romance that eventually became public.
And she declared her intention to marry him.
That was quite a scandal, he was a man who was a hero, he had fought in the Battle of Britain and had acquitted himself brilliantly.
But he was a divorced man and the idea of the Queen's sister marrying a divorced man in those days was absolutely out of the question.
The problem for Elizabeth was can you let Margaret marry this divorce when your father became King because his brother wasn't allowed to marry a divorcee?
BEDELL SMITH: The Queen was put in the very awkward position of having to tell her sister that she couldn't marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.
SEIDLER: Which destroyed her life totally because she figured, "All right, if i can't have happiness domestically, "I will do what I damn well please," and she started going to nightclubs and kicking up her heels...
It was an act of defiance, there's no question.
Princess Margaret drank too much and partied too much.
And that was always a worry to the Queen.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth's husband must also make a personal sacrifice.
With his wife on the throne of England, Lieutenant Commander Philip Mountbatten's naval career is over.
It was very tough for him to give up this career and quite a few people say he could have risen right to the top.
He would have ended up as an active admiral of the fleet or something of that sort.
But he knew he had to do it and he had to make the best of it.
He's been a huge support to the Queen, always someone she can rely on in private.
LORD NORWICH: Imagine the loneliness of that job.
If you haven't got the occasional shoulder to cry on, I mean, it must be an absolute nightmare.
I cannot think of a more appropriate point for us to start our visit to the United States.
NARRATOR: In 1957, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip make their first state visit to the United States, where they meet with President Eisenhower and the Queen addresses the United Nations in New York City.
That same year, 9-year-old Prince Charles enters public school.
I used to think about Prince Charles, he was at the same time the luckiest and the most unlucky person in the land.
NARRATOR: Just three years old when his mother became Queen, the young prince spends many months in the care of a governess while his royal mother travels the world on official duties.
FREARS: She was away when he was a young child, and when she came back he had to stand in a line of dignitaries to say hello.
Prince Charles had an extremely unhappy childhood, I don't think his parents were very conscientious.
They sent him to an incredibly tough school which was bang wrong for this very intelligent, sensitive boy.
When he wanted to practice his cello he was told to go and have a cold shower.
NARRATOR: Three years later, in 1960, Elizabeth gives birth to her third child.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Prince Andrew, born in 1960, brought yet more happiness to a family already blessed in good measure.
NARRATOR: For the young Queen, balancing the pressing demands of her royal duties with the responsibilities of motherhood will be a lifelong challenge.
For Queen Elizabeth, the next two decades are marked by existential challenges to her cherished Commonwealth of Nations, especially in South Africa, where resistance to the racist, segregationist policy of apartheid is met with deadly violence.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: At Sharpeville, thousands gather outside a police station in protest against new laws requiring every African to carry a pass at all times.
The crowd refused to disperse, stoning the police, who opened fire into the crowd.
Between 50 and 100 were killed.
The major problem for Elizabeth with apartheid in South Africa, is that it's very much against what the other powers of the Commonwealth ruled by black Africans are willing to accept.
Whatever affection the Queen had for South Africa, as a long standing ally of the United Kingdom, she would've had no affection for the extreme discrimination of apartheid.
She judges people on the basis of their character and not on the basis of their color.
NARRATOR: Over the next three decades, the Queen will wage a quiet campaign against apartheid.
When she goes to Ghana and she dances with their ruler, South Africans are shocked by this, but this is a sign to the rest of the Commonwealth that she doesn't have the same kind of racial biases that people in South Africa do.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, a revolution in British politics and pop culture is underway.
Jamaica gains independence in 1962, but stays in the Commonwealth.
A year later, the Beatles release their first album, and are honored by the Queen.
In '64, Queen Elizabeth gives birth to Edward, her fourth and last child.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: The pleasures of family life are enjoyed by the baby's mother and father less frequently than by ordinary parents.
To be head of the Commonwealth entails longs absences abroad.
And what a sacrifice that must be.
LEWIS: Growing up in North London in the 1960s and the 1970s, the Royal Family was obviously a very big symbolic important institution, there was a great sense of tradition.
NARRATOR: The stress of family and monarchy on the Queen is never more apparent than in the Irish troubles.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Northern Ireland remains locked in the grip of a civil war which turns Catholic against Protestant, neighbor against neighbor, death in the streets is a daily tragedy.
NARRATOR: For centuries, governing Ireland has been a problem for English monarchs.
The largely Catholic south won independence in 1922, but predominantly protestant Northern Ireland remained part of Great Britain.
Yet, many in Northern Ireland's Catholic minority yearn to throw off British rule, and in 1969, simmering tensions erupt in open violence and bombings by the anti-British Irish Republican army.
British soldiers are deployed to restore order.
"The troubles" are a grave challenge to peace within Elizabeth's realm.
By the will of the people of Northern Ireland is British territory and she would've seen murder and mayhem in Northern Ireland and been very distressed by it.
NARRATOR: On August 27, 1979, the murder and mayhem in Northern Ireland, strike close to the heart of the Royal Family.
Members of the Irish Republican Army assassinated Earl Mountbatten, who was Prince Philip's uncle and the Queen's cousin in a particularly horrific bombing that also killed several members of Mountbatten's family.
This was a particularly high profile and violent IRA atrocity.
O'NEILL: It was a great blow to Elizabeth herself and it really brought home the dangers of the troubles, but also the dangers a monarch could face.
NARRATOR: In that same eventful year, Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain's first female Prime Minister.
BEDELL SMITH: The Queen and Margaret Thatcher were, as they say in England, chalk and cheese.
They were not exactly naturally simpatico.
LORD NORWICH: She was always telling the Queen what to do, she had this terrible patronizing, "Oh, really, Your Majesty, you must understand," it must have driven the Queen absolutely up the wall.
MAJOR: You had two very strong-willed women who both had the interests of the United Kingdom at heart, from time to time they had differences.
But they respected one another, I have not a shadow of doubt.
NARRATOR: While helping to guide the ship of state, Elizabeth is also dealing with an important family matter, in 1981, her 33-year-old son and heir becomes engaged to 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer.
I think everybody was absolutely thrilled, the Queen knew Lady Diana's family since she was very, very young and she was very, very pleased that Prince Charles had decided to settle down.
NARRATOR: The wedding of Charles and Diana on July 29, 1981 is a worldwide media sensation.
The romance of it and this extraordinarily beautiful young princess and everything that went with that.
This was a truly epic royal event.
NARRATOR: By the 1980s, Queen Elizabeth has been conducting her behind-the-scenes campaign against South African apartheid for two decades.
But the Queen and her Prime Minister do not agree on how to deal with this cancer on the Commonwealth.
The Queen was promoting a path of dialogue and reconciliation.
Our common language, our shared history, give the Commonwealth its unique quality as a friendly family of nations.
From the family relationship comes the capacity to disagree without breaking up.
Margaret Thatcher was much more dug into the notion that sanctions on South Africa would hurt business.
We all detest the system of apartheid in South Africa and want to see it demolished as soon as possible.
But we don't quite agree how best to do it.
The Queen felt very strongly against apartheid.
I know that she suspected that Mrs. Thatcher was as white a supremacist as you could find anywhere in the union of South Africa.
When Thatcher in 1986 refuses to place sanctions on South Africa, there's a leak from Buckingham Palace that states that the Queen does not agree with Mrs. Thatcher's policies, and this is that kind of moment of crisis where the Queen is seemingly becoming political.
They say there is a misunderstanding between the newspaperman and an official from Buckingham Palace but in the Commonwealth, it's taken as a truth.
NARRATOR: Elizabeth wins her discreet tug-of-war with Thatcher and in 1990, the South African government finally releases anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela from prison.
Four years later, he's elected president in the nation's first universal elections.
Mandela was extraordinarily fond of the Queen and the Royal Family and everything that they stood for.
BEDELL SMITH: He forged a wonderful relationship with the Queen.
He quite prominently was the only leader who called her Elizabeth.
Nobody else got away with that.
NARRATOR: Mandela is elected in the same year that Thatcher resigns as Prime Minister.
Though they didn't always agree, the Queen shows Mrs. Thatcher compassion in the years ahead.
At Thatcher's 80th birthday party in 2005, her declining mental health is apparent to the Queen, who guides her through the event.
The Queen very gently and kindly took her by the hand and led her around the party, just so that she would be aware of where she was and where she was going.
LADY ELIZABETH: The Queen just took it in her stride and we went around.
Sadly, two days later when I saw Lady Thatcher, she asked me whether the Queen had been there.
NARRATOR: President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, get to know the Queen well in the early 1990s.
BARBARA BUSH: I don't think people realize how really bright she is.
I think that comes across enormously, that she's up with world affairs.
GEORGE BUSH: She's a Queen, of course, but there is a warmth to her as a person that comes through when you meet her.
BARBARA BUSH: I saw her hugged by a great big lady and people were shocked.
But Her Majesty carried it off as though this was perfectly normal.
GEORGE BUSH: In public, she's dignified and always on display.
Privately, she's got a warm side to her, good humor and really a down to earth person.
MORGAN: In private, she's continental, much more Italian, she talks with her hands.
All the time.
She's not this, she's this.
Effusive, interesting, and theatrical.
NARRATOR: By 1992, Elizabeth has been the Queen for 40 years, and in personal and family matters, '92 will be her worst.
During the course of that bleak year, her son Prince Andrew and his wife Sarah Ferguson separate and Prince Charles formally separates from his very popular wife, Lady Diana.
Those marriages fell apart in a very public way with lurid tabloid stories accompanying each one.
It can't be easy.
I mean, if your children do something that's sad or difficult, then it's world-known.
And that's hard.
FREARS: Diana was a rather spectacularly independent woman.
So, I always thought the wedding was catastrophic and I imagine that Prince Charles would agree with every word I've said.
The Queen herself saw that there was no alternative.
Those two could not conceivably live together for the rest of their lives, they had to go.
NARRATOR: Then in November of that year, Windsor Castle is partially destroyed by fire.
It was devastating for her to be standing outside her home, watching it with uncontrollable flames going through it.
(ELIZABETH II SPEAKING) LORD POWELL: The Queen did have an annus horribilis, but she showed her usual stiff upper lip.
She was prepared to take it in her stride and set an example for everyone who has a bad time at some stage in their lives.
NARRATOR: But 1992 would not be the end of hard times for the Royal Family.
5 years later, on August 31, 1997, Lady Diana is killed in a car crash in Paris.
LEWIS: It was unlike anything else I think most people in Britain had experienced.
A combination of the outpouring of public grief and this media storm around the circumstances of her death and the reaction of the Royal Family.
So it's hard in a way, looking back now, to remember just what a toxic combination that was.
NARRATOR: The Royal Family goes into seclusion at Balmoral, their estate in Scotland.
LEWIS: The Queen's first thoughts must've been for those grandchildren.
They had just lost their mother and her first priority was with those boys, William and Harry.
LADY ELIZABETH: She had the two boys up at Balmoral.
Where could she take them?
What could she do?
She brought them back to Buckingham Palace, they were amongst all that loads of flowers, if they went to St. James's Palace, the same thing happened.
It was far kinder to keep them where they were in Scotland.
NARRATOR: For four long days after Diana's death, the Queen and her family remain at Balmoral, silent, as the British public expresses its grief.
It was the only time in my life that the Queen really got into a mess.
She always appeared to have the people's touch to her, and this time, clearly didn't.
LORD POWELL: There was certainly a point at which people found it a bit hard to understand why the Royal Family were not ready to pay more respect to Princess Diana.
LORD NORWICH: This was really about the direct relationship between the Queen and her people.
LORD POWELL: And I think the Queen read the situation and did what was the right thing to do.
NARRATOR: A monarch who, since the dark days of the Blitz, had been trained to keep her emotions in check, is now required to wear her emotion on her royal sleeve.
I want to pay tribute to Diana myself.
She was an exceptional and gifted human being.
In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.
NARRATOR: After conferring with her advisors, Elizabeth directs that a national public funeral be held in Westminster Abbey.
It's no small gesture on her part to honor Lady Diana with a funeral fit for a Queen.
LEWIS: Look at the polls about what people thought about the monarchy during that week after the death of the Princess of Wales.
There was a slight dip.
NARRATOR: But thanks in large part to the Queen's personal gestures towards Diana, the popularity of the monarchy is restored within weeks.
BEDELL SMITH: After the death of Princess Diana, the Queen and Prince Phillip have taken a very active interest in the upbringing of William and Harry.
She is sometimes criticized because she wasn't able to give her own children the time and attention that perhaps they would have been better served by.
And maybe in a sense she's making up for that, in the way she has looked after and helped to shape this new generation.
NARRATOR: After the gloom of Diana's death, the Queen's reign is brightened the next year, when the Good Friday Agreement ends the troubles in Northern Ireland.
She was always extraordinarily interested in the peace process, when it began in the early '90s, and when it was concluded in the late '90s, she took a tremendous interest in it.
After the conclusion of the peace process, she made a very famous state visit to Ireland, which was a huge success.
NARRATOR: Queen Elizabeth becomes the first British monarch to visit Ireland in more than a century.
It may have been one of the most significant things she did in her entire reign.
It was a message of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The impact of that has been that relations now between Britain and Ireland are quite frankly better than they have ever been at any time in our joint histories.
And I think that gives the Queen a very great degree of pleasure.
Change has become a constant.
The way we embrace it defines our future.
I would like, above all, to declare my resolve to continue, with the support of my family, to serve the people of this great nation of ours to the best of my ability through the changing times ahead.
NARRATOR: In 2002, the Queen celebrates her 50th year on the throne.
But the joy of her golden jubilee is tempered by the loss of her sister and mother, who die less than two months apart.
It was an extraordinary tough period for her because on a daily basis she spoke both to her mother and to her sister.
NARRATOR: As the Queen bids farewell to an older generation of Windsors, a younger generation breathes new life into the monarchy.
In the spring of 2011, Elizabeth's grandson Prince William marries Catherine Middleton.
William is third in line to the throne.
Kate is a commoner.
Their wedding is a worldwide media event.
I, William Arthur Philip Louis, take thee, Catherine Elizabeth.
-MAN: To my wedded wife.
-To my wedded wife.
The Queen said to me, "The world's gone mad.
Look behind me."
And there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people.
And I think that none of us realized the impact that wedding was gonna have.
POWELL: Prince William and Kate are a different generation.
And they understand, I'm sure, better than the Queen does, what a new generation feels like, what it looks for, and that sort of thing.
But once again you have to draw a very careful line between spontaneous behavior, which appeals to a younger generation, and the vulgarity that goes with celebrity.
NARRATOR: The following year, the Queen herself takes center stage, as the nation celebrates her 60th anniversary on the throne.
Elizabeth is only the second British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee, the other was Queen Victoria.
There was an amazing pageant on the River Thames.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the whole of the Thames route to see the pageant and cheer the Queen.
And the Duke then being 89, the Queen then being 86, stood for hours in the pouring rain throughout the whole of that long day.
It was an astonishing illustration of their willpower and their sense of public duty.
On September 9th, 2015, Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning sovereign in British history.
LORD NORWICH: I think Queen Victoria was a horrible old bag and this Queen I think is perfectly wonderful.
NARRATOR: As she solemnly promised her subjects at the age of 21, Elizabeth plans to remain Queen for the rest of her life.
Once you're Queen, you're Queen.
We don't do abdications in this country, even in the case of George III, when the monarch has gone stark-staring mad, they still stay on.
She said that the only unusual circumstance she could envision would be if she were to be mentally or physically incapacitated.
In which case, she still wouldn't step down.
Prince Charles would become the Prince Regent basically taking all the powers of the monarch but without the monarch stepping down.
I don't think she has put a foot wrong in 60 years.
I mean, it's incredible.
KINGSLEY: There's not a lazy molecule in her.
It is that complete commitment to her unique position.
There is only one in the whole world.
And her joyful embrace of it must be exhausting.
And that exhaustion is never seen.
LEWIS: The Queen has connected with the British people in the most extraordinary way.
If you think of the number of people she's met, the connection she's had with communities up and down the country, she's been as constant as the Northern Star.
LORD POWELL: The Queen is a very important part of Britain's brand in the world.
We live with our history all around us, we're very proud of our institutions.
And I think there's nothing we're prouder of than the monarchy itself.
I think we are incredibly lucky as a country to have such a wonderful woman as our monarch.
If I may put it this way, for us to have a mum is very, very important, and we have one.
She will go down in history as one of the major monarchs of England.
MAJOR: Politicians wear out their public persona in eight years, 10 years at most.
The Queen is as popular with the British public today as she was when she was crowned.
How fitting it is that one of our best, and frankly best-loved monarchs, should have become our longest-serving monarch.
"Queen Elizabeth II: In Their Own Words" is available on DVD.
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