These Rare Photos Of The Queen Shed A New Light On Her Extraordinary Life

Queen Elizabeth II’s 92 years of life have included some incredible moments, many of which have gone unseen or have faded from memory. These 40 photos provide a glimpse into all that she has done before and during her reign over the United Kingdom.

40. Carriage-riding through London, 1927

At the time of her birth, Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, was third in line to the throne, as her father had yet to become the King – more on that later. In this photo, the one-year-old princess was snapped passing through the gates of her parents’ London residence in the back of a carriage.

39. Shaking hands with servicemen, 1929

By the time her 90th birthday rolled around in April of 2016, Queen Elizabeth II was lending her patronage to hundreds of charities. This photo from 1929 proves that she began her quest to serve others early – she’s shown greeting former servicemen at a Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry Exhibition.

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38. Holding one of her many Corgis, circa 1936

Queen Elizabeth II has long been a fan of Corgis, as evidenced by this photo of her as a child cuddling one in her arms. Her father acquired their first in 1933 – a pooch that the family named Dookie – after Elizabeth became very fond of a friend’s dog of the same breed. And since she became Queen in 1952, she’s had in excess of 30 Corgis in her charge.

37. Waving at her father’s coronation, 1937

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Queen Elizabeth’s uncle ascended to the throne as King Edward VIII in 1936. But he reigned for less than a year, because he chose to abdicate in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. That meant Elizabeth’s father was made king as George VI – and she became his heir apparent. Here, she’s giving a big wave at his May 12, 1937, coronation.

36. Riding high at London Zoo, 1939

Obviously, being the future Queen of England had its perks for 13-year-old Elizabeth. She and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, got up close and personal with some of the animals at London Zoo in 1939. Along with meeting penguins, a panda and chimpanzees, the royals also got to ride on the back of an elephant.

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35. Learning to lifeguard, 1939

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For more than 125 years, the Royal Life Saving Society has passed on the skills needed to save people from drowning. It turns out that Queen Elizabeth II was one of their pupils in the summer of 1939. Indeed, she won a medal from them after displaying her life-saving abilities at London’s Royal Bath Club.

34. Broadcasting with the BBC, 1940

In the midst of World War Two, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret spoke on the BBC’s Children’s Hour radio show in order to address kids displaced or otherwise affected by the conflict. During her speech, the 14-year-old future queen said, “We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.”

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33. Performing in the Royal pantomime, 1941

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Princess Elizabeth aided the war effort in more ways than one. For example, in 1941 she and her family put on a royal performance of Cinderella at Windsor Castle – Elizabeth, her mother and Margaret are pictured here. Their production raised money for the Queen’s Wool Fund, a charity that purchased the raw materials needed to produce military apparel.

32. Girl Guide-ing, 1942

The 1st Buckingham Palace Company of the Girl Guides was created just so that the then-Princess Elizabeth could be around other girls. Much like the U.S.’ Girl Scouts, the Girl Guides learn everything from survival skills to career prep and camping training. And Elizabeth’s company were able to do so in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

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31. Joining the war effort, 1945

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Princess Elizabeth aspired to join the women’s armed forces during World War Two, in spite of the fact that her father didn’t want her to. But he eventually gave in, and she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She picked up car maintenance skills during her service, which she can be seen using here.

30. Driving an ambulance, 1945

Service in the ATS also meant that Princess Elizabeth drove ambulances, constructed engines, changed tires and plenty more. In contrast to her colleagues in the force, though, she was allowed to return home and sleep each night – her family stayed at Windsor Castle for most of World War Two, in fact.

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29. Traveling through South Africa, 1947

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From February to April of 1947, Elizabeth and her immediate family – King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret – traveled 10,000 miles across South Africa. There, they met with their subjects throughout the country, including the mayor of Port Elizabeth, with whom Elizabeth chats in this photo.

28. Saying “I do,” 1947

Elizabeth accepted Philip Mountbatten’s marriage proposal before even discussing the matter her mother and father – that’s how crazy they were about each other. The king gave his consent, so long as they kept the engagement a secret until April of 1947, when Elizabeth would turn 21. Seven months after that, the couple wed in Westminster Abbey.

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27. Christening the future King, 1948

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Just a year shy of their first wedding anniversary, Princess Elizabeth and her husband, who now had the title of Duke of Edinburgh, welcomed their first child, a son. With that, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George became second in line for the British throne, behind his mother.

26. Minding her brood at Princess Anne’s christening, 1950

On August 15, 1950, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh had another child, a daughter named Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise. In October of that same year, the newest princess had her christening – and a family photo session to go with it. Her big brother Charles appears to have had lots of energy on that day.

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25. Trooping the Colour, 1951

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Every year on the reigning monarch’s birthday, the British and Commonwealth armies perform a ceremony in honor of the king or queen. In 1951 Princess Elizabeth rode her own horse to commemorate her father’s official birthday on June 7, although he was actually born on December 14.

24. Royal Tour-ing through Canada, 1951

Another year, another Commonwealth tour for the princess and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. Here, they’re traveling in the back of an open car, waving at the people who’d gathered in front of the Capitol Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Their visit to the U.S. and Canada lasted five weeks.

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23. Visiting Niagara Falls, 1951

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Even a future queen has to wear waterproofs at Niagara Falls, where it’s famously misty. Here, she and Prince Philip take in the breathtaking natural wonder – which is actually a convergence of three separate waterfalls – alongside Niagara Falls’ then-mayor, Ernest Hawkins.

22. Inspecting her guard, 1953

Following the death of her father in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne and immediately took on her duties as the nation’s monarch, although her official coronation didn’t take place until June of 1953. Here, she’s making sure a parade of the First Grenadier Guards meet the highest standards in April 1953.

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21. Receiving a traditional Fijian welcome, 1953

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The new Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh headed to Fiji in 1953 as part of a six-month Commonwealth tour. Upon their arrival, officials met them with silence – which is a sign of respect in Fijian culture – before Veirqaraqaravi Vakavanua, which is the pictured welcome ceremony that showcased the country’s culture and heritage. The royal couple were then given presents, one of which was whale’s teeth, by the local people.

20. Trekking through ancient caves, 1954

The same Commonwealth tour that brought the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Fiji also took them to New Zealand. In January 1954 they traveled through the country, stopping in 46 towns, allowing roughly three-quarters of New Zealanders to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. In this photo, they’re checking out the dangling stalactites at the Aranui Cave.

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19. Spectating at the horse trials, 1956

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Queen Elizabeth II has been fond of horses since she was a young girl, and we’ve already seen photos of her riding as an adult. Here, she and the Queen Mother take in the Badminton Horse Trials from the sidelines. The competition began as a way to prepare British competitors ahead of important international equestrian meetings.

18. Standing atop the Empire State Building, 1957

No trip to New York City would be complete without a journey to the top of the Empire State Building – even the Queen of England had to go in 1957. At that time, the skyscraper was the world’s tallest building, a title it held up until 1970.

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17. Chauffeuring her children around Windsor, 1957

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Royal etiquette mandates that the Queen has a driver whenever she’s out in public. But she still has the right to hop behind the wheel herself when traveling about her royal estates and other private venues. Indeed, rumor has it that her WWII training made her into a very capable driver. Here, though, she’s just a mom chauffeuring her kids around the Windsor estate.

16. Snapping pictures with her pooches, 1960

Time and time again, photographers have captured images of Queen Elizabeth II at moments when she, too, is behind the lens of a camera. This picture of her partaking in her creative hobby was snapped in Windsor Park in 1960 as she walked with her beloved Corgis.

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15. Dancing through Ghana, 1961

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From November 9 through 20, 1961, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband visited Ghana in a trip hosted by the country’s then-president, Kwame Nkurmah. The itinerary included the “High Life” Ball in the nation’s capital, Accra, during which the Queen beamed as she danced with the Ghanaian leader.

14. Showing off her dog’s skills, 1967

Through retriever trials, dogs of these breeds show off their prowess in the field in all kinds of different ways. In 1967 Queen Elizabeth II put her pooch Wren to the test in the Open Stake Retriever Trials at her Scottish home, Balmoral.

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13. Riding the train with her trusted companions, 1968

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Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate, Sandringham, sits in the midst of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. After a vacation there in early 1968, she headed back to London in a surprising manner – she and her Corgis caught the train to Liverpool Street Station in the heart of the city.

12. Jetting around the world, 1969

We can see here that although in 1969 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh boarded a private jet, they otherwise appeared to travel like the rest of us. She read the paper and filled the seat next to her with her personal effects, while he flipped through a magazine.

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11. Celebrating a silver anniversary, 1972

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By 1972 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip had four children – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – and 25 years of marriage under their belts. To celebrate their silver anniversary, they shared a series of photos including this one of the reigning monarch aboard her yacht, the HMY Britannia.

10. Watching her daughter compete in the Olympics, 1976

An accomplished equestrian, Princess Anne competed in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal – and her mother grabbed a front-row seat to watch. In fact, Elizabeth’s security staff worried about her position in the crowd, as she chose to stand right next to the water jumps that each competitor had to clear.

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9. Traipsing through mud at the Windsor Horse Show, 1978

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Queen Elizabeth II once again found herself at an equestrian event in 1978, this time the Windsor Horse Show. In order to hand out the winners’ awards, though, she needed to walk through mud. And, by the look on her face, she wasn’t overjoyed about the path she had to take.

8. Waiting on a king, 1980

Queen Elizabeth II made her way south to Marrakech, Morocco, in October of 1980. There, she eventually met with King Hassan, although this image shows the English monarch as she awaits his arrival. Considering the last handful of photos, it’s unsurprising that the pair later took in an equestrian display together.

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7. Riding horses with an American President, 1982

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The Queen of England found herself in the presence of an equine friend once more in 1982. On this occasion, she and the then-President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, rode side-by-side through her Windsor estate. Even though the Reagans left the White House in 1989, they maintained a bond with the Queen for years to come.

6. Rowing ashore in Tuvalu, 1982

The fall of 1982 saw Queen Elizabeth II returning to the South Pacific, where she was welcomed to the island nation of Tuvalu. Once the natives had rowed the queen ashore, they carried her in her canoe on their shoulders, and the monarch waved from her high perch.

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5. Traversing the Great Wall of China, 1986

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Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to go to China during a 1986 state visit. Her first few days were spent visiting sites in and around Beijing. She and the Duke of Edinburgh saw the Great Wall – as well as the Forbidden City and Ming emperors’ tombs – before moving on to their second Chinese destination, Shanghai.

4. Posing for a family photoshoot, 1988

A fire engine from 1939 served as the perfect backdrop for a 1988 photo of the British Royal Family. And it also clearly delighted the Queen’s grandchildren Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter and Zara Phillips. She eventually posed alongside her son, Prince Charles, his then-wife, Princess Diana, and all of the little ones.

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3. Cheering on the Orioles, 1991

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Visiting the U.S. in the springtime of 1991 gave Queen Elizabeth II the chance to experience the country’s national pastime, baseball. In fact, she received an invitation from the owner of the Baltimore Orioles to take in a game. And she accepted, along with two very special guests: then-President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

2. Sipping an Australian wine, 2002

Just prior to lunchtime, Queen Elizabeth II reportedly has her first libation of the day, a blend of gin and Dubonnet. The latter is a type of fortified wine. At lunch, she apparently sips on wine, and in the evening the Queen clinks a glass or two of champagne. So, it was only natural for her to sample some Australian wine while visiting Adelaide in 2002.

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1. Heading to her country home for the holidays, 2018

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For most of the winter, you can find Queen Elizabeth II at Sandringham House. In 2018 she made her way to the Norfolk, England, estate on December 20 by way of a train from London’s Kings Cross station. Here, she’s pictured arriving at King’s Lynn station just in time for the holidays to begin.

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