A life in the spotlight: 35 exquisite photos of Queen Elizabeth II

By Kirstin Buick
21 April 2016

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday today, we look back on the milestones in her nine decades of life, and 63 years on the throne.

She's Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England – and "Gan gan".

The Duke and Duchess of York, who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, cradle little Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary at her christening in 1926.

What a striking resemblance to her grandson! One-year-old Elizabeth was all smiles as she sat for her first portrait.

This is the first letter "Lilibet", as the then Princess Elizabeth was known to her family, ever sent to her grandmother, Queen Mary.

Just a girl: Lilibet rides her tricyle in a photo thought to have been taken in 1930.

She's always loved her corgis! The young princess pictured below with two of her precious pets at her home at 145 Piccadilly in London, in 1936.

The Queen (left) and her sister, Princess Margaret (centre), visiting the penguins at the London Zoo in 1938.

Princess Elizabeth in her Girl Guides uniform at Frogmore in Home Park in 1942.

From princess to mechanic: During World War II Elizabeth reportedly begged her father to be allowed to help in some way. She donned a pair of overalls and trained in London as a mechanic and military truck driver. The queen remains the only female member of the royal family to have entered the armed forces.

She's always loved the arts -- in 1944 she featured in a production of Old Mother Red Riding Boots. Elizabeth and her siblings often put on pantomimes at home at Windsor castle.

Twenty-year-old Elizabeth at her desk in her sitting room at Buckingham Palace in 1946.

Daddy's girl: Elizabteh laughs with her father King George VI (1895 - 1952) in a garden in 1946.

King George VI with Princesses Margaret (1930 - 2002, left) and Elizabeth at the Natal National Park during the Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on their wedding day in 1947.

From princess to mummy: Elizabeth and Philip welcomed their first child, Prince Charles, in 1948.

Princess Anne (now Anne, Princess Royal) followed in 1950.

Two more little princes followed: Prince Andrew, Duke of York (in 1960) and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (born in 1964).

She became queen on her father King George VI's death in 1952.

The young queen pictured leaving the State Opening of Parliament at Parliament House, on her Royal Tour of Australia in 1954. She was 28 at the time.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh pose for a portrait at home in Buckingham Palace in December 1958.

At home: The royal family at Windsor, (from left) Prince Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.

The monarch and her husband visit the Taj Mahal during their six-week royal visit to India in 1961.

25 years on the throne: the Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The Queen talks with the Emir Of Bahrain during horse and camel racing tournament in Bahrain in 1979.

Daughter-in-law: Prince Charles and his then fiancée, Lady Diana Spencer with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1981.

Charles and Diana's balcony kiss at Buckingham Palace on their wedding day in in 1981, as Queen Elizabeth looks on.

Granny: Diana, holding her son Prince William with Charles, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II (left) and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Motherv(1900 - 2002) at Buckingham Palalce after Prince William's christening ceremony in 1982.

The Queen with Prince William and Prince Harry in the royal box at Guards Polo Club, Smiths Lawn, Windsor.

In mourning: Queen Elizabeth the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Buckingham Palace for Diana's funeral.

Happier times: The Queen (in yellow) at Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge) in 2011.

Granny to Gan Gan: The Queen greets her youngest grandson on his christening day at Chapel Royal in St James's Palace in London in 2013.

A new little princess: The Queen and Prince Philip arrived at St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate for the Christening of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge in 2015.

Four generations: Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George pose alongside the Queen in a special portrait to mark her 90th birthday.

The Royal Mail celebrates #Queenat90 with a specially commissioned Stamp Sheet, featuring four generations of the Royal Family.

A photo posted by The British Monarchy (@the_british_monarchy) on

The future of the monarchy: The Queen surrounded by her two youngest grandchildren and her five great-grandchildren -- from left: James, Viscount Severn, Lady Louise, Mia Tindell, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Charlotte, Savannah Phillips, Prince George and Isla Phillips. This is the first in a series of official photographs released today to mark The Queen's 90th birthday. They were taken at Windsor Castle just after Easter by renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz.

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