It's a landmark birthday for the world's longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II! The British sovereign celebrates her 95th birthday on Wednesday after an unprecedented year of highs and lows amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The special occasion tragically comes just days after the funeral of Elizabeth's husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, who was laid to rest in an intimate service at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle this past weekend. The couple were able to spend the majority of the year together at Windsor Castle amid the pandemic -- a rare blessing for the working royal in what became the final year of her husband's life.
Despite the somber occasion, the queen is coming into her 95th birthday after an impressive year of strength and leadership. Her Royal Highness has been heavily involved in reassuring the public amid trying times in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic has impacted not just the United Kingdom but the entire world.
In a rare public address last April -- only the fifth in her lengthy reign -- the queen offered her own words of comfort.
"Together we are tackling this disease. And I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, we will overcome it," she said at the time.
In addition to this historic speech, Elizabeth has also maintained her royal duties, even virtually when necessary, meeting with charities, healthcare heroes, offering honorary knighthoods and more to those who have leant a hand amid the pandemic.
Beatrice married her longtime love, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, in a private ceremony at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Due to the pandemic, the couple was unable to celebrate with a big wedding, but the queen and Prince Philip were still able to attend and pose with the newlyweds for some stunning portraits.
In November, Elizabeth and Philip celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary with handmade cards from their great grandchildren and a sweet portrait.
As the royal family was forced to spend the holidays apart this past winter, the queen took the time to comfort the public once again in her annual Christmas broadcast.
"For many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand. If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers," Queen Elizabeth said.
In early January, Buckingham Palace confirmed that both the queen and Prince Philip had received their COVID-19 vaccinations, going public with the news in an effort to encourage those eligible to also get the vaccination.
Elizabeth also welcomed two new great grandchildren. Her granddaughters Princess Eugenie and Zara Tindall each welcomed baby boys within a few weeks of one another. It was also announced in mid-February that Meghan Markle, the wife of Elizabeth's grandson, Prince Harry, is pregnant with the couple's second child, a baby girl due this summer.
The queen welcomed some new additions of her own in the form of two corgi puppies in early March. The new pups came at a difficult time as Prince Philip had been in an extended stint in the hospital.
In late February and early March, the royal family was flooded with controversy following Prince Harry and Meghan officially stepping down as senior members of the royal family after a year-long trial period. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official exit meant a stripping of military titles for Harry and the loss of their royal patronages. In a statement from the Palace at the time, the queen shared, "While all are saddened by their decision, the duke and duchess remain much loved members of the family."
"He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than we would ever claim, or we shall ever know," she said at the time.
June will mark Elizabeth's 69th anniversary of ascending the throne, and she remains the longest reigning monarch in history.