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British Parliament The real power in the country belongs to the British Parliament and to the British Government. The British Parliament has two houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords does not have much power but it is very important as it can discuss and change laws, it can delay laws too. The members of the House of Lords are not elected, they are selected. These members are permanent. They are often aristocrats, people of the church, lawyers and former politicians or life peers. The House of Commons makes laws about the policy of the country, taxes and many other things. The members of the House of Commons are elected. The British people elect 650 members of the House of Commons every five years. Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; was born 21 April 1926) is the Queen regnant of sixteen independent sovereign states known informally as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Early life Elizabeth was the first child of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and his wife, Elizabeth. She was born by Caesarean section on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, and was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, on 29 May. Her close family called her "Lilibet". She had a close relationship with her grandfather George V and was credited with aiding in his recovery from illness in 1929. Her only sibling was Princess Margaret, born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford, who was casually known as "Crawfie". Second World War In September 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, stayed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, from September to Christmas 1939, until they moved to Sandringham House, Norfolk. From February to May 1940, they lived at Royal Lodge, Windsor, until moving to Windsor Castle, where they stayed for most of the next five years. The suggestion that the two princesses be evacuated to Canada was rejected by Elizabeth's mother; she said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave.“ It was from Windsor that Elizabeth, in 1940, made her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. Marriage Elizabeth married Philip on 20 November 1947. The couple are second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria. The marriage was not without controversy: Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject), and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948, several weeks after letters patent were issued by her father allowing her children to enjoy a royal and princely status to which they otherwise would not have been entitled. A second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950. Though Philip's surname was Mountbatten, the Royal House is named Windsor, and the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted in 1960 for his and Elizabeth's descendants. Queen Elizabeth with Prime Minister of Australia Sir Robert Menzies during her first visit to Australia in 1954 Continuing evolution of the Commonwealth Elizabeth witnessed, over her life, the ongoing transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of Elizabeth's accession in 1952, her role as nominal head of multiple independent states was already established. Spanning 1953–54, the Queen and her husband embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen the Queen. Silver Jubilee In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Events took place in many countries throughout the Queen's associated Commonwealth tour, and included a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral attended by dignitaries and other heads of state. Parties were held throughout the Commonwealth realms, culminating in several Jubilee Days in the United Kingdom, in June. In Britain, commemorative stamps were issued. The Jubilee Line of the London Underground (though opened in 1979) was named for the anniversary, as were several other public locations and spaces, including the Jubilee Gardens in London's South Bank. In Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal was issued. In 1978, she endured a state visit by the brutal communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu but the following year brought two blows: one was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, as a communist spy; the other was the assassination of her relative and in-law Earl Mountbatten of Burma by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. 1980s During the 1981 Trooping the Colour ceremony, six blank cartridges were fired at the Queen from close range as she rode down The Mall on her horse "Burmese". Nobody was hurt, and the 17-year-old assailant, Marcus Sarjeant, was later sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The Canadian House of Commons passed a motion praising the Queen's bravery. The following year, the Queen found herself in another precarious situation when she awoke in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace to find a strange man, Michael Fagan, in the room with her. Remaining calm throughout, for about seven minutes, and through two calls to the palace police switchboard, Elizabeth spoke to Fagan while he sat at the foot of her bed until assistance arrived. From April to September that year, the Queen remained anxious but proud of her son, Prince Andrew, who was serving with British forces during the Falklands War. Prince Philip and Elizabeth II, October 1992 Annus horribilis The Queen called 1992 her "annus horribilis" in a speech on 24 November 1992. The year saw her daughter divorced, one son separated and another whose marriage was rocky. Windsor Castle had suffered severe fire damage, and the monarchy had come under increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, she said any institution must expect criticism but suggested it be done with "a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding“. Elizabeth II and George W. Bush share a toast during a state dinner at the White House, 7 May 2007. Golden Jubilee and beyond In 2002, as Elizabeth marked her Golden Jubilee as queen, her sister and mother died in February and March, respectively. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, which began in Jamaica in February, where she called the farewell banquet "memorable" after a power cut plunged the King's House, the official residence of the Governor-General, into darkness. As in 1977, there were street parties and commemorative events, and monuments were named to honour the occasion. Elizabeth II and Ronald Reagan riding at Windsor, 1982. Public perception and character Since Elizabeth rarely gives interviews, little is known of her personal feelings. As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth has not expressed her own political opinions in a public forum. She does have a deep sense of religious and civic duty, and takes her coronation oath seriously. Her clothes consist mostly of solid-colour overcoats and decorative hats, which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd. Her main leisure interests include equestrianism, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Religion Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, Elizabeth personally worships with that church and with the national Church of Scotland. She regularly attends Sunday service at Crathie Kirk when in Balmoral. Frequently, the Queen will add a personal note about her faith to her annual Royal Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth, such as in 2000, when she spoke about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. Diana Diana, Princess of Wales, (Diana Frances; 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997) was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Her sons, Princes William and Harry, are second and third in line to the throne of the United Kingdom and fifteen other Commonwealth Realms. A public figure from the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles, Diana remained the focus of near-constant media scrutiny in the United Kingdom and around the world before, during and after her marriage, even in the years following her sudden death in a car crash, which was followed by a spontaneous and prolonged show of public mourning. Contemporary responses to Diana's life and legacy were mixed but a popular fascination with the Princess endures. The long-awaited Coroner's Inquest reported its conclusion on 7 April 2008 that Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed by the negligent driving of the following vehicles and also the driver Henri Paul of the vehicle in which she was travelling. Relationship with the Prince of Wales Prince Charles had formerly been linked to Diana's older sister Sarah, and to Davina Sheffield, Scottish heiress Anna Wallace, the Honourable Amanda Knatchbull (granddaughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma), actress Susan George, Lady Jane Wellesley, heiress Sabrina Guinness and Camilla Shand, inter alia. In his early thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. Under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, his marriage required the Queen's formal consent. Under the Act of Settlement 1701, royals must marry within the Church of England or foreit their place in the order of succession to the throne. Diana's aristocratic descent, Church of England faith, presumed virginity and native Englishness appeared to render her a suitable royal bride. Divorce On the 20 December 1995, Buckingham Palace publicly announced the Queen had sent letters to Charles and Diana advising them to divorce. The Queen's move was backed by the Prime Minister and by senior Privy Councillors, and, according to the BBC, was decided after two weeks of talks. Prince Charles immediately agreed with the suggestion. In February Diana announced her agreement after negotiations with Prince Charles and representatives of Queen, irritating Buckingham Palace by issuing her own announcement of a divorce agreement and its terms. Tribute, funeral, and burial The sudden and unexpected death of a very popular royal figure brought statements from senior figures worldwide and many tributes by members of the public. In reaction to the death people left public offerings of flowers, candles, cards and personal messages. Diana's funeral was attended by the Royal Family. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, walked in the funeral procession behind her coffin, along with Prince Charles, and Prince Philip, together with Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.