William Alexander Dargie (1912 - 2003), Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (detail), Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection. View full image
Reigned 6 February 1952 - 8 September 2022
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) was the longest-reigning British monarch.1 Her reign spanned 16 Australian Prime Ministers and included 16 visits to Australia.2 Known for her sense of duty, Elizabeth proclaimed to the Commonwealth nations on her 21st birthday that her ‘whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service’.3
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on 21 April 1926 in London, third in line to the throne, but with little expectation of becoming monarch.4 However, the abdication of Edward VIII in December 19365 saw her father accede to the throne as King George VI,6 and Elizabeth become the heir presumptive.
In 1945 Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service to contribute to the war effort, becoming the first female Royal to join the armed services as a full time active member.7 In 1947 she married Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Two thousand people attended the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, with the proceedings broadcast by BBC Radio to a global audience of some 200 million people.8 They had four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Elizabeth was only 25, and on tour in Kenya with Philip, when the news came that her father had died and she was now Queen. At her coronation in June 1953, the first to be televised, she was crowned as the Queen of the UK, as well as of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon.9 She was also recognised as Head of the Commonwealth by its member nations.10 The following year, the Royal couple left for an extensive tour of the Commonwealth, including Australia where approximately three-quarters of the population came to see them.11 It was the first visit to Australia by a reigning monarch.
The Queen’s visits to Australia incorporated significant ceremonial events, including the opening of federal Parliament in 1974, attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1981, and Australia’s bicentenary celebrations and the opening of new Parliament House in 1988. Alongside Australia, the Queen visited all Commonwealth nations except the most recent inclusions of Cameroon and Rwanda.12
Queen Elizabeth’s diplomatic trips abroad, and the visits that world leaders paid to her, were often highly significant. She was the first British monarch to visit West Germany (1965) in 50 years and the Republic of Ireland (2011) in 100 years, and the first ever visit the People’s Republic of China (1986). As Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth also met with five Catholic Popes during her reign.13
On the 9 April 2021, Prince Philip, her ‘strength and stay’, died peacefully at the age of 99.14 The Queen died on 8 September 2022. She was succeeded by her eldest child, Charles, who was proclaimed King Charles III, by the Grace of God, King of Australia and his other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, on 11 September 2022.
Sir William Alexander Dargie CBE
Artist and teacher William Dargie (1912-2003) is best known for his contribution to Australian portraiture. A prolific portraitist and eight-time winner of the Archibald Prize, Dargie was inspired by the Heidelberg School of impressionist artists. In 1941, while teaching art at Swinburne Technical College in Melbourne, Dargie was appointed an official war artist for the Australian Army. He worked for five years recording the aftermath of battles across the Middle East, India, Burma and New Guinea. After the war, Dargie built a distinguished career as a leading portrait artist, taking on several commissioned portraits of eminent figures, also including the HMC official portraits of Prime Ministers Arthur Fadden and John McEwen. He simultaneously held several administrative positions, serving on the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board for 20 years and heading up the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and the National Gallery of Victoria. In 2002, to mark his 90th birthday, the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House and the National Portrait Gallery held exhibitions to pay tribute to his contribution to Australian art. His work is represented in national and state galleries and other public institutions across Australia.15
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
by William Alexander Dargie
Oil on canvas
100.8 x 74.8 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection
1.Information included in this biography is taken from: B Pimlott, The Queen: A Biography of Queen Elizabeth II, HarperCollins, UK, 1996; R Hardman, Queen of the World, Penguin Random House, UK, 2019.
2. ‘Dates announced for The Queen’s visit to Australia’, press release, 23 September 2011, Royal Family, accessed 2 November 2021.
3. ‘A speech by the Queen on her 21st birthday, 1947’, Royal Family; K Cumming‘Royalty and Australian society’, Research Guide, National Archives of Australia, Canberra, 1988. Websites accessed 9 September 2021.
4. Pimlott, op. cit., p. 25.
5. H Matthew, ‘Edward VIII [afterwards Prince Edward, duke of Windsor] (1894–1972)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 2 November 2021.
6. H Matthew, ‘George V (1865–1936), king of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and emperor of India’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2 November. 2021.
7. ‘‘The Queen and the Armed Forces’, Royal Family; ‘Elizabeth II’, Westminster Abbey. Websites accessed 10 September 2021.
8. ‘70 facts about The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Wedding’, Royal Family, accessed 13 September 2021.
9. ‘The Queen’s Coronation Oath, 1953’, Royal Family, accessed 27 October 2021.
10. Hardman, op. cit., p. 127. See also ‘The Commonwealth: How we are run’, The Commonwealth, accessed 20 October 2021.
11. Pimlott, op. cit., p. 224.
12. ‘Royal Family’s visits around the Commonwealth’, Royal Family, accessed 14 September 2021.
13.The Queen and diplomacy’, Royal Family; ‘List of State Visits’, Royal Family; M Glencross, ‘Visiting the Pope: the monarchs private visit’, History & Policy, 14 February 2014; S Pruitt, ‘Queen Elizabeth II: 13 Key moments in her reign’, History Channel; ‘Queen meets Pope Francis at the Vatican’, BBC News, 3 April 2014. Websites accessed 14 September 2021.
14.‘Consort to Her Majesty The Queen’, Royal Family, accessed 13 September 2021.
15. Information in this biography has been taken from: M Keaney, ‘Sir William Dargie CBE’, Portrait 9, September–November 2003, National Portrait Gallery; ‘Sir William Dargie: A Ninetieth Birthday Tribute’, National Portrait Gallery; ‘Captain William Dargie’, Australian War Memorial; ‘Dargie, (Sir) William Alexander’, A McCulloch, S McCulloch and E McCulloch Childs, eds, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, 2006, p. 366. Websites accessed 25 March 2021.