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American singer, songwriter, musician, and producer
Prince, original name Prince Rogers Nelson, later called the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and the Artist, (born June 7, 1958, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.—died April 21, 2016, Chanhassen, Minnesota), singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, dancer, and performer on keyboards, drums, and bass who was among the most talented American musicians of his generation. Like Stevie Wonder, he was a rare composer who could perform at a professional level on virtually all the instruments he required, and a considerable number of his recordings feature him in all the performing roles. Prince’s recording career began with funk and soul marketed to a Black audience; his early music also reflected the contemporary musical impact of disco. Later records incorporated a vast array of influences, including jazz, punk, heavy metal, the Beatles, and hip-hop, usually within an overall approach most informed by funky up-tempo styles and soulful ballads; the latter often featured his expressive falsetto singing.
Taking an early interest in music, Prince began playing the piano at age 7 and had mastered the guitar and drums by the time he joined his first band at age 14. With very few African American residents, his hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was an unlikely site for the development of a major Black star, but Prince even managed to lead other local musicians, most notably Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, to major success.
Mirrored by correspondingly intense music, Prince’s lyrics often address sexuality and desire with frankness and imagination. Much of his work, in its lyrics and imagery, struggles with the constriction of social conventions and categories. As one of his biographers put it, “The whole thrust of Prince’s art can be understood in terms of a desire to escape the social identities thrust upon him by simple virtue of his being small, black, and male.”
Prince explored typographical oddities in his song titles and lyrics as another way of evading convention. In 1993 he announced that he had changed his name to a combination of the male and female gender signs—. There is also a strong religious impulse in some of his music, sometimes fused into a kind of sacred erotic experience that has roots in African American churches.
“Little Red Corvette” (1983) was Prince’s first big crossover hit, gaining airplay on MTV at a time when virtually no Black artists appeared on the influential new medium. Purple Rain (1984) made him one of the major stars of the 1980s and remains his biggest-selling album. The album, which was the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to a film of the same name, also earned a Grammy Award. Three of its singles were hits: the frenetic “Let’s Go Crazy,” the androgynous but vulnerable “When Doves Cry,” and the anthemic title cut. Thereafter, he continued to produce inventive music of broad appeal; outside the United States he was particularly popular in Britain and the rest of Europe.
Throughout most of his career, Prince’s prolific inventiveness as a songwriter clashed with his record company’s policy of releasing only a single album each year. As a backlog of his completed but unreleased recordings piled up, he gave songs to other performers—some of whom recorded at and for Paisley Park, the studio and label he established in suburban Minneapolis—and even organized ostensibly independent groups, such as the Time, to record his material. His 1996 album Emancipation celebrated the forthcoming end of his Warner Brothers contract, which enabled him to release as much music as he liked on his NPG label. Later he explored marketing his work on the Internet and through private arrangements with retail chains as a means of circumventing the control of large record companies. In 1999, however, he released Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic under the Arista label; a collaboration with Sheryl Crow, Chuck D, Ani DiFranco, and others, the album received mixed reviews and failed to find a large audience.
Prince (who, following the formal termination of his contract with Warner Brothers in 1999, stopped using the symbol as his name) was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. That year he also released Musicology, an album that both sold well and was much praised by critics. Prince’s later albums included Lotusflow3r (2009), a triple-disc set that included a record by Bria Valente, a protégé. In 2014 he returned to Warner Brothers, releasing Art Official Age and PlectrumElectrum, the latter of which featured backing by the female trio 3rdEyeGirl. They also appeared on HitnRun: Phase One and Phase Two (both 2015).
Prince was found dead at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy later revealed that he had died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a powerful opioid. His memoir, The Beautiful Ones, was released in 2019. It included text as well as photographs and original lyrics.
queen of United Kingdom
Elizabeth II, in full Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, officially Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, (born April 21, 1926, London, England—died September 8, 2022, Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland), queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from February 6, 1952, to September 8, 2022. In 2015 she surpassed Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, Princess Margaret, and Princess Elizabeth
Elizabeth was the elder daughter of Prince Albert, duke of York, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. As the child of a younger son of King George V, the young Elizabeth had little prospect of acceding to the throne until her uncle, Edward VIII (afterward duke of Windsor), abdicated in her father’s favour on December 11, 1936, at which time her father became King George VI and she became heir presumptive. The princess’s education was supervised by her mother, who entrusted her daughters to a governess, Marion Crawford; the princess was also grounded in history by C.H.K. Marten, afterward provost of Eton College, and had instruction from visiting teachers in music and languages. During World War II she and her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, perforce spent much of their time safely away from the London blitz and separated from their parents, living mostly at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, and Windsor Castle.
Early in 1947 Princess Elizabeth went with the king and queen to South Africa. After her return there was an announcement of her betrothal to her distant cousin Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. The marriage took place in Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. On the eve of the wedding her father, the king, conferred upon the bridegroom the titles of duke of Edinburgh, earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. They took residence at Clarence House in London. Their first child, Prince Charles (Charles Philip Arthur George), was born November 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace.
Accession to the throne
Elizabeth II: coronation
proclamation declaring Elizabeth II queen of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II: opening of Parliament
Elizabeth II after her coronation
Elizabeth II: Christmas broadcast
In the summer of 1951 the health of King George VI entered into a serious decline, and Princess Elizabeth represented him at the Trooping the Colour and on various other state occasions. On October 7 she and her husband set out on a highly successful tour of Canada and Washington, D.C. After Christmas in England she and the duke set out in January 1952 for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, but en route, at Sagana, Kenya, news reached them of the king’s death on February 6, 1952. Elizabeth, now queen, at once flew back to England. The first three months of her reign, the period of full mourning for her father, were passed in comparative seclusion. But in the summer, after she had moved from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, she undertook the routine duties of the sovereign and carried out her first state opening of Parliament on November 4, 1952. Her coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.
Elizabeth II: royal tour of New Zealand
Beginning in November 1953 the queen and the duke of Edinburgh made a six-month round-the-world tour of the Commonwealth, which included the first visit to Australia and New Zealand by a reigning British monarch. In 1957, after state visits to various European nations, she and the duke visited Canada and the United States. In 1961 she made the first royal British tour of the Indian subcontinent in 50 years, and she was also the first reigning British monarch to visit South America (in 1968) and the Persian Gulf countries (in 1979). During her “Silver Jubilee” in 1977, she presided at a London banquet attended by the leaders of the 36 members of the Commonwealth, traveled all over Britain and Northern Ireland, and toured overseas in the South Pacific and Australia, in Canada, and in the Caribbean.
Elizabeth II and her family
Elizabeth II and her corgis
On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, her son Prince Charles became heir apparent; he was named prince of Wales on July 26, 1958, and was so invested on July 1, 1969. The queen’s other children were Princess Anne (Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise), born August 15, 1950, and created princess royal in 1987; Prince Andrew (Andrew Albert Christian Edward), born February 19, 1960, and created duke of York in 1986; and Prince Edward (Edward Anthony Richard Louis), born March 10, 1964, and created earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn in 1999. All these children have the surname “of Windsor,” but in 1960 Elizabeth decided to create the hyphenated name Mountbatten-Windsor for other descendants not styled prince or princess and royal highness. Elizabeth’s first grandchild (Princess Anne’s son) was born on November 15, 1977.
The modern monarchy
Elizabeth II at the funeral for Princess Diana
Elizabeth II at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The queen seemed increasingly aware of the modern role of the monarchy, allowing, for example, the televising of the royal family’s domestic life in 1970 and condoning the formal dissolution of her sister’s marriage in 1978. In the 1990s, however, the royal family faced a number of challenges. In 1992, a year that Elizabeth referred to as the royal family’s annus horribilis, Prince Charles and his wife, Diana, princess of Wales, separated, as did Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, duchess of York. Moreover, Anne divorced, and a fire gutted the royal residence of Windsor Castle. In addition, as the country struggled with a recession, resentment over the royals’ lifestyle mounted, and in 1992 Elizabeth, although personally exempt, agreed to pay taxes on her private income. The separation and later divorce (1996) of Charles and the immensely popular Diana further eroded support for the royal family, which was viewed by some as antiquated and unfeeling. The criticism intensified following Diana’s death in 1997, especially after Elizabeth initially refused to allow the national flag to fly at half-staff over Buckingham Palace. In line with her earlier attempts at modernizing the monarchy, the queen subsequently sought to present a less-stuffy and less-traditional image of the monarchy. These attempts were met with mixed success.
British royal family in 2015
Elizabeth II with U.S. Pres. Barack Obama
Discover how Camilla overcame controversy to become queen consort
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Elizabeth II and Catherine, duchess of Cambridge
In 2002 Elizabeth celebrated her 50th year on the throne. As part of her “Golden Jubilee,” events were held throughout the Commonwealth, including several days of festivities in London. The celebrations were somewhat diminished by the deaths of Elizabeth’s mother and sister early in the year. Beginning in the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century, the public standing of the royal family rebounded, and even Charles’s 2005 marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles found much support among the British people. In April 2011 Elizabeth led the family in celebrating the wedding of Prince William of Wales—the elder son of Charles and Diana—and Catherine Middleton. The following month she surpassed George III to become the second longest-reigning monarch in British history, behind Victoria. Also in May, Elizabeth made a historic trip to Ireland, becoming both the first British monarch to visit the Irish republic and the first to set foot in Ireland since 1911. In 2012 Elizabeth celebrated her “Diamond Jubilee,” marking 60 years on the throne. On September 9, 2015, she surpassed Victoria’s record reign of 63 years and 216 days.
Elizabeth II at the funeral of Philip, duke of Edinburgh
Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
In August 2017 Prince Philip officially retired from public life, though he periodically appeared at official engagements after that. In the meantime, Elizabeth began to reduce her own official engagements, passing some duties on to Prince Charles and other senior members of the royal family, though the pool of stand-ins shrank when Charles’s younger son, Prince Harry, duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan, duchess of Sussex, controversially chose to give up their royal roles in March 2020. During this period, public interest in the queen and the royal family grew as a result of the widespread popularity of The Crown, a Netflix television series about the Windsors that debuted in 2016. Having dealt with several physical setbacks in recent years, Philip, who had been Elizabeth’s husband for more than seven decades, died in April 2021. On their 50th wedding anniversary, in 1997, Elizabeth had said of Philip, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.” Because of social-distancing protocols brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the queen sat alone in a choir stall in St. George’s Chapel (in Windsor Castle) at Philip’s funeral. The widely disseminated images of her tragic isolation were heartbreaking but emblematic of the dignity and courage that she brought to her reign.
Elizabeth II and Liz Truss
British royal family, 2022
In June 2022 Britain celebrated Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne with the “Platinum Jubilee,” a four-day national holiday that included the Trooping the Colour ceremony, a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a pop music concert at Buckingham Palace, and a pageant that employed street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival, and costume to honour the queen’s reign. Health issues limited Elizabeth’s involvement. Concerns about the queen’s health also led to a break in tradition when, in September, she appointed Boris Johnson’s replacement as prime minister, Liz Truss, at Balmoral rather than at Buckingham Palace, where she had formally appointed more than a dozen prime ministers.
How long did Prince Charles wait to become King Charles III?
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Just days later, on September 8, Elizabeth’s death, at age 96, shocked Britain and the world. Prince Charles succeeded her on the throne as King Charles III. Ten days of national commemoration of her life and legacy—long planned as “Operation London Bridge”—followed. Notably, the queen lay in state for a day in St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and then for three days in Westminster Hall in London, outside of which mourners stood in a line that stretched for miles, in some cases waiting for more than 24 hours to view Elizabeth’s casket. Her sombre funeral ceremony in Westminster Abbey on September 19 was attended by an estimated 100 heads of foreign governments. Following a procession to Wellington Arch, during which Big Ben tolled, the queen’s casket was borne by hearse to her final resting place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Elizabeth was known to favour simplicity in court life and was also known to take a serious and informed interest in government business, aside from the traditional and ceremonial duties. Privately, she became a keen horsewoman; she kept racehorses, frequently attended races, and periodically visited the Kentucky stud farms in the United States. Her financial and property holdings made her one of the world’s richest women.