Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor, near Windsor Castle, until July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in the British Crown Colony of Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently in Malta for several months at a time in the hamlet of Gwardamanġa, at Villa Guardamangia, the rented home of Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children remained in Britain.
During 1951, George VI’s health declined and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. When she toured Canada and visited President Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C., in October 1951, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration in case the King died while she was on tour. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of the King and consequently Elizabeth’s immediate accession to the throne. Philip broke the news to the new Queen. Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name; she chose to remain Elizabeth, “of course”. She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace.
With Elizabeth’s accession, it seemed probable that the royal house would bear her husband’s name, becoming the House of Mountbatten, in line with the custom of a wife taking her husband’s surname on marriage. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, favoured the retention of the House of Windsor, and so on 9 April 1952 Elizabeth issued a declaration that Windsor would continue to be the name of the royal house. The Duke complained, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” In 1960, after the death of Queen Mary in 1953 and the resignation of Churchill in 1955, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Philip and Elizabeth’s male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles.
The Queen surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest-lived British monarch in December 2007, and the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September 2015. On 9 September 2015 she was also celebrated in Canada as the “longest-reigning sovereign in Canada’s modern era”. (King Louis XIV of France reigned over Canada (New France) for longer than Elizabeth.) She is also the longest-reigning queen regnant in history, and the world’s oldest reigning monarch. She became the longest-serving current head of state following the death of King Bhumibol of Thailand on 13 October 2016. On 6 February 2017, she became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee, and that November, she became the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. Prince Philip had retired from his official duties as the Queen’s consort in August 2017.
The Queen does not intend to abdicate, though Prince Charles is expected to take on more of her workload as Elizabeth, who celebrated her 91st birthday in 2017, carries out fewer public engagements. Plans for her death and funeral have been extensively prepared by most British government and media organisations for decades.