SHE was not born to be Queen. Until her uncle's scandalous love affair rocked the monarchy, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was destined to spend her life a step removed from the heavy burdens of sovereignty.

Her royal pedigree, however, could never be questioned. Queen Elizabeth II is 38th in a direct line of descent from Egbert, who became King of England in 827.

When she was born, on April 21, 1926, she was third in line to the throne after Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, and her father the Duke of York, who became George VI after his brother abdicated.

Her childhood was a happy one. The Princess's early years were spent at 145 Piccadilly, the London house taken by her parents shortly after her birth; at White Lodge in Richmond Park; and at the country homes of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

When she was six years old, her parents took over Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as their own country home.

Princess Elizabeth was educated at home with Princess Margaret, her younger sister. In 1933, Marion Crawford, known as "Crawfie", was engaged as Princess Elizabeth's first governess and began a regular timetable of lessons.

Her father succeeded to the throne in 1936, when she became heir presumptive - a change to which she adjusted with astonishing aplomb. At this point she started to study constitutional history and law. She also studied art and music, learned to ride and enjoyed amateur theatricals and swimming - she won the Children's Challenge Shield at London's Bath Club when she was 13.

She enrolled as a Girl Guide when she was 11, and later became a Sea Ranger.

The family moved into Buckingham Palace in 1937. "When I broke the news to Margaret and Lilibet that they were going to live in Buckingham Palace, they looked at me in horror," wrote Marion Crawford in her book The Little Princesses. "'What!' Lilibet said. 'You mean forever?'"

Princess Elizabeth spent most of the war years at Windsor Castle and made her first radio broadcast on October 13, 1940, at the age of 14, on Children's Hour. At the age of 18, she undertook National Service, joining the Auxiliary Transport Service on February 24, 1945, and was registered as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor.

She was the first heir to the throne to celebrate her 21st birthday in a Commonwealth country when, on April 21, 1947, she made the now famous radio broadcast from Cape Town in South Africa. She said: "My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

On her return, Princess Elizabeth's engagement to Prince Philip was announced on July 10, 1947. They were married that November.

Five years later they set off on another Commonwealth tour. George VI braved bitterly cold weather and ill health in January 1952 to see his daughter and son-in-law off at the airport. It was the last time she would see her father.

Princess Elizabeth became Queen while perched up a wild fig tree, animal spotting on the edge of the Kenyan jungle. Her father died at Sandringham, his Norfolk estate, after a happy day shooting with family and friends.

Elizabeth's tour was immediately cancelled and she arrived home on February 7, to be proclaimed Queen the next day. Her Coronation was arranged for June 2, 1953, at Westminster Abbey. With the Queen's permission - given somewhat reluctantly - the ceremony was broadcast on television.

This gave the infant medium a huge boost and allowed millions to share the splendour. Around 6,000 York households owned a television at this time, many bought specifically for the occasion. TV owners played host to friends and neighbours, helping to boost the total viewing audience for the Coronation to 20 million.

Many travelled down to London to witness the historic day live. A special sleeper train service had been put on; it pulled into York station at 3.32am, and deposited excited royalists at King's Cross at 7.39am.

Those staying in York were determined to make the city look its best for the celebrations. Patriotic decorations were in huge demand. "Anything in red, white and blue or with 'God Save The Queen' on it was sold immediately. It was really astonishing," Mr Lyall, manager of a Coney Street store, told the Yorkshire Evening Press.

Those women who had the money were splashing out on the "New Look" for the big day. Its hallmark was a return to the lines of the Edwardian age, with gathered skirts, low necklines and long flowing dresses.

The Queen had quickly become a fashion icon. Hat sales boomed, with many women favouring pill box designs, or crocheted headwear.

Everyone was in party mood on Coronation day. Rowntree's handed out free chocolates to the children. Huntington youngsters staged a fancy dress parade. Crowds were entertained for free at York Rugby League Club's ground with a variety show.

Even when heavy rain wreaked havoc with some of the street decorations on Coronation eve, street party organisers were undaunted. The next morning, they were up their ladders, repairing the damage.

Other York events on the day itself included a soapbox derby in Jute Road and a children's party in the Regent Cinema. The Lord Mayor, Alderman Frank Wright, presented commemorative spoons to the mothers who gave birth on Coronation day. Despite the miserable weather, the Coronation was a happy occasion that brightened up a nation still in the midst of post-war gloom. And it was a fitting way to celebrate the start of what would become a remarkable reign.

That night, as York's leaders danced at the Civic Coronation Ball in the Assembly Rooms, every US television network carried programmes on the events at Westminster Abbey, using film that had been flown across the Atlantic after the ceremony.

Every single set was tuned to Elizabeth II's Coronation - nearly one hundred million viewers. It proved to be the top-rated US and Canadian television production of the year.

Born to be a supporting actor in the royal story, the Queen had become the superstar.

Updated: 15:48 Monday, May 20, 2002