As the Queen’s 90th birthday approaches, we take a year-by-year look at events that have taken place since the monarch’s birth in 1926. Learn about royal births, grand openings, sporting triumphs and much more.
1926: Princess Elizabeth is born on 21 April to Prince Albert, Duke of York (soon to become King George VI), and Elizabeth, Duchess of York.
1927: With the Proms due to come to an end due to lack of funding, the BBC steps in and saves the day, hosting the first ever BBC Proms at the Queen’s Hall. It continues to do so to this day, at the Royal Albert Hall.
1928: The first wax figure of Queen Elizabeth is displayed at Madame Tussauds, when she is aged just two. Since then, 21 more versions have appeared here, with the most recent in 2012 to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.
1929: Fairey Aviation start to develop land in the hamlet of Heathrow, an area which would become Heathrow Airport. Today, Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport.
1931: The Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane has its grand opening. The aristocrat, Lady Violet Astor, opens the hotel, and it quickly becomes a favourite haunt of writers, artists and poets.
1932: The London Philharmonic Orchestra is founded with the ambition of creating an orchestra the size of any major European or American rival. Today, you can see the London Philharmonic at Royal Festival Hall.
1934: Britain’s Fred Perry wins his first of three Wimbledon Championships, beating Australian Jack Crawford in the final. He is the only British man to win Wimbledon until Andy Murray takes the prize in 2013.
1935: One of London’s most luxurious hotels, the Midland Grand Hotel, closes. It reopens in 2011 as the St. Pancras London Renaissance Hotel, 138 years after its original opening.
1937: After his brother abdicates, the Queen’s father, Prince Albert, takes to the throne and becomes King George VI. The coronation of King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth takes place at Westminster Abbey in May.
1938: The world’s first children’s zoo opens at the ZSL London Zoo.
1939: London prepares itself for war. The first Anderson Shelter is designed and built in London, it becomes a highly important tool for Londoners sheltering from enemy bomb fire. Learn more about the conflict at the Imperial War Museum.
1940: London receives heavy bombing from the enemy as the Blitz begins. Several landmarks, including the Tower of London, suffer great damage.
1941: Galleries in the Victoria and Albert Museum are used as a school for evacuated children from the British colony of Gibraltar. The South Court of the museum also becomes a canteen for the Royal Air Force.
1942: The new Waterloo Bridge is partially opened and admits traffic for the first time. It is nicknamed the Ladies Bridge, as its construction workforce was mostly female.
1943: The County of London Plan, an ambitious plan for London’s post-war development, is produced for the London Council.
1944: The Olympics, scheduled to take place in London, are cancelled due to heavy bombing.
1945: War ends in May and Londoners celebrate with victory parties across the capital.
1946: The formal London Victory Celebrations take place in Whitehall. The World War I memorial, the Cenotaph, is updated to include the great losses to life endured in World War II.
1947: Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten, who becomes Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They are married at Westminster Abbey. Their first child, Charles, is born one year later.
1948: The Olympics are held in London, after being rescheduled from 1944.
1949: In November, the first polar bear to be successfully reared in Britain is born in ZSL London Zoo. She is named Brumas, and at the time was incorrectly reported by the press as being male.
1950: Four Scottish students leave Glasgow to recover the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey, an ancient slab that had originally been used at the coronations of Scottish Kings. Their leader is eventually caught, after it is discovered he borrowed every book about Westminster Abbey from his local library.
1953: After her father passes away in 1952, Princess Elizabeth has her official coronation, and becomes Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June. The event takes place in Westminster Abbey and is the first coronation to be fully televised.
1954: Members of the London Housewives’ Association hold a special ceremony in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the end of rationing.
1956: In February, the first of the iconic Routemaster buses enters service in London. They are eventually withdrawn from service in 2005.
1957: The Royal Christmas Message is broadcast on television for the first time from London. It doesn’t go without a hitch, US police radio transmissions interfere with the broadcast and at one point some listeners hear an officer say: “Joe, I’m gonna grab a quick coffee.”
1958: The London Planetarium opens on Marylebone Road, the first of its kind in Britain. It closes in 2006 and becomes part of Madame Tussauds. The only current planetarium in London is the Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich.
1960: The swinging sixties arrive in London and Swinging London is born, a decade when London fashion and music put the city on the map. Soho, Carnaby Street and King's Road are all popular during this era.
1961: Tottenham Hotspur Football Club become the first football team to win the league and FA Cup double. See a match or tour their North London stadium, White Hart Lane, today.
1963: The Beatles appear before the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance. Learn about the band on a London Beatles Tour, where you’ll discover George, John, Ringo and Paul’s favourite London haunts.
1964: The Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture in London, takes place for the first time. It now attracts around one million people each year.
1965: Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, who guided Britain through their war effort, dies aged 90. His funeral is the largest state funeral at the time, and takes place in St Paul’s Cathedral.
1966: England hosts the World Cup, and they are triumphant in the final against Germany. Take a Wembley Stadium Tour to learn more about the victory.
1968: Infamous East End villains, the Kray Twins, are arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. Join a Kray Twins Gangster Walking Tour today to find out more about the troublesome twosome.
1969: The Beatles record their second-to-last album at London’s Abbey Road studios. Head to Abbey Road today, and see the famous zebra crossing, which became such an iconic image in representing the era.
1970: Legendary musician Jimi Hendrix dies of a drugs overdose in London, aged just 27.
1971: The HMS Belfast opens to the public as a museum ship, after it is towed from Portsmouth to London. The Belfast was originally used in World War II, first in the British naval blockade against Germany, and then to escort Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union.
1972: The first official gay pride march is held on the streets of London, on the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots. Celebrate the diversity of London’s LGBT community at the London Pride Festival each year in Central London.
1973: The Queen officially opens the modern-day London Bridge, designed by the architect William Holford.
1974: New Covent Garden Market opens to the public in Nine Elms, relocating from its old position in Covent Garden. It becomes the largest fruit, vegetable and flower market in the UK.
1975: British rock group Led Zeppelin play five sold-out concerts at Earl’s Court Arena. Tickets for the first three of these shows sell out within just four hours.
1976: The rebellious punk movement in London begins in earnest, as bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash pave the way for the new movement. This year, London is celebrating 40 years of punk, with a series of events across the capital making up the Punk London Festival.
1977: The Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee, 25 years on the throne. To celebrate, she lights a bonfire beacon at Windsor Castle, one of the official royal residences.
1978: Permanent radio broadcasts of proceedings in the House of Commons begin. The first session heard on the air concerned the Secretary of State for Wales answering questions on the Welsh language.
1979: The Jubilee Line opens on the London Underground, marking the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
1981: The London Marathon takes place for the first time, spanning 26 miles of the capital. There are more than 11,000 male and female participants.
1982: In June, Prince William, the first child of the Prince and Princess of Wales, is born. William is currently second in line to the throne. His younger brother Harry is born two years later.
1983: The Greater London Council puts on three festivals of peace to celebrate the self-proclaimed “Peace Year”. The festivals take place in Victoria Park, Brockwell Park and Crystal Palace Park, and feature music and dancing.
1984: Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms are first opened to the public.
1985: Live Aid takes place at Wembley Stadium. Fans from around the world gather to watch their favourite stars, while the live broadcast captures a global audience of almost two billion people.
1987: The Docklands Light Railway comes into operation for the first time to serve the Docklands area of London. This unique line runs with no driver.
1989: London football club Arsenal win their first title for 18 years in dramatic fashion, as they score in the final minutes of the last game against fellow title contenders Liverpool.
1991: World-famous opera singer Luciano Pavarotti performs a free concert in London’s Hyde Park.
1992: The first Open House London event is held, and becomes an annual event in the London events calendar. Open House allows participants to explore buildings not usually open to the public.
1994: The first trains begin running on the Eurostar route, a high-speed rail service connecting London Waterloo with a variety of cities in Europe, including Paris. It now operates from St Pancras International.
1995: The first traditional-style Hindu Temple in Europe opens in Neasden, Northwest London. It is built using entirely traditional methods and materials, and is the largest Hindu temple outside of India.
1996: England hosts the Euro 1996 football tournament. Dramatic scenes at Wembley Stadium see England lose on penalties in the semi-final to Germany, who go on to win the tournament.
1997: The London Aquarium opens on the South Bank. Now called the SEALIFE London Aquarium, it hosts approximately a million visitors a year.
1998: The British Library collection is relocated to a new building on Euston Road.
1999: London says goodbye to the 20th century and hello to the Millennium in style, with huge New Year’s Eve celebrations across the capital, including at the newly-built Millennium Dome in Greenwich.
2001: Handel House Museum opens in Brook Street, the former dwelling of legendary composer George Frideric Handel. Today. The house merges with Jimi Hendrix’s old house next door to become Handel & Hendrix in London.
2003: The Queen celebrates 50 years on the British throne. The Golden Jubilee weekend celebrations see the Prom at the Palace taking place in the gardens of the Buckingham Palace.
2004: The BBC Media Village opens in White City, housing the BBC Broadcast Centre and BBC Media Centre. Today, you can explore the BBC's home at Broadcasting House.
2005: The Monument to the Women of World War II memorial is unveiled in Whitehall.
2006: Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium opens for the first time, with a capacity of more than 60,000. Take an Arsenal Emirates Stadium Tour to learn about the history of one of London’s great football clubs.
2008: Heathrow Airport opens the new Terminal Five, designed to handle 35 million passengers a year.
2009: Construction begins on The Shard, which is soon to become the tallest building in Western Europe. Visit The View From The Shard observatory today, to gaze out across London’s skyline.
2010: London Mayor Boris Johnson introduces a new cycle hire scheme, and the bikes quickly become known as “Boris Bikes”.
2011: Prince William marries Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey, and they become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. More than 5,000 street parties take place in the UK, and one million people line the route between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
2012: London hosts the Summer Olympics for the third time. Events mainly take place in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. The Queen also celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years on the throne with a river pageant.
2013: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a son, Prince George, who is now third in line to the throne. Their second child, Princess Charlotte, is born two years later.
2014: The final poppy is laid in November at the foot of the Tower of London to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War I. In total, 888,246 poppies were laid in the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.
2016: London hosts its first Lumiere Festival, a spectacular light festival, with installations popping up all over the capital.