She wasn't born to be queen, but many Britons can't remember a time without her.

Queen Elizabeth II — once a shy princess — was thrust onto the throne by the abdication of her uncle and then the death of her father. She has now been Britain's head of state for 60 years, and matriarch of a royal family that has been riven by divorce, death and scandal

At 86 years old, she is a monarch whose longevity and devotion to duty have won her a firm place in her subjects' hearts.

As Britain celebrates the queen's Diamond Jubilee with four days of parties, processions and pomp, here's a gallery of AP photos from across the eight decades of Elizabeth's life.