The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nine in 10 living humans were born after Elizabeth became queen

At least.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London following her coronation June 2, 1953. (Leslie Priest/AP)

Queen Elizabeth II’s death Thursday afternoon brings an end to one of the longest leadership tenures in world history. For parts of eight decades, Elizabeth served as monarch of Britain, with more than 70 years passing between her ascension to the throne in 1952 and her death.

The scope of her tenure can be encapsulated quite simply. Until Thursday, at least 9 out of every 10 living human beings have never known a British monarch other than Elizabeth.

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Data from the CIA World Factbook provides a calculation of the age distribution of every country on earth. The figures are loosely grouped, so the most accurate figure we can get for many countries is the size of the population aged 65 or over. In other words, we have a tally of the number of people who were born in the mid-1950s (depending on the recency of the CIA estimates) — so approximately the number of people who were alive before Elizabeth’s ascension.

The dark purple below indicates the fraction of each country’s population that is 65 or over — and possibly was born before Elizabeth’s reign.

You can see both how much of each country’s population was born after Elizabeth assumed the throne — and how the age of national populations varies around the world. In Europe and North America, there is a much higher density of older people than in Africa, for example.

Queen Elizabeth II’s line of succession, visualized

According to the World Factbook’s data, about 10 percent of the global population is aged 65 and over. In Britain, though, that figure is nearly 19 percent, and just over the 17 percent in the United States. Near the poles are Japan and Nigeria — the former with a much more heavily old population, and the latter with a much less heavily old one.

We can view this a bit differently. The graph below shows the entirety of the measured world population. The boxes in dark purple are the segments of each country’s population age 65 or older. The light-colored boxes are the population born after Elizabeth became queen. That includes more than 53 million British residents (shown near the bottom right), just to give a sense of scale.

That’s an estimate, of course, since “over 65” is not equivalent to “born before 1952.” In the United States, though, Census Bureau data gives us a more precise sense of the population that’s never experienced a non-Queen Elizabeth II world.

About 8 in 9 U.S. residents were born in or after 1952.

Notice the gap between that 11.2 percent figure and the 16.9 percent in the World Factbook data. That’s because about 18 million Americans are 65 or older but born after 1951. Our numbers are skewed somewhat since Elizabeth took the throne in the middle of a massive population surge here (the baby boom). But it reflects how other countries might similarly have fewer pre-Elizabeth residents than the figures above suggest.

Photos: The life of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch

Precision isn’t really the point here. Instead, it’s scale. The vast majority of the living human population has always existed alongside her royal highness Queen Elizabeth II.

Until Thursday.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II

The final resting place: Queen Elizabeth II has been buried in her final resting place next to Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, capping an elaborate state funeral, which was invested with all the pomp, circumstance and showmanship that the monarchy, military and state could put on display for a global broadcast audience of millions.

The state funeral: The funeral was full of pageantry and pathos, including a new national anthem, funeral ensembles with affectionate touches in honor of the queen, a personal note from King Charles III, appearances by the young heirs, Prince George and Princess Charlotte and the royal corgis. Here are some of the most memorable moments in photos and videos.

A new monarch: Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Charles, became King Charles III the moment his mother died. He may bring a markedly different personal vision of religion and spirituality to the role. Here’s what to know about him.

We’re following changes in the British monarchy post-Elizabeth. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for the latest updates.

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