Vivat Regina

Today Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 years old. It's a good number, and rightfully impressive (though if a random Canadian turned 90, that's still not old enough to get a letter from the Sovereign: you have to be 100 years old or married for 60 years).

She has been the oldest UK monarch for quite some time now (and surpassed Queen Victoria for the longest-reigning monarch last September). However, being 90 in 2016 isn't quite the same as being 81 in 1901, is it?

When Queen Victoria was born in 1819 the average British life expectancy was 40.8. When she died in 1901 the life expectancy had grown to a whopping...46.93. Meanwhile, when Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926 the British life expectancy was already 59.57, and currently it's at 81.50. It's worth noting, as well, that both monarchs were women (who live longer), and the 81.5 is the figure for women (which wasn't really recorded in the previous years).

So once you graph the years lived based on life expectancy [and ignore the "survive childhood" problem -ed], you can see that Queen Victoria really was a step -- nay, a giant leap -- above.

Also worth noting...

Queen Elizabeth II:
CT scans: Approximately 1.2
Assassination attempts: 1.5

Queen Victoria:
CT scans: 0[citation required]
Assassination attempts: 7

As always when talking about life expectancy, there's a myth that if the life expectancy was 50 in a given year, very few adults were older than 50. This is of course a blatent failure to understand history and/or statistics. If humans died off at the same rate each year of our lives, then this would be mostly true (but not entirely). However, high infant mortality rates mean that since so many human died at age "0" then the remainder had to live proprotionally beyond the life expectancy. Furthermore, there are two kinds of life expectancy tables, cohort and period. Period tables are the ones we usually see, and are the ones used in the blog calculations above. Cohort tables are light years more accurate, but as Andrew Whitby explains, basically impossible to use in practice.

Cohort tables, on the other hand, require mortality data for the entire period of a cohort’s life. This may be hard enough for historical work (try assembling any data set over 100 years), but to produce such tables for any cohort which still has living members is harder still, requiring forecasts of future mortality.