As Britain (and the world) prepares for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday Sept. 19, it’s a fitting time to look back on her record-setting reign. Elizabeth was queen for 70 years and 214 days — the longest reign of any British monarch and the longest recorded of any female head of state in history. Elizabeth ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. She was just 25. She remained on the throne until her death, at age 96, on Sept. 8.
Remarkably, Elizabeth was queen during the administrations of 14 U.S. presidents, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden. She was on the throne before one of those presidents – Barack Obama – was even born.
While we often lazily referred to Queen Elizabeth II as the queen of England, she was much more than that. She was the queen of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms. The U.K. consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The 14 other Commonwealth realms include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica.
To mark Elizabeth’s 70-plus years on the throne, we have prepared a list of the 70 biggest hits by U.K. acts in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. We could have included acts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but we wanted to keep the spotlight on the queen’s home turf. (We did include the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, because how do you leave out the Bee Gees?)
Elton John and Paul McCartney (outside of The Beatles) each have five songs on the list. Elton’s tally includes a chart-busting collaboration with Kiki Dee and a record on which he shared the artist credit with his band. McCartney’s tally includes collabs with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and three hits with his second group, Wings.
Adele, The Beatles and Ed Sheeran each have four songs on the list. Adele has more songs on the list than any other female artist. The Beatles have more than any other group. (Alas, their tally does not include “Penny Lane,” with its line “And in his pocket is a portrait of the queen.”)
The oldest song on the list is Mr. Acker Bilk’s instrumental “Stranger on the Shore,” which was the first song by an English act to top the Hot 100. It hit No. 1 in May 1962, three months after Elizabeth marked 10 years on the throne.
Newton-John’s “Physical” is the highest-ranking song on the list by a female solo artist. The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” is the highest-song on the list by an established group or duo — though “Heat Waves” is just one rung behind it on this list and could overtake it.
The Fine Print: We counted songs on which an artist from the U.K. was the lead or co-lead artist, but not a featured artist. We counted groups that were predominately comprised of musicians from the U.K.
In case you have forgotten your high school geography, Ireland is not part of the U.K., so Sinéad O’Connor and Gilbert O’Sullivan didn’t make the list.
Here are the 70 biggest hits by U.K. acts in the history of the Hot 100 (which dates to Aug. 4, 1958). All acts were born in England unless otherwise noted.
Billboard’s Biggest Hot 100 Hits by British Artists ranking is based on weekly performance on the Hot 100 (through the Sept. 8, 2022-dated chart). The ranking includes songs by artists in lead roles who were born in the U.K. and groups that were nominated by members who were born in the U.K. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates during various periods.