20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Queen Elizabeth II
Dubbed by a historian as ‘Elizabeth The Silent,’ the life of Britain’s longest reigning monarch is far from quiet.
She celebrates her birthday twice a year
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her birthday on April 21—and then does it again in June. It’s actually been a tradition since 1784 that the British monarch’s birthday celebrations are held on a day that is not their actual birthday. That’s because London weather could literally put a damper on the military celebratory parade if not held in more climate-friendly months. Check out these other bizarre perks of being in the royal family.
She was only a tween when she fell in love with her distant cousin
According to a 1957 article in TIME, Prince Philip met Elizabeth, his third cousin, when they were children (they shared the same great-great-grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were first cousins themselves). From the time she was 13, she was besotted. She never fell for another man, though he had other relationships while she grew into adulthood. Their love stood the test of the time and in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary with 60 years of marriage to Prince Philip.
Her grandmother disapproved of one of her wedding gifts
During her reign, the Queen has received some interesting gifts from jaguars and sloths to a grove of maple trees and 15 pounds of prawns. But it was one of her 1947 wedding gifts that had her grandmother concerned: According to the BBC’s royal correspondent at the time, Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, disapproved of Mahatma Gandhi’s present of hand-spun lace calling it “indelicate.” Turns out she’d mistaken the tray cover for the Indian leader’s loincloth. Here’s how much the royal family is actually worth.
She’s the longest-reigning monarch in British history
On February 6, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to reign for 65 years, celebrating her Sapphire Jubilee. To mark the momentous occasion there were new coins, a new stamp, gun salutes, and a re-released portrait taken by British photographer David Bailey, where the Queen is wearing a suite of sapphire jewels she received as a wedding day gift from her father, King George VI, in 1947.
She has a few nicknames
Back when she was still Princess Elizabeth, she was called “Lilibet” by close family, because she couldn’t pronounce her own name, while her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, is known to call her “Cabbage.” Then there are her great-grandchildren. “George is only two-and-a-half and he calls her ‘Gan-Gan,’” the prince’s mother, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, said in a BBC TV special interview a few years ago. Finally, a not so affectionate nickname was bestowed upon the Queen by her Uncle Edward. In letters published in 1988, he referred to his niece as Shirley Temple on account of her “dumpy” frame and curly hair, which looked similar to that of the child star. Queen Elizabeth II’s full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Dating back to WWII, more traditional names are still favored for middle names and over 10 percent of British babies today are still given two middle names.
Her father ascended to the throne after a scandal
Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, became king after his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée. This was scandalous as Simpson was still legally married to her second husband when they first got together and the abdication was the biggest constitutional crisis in modern royal history. Supposedly bad blood existed between “the Duke and Duchess of Windsor” (Edward and Wallis) and the royal family. The King’s Speech is a 2010 biographical movie about King George VI coping with a stammer as he ascends to the throne after his brother. Check out these fascinating facts about the Queen’s coronation.
She has never given an interview in her entire reign
Dubbed “Elizabeth the silent” by historian David Starkey, according to a New York Times article, Queen Elizabeth II has never given a press interview. She is said to keep her politics hidden from the public eye at all times. And the Daily Mail concurs that part of the Queen’s “enduring appeal is that she has never bared her soul to the public, even in this era of the celebrity confessional, she has remained enveloped in mystery.” These are the royal etiquette rules the whole family must follow.
She was rumored to have an affair
The Netflix series, The Crown, a period drama focusing on the private life of Queen Elizabeth II, takes many liberties with real-life royal events. One such liberty is based on rumors of an affair between her and childhood friend Porchie. It’s true that Porchie, aka Lord Porchester, and later Earl of Carnarvon, was extremely close to the Queen, and that in 1969 she took him on as her racing manager, but there’s never been evidence of a romance. However, rumors claiming that he is Prince Andrew’s biological father are still making the rounds today. Still, several key elements of the series are either totally made up or exaggerated for dramatic effect.
She served in World War II
Before she donned her trademark brightly colored dresses, coats, and matching hats, Queen Elizabeth II wore a military uniform. Her father, the king at the time, was hesitant to let her join, but she eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945. She worked as a mechanic and truck driver, according to history.com. Her service makes her the only current living head of state to have served in World War II, and the only female member of the royal family to have entered the military. This is what the Queen never travels without.
She’s a dog lover
We’ve all seen the classic images: Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by her iconic corgis. But do you know the real extent of her love for corgis? She received her first, Susan, as a birthday present when she turned 18, according to the New York Times. She’s owned at least 30 Pembroke Welsh corgis, all descendants of Susan, the last of which, named Willow, died in April of 2018. She’s owned other breeds as well; most notably, the royal family has bred “dorgis”—a mix between corgis and dachshunds.