50 Things You Didn’t Know About the British Royal Family
Everyone in the British royal family has his or her own quirks, habits, and secrets that you didn't know.
Editor’s note: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who sat on the throne for 70 years, has died at 96 years old. In a statement on Sept. 8, 2022, the Royal Family website writes, “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.” The Reader’s Digest team sends condolences to the royal family and all of Britain at this time as we honor her life and legacy.
Queen Elizabeth II travels with supplies of her own blood
The queen travels with her royal Navy doctor everywhere, but not without her own bag of blood, too. This is typical if she travels to a place where the blood supply is questionable. Learn 15 more royal family travel secrets you never knew.
The family filmed a secret documentary
A documentary that aired in June of 1969 about the royal family will never be shown to the public again. Why? Queen Elizabeth and her advisors thought that showing the public the royals’ everyday life could be too dangerous.
Every trip calls for an all-black outfit
When King George VI died while then-Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya in 1952, she didn’t have an all-black outfit handy to signify her mourning. A dress had to be delivered to her plane when she arrived back in the United Kingdom for her to change into before she came out. Now, the Queen (and the rest of the royal family) never flies without an all-black ensemble.
The Queen never travels alone
Along with her royal doctor, the Queen travels with 34 people, including a private secretary, a hairdresser, press officers, eight bodyguards, and more.
No crust for the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II enjoys a tuna sandwich every now and then, but with the crust cut off, of course.
Don’t forget the travel kettle
To make sure her favorite afternoon Earl Grey tea is made just right, the Queen takes her monogrammed kettle with her on worldwide trips. Sausages from Harrods are packed when traveling, too. Find out the 9 foods Queen Elizabeth never eats.
A Queen’s skirt never flies up
As the Queen descends from any royal aircraft, you can be assured that the wind will never blow her skirt up. That’s because all of the Queen’s skirts are weighted. As for the rest of the family, here are the 10 dress code rules everyone in the royal family must follow.
The royals BYOB
On trips abroad, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall have their police bodyguard carry a bag of their favorite drinks—gin and tonic for him, and red wine for her.
They work hard to preserve the lineage
Back when flying was risky, the royals never let two royal heirs travel together. In case of a fatal accident, the lineage was protected.
Princes Harry and William love American fast food
When Harry and William were young, Princess Diana asked their family chef to cancel lunch for her sons because they wanted to get McDonald’s. Here are some other bizarre eating habits of the royal family.
Fathers weren’t always in the delivery room
When the Queen gave birth to Prince Charles in 1948, Prince Philip was playing squash in the palace. It was customary then that a royal birth was an all-female event, but now fathers are often in the delivery room, too.
Kate Middleton honored Princess Diana when Prince George was born
When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out with newborn Prince George for their first appearance after his birth, her light blue, polka dot dress was a subtle tribute to the dress Princess Diana wore after Prince William was born. Here are 19 more times Kate basically wore the same outfit as Princess Diana.
The Queen’s birthday is celebrated twice
For over 260 years, over 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians gather to parade around for the official celebration of the sovereign’s birthday on the second Saturday in June. It’s called the Trooping of Colour. But, Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday is April 21.
Seafood is off the menu
While traveling, the royal family isn’t allowed to eat seafood because shellfish has a high chance of giving someone food sickness.
The Queen eats from to-go containers
Though many royal dinners are served on the most lavish diamond-encrusted plates, the Queen has eaten fruit and Kellogg’s from plastic containers.
The Queen likes having options
At Buckingham Palace, dinner entrees are hardly random. The Queen selects the meals she wants from a menu book.
Everyone must dress up for dinner
Once, Prince Philip dressed too casually for dinner and the chef mistook him for the gardener. Here are 14 more etiquette rules everyone in the royal family must follow.
Kate Middleton sits the way Diana did
Royal ladies must never sit with their legs crossed at the knee. Instead, their legs and knees should be kept together. Sitting with their ankles crossed is also acceptable. That’s the way Princess Diana would sit, and it’s how Kate is usually seen sitting, too.
The Queen wears neon on purpose
In the documentary, The Queen at 90, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, explained the real reason that the Queen wears bright colors. It’s so people can see her from far away in the crowds!
Royal women always have a natural manicure
Despite the Queen’s loud outfits, you’ll never catch her with brightly painted nails. It’s custom for royal women to have their nails painted with a light color.
Royals don’t typically have a last name
In 1917, King George V assigned “Windsor” as the royal family’s official surname, and in 1960, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip proclaimed that their descendants not styled as a Royal Highness or titled a Prince or Princess would take the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
Prince Charles is the least favorite
Everyone has his or her own favorite royal, but according to this poll, Charles is the least favorite royal family member by far.
Royal boys don’t wear pants until they turn 8
You’ll always spot Prince George in shorts because it’s an English tradition that only older boys and men wear pants. What a young boy in the royal family wears dates back to a 16th-century tradition.
The Queen Mother tended to be late
It’s true. The family would tell her that dinner was 15 minutes earlier than it was just so she would arrive on time. But here are 10 total myths about the royal family you should never believe.
Princess Diana’s sister made a special wedding appearance
Lady Jane Fellowes, Prince Harry’s aunt, attended and read the Song of Solomon at his wedding as a way of “helping to celebrate the memory of the late Princess.” Learn about the real relationship Princess Diana had with her sisters.
Harry and Meghan were the first to invite an American speaker to a royal wedding
Bishop Michael Bruce Curry sparked a historic moment by being the first American to speak at a royal wedding. These are 17 tiny details from Harry and Meghan’s wedding that you might have missed.
Meghan Markle wears department store clothes
In her first official outing with Prince Harry in 2018, Meghan wore a black wool sweater from Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer is the British equivalent to Dillard’s in the United States. Don’t miss the 9 times Meghan Markle has been seen channeling Princess Diana in the fashion department.
The Queen has a sweet tooth
After a lavish royal dinner, Queen Elizabeth likes to indulge in chocolate. Dark chocolate to be exact.
Meghan wasn’t the first to wear her wedding tiara
The tiara Meghan wore down the aisle belonged to Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary. Other royal family members who have worn it used a sapphire gem in the middle, while Meghan used a diamond.
Santa delivers Christmas gifts early for the royal family
Following a German tradition, the royal family opens presents during teatime on Christmas Eve.
Queen Elizabeth signs Christmas cards “Lilibet”
The royal family sends out 800 Christmas cards during the holidays. The Queen’s cousins have their cards signed with her nickname, “Lilibet,” while politicians and other heads of states have their cards signed “Elizabeth R.” (The “R” stands for “Regina” the Latin word for queen.) Find out more royal family holiday traditions you didn’t know about.
Garlic will never be on the royal menu
Queen Elizabeth II hates the taste and smell of garlic.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring was called the “commoner’s sapphire”
Princess Diana selected her engagement ring from a Garrad jewelry collection catalog instead of custom making it like many royal brides have in the past.
Prince William was the first royal not to start school in the palace
Princess Diana sent her son to Mrs. Jane Mynor’s nursery school at age 3, making him the first British royal heir not to start his education in the royal palace.
Princess Diana’s first love was ballet
The people’s princess began dancing in Norfalk, England and generously supported the English National Ballet after entering the royal family. Check out these 11 stunning and rarely seen photos of Diana.
Kate Middleton broke royal protocol in Germany
Kate Middleton greeted a group of children warm hugs while visiting a charity in Germany. Typically, there is a “handshake” only rule. Here are 12 times the royal family broke their own protocol.
The royals are outfit repeaters
Repeating outfits is just one of the 15 surprising frugal habits of the royal family.
The Queen owns gloves from 40 years ago
Each pair of the Queen’s gloves cost around £110 ($140), so she often gets them washed and repaired instead of buying new ones. Her glove maker has been the same since her honeymoon in 1947. Find out the real reason the Queen always wears her gloves.
The royal family member with the highest net worth isn’t the Queen
Contrary to popular beliefs, Queen Elizabeth’s net worth is not the highest in the Royal family. The tiny, adorable Princess Charlotte actually holds the crown for the royal family member with the highest net worth with an estimated worth of $5 billion. Find out which royal family member has the second highest net worth.
Kate Middleton did her own wedding makeup
She probably chose her own perfume, too.
The royal family doesn’t waste food
Prince Charles and Princess Diana were known to keep leftover food to be included in their next meal. Take a look at these 12 rare photos of Buckingham Palace, where the royal family often eats.
Queen Elizabeth’s purses have a secret meaning
Her Majesty is nearly always photographed with a purse to match her outfit. But instead of just using it to hold personal belongings, the way she holds her purse sends a secret message to her staff.
The royal family never says these words
To remain proper and not seem like a commoner, the royal family never says these 13 words—some include common terms like “pardon,” and “tea!”
Fruitcake is a royal wedding tradition
Since Queen Victoria was married in 1840 until Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, a traditional English wedding fruitcake has always been served at the celebration.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle broke the wedding cake tradition
The couple served a lemon elderflower cake with buttercream frosting at their royal wedding.
There are six to seven ravens living in the Tower of London
King Charles II believed that keeping the ravens protected in the tower would preserve the monarchy. This is just one of the many bizarre superstitions of the British royal family.
Prince Charles has people to iron his shoelaces
Prince Charles has three personal valets who are in charge of maintaining his wardrobe. This just happens to include ironing the shoelaces of every shoe he owns.
A bagpipe player wakes the Queen each morning
Every morning from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., a Scottish piper plays under Queen Elizabeth II’s window, per her request. You would never believe the highest paying job working for the royal family.
Royal luggage is color coded
To keep the royal luggage secure and organized, the Queen always has a yellow tag, Prince Charles and Prince William will get red, and Princess Anne typically gets green. Find out other royal family travel secrets you never knew.
The Queen owns the most swans in the United Kingdom
On the River Thames, Queen Elizabeth has shared ownership of most of the swans that reside there—other swans are owned by the Vintners or Dyers livery companies. Next, have a look at 21 candid, rarely seen photos of the royal family.