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September 9, 2022

10 Surprising Facts About Queen Elizabeth II, the Longest-Reigning Monarch in British History

Queen Elizabeth II, whose seven decades on the throne of the United Kingdom was a longer reign than any other British monarch, has died at the age of 96. The Queen “died peacefully” on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands, royal family officials announced.

Princess Elizabeth never expected to become queen. Even when she became first in line to the throne, she didn’t think she’d have to assume the role of monarch for a long time. But after her father died early, young Queen Elizabeth took the throne at just 25 years old, dedicating her entire life, “whether it be long or short,” in service to the country. Below are 10 interesting facts about the long and eventful life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II:

1. Her Birthplace Is Now a Fancy Cantonese Restaurant in London

The future Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926. Although she was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York — the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) — and the eldest granddaughter of King George V, she was not born in a palace. Instead, she was born at 17 Bruton Street in the Mayfair neighborhood of London, in a townhouse that belonged to her Scottish maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. The house was demolished in 1937. There is now an office building and a Chinese restaurant on the site.

2. The Queen Has Two Birthdays

Her actual birthday – 21 April – and her official birthday, which is held on a Saturday in June – when the weather’s better! The tradition of the monarch celebrating an “official” birthday began more than 250 years ago, with King George II deciding to publicly celebrate his birthday in the summer rather than cold and wet November. And so, since 1748, every British monarch has carried on the tradition, so that there would be less chance of poor weather impeding outdoor celebrations and military parades celebrating their birthdays.

3. She Never Went to School

Princess Elizabeth never attended a public or private school, and she doesn’t have a college degree, but she still got an education from her tutors at home. She also had the Archbishop of Canterbury as a religion teacher, and became fluent in French, which she learned from her French and Belgian governesses. This skill later helped her as monarch in communicating with other world leaders. She also studied art and music, and became a champion swimmer.

4. She Is the Longest Reigning Monarch Ever in Britain, Beating Even Queen Victoria

On September 9, 2015, Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British and Commonwealth history when she surpassed the record set by the nearly 64-year reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

5. She Served in World War II

Along with Winston Churchill’s daughter, she joined the women’s branch of the British army during World War II. She signed up when she turned 18 in 1944 and worked as a mechanic and truck driver. 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.

6. She Received More Than 2,500 Wedding Gifts When She Married Prince Philip

After the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) was announced on July 9, 1947, invited wedding guests and members of the public sent gifts to celebrate the occasion. Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King sent antique silverware and a mink coat as the official wedding gifts from Canada. Since food and clothing rationing was still in force in the United Kingdom after the Second World War, members of the public around the world sent tinned food (which was redistributed to people in need) and nylon stockings. Elizabeth and Philip were married at Westminster Abbey in London on November 20, 1947. The Queen and Prince Philip were married for 73 years, until Philip’s death on April 9, 2021. They have four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

7. She’s the Only Person in the UK Allowed to Drive Without a License

She also didn’t need a passport to travel around the world, as all British passports are issued in her name.

8. Her Favorite Dogs Are Corgis

The Queen’s hobbies include spending time in the countryside, horseback riding and walking her dogs. Her preferred breed of dog is the Pembroke Welsh corgi. She brought her corgi Susan on her honeymoon in 1947 and received a corgi puppy as a gift from members of her family in the spring of 2021. The royal corgis have become part of the Queen’s public image. A British coin commemorating Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 depicted the monarch with a corgi. A Vanity Fair magazine cover marking her 90th birthday showed the Queen with four of her dogs. At the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, the Queen and her corgis appeared in a video with actor Daniel Craig as James Bond.

9. The Queen First Sent an Email in 1976

She even published her first Instagram post from the handle @theroyalfamily in 2019 while at the Science Museum in London. “Today, I had the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives and it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post, at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors,” she wrote, signing it “Elizabeth R.” In 2014, the Queen also tweeted for the first time from the Science Museum.

11. In 2004, the Queen Sat for a Hologram Portrait

The queen has sat for almost 150 portraits during her reign and in 2004 sat for a holographic portrait called “Equanimity” by Chris Levine and Rob Munday, in which 10,000 images were layered one over the other to create the three-dimensional image. Later it was repurposed in a new work called “The Diamond Queen” to mark the queen's diamond jubilee in 2012. The project saw London jewelry Asprey overlay 1,100 white diamonds over the tiara she wears in the portrait.


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