Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the record of the 63-year reign of Queen Victoria in 2015. Her reign has seen seven Roman Catholic Popes, including the current one.
In 1936, Princess Elizabeth was only 10 years old when she became heir to the throne upon the accession of her father, King George VI. She married Prince Mountbatten (later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) in 1947 and remained by his side till his death in 2021.
She became Queen during an official trip to Kenya in 1952 after the sudden passing of her father. Her coronation was held in 1953, and she celebrated the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees as the Queen in 1977, 2002 and 2012, respectively. On 6 February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II completed 70 years on the throne.
The Platinum Jubilee celebrations
A series of events have been planned for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Queen. It is a momentous occasion, warranting festivities throughout the year before ending with a four-day event in June.
Among the several public events and community activities is the Platinum Pudding competition. UK residents, at least eight years old, can participate in the competition to make the perfect Platinum Pudding recipe. The winning recipe will be presented at Big Jubilee Lunches during the Jubilee Weekend.
For the first time, beacons will also be lit in each of the capital cities of all Commonwealth countries, along with over 1,500 beacons across the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories.
Other celebrations include the Derby at Epsom Downs and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant.
While supporters of the Royal Family prepare for the momentous occasion, here is a look at some facts about Queen Elizabeth II.
The two birthdays
The Queen was born on 21 April 1926, but the UK does not celebrate the momentous occasion on that date. Instead, the Queen’s official birthday celebrations are held in June in an event known as Trooping the Colour.
The ceremonial event is one of the biggest celebrations in the UK. It was started as the monarch’s birthday over 260 years ago. On the occasion, more than 200 horses, 400 musicians and 1,400 parading soldiers march through London.
Members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, move alongside the parading troops from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade. The streets are filled with crowds, waving flags and trying to catch a glimpse of the Queen.
It is on this occasion that the royals gather at the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a fly-past by Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft.
Trooping the Colour 2022 will be held on 2 June and tickets can be bought on the official website of the British Army.
The colour of her attire for formal outings
On formal public occasions, Queen Elizabeth II is often seen wearing a hat and a pair of gloves. But it is the colour of her attire that is noteworthy. The British monarch has mostly dressed in bright colours, incluiding neon, yellow, orange, lemon, fuchsia and light green.
The reason behind choosing these colours was revealed in the documentary, The Queen at 90, where Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the daughter-in-law of the Queen, said that the bright colours help the people easily spot Her Majesty.
“She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the queen’,” Sophie said, adding, “Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the queen’s hat as she went past.”
The Queen has had more than 30 corgis during her reign
The Queen’s love for the corgi breed is well known. She has often been photographed petting her diminutive dog.
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were gifted two corgis — Dookie and Jane — by King George VI in 1933.
On her 18th birthday in 1944, Princess Elizabeth received her own corgi, Susan. Whisper, her last corgi, died in 2018.
The Queen now has two dorgis — a cross between a corgi and a dachshund — named Vulcan and Candy.
All unmarked swans in the UK belong to Queen Elizabeth II
Yes, one of the lesser-known facts about Queen Elizabeth II has its origin in a law formed in the 12th century. In those days, swans were a delicacy; thus, the British monarchy declared that all mute swans belong to the monarch.
Today, an official Swan Marker of the Queen counts the swans and checks their health in a multi-day event known as Swan Upping.
During Swan Upping, a team of uppers row down a stretch of the River Thames over a few days spotting, lifting, weighing and measuring the swans. They also check the birds for injuries or any kind of health issues. All Crown birds are left unmarked during the exercise, which is oriented towards conservation.
The previous Swan Upping was held for three days between Eton Bridge, Berkshire, and Moulsford on the Thames, Oxfordshire, from 20 to 22 July 2021.
Swans are not the only free animals on which the Queen can lay claim. According to Time magazine, a statute framed in 1324 during the reign of King Edward II, granted the British monarch the right over “whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm.”
As per the statute, porpoises and dolphins are also considered “fishes royal”. Valid even today, all fishes royal belong to the Queen when they wash ashore or are captured within 5 km of UK shores.
She also owns around 200 racing pigeons.
The Queen began horse riding at age four
Queen Elizabeth II was still a toddler when she was gifted her first ride — a pony. The Shetland mare was named Peggy and was presented to the Queen by her grandfather, King George V.
The Queen also breeds horses and has around 25 steeds receiving training at the royal stables every season. Over 1,600 races have been won by her thoroughbreds.
To date, the Queen has often been photographed many times riding horses at Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral.
Her favourite horse was Burmese, gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969 at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. She rode Burmese for 18 years at the Trooping the Colour ceremony, indicating her fondness for the horse.
She walked incognito among jubilant crowds on Victory in Europe Day
Years ago, when the Allied forces defeated the Axis powers, people around the world celebrated in unison. On 8 May 1945, the Queen, who was still a 19-year-old princess, and her sister, Princess Margaret, witnessed celebrations on the streets that marked the Victory in Europe Day. After seeking permission from their parents — King George VI and Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) — the two went out into the crowd in a party of 16.
In a BBC broadcast aired over 30 years later, the Queen revealed more about the night.
“I remember we were terrified of being recognised. So I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes,” she said before adding that she had to wear the cap in the right way after a Grenadier officer in her party protested.
She said she walked miles through the street.
“I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief,” the Queen recalled in a voice that revealed her excitement at the time.
‘I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.’
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 8, 2020
A Royal Night Out (2015), a British comedy-drama, is a fictionalised retelling of that night.
She delivered her first public address at the age of 14
Her first address was aired from the drawing room of Windsor Castle as part of the BBC’s Children’s Hour. It was a month after England was bombed by the Germans and the people needed morale-boosting.
On 13 October 1940, Princess Elizabeth addressed the children who had been forced to live away from their families during the evacuation drive.
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“Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers. My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you, as we know from experience what it means to be away from those you love most of all. To you living in new surroundings, we send a message of true sympathy and at the same time we would like to thank the kind people who have welcomed you to their homes in the country,” she said.
The Queen served in World War II
The Queen has the distinction of being the first female member of the Royal Family to join the Armed Services as a full-time active member.
As such, she served in World War II, joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was the women’s branch of the British Army, at the age of 18. She was granted the honorary rank of the second subaltern on 24 February 1945. She was later promoted to Junior Commander, the then female equivalent rank of Captain.
During her days in the Army, she trained to be a mechanic and learned to drive.
In fact, she also used her rationing coupons and the gift of 200 coupons from the British government during the war to pay for her own wedding dress, which had an iconic 13-foot-long train and over 10,000 imported seed pearls from the US.
The Queen doesn’t need a license to drive
Because, of course, she is the Queen. She has been spotted driving many times in the past, be it a Range Rover or a Jaguar. The Queen has, in the past, driven foreign dignitaries, too. In 1998, she famously took the then Prince (later King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on a tour of the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
However, neither do her cars need a license plate nor does she have to carry a driver’s license.
Interestingly, she is the only person in the UK who is allowed not to have a license because all driving licenses in the UK are issued in her name. As such, it becomes irrelevant if the Queen issues a driving license to herself.
All other royals are, however, required to clear a driving test and obtain a license before taking their machines for a spin on the roads of the UK.
It is also the same reason the Queen is not issued a passport. As the British monarch, all British passports are issued in her name.
The Queen is a huge fan of James Bond
In October 2021, royal biographer Gyles Brandreth told Express that the Queen loves all the early James Bond films.
“The fun of spending time with her was finding out unexpected things about her…She really did love all the early James Bond films,” Brandreth said.
According to the royal biographer, the Queen watches the new Bond movies but prefers the earlier ones “before they got so loud.”
The Queen is also fondly known for her appearance next to Daniel Craig’s Bond character at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. In the six-minute-long sequence, Bond arrives at Buckingham Palace to receive the Queen for the stadium. A chopper painted in the colours of the British flag takes them to the venue and they ‘parachute’ out of it. But, of course, the Queen didn’t jump from the chopper. A stuntman was used for the scene.
The Queen and other members of the Royal Family have often attended James Bond film screenings and have met the cast, including the late Sean Connery — the first Bond.
Essie’s Ballet Slipper is the Queen’s favourite nail polish
Since 1989, the Queen has been loyal to the particular type of nail polish from Essie. She almost exclusively wears the famous pink shade.
According to the brand, the Queen’s hairdresser sent a letter to Essie, requesting a bottle of Ballet Slippers to be sent to Buckingham Palace more than 30 years ago.
The price of the nail paint? Just SGD 12, and you can buy it, too!
The Queen has an official bagpiper
Since 1843, the British monarchy has had an official bagpiper whose prime duty is to play for the monarch every morning. Queen Victoria created the position reportedly after she discovered that the Marquess of Breadalbane has her own piper.
The bagpiper plays for Queen Elizabeth II at her residences, including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral and Holyroodhouse, every morning at 9 am for 15 minutes with a one-minute break.
Officially known as the Sovereign’s Piper and designated as Pipe Major, the person appointed to the position accompanies the Queen everywhere she goes and plays at State banquets.
Scott Methven, an Afghan war veteran, was the 15th Pipe Major and served from 2017 to 2019. When his wife was diagnosed with cancer, the Queen immediately asked him to tend to her and did not appoint anyone in his place, despite the British Army proposing another appointment.
It was the first time in 175 years (barring a break of four years during World War II) that there was no official bagpiper of the Queen. Unfortunately, Methven’s wife didn’t survive, but he returned to duty and served till February 2019.
Methven was succeeded by Pipe Major Richard Grisdale. The current Pipe Major is Paul Burns, who was appointed in 2021.
(Main and Featured images: Mark de Jong/@mrmarkdejong/Unsplash)