9 Things you didn't know about Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II has spent nearly all of her 90 years in the public eye, but there are a few quirky facts about her that many people may not know. Here are nine surprising things about the Queen as we celebrate the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend!
1. Long live the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II has outlived or outlasted the tenures of just about every other government figure on Earth. She's worked with 12 prime ministers of the U.K., up to and including current PM David Cameron. She's also presided during the terms of 12 Canadian prime ministers and 12 U.S. presidents, and reigned during the terms of seven Popes of the Roman Catholic Church. The only living ruler who's been on the throne longer than Elizabeth is King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a.k.a. Rama IX, the monarch of Thailand.
Queen Elizabeth II is the 40th ruler since William the Conqueror did what he does best (i.e. conquer England) back in 1066, and was the oldest monarch to celebrate a golden jubilee when she marked that anniversary in 2002.
2. The Queen's menagerie
Queen Elizabeth is a noted animal lover, with a long tradition of breeding horses and dogs.
Corgis are the Queen's favourite breed of dog, and she's owned more than 30 of them over the years. Most of her corgis have been descended from Susan, a dog she received as a gift on her 18th birthday. She's also bred corgis with dachshunds to create a breed called dorgis.
The Queen is also an enthusiastic horse breeder and rider. Her horses are kept at the Royal Mews, where they're trained for polo, carriage driving and racing. She takes them out for rides occasionally, and also frequently attends their races.
3. The perks of being a monarch
When it comes to choosing a gift fit for a queen, some countries have gotten creative over the years.
Queen Elizabeth has accepted a number of unusual animals as gifts, including a pair of beavers from Canada, jaguars and sloths from Brazil, an elephant from Cameroon and a pair of giant sea turtles from the Seychelles. Since Buckingham Palace isn't the best place for an exotic animal, most living gifts to the Queen have been sent to the London Zoo.
Other, inanimate gifts to the Queen have included lacrosse sticks, snail shells, cowboy boots, pineapples and a dozen tins of tuna (dead, obviously).
4. Ruler of land and sea
The Queen has lawful right to all the whales, dolphins and sturgeons that wash ashore or are captured in the waters up to about 5 kilometres off the shores of the United Kingdom. The arcane law was established under King Edward II, back in 1324. Under the law, a fisherman must offer one of these ""royal fish" up to the Queen, before doing anything with it. Of course, she rarely ever accepts these offerings, as they’re more of a courtesy in most cases. (And no, whales and dolphins are not really fish. That's just what they called them in the 14th century.)
Additionally, all untagged, mute swans on the River Thames are considered property of Her Majesty, though again, she doesn't do a whole lot with them.
5. No licence, no problem
When you’re the most famous person in the country and your face is on all the money, it follows that you probably don’t need to pull out your photo ID very often.
And if you’re Queen Elizabeth II, you don’t even carry photo ID.
The Queen does not need a passport, nor does she require a driver's licence when she gets behind the wheel of her favourite Land Rover. However, she does know what she's doing with a vehicle, having served as a mechanic and ambulance driver with Britain's Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, at the tail end of the Second World War.
Queen Elizabeth has been known to sit in the driver's seat from time to time, like when she took former Saudi King (then Prince) Abdullah for a spin around Balmoral in her Land Rover, back in 1998. She also made headlines last summer, when she was spotted veering her car onto the grass at a park, to get around a slow-moving pedestrian.
6. What, no Crown Royal?
The Queen is reportedly a creature of habit, and one of those habits is alcohol. According to a book by her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, the Queen regularly consumes a few glasses of alcohol over the course of the day. Before her lunch, she drinks a glass of gin and Dubonnet, with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice. She occasionally drinks wine with her lunch, and at dinner, she has a dry Martini and a glass of Champagne.
However, Rhodes insists the Queen does not drink to excess.
Rhodes documented her friendship with the Queen in her book, titled "The Final Curtsey."
7. Tech queen
The Queen isn't exactly a technophile, but she has kept up with the times over her long reign. In 1953, she allowed TV cameras into Westminster Abbey to broadcast her coronation, and in 1957, she delivered her first televised address. "Television has made it possible for many of you to see me in your homes," she said.
And while most people probably sent their first email after 1990, Queen Elizabeth hit "send" for the first time in 1976, during a visit to an army base.
The British Monarchy and the Queen herself have also established a presence on the internet, starting with the launch of a website in 1997. Over the years, the Queen has also launched a YouTube channel (2007), a Twitter account (2007), a Facebook account (2010) and an Instagram account (2014), among other things.
These accounts are all managed by staffers at Buckingham Palace, but the Queen does occasionally hit that "send" button herself.
8. Worst. Year. Ever.
Even a Queen can have a bad year, and according to Elizabeth, 1992 was her worst. A devastating fire gutted part of Windsor Castle in late November, and many citizens came out vehemently against the suggestion that the repairs be covered using public money. Ultimately, the royals decided to raise the necessary funds by opening Buckingham Palace to tourists.
Also that year, the Queen watched the marriages of three of her children fall apart. Prince Andrew divorced Sarah Ferguson in March, Princess Anne divorced Mark Phillips in April, and rumours swirled about the unhappy marriage of Prince Charles to Diana, the Princess of Wales, after an illicit phone conversation leaked between Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Charles later divorced Diana and married Parker Bowles.
In late November, the Queen called 1992 her "annus horribilis" – Latin for "horrible year" – in a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
"Nineteen-ninety-two is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure," she said. "I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this tumultuous year. I dare say history will take a slightly more moderate view than that of some contemporary commentators."
9. Pop culture ruler
The Queen doesn't usually participate in pop culture events, but she has made a few memorable exceptions.
Perhaps the most famous recent example was at the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics in London, when she joined James Bond actor Daniel Craig for a video skit to introduce her arrival at the stadium. The video shows Craig, as 007, escorting Her Majesty to a helicopter waiting to take her to the event. After the video plays, a helicopter arrives at the stadium, and stunt doubles for the Queen and Craig stage a live jump and parachute down to the ground. The Queen arrived in the stands moments later.
And while most of the Queen's on-camera appearances have been for official reasons, she has had some fun with the entertainment industry, with set visits to several popular U.K. soap shows, including "Coronation Street."