27 surprising things you never knew about Queen Elizabeth II

27 surprising things you never knew about Queen Elizabeth II
·11 min read
Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth II in 2016.Samir Hussein /Getty Images
  • Queen Elizabeth II turns 96 on April 21. She is the longest-reigning British monarch in history.

  • Despite being one of the world's most recognizable people, she's very private.

  • She and her sister partied incognito in the streets of London to celebrate the end of World War II.

Queen Elizabeth never went to school.

princess margaret and princess elizabeth
Princess Margaret, left, and Princess Elizabeth in 1936.Associated Press

However, that doesn't mean she's uneducated. Elizabeth (childhood nickname: "Lilibet") was taught by private tutors at home. The same went for her younger sister, Princess Margaret.

She and her sister once partied incognito in the streets of London.

princess elizabeth and princess margaret in 1945
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in 1945.Associated Press

Elizabeth and Margaret got their parents' permission to join the massive crowds celebrating the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. The Queen has recalled the evening as one of the most memorable in her life.

"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," she said in 1985, according to a post by the royal family on Instagram.

Elizabeth and Margaret's escapade has even been dramatized in a film called "A Royal Night Out."

Her tiara snapped on her wedding day.

queen elizabeth prince philip
Elizabeth and her husband Philip on their wedding day in November 1947.AP

The court jeweler had to be summoned immediately to repair the diamond tiara, but it was successfully patched up in time for the ceremony, according to Town & Country.

She was actually related to the man she married.

queen elizabeth prince philip
Prince Philip holds up an umbrella for his wife during a visit to Malta.AP/Matt Dunham

Technically, Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, were third cousins. Elizabeth is related to Queen Victoria on her father's side, and Philip was related to Queen Victoria on his mother's side.

Philip was born into the royal families of Greece and Denmark but renounced his original titles when he married Elizabeth. They were married for 73 years before his death on April 9, 2021.

She celebrates her birthday twice a year.

Trooping the Colour 2011
The queen appears at Buckingham Palace for her birthday celebration in June 2011.Getty Images

The Queen's real birthday is April 21, but the country doesn't officially celebrate until June 11.

Monarchs with birthdays in colder months typically schedule an additional, official birthday when the weather is likely to be better for a parade. Elizabeth has one every June called Trooping the Colour.

She has reigned for so long, four out of five UK residents weren't alive when she ascended the throne.

queen elizabeth coronation
Queen Elizabeth on her coronation day in 1953.AP

Most Brits have never known another monarch beside Elizabeth: 81% of UK residents weren't alive when Elizabeth ascended the throne, according to data shared by the UK Office of National Statistics in 2017.

She became queen immediately upon the death of her father in 1952. Now, at 96, she's the world's longest-reigning monarch.

During her 70-year reign, there have been 15 different British prime ministers.

Queen Elizabeth II Theresa May
Queen Elizabeth II and Theresa May.Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

She's also seen 14 different US presidents.

She's owned more than 30 corgis throughout her lifetime.

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Elizabeth walking two of her many corgis.Associated Press

Elizabeth's father brought home the royal family's first corgi in 1933, and on her 18th birthday, Elizabeth was gifted her very own corgi named Susan, according to the Associated Press. Many of her subsequent corgis descended directly from Susan.

She also introduced an entirely new dog breed known as a dorgi — a cross between a corgi and a dachshund.

She owns all the swans and dolphins that swim in UK waters.

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Queen Elizabeth and a swan at the annual Swan Upping.WPA Pool/Getty Images

As early as the 12th century, the British monarchy laid claim to "all mute swans" in the country, according to the official royal family website. Back then, the birds were considered a delicacy.

Today, the Queen doesn't eat those swans, but she technically still owns them. Every year, the Queen's Swan Marker (actual job title) leads a multi-day census called the Swan Upping to count the birds and check up on their health.

Plus, thanks to the 1324 statute, the queen can also claim ownership of all "fishes royal" — that means any sturgeon, dolphins, whales, and porpoises that reside in the waters around the UK.

She's made at least 260 official overseas trips since taking the throne.

quen elizabeth ii china
The Queen visits with the famous terra cotta warriors in Xian, China, in 1986.Associated Press

These days she's making fewer international trips, but the Queen hasn't slowed down much in recent years. The Telegraph reported that the Queen carried out 341 royal engagements in 2015, more than Prince Harry, Prince William, and Kate combined during that year.

She's rich, but she's not even close to being the richest person in the UK.

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Elizabeth II watches a horse race in 2016.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The Queen gets some money from taxpayers and a whole bunch more from the royal family's private real estate holdings.

Forbes estimated in 2019 that she was worth around $500 million. That might sound like a lot, but the Queen is by no means the wealthiest person in the UK.

She also gets to use a private ATM at Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace
Somewhere in this palace, there's a personal-use ATM.Rob Stothard/Getty Images

It's provided by Coutts, one of Great Britain's most prestigious banks.

She doesn't have to pay taxes, but she does anyway.

queen elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth II attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 on March 9, 2020, in London, England.Samir Hussein/WireImage

The sovereign isn't required to pay income or capital gains taxes, but Elizabeth has been voluntarily doing so since 1993, according to the royal family's website.

She sent a message to the moon.

Apollo 11
A still image from the Apollo 11 moon landing.NASA

Ahead of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, dozens of world leaders were invited to write "messages of goodwill" that were transferred onto a small silicon disc. That disc is still sitting on the surface of the moon — Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed it just below the American flag they planted at the landing site, according to NASA.

"On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the moon," the Queen wrote in her moon message. "May this endeavor increase the knowledge and wellbeing of mankind."

She's been portrayed as a character in roughly 100 TV shows and movies.

helen mirren as queen elizabeth ii
The real queen, left, and Helen Mirren in "The Queen," right.Getty/Sion Touhig; Pathé Pictures

Here's how actors who have played her compare to the real thing.

She reportedly used to drink a glass of champagne every night before bed until recently.

queen elizabeth drinking champagne
The Queen sips champagne.Getty/Chris Jackson

According to The Independent, Margaret Rhodes, the Queen's cousin, once said that the Queen has a strict regimen for her alcohol intake. She reportedly takes a "gin and Dubonnet before lunch, with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice," wine with lunch, and a dry martini and a glass of champagne in the evening.

However, in October 2021, Vanity Fair reported that the then-95-year-old had been advised by doctors to give up her daily alcoholic drinks, and to opt for water and juice instead.

"The alcohol has gone, her doctors want to make sure she is as fit and healthy as possible," a source told the publication.

She's been wearing the same nail polish since 1989, and it's surprisingly cheap.

Queen Elizabeth waving
Her neutral nail color won't clash with her vibrant outfits.Christ Jackson / Getty Images

Apparently, the Queen is rather taken the Essie's classic pale pink polish Ballet Slipper, which currently retails for just $7.

Essie says that, in 1989, Queen Elizabeth's hairdresser wrote a letter to nail polish-mogul Essie Weingarten requesting a bottle of the classic shade. The Queen refused to wear any other color.

She doesn't have a passport or a driver's license. She doesn't even need them.

queen elizabeth ii range rover
Elizabeth II behind the wheel of a Range Rover in 2011.Getty/Chris Jackson

Both driver's licenses and passports are issued in the Queen's name, so she doesn't need either.

She is pretty comfortable behind the wheel, too. She once hopped into a Land Rover and drove Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah around one of her country estates.

She reportedly uses her purse to send secret signals to her staff.

queen elizabeth ii purse closeup
She's said to own over 200 handbags from designer Launer.KGC-375/STAR MAX/IPx

A 2020 report in the Telegraph suggested the Queen uses her trusty handbag to subtly exit uncomfortable or boring meetings.

If the Queen is at dinner and places her handbag on the table, her staff knows that she wants the event to end in the next five minutes. And if she puts her bag on the floor, it signals that she would like to be rescued from her current conversation.

She can imitate the sound of a Concorde jet landing.

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Sources from the queen's inner circle say that she's really a hoot.Getty/WPA Pool

Apparently, the monarch has a great sense of humor and a talent for mimicry. According to the Associated Press, the Queen's chaplain Bishop Michael Mann once said that "the queen imitating the Concorde landing is one of the funniest things you could see."

She once trolled a group of tourists who didn't recognize her.

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The queen poses for a fan photo.Gareth Fuller/PA Images

Maybe she's stony-faced in most photos, but the Queen really does have a fun side. One of her former security guards recalled a time when a group of tourists at Balmoral Estate didn't recognize the monarch, who was wearing a headscarf at the time.

The group asked Elizabeth if they had ever met the Queen.

"No," Elizabeth reportedly responded. Then she pointed to a nearby policeman and said, "But he has."

She doesn't use a last name.

Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth II reads a speech at the opening of Parliament in 2016.Reuters/POOL new

The Queen's official title is "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith." No last name needed.

The other members of the royal family can choose from a buffet of acceptable last names — here's the complete breakdown of their options.

She has a poet who's paid in alcohol.

queen elizabeth ii and poet carol ann duffy
Queen Elizabeth II greets Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.Getty/WPA Pool

Queen Elizabeth gets to appoint the UK's poet laureate, who is traditionally paid with a yearly salary of £5,750 (about $7,000) plus an entire barrel of sherry.

In 2019, the Queen appointed Simon Armitage as the next poet laureate. He'll serve for 10 years.

She can't be prosecuted or compelled to give evidence in court.

queen elizabeth ii
The Queen looks out from her car in 2015.Getty/Carl Court

Hey, being the Queen has to come with some perks.

Elizabeth doesn't appear to be abusing this power, however: A statement on the royal family website reads, "Although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign [...] the Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law."

She bought a luxe apartment in New York City.

queen elizabeth ii speaking at UN in New york city
Queen Elizabeth II on a trip to New York City in 2010.Getty/Mario Tama

Back in 2015, the Queen purchased a $7.9 million, three-bedroom apartment near the United Nations headquarters in New York City. It's got a staggering 3,000 square feet of living space, and the building itself was designed by a British architect the Queen once knighted.

The Queen signs her letters and statements with the name "Elizabeth R."

queen elizabeth signature
Queen Elizabeth II's signature on the visitors book during her visit to Wolferton Pumping Station.Adrian Dennis/WPA Pool/Getty Images

While most people sign their letters, emails, or documents with their first and last names, Queen Elizabeth does it a little differently. The royal does use her first name, Elizabeth, for her signature, but she also uses the initial "R" instead of a last name.

The "R" stands for "regina," which means "queen" in Latin, according to Harper's Bazaar.

Queen Elizabeth has her own Barbie doll.

queen elizabeth ii barbie doll
A photo of the Queen Elizabeth II Barbie doll to mark the British monarch's Platinum Jubilee.Mattel/Handout via REUTERS

To celebrate the monarch's birthday and 70 years on the throne, Barbie released a royal doll made in the image of Queen Elizabeth to celebrate.

"The Queen is the perfect addition to the Barbie Tribute Collection, intended to honor women whose contributions have had a great impact. We're proud to celebrate her historic milestone and encourage kids to learn more about her legacy," Lisa McKnight, Mattel's EVP and global head of Barbie and dolls, said in a statement, according to USA Today.

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