Today is the 88th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen. To celebrate the occasion, Royal Central has put together this list of 88 facts about Her Majesty.
1. Queen Elizabeth II is the fortieth monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the crown of England.
2. In 2002, at 76 years of age, The Queen was the oldest monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee. The youngest was James I (James VI of Scotland) at 51 years.
3. Since 1952, The Queen has conferred over 387,700 honours and awards.
4. The Queen has personally held over 540 Investitures.
5. The Queen speaks fluent French and often uses the language for Audiences and State Visits. Her Majesty does not require an interpreter.
6. The Queen has received over 3 million items of correspondence during her reign.
7. Over the course of the reign, around 1.1 million people have attended Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse (The Queen ended Presentation Parties in 1958).
8. Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular Tuesday (and in recent years, Wednesday) evening audiences to 12 British Prime Ministers. They are: Winston Churchill 1951-55, Sir Anthony Eden 1955-57, Harold Macmillan 1957-63, Sir Alec Douglas-Home 1963-64, Harold Wilson 1964-70 and 1974-76, Edward Heath 1970-74, James Callaghan 1976-79, Margaret Thatcher 1979-90, John Major 1990-97, Tony Blair 1997-2007, Gordon Brown 2007-2010 and David Cameron 2010-present.
9. Tony Blair was the first Prime Minister to have been born during The Queen’s reign. He was born in early May 1953 – a month before the Coronation.
10. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh introduced small, informal luncheon parties at Buckingham Palace to meet distinguished people from all professions, trades and vocations. The first lunch was held on 11th May 1956 and the tradition continues to this day. There are usually 6-8 guests and two members of the Household attending.
11. The Queen is patron of more than 620 charities and organisations.
12. During her reign, The Queen has undertaken over 256 official overseas visits to 129 different countries.
13. Many of The Queen’s official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was launched by Her Majesty on 16 April 1953 and was commissioned for service on 7 January 1954. It was de-commissioned in December 1997. During this time, Britannia travelled more than a million miles on Royal and official duties.
14. The Royal Yacht Britannia was first used by The Queen when she embarked with the Duke of Edinburgh on 1 May 1954 at Tobruk for the final stage of their Commonwealth Tour returning to the Pool of London. The last time The Queen was on board Britannia for an official visit was on 9 August 1997 for a visit to Arran.
15. Canada is the most visited of The Queen’s 15 other Commonwealth realms with Her Majesty having personally visited more than 24 times.
16. Since her accession to the throne in 1952, Her Majesty has visited Edinburgh nearly every year, taking up residence in the Palace of Holyroodhouse during Holyrood Week.
17. During her reign, The Queen has received many unusual gifts including a variety of live animals. The more unusual animals have been placed in the care of the London zoo, among them jaguars and sloths from Brazil, and two black beavers from Canada. The Queen has also received gifts of pineapples, eggs, a box of snail shells, a grove of maple trees and 7kg of prawns.
18. The Queen has sent around 100,000 telegrams to centenarians in the UK and the Commonwealth.
19. The Queen has sent more than 280,000 telegrams to couples in the UK and the Commonwealth celebrating their diamond wedding (60 years) anniversary.
20. The Queen’s real birthday is on April 21, but it is celebrated officially in June.
21. The Queen has attended 34 Royal Variety performances.
22. The Queen has opened 15 bridges in the United Kingdom during her reign.
23. The Queen has given over 91 State banquets during her reign.
24. Since 1952, The Queen has undertaken 78 State Visits accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh with the most recent being to Singapore in March, 2006.
25. The Queen has launched 23 ships in her lifetime. The first was HMS Vanguard which she launched, as Princess Elizabeth, on November 30 1944 in Clydebank. The first ship which she launched as Queen was Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, which was also launched from Clydebank.
26. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent about 37,500 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.
27. The Queen has given out about 78,000 Christmas puddings to staff continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI. In addition, The Queen gives all her staff a gift at Christmas time.
28. Every year The Queen sends Christmas trees to Westminster Abbey, Wellington Barracks, St Paul’s Cathedral, St Giles, Edinburgh, The Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, Crathie Church and local schools and churches in the Sandringham area.
29. The Queen learnt to drive in 1945 when she joined the Army.
30. The Queen was a Girl Guide (1937) and Sea Ranger (1943).
31. Princess Elizabeth travelled on the London Underground for the first time in May 1939 with her governess Marion Crawford and Princess Margaret.
32. The Queen is a keen photographer and enjoys taking photographs of her family. The Duke of York is also a keen photographer and has taken a number of photographs of The Queen, including an official photograph for Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
33. The Queen was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1 on 21 April 1926, was christened on 29 May 1926 in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, and was confirmed on 28 March 1942 in the private chapel at Windsor Castle.
34. With the birth of Prince Andrew in 1960, The Queen became the first reigning Sovereign to have a child since Queen Victoria, who had her youngest child, Princess Beatrice, in 1857.
35. The Queen has 30 godchildren.
36. The first football match The Queen attended was the 1953 FA Cup Final.
37. The Queen has taken the salute in every Trooping the Colour ceremony since the start of her reign, with the exception of 1955, when a national rail strike forced the cancellation of the parade.
38. The Queen has sat for 139 official portraits during her lifetime, two of which were with The Duke of Edinburgh. The most recent sitting was for Rolf Harris (2005). Her Majesty was just seven years old when she sat for her first portrait in 1933, which was commissioned by her mother and painted by the Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de László.
39. The Queen sat for the first and only hologram portrait in 2003.
40. There have been 11 sculptures of The Queen. The most recent was in 2005 by Miss Angela Conner for St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
41. The first ‘Royal walkabout’ took place during the visit by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to Australia and New Zealand in 1970. The practice was introduced to allow them to meet a greater number of people, not simply officials and dignitaries.
42. In 1969 the first television film about the family life of the Royal Family was made, and shown on the eve of the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
43. An important innovation during The Queen’s reign was the opening in 1962 of a new gallery at Buckingham Palace to display items from the Royal Collection. The brainchild of The Duke of Edinburgh, the new Queen’s Gallery occupied the space of the Palace’s bomb-damaged private chapel. It was the first time that parts of the Palace had been opened to the general public.
44. The only time The Queen has had to interrupt an overseas tour was in 1974 during a tour of Australia and Indonesia. The Queen was called back from Australia when a general election was called suddenly. The Duke of Edinburgh continued the programme in Australia, and The Queen re-joined the tour in Indonesia.
45. The Queen has opened Parliament every year except 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.
46. The Queen went on her first State Visit as Princess Elizabeth, to South Africa with her mother and father, then King and Queen, from February to May 1947. The tour included Rhodesia and Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland (now Lesotho). The Princess celebrated her 21st birthday in Cape Town. Her Majesty’s first State Visit as Queen was technically to Kenya, as King George VI died and The Queen acceded the throne during the tour. The tour had to be abandoned.
47. The Queen’s first Commonwealth tour began on 24 November 1953, and included visits to Bermuda, Jamaica, Panama, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Libya, Malta and Gibraltar. The total distance covered was 43,618 miles.
48. The Queen was the first British Monarch to visit China when she visited in 1986.
49. The Queen has made a Christmas Broadcast to the Commonwealth every year of her reign except 1969, when a repeat of the film ‘Royal Family’ was shown and a written message from The Queen issued.
50. In 1953, The Queen made the first Christmas Broadcast from overseas, (rather than from the UK), broadcasting live from New Zealand. The first televised broadcast was in 1957, made live. The first pre-recorded broadcast took place in 1960 to allow transmission around the world.
51. The Queen sent a message of congratulations to Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on the 21st July,1969. The message was micro-filmed and deposited on the moon in a metal container.
52. The Queen has met the following astronauts at Buckingham Palace:
- The first astronaut to go into space – Russian – Major Yuri Gagarin.
- The first woman in space – Russian – Mrs Valentina Tereschkova
- The first man on the moon – American – Neil Armstrong – and the other American astronauts, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin.
53. The Queen sent her first email in 1976 from an Army base.
54. There have been seven Archbishops of Canterbury during The Queen’s reign (Archbishops Geoffrey Fisher, Michael Ramsey, Donald Coggan, Robert Runcie, George Carey, Rowan Williams and Justin Welby).
55. History was made in 1982 when Pope John Paul II visited Britain, the first Pope to do so for 450 years. The Queen, Titular Head of the Church of England, received him at Buckingham Palace.
56. The Queen first visited a mosque in the UK for the first time in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire in July 2002.
57. The Queen has attended 50 Royal Maundy services during her reign at more than 39 different cathedrals. The Queen has only missed four services – two for official tours and two for the births of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
58. The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan. The Queen currently has five corgis, Emma, Linnet, Monty, Holly and Willow.
59. The Queen also introduced a new breed of dog known as the “dorgi” when one of Her Majesty’s corgis was mated with a dachshund named Pipkin which belonged to Princess Margaret. The Queen currently has four dorgis, Cider, Berry, Candy and Vulcan.
60. As well as corgis and dorgis, The Queen also breeds and trains Labradors and Cocker Spaniels at Sandringham. There is a special Sandringham strain of black Labrador founded in 1911.
61. The Queen takes a keen interest in horses and racing. Her Majesty’s first pony was given to her by her grandfather, King George V, when she was four years old. This was a Shetland pony called Peggy. The Queen continues to ride at Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor.
62. The Queen also takes a keen interest in horse breeding. Horses bred at the Royal studs over the last 200 years have won virtually every major race in Britain. The Queen has about 25 horses in training each season.
63. The Queen’s racing colours are: Purple body with gold braid, Scarlet sleeves and Black velvet cap with gold fringe.
64. The Queen continues the Royal Family’s long association with racing pigeons which began in 1886 when King Leopold II of Belgium made a gift of racing pigeons to the British Royal Family. In 1990, one of The Queen’s birds took part in the Pau race, coming first in the Section 5th Open and was subsequently named “Sandringham Lightning”. In recognition of her interest in the sport, The Queen is Patron of a number of racing societies, including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association.
65. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were married on 20 November 1947 in Westminster Abbey. The Queen’s wedding dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell and was woven at Winterthur Silks Limited, Dunfermline, in the Canmore factory, using silk that had come from Chinese silkworms at Lullingstone Castle.
66. The Queen’s dressmakers over the years have included Sir Hardy Amies, Sir Norman Hartnell, Karl-Ludwig Couture and Maureen Rose. The Queen’s milliners have been Frederick Fox, Philip Somerville and Marie O’Regan.
67. The Queen’s wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold which came from the Clogau St David’s mine near Dolgellau. The official wedding cake was made by McVitie and Price Ltd, using ingredients given as a wedding gift by Australian Girl Guides.
68. The Queen has an extensive collection of jewellery, most of which are Crown Jewels, some inherited and some gifts, including the largest pink diamond in the world. Some well known pieces include; a brooch of diamonds forming a spray of wattle presented by the Australian Government in 1954; and a necklace of large square cut aquamarines and diamonds with earrings as a gift in Coronation year by the Ambassador of Brazil, which The Queen wore on the French State visit in 2004.
69. The Queen has laid her wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday every year of her reign, except in 1959, 1961, 1963, 1968, 1983 and 1999 when she was either pregnant or overseas on an official visit.
70. The Queen has visited the sets of a number of popular British soap operas including Coronation Street, East Enders and Emmerdale.
71. In 1997, The Queen launched Buckingham Palace’s first official website.
72. In 1998, The Queen introduced “theme days” to promote and celebrate aspects of British culture. The first theme day was “City Day” focusing on financial institutions. Other themes have included Publishing, Broadcasting, Tourism, Emergency Services, Maritime Day, Music, Young Achievers, British Design, and Pioneers.
73. In June, 2002, The Queen hosted the first public concerts in the garden of Buckingham Palace to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. The Queen attended both the classical and pop concerts. The ‘Party at the Palace’ pop concert was one of the most watched pop concerts in history, attracting around 200 million viewers all over the world.
74. The Queen is the first member of the Royal Family to be awarded a gold disc from the recording industry. 100,000 copies of the CD of the ‘Party at the Palace’, produced by EMI, were sold within the first week of release.
75. The Queen hosted the first women-only event “Women of Achievement” at Buckingham Palace in March, 2004.
76. In November 2004, The Queen invited the cast of Les Miserables in the West End to perform for French President Jacques Chirac at Windsor Castle. It was the first time the cast of a West End musical had performed at a Royal residence.
77. As a young girl, The Queen acted in a number of Pantomimes during World War Two including playing the part of Prince Florizel in Cinderella in 1941. These pantomimes took place every year in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle.
78. In 2005, The Queen claimed ownership of 88 cygnets on the river Thames. They are looked after by the Swan Marker. The first Royal Swan Keeper was appointed around the 12th Century.
79. Technically The Queen still owns the sturgeons, whales and dolphins in the waters around the UK. A statute from 1324, at the time of the reign of King Edward II , states that: “Also the King shall have … whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm.” This statute is still valid today, and sturgeons, porpoises, whales and dolphins are recognised as ‘Fishes Royal’. When captured within three miles of UK shores, or washed ashore either dead or alive, they may be claimed on behalf of the Crown. Generally, when brought into port, a sturgeon is sold in the usual way, and the purchaser, as a gesture of loyalty, requests the honour of its being accepted by The Queen.
80. In summer 2005, The Queen opened the first “children’s trail” in the Buckingham Palace garden for the Summer Opening.
81. Elizabeth II is the oldest Monarch in British history. She surpassed Queen Victoria as oldest reigning monarch on 21 December 2007, having surpassed George III five days earlier. She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee on 6 February 2012.
82. Should The Queen be still on the throne on 6th February 2022, she will be celebrating her Platinum Jubilee, the first British Monarch to do so. She would be 95 years old.
83. On 10 September 2015, The Queen will become the longest reigning Monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria.
84. Her Majesty has never given a press interview in her life. All other members of the Royal Family have communicated with journalists.
85. Despite Buckingham Palace being the iconic home of The Queen, she doesn’t spend all her time there. Her Majesty spends the working week (Monday-Friday) at Buckingham Palace, retiring to Windsor Castle for the weekend. She also goes to Sandringham House for Christmas until February and Balmoral Castle for the summer and for one week a year, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
86. Army commissions are granted from Her Majesty. In effect, when a member of the Armed Forces salutes an officer, they are in fact saluting Her Majesty.
87. Elizabeth II is only the 6th ‘Queen Regnant’ (Queen in her own right) in British history. Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne and Victoria are the other Queens Regnant.
88. The Queen also happens to hold the titles of Duke of Normandy and Duke of Lancaster, which she uses in the Channel Islands and in Lancaster respectively. She is known as ‘Duke’ rather than ‘Duchess’ because Queen Victoria considered the title of Duchess to be inferior to Duke.