Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest serving monarch. She achieved the record on Wednesday 9th September, passing the 23,22 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes that Queen Victoria ruled.
As she has been on the throne for 63 years, here are 63 things you may not know about Britain’s Queen.
1. The Queen is the second longest serving monarch. Only five other kings and queens in British history have reigned for 50 years or more. They are:
•Victoria (63 years)
•George III (59 years)
•Henry III (56 years)
•Edward III (50 years)
•James VI of Scotland (James I of England) (58 years)
2. The Queen is the fortieth monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the crown of England.
3. She speaks fluent French and often uses the language for audiences and state visits. She does not require an interpreter.
4. She is queen of 16 of the 53 member states in the Commonwealth of Nations
5. Over the course of her reign, she has given regular Tuesday-evening audiences to 12 British Prime Ministers: 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.
6. On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’.
7. Elizabeth has visited Australia 16 times, Canada 22 times, Jamaica six times and New Zealand 10 times.
8. The Queen is the only person in Britain who can drive without a license or number plate on her state car.
9. Her real birthday is April 21, but it is celebrated officially in June.
10. The Queen was born in a private home at 17 Bruton St, London, on April 21, 1926.
12. She has opened Parliament every year except 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting her children Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, respectively.
13. Her first state visit as Queen was to Kenya: her father King George VI died, and she acceded the throne during the tour, which had to be abandoned.
14. Her wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold that came from the Clogau St David’s mine near Dolgellau.
15. Since 1952, The Queen has conferred over 404,500 honours and awards.
16. In November 2004, Elizabeth invited the cast of Les Misérables in the West End to perform for then 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.
17. The last and only other British monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee was Queen Victoria in 1897, at the age of 77.
18. At the time of her birth she stood third in line of succession to the throne after Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and her father, The Duke of York. But it was not expected that her father would become King, or that she would become Queen.
19. Queen Elizabeth was educated at home with Princess Margaret, her younger sister.
20. She made her first public speech in October 1940, when she was 14. In a live broadcast, she sent a message during the BBC’s children’s programme to all the children of Britain and the Commonwealth
21. With the birth of Prince Andrew in 1960, The Queen became the first reigning Sovereign to give birth since Queen Victoria, who had her youngest child, Princess Beatrice, in 1857.
22. During their visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1970, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh initiated a new practice – the ‘walkabout’ – to allow them to meet as many people as possible.
23. Prince Charles’ role as heir to the throne was formally acknowledged when The Queen invested him as Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarfon in 1969. The ceremony was watched on television by 200 million people worldwide.
24. Queen Victoria was the last monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II, aged of 76, is the oldest monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee. The youngest was James I (James VI of Scotland) at 51 years old.
25. 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.
26. There have been six Roman Catholic Popes during The Queen’s reign (Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI).
27. 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. Her Majesty currently has three corgis – Monty, Willow and Holly.
28. 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.
29. She attends the Derby at Epsom, one of the classic flat races in Britain, and the Summer Race Meeting at Ascot, which has been a Royal occasion since 1911.
30. The Queen has attended every opening of Parliament except those in 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.
31. There have been six Archbishops of Canterbury during The Queen’s reign (Archbishops Geoffrey Fisher, Michael Ramsey, Donald Coggan, Robert Runcie, George Carey and Rowan Williams).
32. The Queen is currently patron of over 600 charities and organisations, over 400 of which she has held since 1952
33. The first football match The Queen attended was the 1953 FA Cup Final.
34. The Queen has launched 21 ships during her reign.
35. The Queen has sat for 129 portraits during her reign.
36. The Queen learnt to drive in 1945.
37. As a young girl, Elizabeth acted in a number of pantomimes during World War II, including playing Prince Florizel in Cinderella in 1941. The productions took place every year in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle.
38. She once demoted a footman for giving her corgis whiskey.
39. An animal lover since childhood, The Queen takes a keen and highly knowledgeable interest in horses.
40. The Queen’s horses won races at Royal Ascot on a number of occasions. There was a notable double on 18 June 1954 when Landau won the Rous Memorial Stakes and a stallion called Aureole won the Hardwicke Stakes, and in 1957 The Queen had four winners during Ascot week.
41. In 60 years, The Queen has undertaken 261 official overseas visits, including 96 State Visits, to 116 different countries.
42. 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.
43. The Queen hosted the first women-only event “Women of Achievement” at Buckingham Palace in March, 2004.
44. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent approximately 45,000 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.
45. The Queen has given out approximately 90,000 Christmas puddings to staff continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI
46. The Queen’s official visits have ranged from the Cocos Islands, 5.4 square miles with a population of 596, to The Peoples’ Republic of China, 3.7 million square miles with a population of 1.34 billion.
47. Unusual live gifts given to The Queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises given to The Queen in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elepha “Jumbo” given to Her Majesty by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark The Queen’s Silver Wedding, and two black beavers given to The Queen after a Royal visit to Canada.
48. 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 to the UK from Australia when a general election in the UK was suddenly called. The Duke of Edinburgh continued the programme in Australia, and The Queen re-joined the tour in Indonesia.
49. 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.
50. Since 1952 The Queen has given Royal Assent to more than 3,500 Acts of Parliament
51. Many of The Queen’s official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was launched by Her Majesty on 16th April 1953 and was commissioned for service on 7th January 1954. It was de-commissioned in December, 1997. During this time, Britannia travelled more than a million miles on Royal and official duties.
52. The Royal Yacht Britannia was first used by The Queen when Her Majesty embarked with the Duke of Edinburgh on the 1st 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 the 9th August 1997 for a visit to Arran in Scotland.
53. The Queen has attended 56 Royal Maundy services in 43 Cathedrals during her reign. A total of 6,710 people have received Maundy Money in recognition of their service to the Church and their communities.
54. The Queen has been at the saluting base of her troops 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.
55. The Queen has attended 35 Royal Variety performances.
56. The Queen has answered around three and a half million items of correspondence.
57. Over the course of the reign, almost a one and a half million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse (The Queen ended Debutante Presentation Parties in 1958).
58. 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. In 2006 the Christmas Broadcast was first made available to download as a podcast.
59. The Queen launched the British Monarchy’s official website in 1997. In 2007 the official British Monarchy YouTube channel was unveiled, swiftly followed by a Royal Twitter site (2009), Flickr page (2010) and Facebook page (also 2010).
60. The Queen hosts “theme days” and Receptions to promote and celebrate aspects of British culture. Recent examples from 2011 include a reception for Young People and the Performing Arts and for Explorers. Other themes have included Publishing, Broadcasting, Tourism, Emergency Services, Maritime Day, Music, Young Achievers, British Design, and Pioneers.
61. In an average year, The Queen will host more than 50,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace. The Queen also hosts more than 8,000 people each year at garden parties and investitures at Holyroodhouse, during Holyrood Week.
62. There have been only three Diamond Jubilees of Heads of State celebrated throughout the world during The Queen’s reign. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand celebrated 60 years on the throne in 2006; the former Sultan of Johor (now a part of Malaysia) celebrated his in 1955; and the late Emperor Hirohito of Japan celebrated his in 1986.
63. The Queen made an historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011, the first visit by a British Monarch since Irish independence (King George V’s had visited in 1911).