9 Facts About Queen Elizabeth II & The Royal Family You Probably Didn’t Know About


Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, who has been committed to her royal duties for seven decades, died peacefully in her Scottish estate on Thursday afternoon (6 Sep).

She was 96.

Earlier that day, the Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying that the Queen was under medical supervision at Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Her family members promptly rushed to her side upon hearing her doctors’ concerns.

Thousands, coming in droves, gathered outside Buckingham Palace.

Reportedly, there was stunned silence when the flag was lowered to half-mast.

A flag is only flown at half-mast to represent grief and mourning when a member of the royal family dies.

Immediately, the crowd rushed to the gates as the notice of Queen Elizabeth II’s death was attached to the black iron gates, signalling the passing of the only monarch that most Britons have ever known.

After 70 years, the national anthem “God Save The Queen” will no longer be sung.

Her Curriculum Vitae

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on 21 April 1926.

She ascended to the throne in June 1953, as the 40th monarch in a royal line that followed Norman King William the Conqueror, who took the English throne in 1066 after defeating Anglo-Saxon ruler Harold II in the Battle of Hastings.

She was the Queen and Head of State of 15 other countries, spanning from Fiji, Australia, New Zealand to Canada. She was the Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England for a full seventy years.

Despite being the longest reigning monarch, exceeding her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years, Queen Elizabeth has said that it was not something she had originally aspired to do.

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones—my own is no exception,” she said.

Her husband, Prince Philip, was her consort for 73 years until his death in April 2021, at the age of 99.

The royal couple are survived by their four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.


Much like Queen Victoria who oversaw the Golden Age of the British Empire, Queen Elizabeth has seen some of the greatest change in the world, be it technological, industrial, economic, or socio-political.

She came into power while Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister, and Britain was ravaged by the throes of post-war conditions. She had to brave through a time where absolute monarchy transformed into constitutional monarchy.

Queen Elizabeth was served by 15 Prime Ministers—such as Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, and Margaret Thatcher, just to name a notable few.

Two days prior to her death, she appointed Liz Truss as the Prime Minister to succeed Boris Johnson.

Throughout her long life, she met a quarter of all American Presidents who have ever lived (Joe Biden is the 46th), five popes, and hundreds of national leaders and prominent figures.


First Female Royal To Join The Army

When Princess Elizabeth was just 13 years old, three years after she was made Heir to the throne, World War II broke out.

She and her sister Princess Margaret were evacuated to Windsor castle, located 20 miles outside London, to avoid the bombing raids.

As she grew, she became more active in the war efforts: she was photographed in 1943, digging vegetable plots and knitting garments for the fighting troops, in part of showing support for the government’s “Dig for Victory” campaign.

Food during wartime was scarce and often rationed; citizens were urged to use their garden and every bit of land to grow vegetables to combat the food shortages.

At the age of 18, Elizabeth registered at a labour exchange and undertook a vehicle maintenance course in Aldershot, Hampshire, learning how to diagnose, strip, and repair faulty engines.

Image: Imperial War Museum Collection

She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Force (ATS), the women’s branch in the British Army, where unmarried women under 30 often took up jobs like cooks, telephonists, drivers, postal workers, searchlight operators, and ammunition inspectors.


Whilst she was engaging in war efforts, she met her future husband Prince Philip of Greece in 1939, the nephew of the deposed king of Greece, when he was a cadet at the Dartmouth Naval College.

Princess Elizabeth was the first female in the royal family to join the army as an active-duty member.

Well into her 90s, and even after a health scare in November 2021, Queen Elizabeth II still enjoyed driving herself around.

Her Defining Speech

Besides joining the ATS, Princess Elizabeth was sometimes heard on the wartime radio, speaking to the children of the British Empire. Her voice was described as piping, stilted, and cut-glass.

But what came to define her reign was a speech she made on her 21st birthday in 1947.


“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it shall be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the great imperial family to which we all belong… I shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow and God bless all of you who are willing to share it.”

Though the speech was written by King George VI’s—her father’s—private secretary, Sir Tom Lascelles, it was certainly the manifesto of her future.

When she reflected on those words later during her Silver Jubilee in 1977, she declared, “Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.”

Queen Elizabeth II would come to be known for her unerring sense of duty; for she would go on lengthy tours in and out of Britain, visiting the Commonwealth realms, always be in attendance for public events and holding weekly audiences with her prime minister.

She was admired by many for her stoicism and honest diligence.

What’s truly remarkable about the late Queen is that, despite seventy years of public service, she somehow remained an unknowable figure:

She never gave a contentious interview, never engaged in partisan politics, and scarcely showed any negative emotions. Perhaps she had her moments of exasperation, but she never showed her temper.

Previously Third in Line of Succession

It may come as a surprise, but Princess Alexandra Mary was not expected to ascend to the throne at her birth.


She was the third in the line of succession, the firstborn of the Duke and Duchess of York, the second son to King Stern George V, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, and his aristocratic Scottish wife, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.

Image: Princess Alexandra Archives / The Crown Chronicles

It was presumed that her older uncle, the Prince of Wales, would have married and bore heirs, which would place her further down the line of succession.

She had been named after mother and two queens.

The baby was originally supposed to have “Victoria” in her name, but her grandfather thought that it would not be necessary since she was not in the direct line of succession.

Cutely enough, the would-be Queen was affectionately known as Lilibet to her family. Her grandparents were besotted with her.

After the old King George V died in 1936, the monarchy fell into the worst constitutional crisis of the 20th century as King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in less than a year, in favour of marrying Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American.

Apparently, the old king must have foreseen his oldest son’s ill-temperament for the throne, as he allegedly commented that Prince Edward would “ruin himself in less than twelve months” after his death and that he hoped to God that his eldest son would never join in matrimony so “nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and throne”.

The shy and stammering Prince Albert of York was thus pushed to the throne, and King George IV would later be known as the “Reluctant King” as well.

Consequently, Princess Elizabeth became the heir to the throne upon her father’s coronation in May 1937.

When her sister Margaret later asked Elizabeth whether she would be Queen, she replied in a matter-of-factly tone, “Yes, I suppose so.”

However, it is likely that she never anticipated she would become a ruler at 27 years old.

There were signs of a new era by the early 1950s though, as King George VI was putting up a fitful battle against his lung cancer.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were subsequently urged to take up more public duties in lieu of her ailing father.

Although there were public assurances that all was well from the palace, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip knew it was a matter of time; before they left on an official tour of Australia in early 1952, they had been carrying mourning clothes and accession papers in their baggage.

In the early morning of 6 February 1962, King George VI passed away in his sleep at Sandringham, a retreat in Norfolk.

In the National Geographic’s obituary, it recalls how she was clad in white just hours before her own coronation, then her shoulders were draped in golden cloth, hands clasping a bejewelled sceptre while the heavy crown rested on her hair.

Cries of “God save the Queen” reverberated through Westminster Abbey then.

Her Coronation

Her coronation at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 was a widely viewed affair.

The BBC coverage made a breakthrough for the history of broadcasting, holding a then-record of 27 million audience in the United Kingdom (out of its 36 million population), and 11 million tuned into the event on the radio.

It was a sign of changing times too, as the ceremony was broadcasted live on television, against the objections of some palace advisers. This decision also gave a dramatic boost to the sale of television sets.

The Times described the Queen as willingly sacrificing herself to God and the nation, “She has the reward of the selfless in the pure joy of duty, amply, generously done.”

Her coronation service was split into six parts: the recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture, the enthronement, and the homage. This process took three hours to complete.

The return route to Buckingham Palace was designed so that it could be witnessed by as many people in London as possible, hence it was 7.2 kilometres long. It lasted for two hours.

129 nations and territories were officially represented at her coronation service.

Gradual Exposure to the Media

It should be said that the Queen was a relatively private person.

As the “Monarchy” became the “Royal Family”, Queen Elizabeth II had to play the role of a modern constitutional monarch who is largely seen as a symbolic figurehead; someone with a right to be consulted, to advise and warn political leaders in private, and to showcase herself in public as a focus of national life, celebration and commemoration.

To her credit, she was astounding and beautiful.

The gradual exposure to media, however, was actually initiated by Prince Philip. She merely acquiesced to the changes.

Her husband was of the view that they were fighting an election every day of the week, which was rather to the then-royal biographer Ben Pimlott’s opinion that there was the need for the Queen to “sell herself a bit”.

Queen Elizabeth II felt that “I am the Queen. I’ll do what I have to do”, as was her modus operandi.

It eventually led to the BBC behind-the-scenes documentary of the royal family’s life, which showed the royals watching television, entertaining visitors, having a lochside barbeque while on holiday at Balmoral, and even purchasing sweets at a local shop.

Though critics claimed that the film by Richard Cawston destroyed the mystique of royalty, it was still a hit among the masses as it was estimated that 68% of the population watched it.

The Royal Family was never shown in entirety again afterwards, but clips were featured from time to time.

Other notable events that were televised would be the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969, then the marriage of Princess Anne to Captain Philips in 1973, followed by the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977 and every subsequent jubilee thereafter.

1997 would also be the year where the first royal walkabouts started, with the Queen and her family personally engaging the crowds lining their route. They would accept flowers and little gifts, even holding small conversations.

However perfunctory it may seem; it was very well-received and significant to the people and those around the world.

This, perhaps, marked the beginning of media intrusiveness that the royal would endure ever since.

Public Scandals

Given that the Queen was in power for seven decades, she had a fair share of public scandals to deal with, to the point where there is an alphabetical list out there, probably.

The lives of the royal family seem to become a soap opera for public consumption.

First there was Prince Edward and his displays of petulance towards the journalists.

Then marriages began to fail one after another: first was Princess Anne as both individuals had their extramarital affairs; her first husband Marks Philips was involved with a New Zealand art teacher, Heather Tonkin, and they had a love child together; Princess Anne was involved with Commander Timothy Laurence for years, and she married him later.

Next was Prince Andrew after his separated but not yet divorced wife Sarah Ferguson was photographed topless while she was on Mediterranean holiday, having her toes sucked by her American lover.

Most famously of them all would be Prince Charles’ failed marriage with Princess Diana Spencer.

In the eyes of the public, the palace had been derelict in its duty of making the Prince of Wales give up his long-running affair with Camellia Parker Bowles or advise Princess Diana on how to cope with being an international celebrity.

When Princess Diana was met with a tragic car accident in Paris on 31 August 1997, there was an outpour of grief and recrimination against the royal family, especially the Queen, for she did not leave her Balmoral residence.

It was even suspected that Queen Elizabeth would not attend her daughter-in-law’s funeral. The Buckingham Palace did not lower its flag to half-mast until much later either, which drew questions about whether the royal family even cared about her death.

Fortunately, the Queen did return to London a day before the funeral was supposed to take place, making a live broadcast which mollified the crowd.

The most recent royal scandal is still fresh in our memories, of Prince Harry becoming estranged from his family after his marriage to the American actress Meghan Markles. The pair even claimed that they were psychologically damaged and racially abused by the Royal family, which damaged their cultivated image.

Whether it is fact or fiction is unknown, though their opinion seems to match the discontent that Princess Diana felt.

In Andrew Morton’s bestselling book, Diana: Her True Story (1992), she allegedly told the journalist: “I just felt really sad and empty and thought: ‘Bloody hell, after all I’ve done for this fucking family’.”

The Collapse of Windsor Castle

However, it would be the year of 1992 that Queen Elizabeth would refer to as her annus horribilis—her year of disaster of misfortune.

Given that Windsor Castle was her sanctuary and safety throughout World War II, and later became her official residence in 2011, the place holds a special significance in Elizabeth’s heart.

In December 1992, Windsor Castle was badly damaged in a fire that was accidentally ignited by the workmen.

Image: Princess Alexandra Archives / The Crown Chronicles

To add salt to injury, the building was uninsured and the royal family’s extravagant spending, as well as the fact that they paid zero in income taxes due to a deal between government and monarchy from a century earlier, were revealed.

The government’s assumption that the taxpayers would simply cough out the money for repairs incensed the public, to say nothing of the revelation that the compliant parliament had just allowed the burgeoning royal expenditure to pass despite the increasing austerity and rates of unemployment.

Shortly thereafter, the ministers declared that the royal family would be paying income tax on their private incomes in the future, and the £900,000 in civil list payments to peripheral family members would cease.

Consequently, the royal family cut down on its running costs, and would begin reporting their activities and expenses in annual brochures.

Of course, the figures of their private income from their investments and personal property were kept secret.

In her speech delivered in the City of London, she conceded the need for a more transparent monarchy for a less acrimonious media.

“No institution, city, monarchy, whatever, should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don’t. But we are all part of the same fabric of our national society and that scrutiny can be just as effective if it is made with a measure of gentleness, good humour and understanding.”

This would become the guideline for future interactions between the royal family and media.

International Response

The new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, lauded Queen Elizabeth II as the “very spirit of Great Britain”, stating that she has always been the nation’s stability and strength.

US President Joe Biden remarked, “Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.”

He also ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half-mask out of respect.

Upon receiving news of her death, the Paris mayor ordered for the lights of the Eiffel Tower to be extinguished in honour of her pass; the Brazilian government declared three days of mourning, while the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council both stood in a moment of silence.

Even more surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended his own condolences, calling her demise an “irreparable loss”.

Many British singers and actors have also paid their respects to the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II, may you rest in peace. 

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