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10 Surprising Facts About Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth passed away on September 8, 2022, at age 96. Her Majesty served as the monarch of the United Kingdom since February 1952, when her father, King George VI, passed away, and she became queen at just 25 years old. The longest reigning monarch in British history, she led a fascinating life. From serving in World War II and creating her own breed of dog to favoring the same $9 nail polish for more than 30 years, here are some fascinating tidbits about Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.

She Celebrated Two Birthdays

Cake covered in pink icing and frosting on a glass plate
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While the queen’s actual birthday fell on April 21, she also had a second “official” birthday in the summer. It was marked with a ceremony called Trooping the Colour, a practice that has existed for more than 260 years to ensure that British sovereigns whose birthdays fall during colder months also have a ceremony that happens during nicer weather. More than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians participate in the military parade, which usually happens in June. (The “colors” in the ceremony’s name refers to the hues of the flags used by regiments in the British Army; “trooping” refers to officers marching up and down waving the flags.) The public turn out in droves to take part, and members of the royal family also join the procession on horseback or in carriages.

She Never Went to School

School lockers
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British royals throughout history were often educated at home, and that includes Queen Elizabeth. She was taught by private tutors, with a focus on British law and history. The young Elizabeth also learned to ride horses, and was privately instructed in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The queen also studied music, art, and French throughout her life. (She spoke fluent French, often switching between English and French while delivering speeches in French-speaking countries.)

She Served With the British Army During World War II

A World War II British Army vehicle
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In 1945, Queen Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) — the women’s branch of the British Army — to serve as a subaltern (or junior officer) during World War II. During her time in the army, the queen learned to drive and to maintain vehicles as a truck driver and mechanic. When the war ended, the then-princess and her sister, Princess Margaret, secretly joined revelers in the street to celebrate the Allied victory. She even did the conga at the Ritz. The queen later called it “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”

She Didn't Need a Driver’s License or Passport

A British passport
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While the queen was often chauffeured around in a custom Bentley limousine, she also enjoyed driving herself around in her beloved Range Rover. But unlike every other person who drives in the U.K., Her Royal Highness did not require a driver’s license nor a license plate on her car. As the name in which British passports are issued, she also did not require a document of her own for international travel.

She Once Acted With James Bond

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In 2012, the queen acted in a short video segment with Daniel Craig in his role as James Bond. Filmed for the London Olympics, the Danny Boyle-directed clip showed the queen doing her best 007 as she skydived from a helicopter into the stadium where the opening ceremony was being held. While the queen did have her own lines for the appearance — and was said to be a natural — the actual jump was performed by a stuntman.

She Didn't Eat Pasta, Potatoes, or Garlic

A close up of pasta
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Darren McGrady, who served as her personal chef for 15 years, revealed in 2017 that Her Royal Highness stayed away from starchy foods unless they’re served at a state dinner. Instead, she ate an abundance of grilled fish, chicken, and vegetables, as well as salad and fresh fruit. McGrady also said that she did not like food prepared with garlic or too many onions. Her daughter-in-law Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall confirmed the anti-garlic stance during an appearance on MasterChef Australia, saying it is common among royals due to their frequent public appearances.

Her Favorite Nail Polish Was a $9 Bottle of Essie

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Since 1989, the queen preferred Essie’s “Ballet Slippers” as her nail polish of choice. The pale, almost translucent shade of pink has become standard within the royal family, where it is reportedly against the dress code to wear dark or bright nail polish. According to Essie, “Ballet Slippers” remains one of the company’s most popular colors, and a bottle of it is sold every two seconds.

She Owned More Than 30 Corgis and Invented the “Dorgi”

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Throughout her life and reign, Elizabeth always kept corgis. She got her first corgi in 1933, when her father brought one home as a family pet. When she was 18, she got her own pet corgi, Susan, from which all her other dogs over the years would be descended. She also owned almost a dozen “dorgis” — a cross between a dachshund and a corgi that was first introduced to the royal household when one of the queen’s dogs mated with Princess Margaret’s dachshund.

She Used Her Purse to Send Signals To Her Staff

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The queen was hardly ever seen without one of her signature Launer handbags, and was said to own about 200 of them. While she reportedly used her purse to carry a mirror, lipstick, mints, and reading glasses, she also discreetly sent signals to her staff with it. According to one royal historian, Her Royal Highness would switch her purse from her left arm to her right if she wished to be politely ushered away from a conversation. If she placed her purse on the floor, it meant she needed to be saved from an uncomfortable situation. And if the handbag ended up on the table at dinner, it reportedly meant she wished to be whisked away within the next five minutes.

She Drank a Glass of Champagne Before Bed

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It’s only fitting that the queen of England would choose a classy nightcap. Her first cousin Margaret Rhodes reportedly once said that Queen Elizabeth ended most days by enjoying a glass of Champagne before going to sleep — most likely Bollinger Champagne, the official supplier to the royal household. Her Majesty also reportedly enjoyed a gin and Dubonnet with a slice of lemon before lunch, a glass of wine with lunch, and a dry martini in the evening.