On 6 February this year, the Queen marked 70 years on the British throne – a feat which will be celebrated with a four-day Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will see several events take place from the 2 – 5 of June, including the annual Trooping the Colour parade, a pageant, and a concert with performances from musicians like Ed Sheeran.
From becoming the longest-reigning monarch in British history, to her first trip on the London Underground, and details from her wedding to Prince Philip, here are some things you might not know about Queen Elizabeth II.
1. The Queen is the longest-reigning monarch
On 9 September 2015, the Queen became the longest-reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
In a speech given on the historic day during an engagement in the Scottish Borders, the Queen said: “Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones, my own is no exception, but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.”
2. Her Majesty has made over 150 Commonwealth visits
Within the Commonwealth alone, the Queen has made more than 150 visits during her reign.
3. Visited more than 100 countries
The Queen has visited more than 100 countries as monarch, including Canada 22 times, more than any other country in the world, and France 13 times, more than any other country in Europe.
4. First solo appearance was in 1942
The Queen’s first solo public engagement (as Princess Elizabeth) was on 21 April 1942, her 16th birthday, when she inspected the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle.
5. Carried out thousands of engagements
The Queen has carried out more than 21,000 engagements over the course of her reign.
6. Has given thousands of Royal Assents
The Queen has given Royal Assent to approximately 4,000 Acts of Parliament.
7. Hosted over 100 state visits
The Queen has hosted 112 incoming state visits to the United Kingdom, including Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1954), Emperor Hirohito of Japan (1971), President Lech Walesa of Poland (1991) and President Barack Obama of the US (2011).
8. Her Majesty is patron of over 500 organisations
The Queen is currently patron of more than 500 organisations, including more than 70 education and training organisations; over 60 sports and recreational organisation; over 30 faith organisations; and over 40 arts and cultural organisations.
9. Has sent over 1 million cards
The Queen has sent over 300,000 congratulatory cards to people celebrating their 100th birthdays, and over 900,000 messages to couples marking their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversaries.
10. The Queen’s face has been on coins of 35 countries
At least 35 countries have issued coinage with the image of the Queen.
11. Has held multiple ranks and appointments in Armed Services
The Queen has held over 50 ranks and appointments in the British and Commonwealth Armed Services during her lifetime.
12. Holds title of “Defender of the Faith”
The Queen holds the title “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.
These titles date back to the reign of King Henry VIII, who was initially granted the title Defender of the Faith in 1521, by Pope Leo X.
13. The Queen is religious
The Queen is a committed Christian and churchgoer and has often spoken of her faith in her speeches and broadcasts. “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life,” she said in her 2014 Christmas Broadcast.
“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
14. Has sat for over 200 portraits
The Queen has sat for over 200 official portraits during her reign, the first was in 1933 when she was seven-years old and was a portrait painted by Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo.
15. Holds the Royal Collection in trust
The Royal Collection, held in trust by the Queen for her successors and the nation, is estimated to have over a million individual pieces, including over 8,000 paintings, 160,000 watercolours, prints and drawings, 200,000 photographs, 300,000 items of decorative art and 200,000 books and manuscripts.
16. Hosted more than 1.5 million people at garden parties
More than 180 garden parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since 1952 and over 1.5 million people have attended a Garden Party during the Queen’s reign.
17. The Queen has seen 14 US presidents throughout her reign
There have been 14 presidents of the United States during the Queen’s reign, and, with the exception of President Lyndon B Johnson (1963-9), she has met each one.
18. Has been served by 14 UK prime ministers
The Queen has been served by 14 prime ministers of the United Kingdom during her reign – her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.
19. Her Majesty has owned more than 30 corgis and dorgis
The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis and dorgis during her reign, most of which have been descended from her first corgi, Susan, who was gifted to her on her 18th birthday in 1944.
20. She first travelled on the Underground in 1939
The Queen travelled on the London Underground for the first time in May 1939 with her governess Marion Crawford and her sister Princess Margaret.
Since then, she has opened the new section of the Victoria Line (1969); opened the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow Airport (1977); visited Baker Street Station to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground (2013); and visited the Crossrail construction site at Bond Street Station (2016).
21. Made her first radio broadcast in 1940
The Queen made her first radio broadcast in 1940 when, aged 14, she recorded a message of support for young people affected by the war in Europe, particularly those being evacuated from their homes, on the BBC’s Children’s Hour.
“I can truthfully say to you all that we children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage,” she said.
“We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war.”
22. Joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945
The Queen joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the women’s branch of the British Army during the Second World War) in 1945, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to join the armed services as a full-time, active member.
As a Subaltern, she learned to drive and maintain vehicles.
23. First official overseas visit was in 1947
The Queen’s official overseas visit was in 1947 as Princess Elizabeth, when she toured South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) and the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana) with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen celebrated her 21st birthday in South Africa, which was marked by a speech broadcast across the Commonwealth.
In the speech the Princess pledged nothing less than her life’s work to her subjects, saying: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
24. Her first military appointment was in 1942
The Queen’s first military appointment was as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.
The appointment was made in February 1942 following the death of her great uncle and Godfather, The Duke of Connaught.
25. First overseas Christmas broadcast
In 1953 she made the first Christmas broadcast from overseas, broadcasting live from New Zealand.
In the broadcast, the Queen spoke of how welcomed she felt: “I have travelled some thousands of miles through many changing scenes and climates on my voyage here.
“Despite all that, however, I find myself today completely and most happily at home.”
26. First used the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1954
The Royal Yacht Britannia was first used by the Queen when she embarked with the Duke of Edinburgh on 1 May 1954 at Tobruk, Libya, 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 the Isle of Arran.
27. Sent her first email in 1976
On 26 March1976, the Queen sent her first email during a visit to the Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern, now known as the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment.
The email was sent to the US Secretary of Defence to formally open the UK/US collaboration on a military programming language.
28. The first British monarch to visit China
In 1986 the Queen became the first British Monarch to visit China.
29. The first British monarch to address US Congress
The Queen was the first British Monarch to address the United States House of Congress, on 16 May 1991.
30. Launched Buckingham Palace’s first website in 1997
In 1997 the Queen launched Buckingham Palace’s first official website, in 2014 she sent her first tweet and in 2019 published her first Instagram post.
31. Witnessed Swan Upping in 2009
In 2009 the Queen witnessed Swan Upping for the first time.
This annual event on the River Thames includes the weighing and measuring of the swans and checks are made on their health and well-being.
Since the 12th Century, the Monarch has retained the right to claim ownership of all unmarked mute swans found in a particular section of the River Thames.
32. Introduced Elizabeth Cross in 2009
The Queen introduced the Elizabeth Cross in 2009. It was the first medal to which she had put her name.
The award was instituted to give special recognition to the families of those who have died on military operations or as a result of terrorism since 1948.
On announcing the Cross, she said: “This seems to me a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all.”
33. Made first state visit to Ireland in 2011
The Queen made a State Visit to Ireland in 2011, the first time a reigning British Monarch has visited the country since its separation from the United Kingdom.
She began the speech that she gave at the State Banquet in Irish, saying: “A Uachtarain agus a chairde” (President and friends).
34. She was recognised with honorary Bafta in 2013
In 2013 the Queen became the first Monarch to be presented with an Honorary Bafta award in recognition of a lifetime’s support of British film and television.
35. The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2017
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their Platinum Wedding Anniversary in 2017, the first time a reigning monarch had done so.
36. 670 boats took part in Diamond Jubilee
To mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was held on 3 June 2012.
670 boats took part in the parade on the Tideway of the River Thames, making it the largest ever parade of boats, surpassing the previous world record of 327 vessels set in Bremerhaven, Germany, in 2011.
37. The Queen’s longest overseas tour lasted five months
The longest overseas tour that the Queen has undertaken began in Bermuda in November 1953 and ended in Gibraltar in May 1954.
She was away for 168 days and visited 13 different countries.
38. The Queen has visited 14 countries in one trip
The greatest number of countries that the Queen has visited in one trip is 14.
This was during her 1966 trip to the Caribbean.
39. Her Majesty presented the football World Cup Trophy in 1966
In 1966 the Queen presented England men’s football captain Bobby Moore with the World Cup Trophy.
The World Cup Final attracted the largest ever British television audience with 32.3 million viewers.
40. The Queen first flew in Concorde in 1977
In September 1966 the Queen visited the British Aircraft Corporation’s facilities in Filton, Bristol, and inspected the progress of the Concorde project.
She first flew in Concorde in 1977 and went on to use it for several overseas tours before it was retired in 2003.
41. She opened the Sydney Opera House
In 1973 the Queen opened the Sydney Opera House.
42. A fashion award was created in the Queen’s name in 2018
Following her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, it was agreed that an award would be created in her name to recognise emerging British fashion talent.
The inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design was presented to Richard Quinn during London Fashion Week 2018.
The Queen sat in the front row of Quinn’s show next to Dame Anna Wintour before presenting the award.
43. She has met four Popes
The Queen has met four Popes on official visits during her reign: Pope John XXIII (1961), Pope John Paul II (1980, 1982 and 2000), Pope Benedict XVI (2010) and Pope Francis I (2014).
44. The Queen and Philip were married in 1947
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were married on 20 November 1947 in Westminster Abbey.
The then Princess Elizabeth, carried a bouquet of flowers which included a sprig of myrtle taken from a bush grown from the original myrtle in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet.
Her wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold, which came from the Clogau St David’s mine near Dolgellau and the official wedding cake was made by McVitie and Price Ltd, using ingredients given as a wedding gift by Australian Girl Guides.
45. The monarch wore two crowns on her Coronation Day
The Queen wore two crowns on her Coronation Day: St Edward’s Crown (which was used for the crowning ceremony) and the Imperial State Crown, which was worn for the return procession and subsequent balcony appearances at Buckingham Palace.
On the journey to Westminster Abbey, The Queen wore the State Diadem: a circlet of diamonds, which she has gone on to wear for the journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament.
46. More than 2,000 journalists were on the Coronation route in 1953
There were more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations on the Coronation route in 1953.
The Coronation Service was broadcast live on the BBC, enabling millions of people to see their Monarch crowned for the first time.
47. Many royal tours took place on the Royal Yacht Britannia
Prior to its de-commissioning in 1997, many of the Queen’s official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
She was launched on 16 April, 1953 and was commissioned for service in January 1954. During her time in service, Britannia travelled more than a million miles on Royal and official duties, transporting the Queen to over 700 Royal visits.
48. She has only missed one Christmas broadcast
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.
49. She congratulated the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969
The Queen sent a message of congratulations to Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on 21 July 1969. The message was micro-filmed and deposited on the moon in a metal container. “You are here.”
50. She sent a message to Tim Peake who joined the International Space Station in 2016
In 2016 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sent a message to British astronaut Tim Peake as he joined the International Space Station.
He responded with a video message from space saying, “Thank you again for your well wishes, ma’am. I hope I can bring the country together to celebrate Britain in space and our great tradition of scientific exploration. And before I sign off, I’m not sure that this has ever been said in space before, so I’ll be the first: God save The Queen.”
51. The Queen made a radio broadcast on the evening of her Coronation
On the evening of the Coronation, the Queen made a radio broadcast in which she stated: “Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust”.
52. The Queen has received jaguars and sloths as gifts
During her reign, the Queen has received many gifts including a variety of live animals.
The more unusual animals were placed in the care of zoos, among them jaguars and sloths from Brazil, an elephant from Cameroon and two black beavers from Canada.
53. The Trooping the Colour parade has been cancelled just once
There has been a Trooping the Colour Parade every year of the Queen’s reign, apart from 1955, which was cancelled due to a railway strike.
In 2020 and 2021 a smaller ceremony took place at Windsor Castle due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
54. Windsor Castle is now the Queen’s main residence
Windsor Castle, currently the Queen’s main residence, is the oldest and largest occupied palace in the world.
55. She was born in 1926
The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London, and was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
56. She received her first pony from King George V
The Queen’s first pony was given to her by her grandfather, King George V.
The Shetland pony was called Peggy.
57. She does not have a passport or driving licence
As British passports and driving licences are issued in the Queen’s name, she is not required to have either, a privilege held by her alone.
58. Her Majesty speaks fluent French
The Queen speaks fluent French and has often used the language during audiences and State Visits.
59. She launched the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative in 2015
Almost 70 forest conservation projects across the Commonwealth have joined the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative since its launch in 2015, representing more than 100 million trees preserved for future generations as part of the fight against deforestation.
60. Winston Churchill’s first monarch in parliament was Queen Victoria
Sir Winston Churchill, her first prime minister, became a Member of Parliament during the reign of the Queen’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
61. The Queen was a Girl Guide
The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) became a Girl Guide In 1937 aged 11, learning how to pitch tents, cook on campfires and administer first aid.
At 16, she joined the Sea Rangers: a separate unit of the Girl Guides created for those with a strong naval interest. She was made a was made a Sea Ranger Commodore in 1945.
62. She rode the same horse for 18 Trooping the Colour parades
In 1969 the Queen was given a black mare, named Burmese, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The former Service horse was ridden by the Queen for Trooping the Colour for 18 consecutive years from 1969 to 1986.
63. She attended her parents’ Coronation
Then 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth, attended her parents’ Coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1937 and wrote about it for the King and Queen in an essay entitled, To Mummy And Papa, In Memory Of Their Coronation. From Lilibet, By Herself. “I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did, too,” she wrote.
“The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.”
64. The Queen chose her Coronation dress from nine different designs
The Queen’s Coronation dress was designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell.
He submitted nine different designs and the Queen accepted the eighth.
65. The Queen’s Coronation was the first to be broadcast
The Queen’s Coronation ceremony was the first to be broadcast on television, as a result of which people purchased television sets in their millions.
27 million people watched in the UK alone, and television was ushered in as a mainstream medium.
66. The Queen and Princess Margaret joined crowds incognito on Victory in Europe Day
On 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe Day, the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and her sister Princess Margaret, aged 19 and 14 respectively, joined the crowds in London incognito, Princess Elizabeth with her ATS uniform cap pulled down over her face.
She later said of the day, “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.”
67. Her Diamond Jubilee Trust has enabled over 100,000 people to have eye surgery
The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has enabled over 100,000 people to have sight-saving surgery; treated more than 22 million people with antibiotics to reduce the spread of trachoma; built or upgraded over 81,000 latrines and washing facilities to prevent the spread of infection; screened over 13,000 babies for retinopathy of prematurity; and screened more than 200,000 people for diabetic retinopathy.
68. She has conducted hundreds of investitures
The Queen has conducted over 650 investitures throughout her reign.
69. She has been awarded the George Cross
The Queen has awarded the George Cross – given for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger” – collectively to just two groups over the course of her reign: officers and families of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for their bravery during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and, most recently, to NHS staff for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
70. She appeared alongside “James Bond” at the 2012 Olympics
As part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, fictional secret agent “James Bond” escorted the Queen from Buckingham Palace to the Olympic Stadium by helicopter before they both appeared to parachute into the event.
Additional reporting by PA