15 surprising – and relatively unknown – facts about Queen Elizabeth II

·6-min read
Photo credit: Sean Gallup - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Gallup - Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at the age of 96. The announcement has saddened the nation, with droves of royal fans and celebrities taking to social media to share their condolences.

As the world mourns the loss of the longest-reigning monarch in British history, many of us are fondly looking back at her life. From her loving relationship with Prince Philip (who passed away last year at the age of 99) to her most memorable fashion moments and iconic feminist moves, there's so much to remember about Her Majesty – and there's still more to learn, too.

Despite being perhaps one of the most famous people on the planet, surprisingly there are still plenty of lesser-known and unexpected facts about Queen Elizabeth II, from world records to her role in WWII...

Unknown facts about Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen didn't need a driving license to drive

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

Unlike the rest of us, who have to take a test (or five) in order to legally drive a car, Her Majesty followed no such rule. In fact, the monarch is the only person in the UK who did not need to have a driver's license in order to drive on public roads. Not only that, but The Queen did not hold a passport either – that's because both documents were issued in her name, meaning she was not required to have either: a privilege held by the sovereign alone.

The Queen was better travelled than any British monarch before her

Photo credit: Serge Lemoine - Getty Images
Photo credit: Serge Lemoine - Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II was better travelled than any British monarch that reigned before her. During her reign she visited over 100 countries, including Canada 22 times and France 13 times.

The Queen owned a Greggs pastry shop (sort of)

Through the British Crown’s estate empire, the Queen owned (or part-owned) fourteen retail parks and three shopping centres – one of which included Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham where you can enjoy a very royal Greggs.

The Queen had her own private ATM

While it’s rare that the Queen would need access to cash, she did have a private ATM in the basement of Buckingham Palace. Courtesy of Coutts bank, the ATM is strictly for members of the Royal Family only. Fancy one for yourself? Tatler reports that banking at Coutts is free of charge, as long as you have around £1.3 million to pop into your account. That sadly rules us out, then.

The Queen volunteered as a truck driver during World War II

Photo credit: Keystone - Getty Images
Photo credit: Keystone - Getty Images


Before taking the throne over from her father, the then-Princess Elizabeth volunteered as a truck driver and mechanic during World War II – making her the first female member of the Royal Family to serve in the military.

The Queen bought her wedding dress with ration coupons

Photo credit: Hulton Deutsch - Getty Images
Photo credit: Hulton Deutsch - Getty Images

Speaking of World War II, due to post-war austerity measures in the UK, the then-Princess Elizabeth had to use clothing ration coupons to purchase the material for her wedding dress. According to British Heritage, the government allowed her 200 extra ration coupons to make the purchase.

The Queen washed her own dishes

Given that she was more often associated with the Crown Jewels than a pair of Marigolds, you might be surprised to find out that on many occasions, Her Majesty actually washed her own dishes. Speaking to The Telegraph, royal expert and author Harry Mount recalled that a former royal courtier once told him: 'I was once at a shooting lunch. At the end of lunch, I heard someone say, "I’ll do the washing-up". I turned around and there was the Queen in her yellow washing-up gloves.'

The Queen sent out over 300,000 cards to her royal fans

As part of her role as head of the British Monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II sent over 300,000 congratulatory cards to people celebrating their 100th birthdays, and over 900,000 messages to couples marking their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary.

The Queen owned over 30 corgis

Photo credit: Matt Green - Getty Images
Photo credit: Matt Green - Getty Images

It's no secret that the Queen loved her corgis – but it may come as a surprise to learn that she had over 30 of them in her lifetime, even having as many as nine at any one time. Most of Her Majesty's corgis were descended from her first corgi, Susan, who was gifted to her on her eighteenth birthday in 1944. Some of her other corgis included Candy, Lissy and Monty. Adorable!

The Queen sat for over 200 official portraits

Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images


In a world of selfies and Snapchats, sitting for a painted portrait isn't something that many of us will be familiar with, but the same can't be said for Her Majesty – who sat for over 200 official portraits (both painted and photographed) during her reign. The first ever official portrait of the Queen was commissioned back in 1933 when she was just seven years old.

The Queen bathed every morning in seven inches of water

Yep, sounds very specific, we know. But, turns out, Her Majesty was a very specific woman. In fact, every morning whilst she drank her cup of breakfast tea, the Queen's maid would run her a bath. 'The bath [had] to be exactly the right temperature: tested with a wooden-cased thermometer, and no more than seven inches of water,' revealed Angela Kelly, the Queen’s former personal assistant.

The Queen opened Sydney Opera House

Photo credit: Fairfax Media - Getty Images
Photo credit: Fairfax Media - Getty Images

When you think of Australia, it's likely that the first image to pop into your head is that of the Sydney Opera House. It's only fitting then that the most recognisable building in the country was opened by one of the most widely revered women in the world – the monarch opened the now-iconic Australian landmark on 20 October 1973.

The Queen carried out tens of thousands of engagements

Across her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II carried out a whopping 21,000 royal engagements – talk about busy!

The Queen sent a message to the Moon

To congratulate the Apollo 11 astronauts on the first moon landing (21 July 1969), a pre-recorded message from Her Majesty was deposited on the Moon in a metal container.

The Queen spoke fluent French

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images


Her Majesty spoke fluent French and frequently used the language during audiences and royal engagements when visiting.

Queen Elizabeth II's world records

  • Her Majesty was the longest-reigning monarch in British history

  • The Queen held the Guinness World Record for being the oldest British queen (Her Majesty's great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, previously held the record at age 81)

  • Queen Elizabeth II held the record for most currencies featuring the same individual

  • The monarch held the record for being the wealthiest Queen in the world

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