New portrait of the Queen unveiled to mark historic Platinum Jubilee
On the eve of four days of celebrations in the UK for the Platinum Jubilee, the Queen thanked the nation for "the goodwill shown to me" and said she was looking to the future with "confidence and enthusiasm." She said "many happy memories" will be made on this historic occasion, and thanked the nation as a new portrait of her was unveiled to mark the historic occasion, the likes of which will never be seen again.
The Queen, who is now 96 years old, is celebrating 70 years of her reign, said she hopes the festivities will give people an opportunity to reflect on the country's achievements since 1952, when the world was a completely different place than it is now, and to look back over those seven decades, here are 70 facts you may not know about Her Majesty.
1). On 9th 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, Her Majesty 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). The Queen is better travelled than any British monarch before her. Within the Commonwealth alone, she has made over 150 visits during her reign.
3). The Queen has visited over 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). Her first solo public engagement (as Princess Elizabeth) was on 21st April 1942, her sixteenth birthday, when she inspected the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle.
5). The Queen has carried out more than 21,000 engagements over the course of her reign.
6). Her Majesty has given Royal Assent to approximately 4,000 Acts of Parliament.
7). 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 Walęsa of Poland (1991) and President Barack Obama of the USA (2011).
8). Her Majesty is currently Patron of over 500 organisations, including: over 70 education and training organisations; over 60 sports and recreational organisation; over 30 faith organisations; and over 40 arts and cultural organisations.
9). 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). At least 35 countries have issued coinage with the image of The Queen on them.
11). She has held over 50 ranks and appointments in the British and Commonwealth Armed Services during her lifetime.
12). 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). Her Majesty 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). 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). The Royal Collection, held in trust by Her Majesty 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). Over 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). There have been 14 Presidents of the United States during Her Majesty’s reign, and, except for President Johnson (1963-9), Her Majesty has met each one.
18). 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 during her reign, most of which have been descended from her first Corgi, Susan, who was gifted to her on her eighteenth birthday in 1944.
20). 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). Her Majesty 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). 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). Her Majesty’s first 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). 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). In 1953 Her Majesty made the first Christmas broadcast from overseas, broadcasting live from New Zealand. In the broadcast, Her Majesty 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). The Royal Yacht Britannia was first used by The Queen when she embarked with The Duke of Edinburgh on 1st 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). On 26th March 1976, Her Majesty 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). In 1986 The Queen became the first British Monarch to visit China.
29). Her Majesty was the first British monarch to address the United States House of Congress, on 16th May 1991.
30). 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). In 2009 Her Majesty 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). 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, Her Majesty 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). Her Majesty 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. Her Majesty began the speech that she gave at the State Banquet in Irish, saying, "A Uachtaráin agus a chairde" (President and friends).
34). 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). Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their Platinum Wedding Anniversary in 2017, the first time a reigning Monarch had done so.
36). To mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was held on 3rd 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 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 greatest number of countries that Her Majesty has visited in one trip is 14. This was during her 1966 trip to the Caribbean.
39). In 1966 The Queen presented England 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). In September 1966 Her Majesty visited the British Aircraft Corporation’s facilities in Filton, Bristol, and inspected the progress of the Concorde project. Her Majesty first flew in Concorde in 1977 and went on to use it for several overseas tours before it was retired in 2003.
41). In 1973 The Queen opened the Sydney Opera House.
42). Following Her Majesty's 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. Her Majesty sat in the front row of Quinn’s show next to Dame Anna Wintour before presenting the award.
43). 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). Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh were married on 20th November 1947 in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty, 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 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). 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). Prior to its decommissioning in 1997, many of Her Majesty’s official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia. She was launched by Her Majesty on 16th 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). Her Majesty 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 was issued.
49). The Queen sent a message of congratulations to Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on the 21st July 1969. The message was microfilmed and deposited on the moon in a metal container. You are here.
50). In 2016 Her Majesty 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). 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). During her reign, Her Majesty 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). 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, currently Her Majesty’s main residence, is the oldest and largest occupied palace in the world.
55). The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21st 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). Her Majesty’s first pony was given to her by her grandfather, King George V. The Shetland pony was called Peggy.
57). 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 and has often used the language during audiences and State Visits.
59). 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). Sir Winston Churchill, Her Majesty's first Prime Minister, became a Member of Parliament during the reign of The Queen’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
61). 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 Sea Ranger Commodore in 1945.
62). In 1969 The Queen was given a black mare, named Burmese, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The former Service horse was ridden by Her Majesty for Trooping the Colour for eighteen consecutive years from 1969 to 1986.
63). Her Majesty, 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’s Coronation dress was designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell. He submitted nine different designs and Her Majesty accepted the eighth.
65). Her Majesty’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). On 8th 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). The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has enabled over 100,000 people to have sight-saving surgery; treated over 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 over 200,000 people for diabetic retinopathy.
68). Her Majesty has conducted over 650 investitures throughout her reign.
69). 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). As part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, secret agent James Bond escorted The Queen from Buckingham Palace to the Olympic Stadium by helicopter before they both parachuted into the event.
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