This month Her Majesty The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday. She is the most famous woman in the world, and almost every single one of her ninety years has been lived in the public eye. However there are still a number of facts about our Queen which you may not be aware of. Here are some of her more surprising sides!
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We all know about Her Majesty’s love of corgis, but most people don’t know that she invented a new breed of dog. During her reign, The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis. The first was called Susan, and was a present for her 18th birthday. A large proportion of her later corgis have been direct descendants of Susan, and she is currently believed to have five corgis. Three of the Queen’s corgis – Monty, Willow and Holly – appeared in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony film with James Bond (portrayed by Daniel Craig).
When one of Her Majesty’s corgis was mated with a dachshund belonging to Princess Margaret, the ‘dorgi’ was invented. In 2006, The Queen had four dorgis, called Cider, Berry, Vulcan and Candy. She also owns a number of cocker spaniels.
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The Queen is the only living head of state to have served in World War II, and the only female member of the Royal Family to have ever entered the armed forces. She begged her father for months to let her pitch into the war effort, and eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. Known as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, she trained in London as a mechanic and military truck driver, earning her driving licence in the process.
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The Queen has always had a keen interest in horses and horse racing. Her Majesty’s first pony was a gift from her grandfather, King George V, when she was just four years old – Shetland pony no less, named Peggy. Since then the Queen has become involved in horse breeding. Horses bred at the Royal studs have won virtually every major race in Britain over the last 200 years., and the Queen has around 25 horses in training every season. At 90, the Queen is still a keen rider.
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She may be a great grandma, but The Queen has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technological advancement. In 1953 The Queen allowed television cameras into Westminster Abbey for the first time during a State occasion for her Coronation. In the weeks running up to the event, an extra half a million TV sets were sold. In 1957 she gave the first live Christmas Broadcast on television, and focused on the benefits of technology in the speech.
In 1958 it was The Queen who made the first ‘trunk’ or long-distance call, from Bristol to Edinburgh. In 1976 she was the first Monarch to send an email during a visit to an army base. And in 1997 she launched www.royal.gov.uk during a visit to Kingsbury High School in Brent.
The Queen’s speech became a podcast for the first time in 2006, and she launched the first Royal Channel on YouTube in 2007. The following year, she uploaded a video to YouTube during a visit to the Google offices in London. Three official Royal Twitter accounts were launched in 2009, and the Queen sent her first tweet in 2014 to mark the opening of the Information Age exhibition at the Science Museum.
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The Royal Family has a long association with racing pigeons, stretching back to 1996 when King Leopold II of Belgium made a gift of racing pigeons to the family. In 1990 one of The Queen’s birds took part in the Pau race, coming first in the Section 5th Open, and being named ‘Sandringham Lightning’ as a result. The Queen is patron of a number of racing societies, including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association.
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To celebrate her Golden Jubilee, in June 2002 The Queen hosted the first ever public concerts in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. She attended both the classical and pop concerts, and ‘Party at the Palace’, the pop concert, was watched by 200 million viewers around the world, making it one of the most watched concerts in history.
The Queen became the first member of the Royal Family to be awarded a gold disc from the record industry, after 100,000 copies of the CD from ‘Party at the Palace’ sold within the first week of release.
In 2004 The Queen invited the cast of Les Miserables to perform at Windsor Castle for the French President. It was the first time the case of a West End musical had performed at a Royal residence.
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While our Queen may not have ever been into space, her words are immortalised there. The Queen sent a message of congratulations to the Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing on 21st July 1969. The message was microfilmed and left on the moon in a metal container. The first man on the moon, the first woman in space and the first astronaut in space have all been visitors to Buckingham Palace.
Exotic Animal Handler
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During her reign, The Queen has been given a number of unusual gifts, including a variety of live animals. More unusual animals are placed in the care of London Zoo, including jaguars and sloths from Brazil, and black beavers from Canada. Her Majesty has also been given a grove of maple trees.
Christmas Pudding Giver
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Everyone knows that the Queen sends telegrams to people on their 100th birthday, but did you know that she’s sent over 100,000 of them to centenarians in the UK and the Commonwealth? She’s also sent over 300,000 telegrams to couples celebrating their diamond wedding anniversaries.
Following a custom established by King George V, every year the Queen gives Christmas puddings to staff that serve the Royal Family. During her reign she has given over 100,000 Christmas puddings out, as well as annual presents to all her members of staff.