As Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II is a worldwide symbol of nobility, grace, and duty. Despite having lived her life in front of the camera for decades, Her Majesty is an intensely private woman who believes in maintaining the mystery of the monarchy and who has kept her personal preferences and private life largely under wraps. Perhaps that’s why these 13 little-known facts about the devoted wife, doting grandmother, and independent woman are so delightfully charming.
She married her third cousin.
Yes, the Queen and Prince Philip have the same great-great-grandparents: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were first cousins themselves. This makes them third cousins.
She was only 13 when she fell for Prince Philip.
Princess Elizabeth was just a pre-teen when she met the dashing 18-year-old Philip Mountbatten, who was then a cadet in the British navy. The two corresponded for several years while he was away at sea. By the time Elizabeth was 17, she knew he was the man she wanted to marry.
And they were secretly engaged for three years.
In 1946, the press spotted Philip helping the princess put on her coat at her cousin’s wedding and noticed the connection between them. The couple was secretly engaged at the time, but the Palace waited three years, until Elizabeth was 21, to make the official announcement.
Her marriage to Prince Philip set a record.
Elizabeth and Philip’s royal love story has stood the test of the time. They’ve been married for a head-spinning 73 years! In 2007, Her Majesty became the first British monarch to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary when they reached the milestone of 60 years of marriage.
Philip nicknamed her after a vegetable.
The Queen is affectionately known as “cabbage” by her husband. No one knows why for certain, but The Sunday Times surmised in 2006 that it might have originated with the French phrase “mon petit chou,” which translates to both “my little cabbage” and “my little pastry puff.”
She’s a big Downton Abbey fan.
The Queen never missed an episode of the beloved British period drama and is said to have enjoyed pointing out the series’ rare historical errors to anyone who’s watched it with her. (There’s never been any official word on whether or not she watches Netflix’s The Crown, though.)
She eats a surprisingly un-royal breakfast.
Despite having a royal chef and a kitchen staff who could whip up whatever her heart desires, the Queen’s favorite breakfast is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, which she keeps in a Tupperware container on the breakfast table during her meal.
She has a drink before lunch every day.
Her Majesty is said to enjoy a daily cocktail of gin and Dubonnet ahead of her midday meal. Bottoms up!
She worked as a mechanic during World War II.
King George VI did not want his daughter to enlist, but he eventually relented. Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, making her the only female member of the royal family to have entered the military.
She toiled as a mechanic and truck driver during the war. Thanks to the skills she learned, she’s been known to tinker with the Range Rovers at Balmoral on occasion when there’s trouble under the hood.
She’s decided not to adopt more corgis.
The Queen has owned more than 30 Pembroke Welsh corgis during her lifetime, all of which were descendants of her first corgi, Susan. The last one, Willow, died in 2018. While there are still a few dorgis (a mixed breed of dachshund and corgi) in the royal household, the Queen reportedly told her staff she would not bring another corgi to Buckingham Palace because of her advanced age.
She Skypes with her great-grandchildren.
By all accounts, the Queen is a devoted great-grandmother who is extremely close to her growing brood of great grandchildren. “Gan-Gan” (as Prince George calls her) uses Skype to stay close to the children when she’s away and always brings back little souvenirs from her travels. Kate Middleton has said the Queen likes to leave little presents in George and Princess Charlotte’s (and now, we assume, Prince Louis’) rooms when she comes for a visit.
She is the only person in the United Kingdom who’s allowed to drive without a license.
Her Majesty has never taken a driver’s test and her cars have no license plates, but the Queen has always loved to get behind the wheel. She doesn’t have a license for one simple reason: She doesn’t need one—all licenses are issued in her name in the United Kingdom. The Sunday Times reported in 2019 that Her Majesty was “reluctant” to give up driving on public roads, but did so at the request of her security team.
She attended her first fashion show in 2018.
Despite her lifetime love of fashion, the Queen only just made her first front row appearance in 2018 during London’s Fashion Week at up-and-coming designer Richard Quinn’s runway show. She was seated next to fashion maven and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Her Majesty’s chair was easy to spot—it was the only one with a special velvet cushion.