Little Known Facts About The British Royal Family

May 14, 2024 | Miles Brucker

Little Known Facts About The British Royal Family

"Being born into the Royal Family is like being born into a mental asylum. Marrying into it is not something to be taken lightly". —John Lydon

The Royal Family attracts media attention and adoration from people everywhere they go. Whether we're talking about Charles or Camilla, Will or Harry, Kate or Meghan, Prince Philip or the Queen herself,  since the beginning of the twentieth century the British Royal Family has sought to increase their public profile to seem more like they are a part of the British people as a whole. As a result, British society has made them a big part of the news cycle, especially in the Tabloid Press. So who are the Royal Family? Where do they come from, and where are they going? Here are facts about the current figures who make up the British monarchy.

1. You Look Familiar

The famous Madame Tussauds wax museum has for a long time housed figures of Queen Elizabeth II. To this date, there have been a total of 23 life-size models of The Queen displayed in the museum.

The British Royal Family

2. Parlez-Vous Francais?

The Queen was fluent in French. She often spoke the language while hosting guests at Buckingham Palace, and when she traveled to France she did not need to make use of an interpreter.


Royal familyWikipedia

3. By Decree

What we currently understand to encompass the British Royal Family can be traced back to a letters patent published in the London Gazette by King George V in 1917. The decree defined the styles and titles of the Royal Family, which has only been changed twice since: in 1996 and 2012.


Royal familyWikipedia

4. Rough Patch

Kate Middleton, now officially holding the title of Princess of Wales, almost never made it into the Royal Family. Although she had a long-term relationship with Prince William, the pair split for a brief period in 2007 before deciding to give it another shot. Clearly it stuck this time.

Royal familyFlickr

5. Charitable

The Princess of Wales leads a busy life with her philanthropic work. Her charity work often focuses on young children, the arts, and addiction. She holds a number of patronages, including “Action on Addiction,” “The Natural History Museum,” and The Art Room.

Royal familyFlickr

6. By Degrees

King Charles broke with tradition when he decided to receive a formal university education at Cambridge. He received a degree in history, though his work was far from the most compelling. He received a 2:2 degree.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons


7. Incognito in the Crowd

During Victory in Europe Day, people flooded the streets of London celebrating the end to so much dying and destruction. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret convinced their family that they should be allowed to join in the celebrations, and they were allowed to go out into the streets and participate  anonymously.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

8. Sounds Greek to Me

It’s difficult to imagine a time when he was anything but a British consort, but Prince Philip was not British at all. He was born to both the Greek and Danish royal families in the Greek Island of Corfu on June 10, 1921. The man who would marry the Head of the English Church was christened, instead, as a Greek Orthodox.

Royal familyWikipdia

9. Royally Ejected

Philip spent the first years of his life in royal exile. The Turkish War with Greece (1919-1922) put the royal family in a bad place, with Philip’s uncle King Constantine I forced to abdicate his title; Philip’s own father, Prince Andrew, was even apprehend by authorities. By 1922, the family fled to France, with baby Philip hidden inside of a fruit box as his royal cot.


Royal familyWikipedia

10. Somebody’s Watching Me

Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding at Westminster Abbey was broadcast by BBC radio to 200 million listeners worldwide. In the days before the blockbuster TV broadcast of King Charles and Diana’s or Prince William and Kate’s weddings, those were some really impressive numbers for radio.

Royal familyWikipedia

11. Saying Farewell

Princess Diana’s funeral was televised across Britain and around the globe on September 6, 1997. The funeral amassed one of the highest-ever viewing figures in the United Kingdom. At its highest viewing peak, 32.1 million viewers tuned in to the state funeral.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

12. Sacrifice

When she agreed to marry Prince Harry, Meghan Markle had to undergo some major changes to her life. She started studying to become a British citizen, she deleted her social media presence, and she was baptised into the Church of England.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

13. Your Invitations Were Lost in World War II

Despite the humongous global audience of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s wedding, the groom’s surviving three sisters were not in attendance. Why? They were married to German princes, some of whom had Nazi political connections. World War II had just ended. Understandably, such guests would not fly well with the people. In fact, none of Philip’s German relatives were present.

Royal familyWikipedia

14. Off With Her Heels!

The Queen’s corgis were known to be a bit troublesome. Several times the dogs nipped staff, the family, and even the Queen herself! In 1968, Peter Doig demanded that a “Beware of the Dog” sign be erected out front of Balmoral after one of the corgis went after the postman. But, I mean, it’s the postman, what’s a dog to do?

Royal familyFlickr

15. Attention!

It’s tradition for princes to embark on combat training. When he was a prince, King Charles trained with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. He served on the guided missile destroyer the HMS Norfolk and the frigates HMS Minerva and HMS Jupiter.

Royal familyFlickr

16. Rules of Engagement

There are strict conventions dictating how British subjects should behave towards the monarch, should they have the fortune of meeting her. She is to be addressed first as “Your Majesty”, then as “ma’am” or "sir". British subjects and subjects of other Commonwealth nations are expected to greet the monarch with a curtsy or bow, and while Americans are not expected to do this, should you find yourself in the monarch's company, it would be the polite thing to do.

Royal familyFlickr

17. Speaking of manners...

Selfies are super popular these days, but if you meet the monarch, asking to take a photo with them is an absolute faux pas. Queen Elizabeth was quoted as saying that she found it “disconcerting” and “strange” when she looked at her subjects only to see the backs of their phones while they photographed her. 

Royal familyPixabay

18. Annus Horribilis

The marriages of Queen Elizabeth II’s three divorced children all ended in one tragic year: 1992. Princes Charles and Andrew, and their wives Princess Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York, were dragged through the media by tabloids, which in Britain can be even more sensational than those in the US. The affair between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles as well as his wife Princess Diana’s infidelities were much-publicized. In addition, on November 20, 1992 (the Queen’s wedding anniversary) a fire broke out in Windsor Castle, the Queen’s residence, causing extensive damage. Elizabeth would later refer to 1992 as annus horribilis, Latin for “horrible year”.

Royal familyFlickr

19. Fly-Boy

King Charles was, for a while, an avid pilot based on his training in the RAF. He flew regularly until 1994, when he crashed a BAe 146 in Scotland. He was unharmed in the crash, but thought better of taking off again.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

20. Built Environments

King Charles’ biggest philanthropic endeavors often concern city life and built environments. He has frequently commented on his desire to preserve a strong architectural sense in Britain and has publicly denounced building renovations that he feels to be too modern.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

21. Room With a View

In 1987, King Charles published a book and correlating BBC documentary called A Vision of Britain. The documentary was an attempt to campaign on behalf of traditional urbanism, where restoration of historic buildings and sustainable design were advocated for in place of modern architecture.

Royal familyPicryl

22. Out You Go

Queen Elizabeth II was born in the London house of her maternal grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She was delivered by Caesarean section.

Royal familyWikimdia.Commons

23. What’s in a Name

Elizabeth II, beloved as a figure of charm and poise, perhaps always had a twinkle about her. When she was young, close family called her “Lilibet” because as a toddler that’s how Elizabeth imagined her name sounded.

Royal familyGetty Images

24. Heir Presumptive

When she was born, not many people actually imagined that Elizabeth II would ever become queen. At the time, she was third in line to the throne behind her uncle Edward, Prince of Wales, and her father. However, Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 when his proposed marriage to Wallis Simpson prompted a constitutional crisis.

Royal familyPicryl

25. Grand Old Lady

As if to spite all those who said she'd never be Queen, Elizabeth II holds a pretty astonishing record...

Despite passing at 96 years old, she is the longest-living and longest-reigning British monarch ever. She’s also the longest-reigning monarch and longest-serving head of state anywhere in the world. She celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee on February 6, 2017, marking 65 years of her reign. She’s the only British Monarch ever to have celebrated a Sapphire Jubilee.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

26. What’s in A Name?

You don’t hear it used often, but Queen Elizabeth II did have a last name, and she got to choose it herself. Before 1917, rulers did not have surnames, they were referred to by the name of their House. George V of the House of Windsor adopted “Windsor” as his official surname in 1917, and upon her marriage to Phillip Mountbatten, the Queen and her family adopted “Windsor-Mountbatten” as her family’s surname.

Royal familyWikipedia

27. Too Many Elizabeths

Speaking of royal names...

Guidelines about the titles of ruler’s spouses explain why Queen Elizabeth was known as Elizabeth II, when her mother was also a Queen Elizabeth. After all, “Elizabeth I” refers to the first Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth I, who ruled between 1558 and 1603. So that means that Queen Elizabeth II’s mother was known as plain old Queen Elizabeth, without a numeral, as she did not technically count among the rosters of British rulers. Upon her husband’s passing in 1952, she became known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Confusing much?

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

28. Infelicitous Behavior

After marrying in 1981, Prince Charles and Princess Diana sustained a rather rocky marriage. Both were involved with extramarital affairs before they eventually divorced on August 28, 1996. The marriage troubles and divorce were major tabloid news in Britain throughout the 1990s.

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29. Where Were You During the War?

Throughout World War II, Elizabeth and her family stayed in the United Kingdom despite calls to move outside the island, with the aim of keeping Elizabeth II safe. Elizabeth’s mother refused, and instead they moved around different homes and castles, including Balmoral, Sandringham House, and Windsor Castle.

Royal familyFlickr

30. War Effort

When she was 18, Elizabeth was appointed an honorary subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where was trained as a truck driver and mechanic. Unlike the other enlistees, she remained living at Windsor Castle and did not sleep in the barracks. Elizabeth was the first female member of the royal family to join the Armed Services as a full-time, active member.

Royal familyGetty Images

31. Top Secret

In 1999, a successful request made under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the NSA, the major intelligence agency for the United States, had placed Princess Diana under surveillance. Because of national security concerns, the contents of her file cannot be revealed.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

32. Backup in Power

In times of “grave constitutional crisis”, the Queen would have the right to assume power and rule on her own, without ministerial advice, though it’s very unclear what would count as such a situation. in England, the Queen had the right to dissolve Parliament and call a general election at any time, though that power was stripped in 2011 by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

33. You Might Like Him

Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, met Prince Harry on a blind date. The date was set up by a mutual friend of the pair. Sounds like fairy-tale endings do exist!

Royal familyFlickr

34. Must Love Dogs

Queen Elizabeth II’s very last pure Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Willow, passed on in 2018—and the Queen admitted the heartbreaking reason she could no longer keep her beloved Corgis as pets. Elizabeth revealed that she just couldn’t bear to leave any of her Corgis by their lonesome after her passing, so she had to stop breeding them. She owned over 30 Corgis in her life, and at the time of her passing, still owned two dachshund/Corgi mixes named Vulcan and Candy.

Royal familyGetty Images

35. A Royal Menagerie

In addition to corgis, the Queen was often given animals as gifts during state visits. She was given two sloths by Brazil, black beavers by Canada, and an elephant by Cameroon—plus two tortoises, a chameleon, a Russian bear, a crocodile, and two pygmy hippopotami. Any live animals given to the Queen were often housed in the London Zoo.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

36. In-House ATM

Should the monarch decide to order a pizza to Buckingham Palace, they'd never be caught without cash on hand. Buckingham Palace has its own ATM for use by the royal family. Although we can imagine it would be a very weird experience paying for a pizza with money that has one’s own face on it.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

37. Nice Ink

King George V was a sensitive boy raised to carry the burden of the entire British Empire on his back. But few people know that hidden underneath his proper demeanor and noble regalia was a royal secret: George had a tattoo. Though we might find this shocking today, tattoos were quite popular in England in the 19th century. While he was on a visit to Japan in 1881, George had a local artist give him a blue and red dragon on his arm right before he was scheduled to meet the Emperor. Pretty cool, George.


Royal familyPicryl

38. I Wanna Marry “Harry”

When Harry was just young prince has no shortage of female admirers, American television network Fox took advantage of that fact in 2014 with the reality show I Wanna Marry “Harry". 12 women competed for the affections of the prince, who was played by impersonator Matthew Hicks. The show was cancelled after four barely-watched episodes.

Royal familyFlickr

39. Prince Who?

Although the world knows him as Prince Harry, Harry’s full name is actually Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor of Wales.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

40. Vegas, Baby!

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. Prince Harry learned that one the hard way, when, after a night of partying, he was caught completely undressed after playing strip billiards in some cell phone photographs taken by another party-goer. Maybe pick another destination for the bachelor party, Harry!

Royal familyFlickr

41. I Call That a Bust

During his training with the Royal Navy, Prince William spent time on active boats and submarines. One such example was a deployment on the HMS Iron Duke for five weeks while it was stationed in the Caribbean. While part of the ship’s crew, William “took part in a joint operation with the United States Coast Guard". This operation was a raid, capturing a speedboat loaded with enough coke to be worth $40 million!

Royal familyFlickr

42. Wide Awake

William later admitted that the night before his wedding, he had gotten just a half hour of sleep. His nervousness over the big day, coupled with the crowd outside of his father’s house, meant that he couldn’t get longer than hour of sleep. We’re amazed he looked so composed, to be honest.

Royal familyWikimedia.Commons

43. Christmas Gifts

Every year, the Queen sent out a Royal Christmas Message to her subjects, wishing them well and discussing the year’s events. The Christmas Message was first broadcast over the radio and then seen on television and the internet. In addition, The Queen wrote more than 45,000 Christmas cards during her reign, and gave out more than 90,000 Christmas puddings to her staff.

Royal familyFlickr

44. Prolific Correspondence

In her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II answered more than 3.5 million pieces of correspondence. She sent telegrams to Commonwealth residents on their 100th birthdays (she sent more than 175,000 of these) plus telegrams to couples celebrating a diamond wedding anniversary (another 540,000 telegrams).

Royal familyShutterstock

45. Who Wants That Attention?

Princes Harry and William were just in the early teens when they woke up to the news their mother, Princess Diana, had perished in a car crash.

Amidst the royal family’s polarizing response to Diana’s demise in 1997, it was their grandfather, Prince Philip, who convinced William and Harry to walk behind her coffin. When the young princes were apprehensive, Philip reportedly told his eldest grandson, “If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?” At the funeral, Philip, William, Harry, Charles, and Diana’s brother followed the bier all the way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, as millions watched.

Royal familyShutterstock

46. Half Mast

Until 1997, general protocol at Buckingham Palace was against flying the Union Jack at half-mast. On the day of Princess Diana’s funeral, however, The Queen ordered all flags to fly at half-mast, which has now become the usual practice during moments of national mourning or a loss in the Royal Family.


Royal familyShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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