Quirks & Perks: 16 British Royal Family Facts

Taking a turn around the official British Royal Monarchy website, I found myself clicking on ‘latest job vacancies’. I understand that the position of ‘Prince Williams’ sweetheart’ has been filled by Kate Middleton, but I was rather disappointed to discover that Court Jester, Queen and Princess are also not currently being advertised.

Perhaps I need to give more thought to my possible career change. After all, what does it really entail, being a member of the Royal Family? Before dedicating myself to a life of buttery crumpet treats I decided to do a bit more digging and was shocked to discover that one of the best London tourist attractions, the Queen, really has her work cut out for her!

As the country eagerly awaits the arrival of the royal heir, we take a look at what the little Prince or Princess has to look forwards to…

Tea for Two: HM & PM

  • When she resides in London, the Queen meets with the prime minister every Tuesday.

Throughout Her Majesty’s reign she has met with a whopping ten prime ministers including Winston Churchill back in 1951-55, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and now David Cameron. Can you imagine the afternoon tea!?

Special Delivery

  • The Queen has sent approximately 110,000 telegrams to centenarians and 520,000 telegrams to couples celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.

Some people don’t see the point of keeping the Royal Family, but a birthday card from Her Majesty does have a certain ring to it. She might not be running the country but she is still a busy lady.

In 1917 just seven men and 17 women received these congratulatory telegrams from the Queen but in 2007, the figure had risen to 8,439.

Happy Birthday!

  • The Queen celebrates her birthday twice a year.

My birthday is in grey, cold and dreary January. And try as I might, my Mum would not let me exchange it for a date in spring or summer. The Queen however, can do just what she likes. Her real birthday is the 21st April when she enjoys a private celebration. But there is also a public event in June called the Trooping of the Colours. Lucky thing!

A number of unusual birthday gifts such as jaguars, sloths and beavers are now cared for by London Zoo, but she also felt vert privileged to receive a pineapple, a box of snail shells, 7kg of prawns and some eggs.

Britain is at war with…

  • Only the Sovereign can declare war or peace.

As Head of the Armed Forces, the Queen also has the daunting of declaring war and peace, although she can only exercise this power on the advice of ministers. As Princess Elizabeth, she joined the Auxillary Territorial Service in 1945 and became the first female member of the Royal Family to be a full-time active member of the Armed Services. You might not have seen her doing it, but The Queen can in fact drive. She learnt when she joined the army.

“Arise Sir…”

  • The Queen is in charge of conferring all titles of honour including life peerages, knighthoods and gallantry awards.

As ‘fountain of honour’ it is the Queen’s responsibility to award member of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces with honorary medals. Nominations are recommended to the Queen via the Ministry of Defence. The two highest awards include the Victoria Cross and the George Cross which both award bravery and gallantry, but the George Cross can be awarded to both civilians and members of the Armed Forces.

Anybody can make a recommendation for a British national to receive an honour. Just fill in the form! If successful the recipient will be invited to a ceremony, known as an Investiture to receive their award. If you are receiving a knighthood, you are required to kneel and The Queen will dub you with a sword belonging to her father King George VI. If a member of a clergy is to be knighted, they are not dubbed – the use of a sword is thought inappropriate and they may not adopt the title ‘Sir’. Unfortunately the words ‘Arise, Sir…’ are not used. Boooo!

Fit for a queen

  • Anything labelled ‘by appointment’ means that certain members of the Royal Family eat, drink or use it.

Companies that have supplied goods or services to the The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales for a minimum of five consecutive years are granted a Royal warrant as a mark of recognition. This allows the company to use the legend ‘By Appointment’ and the Royal Coat of arms on their product.

Royal Visits

  • The Queen receives about 1,000 invitations every year.

It would be impossible for Her Majesty to accept all these invitations, therefore other members of the Royal Family can be called upon to attend in her stead. In your application, you can state which member of the Royal Family you prefer to have visit. The Royal Family receives and answer 100,000 letters every year and as a whole, undertakes about 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and abroad.

No queue at passport control

  • The Queen does not require a British passport.

Because passports are issued in the name of Her Majesty, I guess it seemed a bit odd to allow herself to issue one for herself.

A bit quackers

  • The Crown claims ownership of all mute swans.

Dating back to the 12th century, the birds were a traditional favourite at banquets and feasts. The right of ownership is still in existence today for any swans in open water but in reality, it is only exercised by The Queen in certain parts of the river Thames. And of course, they are no longer served as dinner! Check out this video about Swan Upping – the annual census of the swan population around the river Thames…

God save the Queen

  • The words and tune of the National Anthem remain anonymous.

The National Anthem dates back to the 17th century. The song sprang up at a time of patriotic fervour so there is no official version of the National Anthem. There are lots of verses, but only the first is usually sung.

The Diamond Jubilee

  • The official emblem for the Diamond Jubilee was designed by a ten-year old.

The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 – 60 years after she inherited the throne. An illustration by ten-year-old Katherine Dewar from Chester won an organised national competition to design the official emblem to mark the event.

Making art history

  • The image of The Queen on the UK postage stamp is the most reproduced work of art in history.

Arnold Machin designed the image of Her Majesty in 1967 and it has remained unchanged and with over 200 billion examples produced so far.

Back in the day, a national might never have seen their King or Queen, therefore having the monarch’s head on the coin or note was a useful tool in spreading the likeness, especially before TVs were around. So far there have been four representations of The Queen circulating on the coin.

Flying the Flag

  • The Royal Standard indicates the Queen is in residence, not the Union Jack.

The Royal Standard is a flag which represents the Sovereign and United Kingdom. The flag is flown when The Queen is in residence in any of the Royal Palaces, on Her Majesty’s car on official journeys – although I heard that hubby The Duke of Edinburgh likes to drive around in the black cab with his wife in the back seat! – and on aircraft (when on the ground).

Don’t confuse the Royal Standard with the Union Jack – if the Union Jack is flying above Buckingham Palace, then The Queen is not in residence. Unlike the Union Jack, the Royal Standard is never flown at half mast to indicate a death because there is always a Sovereign on the throne – a new monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor.

The Queen also has her own personal flag – one that does not include the UK. It consists of the initial ‘E’ with the Royal crown and a chaplet of roses. Other children of the Sovereign also have their own personal flags.

The Crown Jewels

  • During the Second World War, the Crown Jewels were hidden in a secret location, which has never been revealed.

The crown Jewels consist of treasures acquired by English kings and queens since 1660. Many are used at coronations and ceremonies.


  • No Roman Catholic, or anyone married to a Roman Catholic can hold the English Crown. The Sovereign must swear to maintain the Church of England.

Ahead of the times

  • The Queen sent her first email in 1976 from an army base.

The Royal Family might feel like a dusty relic from the past at times, but they are certainly embracing technology. Her Majesty launched Buckingham Palaces’ first official website in 1997 and you can even follow the Royal Family on Twitter!

London: How to be English

Thanks to Tom BKK, stev.ie, Zan Wheelock, googlisti, Ha-Wee and ThisParticularGreg for the images off Flickr! Please note all images were permitted for use at time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.

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