On the 21st of April 2016, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday. She may be celebrating this quietly though, as the official celebrations always take place in June; a tradition initiated by Britons in 1748 in the hope that the weather will be suitable for military parades. Here are ten things you definitely wouldn't expect about the sovereign of the United Kingdom
1. Queen Elizabeth is currently the oldest crowned head of state in the world,
but not the longest reigning - yet. She has ruled since 1952, for 63 years, however the Thai King Rama IX has been in place for nearly 70 years.
2. In addition to being Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is the
head of state of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and
Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Trinidad and Tobago! In these far-flung places she is not the head of government
but of state, and in a moral rather than a political capacity.
3. Elizabeth is the Queen, but her husband is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Although women marrying members of the royal family receive an equivalent title, men keep their own rank; the husband of Queen Victoria also remained
Price Albert throughout his life.
4. The Queen holds the world record of official visits, and is actually the most
widely travelled head of state in history.
5. The Queen needs no interpreter when visiting France as she speaks the
language fluently, which she learnt from French housekeepers in her childhood.
6. Her birthday menu may include swan. The sovereign owns all the mute swans
of the UK, but only eats those surrounding Windsor Castle, where there is even a “protector of the swans” attached to the royal household. It is illegal
for almost any non-royal to eat swan, apart from fellows of St. John's College, Cambridge!
7. The Queen gifts her official household staff with a Christmas pudding
every year, and has given away nearly 90 000 of these traditional desserts since the start of her reign.
8. During official visits Elizabeth receives a great number of gifts. These must
all be officially declared - and are seen as presents to Britain, rather than to its monarch (a rule applying to the whole royal family.) One recent
and extraordinary gift is a model of the Brandenburg Gate, made entirely from marzipan and offered by the German President.
9. Her Majesty receives an average of 80 000 letters each year, mostly treated
by her secretaries rather than herself, however she personally writes to all her subjects reaching 100 years - as well as couples celebrating their
diamond wedding (that’s 60 years of marriage.)
10. The Queen is the only person in the UK who is not required to hold a passport.
She also has no driving licence, yet is fully authorised to drive. In 1998 Her Majesty even drove King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in a country where women
are not allowed to take the wheel. Queen Elizabeth really is full of surprises…