Queen Elizabeth II was the United Kingdom’s ruling monarch from 1952 until September 8, 2022 at the age of 96. Having ruled for 70 years and 214 days, she was the longest reigning monarch in British history. As Queen, she has witnessed many of the most monumental events in modern history, and has presided over 15 prime ministers. As the world reacts to the news of her death, below are seven surprising facts you might not have known about the late Queen Elizabeth II.
1. Queen Elizabeth II has survived at least 3 assassination attempts.
As a public figure and head of one of the most powerful countries in the world, the Queen was exposed to multiple risks, including assassination. First, in 1970, an unknown person placed a log on the tracks of the queen’s train, apparently hoping to derail it. Luckily, the train was not fast enough for it to derail, and the train conductor had already seen the log and pulled the brakes. Second, a man by the name of Christopher John Lewis attempted to fire a shot at the Queen in 1981 in New Zealand. However, he was too far away to hit his target. Finally, British Citizen Michael Fagan broke into the Queen’s bedroom carrying a broken glass ashtray, but she was able to flee and alert the police. His exact intentions were never known, but it is thought that he may have wanted to harm the Queen.
2. Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to address US Congress in history.
In 1991, the Queen and Prince Phillip toured the USA for almost two weeks. During that trip, she addressed a joint session the US Congress, meaning members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives were in attendance. During her speech, she discussed the Gulf War, as well as the future role of the UK and the US on the world stage. Although other British leaders, such as Winston Churchill, have addressed Congress before, Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to do so.
3. Queen Elizabeth II was the sixth woman to become the ruling queen of Britain.
Although more women have claimed the title or tried unsuccessfully to seize it, only six have successfully ascended to the throne. Some of them are considered to be among the most successful British Monarchs. In order of ascendance, they are: Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II.
4. Queen Elizabeth II is the third British monarch to pay income tax.
To this day, the Queen of Britain is not legally required to pay taxes. However, in 1992, she opted voluntarily to pay income tax, and had continued doing so throughout her life. Before her, Queen Victoria paid income taxes, as did King George VI, Elizabeth II’s father.
5. At the time of her death, Queen Elizabeth II was head of state in 15 different countries.
As different countries gained their independence from the British Empire, some decided to keep the Queen as their head of state. This role is largely symbolic, as neither the Queen nor the British government have any official say in how these countries decide to act. Throughout her rule, she was head of state in 32 countries, but by September 2022 she held the title in 15 states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, New Zealand, Australia, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and, of course, UK.
6. Queen Elizabeth II was the last head of state to have served in World War II.
As a princess during World War II, Elizabeth II enrolled in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was the women’s branch of the British military. This made her the first woman in the royal family to serve in the Royal Forces. During her time in the army, she was trained as a mechanic and driver, learning to deconstruct and repair engines, as well as drive different vehicles such as trucks and ambulances.
7. Queen Elizabeth II accidentally invented a new dog breed.
Queen Elizabeth II was famously fond of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, having owned over 30 of them throughout her reign. In 1971, one of the queen’s corgis mated with Princess Margaret’s dachshund, creating a brand new dog breed: the dorgi.
Per the British line of succession, the Queen’s eldest son, King Charles III, is now the reigning King of Britain.