Love them or hate them, Great Britain’s Royal Family has held millions of us spellbound since 927 AD. For those of you with dodgy maths skills, that’s a fraction less than 1,100 years of royal secrets. This feels roughly about as long as we’ve been Keeping Putting up with the Kardashians
What many people don’t realise is that the intrigue and scandal within the Royal Family are far beyond anything Kris, Kim and Khloe could have cooked up. There’s been bribery, infidelity, and even suggestions of murder, and that’s only within the last 150 years!
Of course, it’s not only the royal secrets that keep us entertained. There’s also a lot of plain quirky stuff that’s part of life in the world’s most high-profile family. To celebrate the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, we’ve had fun assembling 15 little-known facts. Put the kettle on, and settle in for an amusing and interesting read. You could also win dinner for two valued at $150, to enjoy at Aqua Restaurant – read on to find out how!
1. The Queen’s paperwork (or lack thereof)
Obviously being HM has its advantages. One of the biggest (as far as we can see it anyway) is that you needn’t bother with a lot of life’s more tedious admin. For a start, the Queen has no passport. She breezes through airports accompanied by luggage which is simply marked ‘The Queen’. Another of the royal secrets is that despite having driven since she was a teenager, she doesn’t have a Driver’s Licence. She also doesn’t have to register any of her cars. The Queen doesn’t even have to wear a seatbelt! As a final slap for us mere mortals, the Queen doesn’t vote in any elections (and she doesn’t receive a fine in the mail).
2. The lost surname
Another thing that’s missing from the lives of the royals is a last name. They just don’t have one! When you think about it, it does kind of make sense. Last names have evolved throughout history based on things like occupation and place of origin. King George V decreed one day that the family should go by ‘House of Windsor’ as a last name. The Queen must have felt a bit weird about it because she changed it in the 1960s. HM decided to adopt Prince Phillip’s last name, Mountbatten and appended it to Windsor with a hyphen. Windsor-Mountbatten. What a terribly British thing to do! Despite this decision, that name is still not recorded on royal birth certificates.
Another odd little royal secret is that Mountbatten isn’t even a ‘real’ name. Phillip’s proper last name is Battenberg. His family anglicised it during World War I due to rising anti-German sentiment.
3. The ‘Hunchback’ King
In 2012, archaeologists located a skeleton with spinal deformities buried under a carpark. They believed it was Richard III, known to be a hunchback, who had fallen in battle in Leicester. To prove it, a lot of DNA testing ensued. Scientists confirmed King Richard’s identity through mitochondrial DNA. This is DNA which passes down through the maternal line. Researchers traced it from King Richard’s sister to two relatives who are alive today.
Then things got REALLY interesting. Further DNA tests soon uncovered a family scandal. Scientists compared the Y chromosomes to male living relatives and didn’t find a match. This means that at least one man was cuckolded within the ensuing generations. It also kind of means that the line of succession in the royal family was broken. This is pretty big on the scale of royal secrets. Please don’t tell the Queen.
4. Hostage taking
The state opening of parliament is the only regular occasion on which all three bodies of parliament meet. It’s a time of pomp, circumstance and some very quaint behaviour that dates back seven centuries. To this day, HM takes a hostage for the duration of the meeting. This isn’t really one of the most well-kept royal secrets. It’s more of an odd tradition dating back to when the monarchy and the government didn’t always see eye to eye. The Monarch believed that taking a member of parliament hostage was a way to guarantee their safety.
5. Kissing cousins
If this isn’t one of the most well-kept royal secrets, it should be, because it’s a bit icky. The truth is that English royals seem to have a habit of marrying their relatives. They believed that intermarriage would strengthen their dynasties. It ensured that the throne remained ‘in the family’ so to speak. You might think that this seems like stuff that would have happened only in ancient times. Amazingly, it’s been happening until recently, and not always with the results they were hoping for.
Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert were first cousins. Together they had nine children, who they married off among the royal families of Europe. The haemophilia running through the European royal families is often attributed to intermarriage. The collapse of Europe into war in the early 1900s was also partly attributed to Victoria’s matchmaking. Even our current monarch, HM QE2 married her cousin, albeit Phillip is a third cousin. Genetic issues aren’t really a problem there (according to Charles, anyway).
6. Personal space
Living your life under the world’s microscope must wear a little thin after a while. Lucky for them, the Royals seem to have a unique way of dealing with it. The public isn’t allowed to touch members of the royal family, beyond a formal handshake. Friendly arms around shoulders are not allowed. Kisses on the cheek are strictly forbidden. Added to the this, the Royals absolutely don’t do autographs. We feel this doesn’t make sense, given it wouldn’t take them that long to scrawl one out, having only one name and all. A more recently added rule is the total veto on taking or participating in selfies. It’s simply too undignified.
Beyond the rules about physical contact, there is also a code involving the Queen’s handbag. You see, it’s more than just a receptacle for mints. It’s also called upon when HM has to socialise and make small talk during official appearances. If the Queen shifts her bag from one hand to the other, it signals that she wants to end a conversation. If she places her handbag on a table, it signals that she wants to leave within the next five minutes. The Queen’s wedding ring also has a double use. It’s believed that if she spins it with her other hand, she’s not enjoying the conversation and wants her lady-in-waiting to step in. These are the type of royal secrets that we’d love to crack!
7. Baptisms are kind of a big thing
It’s said that you should start anything as you mean to finish it. Royal baptisms are a fabulous example of that ethos. For a start, the baby wears a gown that’s made from silk and lace. Queen Victoria commissioned the dress back in 1840. The royal secret here is that it has been remade once since 1840, after QE2 deemed the original was too fragile to wear. The Lily Font has been used as the baptismal font in all royal christenings since 1841. Don’t worry – it’s still going strong. But perhaps the most quirky thing is the baptismal water. The Queen files the water in from the River Jordan, where it is believed that John the Baptist baptised Jesus.
8. Working 9 to 5 (what a way to make a living!)
When Prince William ascends to the throne, his wife Kate Middleton will be a Queen Consort, rather than a Queen Regnant. This means that she married into the position rather than being born into it. Kate will also be the first ever queen in British history to have held a corporate job. This is as opposed to being ‘employed’ by carrying out royal duties. Another ground-breaking fact is that she’s the first working-class commoner to have married into the British Royal Family.
The last little royal secret here is that she will also be the first Queen to have earned a university degree. She achieved this in Art History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Despite her level of education, she won’t be the ‘smartest’ queen ever to have reigned. That honour goes to Elizabeth I, who started studying Latin at the age of five. She also learned to speak six languages. Elizabeth I received lessons in maths, geometry, theology, philosophy, literature, and history. This was unusual at a time when girls were not considered to need education.
Queen Elizabeth II didn’t go to school at all! Her education occurred within the palace walls, delivered by a series of governesses and tutors. This is not to say that she isn’t smart. In fact, she has a very high level of understanding of British law – in particular, the constitution.
9. Chop Chop
It’s well-known that Henry the Eighth had more wives (and exes) than any other monarch. It’s also well-known that he chopped the heads off two of them. A lesser known royal secret is that he ordered, directly or indirectly, more head chopping than you could possibly believe. Estimates range from 20,000 to 72,000 heads rolling during his reign. We’re not sure how he found the time to keep up on his marriage-related hobbies.
Incidentally, Princess Anne was the first royal to re-marry after divorce since Henry VIII. She did not chop off her ex’s head.
10. Flying the unfriendly skies
Passports aside, going on holiday when you’re a royal can be a bit of a nightmare. For a start, direct heirs to the British throne can’t fly together, lest the plane crash and kill them. If that happened, the Queen might have to stay on the throne for another hundred years.
Packing for the holiday is also a downer. When any member of the royal family travels, they must pack one black outfit for mourning. This is in case someone important in the family dies while they’re travelling.
11. Georgie Porgie
Every native English speaker surely remembers this rhyme from their childhood.
Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.
Within it are rumoured to lie a couple of juicy royal secrets! Some historians believe the rhyme refers to the Prince Regent (later King) George IV, the half-wit son of crazy King George III. He was immensely fat (hence the pudding and pie reference). He also had a wicked roving eye. Ladies attending his parties were advised not to find themselves alone in a room with him (lest he ‘kiss the girls and make them cry’). Added to his dubious behaviour toward ladies, Georgie Porgie liked to watch prizefighting. This was illegal at the time. Stories have it that he was present when a bare-knuckle fight resulted in the death of one of the contenders. Such was his cowardice that he ‘ran away’ when it happened. Or waddled, most likely.
12. That’s a LOT of stamps
As you’d expect, being a royal requires you to have impeccable manners. This means that you have to reply to your fan mail. Along with her husband Phillip, QE2 has sent over 45,000 Christmas cards during her reign. After they returned from their honeymoon, Wills & Kate responded to over 60,000 letters of congratulations for their wedding. Bless them. It really is very charming.
13. Staying power
QE2 is the second longest reigning monarch. During her royal career, she has visited 116 countries in 265 official visits. This makes her the most widely-travelled monarch ever to have lived. In another epic effort, since her 18th birthday, the Queen has owned over 30 Welsh Pembrokeshire Corgis. Her very last one, Willow, died just recently. Surely that’s got to be some sort of record, too.
14. Rule, Britannia
HMY Britannia was the 83rd and very last royal yacht commissioned by a monarch. She carried the royal family on 968 official voyages until her decommissioning in 1997. The Queen must have loved her yacht. When it came into port, blowing its foghorns, the Queen would reportedly imitate the sound, much to the amusement of anyone listening. Now when the Queen wants to go on an ocean jolly, she has to hire a yacht.
As an interesting side note, we’re giving away free tastings of a very special bottle of scotch this Queen’s Birthday Weekend. One can only buy Britannia Highland Single Malt Whisky on board the HMY Britannia. A Westport Club team member bought the bottle of scotch last year while visiting the yacht in Edinburgh.
The last of our (not so) royal secrets
The very exciting conclusion to our quirky collection of facts is your chance to ‘Dine like a Queen’ this Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend.
You could win dinner for two at Aqua Restaurant – valued at $150!
To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less what you would do if you were Queen for the day. Entries close at 9.00am on Friday 8 June 2018. We will draw the winner by 5.00pm on Friday 8 June 2018. The winner will be contacted by phone and announced on The Westport Club Facebook page.
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Authorised under NSW Permit LTPM/18/02887.