1. Elizabeth’s birth in 1926 was attended by the home secretary. She became heir to the throne aged 10. She never went to school.
2. Elizabeth was given her first corgi, Susan, on her 18th birthday in 1944. Susan once bit the ankle of a royal clockwinder, Leonard Hubbard, and has her own Wikipedia page, with sections including “royal life” and “death and legacy”.
3. Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten in 1947. The cake, four tiers and 9ft (2.74 metres) tall, was baked by McVitie’s, of subsequent Hobnob fame.
4. The tradition of a senior politician attending royal births ended in 1948 with the birth of Prince Charles. Buckingham Palace said Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, felt it was “unnecessary to continue further a practice for which there is no legal requirement”.
5. One biographer said Elizabeth endured a 30-hour labour before giving birth by C-section. Philip was not present, and at one point went to play squash.
6. After George died of lung cancer on 6 February 1952, about 300,000 people filed past his coffin at Westminster Hall. Many thousands waited in queues overnight.
7. Upon receiving the news that she was now queen, Elizabeth immediately flew back from a visit to Kenya. She was 25. Many years later, she said: “In a way, I didn’t have an apprenticeship. My father died much too young.” An editorial in the Guardian read: “It is a great inheritance – and a heavy burden – that now falls to the girl who becomes Queen.”
8. The New York Times marked George’s death and Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne at the age of 25 with a three-tier, full-width headline in block capitals. Twelve years later, it marked the death of the former president Herbert Hoover in two columns.
9. Only one woman other than the Queen herself was present at her proclamation.
10. The cabinet agreed that the coronation should not take place until the following year because of severe constraints on the country’s finances. The then housing minister, Harold Macmillan, noted in his diary: “This year the bailiffs may be in; the Crown itself may be in pawn.”
11. The prime minister, Winston Churchill, was initially sceptical of the wisdom of televising the event, telling parliament: “It would be unfitting that the whole ceremony, not only in its secular but also its religious and spiritual aspects, should be presented as if it were a theatrical performance.”
12. A committee was established to decide which items could be sanctioned as official memorabilia for the coronation. The panel, chaired by Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, unanimously agreed to reject an application for crown-embroidered knickers.
13. There was some anger in Scotland that the Queen would be known as Elizabeth II, given that her predecessor had not ruled north of the border. When postboxes appeared with E II R on them, some had the II removed. They were vandalised with tar or a sledgehammer, and in one case blown apart with a gelignite bomb. From then on, Scottish pillar boxes bore the crown of Scotland instead.
14. Despite Churchill’s initial reservations, the coronation was televised. Although just 2.5m households had a television set, 40% of the country, or 20 million people, crowded into living rooms to watch it, while 12 million listened on the radio.
15. In a book of recollections of the 1950s, You’ve Never Had It So Good by Stephen F Kelly, Chris Prior – a child at the time – remembered the whole family going to watch on a tiny set at his aunt’s house. “The cat got so agitated by all the people there that it ran up the chimney then fell down, and there was soot everywhere,” he said.
16. The ceremony cost £1.57m, equivalent to about £47m today. There were 8,000 guests and 40,000 troops in the parade.
17. At least one guest, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, whose full family name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, had attended three previous coronations. She was born in 1872.
18. When Elizabeth was crowned, the British empire had 70 overseas territories and was fighting wars against independence movements in Egypt and Kenya. Between 1945 and 1965, the number of people living under British colonial rule shrank from 700 million to 5 million.
19. Average wages in 1953 were £9.25 a week. The top rate of income tax was 97.5%. The print edition of the Guardian cost 3p.
20. The rationing of sweets ended on 6 February 1953, prompting children to flock to shops in search of toffee apples and sticks of nougat.
21. During a world tour in 1954, the Queen was filmed throwing a pair of tennis shoes and a racket at Philip and shouting at him as he ran out of the chalet that they were sharing in Australia. The camera crew exposed the film and gave it to the royal press secretary. The incident was later fictionalised in The Crown.
22. According to the biographer Sally Bedell Smith, in May 1954, after their six-month absence on the tour, the Queen and Philip greeted Charles, five, and Anne, three, with handshakes.
23. Philip once gave the Queen a washing machine.
24. Andrew and Edward, born in 1960 and 1964, were the first children born to a serving monarch in a century, and are likely to remain the only ones for at least the next century, too.
25. In her book about Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage, My Husband and I, the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, Ingrid Seward, wrote that when Andrew was five, he was thrown in a heap of dung by two grooms after attempting to hit the royal horses’ legs with a large stick.
26. Seward also reports that Andrew was once given a black eye by a footman, who subsequently offered his resignation. The Queen turned it down because she assumed Andrew had deserved it.
27. In 1965, Tony Benn, then the postmaster general, attempted to win the Queen’s approval for his plan to remove her image from stamps. He got a letter saying: “The Queen was not as enthusiastic about these designs as she sometimes is.”
28. The Queen’s private secretary Lord Charteris said her greatest regret was the eight days it took her to visit Aberfan after the 1966 coal slide that killed 146 people.
29. The Queen has addressed the nation every Christmas except in 1969, when a documentary, Royal Family, was aired instead. About two-thirds of the country watched it, but it was never shown again in its entirety – although for a brief period last year, it popped up on YouTube.
30. In 1971 a Gallup opinion poll quoted in parliament found that 57% of the public thought the Queen should get a “pay rise” to double her allowance from the civil list to £1m.
31. The following year, the Treasury agreed a deal with the palace establishing that MPs could vote only to increase the civil list, not to reduce it.
32. A leading Conservative said in a letter to the chancellor, released many years later, that it was imperative to fix a deal to avoid risking a Labour government being able to reduce the civil list. John Boyd-Carpenter wrote: “Let us so arrange things that the Queen does not have to expose herself to this again.”
33. The 25th anniversary of the Queen’s ascent to the throne, the silver jubilee, was marked in 1977 by a tour of 36 counties across the UK. She also made overseas visits to nine countries.
34. Covering the festivities for the Guardian, Martin Wainwright wrote that the celebrations “continue to expand into all areas of human life”. He reported that 100 “jubilee coconuts” had been sent from the Bahamas as a gesture of goodwill to save a village fete in Sussex that had “a shy but no nuts”.
35. The Royal Collection Trust maintains a list of animals given to the Queen. They include four swans, many horses, two pygmy hippopotamuses, a Nile crocodile, a sloth in 1968, another sloth in 1976, and in 1977, one fat-tailed dunnart.
36. In an eight-page supplement the day before Charles’s wedding to Diana in 1981, the Guardian published pictures of 12 of his alleged ex-girlfriends.
37. In 1990, John Major’s government agreed a settlement on civil list funding for the next decade allowing for 7.5% inflation each year. Instead, annual inflation was about 3.7%. The palace built up a £35m surplus, including £12m in interest, as a result.
38. Two hundred and twenty-five firefighters used 6,750 tonnes of water to put out the blaze that gutted Windsor Castle in 1992. An estimate for repairs as high as £60m led to public anger at footing the bill, and to the Queen’s agreement to begin paying income tax the following year.
39. One of the few occasions when the Queen has cried in public was the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997.
40. In the immediate aftermath of Diana, Princess of Wales’s death, when the Queen was heavily criticised for appearing unfeeling in her response, polls found 72% of people described her as out of touch and only 38% said they expected the monarchy to survive.
41. The hems of the Queen’s skirts are weighted to avoid inadvertently flying up. The armholes of her coats, meanwhile, are said to be generously cut to make waving easier.
42. In 2000 it was reported that the Queen kept a Big Mouth Billy Bass (a novelty animatronic singing fish that briefly had a degree of popularity that now seems inexplicable) on top of a piano at Balmoral.
43. The Queen has sent 300,000 congratulatory messages to centenarians. There were about 300 centenarians in 1952. In 2020 there were 15,120. When the Queen Mother got a personalised one in 2000, she handed it to her equerry, Captain William de Rouet, and told him to use his sword as a letter opener.
44. The Queen did not have to pay inheritance tax on the estimated £50m-£70m she inherited from her mother. Undisclosed bequests to anyone else would have been taxable at 40%.
45. The Guardian’s leader on the golden jubilee in 2002 viewed the popular success of the celebrations as evidence of “a good person, yes, but still a lousy system”.
46. In the same year, the Queen made her first visit to a British mosque, in Scunthorpe.
47. In 2003 a Daily Mirror reporter gained access to the royal household by getting a job as a footman. He was able to reveal that the Queen’s cornflakes and porridge oats were laid out in Tupperware boxes, and that she fed the corgis toast and marmalade, before the palace won an injunction barring further disclosures.
48. In 2004, Buckingham Palace stepped in to prevent the sale at auction of a sketch the Queen made of a proposed gravestone inscription for her corgi Susan. The palace claimed the drawing was royal property.
49. There are almost 1,000 official photographic and painted portraits of the Queen, including works by Lucian Freud, Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz. For her 80th birthday in 2005, the Queen sat twice for a portrait by Rolf Harris. A Telegraph critic said it depicted her “grinning like the monkey on top of a barrel organ”. After Harris was convicted of a series of sexual assaults, the portrait mysteriously disappeared.
50. Charles’s 2005 marriage to Camilla clashed with the Grand National. The race was delayed by 25 minutes. The Queen slipped away to watch it shortly after the ceremony.
51. In 2011 she made the first official visit to Ireland by a British monarch in 100 years. She offered “the nearest the royal family has ever come to an apology for Britain’s actions”, the Guardian reported, when she said: “We can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”
52. Princess Anne’s bull terrier Florence attacked and killed one of the Queen’s corgis, Pharos, in 2012.
53. When the Queen was asked if she would prefer to say “Good evening, James” or “Good evening, Mr Bond” in her famous cameo at the London 2012 Olympics, she chose the latter.
54. The Queen received 178,000 congratulatory messages on her diamond jubilee in 2012. The BBC’s coverage drew 4,500 complaints from viewers angered by what some perceived as insufficiently solemn coverage, including a minor furore over footage of a commemorative sick bag.
55. Elizabeth became the longest-serving monarch in British history in September 2015, overtaking Victoria at 23,226 days, 16 hours and 24 minutes.
56. After the Sun claimed that the Queen backed Brexit, the press regulator ruled that the headline was “significantly misleading”. The story claimed that she had a “bust-up” with Nick Clegg about the EU.
57. In 2015, the former royal chef Darren McGrady said the Queen drank a gin and dubonnet with lemon and ice before lunch, a glass of wine with lunch, a dry gin martini, also at lunch, and a glass of champagne at bedtime. A Refinery29 writer who imitated her alleged schedule reported feeling “useless, wan, incapable of concentration”.
58. About 100 films and TV shows about the Queen are listed on IMDb. Jeanette Charles, an impersonator, is credited 27 times in features ranging from Roland Rat to Austin Powers in Goldmember.
59. In 2018, 31% of the British public said they had met or seen the Queen.
60. According to Tina Brown’s recent book, The Palace Papers, the Queen approved Andrew’s disastrous interview with Newsnight in 2019 without knowing the extent to which it would focus on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Brown reports that she watched it alone in her private sitting room at Windsor.
61. The Queen’s coronavirus message – in which she told the country “we will meet again” – was viewed by 24 million people. It was somewhat overshadowed when Boris Johnson was taken to hospital the same evening.
62. About 13.6 million people in the UK watched Prince Philip’s funeral, at which the Queen sat apart from relatives because of coronavirus regulations. The Guardian’s leader described the event as “the beginning of the end of an era”.
63. Prince Harry said recently that he was unsure about attending the platinum jubilee celebrations but wanted to make sure “she’s protected and got the right people around her”. He and Meghan are now expected to attend.
64. Elizabeth has carried out more than 21,000 engagements over the course of her reign.
65. Yes, the Queen owns all the unmarked mute swans on the Thames. Yes, she has a swan keeper. No, there is no evidence that she has ever eaten one.
66. In 2021 the Guardian revealed that under a controversial arrangement known as Queen’s consent, the monarch successfully lobbied the government to change a law that would have revealed details of her wealth. More than 1,000 laws have been vetted by the Queen or Prince Charles.
67. There are now 14 British overseas territories, with a total population of about 270,000.
68. A 2022 poll by YouGov found the level of support for the monarchy was 62%. Ten years ago, the figure was 73%.
69. The Queen is said to like scones with jam and clotted cream. She puts the jam on first.
70. Notwithstanding all of the above, we don’t really know a single thing about her.