Unusual facts about the Queen: How many Commonwealth countries does she rule over?

Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II smiles during the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II smiles during the Trooping the Colour ceremony | Image: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock

At 2:40am on 21st April 1926, Queen Elizabeth II, first daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, was born in London. At the age of 25, Elizabeth ascended the throne to become Queen of the United Kingdom and of fourteen other Commonwealth Nations. However, despite her spring birth, Elizabeth birthday is officially celebrated worldwide on 11th June.

Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

She isn’t the first royal to have two birthdays. The tradition dates back as far as King George II. Born in the typically wet and dreary month of November, George II chose to tie the celebration of his birthday in 1749 with the Trooping of the Colour parade in June, when the weather was typically better. From then on, any monarchs whose birthdays fell in the colder or wetter months of the year would opt to officially celebrate in line with the summer parade instead.

This isn’t the only weird fact about the Queen - in fact, there are many things about our reigning monarch that you might not have known. Here are ten more interesting facts about Queen Elizabeth II.

1. She’s a record-breaker

In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch since her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria, who ruled over the British Empire for 64 years. This year we are celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in celebration of her 70 years on the throne.

2. She's in the 'Prime' position

In the 70 years that Elizabeth has ruled over the Commonwealth, she has had more than 170 prime ministers serve under her. Fourteen of those were the officials of the UK, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Elizabeth has been Queen for so long that 80% of her subjects alive today weren’t alive when she ascended the throne!

3. She invented her own dog breed

Elizabeth is well known for her love of animals having owned a menagerie of pets, from horses to sloths and elephants, but none more iconic than her beloved Welsh Corgis. She loved them so much that she has had 30 pet Corgis. Elizabeth is even credited with the invention of a new dog breed - the Dorgi- after one of her Corgis bred with her sister Margaret’s Dachshund.

4. She was born in Mayfair

17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London, may have once been the London home of her maternal grandparents, but today it’s a high-end restaurant and takeaway. It boasts of being the best Chinese restaurant in London and has a plaque outside to commemorate the previous residents.

5. She’s always been a trendsetter

Elizabeth was the first female member of the royal family to become a full-time active military member. She served during WWII as a vehicle mechanic.

6. She used to be a trucker

Part of her role in the army required her to drive military vehicles, including trucks and cars. As such, she is the only person in the UK that is allowed to drive a car without a license. She also doesn’t own a passport!

7. She’s terrifyingly funny

When Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdullah visited Her Royal Highness in 1998, it was illegal for women to drive in his homeland. When giving Abdullah the royal tour of one of her Scottish estates, he was shocked to see Elizabeth climbing into the car's front seat. As she whizzed down the narrow and winding Scottish roads, Prince Abdullah pleaded with her to slow down and concentrate on the road through his interpreter.

Another time she showed her wicked sense of humour was when she encountered some American tourists while out on a country walk in Balmoral. After they asked if she had ever met the Queen, she gestured to her bodyguard and said, “no, but he has!”

8. She has a personal ATM

There’s no concern of the royal riches getting skimmed at a credit card machine. Elizabeth has an ATM in Buckingham Palace provided by Coutts, the eighth oldest bank in the world!

9. She’s a Bond Girl

Even if someone were to try to scam Her Royal Highness, they might find themselves in trouble with a certain member of MI5. In 2012, as part of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics, the Queen appeared in a 6-minute helicopter action sequence alongside the fictional spy, James Bond, played by actor Daniel Craig. The surprise scene, directed by Danny Boyle, saw 007 escorting the Queen to the opening ceremony by way of a parachute.

10. She never goes anywhere without a handbag

Known for her bright fashion sense, the Queen is never seen without her handbag. With a simple, everyday carry of makeup, mints, and reading glasses, you might be fooled into thinking that Elizabeth just likes to be prepared. However, her handbag serves a dual purpose.

Elizabeth uses her handbags as unspoken communication between herself and her staff, and different placements have different meanings. Reportedly, placing her handbag onto the table signals that she wants to leave an event within the next five minutes while placing it on the floor signals that she needs rescuing from a dull or awkward conversation ASAP!