As the Queen gets ready to celebrate her 90th birthday, we examine 90 reason to salute her.
1. She knows how to throw a party. During her reign, over 1.5 million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.2. Her dedication is recognised by other heads of state. US President Barack Obama praised her "extraordinary service to her nation and to the world" during a state visit. He also said that his daughters Malia, 17, and Sasha, 14, are fans. "They adored you even before you let them ride on a carriage on the palace grounds," he said.
The Queen seated at her desk in her private audience room at Buckingham Palace with one of her official red boxes
3. Keeping in touch with her subjects is important to the Queen. She dips into her postbag every day and reads eight or nine letters chosen at random. "If people take the trouble to write, they must be seriously concerned," she has said. To date she has received more than three million letters from the public.4. Her Majesty has dedicated her life to the service of her nation, fulfilling the formal promise she made on her 21st birthday, during a 1947 tour of South Africa with her parents: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service."5. The Queen still works every day, going through the box of Government papers that lands daily on her desk, as well as carrying out hundreds of official engagements each year.
Greeting Queen Margrethe of Denmark with a kiss at Windsor Castle in 2000
6. The Queen is the monarch other monarchs admire. Queen Margrethe of Denmark, who has herself spent 44 years on the throne, says: "She has inspired me from the start... When she talked about dedicating herself to her nation, I remember thinking that was really what it is all about."7. A natural diplomat, the Queen speaks fluent French and regularly uses the language for audiences and state visits, often interpreting for her less linguistically gifted ministers.8. Without doubt our most-travelled monarch, the Queen has undertaken in total almost 300 official overseas visits to 129 countries.9. Only once during her long reign has the Queen had to interrupt an overseas tour. In 1974 she was called back from Australia when a snap general election was called and the Queen had to be at Buckingham Palace to receive the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The Duke of Edinburgh continued the visit by himself and the Queen rejoined the tour in Indonesia.
During one of her visits to India
10. She makes frequent trips to the constituent parts of the UK, from the Shetland Islands in the far north to the Crown dependencies of the Channel Islands in the south. Every year she takes up residence at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and the royal family holidays on her Scottish estate, Balmoral, every summer. She made a point of ensuring Charles was crowned Prince of Wales in the imposing setting of Caernarfon Castle in the Principality – even though many previous investitures had been held in London. Nor has she stayed away from Northern Ireland, despite security concerns, and in 2011 she made a historic trip to the Republic of Ireland, becoming the first British monarch to visit that area in 100 years.11. The Queen has 30 godchildren – including her nephew Viscount Linley and the current Earl Spencer, whose sister Diana went on to marry the Prince of Wales – with whom she stays in regular contact.12. She has sat for more than 140 portraits during her reign, the first sitting taking place when she was just seven. One might think that after going through the process so many times, she would find it frustrating. In fact she told one portrait painter: "I'm only too happy to be sitting absolutely motionless, doing nothing."13. The Queen has even been into space – or, rather, her words have. She sent a message of congratulations to the Apollo 11 astronauts for the first moon landing, in 1969. The message was microfilmed and deposited on the moon in a metal container.14. The Queen has developed a love of photography, and enjoys taking pictures of her family. Like most people, she now owns a digital camera.
Taking pictures of her husband with her Leica M3 camera in 1982
15. In the course of her reign, the Queen has given regular Tuesday evening audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. Baroness Thatcher wrote in her memoirs: "Anyone who imagines that they are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong. They are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience."16. She has seen 11 US Presidents, more than 30 heads of French governments and six Popes come and go.17. Famed for her frugality, the Queen regularly recycles her outfits, often many times. Her distinctive sense of style is a great hit with the nation, with bets being placed each year on what colour hat she will wear to Royal Ascot in the summer.18. Her sense of humour is frequently mentioned by those who know her well. When Prince Philip returned with a beard from a lengthy tour of the South Pacific in 1957, the entire welcoming party – led by the Queen – was sporting false beards.19. The Queen has opened Parliament every year except 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Princes Andrew and Edward respectively.20. Royal historian Robert Lacey says the Queen is particularly fond of parlour games and once stumped all her family in a guessing game by giving a fellow player the mystery name "Geri Halliwell".
The Queen and Prince Philip with US President Dwight Eisenhower and first lady Mamie
21. She has been breaking records for years and on 10 September 2015 surpassed her great-great-grandmother Victoria's record of 63 years 216 days on the throne.22. During her 1970 visit to Australia and New Zealand, the Queen introduced royal walkabouts to allow her to meet more of the general public, rather than just officials and dignitaries.23. She is a monarch with the common touch. Sharing her subjects' love of TV soaps, she has stopped off at Coronation Street's Rover's Return, the Queen Vic in EastEnders and Emmerdale's The Woolpack during tours of the sets. She was said to be very disappointed when the late Sir Terry Wogan gave up his BBC Radio 2 morning show in 2009. She invited him to dinner just before he quit. "Her Majesty was adamant that she should sit next to Wogan," said a courtier. "She said she didn't know what she was going to do without my programme," the Irish broadcaster said.24. She has sent around 100,000 telegrams to centenarians in the UK and the Commonwealth.25. The nations of the Commonwealth are particularly close to the Queen's heart. She has visited Canada 24 times, Australia 16 times, New Zealand ten times and Jamaica six times. Her most recent trip was to Malta last November for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.26. The Queen has lent her support to good causes for more than 60 years. She is currently the patron of more than 600 charities and organisations.
The Queen, Prince Philip and Princes Andrew and Edward waving to the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace, during the Trooping of the Colour
27. In 1962 the Queen opened a new gallery at Buckingham Palace to share her treasures with the public. The brainchild of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen's Gallery displays items from the Royal Collection and occupies the space of the Palace's bomb-damaged private chapel. It was the first time that parts of Buckingham Palace had been opened to the public.28. The Queen is a stickler for tradition. She has taken the salute at every Trooping the Colour ceremony since the start of her reign, with the one exception of 1955, when a national rail strike forced the cancellation of the annual parade.29. The Queen successfully breeds and trains labradors and cocker spaniels at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk. She also introduced a new breed, the dorgi, a daschund-corgi cross.30. At the tender age of 13, the then Princess Elizabeth was already a skilled swimmer, winning the Children's Challenge Shield at the Bath Club in London.31. At the age of 90, the Queen is still a keen horse rider and is also an expert on equine bloodstock. The horses she has bred at the royal studs have won virtually every major race in Britain except the Derby. Fingers crossed for June, your Majesty.32. Since her accession in 1952, the Queen has conferred more than 387,700 honours and awards on deserving subjects.
The Queen is still a keen horse rider
33. The Queen is a keen innovator. She sat for her only hologram portrait in 2004, a commission for photographer Chris Levine from the States of Jersey. She sent her first email from an army base in 1976 and was given a mobile phone by the Duke of York more than a decade ago. She also has an iPod, a BlackBerry and is said to be considering an iPad. In 1997, she launched Buckingham Palace's website.34. As well as her many magnificent gowns, the Queen has an unparalleled collection of jewellery. While she will often accessorise her outfits with pieces appropriate to the event, some items appear only at the most important state occasions, spending the rest of their time under the strictest security at the Tower of London.35. The Queen will never abdicate, say members of her family. She regards it as a job for life. Said her cousin Lady Pamela Hicks: "Everyone thinks what fun to be the Queen if you can be the Queen for a day – but for a lifetime..."36. The ultimate career woman, the Queen likes to encourage other female trailblazers, holding the first Women of Achievement event, at Buckingham Palace in March 2004.
With Prince Andrew in 1961
37. With the birth of Prince Andrew in 1960, the Queen became the first reigning sovereign to bear a child since Queen Victoria, who gave birth to her youngest child, Princess Beatrice, in 1857.38. A devout churchgoer, the Queen takes her role as Defender of the Faith seriously, having promised in her Coronation oath to maintain "the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel" and the established Church of England "to the utmost of her power". She made history in 1982 when Pope John Paul II visited Britain, the first Pope to do so for 450 years. The Queen received him at Buckingham Palace in her role as head of the Anglican Church.39. "The worst thing about being Queen is having to pose for photographs," one of the world's most-photographed women once confessed to South African schoolchildren, who were writing essays on the subject "If I were queen for a day."40. Our monarch is a devoted dog-lover and has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan, who was a present for her 18th birthday; a good proportion of her dogs have been direct descendants of Susan. The Queen once needed three stitches in her hand after she was bitten by one of her corgis as she tried to stop them fighting.
Her Majesty has owned more than 30 corgis
41. Nobody can sue the Queen. She is not obliged to give evidence in court and she does not need a passport to travel overseas.42. Her Majesty needed all her sang-froid in 1991, when security guard Carl Shimmin tried to prevent her from entering the Royal Windsor Horse Show because he didn't recognise her. The hapless official reportedly put his hand up to stop her as she arrived in a black Vauxhall Carlton and said: "Sorry, love, you can't come in here without a sticker."43. While she famously rarely carries money, the Queen has an account with top bank Coutts & Co., which has a cash machine in Buckingham Palace.44. The Queen has made a Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth every year of her reign except 1969, when the TV documentary Royal Family was shown and a written message from the Queen issued. In 1953, she made the first Christmas broadcast from overseas rather than from the UK, speaking live from New Zealand. The first televised broadcast was in 1957, again made live, from Sandringham. The first prerecorded broadcast took place in 1960 to allow transmission around the world at a reasonable hour.45. During her reign, the Queen has received many unusual gifts, including a variety of live animals – some of which have been placed in the care of London Zoo. Among these are jaguars and sloths from Brazil and two black beavers from Canada.46. Wherever she goes, the Queen is presented with great numbers of bouquets and posies. She does not keep the flowers, but has them sent to local hospitals instead.
Making her first ever Christmas broadcast to the nation from Sandringham House, Norfolk in 1952
47. The Queen has launched 24 ships in her lifetime. Her first as Queen was the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1953.48. The Queen was a Girl Guide in 1937 and a Sea Ranger at the age of 17. As an Auxiliary Territorial Service trainee during the Second World War, she learnt to strip and service a lorry engine.49. The Queen's interest in religion extends to other faiths and she has seen her country become increasingly multicultural during her reign. She first visited a UK mosque in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire in July 2002 as part of a Golden Jubilee initiative to embrace all the nation's faiths. She also visited Manchester Jewish Museum, a Hindu temple in London and a Sikh gurdwara in Leicester.50. The monarch's frugality has reportedly extended to her use of Tupperware to store her breakfast cereal.51. The Queen is the first member of the royal family to be awarded a gold disc. She received the honour after sales of a CD recorded at the Golden Jubilee Party at the Palace reached 100,000 in the first week of its release in 2002. The pop concert to mark 60 years of her reign was one of the most watched ever, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide.52. The Queen is certainly generous to her staff. She has given almost 80,000 Christmas puddings over the years to the people who work for her, as well as more personal gifts each year.53. In the 1960s, the Queen saw the Beatles film Yellow Submarine four times.54. The Queen is 5ft 4in tall. Both her mother and sister Princess Margaret were 5ft 2in, while Prince Philip is 5ft 11in.
Princess Elizabeth with sister Princess Margaret in 1933
55. The Queen shares her birthday – 21 April – with musician Iggy Pop and Hollywood stars Andie MacDowell and James McAvoy, as well as four-year-old Princess Isabella of Denmark. Other contemporaries born on 21 April include late Hollywood actor Anthony Quinn and Rumpole of the Bailey author Sir John Mortimer.56. Her Majesty learnt to jitterbug during the war and in the 60s she and her sister Princess Margaret were taught to do the twist.57. The Queen is reported to like her steaks cooked well-done and will not eat garlic for fear of the resulting smell offending those she meets. She loves a picnic and was once spotted unpacking a lunch hamper while sipping a gin and Dubonnet; Prince Philip drank a can of beer.58. In Australia the Queen is affectionately known as "Betty", while in Jamaican patois she's called Missis Queen or The Queen Lady. Cockney members of her police Personal Protection Unit refer to her as "the baked bean".
The royal couple's first public kiss was in 1999
59. While the Queen and Prince Philip kissed for the first time in public at midnight on Millennium Eve, they share plenty of affection in private. The Duke's pet name for his royal wife is known to be "Cabbage".60. The Queen has met a range of pop stars, from Frank Sinatra to the Spice Girls and Lady Gaga, and enjoyed – some might say endured – 33 Royal Variety Performances. Her Majesty's tastes are said to tend towards the middle of the road, however, and she loves the bagpipes. A piper plays outside her window every morning at Buckingham Palace.61. Prince Philip was the Queen's first love. The couple married when she was 21, and will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary next year.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip married in 1947
62. In a touching gesture, Philip gave up smoking on the eve of their marriage.63. With postwar rationing still in place, the then-princess Elizabeth used ration coupons to buy the material for her 1947 wedding dress.64. The Queen has at least three triple-stranded pearl necklaces that she wears continually. She teams them with pearl earrings with a diamond on top that were given to Queen Mary as a wedding gift in 1893.65. She has stayed resolutely faithful to a style of mid-heel, slip-on shoe that she first started wearing five decades ago. Handmade for her by Anello & Davide of Kensington in the finest calf leather, usually in black patent with a brass clasp or a small bow, they cost over $1,300 per pair. However, the thrifty Queen makes each pair last for years, having them regularly reheeled.66. In the Maori language, the Queen is sometimes referred to as Te katuku-rerenga-tahi, meaning "the white heron of a single flight"; in Maori proverb, the rare white heron is a significant bird seen only once in a lifetime. In 1953, for her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II was given a kiwi feather Korowai, or cloak, which she wears when attending a pawhiri, or Maori welcoming ceremony, also speaking partly in Maori.67. Comfort is of the essence for a woman who spends so much time at public engagements on her feet, so a junior member of staff with the same size feet – size four – wears her shoes in for her by walking up and down the palace corridors in them.68. Like most women, Her Majesty has her own favourite beauty products. She reportedly keeps Clarins' Hand and Nail Treatment Cream and lipstick in her handbag.
Applying her lipstick as she attends the annual Braemar Gathering and Highland Games
69. She wears her historical and regal knowledge lightly. A big fan of Downton Abbey, she's said to enjoy spotting the show's historical inaccuracies. Recently, she toured the Belfast sets of Game of Thrones.70. As monarch, Elizabeth legally owns all the thousands of swans that roam and wander around Britain's waterways. An annual census of the birds dating back to the 12th century – known as "swan upping" – takes place every year in southern England.71. With post-war Britain suffering from shortages of many foodstuffs, the then-Princess Elizabeth was, like many of her subjects, delighted that friends kindly contributed to the making of her wedding cake. It was made using "ingredients given as a present by the Australian Girl Guides". The cake was baked by McVitie & Price.72. Her Majesty has a talent for mimicry – when in private company. Bishop Michael Mann, her domestic chaplain, once said that "the Queen imitating the Concorde landing is one of the funniest things you could see", while the late Ian Paisley, Northern Irish clergyman and politician, noted that she was a "great mimicker" of him.73. Madame Tussauds have showcased no less than 23 different waxworks of the Queen to date.
The Queen has had 23 different waxworks of herself featured in Madame Tussauds
74. Showing she keeps abreast of changes in modern photography, HM joined in the photobombing trend in 2014, upstaging Australian hockey player Jayde Taylor's selfie at the Commonwealth Games.75. She has never been complacent about the role of the monarchy in the modern world, and has always tried to meet, and be seen by, as many of her subjects as possible. As she puts it: "I have to be seen to be believed."76. Every year The Queen sends Christmas trees to Westminster Abbey; Wellington Barracks; St Paul's Cathedral; St Giles, Edinburgh; The Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh; Crathie Church and local schools and other churches in the Sandringham area.77. Not only was her Coronation the first ever to be televised, Queen Elizabeth and her family were the first British royals to appear in their own TV documentary. Screened in 1969, the resulting film, Royal Family, was a sensation. First broadcast by the BBC and a week later by ITV, it offered the public an unprecedented glimpse into the private world of the royals. Three-quarters of the British population watched it.78. The Queen has met these astronauts at Buckingham Palace: the first to go into space, Major Yuri Gagarin; the first woman in space, Valentina Tereschkova; the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong; and fellow US astronauts Michael Collins and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin.79. She sent a message to astronaut Tim Peake last year, saying that she and Prince Philip "join with his friends and family in wishing him a productive mission and a safe return to Earth".
The Queen's engagement ring featured diamonds taken from an heirloom tiara owned by Prince Philip's mother
80. When appearing in public, she almost always dresses in bright, block colour outfits accessorised with hats. She has adopted this style so that she can be easily picked out in a crowd.81. Prince Philip presented her with an engagement ring whose diamonds were taken from an heirloom tiara owned by his mother, Princess Alice.82. The Queen has helped her family to emerge as the happy and united one it is today, despite the divorces of three of her children and the death of Princess Diana.83. Just as she has been a tower of strength at the heart of her family, she has been a constant in the lives of her subjects. Most cannot remember a time when she wasn't on the throne.84. She sent her first Tweet in 2014, from the Science Museum in London, where she opened an exhibition about the information age. It was signed Elizabeth R.85. The late, great Nelson Mandela used to call her "my friend Elizabeth". The last time he saw her he told her she looked younger every time they met.86. She spoke to her mother and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, every day throughout their lives.
The new crossrail line has been named after her
87. She made a historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011. Not only did she become the first British monarch to visit this area in 100 years – she also spoke Gaelic.
88. Although she likes to be comfortable in trousers to go riding or on other private occasions, she inevitably wears fitted dresses or skirts in public.89. She has moved the monarchy forward by welcoming into her family women who were born neither royals nor aristocrats. Both the Countess of Wessex and Duchess of Cambridge have since proved invaluable assets to the house of Windsor.90. Not only associated with the glamour of ocean-going ships, the Queen's closeness to ordinary Londoners is evident in the fact that the city's new commuter Crossrail line has been named after her. The Elizabeth Line will open for passengers from December 2018.