10 Astonishing Facts about the British Royal Family

Imagine being so powerful you get to travel the world with no passport, legally hold someone hostage, marry your cousin, and having no surname because your first name on its own, rings a loud bell. That’s right.

If you read this article to the very end you may even learn how to reach out to the British Royal Family and get a response from them.

There’s a long line of British royalty and while you may be conversant with their weddings, modes of dressing and ceremonies, here are 10 astonishing facts you probably didn’t know about the British Royal Family.

Queen Elizabeth II has been driving almost her entire life and she still drives at 94 as she “loves” getting behind the wheel/Hello Magazine.

They are not allowed to sign autographs or take selfies

According to Time, signatures aren’t allowed for fear of fraud, but Meghan Markle maneuvered her way around that rule in her early days of public appearances with Prince Harry.

There is also a restriction on the family from taking selfies, but this is as a result of Queen Elizabeth’s personal dislike of the trend rather than a security risk or tradition.

Queen Elizabeth celebrates her birthday twice a year

The queen celebrates two birthdays because of how inconsistent British weather is. Her majesty’s actual birthday is in April. However, she has an official birthday that is celebrated on a Saturday in June of every year.

Most royals whose real birthdays fall in the colder months often set aside, an official birthday to be celebrated on a different date in the hope of good weather for their birthday parade, known as the Trooping the Colour.

While Queen Elizabeth was born on April 21 and celebrates privately, Trooping the Colour marks her “official” birthday; the ceremony features a full parade with over 1,000 soldiers on stand-by and horse-drawn carriages.

However, this year was quite different as Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 94th birthday at Windsor Castle, where she has been in self-isolation with Prince Philip due to the coronavirus pandemic.

History has it that this is the second time ever during the Queen’s reign that the traditional Trooping the Colour parade has been canceled.

The husband of a monarch is never referred to as “king”

Even if such title is given to him due to ignorance or with approval from the reigning monarch it carries no weight or significance when it comes to the throne.

It is commonplace that the royal bloodline and their ways of succession are quite complex but one important rule stands: the spouse of the current sovereign, in this case, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh does not take the title of King or Queen in an official capacity.

queen-elizabeth-prince-philip-wedding-day, 1947
Then-Princess Elizabeth and Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, wave to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following their marriage, 1947/Vanity Fair.

The ruling sovereign may on their own accord, give their spouse a royal title, but it’s only for ceremonial purposes and holds no weight when it comes to the succession of the throne.

They hold people hostage 

The Queen takes a hostage whenever she attends the State Opening of Parliament. The State Opening of Parliament is an event that officially signifies the beginning of a Parliament session of the United Kingdom.

The sitting monarch gives a speech known as the Queen’s speech or King’s speech. The ceremony is usually grand, it showcases British cultural history and politics to large crowds and thousands of television viewers.

While we can be rest assured that the hostage is treated well, the tradition dates back to a time when the British Royal Family and Parliament were at loggerheads. So, to guarantee the queen’s safe return, they would keep a member of Parliament for the duration of the State Opening just in case they needed to bargain.

Certain words are forbidden to them

We all know of the speech mannerism of the British Royal Family and how prim and proper their vocabulary is but what you don’t know is that there are some completely normal words they are not allowed to say. To mention but a few:

Pardon: It sounds pretty polite and harmless, doesn’t it? But it’s one of those words that will never pass royal family members’ lips.

They consider it rude to say pardon. Rather you’re to say, Sorry? or even, Sorry, what? when seeking clarification. Another option is to smile and nod, even if you didn’t hear what the other person was saying.

Toilet: Amongst the royals, if one needs to be excused to pee, relieve themselves, or otherwise just take a break you’ll hear them ask to use the loo or lavatory. Toilet is a word with French origin thus uttering it in the Queen’s presence is considered a taboo.

Perfume: The British Royal Family are also offended by the word perfume when speaking. Rather, they refer to it as scent. Like with toilet, the problem lies with the origin of the word. The strained relationship between France and the U.K. makes the use of many crossover words unsatisfactory.

Image of King George VI and family
Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) with Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) and daughters, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), c. 1932/Mirror.

Other words you may never hear the British Royal family saying include but are not limited to the following; portion, posh, lounge, patio, mum, dad, et cetera.

The British Royal Family technically do not have a surname

Being public figures, you may know a lot about the British Royal Family but there’s one thing many people do not know about them – their last name.

One of the most frequently asked questions as it pertains to the British Royal Family is whether the members have a surname, and, if so, what it is. They can be known either by the name of the Royal House they abide in or a surname. They, however, rarely use a surname.

As a princess, Queen Elizabeth II served as a mechanic and driver during World War II/National Post.

The main reason is simply that they don’t need a last name. They’re so popular and easily identifiable without one.

However, when members of the royal family need to use the last name, for example, when they’re in school or in the military, they actually have a few choices.

They do respond to fan-mails

The Royal Household has it on record that members of the British Royal Family are professional pen-pals and actually respond to fan-mails. The royal family receives about 100,000 letters each year and they have an official duty to respond to said letters.

To buttress this, when Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, they received over 60,000 congratulatory letters. They ensured that every single letter with a return address received a reply from the couple. So, you see, you can actually reach out to the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are cousins

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are third cousins through their great-great-grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Yes, Her Majesty and her husband share the same bloodline and are both directly related to Queen Victoria.

The family neither votes nor involve themselves in politics

As a tradition, members of the British Royal Family are expected to be apolitical in public. This means they cannot vote or even express political views. While we can see a trend of the younger royal sovereigns involving themselves in humanitarian and charitable causes such as the fight against AIDS, mental health awareness, and the likes, none of the family members associate with any political party.

A statement by the British Royal Family’s website says that Queen Elizabeth II must remain neutral when it comes to political issues. The queen is also forbidden to stand for an election or vote for a candidate.

The Queen is not required to own a Passport or Driver’s License

One of the perks of being the Queen of England is that unlike the rest of us, her majesty does not have to bother herself with getting a national passport or standing in line to renew her driver’s license.

While she has had to travel extensively by virtue of the position she holds, never has she been asked to produce her passport during any of these trips.

Also, Queen Elizabeth II has been driving almost her entire life and she still drives at 94 as she “loves” getting behind the wheel. As a princess and a member of the British Royal Family, Elizabeth even trained as a mechanic and driver during World War II.

So why does she not need a driver’s license or passport?

The rationale behind this is simple: all passports and licenses are issued in her name so it will be unreasonable for her to have one. Thus, she is not required to have one.

Are there any other facts about the British Royal Family that you know of? Kindly share them in the comments below.

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Harding, A. (2018, June 24). 10 Common Words Banned by the British Royal Family.

Henden, A. (2019, February 16). Queen Elizabeth II news: Why does the Queen not need a driving license?

Pantazi, C. (2020, June 11). The queen celebrates two birthdays each year because British weather is so unpredictable.

Praderio, C. (2017, January 9). Here’s why the british royal family doesn’t use a last name.

Quinn, J. (2019, May 13). Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About the British Royal Family.

Roberts, K. (2019, January 27). Queen Elizabeth Breaks Important Royal “Rule” by Talking About Brexit.

Selzer, J. (2018, June 20). 17 surprising things you probably didn’t know about the royal family.

The Royal Household. (n.d.). Royal Family Name.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). State Opening of Parliament.

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  1. The queen and Philip are not cousins with the meaning that their parents ate brothers and sisters,-VERY misleading headline. They are THIRD cousins removed as you say later, but the headline is misleading.
    As for the words they are not “allowed” to say,-I as a well brought up girl was not allowed to say them either. Lounge, for instance, is only correct when used for hotels, railway stations–the correct word for a house “lounge” is either ditting room or drawing room. AGAIN-not only relevant to the royal family.—Could say more but rather tired. Thanks for reading !!!!
    Carole McLean-Smith;