The Book of Royal Useless Information is jam-packed with surprising, shocking, and hilarious facts. Did you know that King Richard the Lionheart was gay? That Charles I liked to place his 18-inch court dwarf between half-loaves of bread and pretend to eat him? That Elizabeth I said she bathed once every three months whether she needed it or not? That Henry VII was the last English king to win his throne on the battlefield? That the Queen uses black blotting paper so people can’t see what she’s written? Authors Noel Botham and Bruce Montague irreverently present everything you could ever possibly want to know about the Royals. and a little bit more! So feed the corgis, make yourself a nice cup of tea, and enjoy this truly mind-boggling collection of totally useless information.
|Publisher:||John Blake Publishing, Limited|
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The Book of Royal Useless Information
A Funny and Irreverent Look at the British Royal Family Past and Present
By Noel Botham, Bruce Montague
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Nigel Botham and Bruce Montague
All rights reserved.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
The Queen was TIME magazine's 'Man of the Year' in 1952.
As a baby, the Queen was pushed around in a cast-iron pram, adorned on the sides with the royal monogram.
The Queen was an 18-year-old mechanic in the English military during the Second World War.
The Queen always writes with a fountain pen which belonged to her father, King George VI.
As a child, the Queen's favourite toy was a model pony with groomable mane and tail.
After meeting the Queen in 1958, Duke Ellington wrote 'The Queen's Suite' for her. It was recorded and only one copy of the record produced – which he sent to her. On his instructions it was not performed in public until after his death in 1974.
The Queen always travels with her own toilet seat.
It is a popular misconception that the Royal Family cannot vote in political elections. It is only the Queen who is not allowed to vote. Other members of the family merely choose not to.
To get around the Arab tradition of having all-male functions, such as banquets and conferences, the Queen was created an Honorary Gentleman during her visit to the Middle East in 1986.
When the Queen gave birth to Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh presented her with a large bunch of pink carnations.
In the first weeks after their birth, the Queen kept all four of her children in a mahogany wooden crib in her office while she worked during the day. Prince Philip would join them there for meals.
The Queen breastfed all four of her children. She and Prince Philip would take it in turns to bath them.
The only house in England that the Queen may not enter is the House of Commons, as she is not a commoner. At Elizabeth II's coronation in Westminster Abbey, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles sat on top of the tomb of Anne of Cleves.
Elizabeth II is descended from Henry VII and not, as is generally supposed, from Henry VIII. The line passed via Queen Margaret of Scotland and her granddaughter, Mary Queen of Scots, through to her son, James I of England.
The world's best pink diamond, weighing 54.5 carats, forms the centrepiece of a flower brooch owned by the Queen.
There are 1,783 diamonds on Britain's Imperial State Crown. This includes the 309-carat Star of Africa.
The bulk of the Crown Jewels are owned by the State, but the Royal Family privately owns one of the world's most priceless jewel collections, including many of the largest diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies ever found.
For her 21st birthday, celebrated on tour in South Africa, Elizabeth was presented with a gift of 87 diamonds by the host nation.
Her collection of postage stamps is probably the largest privately held collection in the world.
She learned to drive in 1945 when she joined the wartime army but has never held a driving licence. Her Company Commander described her as 'a very good and extremely careful and considerate driver'.
'I'm getting fed up, waiting for it to arrive,' complained the Queen shortly before Princess Beatrice was born.
The Queen named one of her racehorses Charlton after the brothers Bobby and Jack who helped lead England to victory in the 1966 World Cup.
Her favourite TV shows are Doctor Who, The Last of the Summer Wine, and horse racing.
Her vital statistics are 36–23–35 and she is known to follow a Weight Watchers regimen.
The Queen's nickname for her grandfather, King George V, was 'Grandpapa England'.
If the Queen goes shopping, it is always very early, before her store of choice opens to the public.
The Queen and Prince Philip are third cousins through their descent from Victoria, and are also related through King George III and King Christian IX of Denmark.
The Queen was born on a Wednesday.
In 2006, in a film about the royals' reaction to Princess Diana's death, Helen Mirren played the Queen.
The Queen's description of Niagara Falls: 'It looks very damp.'
The Queen is distantly related to George Washington.
The last time the Queen curtsied was in 1952 – to her father's body in St George's Chapel, Windsor.
When the Queen was born, her parents wanted to name her Anne, but King George V forbade it, calling it 'an unsuitable name'. In 1950 there was no such royal veto when she chose to call her own daughter Anne.
There is a secret station on the London Underground system below Buckingham Palace, so that the family can escape to Heathrow Airport in an emergency.
On 13 June 1981, Marcus Sarjeant, aged 17, fired six blank pistol shots at the Queen during the Trooping the Colour. Unfazed, she calmed her horse and carried on with the ceremony.
To prevent her secrets being revealed to snoopers the Queen always uses black blotting paper.
The Queen has a special car mascot – a silver model of St George and the Dragon – which is transferred to any royal car in which she is travelling.
The Queen is an excellent mimic and sometimes entertains the family by aping the prime ministers she has known in the last half century.
The Queen was taught to play the piano, sketch and paint by her mother (later the Queen Mother).
The Queen speaks fluent French and often uses the language for official audiences and State Visits. Her Majesty does not require an interpreter.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip first met in 1934 when they attended the wedding of Prince Philip's cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, to the Duke of Kent, who was an uncle of Princess Elizabeth. However, they did not become acquainted until a royal family visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where Philip was a cadet. On that occasion, her scheming uncle, Louis Mountbatten, arranged for Philip to be the escort to both Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.
The Queen has ten residences available to her if necessary: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, St James's Palace, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Balmoral, Sandringham, Holyroodhouse, the Tower of London and the Palace of Westminster – which is still one of the monarch's official residences.
The Queen's Civil List income of £7.9 million a year has been a fixed annual payment since 1991. The Queen also has the income from the Duchy of Lancaster, which last year amounted to £12.2 million.
When George III reached a deal with the government in 1760 over the Crown Estate, the Civil List came to describe the money paid from public funds to meet the sovereign's expenditure as Head of State. All existing Crown lands were to be managed on behalf of the government, and surplus revenue was to go to the Treasury.
The Queen entertains over 50,000 people every year, on average.
The royal residences and royal travel are funded by separate grants and are not covered by the Civil List.
The Crown is the second biggest landowner in Britain, with 182,313 acres in England and 85,290 acres in Scotland, plus Regent's Park, Carlton House Terrace, chunks of Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Holborn and Kensington. The Crown also retains substantial holdings in the USA.
At the time of writing, the Queen's staff number 298.
In 2010, Sir Alan Reid, the Queen's Treasurer, warned government officials that the monarch's expenditure was running at £7 million more than the annual allowance.
When addressing royalty, tradition has it that 'Ma'am' is pronounced so as to rhyme with 'Pam'.
The royal barge, the Queen's riverboat, is named the Royal Nore.
After meeting the Queen's cousin, the Duke of Kent, jazz musician Louis Armstrong sent him a 21st birthday message in which he wrote: 'To Black Jack, the sharpest little cat I know.'
When the Queen Mother was alive she was officially known as Queen Elizabeth. Her daughter was simply referred to as the Queen.
Each day of the Ascot racing season, the Queen hosts lunch at Windsor Castle then leads the royal procession to the track in her horse-drawn landau. She is so familiar with the course she can tell what the 'going' is like by the sound the landau's wheels make on the turf.
The Queen has owned 28 winners at Ascot.
As a child she kept a collection of 30 toy ponies on the landing at 145 Piccadilly, London – then the home of her father, the Duke of York, before he became king.
King George V, her grandfather, gave the Queen her first pony when she was four years old. This was a Shetland pony called Peggy, on which she learned to ride. The Queen continues to ride at Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor.
When required to ride a horse mounted, the Queen rode side-saddle to every ceremony on her trusted mount, Burmese, until he retired in 1986.
Today the Queen travels to these ceremonies in Queen Victoria's phaeton.
Her first racehorse was a wedding gift from the Aga Khan. It was called Astrakhan.
The Queen reads the Sporting Post, the racing paper, every morning. She instructs that all horse races must be recorded on Sky+ and watches them at the end of the day.
Her racing manager and trainers are allowed to call her at any time on her private line.
The Queen also takes a keen interest in horse breeding. Horses bred at the royal studs over the last 200 years have won virtually every major race in Britain. The Queen has about 25 horses in training each season.
The Queen's racing colours are: purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with gold fringe.
The Queen continues her family's long association with racing pigeons, which began in 1886 when King Leopold II of Belgium made a gift of racing pigeons to the British Royal Family. In 1990, one of the Queen's birds took part in the Pau race, coming first in the Section 5th Open and was subsequently named 'Sandringham Lightning'. In recognition of her interest in the sport, the Queen is patron of a number of racing societies, including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association.
The wife of Daily Express journalist John Harrison, Penny, asked her husband to rush home from Canada, where he was covering a royal tour, when her baby was to be induced. But not a single flight out of Canada was available to get him back in time. When the Queen heard of his plight she commanded: 'That won't do at all. Let him fly home with me on the Royal Flight.' Thanks to the Queen, Harrison was there when his son, Paul, was born. The Queen sent a message saying how delighted she was that he had made it in time. His payment? Never to write about the trip home. He never did.
Queen Elizabeth II is 5 feet 4 inches tall.
She is also known as the Duchess of Edinburgh.
The Queen's middle names are Alexandra Mary. She was known to her grandmother, Queen Mary, as 'The Bambino'.
The Queen has received over 3 million items of correspondence during her reign.
She insists on all her eggs being from free-range chickens.
The Queen prefers red meat – steaks and lamb chops. She is also fond of 'hot' curries.
In 1986 Elizabeth became the first British monarch to visit China.
Elizabeth's real birthday is on 21 April, but it is celebrated officially in June, to avoid bad weather.
Her first public solo engagement was the launching of HMS Vanguard in September 1944.
Queen Mary passed on two tips to Elizabeth: 'During public engagements one should sit down whenever possible, and avail oneself of toilet facilities whenever the opportunity arises.'
The Queen is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the Crown of England.
Elizabeth gave birth to her fourth and final child, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, on 10 March 1964.
She gave birth to her third child, and second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, on 19 February 1960.
Her second child, and only daughter, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was born on 15 August 1950.
Elizabeth gave birth to her first child Charles, Prince of Wales, on 14 November 1948.
The Queen has visited the sets of many of Britain's most popular TV soap opera shows, including Coronation Street in 1960, EastEnders in 1985, and Emmerdale Farm (now Emmerdale) in 1972.
The Queen dislikes travelling by helicopter.
She also dislikes pompous snobs and being bored, often finding the two dislikes are combined.
On 20 November 1997, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) celebrated their Golden Wedding at Buckingham Palace.
The silk for the Queen's wedding dress came from China, as Japanese silk was unacceptable so soon after the end of the Second World War.
Some 8,100 police were on duty for the Queen's wedding in 1947.
After her wedding she said: 'I ask nothing more than that Philip and I should be as happy as my father and mother have been, and Queen Mary and King George before them.'
Her Wedding Breakfast was eaten off gold plates with gold cutlery but the main course was only partridge as, in 1947, other meats were still rationed.
As a young girl, Elizabeth was educated at home along with her sister, Princess Margaret. They were the last royals not to receive a normal school education.
The Queen is a patron of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
Elizabeth has Honorary Doctorships of Law from the University of Edinburgh and the University of London. She was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford, and an Honorary Doctor of Music by the University of Wales.
In 1951 the Queen was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Satirical magazine Private Eye nicknamed the Queen 'Brenda'.
Elizabeth is a Freeman of the cities of Belfast, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
She is the Patron of the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).
Forbes magazine has estimated the Queen's fortune at around $500 million.
Elizabeth celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and there are major plans for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
In October 1957, she opened the first session of Canada's 23rd Parliament.
When she joined the Girl Guides, the Queen asked her troop leader: 'Can't my sister join? You see, she does so love getting dirty.'
Although Elizabeth officially lives in Buckingham Palace, she, like many other British monarchs before her, dislikes the Palace and she considers her real home to be Windsor Castle, where she spends most weekends and Christmas.
Elizabeth was baptised on 29 May 1926, at Buckingham Palace.
She came to the throne in 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI, but her coronation as Queen was not until 2 June 1953, in Westminster Abbey, London.
At her coronation the Queen had the so-called 'wedding ring of England' placed on her finger by the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of the crowning ceremony.
On the morning of her coronation she felt too sick to eat her breakfast.
Elizabeth's first official overseas visit was to South Africa, in 1949.
She appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, in 1929, at the age of three.
In 1942, under wartime legislation, which required all 16 year olds to register for war work or military service, the Queen signed on at the Labour Exchange.
The Queen was the first British monarch to circumnavigate the globe in one trip.
Elizabeth was the first (and, as of 2011, the only) female member of the Royal Family to serve in the armed forces – in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
Elizabeth was the first British monarch since the Act of Union in 1801 to be outside the United Kingdom at the moment of succession (in Kenya).
During her annual summer holiday in Balmoral, the Queen has a Scottish pipe major in full regalia – kilt, sporran and bearskin – to play the bagpipes under her window every morning at breakfast time.
Her portrait is on the front of the Canadian $20 bill.
Tony Blair was the first prime minister to have been born during the Queen's reign. He was born in early May 1953 – a month before the coronation.
When her children were young, the Queen asked her prime ministers to come later for their twice-weekly meetings so she had time to read her youngsters bedtime stories.
She used a blackboard to teach her two youngest children to read and tell the time.
In 2002, the makers of commemorative memorabilia to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee made more than £200 million worth of products.
Excerpted from The Book of Royal Useless Information by Noel Botham, Bruce Montague. Copyright © 2012 Nigel Botham and Bruce Montague. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Kings and Queens of England vii
1 Queen Elizabeth II 1
2 Prince Philip 37
3 Buckingham Palace 51
4 Prince Charles 61
5 Princes William and Harry 73
6 Princess Anne 81
7 Princess Diana 89
8 The Duke And Duchess of York 97
9 Prince Edward and Sophie 103
10 Princess Margaret 107
11 Medieval Monarchs 1066-1154 113
12 The Plantagenets 1154-1399 119
13 The House of Lancaster 1399-1461 143
14 The House of York 1461-1485 167
15 The Tudors 1485-1603 177
16 The Stuarts 1603-1649 223
17 Cromwell, Lord Protector of England 1649-1658 237
18 The Stuarts (Restoration) 1660-1714 243
19 The Hanoverians 1714-1901 273
20 The Saxe-Coburgs 1901-1917 297
21 The House of Windsor 1917 303
22 Ancient and Foreign Royalty 319
23 The Line of Succession 337
24 The Order of Preference 339