Shocking Things You Didn’t Know About The British Royal Family

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Just because the royal family has to live a very public existence doesn’t mean that we know everything about them. From their last name to where they get their money, here are 12 shocking things that most people don’t know about the British royals:

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12. Queen Elizabeth Almost Wasn’t Queen

During her grandfather King George V’s reign, Elizabeth was third in line for the throne. Her uncle Edward, Prince of Wales, was first and then her father the Duke of York was second. When her grandfather died, Edward became King of England, but that lasted less than a year. He had to abdicate because his relationship with twice-divorced Wallace Simpson nearly created a constitutional crisis. Then, Elizabeth’s father the Duke of York ascended the throne, becoming King George VI. This placed Elizabeth second in line for succession.

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11. Prince Charles is a Luddite

According to the Prince Charles biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, he’s a complete Luddite. He reportedly responds to emails with handwritten notes. Prince Harry has made fun of him for this, telling him, “You’d get a lot more things done if you actually picked up the phone, or — guess what? — send a text message.”

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10. At Their Children’s Christenings, Prince William and Kate Serve 7-Year-Old Cake

For all three of their children’s christenings, Prince William and Kate Middleton served their wedding cake. While for some people this tradition might seem unusual, freezing a wedding cake and serving it at significant events for the bride and groom isn’t completely unheard of. In fact, it’s considered good luck for a married couple to save the top tier of their wedding cake for their first wedding anniversary and, according to The Mirror, saving a tier of wedding cake for a couple’s first child’s christening is a tradition.

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9. The Queen Uses Her purse to Send Secret Signals

According to royal historian Huge Vickers, Queen Elizabeth uses her purse to send signals to her staff to let them know when she’s ready to move on from conversations. Shifting her purse from one hand to another means that she is ready to wrap up a chat and when she places her purse on a table at an event that means she is ready to leave. She’ll also twist her wedding ring to indicate that she wants to immediately move on from a conversation.

8. They Don’t Have a Last Name – Kind Of

Technically the British royal family doesn’t have a last name. Prior to 1917, they belonged to the royal house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but, during World War I, because of anti-German sentiments, they changed the name of the royal house to Windsor. Since 1960, the prescribed royal surname for those do not have royal styles and titles has been Mountbatten-Windsor, which are Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s surnames combined. For members of the family that have titles, they use the title as their last name. Prince William and Prince Harry used their father’s title Wales as their surname prior to their marriages and Prince George has taken the surname Cambridge from William’s title, Duke of Cambridge.

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7. Kate and Meghan Received Security Training

Both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle received special training to protect them from kidnap threats. Kate received this training after her 2011 wedding to Prince William while Meghan was expected to receive it following her marriage to Prince Harry. The training includes teaching the duchesses a wide range of survival skills including how to drive under pressure and how to create and pass coded messages to rescuers.

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6. Kate Was the First Royal Wife to a Degree

Kate Middleton was the first royal wife to have a university degree. She graduated from University of St. Andrews with an honors degree in art history in 2005. She and Prince William met at the Scottish university in 2001. If Kate becomes queen, she will be the first queen to have attended university. Meghan Markle also has a university degree; she attended Northwestern University where she majored in theatre and international studies.


5. Harry Fought on the Frontlines in Afghanistan

In 2007 to 2008, Prince Harry secretly served on the frontline in Afghanistan with British troops. He was stationed in the province of Helmand where he worked as a forward air controller. His presence there was supposed to remain a secret to prevent him from becoming a target of the Taliban but, in 2008, German newspaper Bild and Australian magazine New Idea published his whereabouts, which meant that he had to be evacuated from Afghanistan. In 2013 to 2014, he was deployed in Afghanistan with the Army Air Corps for 20 weeks and then in 2015 he left the army.

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4. The Reason Queen Elizabeth Always Wears Bright Colors

Queen Elizabeth is known for wearing bright colors and she does this so that people can easily spot her in a crowd. In the documentary The Queen at 90, her daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex, explained, “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen.’ Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the Queen’s hat as she went past.”

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3. Rules for Touching the Royal Family

When it comes to interacting with the monarchy, their site states that “there are no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family.” However, with that being said, the website also encourages men to do a “neck bow” and for women to do a “small curtsy,” but a regular handshake is also fine. In 2009, Michelle Obama caused an uproar when she gave the queen a hug and in 2014 LeBron James was accused of breaking royal protocol by the media when he put his arm around Kate Middleton for a photograph.

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2. Where The Queen Gets Her Money

Queen Elizabeth gets her income from a few sources. She has her private income, which includes money that is inherited from her private estates including Sandringham and Balmoral Castle, and she has a personal investment portfolio. In 2017, her private income was estimated at $490 million. She also receives money from the Dutchy of Lancaster, a portfolio of land and other assets that the royal family has been in possession of for hundreds of years. The income that is generated from this is called the Privy Purse. In addition to the Duchy of Lancaster is the Sovereign Grant, which the royal family receives from the Treasury and is funded by taxpayers. The royal family uses this income to carry out royal duties, pay for royal travel, as well as staff and upkeep of royal property like Buckingham Palace.

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1. The Queen Has Weights Sewn into Her Hemline

To avoid wardrobe malfunctions, Queen Elizabeth has occasionally has weights sewn into the seams of her dress. “I just pop a couple of weights into the hemline of her dresses and coats and it makes them hang beautifully. If there is a flap in the coat then I will sew in one on each side of the split to even it up,” the Queen’s dressmaker Stewart Parvin told the Daily Mail. “And sometimes if she is wearing a lightweight chiffon skirt I will sew in a smaller lead weight the size of a pea or even a length of chain.” Unlike Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton has had a number of Marilyn Monroe moments over the years. In 2012, after the yellow Jenny Packham dress that she wore at Calgary Airport flew up, the designer received a letter from a woman in Wisconsin chastising her for not sewing weights into Kate’s dress.

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Cate has a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature and has been the Managing Editor of Fame10 for more than 6 years. Despite having a love for the works of Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy and Lord Byron, she also has an intense fascination with pop culture. When she isn’t writing for Fame10, she’s planning her next big adventure in Southeast Asia.