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A Short Guide to the Queen's Life

Most people recognize her face. Conservative in dress, she is well-known for her solid-color coats and decorative hats. Queen Elizabeth II.

The most widely-traveled British head of state in history, she has developed friendships with many foreign leaders, including Nelson Mandela and George H.W. Bush. She advises prime ministers. Apart from the United Kingdom, she is also Queen of 16 Commonwealth Realms and Head of State of the 14 British Overseas Territories. She is the Head of the Armed Forces and Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She is the ‘Fount of Justice,’ in whose name justice is carried out, and law and order is maintained. The fortieth monarch since William the Conqueror, the greatgreat- granddaughter of Queen Victoria, married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; she has four children and seven grandchildren.

Her personal fortune has been estimated at around ₤280 million and her personal art collection is worth at least ₤10 billion. She possesses an extensive collection of jewelry. During her reign, she has received many unusual gifts including live animals such as jaguars and sloths. The Queen of England owns 88 swans and cygnets on the River Thames looked after by the Royal Swan Keeper, as well as sturgeons, whales and dolphins in the waters around the UK, recognized as ‘Fishes Royal.’ She spends her life in palaces and celebrates her birthday twice a year.

Wouldn’t you like to be Queen of England?

However, in practice, she personally exercises very little political executive power in the day-to-day running of the country outside of her traditional ceremonial and advisory duties. As a constitutional monarch she cannot express her personal political opinions publicly. Neither she nor her family ever vote or stand for election to any position.

Her personal art collection is held in trust for the nation and cannot be sold. Her castles are open to visitors for most of the year and serve many functions–as venues for State and official events, as working spaces for a wide range of people and as historic buildings for visits by members of the public. Her busy days include many duties to perform–some are public duties, such as ceremonies, receptions and visits within the United Kingdom or abroad, others are carried out away from cameras: reading letters from the public, official papers and briefing notes; audiences with political ministers or ambassadors; and meetings with her Private Secretaries to discuss daily business and her future diary plans.

The Queen in Public

Her presence in public is an essential part of British life. Acting as a focus for national unity and identity, she expresses the mood of the nation. Through her engagements and walkabouts, the Queen is able to meet people from every walk of life. The Queen’s visits have included: the sets of soap operas Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale; a council flat in Glasgow, a Welsh power station, a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Sikh temple and a London bus depot. On some evenings, the Queen may attend a film première, a variety of concert performances in aid of a charitable cause, or a reception linked to organizations of which she is Patron. Her appearance at the world premiere of the new James Bond film made it a memorable and outstanding event. Her Majesty also regularly hosts official receptions and garden parties at Buckingham Palace.

In June 2002, the Queen hosted the first public concerts in the gardens of Buckingham Palace to celebrate her Golden Jubilee– the 50th anniversary of her reign. The Queen attended both the classical and pop concerts. The ‘Party at the Palace’ concert was one of the most watched pop concerts in history, attracting around 200 million viewers all over the world.

Royal Protocol and Titles

Royal protocol is very strict. Some of the traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been eased, for example, bowing is no longer required. However, other forms of close interaction, such as touching, are discouraged by officials. One of the people who broke this rule was Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, who put his arm around the Queen when a photograph was being taken.

The Queen’s formal style and title vary slightly in each of her realms. The Queen’s title in the UK is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.” In correspondence she takes an abbreviated form of the Latin description, using the signature ‘Elizabeth R’ (which stands for ‘Regina’ or Queen). The Queen also has other titles by which she is known in different parts of Britain. In the Isle of Man, for example, she is Lord of Man. In common practice, Queen Elizabeth is referred to simply as “The Queen” or “Her Majesty.” When in conversation, one should initially address her as “Your Majesty” and thereafter as “Ma’am.”

The Queen’s Birthday

The Queen has her actual birthday on 21st April and celebrates privately with her family. She also celebrates her official birthday on the first or the second Saturday in June. The tradition was started for practical reasons–monarchs who had their birthdays in winter often encountered problems with weather conditions spoiling the parades and other outdoor events.

In 2006, Queen turned 80 on 21 April and celebrated her official birthday on 17 June. The celebrations virtually lasted from the 20 April to 25 June, the events including a birthday dinner and fireworks at Kew Palace, a ‘Service over Sixty’ reception, traditional Trooping the Color (a military pageant or ceremony performed by the regiments of the Commonwealth and the British Army) and a Children’s Party at the Buckingham Palace to celebrate the magic of books.

The Queen in Numbers

Her busy lifestyle could be best expressed in numbers. During her reign, the Queen has:
● conferred over 387,700 honors and awards,
● received over 3 million items of correspondence,
● sent around 100,000 telegrams to centenarians and over 280,000 telegrams to couples in the UK and the Commonwealth celebrating their diamond wedding (60-year) anniversary,
● become patron of more than 620 charities and organizations,
● undertaken over 256 official overseas visits to 129 different countries,
● opened 15 bridges in the United Kingdom and launched 23 ships,
● given out about 78,000 Christmas puddings to staff,
● given Royal Assent to 3135 Acts of Parliament,
● sat for 139 official portraits during her lifetime and 11 sculptures,
● and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have sent about 37,500 Christmas cards.

Did You Know?

Queen Elizabeth’s interests include: photography, horse racing and horse breeding. She also breeds dogs. During her reign she has owned more than 30 corgis and a new breed of dog known as the “dorgi” when one of Her Majesty’s corgis was mated with a dachshund. The Queen also breeds and trains Labradors and Cocker Spaniels at Sandringham. A lesser known interest is Scottish country dancing. She also continues the Royal Family’s long association with racing pigeons, being the Patron of a number of racing societies, including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association.

As a young girl, the Queen acted in a number of Pantomimes during World War II including playing the part of Prince Florizel in Cinderella in 1941. These pantomimes took place every year in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. During the World War II, the Queen served in the Army and learned to drive there.

Royal Residences

The residences associated with today’s Royal Family are divided into the Occupied Royal Residences, which are held in trust for future generations, and the Private Estates which have been handed down to the Queen by earlier generations of the Royal Family. The Occupied Royal Palaces serve as venues for State and official events, as working spaces for a wide range of people and as historic buildings for visits by members of the public.

Buckingham Palace in London is a working building and the centerpiece of Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the venue for grand Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures. The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection. Windsor Castle is an official residence of the Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. Today the Queen uses the Castle both as a private home, where she usually spends the weekend, and as a Royal Residence. Every year the Queen takes up official residence in Windsor Castle for a month over Easter (March-April), known as Easter Court. During that time the Queen hosts occasional ‘dine and sleep’ events for guests, including politicians and public figures. She is also in residence for a week in June, when she attends the service of the Order of the Garter and the Royal Ascot race meeting.

Another working Royal Residence is Kensington Palace in London, which accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family.

There are also palaces in Scotland: the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and Balmoral Castle. The former is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, which is also the backdrop for formal State occasions. Most recently, it was the setting for a lunch during a State Visit by President Putin of the Russian Federation. The latter is the private residence of the Queen; her favorite during the summer holiday period in August and September. 

Natalia Fedan
oddział Szkoły FELBERG w Lublinie

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