Surprising Things You Didn't Know About the British Royal Family

The royal family has many surprises. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Think you know everything about the British royal family? Think again. From celebrity crushes to embarrassing moments to the most shocking — read: outdated — royal traditions they still follow today, see the most surprising things about Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and the rest of the royal family, ahead.

1. They reply to fan mail

According to The Royal Household, members of the royal family are professional pen pals. The royal family receives around 100,000 letters each year and responding to said letters are part of their official duties.

In fact, when Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, they were welcomed with over 60,000 letters. They made sure that every single letter with a return address received a reply from the couple.

2. Prince William has a thing for Cindy Crawford

Prince William had a teenage crush on the model. | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Just because your mom is a princess, doesn’t mean she can’t embarrass you. Case in point: When Prince William was a teenager, he had a crush on Cindy Crawford. So, Princess Diana thought it would be funny to invite Ms. Crawford to tea.

3. Kate Middleton will be the first working-class queen

Kate Middleton didn’t come from nobility. | Paul Lewis/AFP/Getty Images

One of the biggest things that sets Kate Middleton apart from other commoners who married into the royal family is that Kate Middleton doesn’t come from a noble family. In fact, her immediate family is considered working class.

4. She’s also the first royal wife with a degree

She has a degree in art history. | Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images

In addition to being the first working class queen, Middleton is also the first royal wife with a degree. The Duchess of Cambridge has a degree in art history from the University of St. Andrews.

5. The queen has 2 birthdays

Besides her actual birthday, Queen Elizabeth also has an official birthday. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Being the queen has many perks — including two birthdays. Although she was born on April 21st, the queen also has an ‘official birthday’ that is typically in May or June and recognized in each Commonwealth country.

6. Prince William once worked on a dairy farm for $5 an hour

He had a pretty normal job. | Richard Pohle/AFP/Getty Images

Prince William brings a bit of normalcy to the British royal family. In fact, he once worked on an English dairy farm for less than minimum wage.

7. They’re not allowed to have nicknames … but have them anyway

They might have pet names for each other. | Fiona Goodall/AFP/Getty Images

Publicly, members of the royal family do not allow nicknames. That said, they have been known to bend the royal rules. Behind closed doors, Prince William and Kate Middleton are rumored to call each other ‘big Willie’ and ‘babykins.’

8. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband are cousins

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are third cousins. | Andrew Milligan-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Another surprising thing about the royal family? Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are third cousins by way of their great-great-grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. And, get this: Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were first cousins!

9. Kate Middleton once lived in Jordan

She lived in Jordan for two years. | John Stillwell-WPA Pool/Getty Images

When Kate Middleton was a toddler, her father received a job opportunity with British Airways and the family moved to Jordan. They called the Middle East home for two years before moving home to England in 1986.

10. Prince Harry fought on the frontlines in Afghanistan

He went on a secret mission. | Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Prince Harry graduated from the Royal Military Academy as a Second Lieutenant and went on a secret mission to the frontlines of Afghanistan in 2008. However, his tour was cut short when the media caught wind of his service and he was sent home in 2012.

11. They technically don’t have a last name

Some family members go by Mountbatten-Windsor. | Andrew Matthews-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Before 1917, members of the British royal family did not have an official last name. However, that all changed when King George V decided to change the family’s name to House of Windsor. Since then, Queen Elizabeth II has given her direct descendants a more modern last name. Those who do not hold a royal highness, prince, or princess title go by Mountbatten-Windsor.

12. They weren’t supposed to be the royal family

Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle abdicated the throne. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Another interesting fact about the royal family? They weren’t supposed to be the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle King Edward VII and his future descendants were the rightful heirs to the throne. However, he abdicated the throne in 1936 and his younger brother (the queen’s father), became king.

13. Prince Charles dated Princess Diana’s sister

Prince Charles dated Diana’s older sister. | Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

When Prince Charles and Princess Diana met, Diana was only 16 years old. However, it wasn’t Diana who Prince Charles was after. He was actually dating her older sister.

14. The queen sews weights into her hemlines

She doesn’t want any wardrobe malfunctions. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

To avoid any fashion faux pas, the queen has weights sewn into her hemlines.

15. They have a surprising connection to Africa

Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged in Kenya. | Kensington Palace

Africa is a special place for the royal family. Not only did Prince William and Kate Middleton get engaged in Kenya, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle fell in love in Botswana, and (following her father’s death) Queen Elizabeth II became queen while on a royal tour in Kenya.

16. They consider the word ‘pardon’ to be inappropriate

Use “Sorry?” or “What?” when you couldn’t hear someone. | John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Typically, when you can’t hear or understand someone, the polite thing to say is ‘pardon?’ However, members of the royal family have deemed this word inappropriate and instead say ‘sorry?’ or ‘what?’ when looking for clarification.

17. They’re also offended by the word ‘perfume’

They refer to a fragrance as a “scent.” | Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

In addition to ‘pardon,’ the royal family doesn’t allow the word ‘perfume’ in their vocabulary. Instead, they refer to a fragrance as ‘scent.’

18. They hold people hostage

The queen takes a hostage when she attends the State Opening of Parliament. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

While it wasn’t uncommon for medieval kings and queens to hold people hostage, it’s not something you would expect from a modern royal family. However, whenever the queen attends the State Opening of Parliament, she takes a hostage.

While we’re sure the hostage is treated well, the tradition dates back to a time when the royal household and Parliament did not see eye to eye. 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.

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