50 years on Britain's throne


She's not the richest woman in Britain -- last year, Queen Elizabeth's income was $22.2 million, behind Madonna (who has a house in London and earned $43.9 million) and J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series author who earned $36.2 million.

She's not even the head of the most engrossing family -- a recent public opinion poll reports that 48 percent of the nation's young people are more interested in the lives of American television royalty, The Simpsons, than in the British royal family.

Still, she commands enormous attention as Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith -- titles she assumed upon the death of her father, King George VI, 50 years ago today.

Here are some of the ways in which the queen, now 75, has carried out her duties, as compiled from staff and wire reports:

Since 1952, she has conferred 380,630 honors and awards.

The first investiture (a ceremony conferring titles and honors) of the queen's reign took place at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 27, 1952. The first person to be presented was Pvt. William Speakman of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, who received the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Korean War.

The queen has received approximately 3 million items of correspondence.

Over the course of the reign, well over a million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Since 1952, the queen has given Royal Assent to 3,135 Acts of Parliament.

Tony Blair is 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.

The queen is currently patron of 620 charities and organizations, 433 of which she has held since 1952. In 50 years, the queen has undertaken 251 official overseas visits to 128 different countries.

Many of her official tours were undertaken on the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was launched by her majesty on April 16, 1953, and was commissioned for service on Jan. 7, 1954. It was decommissioned in December 1997. During this time, Britannia traveled more than a million miles on Royal and official duties.

Every morning at 11, she calls her 101-year-old mother, the Queen Mother, and is put through with the words: "Your majesty, it's her majesty for you."

Unusual live gifts given to the queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises from Seychelles in 1972, a 7-year-old bull elephant named Jumbo from the president of Cameroon in 1972 to mark the queen's silver wedding anniversary, and a canary presented after the state visit to Germany in 1965.

The queen has sent almost 100,000 telegrams to centenarians in the UK and the commonwealth.

She has sent more than 280,000 telegrams to couples in the UK and the commonwealth celebrating their diamond wedding (60 years) anniversary.

The queen has given 88 state banquets during her reign.

She has launched 17 ships during her reign.

The queen and the duke of Edinburgh have sent about 37,500 Christmas cards during the queen's reign.

The queen has given out about 75,000 Christmas puddings to staff, continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI.

She learned to drive in 1945.

The queen has sat for more than 120 portraits during her reign. The most recent was painted last year by Lucian Freud.

The queen has opened Parliament every year except 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.

History was made in 1982 when Pope John Paul II visited Britain, the first Pope to do so for 450 years. The queen, titular head of the Church of England, received him at Buckingham Palace.

She has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan, who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan. Her majesty currently has four corgis -- Pharos, Swift, Emma and Linnet.

The queen also introduced a new breed of dog known as the "dorgi" when one of her majesty's corgis was mated with a dachshund named Pipkin, which belonged to Princess Margaret. There have been 8 dorgis -- Tinker, Pickles, Chipper, Piper, Harris, Brandy, Cider and Berry. Her majesty mixes the dogs' dinner with a silver knife and fork from dishes that hold cooked meats, biscuits and gravy. She then delivers the dog bowls herself.

The queen and the duke of Edinburgh have been married for 54 years. They were married Nov. 20, 1947, in Westminster Abbey. The queen's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was woven at Winterthur Silks Ltd., Dunfermline, in the Canmore factory, using silk that had come from Chinese silkworms at Lullingstone Castle.

The queen's wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold which came from the Clogau St. David's mine near Dolgellau. The official wedding cake was made by McVitie and Price Ltd., using ingredients given as a wedding gift by Australian Girl Guides.

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