While not in practice, the House of Windsor technically rules over many countries of the world. Most notably, the current reigning monarch of Canada, Australia and New Zealand is still Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, the flags of Australia and New Zealand can even be seen to have a small Union Jack in the top left corner. While the monarchy is almost entirely symbolic in these countries, there are still certain powers that the Queen is privileged to. Furthermore, they are members of the Commonwealth and British royals often make visits to these countries yearly.
Astonishingly, the roots of the current Royal Family can actually be traced back to Germany. If we look at when the House of Windsor was first established in the English monarchy, we can see that Victoria herself was half-German, and that her husband Prince Albert was fully German. Every blood member of the British Royal Family can trace German ancestry through Queen Victoria and her descendants.
I am sure that we all know now that the current reigning royal family of Britain is the House of Windsor, but did you know that it was not always called as such? When Queen Victoria married Albert and ascended the throne, ushering in the royal dynasty that would continue to preside over Britain into the modern day, it was known as the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Quite the mouthful! The reason for the family’s renaming to Windsor was the outbreak of World War I, when King George V (pictured above!) replaced the German-sounding name to appease the highly germanophobic British public.
Many members of the British public falsely assume that the vast majority of the Royal Family’s wealth and income is due to the tax payments of the British public. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the Royal Family are responsible for a large portion of their own income. They own a large amount of property, and the holdings of the Crown Estate are estimated to be worth roughly £14 billion. Furthermore, they make a great deal of money from tourism to Buckingham Palace and other royal-owned resorts every year.
A shocking tradition of British royal protocol with ancient roots, the rule is not necessarily enforced but is upheld by every British official that works with the Royal Family. However, several visiting dignitaries from foreign countries have famously broken this rule. One such example of this was in 2008, when the United States president, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama visited the United Kingdom. In a move that drew much press attention, Michelle famously reached out and gave the Queen a hug, which the Queen gracefully reciprocated.
What may come as a surprise to many is that the Queen is not actually a powerless figure in the world of British politics. While her role is almost entirely ceremonial in modern times, the Queen does and technically can exercise several royal powers. For example, the responsibility for opening Parliament every year is solely the Queen’s, and, if she wished, she could also choose to dissolve Parliament completely. Furthermore, she wields a variety of other powers, such as the ability to pardon any criminal she chooses, and to declare war on any country she chooses. In fact, she is the only person in the United Kingdom with the power to declare war. By extension, she is also the sole Commander-in-Chief of the United Kingdom’s entire military.
One important rule of the British royal family that has been upheld for centuries is that it is impossible for somebody to marry into the most senior position available. Indeed, the spouse of a reigning sovereign may never take the full title of Queen or King in any relevant capacity. In the case of males marrying into the family, they may only hold the title of “prince-consort”, as was the case of Prince Philip, and in the time of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert.
That’s right - since both driving licenses and passports are issued in the name of the Queen, it seems only logical that she would not need one. After all, it would be ridiculous for the Queen to issue herself a passport in the name of herself! As of 2022, the Queen is one of the only people in the entire world who does not need a passport to travel anywhere.