LONDON – Fun facts about Queen Elizabeth II as she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch.
CORGIS, SWANS, ROYAL FISH
Elizabeth's love of the corgi is well known. Her father, George VI, introduced the breed to the royal famiy in 1933 when he bought a corgi called Dookie. The animal proved popular with his daughters, and the queen was given her first corgi, Susan, for her 18th birthday. She has owned over 30 corgis during her reign — many were direct descendants from Susan.
Elizabeth also introduced a new breed of dog known as the "dorgi" when one of her corgis was mated with a dachshund named Pipkin.
As monarch, Elizabeth technically owns all the thousands of pairs of mute swans in open British water, and an annual census dating back to the 12th century — "Swan Upping" — takes place every year in southern England. The queen also officially has the right to claim all "Royal Fish" — sturgeons, porpoises, whales and dolphins — according to a statute from 1324.
Elizabeth often gives the impression of seriousness and many have noted her "poker face." But those who know her describe her as having a relaxed sense of humor and a talent for mimicry in private company.
Bishop Michael Mann, the monarch's domestic chaplain, once said that "the queen imitating the Concorde landing is one of the funniest things you could see." Ian Paisley, the Northern Irish clergyman and politician, also noted that Elizabeth was a "great mimicker" of him.
Royal commentator Hugo Vickers, who has met the queen several times, describes her as "quite fun" and much more well-informed than one would expect.
"Once I suddenly said something completely obscure" about a New Zealand Maori chief, he said. "She knew exactly what I was talking about."
POLITICIANS AND POPES
Over her reign Elizabeth has given regular Tuesday evening audiences to 12 British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron. Tony Blair is the first prime minister to have been born during the queen's reign. Thatcher served the longest, more than 11 years.
Elizabeth's reign also oversaw seven popes, from Pius XII to Francis. As the titular head of the Church of England, the queen received John Paul II at Buckingham Palace in 1982 — the first pope to visit Britain for 450 years. She also received Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010.
It's safe to say that Elizabeth has traveled more than any other monarch in history. Since her first official overseas visit to South Africa in 1947, she has made hundreds more trips to more than 110 countries. Among her most visited are her "major realms": 24 times to Canada, 16 to Australia, 10 to New Zealand and six to Jamaica.
Elizabeth was the first British monarch to have made state visits to China (1986), Russia (1994), and Brunei and Malaysia (1998). She was also the first British monarch to have set foot in the Republic of Ireland since the 1911 tour by her grandfather, George V.
At 89 the queen is still traveling — in November, she plans to fly to Malta for a Commonwealth event.
HALL OF FAME
Elizabeth is the longest-reigning female monarch in the world today. Her years on the throne are second only to King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, 87, the world's current longest-serving head of state. The king, who came to the throne in 1946, has reigned for 69 years and is widely revered by Thais.
Other current heads of state who have reigned for more than 50 years include 87-year-old Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, the constitutional monarch of Malaysia.