At only 27 years old, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the British throne to become one of the most powerful leaders in the world at such a young age. Since then, she’s made history time and time again — at the time of this writing, she is the longest reigning monarch to ever live and her marriage to Prince Philip is also the longest in the history of the British monarchy.
But you don’t last decades on decades as the top dog without having some edge and making some tough decisions (If you watch “The Crown,” you know the queen has had her fair share of private battles). Some of those decisions have allegedly been to the detriment of her close family members, others have been light and even funny, showing her personality without her uttering a word. Take a look below at some of Queen Elizabeth II’s subtle and not-so-subtle jabs below. Her Royal Highness is quite the shade queen.
When Harry and Meghan didn't make it into the queen's Christmas address
Every year, Queen Elizabeth II gives her televised Christmas address, and every year she adorns her table with various pictures of her ever-growing family. So in 2019, when she appeared on the widely distributed telecast and not only didn’t mention Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, or Archie, but also displayed no photos of them, the world noticed. After all, in 2018, she included one of Harry and Meghan’s wedding portraits, as well as a family portrait taken in commemoration of Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, which included his two sons and their budding families.
For her 2019 address, however (shown above), Queen Elizabeth included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s previously released Christmas card, a photo of Prince Charles with wife Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, as well as her own hubby, Prince Philip. The queen even included a black-and-white photo of her late father, King George VI.
The move was especially shady, considering how, like the Cambridges, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had already released their own swoon-worthy Christmas card, featuring baby Archie at the center. The slight dig from the queen followed the Sussexes’ decision to spend Christmas away from the royal family, opting instead for a quiet holiday in Canada with Meghan’s mother. And while Buckingham Palace officially approved of the decision, one royal expert speculated to the Daily Mail, “The queen might be a little hurt but she’s far too gracious to ever let it show or be known.”
A queen and her three shady brooches
Queen Elizabeth II is notorious for never speaking on political matters. And frankly, she doesn’t need to, because it looks like some of her accessories do all the speaking for her. Case in point: Donald Trump’s 2018 visit to the U.K. The 45th president of the United States touched down in England that summer for his first official visit as president. His presence in the country was met with a lot of protests, given Trump’s penchant for divisive rhetoric. Though the queen couldn’t outright show solidarity with the protestors, a since suspended, particularly observant Twitter user picked up on the fact that she may have done so through her choice in brooches.
In fact, the reigning monarch wore three very suggestive accessories while Trump was in town. According to the Evening Standard’s recap of the tweets, first, the queen wore a brooch gifted to her from Barack and Michelle Obama, Trump’s (self-declared) political arch nemeses. Next, she wore the Sapphire Jubilee Brooch which was gifted to her by Canada, one of the countries whose leadership Trump previously insulted. Lastly, on the day she met with Donald and Melania Trump for tea (above), the queen wore a brooch handed down from her mother. That seems innocent enough until you consider the fact that the Queen Mother wore that same brooch in that iconic “Three Queens in Mourning” photo taken at King George VI’s state funeral. So, what was Queen Elizabeth getting at here?
Did Queen Elizabeth actually pull off subtle shade with a hat?
If you think the Donald Trump visit is the only time Queen Elizabeth II has appeared to be making commentary on political matters with her accessories, think again. In 2017, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch seemed to be making a slight nod to the entire Brexit debacle as it was unfolding. Because of the snap election that had just occurred, the 2017 opening of the Parliament ceremony had to be significantly less formal. Typically, the reigning monarch arrives by horse-drawn carriage and wears ceremonial robes and her crown. Due to scheduling conflicts, however, 2017 proceedings had to take place without all the pomp and circumstance (via The Guardian).
Instead, the queen swapped her carriage for a car and showed up in a yellow and blue floral dress, topped off with a matching blue overcoat. She’s always loved bold colors, so no one batted an eye at her ensemble. Her choice of chapeau, however, had the tongues wagging. She decided to wear a hat that had an eerie resemblance to the European Union flag (above) — adorned with blue and yellow flowers that looked strikingly similar to the stars on the EU banner. Many thought this was her way of saying she was in favor of keeping the EU together, without, you know, actually saying it.
Queen Elizabeth's (somewhat) shady shutdown of her sister's marriage
Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, fell in love with former British Air Force officer Peter Townsend in the 1950s. Not only was he a commoner, but Townsend was also a divorcee, and back then it was highly frowned upon for royals to marry divorcees. Margaret and Townsend were ready to walk down the aisle nonetheless, but since the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 required the sitting monarch to grant permission for all royal marriages, her big sister had the final say so, the BBC reports. Queen Elizabeth shut the nuptials down. It wasn’t all her decision, however. Remembering the chaos created by King Edward VIII’s abdication of the crown in order to marry a divorcee, Margaret’s relationship with Townsend would create too much fodder and both the Parliament and the Church of England couldn’t get behind it, forcing the queen’s hand.
Instead, the queen asked the pair to wait two years, until Princess Margaret was 25 and more mature to consent on her own behalf. After the two years was up (and the government was under new leadership), the Act was amended and Princess Margaret was presented with a new option: If she — and inherently, her children — agreed to be excluded from the line of succession, the queen’s permission wouldn’t be needed and Margaret would be free to marry Townsend. Everything was set in stone. However, for unknown reasons, the controversial princess decided she wouldn’t marry the WWII vet after all.
Queen Elizabeth gave Prince William a new title after Harry and Meghan 'stepped back'
In January 2020, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would cease all use of their “royal highness” titles since they stepped back from being working members of the royal family. The couple, the announcement said, would “continue to maintain their private patronages and associations,” including the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Days after the demotion was announced, Queen Elizabeth II promoted Prince William to the role of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. According to the announcement, also posted on Buckingham Palace’s official website, The Lord High Commissioner represents the queen at the General Assembly and while he/she “attends as an observer,” a key component of the role “is to maintain the relationship between the State and the Church.” The position dates back to the 16th century and was created for a “Scottish figure” to fill. However, all four of the queen’s children have held it in the past, with Princess Anne taking it on twice.
Maybe the timing was just a coincidence, but something about giving Prince William a role entrenched in so much family history at a time when his brother was further breaking away makes us go, “Hmmm…?”
That time Queen Elizabeth pulled a family documentary off the air — twice
Back in the day, Queen Elizabeth II’s press secretary, Sir William Heseltine, had the bright idea that the royal family needed to connect with the masses, and in order to do so, they had to show that they, too, were a normal family. What resulted was a highly acclaimed 1969 documentary that unveiled a monarchy that was otherwise shrouded in mystery.
While the masses reveled at the documentary, simply titled “Royal Family,” senior people at Buckingham Palace were none too pleased, according to TATLER. The queen, for one, did not like how the family was portrayed. Additionally, there was worry that in peeling back the curtain, the documentary killed the sense of mystery which allured the public to them. The queen banned the film from being broadcast in 1972. “Royal Family” mysteriously reappeared on YouTube in early 2021, after decades of being vaulted. It was up for 48 hours before it disappeared again, but that didn’t stop critics from slamming the attempt at public relations all over again.
“I think the public reaction at the time was that they’re trying to look like they’re normal,” said podcaster and journalist Omid Scobie (via Express), adding, “But it’s pretty obvious that they’re not.”
Why did Queen Elizabeth wait five years to declare her husband a prince?
Before marrying then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, Prince Philip was royalty on his own. He carried the title of Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, because his parents were Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg. In order to tie the knot with the young British princess, however, he had to assume British citizenship and renounce his titles, which he did. He also began using his surname, Mountbatten, and was adorned the Duke of Edinburgh.
When her father, King George VI, died in 1952, Elizabeth II became the queen. Typically, husbands of reigning monarchs are known as prince consorts (per History), but it took the young queen five whole years before she officially gave her hubby the title. On Feb. 22, 1957, the queen ordained her beau as Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Whitehall — making his official title, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
As per usual with Buckingham Palace business, reasons as to why the appointment was delayed were never revealed directly. However, if “The Crown” is to be believed, Prince Philip did all but kneel and beg for the upgrade. According to the Netflix series, Philip was getting increasingly uncomfortable and insecure about his wife’s ascension to power that he wanted some form of even playing field. He also reportedly had a bone to pick about the fact that his children wouldn’t take on his last name.
Queen Elizabeth's complicated relationship with Princess Diana
At this point in history, it is well-known that Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana were about as compatible as the late princess and Prince Charles himself. The two women just couldn’t connect, with Princess Diana feeling “othered” because she did things differently from the family she married into. Lady Di’s struggles are well-documented — in Andrew Morton’s “Diana: Her True Story,” the documentary, “Diana: Her Own Words,” as well as that famous and now scandalous interview with journalist Martin Bashir.
As we now know, the troubles began even before Diana married Charles, with the pressures of the lifestyle triggering her emotional unrest and bulimia. Still, no one came to her aid. “Nearly everyone, from the Queen to the staff who looked after Diana, attributed her behavior to a bad case of ‘nerves,'” royal biographer, Ingrid Seward wrote in Reader’s Digest.
Even after Diana joined the family, Queen Elizabeth allegedly failed to warm up. In “Diana: Her Own Words,” the former Princess of Wales revealed that she turned to her mother-in-law as things between her and Prince Charles were getting worse and his affair with Camilla carried on. “I went to the top lady, sobbing, and I said, ‘What do I do?'” Diana stated in the 2017 documentary. “And she said, ‘I don’t know what you should do. It’s hopeless.’ And that was it. That was help.” Yikes.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
When Queen Elizabeth snubbed Harry and Meghan after inviting them to Sandringham
One of the more explosive parts of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s infamous Interview with Oprah was when the pair revealed some shady dealings surrounding their transition out of their senior royal roles. In a bonus clip shared with “CBS This Morning,” the couple claimed that before they officially told the public they were stepping back as senior royals in January 2020, parts of their intended announcement were shared within the royal institution in December 2019. They spent the holidays in Canada and arranged a meeting with the queen upon their return to the U.K. However, the meeting never happened.
“My grandmother had said, ‘The moment you land, come out to Sandringham we’d love to have a chat. Come for tea … stay for dinner because it’s gonna be a long drive,'” Prince Harry explained. “The moment we landed in the U.K., I got a message from my private secretary … cutting and pasting a message from the queen’s private secretary basically saying, ‘… He cannot come to Norfolk. The queen is busy all week.'”
Naturally, Harry wanted to hear directly from his gran. “I rang her from Frogmore [Cottage, Harry and Meghan’s residence] and said, ‘I was thinking about coming anyway but I hear you’re now busy,’ and she said, ‘Yes, there’s something in my diary that I didn’t know that I had.'” Not wanting to back her into a corner, Prince Harry decided not to push the issue.
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