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LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II will become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch Wednesday, when she surpasses her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria's record of 63 years, seven months and two days.
Here are 12 fun facts you may not have known about the 89-year-old monarch.
1. The queen celebrates her birthday twice a year. Her actual birthday is April 21 but she also has a second “official” birthday, usually the second Saturday in June, so she can celebrate with her subjects when the British weather is warmer.
2. She married Prince Philip on November 20, 1947 in Westminster Abbey, where William and Kate made their vows four years ago. Because of post-World War II shortages, she paid for her wedding dress with ration coupons. The white satin gown was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell and was woven at Winterthur Silks Limited in Dunfermline, Scotland.
3. The queen sent her first email in 1976, from an army base. Her “British Monarchy” Facebook page has more than 2 million likes and she had an official Twitter feed, Instagram and Flickr accounts.
4. She was among the first to offer congratulations when American astronauts including Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, saying: "On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind."
5. The queen loves dogs and has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign. She was given Susan, her first corgi, as an 18th birthday in 1944. She has stopped breeding the pets but currently has two dorgis — corgis crossed with dachshunds — named Candy and Vulcan, and two corgis, Holly and Willow. They featured in the London 2012 Olympics Games opening ceremony film in which the queen appeared with James Bond.
6. The queen’s favorite purses are made by Launer and cost $1,500 each. In them she carries good luck charms from her children, including miniature dogs and horses and family photos and a powder compact given to her by Prince Philip. She also carries an S-shaped metal meat-hook so she can hang her purse from a table instead of putting it on the floor.
7. During a visit to the White House in 1991, she was positioned behind a lectern that was too high. A TV worker was heard shouting: “All I’ve got is a talking hat!” When she visited again in 2007, President George W. Bush winked at her. Altogether, she has met 12 of the last 14 American presidents (Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt were the exceptions.)
8. The queen learned to drive when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1940, aged 16. After joining crowds in London to celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945, she wrote in her diary: “Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, walked simply miles. Saw parents on [Buckingham Palace] balcony at 12:30 a.m. — ate, partied, bed 3 a.m.!”
9. Her childhood nickname was “Lilibet” because she couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth properly. Prince Philip’s pet names for his wife are said to include “Cabbage” and “Sausage.” The queen once described her husband of 67 years as her “strength and stay.” He once commented: “The queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”
10. Every morning, the queen starts her day with a cup of Darjeeling tea. At 7:30 a.m. a “morning tray” is brought into her bedroom — laden with a silver teapot, a water jug and milk — as well as a plate of biscuits for her dogs. She has been known to store her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes. Her favorite foods include chocolate cake, Jell-o sandwiches and grilled fish served plain without any sauce. Her favorite drink is a cocktail of gin and Dubonnet, a sweet, wine-based spirit.
11. The queen has sent more than 175,000 telegrams to centenarians in Great Britain and the Commonwealth during her reign, along with more than half a million telegrams to couples celebrating their Diamond Wedding anniversary and nearly 40,000 Christmas cards. She has given out approximately 90,000 Christmas puddings to royal employees, continuing a custom started by her grandfather, George V.
12. Queen Elizabeth II is the most-traveled monarch in history, having visited 116 countries during 265 official visits since she took the throne in 1952. Unusual gifts she has been given on foreign tours include live animals — two tortoises from the Seychelles in 1972, a seven-year-old bull elephant called "Jumbo" from the president of Cameroon to mark her silver wedding anniversary and two black beavers offered following a visit to Canada.