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Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

Strange but true: Queen Elizabeth II has two birthdays and the reason is… British weather! Find out about this strange, century-old tradition, and learn more about an extraordinary and record-breaking Queen.
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Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, celebrated her birthday on April 21. She will celebrate it again on June 11. Strange but true: the Queen has two birthdays – her real one, in April, and an official one, in June. For centuries English kings and queens have had this privilege. Their excuse? British weather. It all began in 1748 with King George II. His birthday was in November, not a good month for outdoor parties. So George decided to celebrate his birthday in late spring, combining his celebration with a military parade known as Trooping the Colour. Having a double royal birthday became a tradition. This June 11 will be quite special: the Queen will celebrate her 90th birthday, while her husband, Prince Philip, will turn 95 the day before.


A record-breaking royal couple

At 90 and 95, the British royal couple has broken quite a few records. Last year Elizabeth II became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, beating the record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Elizabeth has been Queen for more than 64 years now. This also makes her the world’s longest-reigning female monarch – no other queen has reigned longer than she has. (She still has a long way to go to beat the male record: king Sobhuza II of Swaziland reigned for an incredible 84 years and 254 days!) Elizabeth II holds another record: the longest royal marriage in history. She has been married for 68 years. Obviously, she shares this record with her husband, Prince Philip, and the Prince holds another record of his own: he is the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family.


A busy and beloved Queen

During her record reign, the Queen has kept very busy. She is always meeting people, attending ceremonies, receptions, audiences, etc. Last year, she had 306 engagements in the UK and 35 abroad. That’s almost one a day. Over the years she has attended something like 25,000 events of all kinds! She has awarded more than 400,000 honours and has held more than 100 state banquets. She is the patron of more than 600 organizations and charities. Apparently, she once said: “I have to be seen to be believed,” and, indeed, she has shown herself quite a lot! Her work ethic, dedication and continuous public presence have made her very popular. For her official birthday on June 11, 10,000 guests have been invited to a giant street party and picnic in front of Buckingham Palace. And big screens will be placed in other parts of London to broadcast the event. That’s one incredible birthday party!


Criticism and the future of British Monarchy

Not everybody, though, wants to celebrate. Many do not like the Queen, or more generally, royalty. A hundred years ago, the English writer H. G. Wells said: “the time has come to rid ourselves of the ancient trappings of throne and sceptre.” Back then, there were 22 monarchies in Europe – now there are only 12. Today we are used to electing our leaders, but nobody ever elected their king or queen. Why should they live in castles and have lots of privileges (like the Queen having two birthdays)? Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter, considers the royals a “symbol of class division.” The influential English singer and songwriter Morrisey (who released with The Smiths an album called ‘The Queen is Dead’) said: “the full meaning of the Monarchy is, like the Queen herself, a complete mystery to most people.” Yet, whether they understand it or not, the British Monarchy is not going away anytime soon. According to recent surveys, between 70 and 80% of Britons want the monarchy to continue. So, come June 11, for the second time this year, most Britons will wish Happy 90th Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II.

Useful links

 - Do you want to know more about the Queen? Read this:

- What powers does the Queen have? Here’s the answer:

- Read about Trooping the Colour and check out the cool time-lapse video:

- Here’s what the Queen’s guests will eat at her incredible birthday street party:

-  The Queen’s birthday can even change pub opening times! Check out this: 

- Here’s a very unusual ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Queen from the UK’s republicans:

-  Here is some more interesting criticism. Check out the “Monarchy Myth Buster”:


1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The Queen has two birthdays because
  1. all kings and queens around the world do.
  2. it’s part of a British tradition.
  3. her 90th birthday is a special occasion.
2. Trooping the Colour is
  1. the name of the Queen’s birthday celebrations.
  2. a military parade invented by George II.
  3. a military parade held on the day of the Queen’s official birthday.
3. Prince Philip’s birthday is very close to
  1. the Queen’s real birthday.
  2. the Queen’s official birthday.
  3. King George’s birthday.
4. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for more years than
  1. King Sobhuza II.
  2. Queen Victoria.
  3. Prince Philip.
5. Prince Philip holds
  1. two records.
  2. one record.
  3. no records.
6. The Queen
  1. is always meeting people.
  2. never meets people.
  3. rarely meets people.
7. The Queen’s official birthday party will be
  1. a very private celebration.
  2. celebrated inside Buckingham Palace.
  3. held outdoors.
8. Writer H.G. Wells was
  1. a supporter of the British crown.
  2. against royalty.
  3. an expert in the ancient trappings of royalty.
9. Today in Europe there are
  1. fewer monarchies than a hundred years ago.
  2. more monarchies than a hundred years ago.
  3. elected kings and queens.
10. The British monarchy is
  1. very popular.
  2. not very popular.
  3. very unpopular.


2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Use the plural for nouns and conjugate the verbs if necessary.

parade  *  engagement  *  patron  *  to broadcast  *  trappings  *  record  *  to reign  *  sceptre  *  survey  *  privilege

1. A ______________ is a march or a public walk, usually done by military troops, or for special occasions such as a carnival or Thanksgiving. 2. The job of kings and queens is ______________, but their power, today, can be very limited. 3. Lorenzo il Magnifico was a famous ______________ of the arts: he gave support and money to painters and other artists. 4. An ______________ can be a promise of marriage, but it can also be an event or an appointment, like a meeting or a special dinner. 5. Televisions and radios ______________ programmes. 6. Traditionally, a king wears a crown on his head and holds a ______________ in his hand. 7. A big house, an expensive car and fashionable clothes are the ______________ of success. 8. The ______________ asked the students of the school what their favourite subject was. 33% said it was English. 9. Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive. He holds both the 100 metres and 200 metres world ______________. 10. I am against some people having ______________! I think everybody should have equal rights!  

GRAMMAR – Past Simple and Present Perfect

3) Complete the sentences using the verbs provided. In one instance use the past simple, in the other the present perfect.

1. The Queen ______________ (to marry) Prince Philip in 1952. They ______________ (to be) married for 65 years. 2. Elizabeth II ______________ (to become) Queen 64 years ago. She ______________ (to be) Queen since 1952. 3. The Queen ______________ (to break) many records. She ______________ (to break) the record of longest-reigning monarch in 2015. 4. Queen Victoria ______________ (to rule) for 63 years. So far, Queen Elizabeth II ______________ (to rule) for 64 years. 5. The Queen ______________ (to be) the patron of my charity for many years. She even ______________ (to invite) me to Buckingham Palace once. 6. The Queen ______________ (to meet) the British prime minister last week. During her long reign, she ______________ (to meet) twelve prime ministers. 7. John ______________ (to see) the Queen at a ceremony in 2013. Lucy, however ____ never ____ (to see) her. 8. The Queen ______________ (to award) a medal to that man. It was a very special occasion for him, but for her it probably wasn’t: she ______________ (to award) thousands of honours since she became Queen. 9. ____ you ever _______ (to visit) Buckingham Palace? I ______________ (to visit) it last year. 10. Morrisey ______________ (to criticize) the monarchy in his 1986 album ‘The Queen is Dead’. He ______________ (to criticize) the monarchy for decades.  


4) Imagine you are a monarchist, somebody who supports and believes in monarchy. Explain why you think a monarchy is better than a republic. (60-80 words)

5) Now imagine you are a republican, somebody who supports and believes that all people in power should be elected. Explain why you think a republic is better than a monarchy. (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte)


(Image credits: flickr and flickr)


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