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10 TV Shows That Changed the Course of History

Have you ever been watching television and thought, "Wow, this soap opera is so good it could cause the downfall of a corrupt communist regime," or even, "I bet one day this show is going to send the first woman into space"? Well, maybe you're not giving the boob tube enough credit. While others are busy blaming television for all of society's downfalls, we think it's time someone stood up for ye olde idiot box. After all, these 10 television shows didn't just entertain, they helped convince the world to get with the program.

1. Dallas

The show that overthrew a dictator (Well, kind of.)

Dallas was one of the most popular TV shows in history—and nowhere was it more talked about than in Nicolae Ceausescu's communist Romania. How did the soap opera get past Romanian censors? With help from Dallas leading man, J.R. Ewing, of course. Because J.R. was portrayed as a despicable oil baron, Ceausescu's government presumably decided the show must be anti-capitalist. Whatever the reasoning, Dallas became a runaway hit when it arrived in Romania in 1979. A series about wealthy, beautiful people (evil or not) was an inspiration to Romania's poor and dejected masses. Eventually, the government decided such Western television was a bad influence, and Dallas was taken off the air in 1981. But by then, it was too late. The fantasies of Western life lived on in the imaginations of Romanians, and in 1989, Ceausescu was overthrown during a public uprising. Not incidentally, the actor who played J.R., Larry Hagman, visited Romania some years later and was treated as a hero. In an interview following the experience, Hagman said, "People from Bucharest came up to me in the street with tears in their eyes saying, "˜J.R. saved our country.' "

2. General Electric Theater

The show that turned Ronald Reagan into a Republican.
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In the early 1950s, film actor Ronald Reagan was at a low point in his career. So when Taft Schreiber, of the Music Corporation of America, got him a gig as the host of the anthology series General Electric Theater, Reagan jumped at the opportunity. For $125,000 a year and part-ownership of the program, he not only hosted the show, but also toured America as a "goodwill ambassador" for the electricity giant, giving speeches to plant employees and acting as its public spokesperson.

By the time General Electric Theater, was cancelled in 1962, Reagan was a new man. Turns out, all those years defending free enterprise for one of the nation's biggest multinational companies had transformed Reagan into one of America's leading conservative speakers. Although the actor had long been a Democrat, the Republican Schreiber convinced Reagan to change political parties. Four years later, the newly Republican Reagan was elected governor of California, and the rest is presidential history.

3. Out of This World

The show that gave birth to satellite TV.

On April 6, 1965, NASA launched one of the world's first commercially sponsored satellites into space. Dubbed Early Bird (but later renamed Intelsat 1), the stationary satellite was backed by the newly formed International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat), which comprised agencies from 17 countries. The goal: double the capacity of transatlantic satellite communications and make it possible to send live television signals across an ocean. Sounds great, but at the time, it was an enormous risk. Prior to Early Bird, space technology had been reserved for government projects, and there was no guarantee Americans were going to get excited about using satellites for their TV reception.

In order to win over TV viewers worldwide, Intelsat had to show off what Early Bird could do. Enter Out of This World. Just one month after the satellite's launch, as many as 300 million viewers across nine countries were united by this television special. The program featured live scenes from across the globe, including footage of a heart operation in Houston, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in Philadelphia, Pope Paul VI making an address from the Vatican, a bullfight in Barcelona, and (perhaps most intriguingly) Russian sailors singing and dancing aboard the HMS Victory in England.

The plan worked. Out of This World made the average person excited about satellites. It was a huge win for big businesses interested in making high-tech advances. Two weeks after the special aired, the first color TV show was transmitted from England to America. Three years after that, the first live satellite coverage of the Olympics was sent from Mexico to Britain. And one year after that, satellites broadcast the first astronauts landing on the moon.

4. Cathy Come Home

The drama that transformed the welfare state.
cathy-come-home.jpg

Directed by Ken Loach (who later became one of Britain's most respected filmmakers), the drama Cathy Come Home was a poignant episode of the BBC-1 anthology series The Wednesday Play. It told the tragic story of Cathy Ward, a young wife and mother who becomes the victim of Britain's welfare state. Going from working-class struggle to dire poverty, Cathy's journey begins when her husband loses his job following an accident and becomes unable to support the family. In a painful spiral toward destitution, Cathy suffers through various states of homelessness, separates from her husband, and eventually, has her children forcibly taken away from her by government council workers.

A truly horrifying story, its impact was compounded by the fact that Cathy Come Home was filmed in such a realistic style that some viewers thought it was a documentary. And although the Conservative Party government claimed the movie was "full of blunders," Labour Party politician Anthony Greenwood said the show should be "compulsory viewing once a month for the next five years." British audiences agreed, and Cathy Come Home was aired again shortly after. The ensuing public outrage helped bring major changes to British welfare law. Other nations followed suit, with similar reforms and charities.

5. Star Trek

The show that designed the future (of society).
Enterprise.jpg

Avid Spock fans might tell you that Star Trek is directly responsible for the invention of everything from cell phones to microwave ovens, but that's slightly exaggerated. While engineers at companies ranging from Nokia to General Electric have admitted to being inspired by the show's futuristic designs, most real life scientists and manufacturers don't credit the show for their inventions.

Star Trek did, however, help shape the future in another, and arguably more significant, way. Defying all stereotypes, the heroic crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise was comprised of a mix of races—and among them were some high-ranking women. Here again, Star Trek became an inspiration—only this time, to minorities and women, rather than tech junkies. Lieutenant Uhura, played by African-American jazz singer Nichelle Nichols, showed audiences that black women could be senior officers and hold positions of power. In fact, when Nichols contemplated quitting the series during its first year, she was persuaded to keep the role by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, who said. "Don't you realize how important your character is?" Years later, women ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, cited Lieutenant Uhura as a major inspiration in their careers. Nichols even spent time working for NASA on an astronaut-recruitment program—an initiative that roped in such people as Sally Ride and Guy Bluford, the first American woman and African-American man in space, respectively.

6. See It Now

The show that ended McCarthyism.
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If you know your 1950s history (or if you saw the movie Good Night, and Good Luck), you know the impact crusading journalist Edward R. Murrow had on American politics. His vehicle for galvanizing change? The current affairs show, See It Now, which premiered in 1951.

Well known as a World War II radio correspondent, Murrow wasn't a fan of television initially. He wanted to go beyond the talking-head discussions and newsreels that filled most nightly news shows at the time. So when he finally decided to move forward with See It Now, he did so on his own terms. The show's debut episode featured television's first live coast-to-coast transmission, which included a split-screen of the Brooklyn Bridge on one side and the Golden Gate on the other. Murrow also broke new ground by airing a day in the lives of Korean War soldiers. Of course, the show's most influential role was in exposing Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist fear campaign and opening Americans' eyes to the many lives and careers it was ruining. Thanks in part to fallout from Murrow's broadcast on March 9, 1954, the U.S. Senate reprimanded McCarthy for abusing his power, and McCarthyism came to an abrupt end.

Murrow wasn't afraid to take on rogue senators, and later, he proved he wasn't scared to take on Big Tobacco, either. Two episodes of See It Now explored the link between cigarettes and cancer—a brave move, considering television depended heavily on tobacco sponsorships at the time. But perhaps Murrow had a personal interest in the story. A three-pack-a-day smoker who regularly appeared on camera with a cigarette in hand, Murrow died of lung cancer in 1965.

7. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

The show that swung an election.

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The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was many things. It was the first network TV show to make fun of the Establishment, support America's counterculture, and have enough nerve to put blacklisted singers (such as Joan Baez and Pete Seeger) back on the air. Ironically, however, the show's major achievement might have been making Richard Nixon president.

As a gag, show star Pat Paulsen ran for office during the 1968 presidential election. "I'm consistently vague on the issues," announced Paulsen on national television, "and I'm continuing to make promises that I'll be unable to fulfill." Regardless of his humorous motives, Paulsen seemed to have a "Ralph Nader Effect," stealing 200,000 votes from the Democrats and helping to swing one of the closest elections in history. Thanks to Paulsen's efforts, Nixon narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. "Hubert Humphrey told me I cost him the election," recalled Paulsen, "and he wasn't smiling when he said it."

8. The Inventors

The show that stocked store shelves.
Turns out, ABC's American Inventor was about 36 years late to the game. That's right; in 1970, The Inventors was already becoming the American Idol for hyper-intelligent geeks south of the equator. In fact, the Australian program is responsible for popularizing several notable gizmos, including some you may have used (the self-wringing mop and the rotary brush), as well as at least one you hopefully haven't (the colostomy bag). Contestants also introduced useful industrial wares, such as a solar energy tracker and the Super Sopper (a giant roller that soaks up water and has been used to save countless major sporting events from turning into mud fights).

The judges were primarily science and business know-it-alls who were almost as scary as Simon Cowell, but the panel was balanced out with housewife Diana Fisher, who would ask the important questions. (Her most common query: "Does it come in other colors?") And while the contestants weren't always as cute as Carrie Underwood, the show did create its own superstars. Perhaps the biggest winner was Ralph Sarich, whose many inventions included the orbital engine, a rotary-style internal combustion engine that seemed set to change the world with its powerful and unique fuel-injection system (pictured). By the time Sarich was named the show's Inventor of the Year in 1972, he'd already signed a multimillion-dollar marketing deal with a major manufacturing company. The original orbital engine didn't work out in the end (due to its high fuel consumption), but later versions hit paydirt, and Sarich even started his own engine-making company. In 1992, he sold his shares and invested heavily in real estate. He's now one of Australia's richest men.

9. Hour of Decision

The show that gave us Billy Graham.
Hour of Decision didn't introduce American audiences to televangelism; it introduced them to the televangelist who would change America—Reverend Billy Graham.

Other evangelists had hosted TV shows in the 1950s, including Bishop James Pike, Norman Vincent Peale (of self-help-book fame), and Oral Roberts, but few were able to use the medium as effectively as the charismatic Reverend Graham. Based on his wildly successful radio program of the same name (which is still on the air), a typical TV episode of Hour of Decision featured religious music, a short sermon by Graham, and a prerecorded interview with a person of interest. Although the show lasted only three years, Graham made the leap to prime time a couple of years later with a series of live telecasts that allowed TV audiences to be a part of his Madison Square Garden crusades.

Graham's telecasts were a huge hit, and the Reverend became a bona fide national celebrity. Year after year, he appeared in Gallup Polls as one of the "most admired Americans," and by 1974, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was receiving some 50,000 viewer letters a week. Also, in a telling illustration of Graham's influence over the American people, President Richard Nixon made certain he and Reverend Graham were regularly seen together. Nixon even spoke at one of Graham's rallies in 1970. However, after Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, Graham (who usually claimed to be apolitical) was conspicuously absent from White House dinner parties.

10. The Living Planet

The show that made us go green.
Sir David Attenborough is possibly Britain's most influential and venerated environmentalist—all thanks to the power of television. A wildlife buff, Attenborough made a name for himself beginning in the 1950s as the host for the BBC show Zoo Quest. But in 1979, he hit it big with the acclaimed 13-part miniseries Life on Earth, in which he traveled the world studying the chronology of every type of plant and animal he could find. (All told, the film crew traveled some 1.5 million miles to 30 countries during a three-year period, and shot nearly 250 miles of footage.)

The tremendous success of Life on Earth led to its Emmy-winning 1984 sequel, The Living Planet, which focused on all the ways species adapt to their natural environment—and in the case of humans, plunder it. Each episode in this 12-part miniseries ended with a warning from Attenborough that the environment was in danger. "The natural world is not static, nor has it ever been," Attenborough explained. "But man is now imposing such swift changes that organisms seldom have time to adapt to them "¦ The continued existence of life now rests in our hands."

Attenborough wasn't the first person to make such warnings, but he was the first person people really listened to—not just in Britain, but around the world. The Living Planet aired in 100 countries, and audiences came to revere him so much that they took the caution to heart. The show became a major inspiration for the Green Movement. Not coincidentally, the program peaked in popularity during the late 1980s.

Mark Juddery is a writer and historian based in Australia, with books, scripts and countless articles to his credit. Learn more at markjuddery.com.

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25 Regal Facts About Queen Elizabeth II
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In February 2017, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65-year reign as Queen of England. Her Majesty surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years, as Britain's longest-ruling monarch, and now also holds the title of the world's longest-reigning monarch. Here are 25 more royal facts about Queen Elizabeth, to celebrate her 92nd birthday (her real one—she has two, after all).

1. SHE WASN'T BORN AN HEIR APPARENT TO THE THRONE.

The Queen Elizabeth (3rd-L, future Queen Mother), her daughter Princess Elizabeth (4th-L, future Queen Elizabeth II), Queen Mary (C) , Princess Margaret (5th-L) and the King George VI (R), pose at the balcony of the Buckingham Palace in December 1945.
The Queen Elizabeth (3rd-L, future Queen Mother), her daughter Princess Elizabeth (4th-L, future Queen Elizabeth II), Queen Mary (C) , Princess Margaret (5th-L) and the King George VI (R), pose at the balcony of the Buckingham Palace in December 1945.
AFP, Getty Images

For the first 10 years of her life, Princess Elizabeth was a relatively minor royal—her status was akin to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York today—but that all changed with the death of her grandfather, King George V, in 1936.

The next in the line of royal succession was Elizabeth's uncle, Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne less than a year after taking it so that he could marry an American socialite named Wallis Simpson. Edward didn't have any children at the time, so his brother Albert (Elizabeth’s father) ascended to the throne, taking the name George VI and making the then-10-year-old Elizabeth the first in line to become Queen.

2. HER YOUNGER SISTER GAVE HER A FAMILY NICKNAME.

Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth in 1933.
Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth in 1933.
AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth and Margaret were the only children of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and King George VI, who said of his daughters: "Lilibet is my pride, Margaret my joy." "Lilibet," of course, is Elizabeth, who earned her nickname because Margaret—whom the family affectionately called Margot—constantly mispronounced her big sister’s name.

3. SHE DIDN'T GO TO SCHOOL.

Princesses Elizabeth (right) and Margaret at Waterloo Station, London, 1939.
Princesses Elizabeth (right) and Margaret at Waterloo Station, London, 1939.
Fox Photos, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Heirs apparent don’t just show up to primary school like normal kids. Instead, Elizabeth was tutored at home during sessions by different teachers like Henry Marten, vice-provost of Eton College (which is still for boys only), and was also given private religion lessons by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

4. BUT SHE AND MARGARET TECHNICALLY DID HAVE A TEACHER.

Stamps from 1937 featuring Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, The Coronation Chair, Westminster Abbey, The Coronation Coach, The Houses of Parliament, Windsor Castle, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the King's Coronation.
Stamps from 1937 featuring Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, The Coronation Chair, Westminster Abbey, The Coronation Coach, The Houses of Parliament, Windsor Castle, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the King's Coronation.
London Express, Getty Images

Just because she didn't attend school doesn't mean that Elizabeth didn't receive an education. She received the bulk of it through her nanny, Marion Crawford, who the royal family referred to as "Crawfie." Crawford would eventually be ostracized by the royal family for writing a tell-all book in 1953 called The Little Princesses without their permission; the book recounted Crawford's experiences with Elizabeth during her younger days.

5. SHE WANTED TO GO TO WAR, BUT WAS TOO YOUNG.

Queen consort Elizabeth holds Princess Margaret's hand as Princess Elizabeth follows, in 1936.
Queen consort Elizabeth holds Princess Margaret's hand as Princess Elizabeth follows, in 1936.
Central Press, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When World War II broke out in 1939, Elizabeth—then just a teenager—begged her father to join the effort somehow. She started out by making radio broadcasts geared toward raising the morale of British children. During one of the broadcasts, the 14-year-old princess reassured listeners, "I can truthfully say to you all that we children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage. We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers, and airmen and we are trying too to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war."

6. SHE EVENTUALLY SERVED IN WORLD WAR II.

Princess Elizabeth changing the tire of a vehicle as she trains at as ATS Officer during World War II in April 1945.
Princess Elizabeth changing the tire of a vehicle as she trains at as ATS Officer during World War II in April 1945.
Central Press, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite the risks, Elizabeth eventually joined the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service and trained as a truck driver and mechanic in 1945, when she was 18 years old.

Queen Elizabeth remains the only female royal family member to have entered the armed forces, and is currently the only living head of state who officially served in World War II.

7. SHE CELEBRATED THE END OF THE WAR BY PARTYING LIKE HER SUBJECTS.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in 1947.
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in 1947.
William Vanderson, Fox Photos/Getty Images

When then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that the war in Europe was over on May 8, 1945, people poured out into the streets of London to celebrate—including Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The sheltered duo were allowed to sneak out of Buckingham Palace to join the revelers at their father's behest.

"It was a unique burst of personal freedom," recalled Margaret Rhodes, their cousin who went with them, "a Cinderella moment in reverse."

8. SHE MARRIED HER COUSIN.

Then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, following their wedding ceremony in November 1947.
Then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, following their wedding ceremony in November 1947.
AFP, Getty Images

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth are third cousins; both share the same great-great-grandparents: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

9. ELIZABETH AND HER HUSBAND HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER SINCE CHILDHOOD.

A family portrait in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace on the wedding day of Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on November 20, 1947.
A family portrait in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace on the wedding day of Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on November 20, 1947.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, first met Elizabeth when she was only eight years old and he was 14. Both attended the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece (Prince Philip's cousin) and Prince George, the Duke of Kent (Elizabeth’s uncle).

Five years later the pair met again when George VI brought Elizabeth to tour the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where Philip was a cadet. In a personal note, Elizabeth recalled falling for the young soldier-in-the-making: "I was 13 years of age and he was 18 and a cadet just due to leave. He joined the Navy at the outbreak of war, and I only saw him very occasionally when he was on leave—I suppose about twice in three years," she wrote. "Then when his uncle and aunt, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, were away he spent various weekends away with us at Windsor."

10. SHE DIDN'T TELL HER PARENTS SHE WAS GETTING HITCHED.

Princess Elizabeth, Philip Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), King George VI, and Princess Margaret pose in Buckingham Palace on July 9, 1947, the day the engagement of Princess Elizabeth & Philip Mountbatten was officially announced.
Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II), Philip Mountbatten (also the Duke of Edinburgh), Queen Elizabeth (future Queen Mother), King George VI, and Princess Margaret pose in Buckingham Palace on July 9, 1947, the day the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten was officially announced.
AFP/Getty Images

In 1946, Philip proposed to Elizabeth when the former planned a month-long visit to Balmoral, her royal estate in Scotland. She accepted the proposal without even contacting her parents. But when George VI finally caught wind of the pending nuptials he would only officially approve if they waited to announce the engagement until after her 21st birthday.

The official public announcement of the engagement finally came nearly a year later on July 9, 1947.

11. SHE HAS A VERY ROYAL NAME.

Princess Elizabeth (left) and her mother, Queen consort Elizabeth, in 1951.
Princess Elizabeth (left) and her mother, Queen consort Elizabeth, in 1951.
Reg Speller, Fox Photos/Getty Images

She's the second British monarch named Elizabeth, but Elizabeth II wasn't named after Henry VIII's famous progeny. Queen Elizabeth II's birth name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, after the names of her mother, Elizabeth, her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and her paternal grandmother, Queen Mary.

12. SHE GOT TO CHOOSE HER OWN SURNAME.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with two of their children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, circa 1951.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with two of their children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, circa 1951.
OFF, AFP/Getty Images

Technically, the Queen's last name is "Windsor," which was first chosen by George V in 1917 after the royal family wanted to distance themselves from "Saxe-Coburg-Gotha"—the dynasty to which they belonged—for sounding too Germanic during World War I.

But as a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the royal family, in 1960 Elizabeth and Philip adopted the official surname Windsor-Mountbatten. (Fans will surely remember that the surname drama was briefly discussed in Netflix’s series The Crown.)

13. SHE HAS TWO BIRTHDAYS.

Princess Elizabeth just before her 21st birthday in April 1947.
Princess Elizabeth just before her 21st birthday in April 1947.
AFP/Getty Images

Like most British monarchs, Elizabeth gets to celebrate her birthday twice, and the reason why boils down to seasonably appropriate pomp and circumstance.

She was born on April 21, 1926, but April was deemed too cold and liable to fall during inclement weather. So instead, her official state-recognized birthday occurs on a Saturday in late May or June, so that the celebration can be held during warmer months. The specific date varies year to year in the UK, and usually coincides with Trooping the Colour, Britain’s annual military pageant.

14. HER CORONATION WAS TELEVISED AGAINST HER WISHES.

Queen Elizabeth's coronation, June 1953
Queen Elizabeth's coronation, June 1953.
AFP, Getty Images

Elizabeth officially ascended to the throne at just 25 years of age when her father, George VI, died on February 6, 1952. Elizabeth was in Kenya at the time of his death and returned home as her country's Queen. As fans of The Crown will remember, the hubbub surrounding her coronation was filled with ample amounts of drama.

The notoriously camera-shy Elizabeth—who didn't even allow photos to be taken of her wedding—didn't want the event televised, and others believed that broadcasting the coronation to commoners would break down upper-class traditions of only allowing members of British high society to witness the event. A Coronation Commission, chaired by Philip, was set up to weigh the options, and they initially decided to only allow cameras in a single area of Westminster Abbey "west of the organ screen," before allowing the entire thing to be televised with one minor caveat: no close-ups on Elizabeth's face.

15. SHE PAID FOR HER WEDDING DRESS USING WAR RATION COUPONS.

A 1947 sketch of Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress by Norman Hartnell.
A 1947 sketch of Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress by Norman Hartnell.
Central Press, Getty Images

Still reeling from an atmosphere of post-war austerity, Elizabeth used ration coupons and a 200-coupon supplement from the government to pay for her wedding dress. But don't be fooled, the dress was extremely elegant; it was made of ivory duchesse silk, encrusted with 10,000 imported seed pearls, took six months to make, and sported a 13-foot train. (It cost just under $40,000 to recreate the dress for The Crown.)

16. SHE DOESN'T NEED A PASSPORT TO TRAVEL.

Queen Elizabeth II in Nuku'alofa, Tonga in December 1953.
Queen Elizabeth II in Nuku'alofa, Tonga in December 1953.
STRINGER, AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth II is the world's most well-traveled head of state, visiting 116 countries between 265 official state visits, but she doesn't even own a passport. Since all British passports are officially issued in the Queen’s name, she technically doesn't need one.

17. SHE DOESN'T NEED A DRIVER'S LICENSE EITHER.

Queen Elizabeth II drives a car in 1958.
Queen Elizabeth II drives a car in 1958.
Bob Haswell, Express/Getty Images

It's not just because she has a fleet of chauffeurs. Britain also officially issues driver's licenses in Elizabeth’s name, so don’t expect her to show off her ID when she gets pulled over taking other heads of state for a spin in her Range Rover.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, recounted to The Sunday Times the time when Elizabeth drove former Saudi crown prince Abdullah around the grounds of Balmoral: "To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off," he said. "Women are not—yet—allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen."

18. SHE DOESN'T HAVE TO PAY TAXES (BUT CHOOSES TO ANYWAY).

Queen Elizabeth rides in a carriage in 2000.
ODD ANDERSEN, AFP/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth has voluntarily paid income and capital gains taxes since 1992, but has always been subject to Value Added Tax.

19. SHE SURVIVED AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II rides a horse side saddle and salutes during a Trooping of the Colour ceremony in London in 1952.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II rides a horse side saddle and salutes during a Trooping of the Colour ceremony in London in 1952.
STRINGER, AFP/Getty Images

During the 1981 Trooping the Colour, the Queen led a royal procession on horseback down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace when shots rang out. A 17-year-old named Marcus Sarjeant, who was obsessed with the assassinations of figures like John Lennon and John F. Kennedy, fired a series of blanks toward Elizabeth. Sarjeant—who wrote in his diary, "I am going to stun and mystify the whole world with nothing more than a gun"—was thankfully unable to purchase live ammunition in the UK. He received a prison sentence of five years under the 1848 Treason Act, but was released in October 1984.

20. SHE ALSO SURVIVED AN INTRUDER COMING INTO HER BEDROOM.

Queen Elizabeth II in Australia in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth II in Australia in 1954.
Fox Photos, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A year after the Trooping the Colour incident, Elizabeth had another run-in. But instead of near Buckingham Palace, this time it was inside Buckingham Palace. On July 9, 1982, a man named Michael Fagen managed to climb over the Palace's barbed wire fence, shimmy up a drain pipe, and eventually sneak into the Queen's bedroom.

While reports at the time said Fagen and the Queen had a long conversation before he was apprehended by palace security, Fagen told The Independent the Queen didn't stick around to chat: "She went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor."

21. SHE TECHNICALLY OWNS ALL THE DOLPHINS IN THE UK.

The HMAS Vengeance seen from a helicopter, as the Australian Naval crew spell out the signature of Queen Elizabeth II on the deck, in 1954.
The HMAS Vengeance seen from a helicopter, as the Australian Naval crew spell out the signature of Queen Elizabeth II on the deck, in 1954.
Keystone, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In addition to owning all of the country's dolphins, she owns all the sturgeon and whales, too. A still-valid statute from the reign of King Edward II in 1324 states, "Also the King shall have ... whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm," meaning most aquatic creatures are technically labeled "fishes royal," and are claimed on behalf of the Crown.

As the song goes, "Rule, Britannia! Britannia rules the waves!"

22. SHE HAS HER OWN SPECIAL MONEY TO GIVE TO THE POOR.

Queen Elizabeth II hands out maundy money in 2004.
Queen Elizabeth II hands out maundy money in 2004.
PHIL NOBLE, AFP/Getty Images

Known as "maundy money," the Queen has silver coins—currently with Elizabeth's likeness on the front—that are given to pensioners in a ceremony called Maundy Thursday. The royal custom dates back to the 13th century, in which the royal family was expected to wash the feet of and distribute gifts to penniless subjects as a symbolic gesture to honor Jesus’s act of washing the feet of the poor in the Bible. Once the 18th century rolled around and washing people's dirty feet wasn't seen as befitting of a royal, the act was replaced with money allowances bequeathed by the monarch.

23. GIN IS HER DRINK OF CHOICE.

Queen Elizabeth II sipping a drink.
RUSSEL MILLARD, AFP/Getty Images

The Queen drinks gin mixed with Dubonnet (a fortified wine) and a slice of lemon on the rocks every day before lunch. She also reportedly drinks wine at lunch and has a glass of champagne every evening.

24. SHE CREATED HER OWN BREED OF DOGS.

Queen Elizabeth with her dog Susan, circa 1959.
Queen Elizabeth with her dog Susan, circa 1959.
AFP, Getty Images

Elizabeth has a famous, avowed love of Corgis (she has owned more than 30 of them during her reign; her last dog, Willow, recently passed away), but what about Dorgis? She currently owns two Dorgis (Candy and Vulcan), a crossbreed she engineered when one of her Corgis mated with a Dachshund named Pipkin that belonged to Princess Margaret.

25. SHE'S ON SOCIAL MEDIA … KIND OF.

Queen Elizabeth II tours a Canadian Blackberry factory in 2010.
Queen Elizabeth II tours a Canadian Blackberry factory in 2010.
John Stillwell, Pool/Getty Images

The Queen joined Twitter in July 2009 under the handle @RoyalFamily, and sent the first tweet herself, but hasn't personally maintained the page since then. In fact, a job listing went up in 2017 looking for an official royal Digital Communications Officer to help out. She's also on Facebook (and no, you cannot poke The Royal Family).

This story originally ran in 2017.

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