1. She didn’t have a passport.

Despite being history’s most widely traveled head of state—she reportedly visited 116 countries during her reign—Elizabeth did not hold a passport. Since all British passports are issued in the queen’s name, she herself didn’t need one. She also didn’t require a driver’s license, though she was known to take joyrides around her various estates in her Range Rover.

2. She had two different birthdays.

Queen Elizabeth II
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Baby Elizabeth in May 1926.

The British monarch was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York on April 21, 1926. However, each Commonwealth country traditionally celebrates her birthday on a designated day in May or June. In the United Kingdom, for instance, it falls on the first, second or third Saturday in June. Britain officially marked her birthday since 1748, when the event was merged with the annual “Trooping the Colour” ceremony and parade. Elizabeth typically spent her real birthday enjoying private festivities with her family.

3. She drove a truck during World War II.

Queen Elizabeth II in World War II
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Elizabeth wears an officer’s uniform and stands beside an Auxiliary Territorial Service first aid truck during World War II.

After months of begging her father to let his heir pitch in, Elizabeth—then an 18-year-old princess—joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II. Known as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, she donned a pair of coveralls and trained in London as a mechanic and military truck driver. The queen was the only female member of the royal family to have entered the armed forces and was the only living head of state who served in World War II.

4. She paid for her wedding dress with ration coupons.

Princess Elizabeth married her third cousin Philip Mountbatten, formerly prince of Greece and Denmark, on November 20, 1947.

Held during the postwar recovery years, their wedding was a relatively understated affair, at least compared to the lavish union of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981. With austerity measures still in effect, Elizabeth had to save up ration coupons to purchase the material for her wedding dress, an ivory satin gown designed by Norman Hartnell and encrusted with 10,000 white pearls.

5. She didn’t take her husband’s name.

Queen Elizabeth II
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Elizabeth and Philip appear with Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1951.

Elizabeth’s father, George VI, was born into the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but during World War I the family name was changed to Windsor amid anti-German sentiment. Similarly, her husband Prince Philip dropped his father’s Germanic surname, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, and adopted that of his maternal grandparents, Mountbatten, during their engagement. 

But when Elizabeth ascended the throne, her mother and Prime Minister Winston Churchill did everything in their power to prevent the queen and her line from becoming the House of Mountbatten. They succeeded, but several years later Elizabeth proclaimed that some of her descendants would carry the name Mountbatten-Windsor—probably in an attempt to placate her fuming husband.

6. She sent an email in 1976.

Queen Elizabeth II
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Elizabeth visits Google’s U.K. offices in 2008.

On March 26, 1976, Queen Elizabeth sent her first email while taking part in a network technology demonstration at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, a research facility in Malvern, England. The message was transmitted over ARPANET, the forerunner of the modern internet. She is considered the first head of state to have used electronic mail.

7. She was shot at by a teenager.

Queen Elizabeth II
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Elizabeth rides her horse on June 13, 1981, shortly before a would-be assassin shot at her.

During her birthday celebration on June 13, 1981, shots rang out as Elizabeth rode her horse in a parade near Buckingham Palace. Marcus Sarjeant, a 17-year-old who idolized the assassins of John F. Kennedy and John Lennon, had fired six blank shots in the queen’s direction. Swiftly subdued by police, the teen spent three years in a psychiatric prison. Elizabeth, meanwhile, merely calmed her startled horse and resumed her procession.

8. She once woke up to find a stalker in her bedroom.

On July 9, 1982, a 31-year-old psychiatric patient named Michael Fagan scaled a Buckingham Palace drainpipe and sauntered into Elizabeth’s chambers. The sleeping monarch awoke to find a strange man perched on the edge of her bed, dripping blood from where he had cut his hand while wandering the palace’s dark corridors.

Initially unable to reach the police, Elizabeth was said to have engaged Fagan in conversation for at least 10 minutes, listening to him chat about his personal problems and relationship with his four children. Finally, a footman roused from his slumber seized the loquacious intruder. It turned out that Fagan, who was ordered to spend six months in a mental hospital, had also crept into the royal residence weeks earlier, making off with a bottle of Prince Charles’ white wine.

HISTORY Vault: Profiles: Queen Elizabeth II

Chart the unexpected rise and record-breaking reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which unfolded in the turbulent modern history of the English monarchy.