Considering her status as one of the most famous and recognisable people in the world, the Queen’s private life has intentionally remained something of a mystery. However, details of her life away from royal duties have emerged over the years.
What has never been in doubt is the Queen’s primary passion for horses – she had her first riding lesson when she was just three years old. On her fourth birthday, she was given her first pony, a Shetland mare named Peggy, by her grandfather King George V.
By 18, she was a highly proficient rider – a skill that served her well when attending the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on horseback from her first appearance in 1947 until 1986. From 1969, she rode Burmese, a black mare that was given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Remarkably, at the age of 94, she was pictured riding her Fell pony, Balmoral Fern, around the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Not only a keen rider, the Queen has maintained a lifelong passion for racing and breeding. Having inherited her father’s stock, her thoroughbreds have won over 1600 races, with the Epsom Derby being the only classic to elude her. A constant attendee at Royal Ascot, the Queen’s typically impenetrable façade has been known to slip when one of her horses is involved in a particularly exciting race.
The Queen is also known for her love of four-wheeled travel. Although not required to hold a driving license, she learnt to drive during World War II when she operated a first-aid truck for the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. Primarily chauffeur-driven in official state cars, the Queen has also regularly been seen behind the wheel over the years.
Unsurprisingly, the Queen’s private car collection is largely British in origin. Littered with Bentley’s, Jaguar’s and Rolls-Royce’s, she is said to be most fond of the more agricultural Land Rover Defender, having owned roughly 30 in her lifetime.
From a young age, the Queen was surrounded by music and took up the piano at 11 years of age. Holding two honorary degrees in music, she has been a committed champion of the classical music industry and is often seen attending concerts. Her more populist tastes emerged when she revealed her favourite songs to the BBC in 2016 – among them, The White Cliffs of Dover by Vera Lynne and Fred Astaire’s Cheek to Cheek. She is also known to enjoy musicals such as Oklahoma! and Annie Get Your Gun.
The Queen’s devotion to her dogs, most famously her Welsh Corgis, stretches back to her childhood when her father King George VI brought one home in 1933. She has owned and bred 30 throughout her life and they have been depicted in numerous artworks, photographs and paintings. Their most memorable appearance came when they starred alongside the Queen in a James Bond sketch as part of the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics. For more on the Queen’s life and interests, watch this Queen Elizabeth biography.