The Royal Family has become increasingly popular in the media again, thanks to Prince Harry and Megan Markle's rapidly approaching wedding date. With all this news from across the pond, it's not surprising that people are turning their eyes back to the matriarch of the family and wondering: is Queen Elizabeth II a feminist?
On Sept. 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history after surpassing the reign of her great-great grandmother Victoria. And, only a year later, the Queen became the longest reigning monarch in the world following the death of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. With reigning years beginning after her father's death in 1952, the Queen has seen a number of extra ordinary changes in the world; such as devolution in the United Kingdom and the patriation of Canada.
Recently, the Queen has been the subject of Netflix's The Crown, a historical drama series showcasing her life. The series has been celebrated for its feminist moments, but it's still a television show; while it's largely biographical, things are still open to creative interpretation. In reality, the Queen has a long and complicated legacy, further complicated because she doesn't actually give many interviews. It's hard to know the Queen's personal feelings on any matter, but here are a couple instances of feminism unpacked.
When She Became The First Member Of The Royal Family In the Armed Forces
Fun fact: Queen Elizabeth II drove trucks in the war, according to The History Channel's website.
More specifically, before she was queen, Elizabeth joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II. During her time of service, she was known as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, training in London as a mechanic and military truck driver, according to the History Channel.
She is the only female member of the Royal Family to have entered the armed forces. At this point in time, she's also the only living head of state who served in World War II.
Given that she drove military trucks, it's safe to say that the Queen has excellent driving skills, which she obviously doesn't hesitate to show off.
She Showed Off Her Driving Skills To Saudi Arabia's King
One day, in 1998, the Queen decided to have some fun when Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz visited Baymoral, a royal estate in Scotland.
The Queen offered to give him a tour of the grounds and the following is what happened next, according to former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles:
The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. 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. His nervousness only increased as the queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.
The event was later confirmed by Abdullah, making it undeniably true and hilarious.
She's A Member of the Women's Institute (Since Her Princess Days)
The Women's Institute (WI) was founded in 1915 to revitalize rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in food production during World War I. According to its website, the WI plays a unique role "in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities."
Is it any surprise, then, that Queen Elizabeth joined up during her princess days? She became a member in 1943 and has been as active as she can be, given that she's President of Sandringham.
She Paid For Her Wedding Dress With Clothing Rations
On Nov. 20, 1947, then-Princess Elizabeth donned a complex wedding dress designed by Norman Hartnell for her wedding to Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, according to the Imperial War Museum.
While most of us know that food was rationed during World War II, not many people are aware that clothing got rationed as well. The reason for it was because the demand for uniforms put such pressure on clothing factories, the British government realized they needed to preserve raw resources. As a result, the clothing ration went into effect on June 1, 1941, according to IWM.
The royal family was no exception to this rule. According to History.com, in order to purchase her dress, the then-Princess had to save up. The rationing system relied on coupons, with each item of clothing being given a value within the system. As the war progressed, coupons got rarer and rarer.
It's hard to imagine just how many coupons were needed in order to purchase such an extravagant gown, but it's safe to assume it was no small number.
Not Even An Assassination Attempt Could Slow Her Down
After spending over 60 years on the throne, it's safe to assume there's not a lot in public that can truly rattle the Queen. However, this is a trait she actually developed early on.
Back on June 13, 1981, while celebrating her birthday, six shots rang out as Queen Elizabeth rode her horse in a parade near Buckingham Palace. The shots were fired by Marcus Sarjeant, a 17 year old who idolized the assassins of John F. Kennedy and John Lennon.
While the Queen was not hurt, a witness, according to the New York Times, stated that she appeared white and shaken. But, the Queen simply calmed her spooked horse and resumed the procession.