13 fascinating facts you didn't know about the royal family

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Earlier this week, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life was released. Written by Sally Bedell Smith, the extensive biography gives an in-depth look at the life—and family—of Britain's heir apparent.

We read the book, which contains more than a few fascinating facts about Queen Elizabeth II and her relatives. Below, the 13 most interesting things we learned:

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13 fascinating facts you didn't know about the royal family
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13 fascinating facts you didn't know about the royal family

The Queen was actually really cool when it came to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding

At first, Prince William and Kate Middleton received a list of more than 700 names—none of whom they knew. When Prince William approached his grandmother, she apparently said, “Get rid of it . . . . Start from your friends and then we’ll add those we need to in due course. It’s your day.” Ultimately, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown, both former British prime ministers, were invited.

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Prince Charles didn’t love Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first big trip together as newlyweds

Now, the Internet eats up any official trip taken by Prince William and Kate Middleton. (Just think of their recent jaunt in Paris, or their trips to Canada and India.) But Prince Charles thought that the couple’s first official tour as newlyweds, which included stops in Canada and California, had a few too many photo ops.

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After Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, the dynamics within the royal family changed

Besides Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince Philip have three other children—Princess Royal Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward. They’re a nuclear family, but since Prince William and Kate Middleton have added to the next generation in line for the throne, the royal family has become somewhat two-tiered. An example of this came during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee during a flotilla on the Thames. Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry joined the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles on their boat. Princess Anne, Princes Andrew and Edward, and their families rode down the river separately.

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Prince Charles is not good with technology—and Prince Harry likes to tease him about it

Prince Charles responds to emails with handwritten notes. According to Smith, Prince Harry once jokingly said, “You’d get a lot more things done if you actually picked up the phone, or—guess what?—send a text message.”

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Prince William and Kate Middleton used to live in a humble cottage, but their current residences each had an expensive renovation

Prince William had to duck down to walk around the couple’s previous home, because its ceilings were so low. However, after their wedding, their Kensington Palace apartment, which contains 20 rooms, underwent a $6 million renovation. Anmer Hall, the country home where they currently live, cost $2 million to renovate. As we’re well aware, Kensington Palace is undergoing another renovation ahead of the couple moving back full-time later this year.

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Kate Middleton got really into decorating her new home

Architect Charles Morris and interior decorator Ben Pentreath worked on Anmer Hall. According to Smith, the Duchess of Cambridge would type up notes of their conversations on her train rides. Like many homes today, the kitchen is the center of the house. When the Queen visited their home, she apparently said, “It’s extraordinary that they all live in the kitchen—only one room!”

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Prince Harry participated in at least one missile attack against the Taliban while he was deployed in Afghanistan

Prince Harry has done a fair amount of service, including being deployed to Afghanistan for a 4-month stretch. He was an Apache helicopter pilot and served as a copilot gunner in a missile attack on the Taliban.

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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall was a big fan of Downton Abbey

Camilla may have been previously vilified as Prince Charles’s former mistress, but her down-to-earth nature and easy way with the press have won people over. Valentine Low, a reporter for The Times, had written a piece on Downton Abbey that contained spoilers. Camilla had read the piece, and when she noticed Low on her trip to Australia, she said to him, “Valentine, you ruined my Downton!”

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Kate Middleton once snuck into an art exhibition after-hours, almost like a regular person

The Duchess of Cambridge went to see a 2012 David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. While there, she chatted normally with a lawyer and his son—who didn’t even recognize her.

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Prince Charles was hoping Princess Charlotte would be a girl

After Princess Charlotte was born in 2015, Prince Charles said, “I was hoping for a granddaughter—someone to look after me when I am very old.” We're not exactly sure if the second half of his comment was a joke or not.

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The butler of Princess Anne, the Queen’s only daughter, gets to wear jeans

Prince William and Kate Middleton may have a full-time staff, but they still have a lot less formal help than Prince Charles. In the book, one of William’s relatives is quoted as saying, “They will do it differently from his father, maybe not as informally as Princess Anne, who has her butler in jeans.”

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The Queen’s death is now more of an open topic

A recent long-form article in The Guardian discussed the secret plan for what will happen when the Queen dies. But among the royal household and the royal family, the Queen apparently believes that an open discussion is “healthy and important.”

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In many ways, Prince William is a lot like the Queen

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, former principal private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and to Prince Harry, says, “William is like his grandmother . . . . He gets on with his duty, dedicates himself to doing the job . . . . [He’s] looking at ‘the long game.’ ” The Queen, Lady Elizabeth Anson says, can see “continuity” with the couple.

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