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jubilee queen

Monarchs, royal language, and coronation chicken: an interactive jubilee image

To celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II this weekend, we’re exploring the world of royalty, from the life and family of Elizabeth II to the names of monarchs, and even the origin of coronation chicken.

We’re also delving into the influence of royalty on the English language, from margherita pizza to corduroy trousers. And we’re taking a trip back to 1952, the year of the Queen’s coronation, to learn which words and terms are sharing their 60th anniversary with the Queen.

Simply click on the numbers or arrows below to work your way through the images. Click on the images and some fascinating facts will appear below.


Elizabeth II: her life and family
Coronation chicken
A timeline of English queens
Royal pizza, cocktails, and trousers
Words sharing their 60th anniversary with the Queen
What’s in a name?
Click the image to see more!

At first, there was only a slight possibility that Elizabeth might become queen, since her uncle (the Prince of Wales) might well marry and have children, or her parents might have a son. Neither event happened, and in 1936 when Edward VIII abdicated, she became heir presumptive to her father, George VI. In 1947, at the age of twenty-one, she married Philip, like her father a naval officer, whom she had known and admired for several years. A year later, her son Charles was born.

She was given little time to develop her own family life before she was called to the throne in 1952 by the early death of her father. The mood and atmosphere of the country was still post-war. Economic recovery was slow, there was still rationing, and decolonization had already started with the independence of India, Pakistan, and Burma. After the euphoria of welcoming a young and attractive queen, and the excitement of her coronation, watched by millions clustering round small black-and-white television sets, the mood began to change, and voices were heard in criticism. Debate began on the extent to which ‘the curtain’ should be raised on royal activities, and modernizers and traditionalists began to draw up battle lines.

The Queen’s greatest problems have been within the royal family. These were accentuated by the growth of an avid, intrusive, and censorious press. The Palace was uncertain how to respond to a prurient and raucous press. One reply was a documentary film, Royal Family, shown in 1969, and regarded at the time as a daring initiative. An exercise in studied informality, it was well received, but the new press was not long to be satisfied with the revelation that the Duke of Edinburgh could fry sausages. A very different approach landed the royal family in the unmitigated disaster of It’s a Royal Knock-out!, shown on television in 1987.

From these populist gestures, the Queen held aloof and emerged unscathed. There are, from time to time, rumours that she may abdicate, but they are invariably followed by strong denials, and Prince Charles seems likely to be one of the oldest monarchs to inherit the throne. Despite serious financial and political difficulties, the monarchy at the time of this jubilee looks more confident and assured than seemed likely 20 years ago. Should Elizabeth II still be on the throne in 2015 she will surpass the 63 years of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Extract from The Kings and Queens of Britain.

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This famous dish was invented by Constance Spry, a florist, and her close friend chef Rosemary Hume to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

The women had opened a domestic science school at Winkfield Place, Berkshire in 1946 and Constance was commissioned to supply the flowers for the marriage of the future Queen Elizabeth in 1947. In 1953 she was called upon again to supply the flowers for the coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Rosemary Hume and the Winkfield students were asked to cater for a coronation lunch for foreign delegates. It was for this menu that they put forward their invention coronation chicken, a cold dish consisting of cooked chicken pieces in a sauce flavoured with apricots and curry spices.

This may have been based on ‘Jubilee chicken’, a similar dish that had been created for the silver jubilee of George V in 1935.

Curry powder was used in the original dish because fresh herbs and spices were difficult to come by in post-war Britain where rationing was still enforced.

On the day, the dish was called ‘Poulet Reine Elizabeth’, and it was later featured in the best-selling 1956 Constance Spry Cookery Book, which was co-written by Spry and Hume, with the name ‘coronation chicken’. It is its use in this book that the Oxford English Dictionary cites as the first recorded usage of the term.

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Since 1066 there have only been eight queens of England and many of them have struggled to assert their legitimacy in the face of a political world dominated by the power and privilege of men.

The Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods (circa 600-1500) saw only one woman attempt to rule, and for the Tudors Mary and Elizabeth their position was only achieved as a result of a dynastic crisis and was constantly challenged. However, our two longest reigning monarchs have both been women: Queen Victoria ruled for a magisterial 63 years while Elizabeth II is close behind with the celebration of her 60th year on the throne this year.

View a full-size image of the timeline

Sources: The Kings and Queens of Britain, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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A monarch’s name is all but guaranteed to go down in the history books, but not all leave a lasting impact on the English language. However, there are some royals who do end up giving their name to something, whether it be a breed of dog (King Charles spaniel), a variety of potato (King Edward), or a pub (Prince of Wales). Read on to find out which other words have a royal influence.


Now you’ve probably enjoyed many of these over the years, but do you know where the margherita pizza gets its name? It was in fact named after the Queen of Italy (1878 – 1900), Margherita Teresa Giovanna of Savoy, and was created to celebrate her visit to Naples in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito, a Neapolitan pizza maker. The three colours of the Italian flag are represented by the toppings (cheese, tomato, and basil).

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary was originally a nickname for Mary Tudor in reference to the series of religious persecutions she enacted during her reign as she attempted to re-establish Catholicism in England. The Bloody Mary drink (‘a cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, and other flavourings’) plays on this royal nickname to allude to the red colour of its ingredients.


The word corduroy also has a royal influence with a supposed origin of ‘corde du roi’ (the king’s cord). However, despite the French influence, the word is apparently an English invention and no such name has ever been used in French. On the contrary, the historical Oxford English Dictionary has evidence from 1807 of ‘kings-cordes’ being used in a French publication, evidently taken from the English.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary.

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In the latest update to Oxford Dictionaries, we added a huge variety of words to our online dictionary, from aptonym to whatevs (read our blog post on the update to find out more). But which words were beginning to make themselves known in the English language in 1952, as Queen Elizabeth II took her place on the throne?

Our historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), hunts down the first-known citation of words, so that we can show how language was being used in the past and how words have developed in meaning. Some of the words which have a first citation in English around the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation continue to be used in common English today, from apolitical and autocue to carbon dating. However, other words which share their 60th anniversary with the Queen this year don’t seem to pop up so frequently in 21st century English.

Bafflegab continues to be used in North America, but it is rare to hear the term used on this side of the pond, despite the fact that it remains very relevant in today’s corporate culture with the meaning of: ‘incomprehensible or pretentious verbiage, especially bureaucratic jargon’. It was invented by Mr. Milton A. Smith who won a prize for the word, giving the definition as: ‘Multiloquence characterised by a consummate interfusion of circumlocution‥and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilised for promulgations implementing procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.’

Other words with a first citation from 1952 but which are no longer in common parlance include: doryphore (‘a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic’), peepie-creepie (‘a portable television camera used for close-up shots on location’), and subteen (‘a child belonging to the age-group next below teenage’), although tweenager (first cited in 1949), which has a similar meaning, seems to have survived.

Another interesting term to make its debut in the English language in 1952 is moonwalk. The first citation is from a science fiction publication, as at the time of the Queen’s coronation moonwalks were still firmly in the realm of fantasy. The reality of humans landing on the moon didn’t happen for another 17 years, with the dance step not appearing until the 1980s

Source: Oxford English Dictionary.

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This word cloud above shows names of English and later British monarchs from the later Anglo-Saxon kings to the present Queen Elizabeth II. From the ubiquitous William, Edward, and Henry to the less numerous Stephen, John, and Richard, all the names given to monarchs after the conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conquer are quite familiar to us and most are still popular choices for children today.

The Norman Conquest brought a new cultural elite to England with an increased emphasis on Latin and French naming patterns. The older Anglo-Saxon names such as Aethelred, Edgar, Aethelwulf, and Aethelstan were no longer used by the new dynasty. Even before the Normans invaded, Anglo-Saxon naming patterns had been disrupted in the beginning of the 11th century by the invasion of the Danish Kings who introduced Harold, Cnut (also spelt Canute), and Harthacnut to our list.

Nowadays it’s rare to meet an Aelfweard or an Eadwig, but some Anglo-Saxon names have survived. For monarchs the pre-conquest name Edward has been a runaway success and can be clearly crowned as the most popular name for English and British Kings. The royal Alfred, Edmund, and Egbert as well as other Anglo-Saxon names such as Edith, Cuthbert, and Wilfred are names that are still familiar today, if perhaps a little old-fashioned.

Source: The Kings and Queens of Britain.

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