Why Queen Elizabeth II Doesn’t Need a Passport to Travel Abroad

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to Australia in 2011.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to Australia in 2011.
Smith Ellen-Pool/Getty Images

Considering that Queen Elizabeth II has ruled England for nearly 70 years and visited more than 115 countries during her reign, it seems like it would be a little unnecessary for her to flash her passport every time she hops on a plane. In fact, she doesn’t have to—but it’s not just because she’s so obviously identifiable (especially with those brightly colored ensembles and matching hats she often wears).

The real reason, The Atlantic reports, is because the queen is sort of a walking passport herself. The first page of a British passport includes the royal coat of arms along with the following statement:

“Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”

To paraphrase, the passport basically functions as a written version of the queen saying something like “Please let my citizen enter your country.” When she’s the one doing the traveling, her physical presence is enough to convey the message. That said, she can only convey it for herself—every other member of the royal family must carry a passport, even if they’re traveling with her.

As The Atlantic’s Marina Koren shrewdly notes, it seems like the U.S. secretary of state would be able to travel without a passport, too, since American passports bear a similar message:

“The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

But the same logic doesn’t apply, since our secretary of state is really just a high-ranking federal employee, and our government doesn’t operate like a monarchy; even the U.S. president needs a passport.

Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t need a driver’s license either, for a similar reason—find out more here.

[h/t The Atlantic]

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

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Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

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Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

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4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

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5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

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6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

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7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

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8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

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9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

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10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Reason Princess Anne Doesn’t Shake Hands With the Public

Princess Anne's aversion to handshakes isn't personal—it's logical.
Princess Anne's aversion to handshakes isn't personal—it's logical.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

While many people have temporarily abandoned handshakes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there’s at least one person who hasn’t really had to break the habit: Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, Princess Anne.

As Reader’s Digest reports, royal family members have long been discouraged from shaking hands with the public simply because it wouldn’t be realistic to bestow a handshake upon every person clamoring for one in a crowd. But the Queen herself began to break with that tradition in the 1970s, and some of her relatives have followed suit—not Princess Anne, though.

“We never shook hands. The theory was that you couldn’t shake hands with everybody, so don’t start. So I kind of stick with that, but I noticed others don’t,” Princess Anne explained in the HBO documentary Queen of the World. “It's not for me to say that it's wrong, but I think the initial concept was that it was patently absurd to start shaking hands. And it seems to be that it's become a ‘shaking hands’ exercise rather than a walkabout, if you see what I mean.”

Even if you happen to meet the Queen or another British royal who’s been known to indulge in a ‘shaking hands’ exercise in the past, it’s still considered bad manners for you to initiate it.

“If you are a member of the public meeting a member of the royal family, you should never offer your hand to shake,” Grant Harrold, etiquette expert and former royal butler, told Insider. “Wait for them to initiate the handshake.”

Your chances are better if said royal happens to be wearing gloves, which they often don before public engagements where they plan to shake a lot of hands. The practice, perhaps unsurprisingly, helps shield them from germs.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]