Leaders have historically used body doubles to thwart would-be assassins, but Queen Elizabeth II’s double served a different — and significantly less bloody — purpose. A big part of being the queen of the United Kingdom was simply showing up. Whether opening a hospital or hosting a foreign dignitary, the queen was always busy. A majority of her events required rehearsals, and that’s where Ella Slack came in. Although she doesn’t look like her majesty, Slack is about the same height and build, so if an event needed to test camera angles or see if the sun would be in the queen’s eyes, Slack was the person for the task.
Slack got the job while working for the BBC’s events department in the 1980s. She stood in for the queen more than 50 times, including riding in the royal carriage and attending rehearsals for the opening of Parliament. However, Slack didn’t get to enjoy all the comforts of royalty. As a strict rule, she was never allowed to sit on the throne in the House of Lords and instead just “lurked” above it. Slack was never paid for her stand-in efforts, but considered her role “a pleasure and an honor.”
Since the 12th century, the English monarchy has held the title of Seigneur (lord) of the Swans. For many years, mute swans — the elegant type you know from “Swan Lake” — were a popular food served by the rich. It was the king or queen who granted swan ownership rights, and the cost of going against those rights was severe. For example, anyone caught stealing swan eggs could face a year in prison, and it was treasonous to illegally eat a swan until 1998. In the 14th century, the crown granted swan ownership rights to Abbotsbury Swannery, one of only a few surviving companies with such privileges. The swannery marks their swans with a small ring around the bird’s leg. Any mute swan that isn’t marked in such a way remains property of the monarch. Strangely, this law also applies to dead swans, so any well-meaning taxidermist not wishing to run afoul of the law must contact the royal swan marker before stuffing any of the crown’s birds.