Queen Elizabeth II was the longest reigning British monarch, serving as Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from February 6, 1952 until her death on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96. She was known for her sense of duty and devotion to a life of service, but she was also recognized around the world for her iconic style and regal bearing. One of the Queen’s most distinguishing features was her piercing blue eyes. But were her eyes naturally blue or did she wear tinted contact lenses to achieve that striking light blue color?
What Color Were Queen Elizabeth’s Eyes?
Queen Elizabeth II did indeed have naturally blue eyes, a trait that she inherited from her mother, also named Elizabeth. The Queen Mother, wife of King George VI and mother to Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, also had bright blue eyes, a light coloring that was passed down to both of her daughters.
The Queen was known for her clear, ice blue eyes that seemed to stare right through a person. They were considered such a defining part of her physical appearance and regal image that there were even rumors that she wore tinted contact lenses to enhance their color. However, it seems that the Queen’s famously piercing eyes were in fact her natural eye color.
Evidence That the Queen’s Eyes Were Naturally Blue
There are several pieces of evidence that point to Queen Elizabeth having genuinely blue eyes without the use of color contacts:
- Childhood photos – Photos of the Queen as a young child show that she already had light blue eyes. This supports that it was her natural eye color and not from contacts.
- Consistency over time – The blue color and piercing nature of the Queen’s eyes remained unchanged over her lifetime. This indicates it was unlikely she wore colored contacts.
- No evidence of contacts – There are no records or testimony suggesting the Queen wore tinted contact lenses. Royal protocols make it unlikely this would not be known.
- Other blue-eyed relatives – Having blue eyes was a familial trait passed down on the Queen Mother’s side, making it genetically likely.
Based on these points, most historians and biographers accept that Queen Elizabeth II had naturally blue eyes. They were not artificially enhanced through tinted contacts but rather a striking genetic inheritance from her mother.
The Significance of the Queen’s Blue Eyes
The Queen’s distinctive blue eyes were important in shaping her public image over her long reign. Some key impacts of her eye color:
- Part of her regal looks – Her light eyes added to the Queen’s regal bearing and complemented her dignified manner.
- Reflected her personality – Her direct gaze communicated focus and attentiveness, reflecting her sense of duty.
- Symbolized royalty – Blue eyes were already associated with British aristocracy and nobility before the Queen.
- Featured on currency – Starting in 1960, Queen Elizabeth II’s uncannily blue eyes have been depicted on currencies across the Commonwealth.
- Inspired descriptors – “Steely blue eyes” became a go-to phrase for journalists and commentators describing the Queen.
The Queen’s natural blue eyes were so iconic that they influenced how she was perceived as a monarch and leader.
How Unusual Was the Queen’s Blue Eye Color?
Natural blue eyes like the Queen’s are a relatively rare eye color, though more common in certain ethnic groups. Here are some key facts about the frequency of blue eyes:
- Worldwide, only 8-10% of the global population has blue eyes.
- In contrast, brown eyes are the most common eye color worldwide, with over 75% of people having them.
- Blue eyes are most prevalent in northern and eastern Europe, especially around the Baltic Sea.
- In countries like Iceland and Finland, over 90% of the population has blue eyes.
- The United States has a moderate rate of blue eyes, at around 16.6% of the population.
So while not extremely rare, the Queen’s eye color placed her definitively in the minority of people worldwide. Within Britain, it marked her as having Nordic ancestry like others with blue eyes.
How Blue Eyes Get Their Color
The Queen’s iconic light eyes were the result of genetics and pigmentation:
- Blue eyes are caused by low melanin pigment in the iris.
- Melanin is the pigment that also colors skin and hair. Less melanin produces lighter eye colors.
- Rayleigh scattering of light through the iris can make eyes appear blue.
- A lack of melanin produces less pigmentation to obscure the scattering effect.
- Albinism is an extreme case where a complete lack of melanin leaves eyes very light.
So in the Queen’s case, her Nordic ancestry resulted in reduced melanin levels that made her irises appear light blue instead of brown. Her eye color was the exact opposite of the dark brown eyes typical of those with more melanin.
Can Blue Eyes Turn Brown Naturally?
While environment and age can slightly alter eye color over time, it is not possible for blue eyes to turn brown naturally. Some key facts:
- Melanin levels are set by 6 months of age and cannot increase later in life.
- Trauma and certain diseases may slightly change eye color, but only by a small amount.
- Extreme changes like blue to brown do not occur without artificial intervention.
- Color contacts are required to fully change blue eyes to brown or vice versa.
So we can be very confident that the Queen’s eye color remained an icy blue throughout her life. As seen in photographs of the Queen as a younger woman, her eyes were already a piercing light blue that remained strikingly consistent into old age.
Queen Elizabeth II had natural blue eyes that remained one of her most famous physical traits over her long reign. This light eye color resulted from genetics and low melanin pigment levels compared to the high melanin behind brown eyes. The Queen inherited blue eyes from her mother’s side of the family, which can be traced back through the European monarchies of history. While relatively uncommon worldwide, her piercing light eyes were an iconic part of her regal image. So the next time you see a picture of Queen Elizabeth II, you can marvel at her singular blue eyes knowing they were not from color contacts but rather a genetic gift cementing her royal stature.