Meet Her Royal Not-Quite-Highness

Pictured above is Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in a blue overcoat, blue hat, and a blue brooch. AndĀ if you look closely, she’s also wearing a set of pearls. It’s probably a common-enough outfit combo for Her Majesty — which is why it’s fair to assert that, Ella Slack, the woman below, is dressed as the Queen.

She’s dressed as the Queen intentionally, and she lives on the Isle of Man, at Royal Court on Queens Promenade, which sounds pretty important but it’s really just a fancy name for a small apartment complex. And before you get concerned, no, Ms. Slack doesn’t have some sort of weird regal fetish. The address is a coincidence, but the attire is part of her job.

As one would imagine, Queen Elizabeth makes a lot of appearances in public, and more often than not, that appearance also will be broadcast on television. And when you’re the royalty, every appearance has to come off perfectly — or, as close to perfect as possible. And that requires dress rehearsals. But the Queen’s time is too valuable to have her participate in the dry runs. Instead, Ella Slack fills those shoes.

Slack got her start as the fake queen in the 1980s. She doesn’t look all that much like the real queen, which is fine as the role doesn’t require that. All that matters is her stature — at 5’0″, she’s roughly the same height as the real monarch (at 5’2″). And that made all the difference when it mattered. As she told Great Big Story, she “was at the BBC and the producer who was doing The Cenotaph [a national memorial service named for the monument at which it takes place] came to see me and said that the Queen had sent a message to say, when she stood at the Cenotaph, the sun was in her eyes, and so could we do anything about it? Well, I said to him, ‘would you like me to come and stand in the position for you?’ because all the stage managers were six-foot men.” She’s kept the role ever since.

The job doesn’t pay, but according to Woman & Home, “Ella is not too bothered about reimbursement, and instead describes the role as a ‘pleasure and an honor.'” And besides, it comes with some neat fringe benefits. She’s met many other members of the royal family and has been able to ride in carriages, waving to onlookers as if she herself is the Queen. There are, however, limits on her access — while Slack will act as a stand-in when rehearsing entries into the House of Lords, she’s not allowed to sit on the Queen’s throne. She, instead, has to squat.

As of 2012, per the BBC, Slack has never met the woman she pretends to be. But she doesn’t seem to mind — not everyone gets to be Rehearsal Queen, after all.

Bonus fact: The Isle of Man is not technically part of the United Kingdom — it’s a “crown dependency,” which is complicated to explain, but here’s a good video on the topic if you’re interested. In any event, crown dependencies aren’t, by law, sovereigns, but they still have their own legislatures and laws, and typically can do what they want without the UK’s permission. As a result, the Isle of Man has a neat little claim to history — one which conflicts with its name. In 1881, in order to make sure all households had representation in Tynwald (the local Parliament), the pseudo-nation was the first to give women the right to vote … kind of. Only unmarried women were granted this right; women had to choose between having a vote and having a husband.

From the Archives: The Queen’s Secret Code: Because royals need an escape plan.