A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Victoria said, "We are not amused." Not amused by what?

April 15, 1994

Dear Cecil:

Queen Victoria once remarked, with British understatement, "We are not amused." What was she not amused by?

Cecil replies:

Obviously it wasn't us; we didn't arrive on the scene till 72 years after she left. Too bad. If she weren't dead, we woulda slayed her.

Victoria's comment is said to have been inspired by the Hon. Alexander Grantham (Alick) Yorke, one of her grooms-in-waiting. (A relative described him as an "elderly pansy." Flower lover, I guess.) The job of a groom-in-waiting, or anyway Alick's job, was to hang around the castle and be funny. As all wits know, however, you're funnier some days than others. On one of Alick's not-so-funny days, some say, he told a risque story to a German guest ("Gab es ein junger Mann von Nantucket ..."), who laughed loudly, moving the queen to ask that the story be repeated. It was, and she wasn't. Amused, I mean. She was not using the royal "we," though, but rather was speaking for the affronted ladies of the court.

Another version has it that in one of the amateur theatricals Alick liked to organize at the palace he undertook to do an impression of Victoria, who failed to see the humor of it. Still others say the queen was disposed to say "We are not amused" whenever the conversation took a ribald turn. Hmm, maybe she wouldn't have thought the Straight Dope was so hilarious after all.

Victoria's other significant contribution to the quotation books was "I will be good," said as a young girl when told where she stood in the line of royal succession. Snappy, eh? The Straight Dope research department is glad Victoria alphabetically comes immediately before Gore Vidal, who, upon being asked what might have happened if Khrushchev and not Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, said, "With history one can never be certain, but I think I can safely say that Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs. Khrushchev." Were Victoria alive today, even she would have been amused.

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