The flatulent queen

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In his new weekly blog, journalist and author Eugene Byrne shares a historical rib-tickler about a flatulent Queen Victoria who finds herself in an embarrassing situation, and investigates whether there is any truth behind the laughter 

The joke

As she grew older, Queen Victoria became rather flatulent. One day, she was receiving foreign ambassadors when she was unable to stop herself from loudly breaking wind. Immediately, the quick-witted French ambassador stepped forward, made an elegant bow and very gallantly said: “I beg Your Majesty’s apology! I really am most heartily sorry!”

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A few minutes later, the queen once again farted loudly. This time the Italian ambassador stepped forward, made an extravagant bow and said: “Please Your Majesty! I most humbly apologise for this awkward behaviour on my part!”

Shortly afterwards, the Queen farted yet again. The German ambassador, resplendent in his military uniform, stepped forward, clicked his heels together and bowed from the waist, saying: “Your Majesty! I claim this fart, and the next three, for the great German nation!”

Truth or fiction?

We don’t know when or how this story originated. It might even have some element of truth in it, though probably not. In any event it fits in perfectly with late Victorian/Edwardian stereotype of German officialdom – bumptious, humourless, militaristic and always eager to annex new territory.

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For decades before the First World War, visitors to Germany were bemused by the country’s love of uniforms. After German unification in 1871 Bismarck had driven his country towards imperialism in Africa and the Pacific as part of a policy of ‘Sammlungspolitik‘ to divert popular attention from problems at home. Kaiser Wilhelm II continued the policy, though this was more in the way of aggrandising Germany, and therefore himself.