[Reader's Digest, 1972]
A British army officer returned to London after 12 years in various corners of the world. At a fashionable cocktail party he suddenly found himself with an attractive woman whose face seemed familiar. Feeling that he knew her from somewhere, he asked how her father was. "My father is dead," she replied.
"Oh, terribly sorry," the man said. Then, still groping for a clue, "How's your brother?"
"I don't have a brother," the woman said. "Just my sister."
"Of course, how stupid of me," the officer replied, feeling he was now getting on the track. "How is your sister?"
"Fine," said the attractive woman. "Still Queen."
In the foyer of a Manchester hotel
[Reader's Digest, 1949]
The first Mrs. Richard Harding Davis was one day riding in a Long Island train when an important-looking woman took a seat across the aisle from her.
Mrs. Davis changed her seat, and then began a mental struggle to recall the eluding name. Presently what she hoped was a clue disclosed itself. The lady mentioned a brother. "Oh, yes. Your brother."
Oh, he's still President of the United States," said
- The "still the President" version has been trotted out about Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and William Taft. The Coolidge version is easy to disprove; Coolidge's only sister died in 1890, many years before he became president in 1923. Corinne Roosevelt
(Mrs. DouglasRobinson) outlived her celebrated brother.
- "Still the Queen" and its variants are told about members of the British royal family or will in some other way involve Britain. When the Royal in question is Queen
Elizabeth II, either her sister Margaret or her husband Philip get to deliver the killing line. British composer Sir ThomasBeecham (1879-1961)is reputed to have told this story on himself as an incident which happened when he ran into the sister of the King of England. A more modern version skewers Sir LawrenceOlivier in an encounter with the sister of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, and the most recent of all features British Prime Minister Tony Blair having a "still the Queen" episode with the ruler of the Netherlands.
As an anecdote, we know this story has been in circulation in "still the President" form since 1946 when it appeared in a collection of jokes, and in "still the king" form from 1943 when it surfaced in a biography of Thomas Beecham. In the case of personal glimpse tales circulated long after supposed events, there's little way to tell if the incident(s) reported took place or if the stories were coined at a later date. We know both versions were passed around as illustrative tales in the 1940s; we don't know if either actually happened in real life.
It's possible all of these tales stem from one true-life incident which has since come to be "remembered" about various U.S. Presidents and British Royals. It's equally possible it was always a fable.
Yet fable or no, it keep popping up. Witness this September 1999 sighting, straight from the lips of British Prime Minister Tony Blair:
"I was at a big international conference, when a woman who seemed vaguely familiar asked me where I was from," he says. "'I'm Tony Blair from the British Labour Party,' I replied. 'And you are?'
'My name is Beatrice [sic] and I'm from the Netherlands.'
'What do you do?' I asked.
'I am the Queen.'"
In the realm of legend, those who don't come clean about the lapse are riding for a fall. Urban legends, after all, are often cautionary tales, warning us against various behaviors by illustrating what has happened to others who failed to do the right thing. Even as we laugh at the "still the Queen" line, we picture ourselves smarting on the receiving end of it.
Etiquette maven Judith Martin has this bit of advice for those looking to avoid becoming the object of such a comeback:
Last updated: 27 December 2004
Callan, Jessica. "Peterborough: Queen B." The [London] Daily Telegraph. 27 September 1999 (p. 19). Fadiman, Clifton. The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes. Boston: Little, Brown; 1985 (p. 46). Martin, Judith. Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium. New York: Pharos, 1989 (p. 66). Untermeyer, Louis. A Treasury of Laughter. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946. (p. 708). Van Buren, Abigail. "Dear Abby." 25 February 1996 [syndicated column]. Van Buren, Abigail. "Dear Abby." 2 April 1996 [syndicated column]. Van Buren, Abigail. "Dear Abby." 6 May 1996 [syndicated column]. Fun Fare; A Treasury of Reader's Digest Wit and Humor. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association Inc., 1949 (pp. 27-28). Reader's Digest. "Laughter, the Best Medicine." June 1972 (pp. 125-126).
Also told in:
Petras, Ross and Kathryn. The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done. New York: Doubleday, 1996. ISBN 0-385-48341-4 (pp. 162-163).