The phrase is often attributed to Queen Victoria and has passed into common usage to note perceived strait-laced stuffiness, bolstering the perception that Victoria was a dour woman living a melancholy life after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
However, during an interview in 1976, Victoria’s granddaughter, Alice, Countess of Athlone, said that Victoria herself told her that she never uttered these famous words at all. In fact, if the queen’s diaries are anything to go by, Victoria had a keen sense of humour and certainly enjoyed a joke. She had a “wonderful laugh” wrote Vicky of Prussia, “and grandmama often laughed till she was red in the face and even till she cried”.
That may well be the case, but I found several instances where, had she not uttered those words exactly, then she expressed her opinion in more or less the same fashion. One example concerned a fine statue of her late husband.
The statue situated at Holborn Circus shows the Prince astride his horse and as you’ll see he has removed his hat and is waving it in salute, supposedly to the merchants and council of the City of London. Given that the statue was erected some thirteen years after his death he couldn’t have had much of a say in the composition, and so the salute gesture could only have been arrived at by the vanity of the City Fathers who were footing the bill for it. Apparently, such an unbecoming royal gesture left the commissioners of the statue under no illusions that Queen Victoria was less than gruntled.