Queen Victoria's Underpants

Created with Bruce Whatley

Meet Lizzy, whose family are in the clothing industry. Very few people probably know that Queen Victoria made the wearing of underpants popular. At the beginning of her reign very few women wore them. But Queen Victoria made tartans, perambulators and chloroform fashionable. By the time she died just about every woman in Britain wore underpants like hers.​

Some notes on the book

Queen Victoria’s Underpants should be back in the bookshops – the first printing sold out faster than anyone thought it would.

When ‘Victoria’s Underpants’ has been launched… I say ‘has been’ not ‘have been’ as we didn’t launch her underpants as such, only the book about their creation, recorded with all due hilarity by Bruce Whatley. Queen Victoria appeared in all her regal glory at the CBCA Conference in Sydney – which was one of the best conferences I had ever been to, everyone going to the same sessions, strangers meeting by bookstalls and discussing the last session, as everyone had shared the same experience.

         For those who couldn’t be there, here is the Royal speech, given with my drama - and brilliant hilarity.

Queen Victoria: Lords, Ladies, gentlemen, and most worthy members of the CBCA…

For centuries we women were held hostage by our underwear.

Or should one say: one’s lack of underwear!

What protection are petticoats against a blusterous tempest, a charging tiger, a brigade of Boers?

Why were there no women in the Charge of the Light Brigade?

How can a woman charge anywhere at all when a gentleman may see a flash of ankle, a naughty knee… or even… worse?

As a gel, one longed for many things:

. to roller skate

. archery

. horse riding or even a brisk walk upon the hills.

But modesty – and my Mama – forbade it all.

And then I became the Queen.

A Queen can change the world.

It was Our decree that an invention be created, to adorn the royal person, and that by Our majestic example gels throughout the empire could do… all sorts of things.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the CBC, We present to you… the invention that liberated women:

(At which point the assembled company saw the underpants in all their royal glory)

The Underpants!

It is impossible to praise this new invention too highly.

They keep the royal person safe from wandering breezes

From peeping Toms

They even let Us ride a bicycle.

But most of all underpants mean that women can stride out across the world, sure that no one will ever see…

anything they shouldn’t.

And so to record this momentous event, We required Bruce Whately, Esquire, and Miss Jackie French, to write the history of the invention that changed the world. 

They have done this right nobly.

It is a story of passion, drama, and embroidery.

It is a saga of grit and determination, linen, ruffles and some lace.

It is a tale of the vision and nineteenth century engineering that created not an iron bridge or ship, but a garment worthy of the Queen of an empire upon which the sun never sets.

Mr. Whatley’s most brilliant portraits of my person, while a little… imaginative… are indeed what Mr. da Vinci might have achieved had he been given a truly royal inspiration. Mr. Whatley’s images preserve true modesty while still showing ones’ undergarments in their true majestic glory.

Miss French has faithfully recorded the touching struggles, the desperation, inspiration and British industry of those tasked with producing garments that would actually touch the royal skin.

And if Mr. Whatley and Miss French failed to mention the moment when my darling Albert was so inspired by the underpants that he turned to me with passion blazing in his eyes and said…

… well, even in these days of underpants and liberation, some things must remain left to the imagination.

Mr. Whatley, in recognition of your stalwart endeavours and true genius We now pronounce you Admiral of Berry and Illustrator Royal.

Miss French, we pronounce you Keeper of the Royal Wombats. May their whiskers never grow less, and your and Admiral Whatley’s work be acclaimed throughout the nation.

Miss Berryman, I annoint you Mistress of the First, Second and Fifty-Sixth Draft, and Dame of the Red Correction Pen.

And to the noble worthies of the CBC, arise Dame Margaret Hamilton and Dame Gail Erskine.

The sun may have set upon my empire now, Ladies and Gentlemen, but my underpants have gone on forever.

Wherever women conquer, may the tale of the royal underpants be told!

Let the festivities commence! 

 

© Jackie French