The Queen Victoria fart gag


For some years now I’ve been a contributor to the very wonderful BBC History magazine. I write the occasional feature, but more frequenltly answer readers’ recondite queries about various things – you know, stuff like whether there was really a tax on windows (yes, and it was quite sensible), whether or not Victorians covered the modesty of piano legs, or how fish & chips got invented. Isn’t this kind of thing, the stuff of everyday life, as interesting as the lives and careers of great men and women?

I do know a lot of this trivia, though the only real skill I’d lay claim to is an ability to find things out. (No, Virginia, it doesn’t mean simply knowing the URL of Wikipedia. Although I’ve heard more than one academic privately admit that Wikipedia is often more reliable than certain more established reference works which shall remain nameless. The clever bit is being able to tell when it’s more reliable, and I’m not sure anyone’s that clever … )

Anyways, as of today, until further notice, I’m doing a historic joke each week, on the BBCH website.

History is full of jokes, and of course old gags can be quite useful in illustrating the values, prejudices and stereotypes of the societies that tell them. That’s the intellectual justification, anyhow. I’ve already got quite a few from various sources without too much effort, so we should be able to keep going for a while. Though if you start to see long, uninterrupted runs of old Soviet and East German jokes about how rubbish life under Communism was – there is an almost infinite supply of these – you’ll know it’s run its course.

But for this week, and our very first outing, we begin with … the classic Queen Victoria fart gag.


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