Is the Queen Mum really a Queen Dad?

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
I note with interest that my old friend and quaffing partner Mr Michael Bloch has penned another of his annual biographies of the Duchess of Windsor.

In this latest tome, Michael claims that the Duchess may have been a Duke. Or, in other words that Wallis was not a Wallis but a Wallace. I suppose we may now expect a flood of books claiming that I myself am a woman. But nothing could be further from the truth, I wear tweed suits, smoke a pipe, subscribe to the Spectator, take pleasure in exchanging banter on sporting themes with male colleagues, and whenever I spot a little birdie flying through the air I celebrate the event by miming ("Bang! Bang!") a successful potshot at it. At the same time, I am the proud possessor of a comprehensive library on the Falklands conflict and I watch the BBC's Top Gear every week: further proof of my masculinity is surely no longer needed.

But is Mr Bloch correct in his belief that the Duchess of Windsor was a fellow? Alas, I can shed precious little light on the matter, as I only met the good lady once, backstage after her victory at the International Arm-Wrestling Championship in Copenhagen - and gained no impression one way or the other. But Mr Bloch has set an example it might profit other biographers to follow. On the grapevine, I hear tell that Mr Michael Holroyd is busy rewriting the first volume of his learned biography, Bernardette Shaw: The Beardless Years, and my old friend and quaffing partner Kenneth Rose is hard at work revising his acclaimed Royal biography, King Georgina V. Meanwhile, Alistair Horne is spending the Summer completing Louisa, his new biography of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and I hear tell that that most pugnacious of American scriveners, Norman Mailer, is completing his autobiography under the provisional title I, Norma.

Those of us who are committed biographers must count ourselves grateful to Mr Bloch for lending new oomph to this increasingly sluggish genre. This is not to suggest that a similar treatment could be visited upon many of the subjects of my previous biographies, Sir Norman Fowler in Public and in Private: Anecdotes from Around the World (1991) must remain as it is. Norman may well have his feminine side - he never appears in public without just the faintest hint of eyeliner - but he remains defiantly masculine, always making a point of ordering a half-pint of lager in a straight glass as a chaser to his Babycham.

Strictly entre nous I have my canny biographer's eye on HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Alas, I fear there are already a good dozen biographies of that dear sweet (yet tantalisingly elderly) lady lined up at the printers, ready for the first shot of the starting pistol on that most fateful of days. But I doubt whether my rivals have taken my own particular angle. The Queen Father by Wallace Arnold is testament to years - even months - of research, and presents sufficient evidence to prove what no one has previously suspected: that the Queen Mother is a chap.

I have no wish to lay all my cards on the table, so a few "teasers" must suffice:

HRH has never been heard speaking in public. This is because her voice is a deep bass, barely distinguishable from that of the late Arthur Mullard.

Beneath the pastel-coloured floaty dresses that have for so long endeared her to the nation, HRH is known to favour 501s, the hard-wearing blue jeans from the United States.

Throughout her career, HRH has been seen to pick daintily at the food served to her at official luncheons and dinner engagements. This is because she always eats a T-Bone steak in bed for breakfast, plus fried slice and double beans.

At no time were HRH the Queen Mother and pint-sized comedian Arthur Askey ever spotted in a room together - yet they were distinguished contemporaries. Could this be because, beneath her regal exterior, HRH was in fact played by Askey? It was while starring as Widow Twankey in pantomime in the late 1920s that Askey caught the eye of the then Prince George. A proposal ensued, and for 10 months a year for the rest of his life, Askey would spend up to three hours a day dressing for the role of Queen Mother. Since Askey's death in 1982, the part is believed to have been played by ex- Avenger Patrick McNee.

As I say, do keep this under your hats. It would be too awful if that cat got out of the bag and Mr Bloch rushed into print with the book first. He has his Duchess, and I have my Queen Mum. May the best man win!