It seems that people collect almost everything these days, and are willing to pay amazing amounts of money to do so. Still, some of the “collectables” are decidedly . . . odd.
Consider a recent auction in England, where an anonymous collector paid $16,500 for a pair of Queen Victoria’s underpants. The white cotton u-trou, which are, well, expansive, bear a monogram with a crown and a “VR,” and experts believe they were worn by England’s longest-serving monarch back in the 1890s.
This story is weird on two levels. First, why would anyone want to acquire such items? Were the Queen’s old bloomers bought to be part of a collection of royal family memorabilia, or as part of the apparently growing interest in underwear collection — with people paying big money for the unmentionables of Elvis and Michael Jackson and even the dingy undergear sported by Walter White on Breaking Bad? Are these underwear collections ever actually displayed to anyone? Can you imagine being invited to someone’s country estate and, while there, being taken by the proud owner on a tour of their collection of celebrity boxers and briefs, nicely displayed in glass cases? Small wonder that the bidders at these auctions are acting anonymously.
Second, it’s sad that people are selling this stuff, and it’s got to be embarrassing for the descendants of the long-deceased Queen. Who wants to see an ancestor’s underwear being publicly displayed, especially when it is very much plus-sized? Apparently Queen Victoria’s clothing was parceled out to staff members after her death, and some of the staffers’ families kept the garments for generations before finally being unable to resist the temptation to make a few bucks. If I were Queen Elizabeth, or any member of the current royal family, or any kind of celebrity, I’d make sure to include a provision in my will that required all of my underwear be cast into the bonfire as soon as I breathed my last.
Ironic, isn’t it? Queen Victoria so characterized primness and propriety that people now use the phrase “Victorian attitudes” to refer to antiquated, repressive views on gender and sex — and yet Queen Victoria’s underwear is being publicly displayed, sold to strangers, and made the subject of jokes because of its size. I think the Queen would be shocked and sternly disapproving of this regrettable development.