Auction Catalogue

13 October 2021

Starting at 10:00 AM


Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria

Live Online Auction


№ 2 x


13 October 2021

Hammer Price:

The C.V.O. awarded to the Hon. Alexander Grantham ‘Alick’ Yorke, Groom-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria who is strongly credited as the provoker of the Queen’s historic riposte: “We are not amused.”

The Royal Victorian Order, C.V.O., Commander’s, neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels, the reverse officially numbered ‘C48’ and neatly engraved ‘The Hon. Alexander Grantham Yorke 23 July 1901’, completed with full neck cravat and wearing instructions card in its Collingwood & Co. case of issue, this also officially nimbered ‘C48’, nearly extremely fine £300-£400

The Hon. Alexander Grantham Yorke was born on 20 November 1847, the son of Admiral Charles Philip Yorke, 4th Earl of Hardwicke and Hon. Susan Liddell. He graduated from Oxford University, with a Master of Arts (M.A.) and was commissioned as a Captain in the 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment. He was Equerry to H.R.H. The Duke of Albany between 1874 and 1884 and held the office of Groom-in-Waiting to H.M. Queen Victoria between 1884 and 1901. He held the office of Extra Groom-in-Waiting to H.M. Edward VII between 1901 and 1910. He died on 17 March 1911 at age 63, unmarried.

He is widely believed to have been the provoker of the most famous remark in British regal history. He was attending one of the Queen's dinner parties at Windsor Castle and at one point turned to his German neighbour and told him a slightly risqué story. The German, who evidently was pleased easily, burst into near hysterical laughter and began to clutch his sides in riotous appreciation. The Queen then asked to hear the story and, after Yorke had reluctantly repeated it, she delivered her historic riposte: "We are not amused." This now seems to be the most widely accepted origin of Victoria's saying, ousting an earlier version that had identified Admiral Maxse as the provoker. According to that story, the Queen asked the admiral to demonstrate his well known impersonation of her and when he placed a handkerchief on his head and puffed out his cheeks she turned po-faced and made the famous statement. Several other versions of the source of this story have been proffered. Sold with copied research including ‘Spy’ caricature and two other copied portraits.