The Queen Is in Da House

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Royalty Edition

There used to be a television program in the 1950’s called “Queen for a Day,” hosted by Jack Bailey.  Here’s what good old Wikipedia says about it: 

The show opened with host Jack Bailey asking the audience—mostly women—”Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?” After this, the contestants were introduced and interviewed, one at a time, with commercials and fashion commentary interspersed between each contestant.

Using the classic applause meter, as did many game and hit-parade style shows of the time, Queen for a Day had its own special twist: each contestant had to talk publicly about the recent financial and emotional hard times she had been through. The applause meter had also been used on earlier series, including Fred Allen’s Judge for Yourself a variety and game show which aired on NBC from 1953-1954.

Bailey began each interview gently, asking the contestant first about her life and family, and maintaining a positive and upbeat response no matter what she told him. For instance, when a woman said she had a crippled child, he would ask if her second child was “Okay.” On learning that the second child was not crippled, he might say, “Well, that’s good, you have one healthy child.”

The interview would climax with Bailey asking the contestant what she needed most and why she wanted to win the title of Queen for a Day. Often the request was for medical care or therapeutic equipment to help a chronically ill child, but sometimes it was as simple as the need for a hearing aid, a new washing machine, or a refrigerator. Many women broke down sobbing as they described their plights, and Bailey was always quick to comfort them and offer a clean white handkerchief to dry their eyes.

The harsher the circumstances under which the contestant labored, the likelier the studio audience was to ring the applause meter’s highest level. The winner, to the musical accompaniment of “Pomp and Circumstance”, would be draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe, given a glittering jeweled crown to wear, placed on a velvet-upholstered throne, and handed a dozen long-stemmed roses to hold as she wept, often uncontrollably, while her list of prizes was announced.

The prizes, many of which were donated by sponsoring companies, began with the necessary help the woman had requested, but built from there. They might include a variety of extras, such as a vacation trip, a night on the town with her husband, silver-plated flatware, an array of kitchen appliances, or a selection of fashion clothing. The losing contestants were each given smaller prizes; no one went away from the show without a meaningful gift.

Bailey’s trademark sign-off was “This is Jack Bailey, wishing we could make every woman a queen, for every single day!”

Mark Evanier, veteran television writer, has dubbed it “one of the most ghastly shows ever produced” and further stated it was “tasteless, demeaning to women, demeaning to anyone who watched it, cheap, insulting and utterly degrading to the human spirit.”

The reason I bring this up (apart from the fact that we actually watched this show when I was a kid) is that my mother has often referred to herself as “The Queen.”

Usually this would happen after we’d picked her up to take her to a family gathering.  As she would get out of the car, she would stop, look around and smilingly say “The Queen has arrived.”

We were never quite sure where this self-appellation came from.

My friend, Mary, over at Merrilymarylee’s Weblog has concurred that her mother-in-law seems to hold the same high opinion of herself when it comes to making queenly requests of her grown children.  Mary and I came to the conclusion that it’s probably a generational thing.

Until today.

I’ve been noodling around the genealogical website,, and went clicking my way back through my mother’s family tree on her father’s side.  Click, click, click….back and further back I went, through information that I hadn’t seen before.

What I found was a shock.  We’ve got royalty in our tree.

My mother is descended from William the Conqueror of England and, as an extra added attraction, Welsh kings and Norse kings and queens.  It goes without saying that probably everyone of English, French or Scandinavian extraction could claim the same thing, but….still.

Here’s the progression, starting from my mother’s great-grandmother on her father’s side:

Juliette Gillett (Head)–>Britton Head–>Britton Head–>Joseph Head–>Henry Head–>Elizabeth Head–>William Palmer–>William Palmer–>William Palmer, Sr.–>Sir John William Palmer, Dr. (bone setter, barber, and physician)–>Catherine Palmer (Stradling) (maid of honor to Henry VIII’s wife, Anne of Cleves)–>Sir Edward Stradling–>Janet Stradling–>Thomas Mathew, Esq., of Radyr, Glamorgan–>Gwenllian verch Dafydd–>Gwenllian verch Philip–>Nest verch Gwilym–>Gwilym Ap Madog–>Madog Felyn–>Sara le Sore–>Mabel de Montfort, Countess of Gloucester–>William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester–>Robert de Caen, Earl of Gloucester (illegitimate, although recognized, son of)–>Henry I Beauclerc, King of England–>William the Conqueror, King of England.

And, as my husband reminded me about the violent nature of the English and Norse kings, it’s not too much of a stretch for my mother to tell me (as she did recently at the hospital when she was getting a chest x-ray) that she was going to “knock the crap right out of me some day.”

Oy.  My mother was right.  “The Queen” is in da house.

20 thoughts on “The Queen Is in Da House

  1. This amuses us.

    My family is full of women, and when the last senior to my mother died, my sister, in front of all these younger women, said to mom, “That makes you the Dowager Queen.”

    I laughed so hard, then said, “Do you know what that makes me (being her oldest daughter and the next oldest female)? The Queen!”

    Oh, the look of dismay on their faces was priceless.

    Thanks for the good memories and the laugh!


  2. I remember watching Queen for a Day as a kid. I probably thought the show was a great thing at the time. After reading this, I realize how horrible it was!! I am amazed it has not reappeared on reality trash TV today.


  3. What a gret post! I remember being glued to the TV everytime that show came on. It was like the forerunner of reality TV, women happily revealling the most sordid details of their lives for the world to see. And then being rewarded for it. Oh my. And, speaking of royalty, Now Husband’s family were members of the Ottoman Court. Absolutely no wealth remained after his grandmother, but my MIL always acted like there was a crown on her head. It was fascinating to watch.


    • Very cool! No wealth here either. Although, one of her ancestors in another line was Anneke Jansz, who owned part of what is now Manhattan. Years ago there was a suit brought by numerous descendants of Anneke’s who felt that they were somehow owed millions for the loss of the property. The suit was eventually thrown out of court because it would have been impossible to litigate.

      Close, but no cigar. 😦


  4. So afraid to go through our geneology – expecting to find pirates, thieves and – worst of all – politicians! and “Queen for a Day” was clearly an early version of reality television. Sort of like “The Bachelorette” or the home renovation varieties for women of the 50’s….


  5. Our neighbor is decidedly unqueenly. She prepares lavish meals for her kids when they come for visits, writes them checks on every holiday, takes them on trips, etc. She wants to know does there come a time when children don’t expect that. HUH?

    Oh… she’s in her 90’s. What do you think…? Alien?


  6. My mother couldn’t figure out if she identified more with Queen Elizabeth or Margaret Thatcher, but settled on Thatcher eventually for her absolute declarations of certainty of stuff she was basically delusional about.

    Is there are Southern woman alive who does not anticipate that–some day, maybe today, any day now–the Queen will drop in for a visit and expect cleaned silver and fine china?


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