Royally screwed

Engsiong Tan
3 min readMay 24, 2023

A modern twist to the tale of a white elephant

When I was a child, I was told that the Tower of London was used as a prison for special prisoners. Queen Elizabeth the first? Guest at Tower of London before she became queen. Sir Walter Raleigh? The English statesman was also imprisoned but for reason that was never taught to me. He is the person that was supposed to put his cloak over a puddle of water so that the queen would not get her feet wet.

There was a part of modern history left out about the Tower of London. In the twentieth century, it was used to house spies and people of special interest.

Frogmore Cottage

In ancient times, royalty could punish people by giving them presents. One such example was the white elephant. The modern meaning is an expensive but useless gift. There was a catch when you received such a gift. You could not refuse it or even make the elephant work. You also had to maintain the white elephant. (Read massive diet and a need for waste disposal. Interesting fact: The tallest building in the world also has a significant amount of wasted space as well as a waste disposal problem. History has a way of repeating itself.) Did I mention that elephants could live to nearly fifty years? I suspect the elephants were Asians since their African cousins were both bigger and not known to be trained.

Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash

So why is Frogmore Cottage such an unwelcome gift? I will let you be the judge of it. I only knew about this building when a couple was being evicted from it. The landlord doing the evicting is the father of the husband. The interesting part was that the couple was originally expecting to stay at Kensington Palace but were downgraded to the Frogmore Cottage. Downgraded as the palace had twenty rooms compared to the four-bedroom-and-nursery in the cottage.

To be fair, there was another family that is staying on and off in the Frogmore Cottage but they were guests of the first couple. The reason that the couple got evicted was that the landlord wanted to house his brother in the cottage. It sounds very generous until you learn that the brother was staying at the larger Royal Lodge. There is a reason why the brother has been downgraded to the Frogmore Cottage. I understand that the reason is similar to why Walter Raleigh had a vacation in the Tower of London. Doing things behind the back of the ruling monarchy. This also gives new meaning to the term detained at the majesty’s pleasure. As one can tell, royalties are are not easily pleased.

Finally, there is the name of the cottage. It got its name when a queen had her breakfast at the cottage. No prizes for guessing what upset the queen.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash