The fifth season of The Crown, which focuses emphasizes the royal family’s catastrophic marital breakdowns, is possibly the most scandalous one so yet. This naturally features a thorough account of Princess Diana’s controversial Martin Bashir interview from November 1995 on Panoramic, but it also means that the show skips over a very bizarre royal incident that is certainly worth reviewing.
Her Majesty the Queen was the victim of a phone scam in October 1995 perpetrated by a Canadian radio DJ impersonating Jean Chretien, the country’s former prime minister.
Pierre Brassard, a talented impressionist, and host of a satirical radio program on CKOI FM in Montreal made the seven-minute phone call during which our late monarch discussed participating in Quebec’s referendum on leaving Canada and confirmed the royal family’s plans for Halloween.
The astonishing prank call tape demonstrates that the Queen and Brassard conversed in both English and French.
The Queen says, “I’m sure you are,” in response to Brassard’s portrayal of Chretien’s allegation that he is really stressed out in the call. Then he asks her to deliver a broadcast speech urging Quebecers to reject the province’s impending independence vote. Initially confused, the Queen consults with an advisor before announcing that she will be happy to assist in any way possible if they can fax her a draught of the suggested statement. This is what Brassard guarantees.
The Queen agrees to Brassard’s request to speak to her in French for the remainder of the call when he expresses his extreme anxiety. He nods in agreement when the Queen asks if she should keep the address brief and makes a joke about keeping it under the length of a box of cereal.
Later on in the chat, when Brassard inquires about the health of the royal family (and receives confirmation that everyone is fine), he queries the Queen about her preparations for Halloween. She responds, “Definitely for the kids,” and then chuckles when Brassard asks if she’ll be dressing up. She then declares that she won’t. The conversation ends shortly after Brassard makes a second commitment to fax the statement and advises her to wear just one of her hats for Halloween costume purposes.
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How on earth did Her Majesty answer this call? According to the radio station, Brassard was routed via a few offices after making just one phone call to Buckingham Palace’s main switchboard before reaching the Queen. The Palace disagreed, claiming that they had checked with Mr. Chretien’s staff, who stated that although the Prime Minister was away campaigning, there was no reason to believe that he wouldn’t be calling the Queen to discuss the impending vote.
This is not the first occasion that a royal has received a hoax call. Prince Harry was misled in 2020 by Russian YouTubers posing as Greta Thunberg, and Princess Diana was tricked into believing she was on the phone with Stephen Hawking in 1996.
The Palace regarded Brassard’s prank as unfortunate and annoying after it was exposed, and an investigation was started. However, many people were quick to point out that it actually reflected extremely favorably on the Queen. She comes across as approachable, willing to assist, patient, and friendly over the phone, effortlessly moving between English and French to accommodate the person she believes to be Jean Chretien.
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Similar praise was given to the scam by Brassard: “She is quite humorous.” She spoke English to me. I remarked, “I’m anxious, and my English is poor.” Can we communicate in French? and she said, “Yes, of course,” after which we had a brief conversation in French. This type of interaction is beneficial because it allows us to perceive the other person’s humanity. She is an individual like you and I.
Chretien talked about his particular relationship with Queen Elizabeth after her passing in September 2022. He is known for making her laugh out loud by swearing at a formal function, which may be why she wasn’t offended by Brassard’s humorous comments while playing as the Canadian PM.