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According to Wikipedia, the Queen's English refers not just to pronunciation, but also "matters such as grammar, vocabulary and style".

The term has also been referenced numerous times on ELU. Of the 13 pages of search hits, though, I found just two questions of relevance to my question. The first asks about a style guide that the Queen might use, and the second is more tangential, asking about the link between Appalachian and Elizabethan vs contemporary English.

As defined by Oxforddictionaries.com:

Queen's English
The English language as written and spoken correctly by educated people in Britain

the link is clearly with educated British people in general, not the Queen in particular. Although this might be brushed off as synecdoche, there seems (to me, at least) to be a more personal association with the language of the Queen in her own right.

My question here is whether this impression is correct. Does the Queen's English refer to English as spoken by the Queen of England and, if so, was this personal link present between past monarchs and the polished English of their time?

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Yes, Queen's English, also known as Queen's Received English (QRE), also known as King's English and King's Received English in the days a male Monarch--Long live the Queen!--reigns, also known as Received Pronunciation (RP), is the English spoken by the Queen. Any assertion that all who abide on the Great Estate speak it is a ludicrous folly, for the Island of Great Britain herself has tens of distinct British accents and six major ones.

Queen's English, most commonly referred to as RP these days, is what many of the English call a "posh"* accent. Those who speak it naturally tend to be the extreme upper classes and those who did or do attend private boarding schools. Otherwise, those who don't come by it naturally but want to learn it, particularly actors and those who want to increase their social class/station, take elocution classes.

As for the technical end of it, i.e., grammar, semantics, syntax, etc., Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) is the leading world authority. In regard to the grand English lexicon, the Oxford English Dictionary holds the keys and stewards on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.

P.S. IN CASE I WASN'T CLEAR... Queen Elizabeth does speak Queen's English. Her accent is the accent. She's come off of some of it in her years, like no longer saying "house" like "hise" and "Paul" like "pool." If you pull up videos of her when she is young, though, she has that accent, the accent you will find affected in a lot in old movies, soaring. One does wonder, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did she learn to speak like that or did everyone learn to speak like that because she spoke like that. By the way, the whole "Ma'am like ham"-ism is attributed to the Queen.

*The truly "posh" never call themselves "posh," neither do they call themselves "wealthy," for "wealthy" grossly understates it; they are "rich."

  • +1. But regarding which came first - that's the heart of my question. I gather that you're saying the Queen's English is whatever way the Queen speaks. So if the Queen's accent or manner of speaking changes, then by definition so does the Queen's English. Can you point to any reference material that confirms this position? – Lawrence Jan 10 '16 at 13:07

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