1995: The year the future began
No prank or hoax in 1995 was more inspired or amusing than that of Pierre Brassard, a 29-year-old radio show host in Montreal.
Brassard impersonated the Canadian prime minister, got through by telephone to Queen Elizabeth of England, and asked her to speak out against a separatist referendum then pending in Quebec. Her majesty said she would.
As I discuss in my latest book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, the conversation on October 26, 1995, went on for seven minutes and was aired live on CKOI-FM. Only afterward did Buckingham Palace realize that Elizabeth had been duped.
Pretending to be Jean Chrétien, Brassard asked the monarch if she would make a televised statement urging Quebecers to vote against the referendum, which envisioned sovereignty for the French-speaking province.
“Your majesty,” Brassard said, “I am really stressed out these days.”
“I’m sure you are,” replied Elizabeth, who is Canada’s head of state.
“We deeply believe,” Brassard said, “that should your majesty have the kindness to make a public intervention, we think that your word could give back to the citizens of Quebec the pride of being members of a united country.”
The queen stammered and can be heard consulting an adviser, whom she calls “Robert.” She said to Brassard:
“Do you think you could give me a text of what you would like me to say? … I will probably be able to do something for you.”
Brassard said he would send a statement to the queen by fax. She replied, saying:
“I will probably be able to do something for you.”
“Aaah. Thank you, your majesty,” Brassard said.
“No problem,” the queen replied. “No, I can do that. I mean, it would have to be moitié–moitié, wouldn’t it? It would have to be half-English, half-French.”
“OK,” Brassard said. “Half and half.”
The conversation switched to French after Brassard told the queen, “Your majesty, I am very nervous. It is possible to talk in French?”
“Allez,” she says. “Go on.” (Her command of French was not particularly confident.)
“I am more at ease in French, your majesty,” Brassard said. From that point, the conversation switched from French to English and back to French, during which Brassard asked Elizabeth about her plans for Halloween.
“You are not going so far as to wear a costume?”
No, she said, laughing.
The conversation ended shortly after Brassard promised to “send you the fax with the text,” adding that “if you want to dress for Halloween, just put on a hat. I thank you very much again, your majesty.”
Brassard afterward reveled in the hoax — which a London newspaper called the “Great Royal Phone Embarrassment” — and said the queen “is very funny. … That kind of conversation is a good thing because we see the human side of the person.”
Buckingham Palace was peeved. “We think it’s annoying,” a spokesman for the Palace said, curtly. “We think it’s irritating. We think it’s a waste of the queen’s time.”
However amusing and memorable, the episode probably had scant impact on the Quebec-sovereignty referendum, which was narrowly defeated in voting October 30, 1995.
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