Sherlock Holmes provided numerous services to Queen Victoria. On one occasion he held her handbag while she knocked out a tribal chief from one of the virgin territories of her vast empire. On another occasion, Holmes had the honor of being knocked out by the Queen while the tribal chief held her handbag. On another occasion it was the tribal chief who knocked out the Queen while Holmes held his spear. During this unfortunate episode, the Queen’s handbag disappeared and Holmes was entrusted with the task of recovering it.
With Australia being an entire continent, the task of finding the handbag could have been titanic. However, Holmes’ canine sense of smell greatly facilitated things. Indeed, Queen Victoria gave off a very characteristic smell, the effect of a perfume that a Birmingham perfumer made exclusively for her. Holmes rightly deduced that her handbag would emit the same smell, so he requested that he be allowed to sniff the Queen. An urgent meeting of the Ministers of the Crown was convened to decide on the matter. The Home Secretary R. A. Cross strongly advised against the Queen giving her permission to be sniffed. But Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stated that all British citizens had the right to sniff the Queen. There was a heated debate in the House of Commons. William Gladstone and the Whig/Liberal party were clearly against the sniffing and suggested that if Mr. Holmes wanted to sniff someone, he was given to sniff the Royal Privy Counsellor Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany.
Due to all these controversies, the decision was increasingly postponed and Holmes feared that in the meantime the handbag’s trail would have been lost. This concern led him to appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who after evaluating the case indicated that the Church of England had no objections to Holmes’s request as long as the sniff was made from a safe distance. And so it was done. Fortunately, the Queen’s smell was so intense that my friend had no difficulty following the trail to a little house on the outskirts of Melbourne. Following her Majesty’s instructions, Holmes refrained from retrieving the handbag, merely informing the Queen of its whereabouts. Despite the unfavorable opinion of her Home Secretary and the entire cabinet, Queen Victoria acquired again a ticket to Australia on the Royal Yacht, and, after a few weeks, she made an appearance in Melbourne where she met with Holmes who accompanied her to the little house in the outer suburbs.
Holmes told me he had never seen such courage in a woman. She knocked on the door with her knuckles, and she did it with such force that she knocked down the door. Then she broke into the house and, after knocking out his owner, personally searched the premises until she found her stolen handbag in the kitchen sink. She found that nothing was missing inside: the handkerchief with her embroidered initials, the shopping list, a laundry bill and the ticket back to England on the Royal Yacht. In an act of magnanimity proper to a magnanimous empress, she forgave the thief and also gave him the laundry bill as a souvenir. But, as Holmes told me, it was a poisoned gift since the laundry in question sent its errand boy to Australia to collect the sum stipulated in the bill, which amounted to £200. As the thief declared himself insolvent, the Australian government had to foot the bill, which meant a significant increase in taxes and the mass sale of commemorative medals.