at Her Majesty's pleasure

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SandoM

Member
Bulgarian
I hope i am posting this query in the proper place (this is my first one :).
I am struggling with the translation of the following sentence:


We know that grannies are not what they were, but even allowing for the fact that many are
proficient on the Internet, lunatic behind the wheel and capable of doing full
justice to the drinks cabinet, the discovery that our own had been detained at
Her Majesty’s pleasure would, if we are honest, come as a bit of a shock.

So my question is whether to be detained at someone's pleasure is a particular idiom or it is the author's invention?
 
  • Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure is an idiom meaning to be put in prison.
    Though we do use the phrase at your pleasure in other contexts to mean when you want.
     
    Last edited:

    SandoM

    Member
    Bulgarian
    Thanks a lot, Aardvark! So as the Her Majesty's part suggests it should be a typical British idiom about being thrown in jail... which would create some difficulties with the translation to a language where no Her Majesty existed for the last 60 something years...
    Thanks again for the quick reply!
     

    SandoM

    Member
    Bulgarian
    Hm... sorry for bothering again, but what kind of an idiom is it? How formal/informal is it? People from which social layers would be most likely to use it?
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Thanks a lot, Aardvark! So as the Her Majesty's part suggests it should be a typical British idiom about being thrown in jail... which would create some difficulties with the translation to a language where no Her Majesty existed for the last 60 something years...
    Thanks again for the quick reply!
    Could you use at the state's pleasure? Or whoever is ultimately responsible for prisons in the target language? It might be best to translate it as 'at the Queen of England's pleasure'.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Hm... sorry for bothering again, but what kind of an idiom is it? How formal/informal is it? People from which social layers would be most likely to use it?
    It is formal in origin but widely used and understood in an informal setting such as the context quoted. Thus it has become a coloquialism, a way of alluding to prison without actually saying it.
     
    To be precise, it is part of a legal sentence imposed on somebody who has been found guilty of a serious offence but who is considered too mentally ill to be sent to prison. Instead, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital indefinitely, until the psychiatrists consider that he is no longer a danger to himself or others. Then, the psychiatrists recommend to the Home Secretary (the Government Minister responsible for criminal law in England) that he be released. The Home Secretary makes the decision in the name of the sovereign. The sentence pronounced by the court is thus that the defendant be detained "at/during Her Majesty's pleasure".

    I think it may have been colloquially extended to mean an ordinary term of imprisonment, but that is an error, really.
     

    SandoM

    Member
    Bulgarian
    Well, thank you even more! Such an extensive answer is a real treasure. Even if in the particular case the expression has been used, as you suggested, in order to describe a simple detention by the police, it is great to learn so much about it!
     
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