It Takes a Queen

The Wall Street JournalHalf Farthing 1843 on October 6th carried a review by Judith Flanders of the book “Behind the Throne” by Adrian Tinniswood.
The review contained a fairly detailed report on the royal employees/servants. Queen Elizabeth for example has 1,200 people looking after her and her households.
Medals are given for long service in lieu of what are known to be extremely poor salaries. The royal households of previous centuries did little better. Under Queen Victoria, reforms to a chaotic private Buckingham Palace lowered the wages of the maids by almost two-thirds, to as low as £12 a year, while leaving unchanged the salary of the queen’s hereditary grand falconer (a position held by an aristocrat) at £1,200 per annum. Never mind that the she had no falcons, nor any intention of ever acquiring them.
At this point I have to express a personal interest in this story. My great grandmother worked in Queen Victoria’s Windsor Castle laundry. I suspect that the wages were less than a £1 a month and I can understand why it was not a long term career path nor a stepping stone on to greater things.
With such arbitrary penny pinching it is no wonder the Royals feared the revolutions which swept Europe and the United States in the late eighteenth century.
And perhaps the wonder is how the Royal Family managed to survive and prosper to the present day with such attitudes.

How the West was Won

I have occasionally blogged on the joys of Aberystwyth and its place as a University town in the far west of Wales. The story is that its railway line escaped axing in the Beeching era, not because the line was profitable but because it ran through five Labour held parliamentary constituencies.
It is a nice place to visit, not just because we have family there but because of its indomitable spirit of activism despite the efforts of the City fathers.
This spirit is exemplified by the sign I saw in a car window.

Does it mean that Aber is overrun by ravening hordes who will smash a car window in search of stale (or otherwise) food. No, it means that if due to idiosyncrasies in the licensing laws, the pie shops close before throwing out time at the local bars, then there is no profit to be found scavenging in the parked vehicles looking for left over sea gull food.

Steroids & Caffeine

JeremiahFrom time to time I read one of the lessons at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. The first reading on July 22nd is from Jeremiah. Normally I like to avoid Jeremiah and Job as they are not the most cheerful of prophets and I prefer to enjoy the more declamatory words of Isiah, Ezekiel or Nathan.
The reading on the 22nd is about the negligent “shepherds” of the people who deserved better leadership.
Much of Jeremiah’s work was in Judah’s capital Jerusalem. He tried to keep several kings faithful to their stewardship  amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not, and he suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of his prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who put the country in thrall to Egypt. Jeremiah raged against this policy.
The reading is Jeremiah’s response to the negligent leaders. I first read the passage as a reproachful piece but looking at the readers’ notes I was encouraged to see that it is proclamatory and that I should not let Jeremiah sound like he’s on Valium. If anything, he should sound as if he is on steroids and caffeine.
He was a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. He thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people’s neglect of their responsibility to the poor. “I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock!”
Any linkage between the events and characters of 200 B.C. and the present day are purely unintentional and coincidental.
On the other hand, I think I’ve known some readers for whom Valium is the default mode when tackling the readings. But for me, for this week at least it’s a case of onwards with the steroids and caffeine!

On this day – 4th May

Readers of my blog may recall that on the 4th May I regularly raise a glass of Guinness or a G&T in memory of my late grandmother (Alice Luck) who was born on 4th May 1891.
I am currently reading Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland and he gives a brief account of Padraig Pearse’s life which ended as Pearse was executed on 4th May 1916 for being one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising.
There is the story that as Padraig and his brother Willie set off from home to begin the Uprising, their mother told them not to do anything rash.
Grandmothers and mothers are always like that!
Sláinte mhaith to all

Arras 28th March 1918

The 28th March marks the 100th anniversary of the death of my great uncle Charles Luck who died aged twenty during the Battle of Arras. His name is remembered with honour on the Arras Memorial
The Arras Memorial commemorates 34,795 servicemen from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who died from the Spring of 1916 until August 1918, and who have no known graves.
Family legend has it that Great Uncle Charles was killed during a barrage of heavy gun fire. (One moment he was there and the next he wasn’t!)
The Great War casualties were horrendous and their effect echoes down the century. The Great War cost my Great Grandmother her husband and her oldest son – not a happy outcome and a bleak prospect for the peace that followed.
1918 Luck Charles Memorial

The Rain Makes All Things Beautiful

The full verse continues Flowers and Grasses too. And, I like to think that it also makes houses beautiful.
Our house is now listed on the Weichert Luxury Homes site and as the sun comes out it can only look better in real life than it does in the photographs
The winter in Raleigh has been quite brutal from time to time. Not so bad as in the North East of the country but occasionally quite harsh with overnight temperatures in the lower twenties Fahrenheit.
So, today I was quite pleased to see that the beautyberry has survived in its exposed position and is showing some small tentative green shoots. The Hypericum is looking set to flourish and the early Azealia’s are acting as though Spring has finally sprung. On the other hand, the Crepe Myrtles and the Dogwood are evidencing distinct signs of remaining under the duvet until it is absolutely safe to come out.

Perfidious Little Belgium

The New York Times in its review of The Darkest Hour refers to the film makers’ sham populism which is at its most evident when showing Churchill riding the London Underground and meeting The People (a motley mass of stiff upper lips and misty eyes).
Charles Moore writing in the Spectator opined that the film indicates when Churchill left Downing Street for the House of Commons to make his ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech he did so without knowing what he would say. (In the film) dear, patriotic citizens weepily beg Churchill to declare that we will fight on, so he decides that is what he will say in Parliament.
Obviously, in drama, one must not succumb to ‘the tyranny of fact’, but if you know that Churchill did not travel by tube, that he had thoroughly decided what he would say, that he always prepared his parliamentary speeches pretty much word for word, and that only a madman would go from Downing Street via St James’s Park station to get to Westminster, you cannot suspend your disbelief in the cinema.
The speech contains memorable lines – not just the We shall fight them phrases. In his speech Churchill outlined the immediate history which lead up to the British Expeditionary Force debacle and the Dunkirk evacuation. He highlighted but did not overdramatize the role of the Belgians:
“The king of the Belgians had called upon us to come to his aid. Had not this ruler and his government severed themselves from the allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the late war, and had they not sought refuge in what was proved to be a fatal neutrality, the French and British armies might well at the outset have saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.”
Thus, we were betrayed by the Belgian royals and if there ever was a case for a full blooded republican coup, this must be it.
And yet the Treaty of Brussels was signed on 17 March 1948 which established a Western Union Defense Organization which in turn lead to the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, European Economic Community (predecessor to the European Economic Community and the European Union) all of which would be headquartered in Brussels
Supranationalism does not have to be Socialist and Statist but you can see the advantages to the Belgians (like their Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak), it let their country punch above its weight and (hopefully) expunge the memory of their 1940 perfidy.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/20/greatspeeches1