Monday 30 April 2007

Prince Harry will go to Iraq

I appeared on Canada's CTV News today with excerpts from my interview incorporated into the following article:

Prince Harry will go to Iraq, head of army says News Staff

The head of the British army says he has personally decided that Prince Harry will go to Iraq, amidst reports Shiite insurgents may form a special unit to target him.

Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt said the decision will be kept under review, but says he hopes his statement will end media speculation on Harry's deployment.

"This whole matter arose earlier this month due to the fact that casualty rates for the British army have been dramatically high, and the issue therefore became very political as people realized that Prince Harry could be a major target," Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, editor of Burke's Peerage and Gentry, told CTV Newsnet.

"However, we have a moral issue. Many families whose children fought in the war though, if their children should sacrifice their lives, why on Earth couldn't Prince Harry?"

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that Shiite militants have set up a special squad targeting Harry should he be posted to Iraq.

The British newspaper quoted a commander in the Mahdi Army -- the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- as saying the group had informants inside British army bases who would tip them off about Harry's presence.

"One of our aims is to capture Harry, we have people inside the British bases to inform us on when he will arrive," commander Abu Mujtaba is quoted as saying.

The Guardian said it couldn't substantiate Abu Mujtaba's claims and the British military dismissed them as propaganda.

Harry will become the first royal to serve in a war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands war in 1982.

"At the time, there were concerns that he would become a target for the Argentine forces," said Heydel-Mankoo. "And indeed, the Argentine air force did try to find out which helicopters he was flying."

With files from The Associated Press

Governor General vs Viceroy: A pressing issue

At a recent soiree, one of my delightful dinner companions posed the question: "what is the difference between a Governor General and a Viceroy?". Having dealt with this question elsewhere not long previously, I was amused to see that it continues to perplex those whose feet are firmly planted under a decidedly modern Ikea table. Such questions are far more enriching than wondering which car insurance firm supplies the best deal! To spare other suburban homes the misery of sleepless nights I provide my personal view of the distinction:

Whilst a Governor General is often styled the "vice-regal representative", a distinction between the offices of Viceroy and Governor General is often drawn; however the precise definition of that distinction is open to debate. A traditional view held by many places the office of Viceroy above that of Governor General, on the ground that a viceroy acts as if he were the Sovereign and not merely the Sovereign's representative. Many of those who argue for this distinction also maintain that a dominion cannot have a Viceroy as viceroys only exist in colonies that are not possessed of the governmental powers and legistative structures possessed of "independent" dominions. This would seem to be supported by the Irish example: the office of Governor General of Ireland replaced that of Viceroy in 1922, upon the establishment of the Irish Free State (however this oft-quoted example may not be terribly useful as the official title of the Irish governor was that of "Lord Lieutenant"). To substantiate this view one might also evidence the high degree of pomp, protocol and ceremonial associated with the court of a Viceroy compared with that of a Governor General.

India provides further evidence that the two offices are separate and distinct (at least in a sub-continental context): the Viceroy of India was simultaneously Governor General, the official title being that of: "Governor General and Viceroy of India" (or vice-versa). It is my view that the distinction drawn here is between that of the King-Emperor's representative in India (Viceroy) and the chief administrator of India (GG). This distinction seems to be supported by contemporary Court Circulars such as that issued at the time of the Delhi Durbar; here, during a Council held by King George V in India, his representative in India is styled only as "Governor General" and not as "Viceroy". This draws me to the conclusion that the presence of the King rendered the position of Viceroy unnecessary and therefore the Viceroy and Governor General could function only as GG (chief administrator).

Sunday 29 April 2007

John Brooke-Little: In Memoriam

John Philip Brooke Brooke-Little, CVO, FSA, FSG, FHS, FRHSC (Hon), founder, in 1947, of the Society of Heraldic Antiquaries (now The Heraldry Society) died on February 13, 2006. The legendary herald would have celebrated his 80th birthday this month. In tribute I post part of the obituary that I wrote following the announcement of his death.

John Brooke-Little was born 6 April 1927 and was educated at Clayesmore and New College, Oxford (MA). He served on the Earl Marshal’s staff from 1952-53 and as Gold Staff Officer at the 1953 Coronation. He was appointed Bluemantle Pursuivant in 1956, Richmond Herald in 1967, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms in 1980 and, finally, Clarenceux King of Arms in 1995 (he resigned from the College of Arms in 1997). In addition, Brooke-Little held three administrative positions at the College of Arms: Registrar (1974-1982), Librarian (1974-1994) and Treasurer (1978-1995). From 1991-1997 he was also Director of the Heralds’ Museum at the Tower of London (now closed).

Brooke-Little took great pleasure informing people that the commonly held view that the Order of Saint Patrick was extinct was quite false since, by virtue of his position as Ulster King of Arms (which was merged with that of Norroy), he remained ex officio an Officer of the (dormant) Order and, until such time as the Sovereign chose to formally abolish the position of Ulster King of Arms or to specifically declare otherwise, the holder of that office would continue to serve as the Order’s King of Arms, Registrar and Knight Attendant (the fact that the last knight had died in 1974 was of little consequence to this staunch traditionalist).

Brooke-Little served as Chancellor of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1973 to 1977 and eventually held the rank of Knight Grand Cross of Grace and Devotion (having first been admitted to the SMOM as a Knight of Magistral Grace); he was also honoured with the Order of Merito Melitense in 1964. Brooke-Little was a Knight of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem and a Knight Grand Cross of Grace of the Franco-Neapolitan Branch of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (British Delegation) and also held the Cruz Distinguida (first class) de San Raimundo de Penafort.

Other positions held by Brooke-Little included: Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies; Master of the Scriveners’ Company (1985-1986); Chairman of the Council of the Harleian Society, President of the English Language Literary Trust (1985-1996) and Trustee of the Royal Air Force Heraldic Trust.

Brooke-Little published at least ten books including Royal Ceremonies of State; Royal Arms, Beasts and Badges; The British Monarchy in Colour; Beasts in Heraldry; An Heraldic Alphabet and Royal London and substantially revised Boutell's Heraldry (6 edns) and Fox-Davies' Complete Guide to Heraldry.

His armorial bearings were blazoned: Argent goutté Gules three unicorn heads erased Sable armed and crined Or langued Azure, and for a crest On a wreath Argent and Gules, a demi-unicorn erased Sable armed, crined and unguled Or, langued Azure and collared gobony Or and Gules with a chain Or, and with the motto RECTE AUT NIL, and a badge A Triquetra Or interlaced by an Annulet Argent. These were granted through the College of Arms on March 5, 1952.

The Importance of Being English: The Quest for An English Identity

Reflections on St. George's Day by Rafe Heydel-Mankoo

“If I were not French, I would wish to be English”, said a Frenchman seeking to flatter Lord Palmerston. 

“If I were not English, I would wish to be English”, replied His Lordship. 

In the age of Pax Britannica, few Englishmen would have disagreed with with Queen Victoria ’s steely Prime Minister. Some might have wondered why he had bothered to state the obvious. 

Palmerston’s England was self-assured and self-aware. The English knew they were blessed by God and by golly it was their duty to spread that blessing as far as they could, from the darkest corners of their own island to the farthest reaches of the globe. It mattered not one jot or tittle that no-one had actually requested their intercession. 

It was true that the transmission of Albion ’s seed was to take place under a recently created “Union” flag, but everyone knew that the English called the shots. Johnny foreigner’s inability to distinguish between “ England ” and “ Britain ” was proof of this.

How remarkable then that the English nation today suffers Europe ’s greatest identity crisis. Whilst Estonians, Croats, Scots and Montenegrins gorge themselves on lavish portions of national bluster, the English patriot seeking sustenance from the state is left scavenging for scraps. 

Europe ’s finest nation is lost and confused. It is surely the supreme irony that England ’s current malaise has been caused by its greatest creation: Britain . Does this mean that England ’s survival requires the destruction of the United Kingdom ?

As the protagonists in the British story, generations of Englishmen, secure in their identity, were happy to offer up their cherished ideals and values and have them woven into a new British national fabric. The creation of British symbols and institutions blurred the distinction between England and Britain ever further. 

Elevation of Britishness above Englishness posed few problems whilst there were pink bits on the map and even the retreat from Empire failed to dent the Englishman’s devotion to the Union . But in Scotland and Wales the gradual weakening of British power caused many to question the continuing relevance of imperial symbols and institutions and even of the Union itself.

History tells us that where union between states is achieved, its foremost advocates will belong to the dominant state. The strong exert greatest influence, we all know that. 

We also know that smaller states, fearing assimilation, are more likely to foster and maintain their pre-existing cultures and traditions. Whilst the English, Serbs and Prussians thought of themselves firstly as British, Yugoslav or German, the same could not be said for their junior partners (Scots, Bosnians, Bavarians). We find evidence of this in the New World as well: many American southerners belong to Dixie first and the USA second; in Canada the residents of Ontario , Canada ’s most powerful province, are the most likely to identify with nation before province.

As Scots and Welsh and Irish celebrate their rich cultural legacy and bask in their Celtic identity, dipping into the vast stores of tradition that earlier generations have preserved, the English appear bereft of culture and burdened by the guilt of what is perceived as a racist and imperialist past, thereby ensuring that any budding pride is well and truly nipped. 

Such is the degree to which England and Britain are entwined in the public psyche that the major role played by the Scots in the expansion of Empire, and in its nefarious excesses, has been forgotten, obscured by the myth of Braveheart and the struggle against English oppression. It is the English alone who are to blame for Britain ’s past wrongs and whilst other inhabitants of these isles may celebrate their national pride with impunity, similar English expressions are attacked as racist. 

One wonders what the rest of the United Kingdom was doing whilst England -- all alone apparently -- was busy rushing around colonizing,  lopping hands off and stripping resources (to use their favourite trope).

The bizarre double-standard reached its apogee upon the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of England’s capital city. Shortly after attaining office Red Ken turned Green, allocating funds for a parade honouring St. Patrick but banning one in honour of St. George. The celebration of Englishness was deemed insensitive and divisive. 

Ken has a point though, as any film buff will attest, the English tendency to evil is indisputable. Has anyone ever seen a Hollywood film where the villain did not speak RP?

Partly due to such negative stereotyping, supporters of Englishness have for many decades retreated to that which is cozy and unassertive: warm beer, bicycling vicars, picnicking in front of a car’s exhaust and watching belled and tassled fetishists bash each other with sticks. It is English Lite. 

For many, to whom overt displays of patriotism are vulgar and decidedly un-English, this castrated hey nonny no has been sufficient. An Englishman’s pride was always serene and personal. And so it remained. And all was good. 

However the English have finally awoken to the fact that patriotic fervour has enabled the other inhabitants of this island to accrue considerable benefits, often at English expense. And this offends that most sacred of English values: fair play.

The English did not object to the creation of a Scottish parliament or a Welsh assembly, neither have they raised a fuss over the issue of Scottish over-representation at Westminster ; but they object vehemently to those same Scottish MPs meddling in English domestic affairs, particularly when they secure the passage of English-only legislation which would otherwise have failed. That’s just not cricket. 

As the wealthy partners in the Union the English did not mind giving the others a leg up, even if it meant that more money was spent per head in Scotland and Wales than in England . 

But to see these subsidies lead to vast improvements in Scottish hospitals and schools whilst their English counterparts lay mired in squalor is simply not on. The English see their neighbours rewarded for throwing the rattle out of the pram. 

Such clear injustices rankle, particularly when those whom the English subsidise add insult to injury by supporting which ever country opposes England on the playing field. That really is too much! Like a baited bear in a Southwark pit, England has been roused and is preparing to defend itself.

Drake’s drum may have yet to sound, but a renewed and invigorated England is reacquainting itself with its traditions, its culture and its symbols. 

Where once the Union Jack greeted English teams, the St. George’s Cross now flutters. Content to sing God Save the Queen whilst the disloyal Welsh and Scots sang their own “national” anthems, the supporters of English sport are now contemplating Jerusalem . Once an activity of the quaint and eccentric, the exchange of St. George’s Day cards grows from year to year.

Such displays may stiffen the sinews, but they are meaningless without a proper appreciation of England ’s contributions to civilization. 

To truly establish an English identity, its people must reclaim and celebrate as their own, those values and concepts which have become an established part of the British character: from tolerance, justice and the rule of law to the Monarchy, Parliament and the English language, each is as English as it is British. 

Only then can England be said to have found itself.

© Rafe Heydel-Mankoo, 2007