Tuesday 31 July 2007

Peter Phillips to Marry a Canadian

I appeared on Canada's CTV News yesterday afternoon to discuss the engagement of The Queen's grandson, Peter Phillips (the son of HRH The Princess Royal), to Canadian Autumn Kelly.

Peter Phillips met his fiance at the Montreal Grand Prix in 2003. Ms. Kelly is an attractive and intelligent young woman who leads a successful career as a management consultant. She graduated from McGill University in 2002 and her skills caught the attention of CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), who unsuccessfully asked her to work for them.

Autumn Kelly and Peter Phillips live together on a cottage at Gatcombe Park, the estate of HRH The Princess Royal. Ms. Kelly is warmly regarded by members of the Royal Family and was invited to join the Royal Family on a private cruise and also to attend The Queen's intimate 80th birthday dinner at The Ritz in London.

The date and location of the wedding have yet to be announced. This marriage is certain to delight Canadian monarchists and will serve to strengthen the bond between Her Majesty's largest realm and the Crown.

Young Fogey hopes that the happy couple might consider a Canadian honeymoon. Montreal has certainly played an important role in the lives of this branch of the Royal Family given that HRH The Princess Royal competed in the Montreal Olympics of 1976. Perhaps Peter Philips and his fiance might consider following in the footsteps of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who spent their honeymoon in Montreal's appropriately named Queen Elizabeth Hotel?

Ms. Kelly will be the second Canadian to marry into The Queen's family in recent times. The Earl of St. Andrews (son of HRH The Duke of Kent) married Canadian Roman Catholic divorcee Sylvana Palma Tomaselli in 1988. Lady St Andrews is currently Director of Studies in History Part I and Social & Political Sciences at St John's College, Cambridge University. She is also a College Lecturer in Social and Political Sciences, and her research focusses on topics relating to History, Social and Political Sciences, and particularly Enlightenment political theory and Conjectural History.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall can also boast strong Canadian connections as she is a direct descendant of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, Bt., Premier of the Province of Canada, as well as a descendant of various French Canadians.

Saturday 28 July 2007

The Last King of Afghanistan and western democracy

The death earlier this week of Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last King of Afghanistan, served to remind many of the era of relative stability that marked much of his reign. Born into the Barakzai dynasty in Kabul in 1914, Zahir Shah ascended the throne in 1933 at the age of nineteen. During his forty year reign he embarked upon a programme of modernisation which resulted in the establishment of a modern education system, the developemnt of cultural and economic relations with the West and the institution, in 1968, of a constitution that introduced free elections, an elected legislature, universal suffrage and female emancipation.

The King's reforms angered religious conservatives and he was subsequently deposed in 1973 whilst undergoing an eye operation in Italy. His kingdom descended into a spiral of violence and factionalism that culminated in the rise of the Taliban and the invasion of 2001. Although he did not advocate for the restoration of the Monarchy, he nevertheless received the honoured style of "Father of the Nation" and was widely regarded as a symbol of national unity.

Had Mohammed Zahir Shah continued to reign until his death he would have reigned for 74 years, easily surpassing the two longest-reigning living monarchs, King Bhumibol (Rama IX) of Thailand and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (and Her other realms).

Taking part in a discussion that touched upon the possibility of restoring the Monarchy in Serbia, Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State during the Clinton Administration, stated "We don't do kings." (The "we" referring to the U.S. Government). This lamentable statement, which so clearly demonstrated Albright's blinkered, and wholly ignorant, attitude to the subject--an ignorance rooted in the prejudice engendered by fanatical allegiance to a one-size fits all concept of goverment, reinforced through the zealous repetition of the hollow mantra of "freedom and democracy" so beloved of spokesmen for the United States Government--reveals a major problem with United States policy.

Monarchy is the natural form of government for many states around the world. Western democracy took centuries to evolve and is part of the historical and cultural fabric of western civilisation. Any attempt to transplant our uniquely tailored system to countries such as Afghanistan is doomed to fail and will merely add credence to fanatical accusations of western imperialism.

The most stable and tolerant Islamic regions are almost all Monarchies. In a region where separation of Mosque and State is far from complete, a benevolent, Islamic king holds a degree of religious authority and is able to moderate and counter fundamentalists and also to offer protection to minorities.

The aim of the Western democracies now present in Afghanistan must not be the establishment of a western-style democratic government but, rather, the destruction of radical fundamentalists and the restoration of the traditional Afghan way of life. Blind allegiance to the "Holy Grail" of western-style republican democratic government will doom the current Afghan adventure and will provide clear evidence of the flawed nature of Western policy.

Four Candles

Over the past few months I have posted on a variety of topics related to politics, heraldry, monarchy, culture etc. However, having recently discovered the joys of YouTube, I feel compelled to shared with my "public", my two favourite comedy sketches from my favourite comedy duo: The Two Ronnies and their legendary "Four Candles" sketch and "Mastermind" sketch, which may be viewed by clicking the videos below. I particularly hope that those who are outside the UK will appreciate the humour. Enjoy!

Four Candles:

Mastermind (as an Editor for Burke's Peerage this is particularly memorable for me)

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Monarchy vs Republic debate

One of my old televised debates with a Canadian republican has somehow found its way on to YouTube. Should you wish to view the Monarchy vs Republic debate you may do so by clicking on the video below. This short debate took place during The Queen's Canadian homecoming and followed pro-republican comments made by then Liberal Cabinet Minister (and one time Prime Ministerial hopeful) John Manley.

Should the above video not work you may view the video at THIS LINK

Friday 20 July 2007

An Introduction to the U.K. Honours System

Photo Courtesy Guardian Images (LINK)

Following a 16 month police inquiry led by "Yates of the Yard", prosecutors today announced that they would not file charges in what has been dubbed as "the Cash for Honours" scandal. The so-called scandal was linked to the Labour Party's nomination for life peerages of several men who had loaned large sums to the Labour Party.

The story was first reported in March 2006 and was splashed onto the front pages of every national newspaper, guaranteeing the honours system the undivided attention of the nation’s media. In the sixteen months that followed, scarcely a fortnight passed without some coverage of the story on television, radio or in the newspapers.

Despite this unparalleled level of attention, I have yet to see the media provide the public with a clear explanation of the structure of the honours system and the manner in which it operates. The honours system is poorly understood by the majority of the public and the mystery that surrounds it inevitably arouses suspicion.

I therefore provide the following information as a public service.

The United Kingdom Honours System

There are about 3,000 honours awarded annually in the United Kingdom at New Year and on the Queen’s official birthday in June. This does not include appointments to the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle, which are made on St. George’s Day and St. Andrew’s Day respectively and are peculiar to the monarchy. Honours that are within the Queen’s personal gift: the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Order of Merit, and the Royal Victorian Order and Chain, are beyond the influence of the Government and as such should not be regarded as national honours. Indeed, ardent monarchists might argue that there is no such thing as a UK honours system as the authority over all orders rests with The Queen and thereby transcend the UK nation state. Those advocating this view would point to the fact that 12 other commonwealth realms participate in the “United Kingdom” honours system with their heads of government making recommendations to The Queen in much the same way as the British Prime Minister.

The four remaining orders, the Order of the Bath, the Order of St. Michael & St. George, the Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Companions of Honour, are often referred to as the national honours, in a group with knights bachelor and life peerages. Of the four, only three are large multi-class state orders; the Order of the Companions of Honour is a single class honour restricted to 65. As mentioned, the Sovereign may also choose to honour an individual of noted accomplishment by creating him or her a life peer, which is always of the rank of Baron or Baroness. Life peerages were frequently announced in honours lists; however, this practice ended in the year 2000 and non-partisan peers are now created upon the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

In order to place the UK system in some perspective, it is also worth noting that Britain has far fewer orders than a great many comparable states. One could remove the Order of the Golden Fleece from Spain’s national list on the same basis as the Garter and the Thistle and still end up with nine orders for that country whilst Croatia, with 16 orders, has the largest number of orders per capita in Europe. Canada now has 13 orders: three national orders, excluding the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of St. John, and ten provincial orders. Romania has 16. Bosnia-Herzegovina has 19. Brazil has 22, and Malaysia has over 30. This far exceeds the number of UK orders. And although France rationalised 16 of its specialised merit orders into one national Order of Merit, it still found it necessary to retain five other merit orders: Academic Palms, Agricultural Merit, Maritime Merit, Cultural Merit, and Arts and Letters. The number of UK orders therefore compares very favourably with awards on the continent and elsewhere. Such a favourable comparison also applies to the number of awards made annually; for although some critics of the UK honours system have argued that 3,000 annual awards is excessive, a glance across the channel seems to suggest that the British Crown is rather parsimonious. In total France makes approximately four times as many awards as Great Britain in any one year. In 1951 in Italy a new system was established with the foundation of the Order of Merit of the Republic, which is now the principal award. The ability to award only one multi-class order, however, has proved injurious to the reputation of the Italian honours system. There are approximately 850,000 living members of the Order, with 7,700 Grand Crosses given since 1951, of which at least 4,000 are living. The number of annual awards exceeds 20,000!

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Royal Hospital Chelsea Commemoration of the Bicententary of the death of Henry Benedict Stuart, July 2007

Left to Right: Philip Bonn, The Governor of the Royal Hospital (General the Lord Walker), Rafe Heydel-Mankoo

Left to Right: Philip Bonn, Viscount Maitland (Hereditary Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland, carrying the banner of the Royal Stuart Society), The Governor of the Royal Hospital (General The Lord Walker), Lord Aylmer, Lumsden of Cushnie, Rafe Heydel-Mankoo.

On Sunday members of the Royal Stuart Society and their guests gathered at the Royal Hospital Chelsea to commemorate the bicentenary of the death of Henry Benedict Stuart, the last member of the Royal House of Stuart (see earlier post "The Last Stuart", below, for an account of his life).

The day's events commenced at 10.40 am with a formal inspection of the Chelsea Pensioners, resplendent in their famous red tunics, by the Governor of the Royal Hospital, General The Lord Walker, GCB, CMG, CBE, equally resplendent in his uniform and plumed bicorn. David Lumsden of Cushnie, a council member of the Royal Stuart Society, accompanied the Governor during his inspection.

Following the inspection the Chelsea Pensioners marched into the Chapel for Matins, with the Royal Stuart Society following soon after. The banner of the Royal Stuart Society was processed into the Chapel and laid up at the altar by Viscount Maitland, the Hereditary Banner Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland (the office created for his ancestor by King Charles II). The 11 am service was conducted by the Rev. Richard Whittington MBE with a special sermon on the life of Henry (Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati, a Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church and Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals) provided by long-standing RSS member the Rev. Canon David Skeoch (pictured).

Rafe Heydel-Mankoo and David Lumsden of Cushnie process out of the Chapel.

Father Mark Turnham-Elvins leads the wreath-laying ceremony

At the conclusion of the service we processed out of the Chapel and to the Figure Court and the beautiful gold statue of Charles II (the Founder of the Royal Hospital) by Grinling Gibbons. Here Father Mark-Turnham Elvins led us in prayer following which four wreaths were laid at the statute in memory of Henry. The first was laid by Lord Aylmer (Chairman of the Council of the Royal Stuart Society), the second was laid by Philip Bonn and the third was laid by David Lumsden of Cushnie. As Henry is my ancestral 2nd cousin (through his Polish mother) I laid the fourth wreath, which was inscribed "Henry - A Polish Stuart".

(Above) Lord Aylmer lays a wreath on behalf of the Royal Stuart Society

(Above) Rafal Heydel-Mankoo lays a wreath to "Henry - A Polish Stuart"

At the conclusion of the wreath-laying ceremony a champagne reception was held around the statue. The forecast had threatened heavy showers however Henry clearly desired a clear view from above as the clouds were cleared away enabling the reception to take place under bright sunshine.

HSH Prince Raoul de Rohan with Christian Dewar-Durie

Peter Lole and Dr. Christopher Duffy deep in conversation whilst HSH Princess Raoul de Rohan engages a Chelsea Pensioner.

General The Lord Walker in conversation with David Lumsden of Cushnie and Rafal Heydel-Mankoo

At 12:45 the Pensioner Mace Bearer, acting as toastmaster, requested us to please proceed to the State Apartments for pre-prandials. We processed to the State Apartments led by Lord Maitland, again carrying the banner of the Royal Stuart Society.

The State Apartments consist of two main rooms, the Council Chamber and an Ante-Room. The Council Chamber is a magnificent oak-panelled room designed by Sir Christopher Wren and embellished by Robert Adam and still in its original stunning condition. There are a number of fine Stuart paintings by Van Dyke, Kneeler and Lely as well as important carvings and mouldings by William Emmett, John Grover and William Cleere.

At 1:15, following pre-prandials in the Ante Room, over 60 members and guests of the Royal Stuart Society proceeded to the Council Chamber for luncheon. The "Head Table" comprised: The Governor of the Royal Hospital and Lady Walker, Lord and Lady Aylmer, Lord and Lady Maitland, TSH Prince and Princess Raoul de Rohan, Anne Meinertzhagen (nee HSH Princess de Polignac), myself, Philip Bonn and Ludovic Marolles (most of whom are pictured here):

Lord Aylmer, General The Lord Walker, Lady Aylmer

Lord Maitland, HSH Princess Raoul de Rohan, Ludovic Marolles, Anne Meinertzhagen (nee Princess de Polignac)

The presence of the de Rohans provided a charming link to the last Stuarts (Charles and Henry in particular) particularly, as I noted in my brief speech, as Princess de Rohan is also related to Flora Macdonald.

Grace was offered by Father Mark Turnham-Elvins. Lord Aylmer proposed the toast to the Sovereign, Philip Bonn proposed the toast to "Henry and the Royal House of Stuart" and I proposed the toast to "The Royal Hospital". In his response, the Governor of the Royal Hospital, General The Lord Walker, provided us with a brief history of the Hosptial and the State Apartments before proposing a toast to "The Royal Stuart Society".

Dr. Paul Fox, David Lumsden of Cushnie, Father Mark Turnham-Elvins

Rafal Heydel-Mankoo and Dr. Paul Fox

Father Mark Turnham-Elvins, Gwyilym Ap Evans, Eoghain Murphy

David Lumsden of Cushnie and Dr. Martin Hogg

Christian Dewar-Durie and Major Michael Broadhurst

Council Members of the Royal Stuart Society: Left to Right: Peter Horrocks, Anthea Hickie, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Lord Aylmer, Rafe Heydel-Mankoo, David Lumsden of Cushnie, Dr. Eveline Cruickshanks.

Father Mark Turnham-Elvins with Lt. Col James Bogle

The day's events ended with coffee in the ante room at 3:30. Emerging from the State Apartments it was clear that, thankfully, the forecast torrential thundershowers had hit whilst we were dining. Leaving the Royal Hospital a group of us proceeded on to the Oxford and Cambridge Club for post-prandials and, eventually, dinner.

(My thanks to Prince Raoul de Rohan, Dr. Martin Hogg and Mr. Eoghain Murphy for kindly sending me their photographs and granting me permission to use them on my blog)

Friday 13 July 2007

The Last Stuart

Today marks the bicentenary of the death of the last member of the Royal House of Stuart, Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati (and Ostia and Velletri), Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church and Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, styled by Jacobites as "King Henry IX and I of England, Scotland, France and Ireland" (and popularly as "the Cardinal Duke of York", the form in which he publicly referred to himself, the dukedom being part of the Jacobite Peerage).

Henry Benedict Maria Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart was born on the 6th March 1725, in the Palazzo Muti (now Palazzo Balestra) in Rome. The grandson of King James II, his parents were James Francis Edward Stuart, known as "the Old Pretender" or, to Jacobites, as "King James III and VIII", and the Polish Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska (the Jacobite "Queen Maria Clementina"), grand-daughter of the great hero of Europe, King John III Sobieski, victor over the Turks at the 1683 Siege or Battle of Vienna.

Born in Rome and baptised by Pope Benedict XIII, Henry soon began a life of devotion to the Church. In June 1747 Henry had the tonsure conferred upon him by Pope Benedict XIV, who soon after created him Cardinal-Deacon of Santa-Maria in Portico. In August 1747 Henry was promoted to the four minor orders and a year later he received the subdiaconate and then the diaconate. In September 1748 Henry was ordained a priest and he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal-Priest of Santi XII Apostoli in 1752.

In 1758 Henry was named Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. The Camerlengo is charged with administering the Church from the death of one pope to the election of the next; the position also brings with it use of the heraldic striped pavillion. As Camerlengo Henry had to deal with matters following the death of Pope Benedict XIV through to the election of Pope Clement XIII.

Henry was consecrated titular Archbishop of Corinth in 1758 and was made Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati in 1761. Two years later he was named Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, finally succeeding to the See of Ostia and Velletri on his appointment as Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals on 26 September 1803.

Henry spent his final years in the episcopal palace of Frascati, dying there 200 years ago today. He remains one of the longest serving cardinals in history. He was buried in the Vatican, in the crypt of St. Peter's where, thanks in part to the generosity of the Hanoverian Prince Regent, later George IV (with whom Henry was on amicable terms), the famous Stuart monument by Canova was later erected (pictured, photo: Noel McFerran). Below relief portraits of Henry, his father and brother the monument bears the following inscription:


[To James III,
son of James II, King of Great Britain,
to Charles Edward,
and to Henry, Dean of the Cardinal Fathers,
sons of James III,
the last of the Royal House of Stuart,

Henry's will, which was signed "Henry R", stated that his rights of succesion were to pass to the "prince on whom they devolve by right, by proximity of blood, and by rights of succession". His nearest blood relative was Charles Emmanuel IV of Savoy, Henry's second cousin twice removed, although Charles never advanced any claim to the Jacobite succession (nor did he renounce any claim).

Wednesday 11 July 2007

The Nine Days' Queen

On this day in 1553 Lady Jane Grey, the grand-niece of King Henry VIII, was proclaimed Queen of England and started her tragic 9 day reign. Seven months later the sixteeen-year old ascended the scaffold at Tower green to be executed, declaring:

"Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day"

Young, beautiful and learned Jane, intent
On knowledge, fount it peace; her vast acquirement
Of goodness was her fall; she was content
With dulcet pleasures, such as calm retirement
Yields to the wise alone; -- her only vice
Was virtue: in obedience to her sire
And lord she died, with them a sacrifice
To their ambition: her own mild desire
Was rather to be happy than be great;
For though at their request, she claimed the crown,
That they through her might rise to rule the state,
Yet the bright diadem and gorgeous throne
She viewed as cares, dimming the dignity
Of her unsullied mind and pur benignity.

William Hone (1780 -1842)
Lady Jane Grey

Monday 9 July 2007

Thank Heavens For Henley

Photo: Above: The Young Fogey with fellow members of QDOR, sporting QDOR caps and ties. Courtesy: M.deR-S

The Young Fogey returns to his blog bleary eyed and exhausted after another weekend of strenuous social activity. As this past weekend saw his beloved city engulfed by a tourist tidal wave, with the great hordes descending on Wembley, Wimbledon and the opening portion of the Tour de France (am I the only one who finds it odd that a race bearing the name "de France" should start in London?), the Young Fogey fled to the tranquil surrounds of dear Henley-on-Thames for the annual Royal Regatta.

The week having been abysmally wet and dreary, we were fortunate to enjoy a weekend of near unbroken sunshine and blue skies, giving us a taste of the lazy, hazy days of summer that we had hitherto been denied.

Most of the usual suspects were present for this year's Sunday gathering, organised as usual by the indefatigable Hugh Macpherson. Sixteen strong we embarked upon a merry afternoon quaffing champagne, lunching and cheering various teams with which we could claim some connection (however slight the connection made no difference to the intensity of our enthusiastic support!).

I was pleased to see one Canadian team from Shawnigan Lake School and Victoria Rowing Club race to victory (particularly as a good friend is a Shawnigan old boy) but was saddened to see another Canadian team lose to their Australian rivals. Similarly a Polish team representing Warsaw and Torun were sadly defeated by a Czech crew. Ah well.

At the end of the day we returned to London where three of us called in upon another friend for a quick snifter and then went our merry ways....

Well, for a few hours at least. For at noon today several of us gathered at the Carlton Club as the guests of the good North Briton, Dr. Hogg. Thanks to Dr. Hogg we enjoyed a splendid lunch and kept each other amused with various tales and stories.

The sinister smoking ban now has this kingdom within its claws and we, it's cruel victims, were faced with little choice but to spend part of the afternoon on the makeshift terrace (in truth little more than a tin roof used by the staff on "fag breaks") in order to enjoy a cigar. What a baleful calamity!

At 5pm I bid adieu to those guests who were yet remaining and proceeded on to Claridges for drinks with another friend. Leaving Claridges I joined a group of friends for dinner in Soho and, thus satiated, it was home to blog and to bed!

Friday 6 July 2007

Brown is Right to Fly the Union Flag

Very rarely an action will be taken which places a conservative traditionalist in something of a quandary. As a conservative such a person is instinctively opposed to all attempts to alter a nation's traditions and customs. However, to the traditionalist's great chagrin, once in a while a reform will be announced which actually strikes him as sound. Such an event occurred this week.

Gordon Brown, Britain's new Prime Minister, has announced his desire to see the Union Flag flown from public buildings far more frequently than on the current eighteen "Flag Days". Traditionally, by Her Majesty's Command, days for flying flags from Government buildings (from 8am to sunset) were as follows:

20 January Birthday of the Countess of Wessex
6 February Her Majesty's Accession
19 February Birthday of the Duke of York
1 March St David’s Day (in Wales only)
10 March Birthday of The Earl of Wessex
12 March Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March)
17 March St. Patrick's Day (in Northern Ireland only)
21 April Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen
23 April St George’s Day (in England only)
9 May Europe Day
2 June Coronation Day
10 June Birthday of The Duke of Edinburgh
16 June Official Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday
17 July Birthday of The Duchess of Cornwall
15 August Birthday of The Princess Royal
11 November Remembrance Day (second Sunday)
14 November Birthday of The Prince of Wales
20 November Her Majesty’s Wedding Day
30 November St Andrew’s Day (in Scotland only)

Her Majesty had also commanded that the flag be flown on the day that She opens a Session of the Houses of Parliament and also on the day that She prorogues a Session of the Houses of Parliament.

In keeping with his policy of promoting "Britishness", Gordon Brown has now seen fit to advise Her Majesty that the flag should be flown with greater frequency. Ironically, for the last ten years, the Union Flag has flown above Buckingham Palace every day that The Queen has not been in residence.

The Prime Minister's recommendation strikes the Young Fogey as very sensible. Whilst in this era of the West Lothian question it conveniently serves Gordon Brown (a Scot representing a Scottish constituency) to be seen as unashamedly pro-British, one must also assume that his desire to strengthen the Union and combat anti-British extremists is sincere.

Although the Union Flag was seen a great deal during the jingoistic days of Empire, Britain's relationship with its flag has been very different from that of countries such as the United States of America. Whereas the flag of the United States is recognised in law and is regarded as the very embodiment of the nation and its ideals (with repeated attempts made in Congress to criminialise the act of flag "desecration"), no law has ever accorded the Union Flag official status as the flag of the United Kingdom. Whilst the Union Flag is recognised as official, Parliament has never passed legislation establishing it as such. American school children may swear daily allegiance to the flag, but in Britain (and traditionally in Canada, Australia and New Zealand) it is the Crown that is the embodiment of the state and it is to the Crown that one swears an oath of fealty.

This distinction is no where more apparent than during the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony in London. In the presence of the Sovereign the regimental colours and the Union Flag are lowered so that they touch, and indeed sweep along, the ground. Similarly, the construction, during a Drum Head Service, of a "drum altar", (a make-shift altar often used in combat situations when there is no access to a suitable alternative) requires the Union Flag to be draped over drums, often touching the ground (as pictured here). In many countries permitting the national flag to touch the floor is considered unthinkable, yet in countries of British heritage the flag is not accorded such reverence.

Times change. In the past few decades we have seen British-born states such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand regard their flags as increasingly important symbols; it is a sign of the increased influence of American culture that, in a hierarchy of importance, many of the citizens of these countries would most likely rank their flag above their Sovereign. I frequently hear Canadian patriots ("patriots" of whom many are perhaps unaware that The Queen is their Sovereign) complain that too few of their fellow citizens fly the Maple Leaf flag; the reality is that they unfairly compare their nation's flag-flying habits with those of the United States.

In truth Canadians fly their national flag with far greater frequency than the citizens of Britain or probably any European state. I once stood in front of the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa (on Parliament Hill) and counted twenty-four Maple Leaf flags flying nearby. I did this a few weeks later in Parliament Square in London and I only counted three flags. Indeed, the Union Flag only flies from the Houses of Parliament when Parliament is sitting.

On Dominion Day (more commonly known as "Canada Day") one will see the Maple Leaf flag plastered on the side of every major building and painted on cheeks and bare arms. The Royal Arms of Canada that appear on a prominent building in Vancouver are covered up to make way for a large Maple Leaf flag, the fact that the Arms are equally (if not MORE) Canadian clearly escaping the flag drapers. Similar scenes no doubt occur in Australia and New Zealand on their national holidays.

Yet the growing flag-worship which we have seen take hold in the former dominions has not taken root in Britain. More correctly, Union Flag worship has not taken root in Britain (on the contrary, it is less prevalent today than it was in the 1980s). However, partly as a result of devolution (and the resulting English resentment), we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the use by private individuals of the flags of England, Wales and Scotland. This is perhaps most marked on the playing fields. Where once the Union Jack greeted English teams, the St. George’s Cross now flutters.

The Union currently faces more threats than at any time in its three hundred year history. Devolution, the European Union and the internal cancers of a segmented and ghettoized-society are fraying the cords that bind the country together. Flying the flag will not solve these problems. However flags are symbols and the act of flying the flag symbolises one's belief in the Union, its values and its institutions.

There are few more obvious signs of patriotism than the simple act of flying a flag. I am reminded of the words of G.K. Chesterton: "For we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet." He spoke of England but I think of Britain. If the great British silent majority woke up to the threat now facing the country and clearly and unashamedly asserted their pride in Britain, which could start with the simple gesture of flying the flag, it would be the first step on a long journey of revitalisation.

At this particular time of crisis I applaud the Prime Minister for flying the Union Flag from No. 10 Downing Street. May we all follow his example.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Standard of HRH Prince William of Wales

I was delighted to see the Standard of HRH Prince William of Wales flying at Wembley Stadium during the Concert for Diana. This may have been the first occasion that it was seen at a major event.

Monday 2 July 2007

HRH The Countess of Wessex is Pregnant

Buckingham Palace press releases


2 July 2007


Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex are very pleased to announce that The Countess of Wessex is expecting a baby in December.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and members of both families are delighted with the news.

The Earl and Countess already have one daughter, The Lady Louise, who was born on 8 November 2003.

Thoughts following the Concert for Diana

I had a jolly time at the Concert for Diana. Considering the miserable weather of Saturday and today, it was nothing short of a miracle that the Concert took place under clement conditions. The media section was directly across from the area in which TRH Princes William and Harry were seated and we were therefore afforded prime viewing of the show. Having a camera crew at our disposal was also advantageous as we were able to ask the cameramen to zoom in on the royal box and the stage to enable us to identify specific persons (or merely have a closer look at their dancing skills!) on our monitor.

Tom Jones and Kiefer Sutherland were amongst those interviewed and everyone was in agreement that the concert was a splendid tribute. I commented on various subjects, including the Canadian trips made by the then Prince and Princess of Wales. However it was rather hard going on occasion as I had the misfortune to be cut off twice by the deafening roar of the crowd; and for some reason the director thought people would be more interested in listening to Rod Stewart and Jamie Oliver than me! ;)

It is clear to me that the new generation of royals are in the process of forging a completely new and special relationship with the people, much as Victoria and Albert refashioned the Monarchy in the 19th century. To remain relevant institutions must evolve. The change we are now witnessing is necessary. It is also fascinating to watch.