Tuesday 24 January 2012

Anniversary of the Death of Sir Winston Churchill -- Sir Robert Menzies' tribute

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill lying in state in Westminster Hall
On this day, the anniversary of his death in 1965, we remember with undying gratitude the life and legacy of a giant of history: Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

Many great figures have paid tribute to Sir Winston, the greatest statesman of the Twentieth Century, and the man voted "Greatest Briton" by the nation in 2002; however, the tribute that I have always found most moving was delivered by Australia's illustrious Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on the day of Sir Winston's state funeral.

I post it below as my tribute to the Great Man on the anniversary of his death:

A Tribute by Sir Robert Menzies KT, CH, QC, MP
given on the occasion of the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill
January 30, 1965


As this historic procession goes through the streets of London to the Tower Pier, I have the honour of speaking to you from the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. I do this in two capacities. One is that I, Prime Minister of Australia, happen to be, in point of time, the senior Commonwealth Prime Minister, and therefore speak on behalf of a remarkable world organization which owes more that it can ever express to our departed leader, Sir Winston Churchill. He is one of the famous men whom we thank and praise.

My second capacity is more personal and more intimate. I am sure that you, most of you, have thought about Sir Winston Churchill a great deal, and with warmth in your hearts and in your recollections. Some day, some year, there will be old men and women whose pride it will be to say: ‘I lived in Churchill's time'. Some will be able to say: ‘I saw him, and I heard him - the unforgettable voice and the immortal words'. And some will be able to say: ‘I knew him, and talked with him, and was his friend'.

This I can, with a mixture of pride and humility, say for myself. The memory of this moves me deeply now that he is dead, but is gloriously remembered by me as he goes to his burial amid the sorrow, and pride, and thanks, of all of you who stand and feel for yourselves and for so many millions.

Many of you will not need to be reminded, but some, the younger among you, the inheritors of his master-strokes for freedom, may be glad to be told that your country, and mine, and all the free countries of the world, stood at the very gates of destiny in 1940 and 1941 when the Nazi tyranny threatened to engulf us, and when there was no ‘second front' except our own. This was the great crucial moment of modern history. What was at stake was not some theory of government but the whole and personal freedom of men, and women, and children. And the battle for them was a battle against great odds. That battle had to be won not only in the air and on the sea and in the field, but in the hearts and minds of ordinary people with a deep capacity for heroism. It was then that Winston Churchill was called, by Almighty God, as our faith makes us believe, to stand as our leader and our inspirer.

There were, in 1940, defeatists, who felt that prudence required submission or such terms as might be had. There were others who, while not accepting the inevitability of defeat, thought that victory was impossible. Winston Churchill scorned to fall into either category, and he was right. With courage, and matchless eloquence, and human understanding, he inspired us and led us to victory.

In the whole of recorded modern history, this was, I believe, the one occasion when one man, with one soaring imagination, with one fire burning in him, and with one unrivalled capacity for conveying it to others, won a crucial victory not only for the forces (for there were many heroes in those days) but for the very spirit of human freedom. And so, on this great day, we thank him, and we thank God for him.

There are two other things I want to say to you, on a day which neither you nor I will ever willingly forget. One is that Winston Churchill was not an institution, but a man; a man of wit and chuckling humour, and penetrating understanding, not a man who spoke to us as from the mountain tops, but one who expressed the simple and enduring feelings of ordinary men and women. It was because he was a great Englishman that he was able to speak for the English people. It was because he was a great commonwealth statesman that he was able to warm hearts and inspire courage right round the seven seas. It was because he was a great human being that, in our darkest days, he lit the lamps of hope at many firesides and released so many from the chains of despair. There has been nobody like him in our lifetimes. We must, and do, thank God for him, and strive to be worthy of his example.

The second thing I will never forget is this. Winston Churchill's wife is with us here in London; a great and gracious lady in her own right. Could I today send her your love, and mine? She has suffered an irreparable personal loss. But she has proud and enduring memories. Happy memories, I venture to say. We share her sorrow, but I know that she would wish us to share with her those rich remembrances which the thought of the great man evokes.

There have been, in the course of recorded history, some men of power who have cast shadows across the world. Winston Churchill, on the contrary, was a fountain of light and of hope.

As I end my talk to you from the crypt of St Paul's, with its reminders of Nelson and Wellington, those marvellous defenders of long ago, the body of Winston Churchill goes in procession through the streets of London; his London, our London, this most historic city, this ancient home of freedom, this place through which, in the very devastation and fire of war, his voice rang with courage, and defiance, and hope, and rugged confidence.

His body will be carried on the Thames, a river full of history. With one heart we all feel, with one mind we all acknowledge, that it will never have borne a more precious burden, or been enriched by more splendid memories.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Churchill's view of Italian Cruise Ships

The following anecdote has been wildly circulating around the Internet in the days following the tragic Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. However, no evidence can be found to sustain its authenticity as a genuine Churchill anecdote. The most popular version, is found in "The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill by James C. Humes" but, again, no original source can be found to support the anecdote, and there is no record of Churchill taking an Italian cruise ship "late in life".

From "The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill" by James C. Humes:

"Late in his life, Sir Winston took a cruise on an Italian ship. A journalist from a New York newspaper approached the former prime minister to ask him why he chose to travel on an Italian line when the Queen Elizabeth under the British flag was available.

Churchill gave the question his consideration and then gravely replied.

'There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And then - in time of emergency - there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.'

Tuesday 17 January 2012

280th Anniversary of the Birth of the Last King of Poland

Today is the 280th anniversary of the birth of the last King of Poland, Stanislaw II August (Poniatowski), by the grace of God, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Duke of Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Podlasie, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia and Chernihiv. King Stanislaw was the founder of the (extinct) Order of St. Stanislaw in 1765 and the (extant) Order of Virtuti Militari in 1792.

Forced to abdicate upon the partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia and Austria in 1795, King Stanislaw moved to St. Petersburg, where he died in 1798. His body was transferred to St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw in 1995.

A patron of the arts, King Stanislaw had intended to create a magnificent Polish Royal Collection and commissioned two London dealers to form the collection. The dealers spent five years touring Europe to acquire paintings however, due to the country's partition and the King's abdication, the paintings never reached Poland and remained with the dealers in England. The surviving partner eventually bequeathed the collection to Dulwich College in London, where they became the foundation of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and may be seen to this day.

HM The King of Spain confers the Order of the Golden Fleece upon the President of France

On Monday, 16th January 2012, at the Royal Palace in Madrid, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece upon French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Founded by Philip III "The Good", Duke of Burgundy in January 1430, the Order of the Golden Fleece is Europe's greatest dynastic order. There is also an Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece (of which the head is HI&RH Archduke Karl von Habsburg).

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and HM The King of Spain flank the collar of
the Order of the Golden Fleece. HM The Queen of Spain is in the background.
The President of France wearing the miniature of
the Order of the Golden Fleece

Sunday 8 January 2012

The 30th Birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge - my TV interview

A short interview on Canadian television, via Skype, in which I discuss the milestone 30th birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge as well as the charities of which HRH is now patron. (Thanks to AussieCrown for technical assistance)

Saturday 7 January 2012

Duchess of Cambridge's 30th birthday plans revealed

As the Duchess of Cambridge approaches her 30th birthday on Monday, she has opted for a low-key celebration with family and friends.

The duchess, formerly known as Kate Middleton, is spending a quiet weekend with the people she loves ahead of her milestone 30th birthday, royal watcher Rafal Heydel-Mankoo told CTV News Channel in an interview Saturday.

According to the editor of Burke's World Orders of Knighthood, the new royal's every move has been scrutinized since she married Prince William in a lavish ceremony last April.

With the eyes of the world following her every move, Heydel-Mankoo said the duchess has decided on a modest birthday celebration after a big New Year's Eve bash at the couple's estate.

Royal watchers and the public are also analyzing Kate's recent charity patronage picks. She has taken on honorary positions with four charities that deal with a range of causes, including drug addictions and disadvantaged youth.
Kate is now a royal patron of Action on Addiction, East Anglia's Children's Hospice, The Art Room and the National Portrait Gallery. She will also volunteer with the Scout Association.

Heydel-Mankoo said that's just "the first step of a long road."

Kate's father-in-law, Prince Charles, is involved with 400 charities. And in his day, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was involved with a whopping 700 charities

The duchess "took a lot of time to research her charities" and make sure they align with her interests, Heydel-Mankoo said.

But some have criticized her picks as being "too safe" in comparison to the late Princess Diana's work with AIDS victims and her efforts to clear land mines in conflict zones.

Heydel-Mankoo said while comparisons to the legendary princess are inevitable, it makes sense for Kate to start off with some "sensible" charities and progress from there.

The British monarchy is trying to lead by example in charitable giving, Heydel-Mankoo said, and the duchess will elevate the profiles of the charities she has chosen to support.

It's a good way to step into her royal role as the family prepares for a busy year ahead, including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, he added.

Source: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120107/Duchess-of-cambridge-birthday-plans-revealed-120107/#ixzz1ioUkg9V1

Monday 2 January 2012

London's Finest New Year's Eve Celebration

In decades past, London wasn't regarded as a global "centre" for New Year's celebrations. All of that changed with the creation of the "London Eye". Since its erection, London has generally ranked amongst the "Top 3" New Year's Eve destinations for the quality of its fireworks display. 2012 is of course the year of HM The Queen's Diamond Jubiulee and the 2012 London Summer Olympics; consequently , there can be little surprise that London pulled out all the stops to make this the best New Year's Eve fireworks display of all time. Starting with the awesome sight of the Clock Tower of the Parliament Buildings exploding with each chime of Big Ben, the fireworks display continued for a full 12 minutes, centred on the London Eye. It has been ranked as the world's best fireworks display heralding the start of 2012. You may judge for yourself: