Monday 23 December 2013

The British Empire Christmas Pudding Recipe

Recipe published by The Empire Marketing Board (c.1926-1933), with the permission of King George V, for an Empire Christmas Pudding containing ingredients from every corner of the British Empire. One wonders whether one could easily obtain the ingredients today?

Sunday 22 December 2013

No Australian Knighthoods: Australian Prime Minister Abbot does not support restoration of historic Australian titles

The Queen of Australia meets with her Australian
Prime Minister
Monarchists and traditionalists will be disappointed and saddened to learn today that Australia's conservative and staunchly monarchist Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not in favour of the restoration of Australian knighthoods as titular grades within the Order of Australia. 

As the Australian Prime Minister is an unapologetic traditionalist, many had pinned their hopes on him to restore these great symbols of independent national identity; however it appears that Mr. Abbott may wish to avoid repeating the controversy that surrounded the knighthoods when they were first introduced in 1976. Whilst not an end to the matter, this will be a blow for campaigners -- for without the support of such a normally enthusiastic Prime Minister, it is difficult to see how indigenous Australian knighthoods can now be achieved. 

Speaking to Australia's Sunday Telegraph, PM Abbott said: "It's true that some people have said to me: 'What about doing what New Zealand did'...but I don't think it would be practical to just rebadge ACs. There was a rarity to their AC equivalent which made it easier for them to do this....I don't think New Zealand is a relevant model here. The problem is they just basically converted there (sic) ACs into knighthoods. I just don't think that's realistic in this country."

Mr. Abbott is incorrect. New Zealand did not convert their equivalent of ACs (Companion of the Order of Australia) into knighthoods. Far from it. New Zealand has a 5 grade New Zealand Order of Merit, the two highest grades of which were originally knighthoods but, for a short time, were renamed to non-titular grades before being converted back into knighthoods in 2009. No grades were abolished. Australia, in contrast, had a 5 grade Order of Australia, with a grade of knighthood which ranked above Companion. The grade of knighthood was abolished in 1986, leaving Australia with a 4 grade Order. The issue for Australia is therefore not of "converting" Companions (ACs) into knighthoods but, instead, of restoring the rank of knighthood/damehood (AK/AD) above Companions. That is a different matter entirely, one that is both achievable and desirable. 

As Mr. Abbott has been misinformed about this issue, it is hoped that better information might lead him to a different view.

HM The Queen of Australia
wearing the Sovereign's Badge of the
Order of Australia
Inspired by the Order of Canada, the Order of Australia was established on 14th February 1975. The Queen of Australia instituted it as a society of honour for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens for achievement or for meritorious service.

The Order of Australia comprises a general and a military division and originally had three classes: companion, officer and member. The Queen is Sovereign of the Order and the Governor General is Chancellor and Principal Companion.

It was in 1976, during the premiership of Malcolm Fraser, that the letters patent constituting the Order were augmented to include the level of knight/dame (AK/AD) of the Order of Australia, to rank above the class of Companion. At the same time a medal was also added, to rank below the class of Member. 

The Medal, which, unlike the British Empire Medal and Royal Victoria Medal, is regarded as a class of the Order, allowed for a much needed increase in the number of awards available to recognise those taking a leadership role in local communities and was uncontroversial. The same could not be said for the introduction of Australian knighthoods. 

Several distinguished Australians such as novelist and Nobel laureate HC Coombs, who had refused knighthoods in the Imperial Honours system but had been the first to take the new Companion of the Order of Australia, promptly resigned on principle -- and probably because they did not appreciate the existence of a new class above theirs.

Insignia for a Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia

In 1983 when the Labor Party came back into power, Prime Minister Hawke stopped recommending any knights or dames to the Order of Australia. In 1986 after he had won his second election he formally recommended to the Queen that the level of Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia be removed.  

During this brief period a total of fourteen knights/dames had been appointed. Although the class was discontinued, holders of the distinction were and are permitted to retain their rank and title. Today, there are two living Knights of the Order of Australia: HRH The Prince of Wales and The Rt. Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, QC, former Governor General of Australia. 

The Rt. Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, QC, former Governor General of Australia
wearing the neck badge and star of a Knight of the Order of Australia, along with the sash, sash badge and star of
a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, the star of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael & St. George and the star of a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


It is interesting to wonder whether, had there been more Australian knights, Mr. Abbott might have been persuaded to reach a different decision and follow the precedent set by his neighbour, Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand, who encountered little problem restoring indigenous knighthoods to New Zealand in 2009. The decision was popular and the public response was highly enthusiastic.

New Zealand shows that nations can be modern, dynamic and progressive global leaders without abandoning their traditions, honours and symbols. 

HM The Queen of New Zealand wearing
the insignia of the Order of New Zealand,
the New Zealand Order of Merit and the
Queen's Service Order
Established in 1996, the New Zealand Order of Merit original comprised five classes the two highest of which (knight/dame grand companion and knight/dame companion) conferred a knighthood or damehood. 

On 10 April 2000 it was announced that following the earlier recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Honours Advisory Committee (1995) The Queen had approved the discontinuance of the two titular classes and their replacement with two new designations: principal companion and distinguished companion. These changes were instituted by a Royal Warrant dated 18 May 2000. 

The first appointments to the re-designated levels were made in The Queen’s Birthday Honours issued on 5 June 2000. The five classes became: principal companion, distinguished companion, companion, officer and member.

Those who were previously invested as knights or dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit were permitted to continue to bear the honorific; the wife of a knight, provided she used her husband’s surname, could continue to bear the courtesy title of ‘lady’ before the surname.

HE The Governor General of New Zealand, Lt. Gen. The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, invests Sir Paul Holmes as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit on 16 January 2013.
In March 2009 it was announced that, upon the approval of HM The Queen, the titles of knight and dame grand companion and knight and dame companion were to be reinstated. There had been considerable belief that the removal of knighthoods had diminished the value of the two highest classes of the New Zealand Order of Merit. A visible titular honour was regarded as the most appropriate means of celebrating success at the highest levels of national life.  The first appointments to the reinstated levels were made in The Queen’s 2009 Birthday Honours List. 

The 85 New Zealanders who were appointed principal companions and distinguished companions between 2000 and 2008 were afforded an opportunity to be re-designated to the appropriate level of knight/dame grand companion or knight/dame companion. 72 of those eligible opted to convert to the appropriate titular honour, a clear indication of the popularity of knighthoods.

The quite remarkable fact that 85% of recipients chose to convert their non-titular honours into knighthoods/damehoods reveals precisely how valued these titles are across the vast spectrum of society -- people of all classes and political views appreciate the distinction of titular honours. 

It is highly regrettable that the current Australian Prime Minister, a traditionalist in so many other areas, has failed to appreciate the great good that the restoration of knighthoods to the Order of Australia would do for the country. 

Let us hope Mr. Abbott's mind can be changed.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Peter O'Toole, 14th Earl of Gurney in "The Ruling Class"

Peter O'Toole as "The 14th Earl of Gurney"

My letter to the editor of The Daily Telegraph:

17 December 2013

Dear Sir,

In two of your tributes to Peter O'Toole ("Appreciation" p.7 and "Obituary" p.21, Daily Telegraph, 16 Dec. 2013) it is claimed that the great thespian played a "mad" or "beserk" British baronet in the cult film, The Ruling Class.

O'Toole's character was, in fact, the 14th Earl of Gurney. Those familiar with the film will appreciate how much offence this twice committed error of demotion would have caused the Gurneys -- for not even two baronets can equal an earl.

The Gurneys are not here to defend their honour, but one can well imagine the brusque letter the 14th Earl's patriotically prejudiced father would have written: "We are not British baronets, sir! We are English earls!"


Rafe Heydel-Mankoo

Thursday 5 December 2013

Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank receives his Field Marshal's baton from HM The Queen

Yesterday, HM The Queen presented Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank GCB, LVO, OBE, DL, Gold Stick-in-Waiting to The Queen, with his Field Marshal's baton. 

Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank is former Chief of the General Staff, former Chief of the Defence Staff, Colonel of the Life Guards and Colonel Commandant of the SAS. 

Britain only has eight living field marshals, three of whom are members of the Royal Family: HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duke of Kent. In recent decades it was the practice to appoint Chiefs of the (Imperial) General Staff to the rank of Field Marshal on the last day of their appointment whilst Chiefs of the Defence Staff would become Field Marshals upon the first day of their appointment. However, since the 1990s service chiefs have not been able to expect these 5 star appointments -- instead, promotion to the rank of field marshal, admiral of the fleet or marshal of the Royal Air Force are seen as special appointments or reserved honours. 

Lord Guthrie was actually the first Chief of the Defence Staff not to become a Field Marshal upon his appointment (the last CDS to be appointed was Lord Inge in 1994). Britain therefore had a period of 18 years without the appointment of any new Field Marshals. 

This was remedied in 2012 when Lord Guthrie was appointed a Field Marshal along with The Prince of Wales (who, in preparation for his future role as Commander-in-Chief, also got 5-star ranking in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force as Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Royal Air Force). 

The five Chiefs of the Defence Staff that have served since Guthrie are not Field Marshals (but they are all Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath). 

Lord Guthrie was also Vice President of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and is a Patron of the Polish Association of the Knights of Malta (UK).

Annual Carol Concert of the Polish Association of the Knights of Malta (UK) at St. Clement Danes, London

On Tuesday, 3rd December there was a special performance of Carol of the Bells: A Polish Christmas Night held at the historic and stunning St Clement Danes Church, the Central Church of the Royal Air Force in central London. Guests were able to enjoy Christmas carols from both Polish and English whilst sipping mulled wine, eating Christmas cakes and wandering the indoor Christmas market.  

London's leading Polish choir Ave Verum along with Schola Gregoriana and the noted Soloist Natalie Coyle performed a programme of moving Christmas works in Polish and English. We were pleased to welcome BBC World News Presenter Kasia Madera as our guest reader.

Mr. Dariusz Laska, Deputy Head of Mission at the Polish Embassy,
Ms Natalie Coyle, Soloist, Ms. Kasia Madera, BBC World News Presenter &
Ms. Joanna Meeson, Chairman of the Polish Order of Malta Volunteers (UK)
This is the third annual carol concert organised by the Polish Order of Malta Volunteers (UK) and was held in aid of the Polish Association of the Knights of Malta's Oncological Centre in Poznan and the Polish Psychologists' Association in the UK.

Rafe Heydel-Mankoo speaks about the Polish Air Force
and its contribution to the Battle of Britain
and during the Second World War.
The Association is supported by our President the Earl of St Andrews, our Patrons HE the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie and The Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission for England and Wales Rev Rector Stefan Wylężek.

An important part of the carol service is the laying of a wreath on the Polish Air Force Memorial, which commemorates the Polish contribution during the Battle of Britain and throughout the Second World War. 
The Polish Air Force Memorial

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Launch of London Season Academy of Protocol & Etiquette in Dubai

Rafe Heydel-Mankoo lectures debutantes about the continuing
relevance and importance of international etiquette, business
etiquette and protocol in the globalised world of the 21st century.
Emirates Tower, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (C) Getty Images
I was delighted to speak at the first seminar of the new London Season Academy of Protocol & Etiquette, along with HRH Princess Katrina of Yugoslavia, HG The Duchess of Somerset and Sir Tobias Clarke, Bt. The seminar was held in the London Season's Dubai head quarters in the Emirates Tower, and followed on from the previous evening's successful launch party held on the Royal Island Beach Club on the World Dubai.

The London Season Academy of Protocol & Etiquette provides training courses and seminars on all matters connected to formal etiquette, business etiquette, international protocol and international customs.

Debutantes enjoying their lectures during the London Season Academy's first etiquette, social and business protocol class at The Emirates Towers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (C) Getty Images

HG The Duchess of Somerset demonstrates the importance of
correct table manners in order to make a good impression in social
and business situations. (C) Getty Images

Heraldic Porcelain lecture at the Oxford University Heraldry Society

Heraldic porcelain is a subject that receives far too little attention from heraldry enthusiasts. Members of the Oxford University Heraldry Society were recently treated to a fascinating lecture on the subject by Mr. Hugh Macpherson, Executive Director of the Heraldic Porcelain Company, a London-based company that produces bespoke heraldic porcelain and related items from its Portuguese factory using the finest Limoges porcelain.

Mr. Macpherson spoke with great knowledge and enthusiasm about the history of different types of porcelain and the evolution of heraldic porcelain. His well-illustrated lecture revealed the huge variety of styles and products that have been produced over the centuries. Many were of outstanding quality, produced by craftsmen every bit the equal of the more famous sculptors or furniture makers.

Mr. Macpherson speckled his talk with many amusing anecdotes (who knew heraldic porcelain could be so entertaining!). Most amusing, perhaps, were the tales of Chinese factories producing flawed pieces due to poor communication and problems with English-Chinese translation. English customers would often send a black and white armorial bookplate to a Chinese factory annotated with instructions regarding the colours for the various components of the heraldic achievement. When the customer would take delivery of the final, expensive, product he would sometimes be horrified to discover that the Chinese factory had directly transcribed the written instructions onto the plates themselves!

More information on heraldic porcelain may be found on the website of the Heraldic Porcelain Company.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Inaugural Ball for the London Season Academy school of protocol & etiquette in Dubai

Last week I was pleased to participate in the launch of the London Season Academy, a school of protocol and etiquette, at a gala inaugural ball, which was held on the private Royal Island at the World Dubai complex, in the presence of numerous dignitaries from Europe and the Middle East, including HRH Princess Katrina of Yugoslavia and HG The Duchess of Somerset.

White tie and palm trees are rarely seen together -- when mixed with the smart native dress of the resident population and the magnificent ball gowns of the ladies, the effect was surreal and magical. The charity auction at the ball raised an impressive amount for the S.O.S. children's charity and everyone agreed the event was a wonderful start for the London Season Academy as it launches in the region.

Guests departed for the Royal Island by boat from the Dubai Marina
(C) Simeon Williams

Luxury setting: The ball was held on the exclusive and privately-owned Royal Island, part of the World Islands development off the coast of Dubai

Socialising: The debutantes mix with eligible young men during the ball, which was based on the historic Queen Charlotte's Ball, held annually at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

An eager bidder in the charity auction.

Impressive guest list: The ball attracted dozens of rich, famous and royal guests, including popular music singer Jahmene, pictured here with a debutante. 

Photographs (C) Getty Images

Monday 4 November 2013

Response to Gender and Same-Sex Equality Legislation for the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage -- Opinion Piece PART ONE


Opinion & Response - Part One

Sponsored by the elected hereditary peer Lord Lucas (12th Baron Lucas and 8th Baron Dingwall), The Equality (Titles) Bill is a private member’s bill that has been introduced to:

"make provision for the succession of female heirs to hereditary titles; for husbands and civil partners of those receiving honours to be allowed to use equivalent honorary titles to those available to wives; and for connected purposes".

The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 14 May 2013 and passed Second Reading on 25 October 2013. The Bill is now set to enter the Committee stage (the date of which has yet to be scheduled), where it will undergo a line by line examination before the Committee of the Whole House.

In summary, the Bill deals with two issues:

1.      Female succession to hereditary peerages and baronetcies
2.      The conferral of titles on the husbands and same-sex married partners of titled persons.

For many interested parties, the first issue can be subdivided into two similar but separate issues:

           1 (a):    Female succession to hereditary peerages and baronetcies to prevent sex discrimination.           
           1 (b):    Female succession to hereditary peerages and baronetcies to prevent the extinction of peerages and baronetcies due to lack of male heirs.

The Equality (Titles) Bill is clearly well-intentioned, and its proponents, undoubtedly inspired by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 (which, once/if it comes into effect, will change the law of succession to the British throne from male-preference primogeniture to gender-neutral absolute primogeniture), were clearly motivated by laudable principles of fairness and equality. Such motivation is admirable, but it does nothing to alter the fact that The Equality (Titles) Bill is fundamentally unsound and suffers from poor drafting and a failure to comprehend the complexity of the baronetage, the peerage and peerage law.


The following terms are used incorrectly in the Bill and, in three cases, in the Bill’s subtitle:

1.      Civil Partners / Civil Partnerships:                 
The Bill refers to “husbands and civil partners”. This is incorrect. “Civil partners” are not married and, as explained in this paper, for legal reasons the issue of hereditary titles only arises for married partners. The Bill should refer to “husbands and same-sex married partners”.  

2.      Courtesy Titles:
The drafters of the Bill do not appear to be able to distinguish between courtesy titles and the legal title borne by the wife of a peer. Although not a peeress in her own right, the wife of a peer is a peeress who shares a life estate in her husband’s dignity. She bears a legal title – it is not held by courtesy.

3.      Honorary Titles:
As explained in point 2 above, the titles borne by wives of peers are neither honorary nor courtesy titles.

4.      Hereditary Titles:
The drafters have failed to restrictively define “hereditary titles” in “S. 11 Interpretation” in order to exclude titles such as those borne by hereditary office bearers.

5.      Peerage of Ireland:
Some consideration should be given to whether the Peerage of Ireland should be included in the main body of the Bill. The Peerage of Ireland appears only in “S. 11 Interpretation”, but reference is made elsewhere in the Bill to the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.


S.7 (3): “Where an incumbent holds more than one hereditary peerage or hereditary title, the provisions of this Act shall apply separately to each such peerage or title.”

As currently phrased, S. 7 (3) could be read to imply that a peer in possession of more than one peerage, for example a peer who possesses a dukedom and an earldom, could pass his dukedom to his son and his earldom to his daughter (or vice-versa) simply by choosing to petition the Lord Chancellor to alter the succession for one but not the other. This could potentially lead to a proliferation of titles. I assume that this is not intended.


As an aside, it is worth stating that comparisons between the succession to the Crown and succession to hereditary peerages are unhelpful. The Crown does not follow the rules of peerage succession law (most peerages are guided by agnatic primogeniture to the exclusion of females) – if it did, we would not have a Queen on the throne. More importantly, with only a very small number of hereditary peers remaining in Parliament, the hereditary peerage has ceased to play any significant role in national life.

Today, unlike succession to the Crown, succession to hereditary peerages (and certainly to baronetcies) is a matter that is really only of relevance to directly involved individuals in the families concerned.  This reality further underscores the fact that, unlike the Crown, hereditary peerages should not be treated as matters of public law – it is time to accept that hereditary peerages and baronetcies belong solely to the world of private law. This must be our starting point.

We also must not fall into the trap of accepting or assuming the inevitability of the current system of hereditary titles falling foul of The Human Rights Act on the grounds of sex discrimination. Challengers would first need to demonstrate that the inheritance of a titular dignity is a human right. Hereditary peerages and baronetcies are dignities granted by the Crown.  As they carry no value, are not tied to the tenure of land, convey no office or position (save for a miniscule number of exceptions), and cannot be compared with the rights to vote, marry or have an education, it is far from certain whether the courts would agree that they fall under human rights legislation.


For a Bill that is clearly motivated by a desire to achieve equality and justice, a number of significant issues remain unresolved:

1.       Why should it be up to an incumbent to decide whether or not a peerage title will descend by gender-neutral primogeniture?

2.       Where is the equality for the daughter or female heir of an incumbent who, for whatever reason, chooses not to change the succession in favour of females?

3.       Where is the justice for the long-standing male heir who is suddenly dispossessed by the incumbent?

4.       Where is the equality for the sister whose younger brother has already, perhaps even recently, succeeded to the peerage?

5.       Why should the “oldest surviving child legitimately born” inherit in preference to an older surviving illegitimate child?

6.       Why should age be a factor in deciding succession rights?

7.       Why should an adopted child be excluded from the succession altogether?

8.       Will the child of a hereditary peer in a same-sex marriage inherit the peerage if his/her mother was a surrogate mother?



In England, hereditary peerages have been held to be inalienable incorporeal hereditaments (intangible property) the descents of which are governed exclusively by the words of limitation set out in their original grants (usually by Letters Patent).  [Viscountess Rhondda Claim [1922] 2 AC 339]. Only an Act of Parliament can amend the Letters Patent governing succession to a peerage.

As hereditary peerages and baronetcies are items of private law, it seems wholly unjust that the rightful heirs should be deprived of their lawful inheritance, as stipulated in the terms of the original grants.

Peerages and baronetcies may not be willed at the wish of an incumbent and, save for cases of inevitable extinction, it would be extremely unwise and unfair for Parliament to revisit historic grants to alter the long-established legal terms of limitation, when to do so would deprive current and future lawful heirs of their rights of inheritance. There is certainly a case to be made for altering the succession to peerages and baronetcies that are on the verge of extinction due to a lack of heirs – but they must be the exception to the rule. In no other instances should Parliament revisit historic grants of titles.

As a nation Britain is at the cutting edge of social progress; we appreciate the need to modernise and evolve -- but we are also proud of our institutions and our traditions. This country has a proud legal and cultural heritage, and our citizens still believe in justice, decency and fair play. To dispossess lawful heirs of their rightful inheritance by changing the established terms of a legal grant – one that we must assume was agreed to by the original recipient – flies firmly in the face of those beliefs.

Of course, there can be little argument that future grants of hereditary peerages or baronetcies should be guided by the principle of gender neutrality; but to alter historic grants would not only challenge their original legal intention, it would also deprive their rightful living and future heirs of their lawful inheritance. Parliament should respect our historic tradition of succession to hereditary peerages and baronetcies and abide by the wording of each grant, save for those titles that are on the verge of extinction.

Enforcing universal gender equality on existing hereditary peerages and baronetcies would inevitably lead to the disastrous family feuds that have afflicted the Spanish nobility in recent years.

In 2006, although Spain’s highest courts had rejected the claim of 20 Spanish women that the male primogeniture succession laws for Spanish titles ran contrary to equality laws, the Government of Spain introduced gender-neutral succession. Spain’s Law 33/2006 stipulates that "men and women have an equal right of succession to grandeeship titles of nobility in Spain, and no person may be given preference in the normal order of succession for reasons of gender".

The abolition of male primogeniture has split the Spanish nobility, in many cases pitting brother against sister, father against daughter, wife against husband and even family branches against each another.  The law has caused a group of nobles to split from their traditional representative body,  the Deputation of Grandees, in order to form a separate organisation, the Spanish Nobles’ Association, which they hope will be able to better advocate for their case and challenge the new law.

Quoted in an English-language newspaper, the Spanish Count of Bilbao stated: “There is a split. Some of the oldest families are involved…. I don't think it is fair that my son, who grew up expecting the title, should not get it."
The disastrous mess we see in Spain arose from the decision to apply absolute primogeniture to existing titles that already had clear lines of succession with identifiable heirs. The turmoil could have been avoided if the law had been drafted to apply exclusively to future grants of noble titles (in other words, to grants made after the date on which the law came into effect). I’m afraid that many British families will also be split and torn apart if similar ill-considered blanket legislation is enacted here.


Reading the debate around The Equality (Titles) Bill in Hansard, it is clear that many of the peers in favour of this Bill are motivated in large part by concern over the extinction of their own peerages due to the lack of a male heir. Their concern is real and one can easily see why this concern would lead them to support this legislation, despite its wider, and less desirable, consequences. 

Peers and baronets have every reason to be proud of their heritage and their ancestors’ contributions to national life, and it can be distressing for a baronet or peeress to think that a long-held title (perhaps several centuries old) will be extinguished upon his/her death.

I think the majority of the members of both Houses of Parliament would be able to understand the worry of baronets, peers and peeresses who face this unpleasant situation. I strongly believe that Parliament should deal with the issue of extinction – however, the remedy is not found in this Bill, nor does it lie with the universal introduction of absolute primogeniture into the succession to hereditary peerages and baronetcies.

Titles that are on the verge of extinction due to an absence of males in the line of succession can and should be altered by Parliament, either by special remainder to the existing Letters Patent (as for the Marlborough dukedom in 1706) or, alternatively, by granting a new title of the same name but with a new remainder (as for the Fife dukedom in 1900). In both cases, I would expect that the new remainder would be based upon absolute primogeniture.

Given the lack of new hereditary peerages and baronetcies, this remedy for individual titles on the verge of extinction would strengthen the hereditary peerage and baronetage as a whole (which would otherwise face the real risk of withering into insignificance).  Extinctions can be prevented without opening up the entire system of hereditary peerages and baronetcies to absolute primogeniture.


A bizarre novelty of this Bill, which distinguishes it from the recent Spanish legislation, is the proposal to permit an incumbent, at his/her discretion, to petition the Lord Chancellor to approve his/her request to alter the succession to a title. Such an arrangement seems very odd and has the potential to be monumentally destructive.

A peer may disclaim his peerage for himself under the Peerage Act, 1963 but he does not have the power to abolish it or disclaim it for his legal heirs and successors. A peerage may not be willed and it is not for a peer to do with as he/she wishes. An incumbent should not have the power to decide succession issues at his/her own whim – particularly when the issue is as fundamental as gender rights.

Whilst it is clear that this Bill would bring about the same family feuds and splits that have so terribly afflicted the Spanish nobility in recent years, by giving the incumbent the discretionary power to decide whether or not to petition the Lord Chancellor to change the succession to his/her peerage, this Bill could potentially have even more destructive consequences.

The drafters of the Bill appear to assume that all incumbents are chivalrous and decent, and that they naturally have the best interests of their heirs (and titles) at heart. Obviously this is unrealistic. It does not take a dramatist to conjure up all sorts of scenarios in which families are torn apart by bitterness, jealousy and envy. 

Human nature being what it is, some heirs would conspire against their “competitor” and engage in reputation sabotage in order to court the incumbent’s affections. An incumbent could also easily play one heir off against another, dangling the peerage in front of their noses in order to have his/her bidding done and advance his/her own personal agenda.

The proposal advocated in this section of the Bill would lead to unfairness, inequality, lack of consistency, bitterness and crippling uncertainty for heirs and potential heirs.

Even in a very unexciting family situation, one can easily see how unfair and unsatisfactory the effects of this Bill would be. Imagine the scenario of two cousins, an earl and a duke, each of whom has 2 children, a daughter (both aged 55) and a son (both aged 52).  On the day the new law is enacted, the earl chooses to petition the Lord Chancellor to alter the succession to his earldom in favour of his daughter.  The earl gets his wish. The duke does nothing (he may have disapproved of changing the succession or he may simply have intended to deal with the matter at a later date, both situations are equally relevant). Tragically, both the duke and the earl die in a hunting accident a few months later. The earl’s daughter succeeds him and the duke’s son succeeds him. 

At least two people seem to have been unjustly treated in this scenario. Has the duke’s daughter received fair and equal treatment? Her cousin is now a peeress simply because their fathers acted differently.  Has the earl’s son received fair and equal treatment? After all, the earl’s son has been waiting, and preparing, to take over from his father for over 50 years. He has been trained in estate management but has no estate to manage and no other career option. 

If we add the earl’s illegitimate 57 year old son to the scenario, what then? Can this Bill really claim to stand for equality when it restricts the succession to the “oldest surviving legitimate child”?  Would Parliamentarians not agree that, in the 21st century, favouring legitimacy over illegitimacy is as discriminatory as favouring men over women?  Similarly, is age discrimination not as relevant as sex discrimination? Why shouldn’t younger children succeed?

What about equality for adopted children? Currently adopted children may not inherit a peerage but, following a Royal Warrant of 2004, they have been able to use a courtesy title. Should we regard this as a step on the road to true equality for adopted children? If not, why not? What is Parliament implying about adopted children by denying them the same inheritance rights as biological children? In the scenario above, for example, if the earl also had an adopted daughter of 59 years of age, is it fair, on the grounds of equality, that she should be prevented from succeeding to his peerage?

What are the implications of this legislation for the children of a hereditary peer or baronet in a same-sex marriage? The child may be adopted or may be born to a surrogate mother. Will a distinction be drawn between the two? Would either be eligible to succeed? If not, why not? If we believe in true equality, surely we would draw no distinction.

I raise these unresolved questions of equality not to offer any solution but to point out that “equality” is a complicated concept that is open to numerous interpretations. Imposing one contemporary notion of equality on to an historic institution can lead to unintended consequences of a far more unfair, unjust and unequal nature than is currently the case.    (TO BE CONTINUED in PART TWO)

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A Queen and 3 Future Kings -- The Christening Photo of Prince George is Revealed

The christening photograph of HRH Prince George of Cambridge that many have been eagerly awaiting is of HM The Queen with three future kings: Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George. The last, and most famous, christening photograph of a sovereign with three future sovereigns is this one from 1894:

A Queen and Three Kings:
Photograph of Queen Victoria and the future
King Edward VII, King George V and King Edward VIII.
Occasion: The Christening of the future
King Edward VIII in 1894.
I am pleased to report that the christening photograph of HRH Prince George with his father, grandfather and great-grandmother has just been released. It is remarkable to think that, together, these photographs currently span almost 200 years and have the potential to eventually span 300 years. Queen Victoria was born in 1819 and, with increased life expectancy and medical/scientific advances, there is every possibility that Prince George will live remain on the throne in 2119. Quite remarkable!

Christening Photograph of HRH Prince George of Cambridge
with HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duke of Cambridge
Released 24 October 2013.
Clarence House

Seated: HM The Queen, TRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge with HRH Prince George
Standing: TRH The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales & The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry of Wales
Miss Pippa Middleton, Mr. James Middleton, Mr & Mrs Michael Middleton
Released 24 October 2013
Clarence House

Details, Guest list and Godparents for The Christening of HRH Prince George of Cambridge at St. James's Palace

Details of The Christening of HRH Prince George of Cambridge at the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace have been released today.

In keeping with the desire to have a small and low-key event, only a few guests have been invited.

The Guests:

HM The Queen & HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall
HRH Prince Harry of Wales
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Middleton, Mr. James Middleton and Miss Pippa Middleton

The Godparents:

  • Mr Oliver Baker (Oliver Baker attended the University of St Andrews with The Duke and Duchess)
  • Mrs David Jardine-Paterson (Emilia Jardine-Paterson attended Marlborough College with The Duchess)
  • Earl Grosvenor (Hugh) (Earl Grosvenor is the son of The Duke of Westminster)
  • Mr Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton (Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton served as Private Secretary to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry from 2005-2012 and continues to serve part-time as Principal Private Secretary and Equerry)
  • The Hon Mrs Michael Samuel (Julia Samuel was a close friend of The Princess of Wales)
  • Mrs Michael Tindall (Zara Tindall is The Duke of Cambridge’s cousin)
  • Mr William van Cutsem (William van Cutsem is a childhood friend of The Duke of Cambridge)
Prince George will wear the hand made replica of the Royal Christening Robe, made by Angela Kelly, Dressmaker to The Queen.
HRH Prince George will be baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Lily Font with water from the River Jordan.
Following the service, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will host a private tea in Clarence House. Guests will be served christening cake, which is a tier taken from The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding cake.
Yesterday, Lambeth Palace released this video in which the Archbishop of Canterbury discussed the "hugely important" baptism of Prince George and expressed his desire that it serve as an inspiration to others.

Monday 21 October 2013

"The Royals": Major Documentary Series on the modern history of the Royal Family

As the world looks forward to the christening of HRH Prince George of Cambridge in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace on Wednesday, 23 October, Britain's Channel 5 TV has launched a major new series about the royal family. "The Royals" is a six-part documentary series produced by Content TV and Back2Back productions. Following its UK broadcast, the series, which deals with a range of royal subjects, will be distributed globally.

Discussing royal babies on "The Royals", the landmark
six-part series produced by Content TV and Back2Back Productions
and distributed globally.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first episode examined the evolution in the treatment of "Royal Babies" over the past several generations. I am pleased to be one of the "talking heads" in this series -- and some of my contributions were broadcast in this episode, which aired last night in the UK. Stay tuned for future episodes covering a broad range of royal subjects (including weddings, funerals, state ceremonies and....pets!).