Saturday, 23 August 2014

ISIS and the Caliphate -- Lamenting the West's failure to heed warnings

The sickening brutality of the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria has stunned the world -- and the participation of possibly hundreds of British Muslims has led to much soul searching in the UK.

Yet, however shocking, we should not be surprised by recent events. In August 2010 I was asked to contribute to a collection of essays outlining the best approach to safeguard US Homeland Security in 2020. In other words, a road map for the next ten years.

In my essay I warned that "the quest to re-establish the Caliphate" was the greatest threat "which will face democratic governments and the international world order until at least 2020". I highlighted the importance of confronting "Islamist elements in the UK" and identified the UK as the "third front in the war on terror". I also warned of "the strategy of using European nationals to carry out attacks" and I suggested that "a member of the British Pakistani community entering the United States via the Visa Waiver Programme is the most likely source of another terrorist attack on the American Homeland." 

Exactly four years later, I lament that so much that was predicted (by various commentators) has either come true or seems more likely to come true. Even more, I lament the West's failure to implement timely and effective measures to deal with these issues. Let us hope that the sudden shock of recent weeks has finally woken us from our slumber.

The importance of Anglo-American unity and leadership is even more critical now than it was in 2010. For this reason, and for the record, I post my original article below.

U.S. Homeland Security 2020:
The British Connection
(August 2010)

Summer may be here but it is chilly in London. A cool breeze is blowing off the Atlantic from America. The long range forecast shows little sign of improvement and, should there be no break in conditions before 2020, this may lead to severe, even devastating, storms in both the United States and Great Britain. 

Meteorology is notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, this is not a weather forecast but a realistic national security projection. The security of the American Homeland is, and will continue to be, dependent upon the strongest possible strategic bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom; not only because of the common interests and shared political values that unite both countries but because, as the West’s principal operating base for militant Islamist extremists, America’s closest ally is also America’s greatest threat. Failure to cooperate closely and fully with the United Kingdom could have dire consequences for both countries. 

Yet arguably not since the Suez Crisis has the Anglo-American “Special Relationship” been more strained. As American strategic priorities drift from Europe to Asia, British defence capabilities decline and the UK is drawn closer towards European integration, the fundamental importance of the relationship is in question. And, since President Obama has so far failed to demonstrate any political or cultural affinity with Great Britain, concerned advocates of the relationship, perhaps for the first time, appear unable to fall back upon the traditional paean to shared values and heritage....

This is not the time for distancing. The battle against Islamist extremists has not been won. Victory requires continued collaboration, coordination and, in some cases, integration by United Kingdom and United States officialdom, not only to tackle the problems posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan but also to confront Islamist elements within the UK, a country now regarded by many as the “third front” in the global war on terror. 

British security services believe that over 2,000 people living in the UK pose a terrorist threat, with senior counter-terrorism officials claiming it is not a question of if but when the next terrorist atrocity is committed. This view was substantiated by the decision earlier this year to raise Britain’s terror threat alert from “substantial” to “severe”, the fourth highest of five threat levels.  Due to the ease of travel between Europe and North America, and in light of al-Qaeda’s strategy of using European nationals to carry out attacks against the United States, the CIA believes that a member of the British Pakistani community entering the United States via the Visa Waiver Programme is the most likely source of another terrorist attack on the American Homeland. Last year four out of ten CIA operations to prevent attacks on America were conducted against British targets.

This lamentable state of affairs is partly the result of a deliberate campaign by Al Qaeda, the Pakistani-based Laskhar-e-Taiba and various other terrorist groups, to target, radicalise and indoctrinate young and impressionable British Muslims, a large number of whom are of South Asian origin. Their success, and the success of British-based Islamist extremists, such as the now outlawed al-Muhajiroun group, reveals the failure of the former British Government to implement effective immigration and asylum procedures, to expel foreign radical clerics and preachers of hate, to fully pursue those with links to terrorist organisations and to end—rather than foster—relations with immoderate self-appointed Muslim “community leaders”. It also highlights the endemic culture of political correctness which prevents serious discussion of fundamental issues and discourages the active encouragement of assimilation and the promotion of British identity and values.

The current British Government appears to understand the urgent need for action and is now embarking upon a more ambitious counter-terrorism plan which correctly identifies the terrorist threat as part of the broader and far more complex challenge which will face democratic governments and the international world order until at least 2020: Islamist ideology and the quest to re-establish the Caliphate.

Whilst it is incumbent on the United Kingdom to control its borders to prevent illegal entry, to ensure that student and work visa entrants are legitimate, and to effectively process and deport failed asylum seekers and other undesirables, it is in America’s best interest to cooperate with the British as closely as possible on Homeland Security to prevent British and European Islamists from infiltrating the United States. Over the next decade there are few issues which will be more important for America. Success can only be achieved by close cooperation with the United Kingdom and by coordinating policy to sever forever the terror connection between Pakistan and Britain.

Pakistan is the source of much of the financial and ideological fuel that powers British Islamist extremism.  Pakistan’s ambivalence towards terrorism within its borders, and the global terror network this sustains, must not be tolerated. Let us hope that Prime Minister Cameron’s recent condemnation of Pakistan’s “export of terror”, which so angered Pakistan’s government, not least because he made the comment during a trip to India, is a sign of renewed British vigour. Terrorist groups acting from within Pakistan constitute a threat not only to the United Kingdom, the United States and India but to democratic Pakistan itself.  The United States and the United Kingdom must hold their Pakistani ally to account and reserve the right of self-defence against any dereliction of duty. 

Britain and America have long cooperated in the spheres of diplomacy, intelligence and counter-terrorism, and, perhaps most exceptionally, the military.  Only through continued closely-integrated cooperation with the United Kingdom can the United States hope to see clear skies through 2020. Washington and London may have independently-evolving strategic interests beyond Europe and the Atlantic, but these do not require a diminution of the Special Relationship.

The UK and the US are unique and natural partners, possessed of a remarkably similar world view. The relationship is deep and multi-layered. Over the decades, Britain and America’s steadfast promotion and defence of their shared values of individualism, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, self-determination and respect for human rights as well as their common interests in free trade, open markets and political and economic global stability, have helped to liberate and improve much of the world.  These values are still under attack but the battle is closer to home. A common threat to common values requires a common resolve.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The New World steps forth to help the Old.

Seeing this image taken today in France of The Queen gallantly assisted by the President of the United States and the Governor General of New Zealand at the international ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, some words of Sir Winston Churchill immediately sprang to my mind:

"...the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

("We Shall Fight On the Beaches" speech to Parliament, June 4, 1940)

I shall refrain from commenting (as others already have) on the obvious symbolism of the Russian leader's isolation from the main group of western leaders.  

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Canada's Prince: The Canadian Associations of HRH The Prince of Wales

The Royal Canadian Homecoming of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall commenced on 18 May. On that day, the day before Victoria Day (The Official Birthday in Canada of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada), The Prince of Wales was appointed to The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. HRH was sworn in as a Privy Councillor during a private audience with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at Government House, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Prince of Wales's father, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, is the second-longest serving member of The Queen's Privy Council for Canada (appointed 1957).

The Privy Council advises the Government of Canada and includes all past and present Ministers, as well as a number of select persons honoured for their contributions to Canada.

HRH The Prince of Wales with HE The Governor General of Canada at Government House, Halifax, Nova Scotia
(C) The Government of Canada

Quick Canadian Facts about The Prince of Wales (some courtesy of the Canadian Prime Minister's Office):

The Prince of Wales has been visiting Canada for almost 45 years. He has visited Canada from coast to coast to coast.

This year’s Royal Tour is His Royal Highness’ 17th Tour of Canada. 

During this year’s Tour of Canada, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will join Canadians in marking milestones in the country’s history in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

The Prince of Wales is patron or president of more than 400 organizations around the world. 

HRH The Prince of Wales in the uniform of a Lieutenant General in the Canadian Army
HRH is a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy, a Lieutenant General in the Canadian Army and a Lieutenant General in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

HRH is Honorary Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Colonel-in-Chief of several regiments and the air reserve:
  • Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadian)
  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles
  • The Royal Regiment of Canada
  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons
  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
  • The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's Own)
  • The Air Reserve Group
HRH is an Honorary Member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, holds the Canadian Forces Decoration and two clasps, as well as the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal.

HRH's patronages include Canadian organizations, such as The RCMP Foundation, The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, The Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, The Regina Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, The Royal Conservatory of Music and Earth Rangers. 

HRH is responsible for the creation of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (the Canadian affiliate of the Prince’s Youth Business International), that helps disadvantaged young people become entrepreneurs. 

HRH is a strong proponent of the conservation of historical Canadian places including through the Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership that bears his name. 

HRH is also an honorary member of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and the Canadian Society of Painters in watercolour. 

Pre-Royal Tour Reception for UK-resident Canadians hosted by Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall at St. James's Palace

On Wednesday 14 May, in preparation for the Royal Tour of Canada of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (commencing 18 May), a reception for Canadians working or living in the United Kingdom was hosted by The Prince and The Duchess in the State Apartments of St. James's Palace.

The weather, which in London can be very unpredictable, was warm, bright and sunny. This afforded guests the opportunity to visit the garden of St. James's Palace (which is shared with Clarence House).

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall spent 1.5 hours meeting the (approximately) 100 Canadians who were present.

Photographs from the event may be seen HERE at the official Flickr site of The British Monarchy.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

8 May - VE Day 1945 -- The Royal Family and Winston Churchill

The Royal Family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, VE Day 1945
Today, 8 May, is the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

Last month British Pathe released into the public domain some 80,000 newsreel items from its extensive archives. A remarkable range of subjects are covered. Amongst the items is this footage of Winston Churchill rehearsing his VE Day speech. I believe this is the first time this footage has been seen in public. Well worth watching, particularly for his rousing finish: "Advance Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!:

Additionally, here is some rarely seen colour footage of the Royal Family and Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day. The Royal Family are extremely relaxed. Note the three different styles of royal waves -- none of which have survived to this day.  Churchill does not wave (it would have been deemed inappropriate). He is one of only two politicians to have been honoured to join the Royal Family on the balcony.

As part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, a flag-waving crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered outside Buckingham Palace, similar in size to that which had gathered in 1945. Legendary wartime singer Vera Lynn and other well-known figures were present to entertain the crowd. 

The doors to the Buckingham Palace balcony opened and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother walked out on to the balcony and stood alone for approximately one minute -- cheered by the adoring crowd. The Queen and Princess Margaret then walked out and stood either side of their mother. A moving recreation of the balcony scene from 1945 (only Churchill and George VI missing). 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

In Memoriam: Mark Turnham Elvins and Peter Drummond-Murray -- kindred spirits cut from different cloth

The small world of British Catholic heraldry has become even smaller. Over the past three weeks, two distinguished figures have died: Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrick (24 November 1929 - 13 April 2014) and Mark Turnham Elvins OFMCap (26 November 1939 - 1 May 2014).

I was glad to be a friend and colleague of both and, although we had not been in contact for many months, they shall be missed. Although very different personalities, they were equally rich in character and their interests were remarkably similar: heraldry, monarchy, chivalry and the military-religious orders, Jacobitism and the Stuarts, the Catholic church. Mark had worked for Debrett's, Peter had contributed to Burke's Peerage. Both belonged to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrik as Slains Pursuivant to the Chief of the Name and Arms of Hay --
The Earl of Erroll, Lord High Constable of Scotland

Mark Turnham Elvins OFMCap as a professed in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
with Colonel James Bogle at the Royal Stuart Society's wreath-laying ceremony
at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 2007
Having served with the Honourable Artillery Company, Mark Turnham Elvins reached the rank of Captain in the Royal Army Chaplains' Department before converting to Catholicism and becoming Assistant Curate at Arundel Cathedral and Chantry Priest to the Duke of Norfolk. A professed in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Turnham Elvins was appointed Warden of Greyfriars, Oxford in 2007, a year later becoming Guardian of the Friary (Greyfriars) following the dissolution of the permanent private hall.

In 2007, on behalf of the Royal Stuart Society, I co-organised a special commemorative wreath-laying ceremony and luncheon at the Royal Hospital Chelsea to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry, Cardinal Duke of York, the last male member of the Royal House of Stuart. Knowing of his interest in the Stuarts, I invited Mark Turnham Elvins to lead prayers at the statue of King Charles II immediately before the placing of wreaths. Having been involved with Stuart societies in the 1960s, Mark had lost contact with many in this field and he was delighted to reconnect with several old friends, most notably David Beattie and the Reverend David Skeoch. 

Mark Turnham Elvins OFMCap leads prayers at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 2007.
Clockwise: Mark Turnham Elvins, The Earl of Lauderdale (Hereditary Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland,
shown here carrying the banner of the Royal Stuart Society), and the four wreath bearers:
 Philip Bonn, Lord Aylmer, Rafe Heydel-Mankoo, David Lumsden of Cushnie. 

Mark was a prolific writer, particularly on subjects related to heraldry and the Church. One of his most notable publications was the excellent Cardinals and Heraldry (the foreword of which was written by the Archbishop of Birmingham, Maurice Couve de Murville, and the preface of which was written by John Brooke-Little, then Norroy & Ulster King of Arms). The Heraldry Society continues to hold an annual "Mark Elvins Lecture"    

Peter Drummond-Murray was a successful stockbroker and businessman who served as Chancellor of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1977 to 1989. Appointed a Knight Grand Cross in 1988 he was elevated to the highest rank of Bailiff Grand Cross in 2013, a few months before his death. Genealogist for the Order in Scotland, Peter Drummond-Murray was justly proud of his noble and illustrious Jacobite forebears -- and no doubt they would have been equally proud of his enthusiasm for the Stuarts. Peter Drummond-Murray was instrumental in commissioning a beautifully painted seize-quartiers (16 noble quarterings) of Charles Edward Stuart and his brother Henry, the Cardinal Duke of York, copies of which were sold by the Royal Stuart Society (pictured below).

A sometime chairman of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, Peter Drummond-Murray's most notable publication was a roll of the martyr ancestors of the British Knights of Malta. "Blood of the Martyrs", which he co-authored with Sir Conrad Swan (then Garter King of Arms), was published in 1993. 

In 1982 Peter Drummond-Murray became one of the private heralds of Scotland when he was appointed Slains Pursuivant to the Chief of the Arms and Name of Hay -- The Earl of Erroll, High Constable of Scotland. In 2006, Peter wore his tabard as Slains Pursuivant in the 2006 Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in St. Andrews Scotland. The Congress was probably the largest gathering of heralds in tabard since medieval times.

Three Scottish private heralds in 2006 -- Front: Slains Pursuivant (the late Peter Drummond-Murray) and
Garioch Pursuivant of the Chief of the Name and Arms of Mar -- The Countess of Mar (the late David Lumsden of Cushnie). Rear: Finlaggan Pursuivant of Clan Donald (The Hon. Adam Bruce, now Marchmont Herald of Arms in Ordinary of the Court of Lord Lyon)

Peter Drummond-Murray once told an elderly friend who was despairing that all of their friends were dying: "Look on the bright side -- all our enemies are dying too." With the death in short succession of both Mark and Peter I fear the scales are considerably out of balance.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

"Privilegio del Bianco" exercised by The Queen of Spain at the Canonisation of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII

TM The King & Queen of Spain, TRH The Grand Duke & Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, TM King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium and HMEmH The Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta were amongst the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the canonsiation of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII by HH The Pope. HRH The Duke of Gloucester represented HM The Queen.

Estimates vary, but some commentators believe up to 1 million people may have attended the divine liturgy and accompanying ceremony. Much of St. Peter's Square was awash with Polish flags, at times resembling the sails from a flotilla, as Poles paid tribute to their great national hero, Saint John Paul II.


L to R: HM King Albert of Belgium, HM The King of Spain, HM The Queen of Spain

As seen above, Queen Sofia exercised the "Privilegio del Bianco" (a.k.a. "Privilege du Blanc"), the privilege accorded to certain Catholic queens, princesses and duchesses to dress in white, with a white mantilla, for papal audiences and other special occasions. Queen Paola and The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg were similarly attired. The head of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household is likely to have decreed that this privilege would apply for this special occasion.

The privilege is not automatically granted to all Catholic queens or consorts. Historically it has been held by the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, the Queens of France, Spain, Bavaria, Naples, Italy and Belgium, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and princesses of the House of Savoy.

Most recently it was extended to Princess Charlene of Monaco -- she wore white during a papal audience with Pope Benedict in 2013. The privilege has not been extended to Liechtenstein.

It is worth noting that Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (who is a Catholic despite marrying into the protestant royal family) also does not have the Privilegio del Bianco -- but as she was born in Argentina perhaps Pope Francis may choose to make this another reform! 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

BBC TV Interview -- Royal Tour of New Zealand: The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and the popularity of the Monarchy

I appeared on BBC News TV yesterday to discuss the success of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of New Zealand and to examine and compare the popularity of the Monarchy in Australia and New Zealand.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Victory for the Monarchy at Cambridge Union Debate - 27 February 2014

On Thursday, 27th February I was pleased to participate in a lively debate at the Cambridge Union on the motion "This House Would Abolish The Monarchy".

Hugo Vickers, Rose Beal and I formed the Opposition and spoke in support of the Crown. I am happy to report that we successfully defeated the motion -- the vote was 105 against the motion (i.e. in support of the Monarchy) and 65 for the motion.

Founded in 1815, the Cambridge Union Society is the world's oldest operating debating society and the largest society at the University of Cambridge. The Union served as a model for the foundation of other university debating societies, including the Oxford Union and the Yale Political Union.

Chamber of the Cambridge Union (C) Cambridge Union Society

Full details of the debate and participants are included below:

This House Would Abolish The Monarchy

The announcement that Prince William is studying in Cambridge this term has prompted comment and outcry across the national and student media. The monarchy is Britain’s most iconic national institution, a central non-partisan plank of our constitution – according to some. For others, it is an outdated relic that impedes our democracy and entrenches elitism. In this debate, we put the arguments, and the modern monarchy, to the test.
Graham Smith is chief executive of the pressure group Republic, which calls for an elected head of state. Graham also writes for the Guardian.
Peter Kellow is Leader of the Democratic Republican Party, and writer for the Huffington Post. Peter believes there is a need for radical changes in UK politics.
Kate Maltby is a member of the executive team for Bright Blue, a pressure group for liberal conservatism. Kate writes for the Telegraph on politics and culture.
Hugo Vickers is known for writing royal biographies such as Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Hugo was appointed Chairman of the Jubilee Walkway Trust in 2002.
Rafe Heydel-Mankoo is a historian and royal commentator. He is the co-editor of Burke's Peerage: World Orders of Knighthood, and a Research Associate at the public policy think tank, ResPublica.
Rose Beale is a finalist at Trinity studying management. Rose has been involved in Trinity Politics, the Wilberforce Society and Cambridge Development Initiative.
RESULT:  Proposition AYES: 65. Opposition NOES: 105

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Last Indian Member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India - The Maharani of Travancore

HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (1922-2013)
Maharaja of Travancore (1991-2013)

My letter to the editor of The Times following the publication of the obituary of 
HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of Travancore was published today. The Maharaja's brother had been the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore and, in that capacity, was the hereditary guardian to a temple containing an ancient horde of treasure valued at many billions of pounds. However as hereditary guardians, generations of maharajas of Travancore, remaining true to their faith, refused to sell a single item from this immense treasure.

The Imperial Order of the Crown of India
Dear Sir,

As a footnote to your obituary of HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of Travancore, it is worth noting that his aunt Maharani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1895-1985) was the last Indian member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India.

Maharani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi CI(1895-1985) 
Founded by Queen Victoria in 1878, the Imperial Order of the Crown of India was a "ladies' order" restricted to female members of the Royal Family and Indian princely families, as well as the families of senior British officials in India. Sri Uthradom's aunt was appointed to the Order in 1929 in recognition of her service as Maharani Regent of Travancore (1924-1931) during the minority of her nephew, Varma's brother, Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (later Major General HH Sri Chithira Thirunal Sir Balarama Varma, GCSI, GCIE, the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore). Along with the insignia, members were entitled to bear the post-nominals "CI".    
HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon CI, GCVO
Wearing the insignia of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India
along with the Royal Family Orders and the Royal Victorian Chain
Following the deaths, in fairly short succession, of HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the Imperial Order of the Crown of India now has only one surviving member: HM The Queen (who is also Sovereign of the Order). Through this membership The Queen provides one of the last direct connections to the British Raj. 

Lord Mountbatten once said of the Maharani of Travancore: "No one who met her once could ever forget her. She stands as a shining example to womanhood as a great queen and a great woman." I'd wager many would say the same of our own Queen.


Rafe Heydel-Mankoo

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Act of Reconciliation signed between the claimants to headship of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies

Yesterday, Friday, 24 January 2014, was a day of great importance for the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies, for the Illustrious Royal Order of St. Januarius/San Gennaro, for the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and for all their friends and supporters.

An Act of Reconciliation between both branches of the House was signed in Naples by HRH Don Pedro, Duke of Noto, son of HRH The Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria (head of the Spanish line), and HRH Don Carlo, Duke of Castro (head of the Neapolitan line). Let us hope that this will be but the first step towards greater cooperation and an enduring and harmonious rapprochement.

The two branches have come together in Naples for the Beatification of HM Queen Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies (1812-1836), the first Queen consort of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, which takes place today at the Basilica of Santa Chiara, where HLM is buried.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Centenary of the Death of a Titan of the British Empire: Lord Strachcona and Mount Royal -- Candian imperialist, philanthropist, businessman (1820-1914)

The Rt. Hon. The Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal,
GCMG, GVCO, PC, DL (1820-1914)
Today, 21 January 2014, marks the centenary of the death of one of the towering figures of the British Empire: the great Canadian imperialist, philanthropist, businessman and politician, Donald Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, GCMG, GCVO, PC, DL.

Having achieved phenomenal success, wealth and power in Canada, Lord Strathcona spent his final years in London. Appropriately for a great architect of the British Empire, his funeral service was conducted at Westminster Abbey, where a commemorative stained glass window remains to this day.

Lord Strathcona's imposing mausoleum stands near the entrance to London's famed Highgate Cemetery.

Despite his extremely long, successful and varied career, Lord Strathcona is perhaps best remembered for driving "The Last Spike" into the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway, the construction of which was essential for the creation of modern Canada and became a symbol of national unity. 

The photograph taken of Lord Strathcona on that occasion (shown below) remains one of the iconic images of Canadian history and is regarded as a symbol of national pride and achievement. 

Arguably Canada's most famous and historically significant photograph.
"The Last Spike": Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal drives the final spike into the Canadian Pacific Railway, 7 Nov. 1885.

Unlike the final spikes used to complete other railways, The Last Spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway was neither gold nor silver but was identical to the millions of other spikes that had been laid along the route.
Born in Scotland in 1820, Donald Smith emigrated to Lower Canada at the age of 18 to take up a position with the Hudson's Bay Company. He steadily rose through the ranks of the Company whilst simultaneously finding time to successfully stand for election: first to the Manitoba legislature and subsequently to the Canadian House of Commons, where he sat intermittently from 1871 through to the 1890s, staunchly defending the Hudson's Bay Company. Smith would eventually become a commissioner of the Company, its principal shareholder and, ultimately, its 26th Governor -- a position he held until his death. His 75 year record of service with the Hudson's Bay Company remains unequalled.

Plaque commemorating
"The Last Spike"
A silent, but substantial, partner in the syndicate that founded the Canadian Pacific Railway, Smith became a director of the company in 1883 and had the honour of driving the Last Spike into the transcontinental railway 5 years later. During this same period, Smith, who had earlier helped established the Bank of Manitoba, was appointed to the board of the Bank of Montreal (1872), subsequently becoming Vice President (1882) and President (1887).

In 1896 Smith declined the offer to succeed Canadian Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell and, instead, accepted appointment as Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. A month after his appointment he was elevated from Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (1886) to Grand Cross of the Order (GCMG) in The Queen's Birthday Honours List. A year later he was created Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, of Glencoe in the County of Argyll and of Mount Royal in the Province of Quebec and Dominion of Canada.

Continuing his business interests, Smith helped to establish the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (the forerunner of British Petroleum / BP) and would become its chairman in 1909.

During his service as High Commissioner in London, Lord Strathcona raised a private unit of Canadian soldiers to fight in the Second Boer War. One of the last private regiments to be established during the British Empire, the Strathcona Horse was recruited and equipped at Lord Strathcona's expense.

Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadian) in ceremonial uniform today

According to tradition, the famous "Strathcona Boots" worn in dress uniform by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were adopted by the Mounties after they served with the Strathcona Horse during the Boer War. The famous stetsons worn by the Mounties were also allegedly inspired during this period, perhaps from the Strathcona Horse. Disbanded in 1901 and revived in 1909, with augmentations to its name, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) exists today as a regular armoured regiment of the Canadian Army with HRH The Prince of Wales as its Colonel-in-Chief.

In keeping with the spirit of the age, Lord Strathcona became one of the Empire's greatest philanthropists, using his wealth to support organisations in the UK, Canada and across the Empire. With his cousin and Canadian Pacific Railway partner Lord Mount Stephen, Lord Strathcona funded the construction of Montreal's famous Royal Victoria Hospital. Established in 1893 "to be for the use of the sick and ailing without distinction of race or creed", the "Royal Vic" was the most advanced and best equipped hospital in North America. The hospital exists to this day and is closely affiliated with that other great Montreal institution, McGill University. A major benefactor to McGill, Lord Strathcona established a school for women there in 1884 and would become Chancellor of the University from 1888 until his death.

The stunning Imperial Institute. Nothing remains of the original building save for the
tremendous tower. The rest of the buildilng was destroyed by architectural vandals to
redevelop the site for Imperial College
In Britain his philanthropy contributed to Aberdeen University, the Sheffield Scientific School and the Imperial Institute (later the Commonwealth Institute), the original site of which is now home to Imperial College in South Kensington. He also contributed generously, along with his cousin Lord Mount Stephen, to The Prince of Wales Hospital Fund (now The King's Fund). In 1908 King Edward VII (who regarded Lord Strathcona as a friend) appointed him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).

The Lord Strathcona Medal,
the highest award that can be conferred on
a Canadian cadet.
The Medal bears the bust of Lord Strathcona
Through Lord Strathcona's generous endowment to the Royal Canadian Army Cadets and his desire to promote patriotism, the Lord Strathcona Medal was established as the highest award that can be bestowed upon a Canadian cadet. Today it continues to be conferred in recognition of outstanding performance in physical and military training.
Knebworth House, leased by Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal until his death

In England, Lord Strathcona lived at 53 Cadogan Square in London and leased Knebworth House until his death. In Scotland he owned Glencoe House and Colonsay House (having purchased the Inner Hebrides island of Colonsay in 1905, which remains in the possession of the family today). In Montreal Lord Strathcona lived at 1157 Dorchester Street in the famous Golden Square Mile.

Lord Strathcona's memory lives on through numerous portraits, memorials, streets, parks and municipalities in Canada.

In Britain his memory endures though the memorial stained glass window erected in Westminster Abbey (see below) and also at his imposing Mausoleum in London's celebrated Highgate Cemetery.

Westminster Abbey's Memorial Window to
Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal
Dedicated on Dominion Day, 1 July 1919
(five years after Lord Strathcona's funeral in the Abbey)
The window is inscribed:
"In Memory of Baron Strathcona & Mount Royal. B. 1820. A Great Canadian Imperialist and Philanthropist. D. 1914"

The window displays the armorial bearings of Canada, the Hudson's Bay Company, Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal, the University of McGill and the University of Aberdeen, as well as the shields of Quebec and Manitoba and the regimental badges of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and the Liverpool Scottish (The King's)

Mausoleum of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
in Highgate Cemetery, London.
Lord Strathcona's mausoleum is one of the most imposing in the historic cemetery
 and occupies a prime position by the entrance. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Royal Beards

Newspapers and websites are reporting that The Queen "intensely dislikes" facial hair and has "ordered" her grandson Prince Harry to shave the beard he acquired during his recent charity trek to the Antarctic. I would never presume to know the Sovereign's view on beards, but almost all the male members of her family have sported beards at some point:

When The Queen was born, her beloved grandfather, King George V, sported the most famous beard in the land:

HM King George V

During the Second World War, The Queen's future husband kept to naval traditions by cultivating an impressive beard:

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Like father, like son:

HRH The Prince of Wales

Beards were all the rage in the 1970s:

HRH The Duke of York

And every generation of royal seems keen to try the look:

HRH The Duke of Cambridge

One wonders what the King of Beards is thinking today...

HRH Prince Michael of Kent

And if beards are a bit too much, there's always the moustache. In 1975 HRH The Prince of Wales shaved off the beard he had acquired during a naval tour of the Canadian Arctic but kept his moustache for his installation as Great Master of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath at Westminster Abbey:

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.