A Meeting with Bloody Mary

A report sent by the Venetian Ambassador Giovanni Michele of his meeting with Mary I, Queen of England, in 1557, the year before her death.

She is of short stature, well made, thin and delicate, and moderately pretty; her eyes are so lively that she inspires reverence and respect, and even fear, wherever she turns them; nevertheless she is very short-sighted.

Her voice is deep, almost like that of a man.

She understands five languages – English, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian, in which last, however, she does not venture to converse. She is also much skilled in ladies’ work, such as producing all sorts of embroidery with the needle.

She has knowledge of music chiefly on the lute which she plays exceedingly well.

As to the qualities of her mind, it may be said of her that she is rash, disdainful, and parsimonious rather than liberal. She is endowed with great humility and patience, but withal high-spirited, courageous, and resolute, having during the whole course of her adversity not been guilty of the least approach to meanness of deportment.
She is, moreover, devout and staunch in the defence of her religion.

Some personal infirmities under which she labours are the causes to her of both public and private affliction; to remedy these, recourse is had to frequent bloodletting, and this is the real cause of her paleness and the general weakness of her frame. These have also given rise to the unfounded rumour that the queen is in a state of pregnancy.

The cabal she has been exposed to, the evil disposition of the people toward her, the present poverty and the debt of the crown, and her passion for King Philip, from whom she is doomed to live separate, are so many other causes of the grief with which she is overwhelmed.

She is, moreover, a prey to the hatred she bears my Lady Elizabeth, and which has its source in the recollection of the wrongs she experienced on account of her mother, and in the fact that all eyes and hearts are turned towards my Lady Elizabeth as successor to the throne.

Henry VIII : A Description (1515)

An account by the Venetian Ambassador to Henry’s Court when the King was aged 24.

After dinner, we were taken to the King who embraced us, without ceremony, and conversed for a very long while very familiarly, on various subjects, in good Latin and in French, which he speaks very well indeed, and he then dismissed us, and we were brought back here to London.

His Majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion very fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short, in the French fashion, his throat being rather long and thick. He was born on the 28th of June, 1491, so he will enter his twenty-fifth year the month after next. He speaks French, English, and Latin, and a little Italian, plays well on the lute and harpsichord, sings from book at sight, draws the bow with greater strength than any man in England, and jousts marvelously. Believe me, he is in every respect a most accomplished Prince; and I, who have now seen all the sovereigns in Christendom, and last of all these two of France and England in such great state, might well rest content.

A further description followed the next year.

His Majesty came into our arbor, and addressing me in French, said: ‘Talk with me awhile! The King of France, is he as tall as I am?’ I told him there was but little difference. He continued, ‘Is he as stout?’ I said he was not; and he then inquired, ‘What sort of legs has he?’ I replied ‘Spare.’ Whereupon he opened the front of his doublet, and placing his hand on his thigh, said ‘Look here! and I have also a good calf to my leg.’ He then told me that he was very fond of this King of France, and that for the sake of seeing him, he went over there in person, and that on more than three occasions he was very near him with his army, but that he never would allow himself to be seen, and always retreated, which his Majesty attributed to deference for King Louis, who did not choose an engagement to take place; and he here commenced discussing in detail all the events of that war, and then took his departure.

After dinner, his Majesty and many others armed themselves cap-a-pie, and he chose us to see him joust, running upwards of thirty courses, in one of which he capsized his opponent (who is the finest jouster in the whole kingdom), horse and all. He then took off his helmet, and came under the windows where we were, and talked and laughed with us to our very great honor, and to the surprise of all beholders.

Abraham Lincoln: A Description

27 March 1861

Soon afterwards there entered, with a shambling, loose, irregular, almost unsteady gait, a tall, lank, lean man, considerably over six feet in height, with stooping shoulders, long pendulous arms, terminating in hands of extraordinary dimensions, which, however, were far exceeded in proportion by his feet. He was dressed in an ill-fitting, wrinkled suit of black, which put one in mind of an undertaker’s uniform at a funeral; round his neck a rope of black silk was knotted in a large bulb, with flying ends projecting beyond the collar of his coat; his turned-down shirt-collar disclosed a sinewy muscular yellow neck, and above that, nestling in a great black mass of hair, bristling and compact like a ruff of mourning pins, rose the strange quaint face and head, covered with its thatch of wild, republican hair, of President Lincoln.

The impression produced by the size of his extremities, and by his flapping and wide projecting ears, may be removed by the appearance of kindliness, sagacity, and the awkward bonhomie of his face; the mouth is absolutely prodigious; the lips, straggling and extending almost from one line of black beard to the other, are only kept in order by two deep furrows from the nostril to the chin; the nose itself – a prominent organ – stands out from the face, with an inquiring, anxious air, as though it were sniffing for some good thing in the wind; the eyes dark, full, and deeply set, are penetrating, but full of an expression which almost amounts to tenderness; and above them projects the shaggy brow, running into the small hard frontal space, the development of which can scarcely be estimated accurately, owing to the irregular flocks of thick hair carelessly brushed across it.

One would say that, although the mouth was made to enjoy a joke, it could also utter the severest sentence which the head could dictate, but that Mr. Lincoln would be ever more willing to temper justice with mercy, and to enjoy what he considers the amenities of life, than to take a harsh view of men’s nature and of the world, and to estimate things in an ascetic or puritan spirit.

A person who met Mr. Lincoln in the street would not take him to be what – according to the usages of European society – is called a ‘gentleman;’ and, indeed, since I came to the United States, I have heard more disparaging allusions made by Americans to him on that account than I could have expected among simple republicans, where all should be equals; but, at the same time, it would not be possible for the most indifferent observer to pass him in the street without notice.

28 March

In the conversation which occurred before dinner, I was amused to observe the manner in which Mr Lincoln used the anecdotes for which he is famous. Where men bred in courts, accustomed to the world, or versed in diplomacy, would use some subterfuge, or would make a polite speech, or give a shrug of the shoulders as a means of getting out of an embarrassing position, Mr Lincoln raises a laugh by some bold west-country anecdote, and moves off in a cloud of merriment caused by his joke.

William Howard Russell, Correspondent of The Times of London.


Queen Victoria’s Coronation Journal

The eighteen year old Princess Alexandrina Victoria became Queen on 20 June 1837, on the death of her uncle King William IV. Her Coronation however did not occur until just over a year later on 28 June 1838, when travelling from her home at the recently built Buckingham Palace in a gold coach through the streets of London to Westminster Abbey she attended a ceremony that lasted just over five hours.

The young Queen was to write at length about the prelude to, the Coronation itself, and its immediate aftermath in her journal.

“At 4.15 pm I went with Lady Lansdowne, Lady Barham and Lady Conyngham and Colonel Wemyss to Westminster Abbey where the Duchess of Sutherland met me to see all the preparations for tomorrow. The streets were full of people and there were preparations of all kinds. I was received at the Abbey by Lord Melbourne, the Duke of Norfolk, Sir William Woods and Sir Benjamin Stevenson. All the arrangements are splendidly and very conveniently carried out. Lord Melbourne made me try the two Thrones, which was very fortunate as they were both too low.

I came home at 5 pm to great crowds in the streets, and all so friendly.

The preparations, fairs and balloons for the Coronation in the Parks quite changed the aspect of the place and the Camps of the Artillery with all their white tents had a very pretty effect. I am very glad I went to the Abbey as I shall now know exactly where I am to go and what I have to do at the Coronation.

“We, Lord Melbourne and I, spoke for a long time about the Coronation and all I had to do. I said I felt very agitated and as if something awful were going to happen to me tomorrow, at which he smiled spoke of the Bishops, and the Bishop of Durham being so remarkably awkward. Lord Melbourne. said “He is very maladroit in all those things”, adding, in speaking of the Coronation, “Oh! You will like it, when you are there. I observed I was glad to think he would be near me, as then I always felt so much safer.

“I was awoke at 4 o’clock by the guns in the Park and could not get much sleep afterwards, on account of the noise of the people, bands, and crowds; got up at 7 feeling strong and well.

The Park presented a curious spectacle, — crowds of people up Constitution Hill — soldiers, bands, and cheering.

It was a fine day, and the crowds of people exceeded what I have ever seen, being even much greater than when I went to the City. There were millions of my loyal subjects, assembled in every spot, to witness the Procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was everything. I really cannot say how proud I felt to be the Queen of such a nation. I was alarmed at times for fear the people would be crushed, in consequence of the tremendous rush and pressure.

I reached the Abbey a little after 11.30 amidst deafening cheers. First went into a robing room quite close to the entrance, where I met my 8 Train Bearers: Lady Caroline Lennox, Lady Adelaide Paget, Lady Mary Talbot, Lady Fanny Cowpe, Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope, Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, Lady Mary Grimston and Lady Louisa Jenkinson, all dressed alike and beautifully in white satin and silver tissue, with wreaths of silver wheatears on the front of their hair and small ones of pink roses around the plait behind. There were also trimmings of pink roses on the dresser.

victoria coronation 2x

Then followed all the various ceremonies, ending by the Crown being placed on my head, which I must own was the most beautiful impressive moment. All the Peers and Peeresses put on their coronets, at the same instant. My excellent Lord Melbourne, who stood very close to me throughout the whole ceremony was quite overcome at this moment, and gave me such a kind, and I may say, fatherly look. The shouts, which were very great, the drums, the trumpets, the firing of the guns, — all at the same moment, rendered the spectacle most imposing.

The Archbishop had most awkwardly put the ring on the wrong finger, the consequence being that I had the greatest difficulty in taking it off again, which I at last succeeded in doing, but not without great pain.

All my Train Bearers looked quite beautiful. At about 4.30 I re-entered the State Coach, the Crown on my head and Sceptre and Orb in my hands, and we proceeded the same way as we came, the crowds, if possible, having become still greater.

The demonstrations of enthusiasm affection, and loyalty were really touching and I shall ever remember this day as the proudest in my life.

I came home at a little after 6, really not feeling too tired. — At 8 we dined, besides we thirteen, my uncle, sister, and brother Spëth and the German Gentlemen, — my excellent Lord Melbourne and Lord Surrey dining.”

Sergei Nechaev’s Revolutionary Catechism

The Revolutionary Catechism was the 26 point programme that would prove the blueprint for revolutionaries to come such as Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.

The Duties of the Revolutionary toward Himself

1. The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.

2. The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.

3. The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.

4. The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.

5. The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes; and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.

6. Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, on consolation, one reward, one satisfaction – the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim – merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.

7. The nature of the true revolutionary excludes all sentimentality, romanticism, infatuation, and exaltation. All private hatred and revenge must also be excluded. Revolutionary passion, practiced at every moment of the day until it becomes a habit, is to be employed with cold calculation. At all times, and in all places, the revolutionary must obey not his personal impulses, but only those which serve the cause of the revolution.

The Relations of the Revolutionary toward his Comrades

8. The revolutionary can have no friendship or attachment, except for those who have proved by their actions that they, like him, are dedicated to revolution. The degree of friendship, devotion and obligation toward such a comrade is determined solely by the degree of his usefulness to the cause of total revolutionary destruction.

9. It is superfluous to speak of solidarity among revolutionaries. The whole strength of revolutionary work lies in this. Comrades who possess the same revolutionary passion and understanding should, as much as possible, deliberate all important matters together and come to unanimous conclusions. When the plan is finally decided upon, then the revolutionary must rely solely on himself. In carrying out acts of destruction, each one should act alone, never running to another for advice and assistance, except when these are necessary for the furtherance of the plan.

10. All revolutionaries should have under them second- or third-degree revolutionaries – i.e., comrades who are not completely initiated. these should be regarded as part of the common revolutionary capital placed at his disposal. This capital should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit. The real revolutionary should regard himself as capital consecrated to the triumph of the revolution; however, he may not personally and alone dispose of that capital without the unanimous consent of the fully initiated comrades.

11. When a comrade is in danger and the question arises whether he should be saved or not saved, the decision must not be arrived at on the basis of sentiment, but solely in the interests of the revolutionary cause. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh carefully the usefulness of the comrade against the expenditure of revolutionary forces necessary to save him, and the decision must be made accordingly.

The Relations of the Revolutionary toward Society

12. The new member, having given proof of his loyalty not by words but by deeds, can be received into the society only by the unanimous agreement of all the members.

13. The revolutionary enters the world of the State, of the privileged classes, of the so-called civilization, and he lives in this world only for the purpose of bringing about its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he has any sympathy for this world. He should not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world. He must hate everyone and everything in it with an equal hatred. All the worse for him if he has any relations with parents, friends, or lovers; he is no longer a revolutionary if he is swayed by these relationships.

14. Aiming at implacable revolution, the revolutionary may and frequently must live within society will pretending to be completely different from what he really is, for he must penetrate everywhere, into all the higher and middle-classes, into the houses of commerce, the churches, and the palaces of the aristocracy, and into the worlds of the bureaucracy and literature and the military, and also into the Third Division and the Winter Palace of the Czar.

15. This filthy social order can be split up into several categories. The first category comprises those who must be condemned to death without delay. Comrades should compile a list of those to be condemned according to the relative gravity of their crimes; and the executions should be carried out according to the prepared order.

16. When a list of those who are condemned is made, and the order of execution is prepared, no private sense of outrage should be considered, nor is it necessary to pay attention to the hatred provoked by these people among the comrades or the people. Hatred and the sense of outrage may even be useful insofar as they incite the masses to revolt. It is necessary to be guided only by the relative usefulness of these executions for the sake of revolution. Above all, those who are especially inimical to the revolutionary organization must be destroyed; their violent and sudden deaths will produce the utmost panic in the government, depriving it of its will to action by removing the cleverest and most energetic supporters.

17. The second group comprises those who will be spared for the time being in order that, by a series of monstrous acts, they may drive the people into inevitable revolt.

18. The third category consists of a great many brutes in high positions, distinguished neither by their cleverness nor their energy, while enjoying riches, influence, power, and high positions by virtue of their rank. These must be exploited in every possible way; they must be implicated and embroiled in our affairs, their dirty secrets must be ferreted out, and they must be transformed into slaves. Their power, influence, and connections, their wealth and their energy, will form an inexhaustible treasure and a precious help in all our undertakings.

19. The fourth category comprises ambitious office-holders and liberals of various shades of opinion. The revolutionary must pretend to collaborate with them, blindly following them, while at the same time, prying out their secrets until they are completely in his power. They must be so compromised that there is no way out for them, and then they can be used to create disorder in the State.

20. The fifth category consists of those doctrinaires, conspirators, and revolutionists who cut a great figure on paper or in their cliques. They must be constantly driven on to make compromising declarations: as a result, the majority of them will be destroyed, while a minority will become genuine revolutionaries.

21. The sixth category is especially important: women. They can be divided into three main groups. First, those frivolous, thoughtless, and vapid women, whom we shall use as we use the third and fourth category of men. Second, women who are ardent, capable, and devoted, but whom do not belong to us because they have not yet achieved a passionless and austere revolutionary understanding; these must be used like the men of the fifth category. Finally, there are the women who are completely on our side – i.e., those who are wholly dedicated and who have accepted our program in its entirety. We should regard these women as the most valuable or our treasures; without their help, we would never succeed.

The Attitude of the Society toward the People

22. The Society has no aim other than the complete liberation and happiness of the masses – i.e., of the people who live by manual labor. Convinced that their emancipation and the achievement of this happiness can only come about as a result of an all-destroying popular revolt, the Society will use all its resources and energy toward increasing and intensifying the evils and miseries of the people until at last their patience is exhausted and they are driven to a general uprising.

23. By a revolution, the Society does not mean an orderly revolt according to the classic western model – a revolt which always stops short of attacking the rights of property and the traditional social systems of so-called civilization and morality. Until now, such a revolution has always limited itself to the overthrow of one political form in order to replace it by another, thereby attempting to bring about a so-called revolutionary state. The only form of revolution beneficial to the people is one which destroys the entire State to the roots and exterminated all the state traditions, institutions, and classes in Russia.

24. With this end in view, the Society therefore refuses to impose any new organization from above. Any future organization will doubtless work its way through the movement and life of the people; but this is a matter for future generations to decide. Our task is terrible, total, universal, and merciless destruction.

25. Therefore, in drawing closer to the people, we must above all make common cause with those elements of the masses which, since the foundation of the state of Muscovy, have never ceased to protest, not only in words but in deeds, against everything directly or indirectly connected with the state: against the nobility, the bureaucracy, the clergy, the traders, and the parasitic kulaks. We must unite with the adventurous tribes of brigands, who are the only genuine revolutionaries in Russia.

26. To weld the people into one single unconquerable and all-destructive force – this is our aim, our conspiracy, and our task.

Eyewitness to Camerone

A contemporary account of the Battle of Camerone, 30 April 1863, where the French Foreign Legion earned its reputation for determination and valour in the face of overwhelming odds written in 1866 by the popular French novelist Louis Noir, himself a veteran of campaigns in the Crimea, Italy, and North Africa:

That day we were expecting delivery of a considerable amount of money: roughly three million francs. Until Palo Verde, we had not met a single Juarist: Captain Danjou called a halt and instructed his staff to prepare the coffee. Dawn was starting to break.

Soon the fires were burning, the soldiers sat around their pots preparing their morning coffee; each one warmed himself as he broke his biscuit into his little mess tin. They chattered happily, huddling close to the fire for the breeze was cool.

Suddenly, the cry went up: to arms! In an instant everyone was on their feet, the boiling coffee knocked over, bags buckled, and the company was in battle formation. Six hundred cavalrymen poured out of the Palo Verde streets, before which we had made camp. The situation was serious. Our handful of men had ten leagues to cover, under fire and facing repeated charges from a cavalry ten times our number; the company took up a defensive position, and the two sides observed each other.

The Juarists manoeuvred their troops in order to advance on our small company, but the legionaries threw themselves into the undergrowth to the right of the road. Putting up a covering rearguard of several skilled skirmishers, they beat a retreat through nearby fields.

Milan leader of the Juarists sought in vain to go after the company; their horses crashed into the bushes which our infantrymen were able to slip round easily. Moreover the volleys fired by our shooters found their mark amongst the enemy, and we watched them disappear, clearly intent on cutting off our retreat further down the line. The French column advanced unmolested on to Tamasone today Camarón de Tejeda. Milan appeared to our right just as we reached the houses.

Captain Danjou, hoping to intimidate the enemy and extricate the company from the situation with an audacious move, marched on the guerrillas. Unfortunately, the Juarists were battle-hardened warriors: first they withdrew, drawing the French troops out from the buildings; once they had decided that the distance between our column and the houses was sufficient, the performed an about-turn, enveloping the company, cutting of any retreat, and descending on our troops with savage cries.

Our legionaries coolly formed a circle; the guerrillas were met by heavy and well-aimed fire. They stopped twenty paces from the bayonets. Milan sought to break the circle with his elite group but the horses, their muzzles stung [by the bayonets, reared up and threw their riders. The squadrons withdrew.

Captain Danjou took advantage of this first success to lead his column up an embankment which dominated the road; then he marched on the village, scattering and driving away the disorganised squads that lined the streets and barred his route. Thus he reached a farm of sorts. Imagine a perfectly square courtyard, each side sixty-three metres in length, with a wall along three sides and a building forming the fourth. The company entered by the building’s main door and took possession of it; Milan, joined by one hundred men whom he had rallied to his side and ordered to dismount, arrived at the same time and entered the farm by the small door in the far right-wing.

Fortunately, the courtyard could only be reached from this wing by a window, whilst the section we had occupied had two exits onto this courtyard; whilst we were able to get down to the courtyard, the enemy found it impossible. Our soldiers split up and took up position on each side, ready to defend them; some climbed onto the roof.

As if by tacit agreement, a cease fire had reigned during these preparations, each soldier concerning himself with taking up position.

The enemy left his best shots at the window of the only room in their wing that offered a view of the courtyard. These men were charged with decimating the defenders at the doors. But these latter directed a volley so true and so sustained against this window that the Juarists dared not show themselves, choosing instead to fire aimlessly from inside the room.

The space being defended was so large that the assailants could scale the poorly guarded walls with ease. From there they unloaded their weapons upon us. We ran to them and drove them away, but they reappeared elsewhere. There were soon French wounded and dead.

Captain Danjou was killed at almost the very beginning. Second Lieutenant Villain took over command. Until midday Milan’s men were kept at a distance; despite their massive numerical superiority, they dared not launch an assault.

Suddenly the drumbeat struck up; the legionaries thought a relief force had arrived. They watched as nearly three enemy battalions poured into the streets around the farm. Yet the besieged did not give in, and they saluted in ironic fashion the arrival of enemy reinforcements with defiant huzzahs.

The Juarists, stung by the insolent cries of our countrymen, fell on the farm. They received a volley at twenty paces, then again at ten, after which they stopped, spun around and fled. Fifty bodies covered the ground. Despite these failures, Milan persevered, restored courage to his infantry, and reignited their spark. Two breaches were hacked open: one in a courtyard wall, the other enlarging the window of the room occupied by the Juarists.

They now began to rain fire down on us from these two openings. The company held strong, but after three hours it had lost its lieutenant and two thirds of its men.

Milan finally decided that the hour had come to put an end to [things]. He formed his battalions into columns, but the infantry refused to advance. The bayonets belonging to the few remaining survivors gleamed through the breaches and the Juarists dreaded the terrible weapons wielded in our hands.

Milan had bundles of straw piled up in front of the farm and set fire to them. The smoke blinded us, and our firing became uncertain. We lost another ten or so men. The enemy colonel, who knew we were in dire straits, tried to intimidate us. He counted out his men to us and offered quarter. M. Maudet, a volunteer who had signed up as an amateur reconnaissance officer, replied by flying a black flag made from a strip of tunic.*

*(a black flag indicated that quarter would neither be given nor accepted).

Milan then ordered his troops to march in front of the breaches, showing them the exterminated company, the wounded and dead that lay strewn about the courtyard, and the few French survivors exhausted by the heat, hunger, fatigue and thirst. He harangued his companies, called on the bravest to take up the column heads, ordered his dismounted cavalrymen to lead his hesitant infantrymen, before finally placing himself at the front.

The legionaries used up their last cartridges and repelled the first column with their melee weapons. But the walls were attacked from all angles, and in the hand-to-hand fighting [that followed], almost all of the legionaries perished. M. Maudet and seven men hastened to a shed and barricaded themselves inside. For ten minutes, this squad held the enemy forces at bay… Finally the last cartridge had been fired. M. Maudet and his men demolished the barricades and, with bayonets affixed, fell upon the troops in the courtyard. They were met by a most fearsome volley and were finished off with sabre blows. One soldier received twenty-eight bullets. The last to fall was M. Maudet, mortally wounded.

Enoch Powell: Rivers of Blood Speech Full Text

20 April 1968, Midland Hotel, Birmingham

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.
Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: “If only,” they love to think, “if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.”

Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

At all events, the discussion of future grave, but with effort, now avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries.

After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: “If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country.” I made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn’t last forever; but he took no notice, and continued: “I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?

The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children.

I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else. What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking – not throughout Great Britain, perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimised lie several parliaments ahead.

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: “How can its dimensions be reduced?” Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.

It almost passes belief that at this moment 20 or 30 additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week – and that means 15 or 20 additional families a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen.

Let no one suppose that the flow of dependants will automatically tail off. On the contrary, even at the present admission rate of only 5,000 a year by voucher, there is sufficient for a further 25,000 dependants per annum ad infinitum, without taking into account the huge reservoir of existing relations in this country – and I am making no allowance at all for fraudulent entry. In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay.

I stress the words “for settlement.” This has nothing to do with the entry of Commonwealth citizens, any more than of aliens, into this country, for the purposes of study or of improving their qualifications, like (for instance) the Commonwealth doctors who, to the advantage of their own countries, have enabled our hospital service to be expanded faster than would otherwise have been possible. They are not, and never have been, immigrants.

I turn to re-emigration. If all immigration ended tomorrow, the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective size of this element in the population would still leave the basic character of the national danger unaffected. This can only be tackled while a considerable proportion of the total still comprises persons who entered this country during the last ten years or so.

Hence the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party’s policy: the encouragement of re-emigration.

Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with generous assistance, would choose either to return to their countries of origin or to go to other countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills they represent.
Nobody knows, because no such policy has yet been attempted. I can only say that, even at present, immigrants in my own constituency from time to time come to me, asking if I can find them assistance to return home. If such a policy were adopted and pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter the prospects.

The third element of the Conservative Party’s policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority.
As Mr Heath has put it we will have no “first-class citizens” and “second-class citizens.” This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendent should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it “against discrimination”, whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong.

The discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and of resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming.

This is why to enact legislation of the kind before parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match on to gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said about those who propose and support it is that they know not what they do.

Nothing is more misleading than comparison between the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American Negro. The Negro population of the United States, which was already in existence before the United States became a nation, started literally as slaves and were later given the franchise and other rights of citizenship, to the exercise of which they have only gradually and still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which knew no discrimination between one citizen and another, and he entered instantly into the possession of the rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment under the National Health Service.
Whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration, but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different from another’s.

But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

The hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received when I last spoke on this subject two or three months ago, there was one striking feature which was largely new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational and often well-educated letter, who believed that they had to omit their address because it was dangerous to have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they would risk penalties or reprisals if they were known to have done so. The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing among ordinary English people in the areas of the country which are affected is something that those without direct experience can hardly imagine.

I am going to allow just one of those hundreds of people to speak for me:

“Eight years ago in a respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner) lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked hard and did well, paid off her mortgage and began to put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.

“The day after the last one left, she was awakened at 7am by two Negroes who wanted to use her ‘phone to contact their employer. When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but she always refused. Her little store of money went, and after paying rates, she has less than £2 per week. “She went to apply for a rate reduction and was seen by a young girl, who on hearing she had a seven-roomed house, suggested she should let part of it. When she said the only people she could get were Negroes, the girl said, “Racial prejudice won’t get you anywhere in this country.” So she went home.

“The telephone is her lifeline. Her family pay the bill, and help her out as best they can. Immigrants have offered to buy her house – at a price which the prospective landlord would be able to recover from his tenants in weeks, or at most a few months. She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. “Racialist,” they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed, this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And is she so wrong? I begin to wonder.”

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word “integration.” To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members.

Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of colour, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants who have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.

But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population – that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly. The words I am about to use, verbatim as they appeared in the local press on 17 February, are not mine, but those of a Labour Member of Parliament who is a minister in the present government:

‘The Sikh communities’ campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker; whether practised by one colour or another it is to be strongly condemned.’
All credit to John Stonehouse for having had the insight to perceive that, and the courage to say it.

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.

Pericles Funeral Oration

Considered by many to be the first great recorded speech in human history it is less a lament for the dead than it is a glorification of Athens, of its democracy, and of its warrior spirit.

It appears in the Second Book of Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War and as he freely admits it is not a verbatim account but a summation of its critical points intended to provide a sense of its meaning and not merely a detailed re-telling.

The Peloponnesian War (430–401 BC) between Athens and Sparta would end in abject defeat for the former, the end of Athenian democracy, and the Spartan imposed rule of the Thirty Tyrants.

The Golden Age of Athens had passed and though democracy would be restored it would be extinguished once and far all by Philip II of Macedon in 322 BC.

But none of this would have occurred to Pericles under whose leadership Athens had become a trading Empire of boundless ambition and advanced political thinking when he gave his oration just a year into the war.

It was customary for Athens to honour its war dead in a ceremony where the better preserved corpses of the slain would be lain out to receive offerings for the repose of their souls before a procession to the burial ground at Karameikas where a leading Athenian politician would address the mourners.

A war with obscurantist Sparta, the eternal enemy of thought and deed posed a serious threat to all that Athens was and desired to be so Pericles, the ‘First Citizen,’ would deliver the oration himself stressing at every opportunity the true value of Athens, contrasting light with darkness, honour with dishonour, and the spirit of freedom with that of oppression.

But Pericles would not live to see the outcome of good versus evil, nor the demise of the democratic principle he so cherished and defended with such eloquence.

He died in 429 BC, a hero to the Athenians and the Ages.

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Many of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honour should be given at their burial to the dead who have fallen on the field of battle. But I should have preferred that, when men’s deeds have been brave, they should be honoured in deed only, and with such an honour as this public funeral, which you are now witnessing. Then the reputation of many would not have been imperilled on the eloquence or want of eloquence of one, and their virtues believed or not as he spoke well or ill. For it is difficult to say neither too little nor too much; and even moderation is apt not to give the impression of truthfulness. The friend of the dead who knows the facts is likely to think that the words of the speaker fall short of his knowledge and of his wishes; another who is not so well informed, when he hears of anything which surpasses his own powers, will be envious and will suspect exaggeration. Mankind are tolerant of the praises of others so long as each hearer thinks that he can do as well or nearly as well himself, but, when the speaker rises above him, jealousy is aroused and he begins to be incredulous. However, since our ancestors have set the seal of their approval upon the practice, I must obey, and to the utmost of my power shall endeavour to satisfy the wishes and beliefs of all who hear me.

I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and seemly when we are lamenting the dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There has never been a time when they did not inhabit this land, which by their valour they will have handed down from generation to generation, and we have received from them a Free State. But if they were worthy of praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to us their sons this great empire. And we ourselves assembled here today, who are still most of us in the vigour of life, have carried the work of improvement further, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war. Of the military exploits by which our various possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic or Barbarian, I will not speak; for the tale would be long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not unsuited to the occasion, and that this numerous assembly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to them.

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbours’, but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition.

There is no exclusiveness in our public life and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor are we angry with our neighbour. If he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the retribution of the general sentiment.

And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sorrow. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own.

Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof: The Lacedaemonians come into Athenian territory not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbours country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength, the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.

If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger. In doing good we are unlike others; we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving favours. Now he who confers a favour is the firmer friend, because he would rather by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting another’s generosity he will not be winning gratitude but only paying a debt. We alone do good to our neighbours not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit.

To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the state. For in the hour of trial Athens alone among her contemporaries is superior to the report of her. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day – for have we not compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valour and we have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity.

Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.

I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we are contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes can it be said as of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! I believe that a death such as theirs has been the true measure of a man’s worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valour with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the state more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honourably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word of dishonour, but on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.

Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Anyone can discourse to you forever about the advantages of a brave defence, which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonour always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise which grows not old, and the noblest of all tombs, I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. The unfortunate who has no hope of a change for the better has less reason to throw away his life than the prosperous who, if he survive, is always liable to a change for the worse, and to whom any accidental fall makes the most serious difference. To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.

Wherefore I do not now pity the parents of the dead who stand here; I would rather comfort them. You know that your dead have passed away amid manifold vicissitudes; and that they may be deemed fortunate who have gained their utmost honour, whether an honourable death like theirs, or an honourable sorrow like yours, and whose share of happiness has been so ordered that the term of their happiness is likewise the term of their life. I know how hard it is to make you feel this, when the good fortune of others will too often remind you of the gladness which once lightened your hearts. And sorrow is felt at the want of those blessings, not which a man never knew, but which were a part of his life before they were taken from him. Some of you are of an age at which they may hope to have other children, and they ought to bear their sorrow better; not only will the children who may hereafter be born make them forget their own lost ones, but the city will be doubly a gainer. She will not be left desolate, and she will be safer. For a man’s counsel cannot have equal weight or worth, when he alone has no children to risk in the general danger. To those of you who have passed their prime, I say: “Congratulate yourselves that you have been happy during the greater part of your days; remember that your life of sorrow will not last long, and be comforted by the glory of those who are gone.

For the love of honour is ever young and it is not riches as some say, but honour that is the delight of men when they are old and useless.

To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one. For all men praise the dead, and, however preeminent your virtue may be, I do not say even to approach them, and avoid living their rivals and detractors, but when a man is out of the way, the honour and goodwill which he receives is unalloyed. And, if I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men.

I have paid the required tribute, in obedience to the law, making use of such fitting words as I had. The tribute of deeds has been paid in part; for the dead have them in deeds, and it remains only that their children should be maintained at the public charge until they are grown up: this is the solid prize with which, as with a garland, Athens crowns her sons living and dead, after a struggle like theirs.

For where the rewards of virtue are greatest, there the noblest citizens are enlisted in the service of the state. And now, when you have duly lamented everyone his own dead, you may depart.

The Victoria Cross: For Valour

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration in the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces.

To be recommended for a Victoria Cross the proposed recipient must have performed deeds of exceptional valour beyond the call of duty whilst subject to enemy fire.

Of the 20 million or so men and women who have served in the Armed Forces since the medals inception 160 years ago only 1,358 have been awarded.

By late 1854, Britain was fully engaged in its first major conflict in almost 40 years against the Russians on the Crimean peninsula but despite the jingoism that had preceded it the army was to prove itself ill-prepared and worse its command structure inefficient and those charged with running it incompetent.

In an arduous and bloody campaign the dispatches arriving from sent by from correspondents such as John Howard Russell of The Times detailed a string of woes and near calamities that not only appalled the public but greatly disturbed the Queen.

Despite being poorly led, inadequately provisioned, and dying of disease in their thousands in the rat infested hospital at Scutarii or of hypothermia in their bivouacs victories were still won at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, and Balaclava.

Despite all this the troops behaviour in combat remained exemplary as highlighted in such incidences as the Thin Red Line and the Charge of the Light Brigade both deeds heralded as of the utmost heroism – surely there should be some way of acknowledging and rewarding acts that went way beyond a soldiers devotion to his Queen and Country.

Certainly Queen Victoria thought so, but a reward system that recognised neither status nor class would be controversial.

It was widely believed that an Officer led his men into battle and that the common soldier fighting under instruction was in obeying orders merely doing his duty. Also, the army fought as a collective unit and to single out any individual for particular praise would damage morale.

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But Victoria, supported by her husband Prince Albert under whose guidance the new medal was both designed and named was inaugurated by Royal Decree (Royal Sign Manual) on 29 January 1858, and backdated to cover the Crimean War.

Its creation was later endorsed by Parliament.

Cast from the bronze of enemy cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol it was intended to have no intrinsic value other than as a symbol of the nation’s gratitude with the simple inscription – For Valour.

On 26 June 1857, at a ceremony held in London’s Hyde Park, Queen Victoria awarded 62 Crimean War combat veterans with the medal that now carried her name.

Victoria Crosses Awarded – 1,538

By Nationality:

1. England 621
2. Ireland 180
3. Scotland 164
4. Australia 96
5. Canada 96
6. India 27
7. Wales 25
8. New Zealand 22
9. South Africa 21
10. Nepal (Gurkhas) 13
11. Channel Islands 11
5 United States, 3 Denmark, 2 Newfoundland, 2 German, 2 Rhodesia, 1 Belgium, Ceylon, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Virgin Islands, 58 remain uncertain.

By Service:

Royal Navy 117
Royal Artillery 65
Royal Air Force 39
Royal Medical Corps 38
Infantry, Cavalry, and other Combat Units 1,191

Awarded World War One 634
Awarded World War Two 182
Post – 1945 12

First recipient of the Victoria Cross:

Lt Charles Lucas RN from County Monaghan in Ireland who serving aboard HMS Hecla during the bombardment of the Russian fortress at Bomarsund on the Baltic coast picked up a smouldering shell about to explode and carried onto the deck before throwing it overboard where it detonated, saving a great many lives.

Youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross:

Thomas Flynn (Drummer Boy) 15 years and 3 months – on 26 November 1857 during the assault on Cawnpore in India he engaged several of the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

He died an inmate of the Workhouse in 1892.

Andrew Fitzgibbon (Stretcher-Bearer) 15 years and 3 months – on 26 August 1860 during the storming of the Taku Forts in China he repeatedly exposed himself to danger to remove wounded soldiers from the line of fire despite being severely injured himself.

Oldest Recipient:

William Raynor, Lt Bengal Army 69 years – 11 May 1857, during the Siege of Delhi along with 9 others he defended the ammunition depot against overwhelming odds. Aware that they were about to be overrun he detonated the ammunition killing a great many of the enemy but also five of the defenders.
He had expected to die in the explosion but survived.

Posthumous Awards 295

Youngest Posthumous Award:

Jack Cornwall RN 16 years and 145 days – on 31 May whilst serving aboard HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland he remained at his post manning a deck gun despite the rest of his crew having been killed. Mortally wounded he was nonetheless taken to a civilian hospital where it was hoped his mother would be able to see him before he died.

She did not arrive in time.

First Posthumous Award:

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The decision to award the Victoria Cross posthumously wasn’t made until 1907 with amongst its first recipients Lt Teignmouth Melvill and Lt Nevill Coghill who were killed at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 whilst trying to save the Regimental Colours.

A decision that remains controversial to this day.

People to receive the Victoria Cross twice:

Captain Arthur Martin-Leake (Royal Army Medical Corps) 1902 & 1914.
Captain Noel Chavasse (Royal Army Medical Corps) 1916 & 1917.
Captain Charles Upham (New Zealand Army) 1941 & 1942.

4 pairs of brothers have won the Victoria Cross.

Most Victoria Crosses awarded on a single day:

24 – Second Relief of Lucknow, 16 November 1857.

Most Victoria Crosses awarded to a particular Unit on a single day.

7 – B Company, 24th Regiment of Foot, South Wales Borderers/Warwickshire Regiment, Defence of Rorke’s Drift 22/23, January 1879.

Eleven were awarded in total.

Some Recipients:

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Lt John Rouse Merriott Chard, Officer Commanding, Mission Station, Rorke’s Drift

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Squadron-Leader Guy Gibson, Commander of Operation Chastise, the Dambuster Raid.

His Citation Read:

Wing Commander Gibson personally made the initial attack on the Moehne dam. Descending to within a few feet of the water and taking the full brunt of the antiaircraft defences, he delivered his attack with great accuracy.
Afterwards he circled very low for 30 minutes, drawing the enemy fire on himself in order to leave as free a run as possible to the following aircraft which were attacking the dam in turn.
Wing Commander Gibson then led the remainder of his force to the Eder dam where, with complete disregard for his own safety, he repeated his tactics and once more drew on himself the enemy fire so that the attack could be successfully developed.

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Captain Edward Fegen

His Citation Read:

On the 5th of November, 1940, in heavy seas, Captain Fegen, in His Majesty’s Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Bay, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen. Sighting a powerful German warship he at once drew clear of the Convoy, made straight for the Enemy, and brought his ship between the Raider and her prey, so that they might scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour the Jervis Bay held the German’s fire. So she went down: but of the Merchantmen all but four or five were saved.

somme capt lj green x

Captain James Leslie Green, Royal Army Medical Corps

He was killed on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme.

His citation read:

Although himself wounded, he went to the assistance of an officer who had been wounded and was hung up on the enemy’s wire entanglements, and succeeded in dragging him to a shell hole, where he dressed his wounds, notwithstanding that bombs and rifle grenades were thrown at him the whole time. Captain Green then endeavoured to bring the wounded officer into safe cover, and had nearly succeeded in doing so when he himself was killed.

On 26 February 2015, the Victoria Cross was awarded to Lance-Corporal Joshua Leakey of the Parachute Regiment ‘For Valour’ during service in Afghanistan.

The Declaration of Arbroath

Written on behalf of the Barons and the Community of the Realm of Scotland the Declaration of Arbroath written in Latin and issued on 6 April 1320 was sent to Pope John XXII seeking the recognition of Scottish independence following their victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn six years earlier:

To the most Holy Father and Lord in Christ, the Lord John, by divine providence Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman and Universal Church, his humble and devout sons Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David, Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith, guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry St Clair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick Graham, John Fenton, William Abernethy, David Wemyss, William Mushet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Mowat, Alan Murray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald Cheyne, Alexander Seton, Andrew Leslie, and Alexander Straiton, and the other barons and freeholders and the whole community of the realm of Scotland send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of his blessed feet.

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner. The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles — by calling, though second or third in rank — the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.

The Most Holy Fathers your predecessors gave careful heed to these things and bestowed many favours and numerous privileges on this same kingdom and people, as being the special charge of the Blessed Peter’s brother. Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy. The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Therefore it is, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beseech your Holiness with our most earnest prayers and suppliant hearts, inasmuch as you will in your sincerity and goodness consider all this, that, since with Him Whose vice-gerent on earth you are there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman, you will look with the eyes of a father on the troubles and privation brought by the English upon us and upon the Church of God. May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him since England used once to be enough for seven kings or more, to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own.

We are sincerely willing to do anything for him, having regard to our condition, that we can, to win peace for ourselves. This truly concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the savagery of the heathen raging against the Christians, as the sins of Christians have indeed deserved, and the frontiers of Christendom being pressed inward every day; and how much it will tarnish your Holiness’s memory if (which God forbid) the Church suffers eclipse or scandal in any branch of it during your time, you must perceive. Then rouse the Christian princes who for false reasons pretend that they cannot go to help of the Holy Land because of wars they have on hand with their neighbours. The real reason that prevents them is that in making war on their smaller neighbours they find quicker profit and weaker resistance. But how cheerfully our Lord the King and we too would go there if the King of the English would leave us in peace, He from Whom nothing is hidden well knows; and we profess and declare it to you as the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom. But if your Holiness puts too much faith in the tales the English tell and will not give sincere belief to all this, nor refrain from favouring them to our prejudice, then the slaughter of bodies, the perdition of souls, and all the other misfortunes that will follow, inflicted by them on us and by us on them, will, we believe, be surely laid by the Most High to your charge.

To conclude, we are and shall ever be, as far as duty calls us, ready to do your will in all things, as obedient sons to you as His Vicar; and to Him as the Supreme King and Judge we commit the maintenance of our cause, casting our cares upon Him and firmly trusting that He will inspire us with courage and bring our enemies to nought. May the Most High preserve you to his Holy Church in holiness and health and grant you length of days.

Given at the monastery of Arbroath in Scotland on the sixth day of the month of April in the year of grace thirteen hundred and twenty and the fifteenth year of the reign of our King aforesaid.

Endorsed: Letter directed to our Lord the Supreme Pontiff by the community of Scotland.