Mrs Lilian Broadbridge Returns

Well, I’m literally over the moon! Nirmal (we’re on first name terms!) says that he was so impressed by my political vision and the short shrift I gave to those feminist sacred cows, that he wants more from me. Rather than everything being politics, politics, politics (reminds me of the rather rude “Boobies, boobies, boobies,” I know it’s trashy but I did so enjoy Valley of the Dolls!), I thought this month things should take a more intellectual turn. I also know that Doctor Mark would approve.

And so, without much further ado, here is my 5 pence, I won’t say 5 new pence or heaven forbid – cents – on the worlds of art and music. And as there are probably more “petrol heads” reading this magazine than they would ever admit, I thought I’d add my perspective on cars.

It’s just possible that some readers who haven’t had the privilege of living in Radlett during the time I was in my true prime there (from the 1950s to the 1980s) may not know a few of the names I drop, so I’ve asked Doctor Mark to supply a brief glossary. Enjoy!

Mark Stocker: Sigh, how much am I paid? But anything for a quiet life, so here goes:

Sir William Russell Flint – slightly risqué British early 20th century watercolour painter of nudes and landscapes.

Rowland Hilder – hugely popular mid-20th century British landscape painter

Pietro Annigoni – kitsch, skilled and popular Italian 20th century painter, famous for portraits of the Queen. No known ballerina works, but never underestimate Mrs Broadbridge’s fertile imagination.

Matt Monro – British later 20th century singer, normally in the ‘lounge’ genre. Outstanding vibrato. Fond of golf, and alas, the bottle. Died too young.

Semprini – mid 20th century pianist, composer and conductor. Despite the name, British.

Mantovani – British orchestra leader, and with his pal Semprini, purveyors of popular dance music. Unlike Semprini, totally Italian, but bless him, says Mrs Broadbridge, he died in Tunbridge Wells!

Sir Jimmy Young – prominent later 20th century British radio host, formerly a hit parade crooner. Marginally more trendy than Manto and Semps,but not much.

Austin Allegro, Austin Maxi and Ferrari Dino – three kinds of cars, the first two outstanding British engineering of the late 60s/early 70s, the third foreign rubbish, though beloved of the utterly vulgar Mark Broadbridge.


Mrs Broadbridge On Gay Lib

It’s in my name and it’s in my character – Broadbridge and broad-minded. As a lifelong Tory you’d probably think I would be very intolerant about men loving other men, but though it’s wrong, I can understand it a bit and sympathise quite a lot. Certainly it’s unnatural – a man and a woman should love each other, marry and have children – that’s the normal run of things and god save us if it was anything else though sometimes these days you do honestly wonder.

That reminds me of a very funny joke I heard the other day, I think it was that clever young man David Frost. His friend told Mr Frost he was emigrating. Why? Homosexuality. But surely you’re not one of those people? No, of course not, but that’s the whole problem. First it was a capital offence, then it was corporal, then you’d simply be fined, and now it’s legal. I’m leaving before it becomes compulsory!

Seriously, I think there’s a good case for being true to one’s innermost feelings, and I don’t think any amount of Jesus can cure them. And let’s face it, there are some pretty dreadful women around, so sometimes I hardly blame them! It’s unnatural, yes, but homosexuals are human, they have thoughts and feelings, and Barry, my hairdresser, even seems to know my thoughts and feelings better than me. Lovely man.

I wanted him and his friend, Clint, to come to tea but Leslie wouldn’t have it. “Those homos, surely not? Whatever has come over you, Lilian?” Well, I was cross and said “You’re a homo too!” He got very angry but I quickly added “Homo sapiens! And I’m a Les-bian, hahaha!” He did manage a wan smile, and nothing came of it. Hate the sin, I say, though sometimes I am really quite fascinated about exactly who does what to whom, when and where (I have a curious mind, you may have noticed), but love the sinner.

Oh, talking of all that, the American lady down the road whose husband Bill is a big shot in Handley Page, Cleo, Miss San Diego 1920 she was I’ll have you know, always leaves very particular orders to our milkman – I think she must fancy him or something. Well, the other day I took a little peep at one of her notes by the empty bottles and she’d written this: ‘2 homos’ [laughs uproariously].

Mrs B On The Royals, c. 1980

I wish our Charlie Boy would hurry up and get married and settled. It’s getting ridiculous, everybody bar him can see that. He needs a good woman to talk to him, just as I do to Leslie, rather than all that talking he does to oak trees or some elderly Highland stag he’s hunting. You won’t get much sense out of them. I do like him but he can be a bit daft at times, unlike his father, who I love and admire to bits.

The Queen is a very, very fine woman, my idea of a perfect Englishwoman, don’t misunderstand me. But she’s not a patch on that terrific, witty, intelligent and oh so handsome husband of hers. Honestly, Philip is like a Greek god – well, he is Greek after all – and I can just picture him on Mount Olympus where the gods feast on Ambrosia – good old English creamed rice pudding!

I know I should bone up on the British constitution before I speak my mind, but I’ve got this idea. Tell me, just why is it that the Duke of Windsor, who cosied up to the Nazis and had that horrid, skinny, greedy American woman Mrs Simpson telling him what to do all the time, why was he able to abdicate perfectly easily whereas they can’t make Philip our king? Couldn’t they simply swap their positions and have the Queen as his consort? It’s degrading for a fine man like Philip to always be following two steps back, downright silly, and I take my hat off to him for never complaining. And if they swapped jobs, she’d have much more time to spend with her beloved horses, so it would be a win-win situation!

She may be a rich woman but she must be an ever so lonely one, our Queen. Like Mrs Thatcher, it’s an isolated situation she’s in and it really must get to her sometimes, despite her lovely husband and the good old Queen Mum. Margaret and her playboys wouldn’t help much though, and I’m none too keen on that rather calculating and wilful Princess Anne either.

All this made me think about the Queen having those corgis around her. On the face of it, it’s a puzzle – a very fine woman indeed but a breed of dog I don’t care for at all. But then it all made sense. Corgis love their owners and hate everybody else – probably poor old Philip too [giggles]. She though gets unquestioning love from those corgis and they help keep the horrible pappa – what’s that Italian word for them? Papa…papageno? No, paparazzi – the corgis keep those intrusive papa… bastards (sorry) away. I always wanted an apricot poodle myself, but it was a rare moment when Leslie put his foot down: ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle. The Broadbridge home is not a poodle parlour!’ I was cross at the time but secretly quite impressed.

Mrs Broadbridge On Art

When I said to young Mark ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, he told me “That’s very Kantian, Mrs Broadbridge!”

Well, whatever these eggheads care to call it is fine by me, but I must be careful how I pronounce such a strange word. I can’t claim to have the sophistication or knowledge of Sir Kenneth Clark – or even Mark, but both Leslie and I certainly know what we like. The female nude is the most beautiful and time-honoured object ever known to man in art, and I admired Les’s sophistication when he bought our two signed prints by Sir William Russell Flint. He’s a knighted academician you know – and that’s what I always say to anyone who calls them ‘sexy’ – a bit embarrassing but I have to laugh!

William Russell Flint, Jemima. Leslie Broadbridge’s favourite artist.

To me, the more accurate and realistic the art is, the more impressive I find it. Abstract art does nothing, nothing to me: it’s 99.9% pretentiousness. I know a bit of Cockney rhyming slang from the telly and have a guess what rhymes with a load of Jackson Pollocks [prolonged giggling]. As for Picasso, I feel frankly sorry for him. I know he’s rich and has got all those silly girlfriends one third his age and is always swanning around in the South of France, but he lost his way badly with all that cubed rubbish after painting those lovely, very sad circus folk. What went wrong, I ask?

Henry Moore, well, he makes me think of one of my favourite hymns but not in a flattering way: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’! [giggles] Back to the art that we have in our humble abode. We’re a cut above the folk who are satisfied with reproductions everywhere, though they are fine for the spare bedrooms and the hallway. I’m a generous supporter of Radlett Art Society, and I have a number of their nice landscapes and flowers in vases – still lifes, as they call them – or is it lives?

And I’m very proud of my Rowland Hilder original signed print, it’s so wonderfully English – a corner of England ought to be in every self-respecting person’s lounge, I say. If Leslie had his way, he’d have more of the Russell Flints, but I tell him there’s a fine line between respectable art, and art that makes you blush. Broadbridges are broad-minded, but we definitely draw the line at Hawaiian girls on velvet, though I am partial to those rather magnificent stallions in sunset.

If I had a lot of money, I’d definitely get an Annigoni ballerina – that to me would be the ultimate. Oh, I must tell you, Leslie told me many years ago that he’d like one of those [rolls her eyes] tiger-skin rugs but I shut him up promptly: ‘Les, that’s vulgar! Over my dead body!’ He’s said nothing about it since. I feel I’ve hardly started so now I must tell you all about our joint passion, our pride and joy, our small but highly selective collection of Royal Doulton Toby Jugs…

Mrs Broadbridge On Music

Music has really gone to the dogs since the late 1950s, I think it must be, what with that horrid rock and roll. Music by juvenile delinquents for juvenile delinquents I call it. And though I liked the Beatles, especially Paul, and the Seekers, it all nosedived again in the late 1960s and now seems to be at the beck and call of long-haired druggie weirdos and those squalid, promiscuous festivals. Gone to pot, haha! No, thank you. Give me a good melody, any day: Oh what a beautiful morning, Three coins in the fountain, Stardust, proper songs like that – Michelle by the Beatles is rather lovely, too.

The key thing is, you could hear every word they were singing, whereas singers today don’t have a clue apart from Matt Monro – I hear he used to be a bus conductor and I can just imagine him singing out ‘Fares, please!’ to the tune of ‘Born free’ [giggles]. I wouldn’t really call myself musical – when I grew up we had a nicely polished walnut Broadwood piano, but only my elder sister Violet was allowed to touch it and I can never forgive her for that. She lives in Surrey, and is honestly rather hoity-toity. We still see each other at Christmas, so it’s quite civil really.

But I can sing in tune – this may surprise you but I’ve got quite a powerful voice, and I beat time well. I certainly don’t mind what I call light classical – In a monastery garden, the lovely Mario Lanza (Elvis tried to imitate him – ‘It’s now or never’, and the answer is obviously never!) And those wonderful bands that Les and I would dance to in our courting days – I may be a large woman but I have genuinely dainty feet, or at least I did till those horrid bunions. We would dance away to Semprini, Mantovani, the Joe Loss Orchestra and more. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Happy days – and the youth of today just don’t know what they’re missing!

Mantovani, “King of Strings.” Music the Broadbridges danced to in their salad days.

Mrs Broadbridge On Race Relations

If I may say so, and I know it’s very controversial, but Enoch really has a point. I don’t think it’s really being racist to admit we have allowed too many of these Coloured Folk into our overcrowded country and you certainly won’t catch me in that curry house, stinks to high heaven, I bet.

Though I’ll tell you this [winks conspiratorially] Leslie and I do like our sweet and sour pork – Les likes his lemon chicken actually – at the New Garden, just for a bit of a treat every now and again. And, Joshua, Joshua, our very own Negro ticket collector at the station, he’s a real gentleman, lovely smile, and honestly, he puts the likes of us to shame. It’s a complicated world, isn’t it?

Mrs Broadbridge On Cars

I’m not one to hold forth on cars, I have plenty of other interests, leave that one to the men of the family. But when Les and I buy a new one, which is every 8 to 10 years or so, of course I like to try them all out and weigh up their pros and cons. It’s got to have a tasteful colour: beige, light green and primrose all appeal to me, nice and very fashionable colours for bathrooms too these days I believe.

And I do like a firm front seat, high up, so I’m Queen of the Road, and I can see everything ahead of me but also comment if need be on Les’s driving. He’s very good, but even he has his occasional lapses, like that silly little boy playing on the drive – but that could have happened to anyone, he wasn’t badly hurt and we even gave him a box of mini Mars bars when he was in hospital. We’re kind souls!

Well, I can’t abide those seat belts or any government which forces you to wear them – they can belt up, as far as I’m concerned. I do like my simulated sheepskin seat cover, and as a little luxury, a stereo radio, so I can listen in to Jimmy Young if we’re out at the time. As for the make of the car, I still say, when all is said and done, buy British. Les drives our beige Allegro with pride and honestly, it doesn’t break down at all often. And we certainly haven’t had a mishap like Mr Curtis with his Austin Maxi when he opened the door and the handle came off in his hand [giggles] – but Theo can be rather a rough man! No, very few breakdowns, touch wood – and I think there’s still a bit of veneered wood on the dashboard, though it’s not like it used to be.

Austin Allegro, Mark II. The Broadbridge mode of transport.

Fancy cars are strictly for the younger generation. So far I’ve said nothing about my Mark. He was a bright kid and very much his own man, downright willful, really. Still is. His profession, which sounds very grand, is a purveyor of recreational medication, and he’s certainly done very well for himself there – a grander house than Violet’s in Surrey and a villa in Spain, I’ll have you know. And a new girlfriend, they’re mostly blonde, seems to pop up every other month, though some of them really do speak “common,” as they say.

But you should see his car! A bright red Ferrari Diana, I think it’s called. He might have been a bit of a rebel but, bless him, he’s proud of the Broadbridge name and he’s got this cherished number plate which he tells me cost him several thousand which reads, wait for it, BB 69. The BB is obvious, but the 69 is more puzzling, unless dear Mark was thinking of his father, who indeed turned 69 only the other day. Boys will be boys!

Mrs Broadbridge On God

Though I don’t go to church except at Christmas, I like it because it’s there, a reminder of God and a reminder of that good Vicar, the Rev Manley, that we had for so many years. He once admired my jam at the Horticultural show, second prize for damson it was. Peggy Major’s was all runny – a damson in distress [giggles]. But that new young vicar looks like Mick Jagger, if you ask me, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he plays the guitar in Christ Church – perish the thought. If I was God, I certainly wouldn’t want to be serenaded like that, even though Cliff Richard isn’t bad – and such a handsome lad with a touch of the Indian in him.

Looking at the world today, we really could do with another Jesus, or at the very least another visit from Jesus, but if he prefers to stay safe up in heaven, I wouldn’t blame him one little bit. God help us! Occasionally a churchy friend asks me about what I believe in, and whether Jesus matters to me. I tell them I’m full of admiration for him. He was obviously a very great, wonderful man who performed all these miracles, turning water into wine, turning loaves into fishes, when all poor old Uri Geller can do is bend spoons, of all the useless things!

If there is a saviour of today, I’d definitely say it was Margaret Thatcher. She really is quite someone. Almost spiritual, I reckon, there’s an aura about her whole being and that handbag is like the symbol of a great saint. Her eyes are a seer’s eyes and her mind is extraordinary. Jesus himself would look up to her! The Christians I can’t stand are those RC’s – dumb Irish mostly – always crossing themselves, and saying Father this, and Father that, while the chances are their beloved Father is sleeping with his housekeeper.

Bloody hypocrites (excuse my French) but I have to say I do rather like that Cardinal Hume – he makes you think it can’t be all bad. Basil. Nice man! But even worse are those Christians who go from door to door, spreading the word so they say, more like spreading diseases says I. The Broadbridge oak is firmly closed to them. Those Jehovahs people don’t believe in blood donations – I know I should give my blood but I’m squeamish, I would faint, but they’re always needing other people’s blood for this and that, so why in god’s name can’t they see this?

The best thing ever said to the door-knockers was by Mrs Stocker, who lives in that semi in Theobald Street. She opened the door and saw a couple of these men in dark suits. I know she’s a foreigner and her English can be faulty but you’d never believe what she said to them: “Hello, are you hormones?” They just fled, serves ’em right! I had such a laugh when she told me.

But now for a serious question, which Christians who are deeper thinkers than me are always going on about. Is there life after death? Ooh, my brain hurts is what my lovely grandson, Liam, would say to that but as I’m quite an intelligent woman, I’ll give it some thought.

No matter how good we are, when we’re dead we’re dead – we simply crumble into dust and that’s why I want a good Christian burial myself, the idea of being microwaved in a crematorium is dreadful – and you should hear the cheap recorded music they play there these days – “Come on baby, light my fire” was one of the songs [giggles]. But seriously, I know I’d die happy if the remains of Lilian Broadbridge become part of the soil that gives birth to a beautiful Peace rose, with a thrush perched on it, singing. Peace, perfect Peace, they should write on my gravestone.

Mrs Broadbridge On Her Nearest And Dearest

Mrs Broadbridge confessed to me the following in a lucid moment:
‘I do know I talk a fair bit about myself, but I’m considerably shyer than you think, and also, this may surprise you, I’m really quite a private person when it comes down to it. Keep your private life private is what I tell my nearest and dearest. Leslie knows that full well, and my Mark has worked that one out too in his profession.

By the way, I’ve always wanted to try one of his medications but he seems to keep the lid firmly shut on that. “No, Mrs B (that’s what he calls me, isn’t that lovely?), you cope fine on that modest dose of Valium that Dr Saunders puts you on – it helps make you the Mum you are. You won’t need that stuff I deal in, I mean purvey, honest!” Fair enough!

As for Susan, Mrs Broadbridge changes the subject, rolls her eyes, or looks the other way at the very mention of her daughter, a primary school aide in St Albans, while Roger, her son-in-law, ‘that bearded, geography teacher in a comprehensive… a bit of a drip if you ask me’, is if anything worse. Roger’s Labour Party activities are of course completely beyond the pale.

In her more compassionate moments, Mrs Broadbridge realises she’s being a little tough on Susan and at one point even briefly dabbed her primrose Kleenex when she told me this:

‘Let’s face it, that well-known Broadbridge charm has somehow by-passed our Susan. And she’s rather a plain girl with it. But she means well, I know that in my heart of hearts. And she’s flesh and blood, though she’s now Susan Jones, and you can’t take that away from her.

Her daughter Amy [shudders] does take after her mother, but I do remember her birthdays and she always gets a little something from Les and me at Christmas. She really needs to get her adenoids seen to. But Liam, Liam – the young scamp! I’d cross Tyke’s Water, I’d fight Hitler’s war for him.

That reminds me, I must go down the village to check at the pet shop when that ferret will be ready for him. Repulsive creature (the ferret I mean, of course!) but I’d love to see his face when he opens the box.

Talking of ferrets, I was watching Sir Kenneth Clark on da Vinci the other day and he was holding forth, as Sir Kenneth does with such style, about this portrait in communist Poland of a lovely blonde aristocratic girl which he called “Lady with an Ermine.” Well, these arty people really don’t have a clue – it’s obviously a ferret; my Fowler ancestors were good North Country people, and back in the day the menfolk, when they were in their cups, were known to stuff a live ferret down their mates’ trousers! I got that from Granny Fowler when I was a little girl and it all makes sense when I see my Liam and Mark!’

To confirm the above, and though no eavesdropper, this author was passing by the Broadbridge household just the other day and noticed Susan’s Ford Anglia parked there. The oak front door had been left inadvertently open, no doubt by her. Crouching down low beside the ivied wall, he was an unwitting witness to the somewhat one-sided conversation that follows. Clearly, Susan had been momentarily careless…

‘Don’t call me Mum, why do I have to tell you this? I never call you Sue though you say you wouldn’t mind. Call me Mother, or even, dammit, Mrs Broadbridge, if that won’t suit you. As for those flowers you gave me, you should know that reds and pinks shouldn’t be mixed like that and anyway, Leslie would tell you we’ve got quite enough Michaelmas daisies in our garden. But I suppose it was a kind thought. Now, here’s a shopping list of special things we can’t get down the village to get me in St Albans because the Allegro is in with the mechanics for the next few days. Normally I wouldn’t be imposing on you like this, and I’m sure you know that too. Though I’ve got one of those free passes they seem to dole out willy-nilly, I simply can’t abide those buses which never come, and when they do, they always seem to be full of silly pensioners!”

“Yes, Mother, and I’ll pay of course!”

“No, Susan, I know you mean well but I have my Mother’s Pride, and I don’t mean the bread. Here’s a £10 note and don’t lose your change, though it was your brother who’d always do that, bless him! Why not let our Liam keep the change, he could get himself a couple of those… what do they call them… transformers?”

“Okay, Mother.”

I resolved to linger no longer, but I noticed Susan grinning bravely, knowing that Mrs Broadbridge’s unquestioning love of one of her two grandchildren was something to hold on to, and no doubt resolving to split the change between Liam and Amy.

More Politics With Mrs Broadbridge

Young Mark, our near neighbour who’s a rising university star, tells me he’s a liberal. A man of intelligence and culture (you should hear him talking about art, mark my words, he’ll be the new Kenneth Clark before you can say palette knife!) – but – and it’s a big but, I think his brain must have turned into mush when it comes to politics.

I have words for him: wishy-washy, flip-flop, wet behind the ears and more. He’s so interested in what the person he’s supposed to be arguing with him says, half the time he ends up agreeing with them, though occasionally he can show sense and agrees with me! But that doesn’t stop him coming up with daft sayings every now and then like “A lot of crime is a cry for help. It’s not the criminals, it’s society that’s to blame!” [puts on a high pitched, feminine voice]. One of those bleeding-heart do-gooders who live in cloud cuckoo land is our Dr Mark.

Honestly, you need the intelligence of a five-year-old to know right from wrong and all those Cambridge degrees must have turned him a bit soft in the head. I say, let the punishment fit the crime – the Bible was on to a good thing when it said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

The other day, would you believe it, my bright little spark Liam bit poor Mr Van Noorden, the dentist! Well, he got his comeuppance alright when Mr Van Noorden went on to remove two of his teeth. That’ll learn him, as they say. ‘And count yourself lucky I don’t tie them to the door and slam it!’ he told him. Liam was quiet that whole evening Susan tells me, which must be a first. I reckon a bit of wisdom (not a wisdom tooth, he’s too young for that!) had sunk in.

Now back to politics: though I’m a true blue Tory, I don’t welcome all the kowtowing they do to those Brussels folk in the Common Market. It might benefit our trade but it certainly doesn’t benefit the cost of living. After decimalisation – they decimated us, as I tell people, there’s going to be metrication, and if that isn’t enough, fluoride in the water supply, all by order of Brussels!

I really don’t care much for those Continentals; at least all those coloured folk, well the older ones holding down jobs at least, do love and respect our Queen. While I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting we should have another war with the Jerries (though I loved wartime, I have to say), I’m very wary of them all the same. They need to remember that the three most important dates in German history are 1918, 1945 and (after extra time), 1966.

Those effete French aren’t much better: just imagine what it would be like on the buses and trains when we’re swamped with them and they’re breathing garlic at you. Their cooking is ever so la-di-da – cooking for poofs I call it – but the meat is just gristle and the way they disguise it with any amount of subtle sauces would never fool me. Chances are it’s rabbit or horsemeat – and they even ate cats and rats when they fought with the Germans a century ago! What with our problems with the coloureds, who wants a swarm of continentals on top of that?

Yet I do admit I have a soft spot for Italians, their men are ever so handsome in those tailored jackets and tight trousers (I can’t for a moment imagine my Leslie in a pair of them, he’d do the splits in seconds!). And to a man, those Italians know how to treat a lady, they have real charm. I’ve been to the Costa del Sol a couple of times and lovely and warm it is too (and getting all tiddly on far too much sherry and paella, yum yum!) but I would love a romantic holiday in Venice. I’d get a season ticket for those gondolas, and would look up with delight at the charming pilot who, while he’s steering me to the Doge’s Palace would be serenading me, just me, with “O sole mio!”

Back to politics. No wishy-washy liberals for me, and no stinking socialists taxing Leslie and me out of existence, and caving into striking miners, giving us power cuts and all those foul-mouthed trade union leaders with their Yorkshire and Scottish accents – at least you can’t understand a word the Scots say! Government by the government, say I, not those pesky unions.

Quite frankly, and if only more people could see it, the Conservatives are the only party with any backbone, and what with Mrs Thatcher now in No. 10, I believe she will be the greatest thing since Churchill and will make us all proud to be British again. With any luck she may even lead us out of the Common Market! The Tories are the party of the nation – One Nation as some of them call it – the party of the Queen and the Church (and don’t get me started on those liberal clergymen); the party of the armed forces, the police, law and order, an eye for an eye, three strikes and you’re in the clink.

A couple of years ago, Lady Radley took me along with her to the Conservatives’ conference in Brighton – I wore my best hat and quite enjoyed it for a couple of hours, though those politicos did talk a bit too much for my liking. A real highlight was that handsome Michael Heseltine, ‘Tarzan’ as some of the cheeky journalists call him – well, I can tell you, I’d be his Jane any day!

Bottesford Women’s Institute, 1977. “My kind of girls, salt of the earth types, and pity any man that crosses them!” (Mrs Broadbridge).

Appendix: The Mrs Broadbridge Limericks

Mrs Broadbridge
Down the village, on each working day
Mrs Broadbridge would chatter away
On the dear price of meat,
On her bunionèd feet
And whether that vicar was gay.

Mr Broadbridge’s revenge
The bank clerk who murdered his wife
Spoke thus, before sentenced to life:
‘Such a truculent nag,
An insufferable hag,
So I went – like this – with my knife!’

Mrs Broadbridge in heaven
The food, it’s all pretty and pink!
That angel, he gave me a wink!
James Last plays all day,
Frank sings us ‘My Way’,
I’ll stay here a while, I think!


The Importance Of Being Poirot

This month, through the very kind courtesy of St. Augustine’s Press, it is a sheer thrill to present this excerpt from Jeremy Black’s latest book, The Importance of Being Poirot. Make sure to pick up a copy of this fascinating journey through England during the two world wars, and all by way of Monsieur Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s masterful creation.

Black proves himself to be a worthy history-teller because he can aptly “detect” the meaning of stories that seeks to answer the past and guide the present. His erudition runs much deeper than his ability to navigate the stores of resources available on the subject, and the reader gets a glimpse of this early on when in the introduction he proffers his own defense for writing about the importance of a Hercule Poirot.

It all makes for truly fascinating and absorbing reading. Pick up your copy right away! You will not be disappointed.

Here’s a foretaste of what lies in store…


{…} The detective novel, as classically conceived, dates from the nineteenth century, but novels in which detection plays a role have a longer genesis, as even more do stories about crime and detection. Indeed, Simon Brett’s humorous spoof ‘The Literary Antecedents of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’ begins with the Anglo-Saxon classic Beowulf (S. Brett, Crime Writers and Other ). This was set in the sixth century, although dates from between then and the tenth.

Moreover, the notion of crime had a moral component from the outset, and notably so in terms of the struggle between Good and Evil, and in the detection of the latter. Indeed, it is this detection that is the basis of the most powerful strand of detection story, because Evil disguises its purposes. It has to do so in a world and humanity made fundamentally benign and moral by God. Thus, as with the Serpent in Eden, a classic instance of malign disguise, Evil seeks to exploit weakness and, to do so, has to lie, or to challenge Good by violence.

These sinister purposes and malign acts are disclosed, at the time or subsequently, and, accordingly, in all religions and religious cultures, tales developed, as did the conventions that affected their contents, framing, and reception. So also did processes to find the truth, some, such as physical trials, extraordinarily rigorous, others, such as the understanding of oracular testament, a challenge of frequently obscure clues that offers much for those interested in Golden Age detective novels in particular. Priesthoods had special functions in discerning, confronting and overcoming Evil, and guidance accordingly, as in confessional handbooks. Campaigns against the menace and deceit of witchcraft saw such anxieties rise to murderous peaks, as in seventeenth-century Europe. This echo of the priesthood as the detector of Evil was seen in G.K. Chesterton’s homely, but clearly moral, clerical detective, Father Brown, who first appeared in print in 1910.

Drawing on the same mental world, a different form of story of detection related to the journey to Salvation, as in John Bunyan’s epic The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), as individuals had to detect snares en route. In part as a result, there was a clear overlap between writing about this world and the next, the struggle with Evil being foremost. John Buchan used the Bunyan epic in his Mr Standfast (1919), a World War I story in which a German agent in Britain is a major threat and needs uncovering and vanquishing.

The development of the novel in England in the eighteenth century saw the notion of secrecy pushed to the fore, with an opening up of such secrets being a key theme in the plot of many novels, secrets related to behaviour, as in the exposure of hypocrisy, or to origins. This could be in a comic context and to comic effect, as in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749), with the unveiling of his parentage; but there were also novels that were darker and more troubling. This style came to the fore with the Gothic novels of the late eighteenth century, notably those by (Mrs) Ann Radcliffe, especially The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797), and also Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796). These novels had elements of both the thriller and the detective novel. The fears to which they could give rise could be a source of fun, as was clearly with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817), but the popularity of Gothic fiction is instructive.

{…}

The moral framework of any society is one we need to consider when assessing literature as a whole, and fiction in particular, because in fiction it is possible to alter the story to drive home a moral lesson, a method that is not so simple when dealing with fact. Thus, we need to consider the changes in religious belief and sensibility in this period. Despite Murder in the Vicarage (1930), At Bertram’s Hotel (1965), and several other appearances, clerics do not play a major role in Christie’s novels.
Nevertheless, in Three Act Tragedy (1934), there is a positive account of Christianity from the dynamic young Egg Lytton Gore referring to a recently dead clergyman.

‘…He prepared me for confirmation and all that, and though of course a lot of that business is all bunkum, he really was rather sweet about it…. I really believe in Christianity – not like Mother does, with little books and early service, and things – but intelligently and as a matter of history. The Church is all clotted up with the Pauline tradition – in fact the Church is a mess – but Christianity itself is all right … the Babbingtons really were Christians; they didn’t poke and pry and condemn, and they were never unkind about people or things’.

Canon Prescott, in A Caribbean Mystery (1964), is positive. In a gentler age, it was possible to say that Prescott is extremely fond of children, especially small girls, without that being seen as sinister.

Moreover, even though clerics are not thick on the ground, that does not mean that religion is absent, either in terms of the lay religiosity of the characters or with reference to the role of the author. Far from it. A similar discrimination to that of Egg Lytton Gore, in favour of a true Christianity as the basis for judgment, is offered in Christie’s Appointment With Death (1938), when Sarah King observes in the symbolic setting of Jerusalem:

‘I feel that if I could sweep all this away – all the buildings and the sects and the fierce squabbling churches – that I might see Christ’s quiet figure riding into Jerusalem on a donkey – and believe in him’.

This leads Dr Gerard to reply gravely: ‘“I believe at least in one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith – commitment with a lowly place”’. He goes on to claim that ambition is responsible for most ills of the human soul, whether realised or not. Asylums are filled, he argues, with those who cannot cope with their insignificance.

In a way, Christie presents murder in the same way, and the implication throughout is that it defies the true message of Christianity, not least the acceptance of suffering and the significance of the soul. Some ghost stories, for example those of M.R. [Montague Rhodes] James (1862–1936), explored similar themes. At the close of In Search of England (1927), H.V. Morton meets a vicar who tells him:

‘We are, in this little hamlet, untouched by ideas, in spite of the wireless and the charabanc. We use words long since abandoned. My parishioners believe firmly in a physical resurrection. … We are far from the pain of cities, the complexities … We are rooted in something firmer than fashion’.

In Three Act Tragedy (1934), the disabled Mrs Milray refers to ‘“The Lord’s will”’. At the denouement, there is also a social dimension, one that Christie brings up when Sir Charles Cartwright responds to Poirot: ‘He radiated nobility and disgust. He was the aristocrat looking down at the ignoble canaille.… Hercule Poirot, the little bourgeois, looked up at the aristocrat. He spoke quietly but firmly’. Speaking truth to power, or rather to social eminence and fame, Poirot is observed as taking a moral line, both in stopping murder and also in thwarting a would-be bigamist. The dubious morals of much of the ‘smart set’ have recently been highlighted in the 2021 first volume of a projected complete edition of the diaries of ‘Chips’ Channon. Poirot is more generally against crime, in The ABC Murders comparing murder to gambling. In ‘The Chocolate Box’ (1924), Poirot’s sole professional failure, he refers to himself as being ‘“bon catholique”’.

Religion is present again in Triangle at Rhodes (1937). Poirot goes to the Mount of the Prophet where he meditates on God permitting ‘himself to fashion certain human beings’ and advises Marjorie Gold to ‘leave the island before it is too late’, a moment recalled in the closing lines when he refers to being ‘on the Mount of the Prophet. It was the only chance of averting the crime… she chose – to remain…’ Thus, Poirot as prophet, and Gold as the sinner with free-will, who has rejected, through pride, the possibility of safety, are clearly revealed, with the message underlined in case the reader has missed it. Furthermore, as another aspect of morality, Poirot is convinced that, if the wicked escape, as in the case of ‘The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge’ (1923), it is at a price. In that story, and the capitalisation is in the original, the murderers gain the huge fortune of the victim, Harrington Pace, but Nemesis overtakes them. They crash in an aircraft and Justice is satisfied. In the penultimate scene in Death on the Nile (1937), Mrs Allerton and Poirot join in thanking God that there is happiness in the world. Earlier in that novel, Poirot has referred to a parable in the Bible when chiding Linnet Ridgeway.

Reference to God is part of everyday conversation; as in Murder Is Easy (1939) when Mrs Pierce reflects on the death of her young Emma Jane: ‘“a sweet little mite she was. ‘You’ll never rear her’. That’s what they said. ‘She’s too good to live’. And it was true, sir. The Lord knows His Own”’. However, in the same novel there is bitter criticism of the pompous press magnate, Lord Whitfield, who has a great faith and trust in Providence, with enemies of the righteous (the latter a group with whom he identifies) struck down by swift divine wrath. Luke Fitzwilliam finds excessive Whitfield’s retribution on the drunken chauffeur, and Whitfield’s comparison of himself with the Prophet Elisha is obviously inappropriate. Christie is clearly with Fitzwilliam, although, in a typical case of misdirection, the proud and pompous Whitfield is not in fact the villain.

The references to religion continue. N or M? (1941) takes its title from a catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, while in Evil Under the Sun (1941), Stephen Lane, a cleric, complains that ‘“no one believes in evil”’, whereas he firmly sees it as a powerful reality that ‘“walks the earth”’. Poirot agrees with this longstanding view. In Destination Unknown (1954), the villainous impresario of evil evades justice on earth, but Jessop comments ‘“I should say he’ll be coming up before the Supreme Justice before very long”’. The link between crime and evil is thus reiterated. Very differently, the continuity of ordinary Christian society is presented as significant in A Caribbean Mystery (1964), in which Inspector Weston of the St Honoré CID notes that there are few marriages on the island, but that the children are christened.

A practising Anglican, Christie was far from alone as a detective novelist with a strong religious sensibility. Others of this type included Freeman Wills Croft, as in Antidote to Venom (1938). The detective fiction of the period presupposed a providentially governed universe that could provide meaning. This was a key aspect of the religious necessities of such fiction and of the contemporary reporting on crime. At the same time, standards were more general. Thus, the world of Sherlock Holmes required a very striking stability so that clothes, routines, and other factors had a fixed and knowable meaning. These ideas of order, epitomised in character and behaviour, were an aspect not only of particular detective novelists, such as Dorothy L. Sayers, but also of the genre as a whole and, indeed, of social norms and practices.

Christie did not restrict her morality to crime. ‘Magnolia Blossom’, a magazine story of 1925, was not a crime piece but a three-way drama of a marriage under strain and of how people react. The role of the author in terms of judgment is not of course synonymous with the life of the author. It is well-established that some of the great detective writers had somewhat rackety personal lives (Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder). Yet, that rarely stops moral grandstanding or indeed simple conformity. And so with detective fiction, much of which relates to morality, directly or by reflection, and with both the author and the reader offering moral frameworks. Indeed, in one respect, fiction is an attempt to offer guidance in a post-Providential world. In an urgently-religious age, Providence brings an instant fate to the wicked, but, by the 1920s, the religious environment was somewhat different. Judgment in life came to be seen more as a matter of human agency and agencies, and the detective was to the fore. Yet, there could be a religious aspect to the moral dimension, a perspective vividly demonstrated in J.B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls (1945), a haunting drama of discovery.

Christian morality is applied by Christie in part in terms of the newlyfashionable psychological insights and in terms of the belief in heredity Poirot mentions in ‘The King of Clubs’ (1923), and in which he follows other detectives including Holmes. These insights provide both a subject for discussion and explanation and a particular modus operandi for Christie and her detectives. This is true not only of the ‘foreign’ Poirot, but also, albeit using a different language, the very English Jane Marple, who is first introduced in ‘The Tuesday Night Club’, a thoughtful short story of December 1927. In The ABC Murders, Poirot insists that it is crucial to treat the murderer as ‘“a psychological study”’ and ‘“to get to know the murderer”’. Subsequently he adds, ‘“A madman is as logical and reasoned in his actions as a sane man – given his peculiar biased point of view”’. Cards on the Table (1936) also sees an emphasis on the psychology of the suspects, which is a theme underlined in Christie’s Foreword. A total misunderstanding, one that is all-too-typical of responses by critics, was offered by Camilla Long in a television review in the Sunday Times on 16 February 2020 in which she claimed: ‘Christie didn’t do personalities; she felt any hint of psychology could distract from the plot lines’.

So also for others. In Three Act Tragedy, Lady Mary Gore, who, in a Christie-like autobiographical touch, had fallen for ‘a certain type of man’, foolishly thinking ‘new love will reform him’, explains to Satterthwaite that:

‘Some books that I’ve read these last few years have brought a lot of comfort to me. Books on psychology. It seems to show that in many ways people can’t help themselves. A kind of kink…. It wasn’t what I was brought up to believe. I was taught that everyone knew the difference between right and wrong. But somehow – I don’t always think that is so’.

Satterthwaite adds that: ‘“Without acute mania it may nevertheless occur that certain natures lack what I should describe as braking power… in some people the idea, or obsession, holds”’. In ‘The Red Signal’ (1933), Sir Alington West, ‘the supreme authority on mental disease’, explains: ‘“suppression of one’s particular delusion has a disastrous effect very often. All suppressions are dangerous, as psychoanalysis has taught us”’.

The methodical and intelligent Superintendent Battle, who first appeared in The Secret of Chimneys (1925), acknowledges a debt to Poirot’s psychological methods in Towards Zero (1944). The language varies, but the theme is constant. In Death in the Clouds (1937), the young Jane Grey challenges the ‘“very old-fashioned idea of detectives”’ as involving disguise (as Holmes had done), as nowadays they simply think out a case psychologically.

Christie was far from alone in her interest in psychology. Thus, in The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (1929), Gladys Mitchell, who was up on Freud, introduced as her detective Mrs Beatrice Bradley, the author of A Small Handbook of Psycho-Analysis. Yet, Christie had a much more Christian feel for psychology. At the brilliant end of Crooked House (1949), where there is one of the more outstanding reveals, there is a psychoanalytic explanation in terms of ‘retarded moral sense’ and heredity, including of ‘ruthless egoism’. More bluntly, this becomes “There is often one of the litter who is ‘not quite right”’, and Christian judgment and justification are offered: ‘“I do not want the child to suffer as I believe she would suffer if called to earthly account for what she has done…. If I am wrong, God forgive me… God bless you both”’. In Hallowe’en Party (1969), Mrs Goodbody, the very pleasant local witch, or, at least, fortune-teller, is clear on the real presence of evil:

‘wherever you go, the devil’s always got some of his own. Born and bred to it … those that the devil has touched with his hand.
They’re born that way. The sons of Lucifer. They’re born so that killing don’t mean nothing to them … When they want a thing, they want it… Beautiful as angels, they can look like’.

Mrs Goodbody contrasts this with black magic: ‘“That’s nonsense, that is. That’s for people who like to dress up and do a lot of tomfoolery. Sex and all that”’. At the same time, Honoria Waynflete, in Murder is Easy, is compared to a goat which is presented as an apt symbol of evil, as also in Miles Burton’s The Secret of High Eldersham (1931). In Honoria’s case, her behaviour is discussed as an instance of the touch of insanity allegedly present in old families, and she is definitely seen as unhinged. Being a ‘“wrong ’un”’ is the problem for Roger Bassington-Ffrench in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934).

Although there was no equivalent to Doyle’s strong interest in Spiritualism, the occult plays a role with Christie, one that is understated in television treatments. ‘The Harlequin Tea Set’ (1971) very much offers the idea of the mixing of this world with a spirit world, as the dead Lily joins Harley Quin from the other world to help Mr Satterthwaite protect the living in a combination that Christie described in her autobiography as her favourite characters. So also with the protection of many ghost stories both of this period and of earlier ones, such as those of Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–73). An altogether more menacing moral framework is on offer in Christie’s The Hound of Death (1933). The occult is to the fore in this mysterious and disturbing tale of an alternative ‘Brotherhood’, but a moral retribution is delivered on the vulpine Dr Rose. The hound is very different from that of the Holmes story about the Baskervilles, while in the title-story of the collection there is a religious dimension not present in the latter.

Not black magic, but a good equivalent, can be deployed, as with the kindly nurse in Towards Zero (1940) who comes from the West Coast of Scotland where some of her family had ‘the sight’ or ‘Second Sight’. Possibly because the nurse, like Christie, can see what will occur in the novel, she tells the suicidal Angus MacWhirter that God may need him, and is proven correct.

In many respects, Christie adapts psychological views to match Christian morality. That itself may appear to be one answer, but it is not so, for on matters such as free will Christianity offers a range of explanations. As a consequence, Christie’s work can in part be seen as an aspect of debate within inter-war Christianity, including English Christianity. In A Pocket Full of Rye (1953), the Calvinistic, very elderly Miss Ramsbottom, who is committed to missionary work as the ‘“Christian spirit”’, refers to Marple as ‘“frivolous, like all Church of England people”’. Christie was Church of England. Alongside Poirot’s concern for psychoanalysis, there is Marple’s blunter focus on, and denunciation of, wickedness, one that is more to the fore than with most of the clerical detective novelists of the period such as Ronald Knox and Victor Whitechurch: they generally left their cassocks at home. In A Pocket Full of Rye, Marple remarks ‘“This is a wicked murderer, Inspector Neele, and the wicked should not go unpunished”’, and Neele replies ‘“That is an unfashionable belief nowadays. Not that I don’t agree with you”’. Christie is speaking through both of them.

Aside from wickedness, the frequency with which murderers are castigated for ‘conceit and self-confidence’, as in The ABC Murders, is instructive. In that novel, Poirot seeks to psychoanalyse and profile the murderer after his first murder:

‘In one sense we know nothing about him – in another sense we know already a good deal…. A great need to express his personality. I see him as a child possibly ignored and passed over – I see him growing up with an inward sense of inferiority – warring with a sense of injustice – I see that inner urge – to assert himself
– to focus attention on himself ever becoming stronger …’

This approach is very deliberately contrasted with what is presented as a Holmesian one; although Sherlock also relied heavily on pre-Freudian psychology. This is to a degree that not all television and film versions of Poirot stories have fully represented. The point is very much driven home in ‘The Plymouth Express’ (1923), with the emphasis for Poirot on psychology, and not ‘scene of the crime’ footmarks and cigarette-ash. Inspector Japp, in contrast, focuses in this story on finding clues along the route. Based on Lestrade, Japp was introduced in the Mysterious Affair at Styles and appeared in seven Christie novels, always alongside Poirot, finally appearing in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940); although being mentioned thereafter. In The ABC Murders, Poirot jests with Hastings:

‘The crime was committed by a man of medium height with red hair and a cast in the left eye. He limps slightly on the right foot and has a mole just below the shoulder-blade’.
… ‘For the moment I was completely taken in’.

‘You fix upon me a look of dog-like devotion and demand of me a pronouncement à la Sherlock Holmes … it is always the clue that attracts you. Alas that he did not smoke the cigarette and leave the ash, and then step in it with a shoe that has nails of a curious pattern’.

In ‘The Kidnapped Prime Minister’, Poirot, to the anger of all, refuses to leave Boulogne to search for clues to the kidnapping such as tyre marks, cigarette-ends, and fallen matches because he must focus on a logical solution, which he does successfully. Similarly, in Death on the Nile, the murderer, as Poirot notes, is not so obliging as to drop a cuff link, a cigarette end, cigar ash, a handkerchief, lipstick, or a hair slide. Instead, in a comparison that would have come naturally to Christie, Poirot compares himself to an archaeologist clearing away the extraneous matter. This involves, as he notes in Mrs McGinty’s Dead (1952), using a hunting image, starting, as it were, several birds in a covert, as if seeking to create a form of creative disruption that will lead to the revelation of the truth. The misdirections provided through, and by, possible culprits are a form of this creative disruption as well as a response to it.

In practice, Christie offers a degree of caricature, as the Holmes stories include psychological insights, but she is correct to draw attention to a contrast. And not always simply with the detective. In ‘The Market Basing Mystery’ (1923), Dr Giles tells Japp that he cannot give the time of death to an hour as ‘“those wonderful doctors in detective stories do”’.

And so also with other novelists. In J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Seven Dead (1939), Inspector Kendall, a figure of brusque intelligence and determined drive, remarks, ‘“When you don’t play the violin, or haven’t got a wooden leg, smartness is all you’ve got to fall back on”’, and says of Inspector Black: ‘“a good man. He doesn’t play the violin, either, or quote Shakespeare”’.

In a conversation in The Clocks (1963), not one of Christie’s better novels, Poirot gives Colin Lamb a long account of what he likes in ‘“criminal fiction”’. Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case (1878) is praised for ‘“period atmosphere … studied and deliberate melodrama”’ and ‘“an excellent psychological study”’ of the murderer. Poirot then moves on to Maurice Leblanc’s The Adventures of Arsene Lupin (1905–7), which he finds preposterous and unreal, but also as having vigour and humour, which is indeed the case. Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1907–8) is approved of from start to finish, not least for its logical approach. Charges that the novel is unfair are dismissed as there is truth concealed by a cunning use of words, which is very much Christie’s technique. Poirot notes that that masterpiece is now almost forgotten. The selection Christie offers in the account is scarcely insular, nor the approach xenophobic.

{…}
International malice and domestic conspiracy is an important context for some of Christie’s early work, and to this we will turn shortly. There is no but here, for categories overlapped, strands interacted, and there was no tightly defined set of parameters. Yet it is also important to see Christie in terms of the strength of a middle-brow reading public who wanted good stories and found detective fiction an established means to that end. This public was the key to the genre. At the same time, what this interest would mean in the post-war world was unclear, and authors developed their characters, plots, and styles, in the context of probing a readership that was resetting after that cataclysmic conflict.

And that probing was necessary in order to earn money, as Christie recorded making only an advance of £25 from The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and that from a half share of the series rights which were sold to The Weekly Times. Her novel, however, had introduced two stars, herself and Hercule.


The featured image shows, “Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti,” by Tamara de Lempicka; painted in 1925.

The Last Imperialist. Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense Of The British Empire

We are so very pleased to offer to our readers a first look at Bruce Gilley’s latest book, The Last Imperialist. Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire. This excerpt is made possible by the kind generosity of Regnery Publishing. Please support this important research and purchase a copy – and tell others.

Bruce Gilley is a Professor of Political Science at Portland State University. His research centers on the empire, democracy, legitimacy, global politics, as well as the comparative politics of China and Asia.


By the 1930s, most colonial governments were under pressure to set out a plan for self-government if not outright independence. India was the furthest along, and African, Asian, and Caribbean nationalists wanted to follow. Good government was losing its appeal amid the allure of selfgovernment. British socialists and communists, including Alan’s brother Emile, were calling for the empire to be handed over to the League of Nations. The Belize Independent columnist and Battlefield general Luke Kemp told his readers that they should follow the advice of Emile, “reputed to be the greatest exponent of the Marxist (communist) doctrine in England” and treat colonial rulers like his brother as temporary “aliens.” “It is the ‘great brains’ that ran this colony to the rocks. Now we ask that men we feel are honest be given a chance,” Kemp demanded. Universal suffrage was needed, because national unity would “be as strong as the political latitude granted to the entire population.” When colonial officials complained about the desultory singing of God Save the King on one occasion, Kemp riposted: “I am quite sure the English taxpayers and the Secretary of State for the colonies would be shocked at the result of a plebiscite in British Honduras as to whether a change to the Stars and Stripes would be desired.”

London had imposed direct rule on British Honduras after the 1931 hurricane to speed recovery. Alan returned the colony to partial self-rule in 1936 with the election of 5 of the 13 seats in the legislature. He gave women the vote for the first time. Even so, the number of votes cast in the 1936 election was a meager 1,300 (less than 5 percent of the adult population), compared to 1,900 in the election before direct rule. Many people had fallen below the income or property thresholds, while others simply could not be bothered to register or vote. Most of the votes, about 1,200, were cast for the two seats in Belize Town. Of the other three seats, two were acclaimed. One returned a candidate whose nomination papers had been signed by a road crew. Robert Turton, the chewing gum nationalist, won the northern chicle district by sixty-five votes to forty-four. Given Alan’s legislative experience in the Bahamas and his “great ability as a speaker,” the Belize Independent bemoaned, the government bloc in the legislature—consisting of six officials and two appointees—was “so well clothed with power that their position” was “nigh impregnable.” Alan was “a Mussolini” for the way he “swept aside” opposing views in legislative sessions.

As in the Bahamas, London argued that any attempt to loosen voting qualifications would cause a backlash from white elites fearing mob rule. Luke Kemp, for instance, wanted only blacks and Creoles to be given the vote under his “natives first” plan. The Maya would be relegated to a secondary
role while whites would be disenfranchised or even expelled. Kemp wrote that “fascism or Nazism is a superior form of government” to colonial rule “for food, shelter, and medical treatment are within the reach of citizens and it is only the small minority that suffers unjustly.” Soberanis and Kemp
appealed for “closer association” with military-ruled Guatemala despite its comparative poverty and instability. Law and order “would be so under any flag,” Kemp wrote. Just as Haiti provided a sobering reminder to citizens of the Bahamas of the dangers of popular government, Guatemala, which had thrown off the colonial “yoke” in 1821 and similarly descended into a century of chaos, did
so for British Honduras. When Alan arrived, the conditions of the working class in Guatemala were far worse than in British Honduras, and labor leaders there were simply killed by the government. For the colony’s middle classes, a populist politics that led to control by Guatemala or by a native fascist regime would spell disaster. When Guatemala mobilized troops on the border in 1938, even the Belize Independent scurried for cover: “British Honduras must ever remain a British colony.”

For Alan, demands for political advance were rooted in demands for social dignity. “The one problem at the bottom of all their troubles, and the ones for which they passionately seek a solution, is how they are to obtain from the white world that recognition of social and political equality which has, up to now, been denied them,” he would write. When the German boxer Max Schmeling defeated the black American boxer Joe Louis in the first of their two fights in 1936, Alan recalled, “The gloom among the coloured inhabitants of British Honduras was worthy of a major national disaster.” Colonialism had, for better or worse, brought “social restrictions and personal insults” to subject peoples which prevented them “from recognizing or admitting” its great benefits. “The inevitable effect of this is that the unthinking mob . . . will follow the noisy and irresponsible persons who freely express their hatred of the white man and promise the people fantastic and impossible things.” The task was to expand democracy without handing over power to demagogues. Holding ultimate power in the hands of the governor for as long as possible, Alan would later write, was critical because it “ensured that British humanitarian and liberal principles should prevail, for the benefit of the underprivileged and often illiterate classes, against the selfish policies of the members of the old Assemblies.”

Alan drove this lesson home in his reform of the Belize Town Board. Since its founding in 1912, the board had been treated as the de facto democratic legislature of the colony because of its elected majority (eight out of fourteen seats). Board members typically debated issues far outside their purview, and the board was diligently covered in the local press. But it was also dysfunctional,
constantly in turmoil over committee battles and mutual recriminations. It failed to collect most of its taxes and most of its elected members were in arrears on their own taxes. One local merchant called it “effete, dishonest, and a menace to the progress of our City.” Without consultation or explanation, Alan cut it down to five elected and five appointed members for the 1936 election.

The act by Il Duce caused outrage on the Battlefield. But locals noticed that municipal affairs were working better and that day-laborers on town projects were being paid on time. A new “Sanitary Brigade” kitted in khaki replaced the slovenly food market and street inspectors of the defunct board. In 1938, Alan suspended the board altogether pending a reorganization. He made himself chairman of an interim board and was seen on the streets inspecting clogged drains and filthy latrines. Kemp eventually admitted that “90 percent of the citizens of Belize wanted the defunct board to be abolished” and congratulated Alan on “a master step.” Alan had proven his point: when faced with a choice between good government and elected government, colonial peoples would prefer the former. Clean latrines and operable sewers might not stir the passions on the Battlefield, but they made lives better and laid the foundations for durable democracy.

True to his word, Alan restored the democratic nature of the Belize Town Board in 1939 with six elected and three nominated members. All nine were non-European, marking the first all-local and majority-elected council in the colony’s history.101 He also added one elected member to the colonial legislature in the 1939 election, replacing a nominated member, leaving the government bloc with a slim majority of just seven to six. In these ways, Alan was balancing his liberal instincts with his attention to administrative efficiency. “It is not logical,” he would write, to tell colonial subjects that “all men are equal before the law and then to deny him the equality which he claims.” Democracy was clearly desirable. On the other hand, if that “right” came at the cost of death and destruction, it would be a poor trade. Like his growing interest in racial questions, his political reforms in British Honduras presaged a growing interest in the question of when and how a colony could be brought to independence. He rejected the idea that “independence should be given forthwith to those colonials who ask for it, whatever may be their competence to govern themselves, and regardless of the consequences to the mass of the population.” There would be nothing noble about decolonization if it caused countries to implode. “It would probably save us a lot of trouble and win us the applause of the unthinking if we surrendered at once to all the demands for self-government and rid ourselves of the burden of trusteeship,” he would later comment. “But we have a duty to the people of the dependent territories and to the world at large that it would be cowardly to shirk, and we could not later escape the responsibility and the blame for the disasters that would follow if we abandoned our trust.”


The featured image shows the map of the British Empire by Walter Crane, printed in 1886.

The Compleat Mrs Lilian Broadbridge

Preamble

I grew up in Radlett, Hertfordshire, about 15 miles from London, in the same cunningly modified semi-detached late 1930s home for the first 19 years of my life, and would periodically return there, sometimes from New Zealand, for a further 19 years.

Our place was right by a bluebell wood and opposite wheat fields. Back then, Radlett was a rather smug, solidly, perhaps even slightly upper, middle-class place. Today it is dominated by footballers, plutocrats and other nouveaux riches. In my day, there were two titled people on my Horticultural Society delivery list (Dad was an avid dahlia grower) – and our quarterly bulletin was the splendidly titled, Weeder’s Digest.

The heroine of the literary amuse-bouches that follow, Mrs. Lilian Broadbridge, long gone to Jesus, lived in a detached house in the street running parallel to us, Newberries Avenue. Fortunately her back garden was one along, but within easy hailing distance – and, by Jove, her voice carried.

Were she alive today, I think she would be tickled pink by the thought of having her views on race relations and the Royal Family as well as her wider Weltanschauung committed to print (these are coming up in the months ahead)!. There’s even a thank-you letter from her to Dr Dass to that effect.

Her husband, Leslie, was a shadowy presence, whose later years were absorbed in his stamp collection, watching cricket on TV, and silently working in the garden during her lengthy absences ‘down the village’, as everyone called it.


Mrs. Broadbridge Talks Politics

Though I always vote what my Leslie votes for, for us it’s just like what Henry Ford said about cars. You can have any colour, so long as it’s true blue [laughs]. He actually said black, I know a thing or two about history, but you know what I mean. A proud, true blue Tory, that’s me, born, bred – and educated.

Mrs. Thatcher wants to protect our great grammar schools, and I can tell you that getting into Watford Grammar was a life-saver for young Les. You won’t catch me dead in a ditch voting Labour! Their aim is to make everyone, regardless of their ability and intelligence, everyone equal. That’s alright on a desert island maybe, but on our island with 55 million people on it, it’s another matter. Equality is the slippery slope to communism, mark my words. And what did we fight the War for, with Winston at the helm, if it wasn’t to keep out those nasty Nazis and their pals the Reds?

Labour wants to tax you up to the hilt, down to the final penny. Les and I have precious little to show for after the taxman cometh, even with Mrs. Thatcher, thank heaven she’s in no. 10 now. And the price of those fresh vegetables at Draper’s (you’d never catch me going to Daryll’s on the other side of Watling Street), is really shocking. Melons 50p each! Never did I ever think it would come to this.

We have to scrimp and save, Les and me. And when we drove through the council estate on our way to Watford the other day, there was a late model Rover, or even worse a Toyota (I’ll never forgive them for what they did to our lads in the War).

Where was I? Yes, a gleaming Toyota parked on just about every drive, it made me almost ashamed of our Allegro. I ask you, where does all their money come from? And you should see what they cram into their trolleys in the supermarket, honestly, all those Cola bottles, beer cans by the dozen, huge packets of crisps, it’s money no object – alright for some!

Well, talking of shopping, I’d best be going down the village again myself, Les is clean out of his pipe tobacco, he’s a very particular man is our Les, but let me tell you this, though I love watching Cilla on Blind Date and some of those young men are really handsome, I’d never, ever hope to find a better or more loving husband…

Mark interjects (no chance earlier): So he’s a real man, is he?

Mrs Broadbridge: Oh you are a one! [Dissolves into laughter].

Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, favourite reading of Leslie Broadbridge.

Mrs Broadbridge On Feminism

Those feminists are whiners and whingers. I never needed feminism and
just look at me now! As for bra-burning, well that’s even more stupid. When Leslie was courting me, he admired my endowments. Wearing a bra is part and parcel of them. Burning it would be like smashing my lovely, privately prescribed, tortoiseshell glasses, cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Germaine Greer, seen confronting Mrs. Lilian Broadbridge.

And let me tell you this. If a woman can’t influence her husband in every way, she must be some kind of a ninny. I’m quite progressive, really, and once the children are at school, I quite understand it if a woman wants to go back into the big wide world and find a job – and do very well in it. But that’s about as far as my feminism goes and if that cocky Germaine Greer ever comes anywhere near Newberries Avenue, I’ll jolly well give her a piece of my mind!


Mrs Broadbridge Says Thank You

[Ooh! I have a soft spot for handsome Indian gents, while Les is a big fan of that cunning slow bowler in the pink turban, the Venerable Bedi he calls him!]

Dear Dr Dass,
Never would I have thought that our clever young Mark, from that semi-detached in Theobald Street, would be featuring an article on the likes of us!! Truth be told, I’m really chuffed. You notice, as a literary man, how
I write it correctly, not “never would I of thought.” There lies a story! I wrote that in primary school and got a black star, my only one. My teacher said, and full of sarcasm Miss Venables was, ‘You don’t want to be one of the great unwashed!’

No I do not, and to this day I’ll have you know I enjoy two hot baths a week, complete with my lovely Yardley Lavender salts. Leslie, he does the same, and – I’ll let you into a little secret – he sings rather loudly in the bath. Lordy, I heard him bellowing out :We all live in a yellow submarine” last night, and it gave me quite a giggle.

Well, that’s more than enough of our private lives for the time being at least, but before I go, just to say many thanks indeed for publishing our boy!!

Sincerely yours and God bless,
Lilian Broadbridge (Mrs.)


The featured image shows, “Housewives’ Choice,” by Winifred Hartley; painted in 1956. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Crawford.

Saint Aebba Of Coldingham

It is regrettable that only a few facts about the life of this great abbess who was venerated all over Scotland and northern England and esteemed by the Venerable Bede are known. Now that the interest in this holy woman is increasing among the Orthodox, let us recall her biography.

St. Aebba, also known as “Ebba the Elder,” was born in about 615, in the royal family of the Kingdom of Bernicia, in northern England. Her father was King Aethelfrith, who ruled Bernicia from 593, as well as Deira (from 604) until his death in 616 (the amalgamation of these two kingdoms was later to be called Northumbria).

Among her brothers were St. Oswald the martyr, and Oswiu, kings of Northumbria. After her father had been killed at the Battle of Bawtry, St. Aebba’s mother Acha took her children to the kingdom of Dalriada, situated in the north-west of Scotland and founded by Irish Gaelic settlers. Princess Aebba was a little girl then. Meanwhile, Edwin, St. Aebba’s maternal uncle, who converted to the faith much later, assumed the Northumbrian throne. At that time, Dalriada was a stronghold of Christianity (by contrast to the largely pagan Pictland in the rest of Scotland and Northumbria in England) – and numerous spiritual and monastic centers sprang up there, the most famous being the Monastery of Iona founded by the Irish St. Columba in 563.

Under the protection of Dalriadan kings, having absorbed the Irish spiritual tradition, St. Aebba and her kinsmen were converted to Christ and baptized.

In the 630s, when her brother St. Oswald became the king of Northumbria and a champion of the Orthodox faith, St. Aebba decided to return to her homeland and help him evangelize the Northumbrians, most of whom were still pagan. In 635, on St. Oswald’s initiative the Irish St. Aidan, a former student of Iona, was sent to Northumbria and founded Lindisfarne Monastery, which became a beacon of Orthodox monasticism, culture and learning.

St. Aebba was beautiful and had suitors, but the princess chose to become the bride of Christ and took the veil in about 640. According to late tradition, she was tonsured on Lindisfarne by St. Finan, who later became the successor of St. Aidan as its abbot and bishop. No doubt, St. Aidan himself was among St. Aebba’s spiritual mentors and friends.

Well instructed in monastic life, and with the assistance of her brothers St. Oswald and Oswiu, the maiden of God in due course established her famous double monastery in Coldingham (its original name, according to St. Bede, was urbs Coludi, meaning “Colud’s fort,” and later became known as Colodaesburg), with two communities of monks and nuns who lived separately and prayed in the same church. At that time, Coldingham was part of Northumbria in England; now it is in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland.

Alas, we know little about the activity of St. Aebba as abbess, but she was noted for her wisdom, exemplary holy life and preaching that contributed to the conversion to Orthodoxy of many pagans. It is likely that in governing Coldingham, St. Aebba imitated her celebrated contemporary St. Hilda, who was abbess of Whitby in Northumbria at the same time.

Aebba’s monastery was situated some twenty-five miles north of Lindisfarne in a very austere place: Coldingham sits on the North Sea coast off south-eastern Scotland, with cold weather, heavy storms and large waves. Until recently, historians argued as to where exactly St. Aebba’s monastery was located. Some maintained that it was in what is now the village of Coldingham, and others—that it was at the Kirkhill overlooking the rocky promontory of St. Abb’s Head (named after St. Aebba) in St. Abbs village with cliffs right by the sea. The archeological excavations led by DigVentures, and carried out from 2017 to 2019, proved that her monastery was in Coldingham—exactly where the present-day Coldingham Priory stands.

This royal establishment enjoyed the influence that may be compared with Lindisfarne. Alas, that prosperity did not last long after St. Aebbe’s death.

Some monks and nuns of Coldingham neglected vigils and prayers and towards the end of her abbacy it was hard for St. Aebba to keep discipline at the monastery. That is why she would ask the great ascetic St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, an illustrious pastor and wonderworker, to visit Coldingham and instruct its inhabitants. It was during one of those visits by St. Cuthbert that his famous miracle with the otters occurred. Let us cite from Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert:

“When this holy man was acquiring renown by his virtues and miracles, Ebbe, a pious woman and handmaid of Christ, was the head of a monastery at a place called the city of Coludi, remarkable both for piety and noble birth, for she was sister of King Oswiu. She sent messengers to the man of God, entreating him to come and visit her monastery. This loving message from the handmaid of his Lord he could not treat with neglect, but, coming to the place and stopping several days there, he confirmed, by his life and conversation, the way of truth which he taught. Here, as elsewhere, he would go forth, when others were asleep, and having spent the night in watchfulness return home at the hour of morning prayer. One night, a brother of the monastery, seeing him go out alone followed him privately to see what he should do. But he when he left the monastery, went down to the sea, which flows beneath, and going into it, until the water reached his neck and arms, spent the night in praising God. When the dawn of day approached, he came out of the water, and, falling on his knees, began to pray again. Whilst he was doing this, two quadrupeds, called otters, came up from the sea, and, lying down before him on the sand, breathed upon his feet, and wiped them with their hair after which, having received his blessing, they returned to their native element. Cuthbert returned home in time to join in the accustomed hymns with the other brethren. The brother, who waited for him on the heights, was so terrified that he could hardly reach home; and early in the morning he came and fell at his feet, asking his pardon, for he did not doubt that Cuthbert was fully acquainted with all that had taken place. To whom Cuthbert replied, ‘What is the matter, my brother? What have you done? Did you follow me to see what I was about to do? I forgive you on one condition,—that you tell it to nobody before my death.’ In this he followed the example of our Lord, who, when He showed his glory to his disciples on the mountain, said, ‘See that you tell no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead.’ When the brother had assented to this condition, he gave him his blessing, and released him from all his trouble. The man concealed this miracle during St. Cuthbert’s life; but, after his death, took care to tell it to as many persons as he was able.

From the 660s on St. Aebba had considerable influence on St. Etheldreda (Audrey), the future foundress and abbess of Ely Monastery in what is now Cambridgeshire. In 672, St. Etheldreda was separated from her nominal husband, King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (670—685; Aebba’s nephew), took the veil and for some time lived at Coldingham under St. Aebba’s guidance before travelling south to the Isle of Ely.

St. Aebba communicated with other contemporary saints too. She interceded for the great missionary, bishop and builder of churches St. Wilfrid of York, who more than once was treated unfairly by royalty. In 681 the same King Ecgfrith visited St. Aebba’s Monastery with his second spouse, Ermenburga, who was struck down by an illness after the unjust imprisonment of St. Wilfrid and the theft of the holy relics brought by Wilfrid. This episode is narrated in the earliest Life of St. Wilfrid by Stephen of Ripon, an extract from which we quote below:

“In the meantime the king and queen were making their progress through the cities, fortresses, and villages with worldly pomp and daily feasts and rejoicings, in the course of which they came to the nunnery of Coldingham. The abbess, King Oswiu’s sister Aebbe, was a very wise and holy woman. At this same place the queen was possessed by a devil during the night and, as in the case of Pilate’s wife, the attacks were so severe that she was hardly expected to last till day. As dawn was breaking the abbess came to the queen and found her lying with the muscles of her limbs all contracted and screwed up. Obviously she was dying. Off went Abbess Aebbe to the king and with tears in her eyes gave her opinion of the cause of the calamity. Indeed she rounded on him. ‘I know for a fact that you ejected Wilfrid from his see for no reason. He was driven into exile and went to Rome to seek redress. Now he has returned from that see that has the same power as St Peter himself in loosing and binding. And what have you done but despised its injunctions and despoiled the bishop? Then to pile injury on injury you have had him locked away in jail. Listen, my son, to your mother’s advice. Loosen his bonds. Restore the relics your queen has taken from his neck and carried round from city to city like the ark of the Lord to her own doom. Send a messenger with them. The best plan would be to reinstate him as bishop, but if you cannot bring yourself to do this, at least let him and his friends leave the kingdom and go where they will. Do this and you will live and your queen will recover. Disobey and, as God is my witness, you shall not escape punishment.’ The king obeyed the holy matron, freed our bishop, and let him depart with his relics and friends. And the queen recovered.”

During hat time there lived a holy recluse called Adomnan (Adam) in the Coldingham community of monks under St. Ebbe (feast: January 31). He was born in Ireland, ordained hieromonk, and during his pilgrimage to Scotland remained at Coldingham. (He shouldn’t be confused with his great namesake, St. Adomnan of Iona, the author of the Life of St. Columba).

Adomnan excelled in the ascetic life, the strict observance of all monastic rules and denounced those members of the community who behaved in a disorderly way. In a vision it was revealed to him that in the future the monastery would be destroyed by fire because of “the frequent gossip and frivolity” of some of its monks and nuns. Hearing this prophecy, the negligent monastics mended their ways, but not for long. After the deaths of St. Adomnan (c. 680) and St. Aebba a disaster befell the monastery – it was destroyed by fire in 686, though rebuilt soon afterwards.

After 870, monastic life was not resumed at Coldingham for a long time. Little by little the waves washed away the original beauty of Coldingham, St. Abb’s Head and Ebchester, but no waves could ever erase the memory of the virtues of their foundress, Aebba, in people’s hearts.

In the late eleventh century, after the Norman Conquest, the relics of St. Aebba were rediscovered and in 1098 King Edgar I of Scotland (1097–1107) endowed lands for the new Roman Catholic Benedictine Coldingham Priory in honor of the Virgin Mary, St. Cuthbert and St. Aebba (later often referred to as the Priory of the Virgin Mary). Its church was consecrated in 1100, but the priory was officially established under King David I of Scotland (1124–1153). The Priory brethren consisted of monks who came from Durham. It grew into one of the largest and most flourishing in Scotland and a center of the wool trade.

Thus the veneration of St. Aebba was revived all over Scotland and across northern England. Part of St. Aebba’s relics was kept at Coldingham, and another part in Durham. Among medieval figures associated with Coldingham, let us mention Monk Reginald of Durham († c. 1190), who composed his version of the lives of St. Godric of Finchale, St. Oswald of Northumbria, and wrote an account of St. Cuthbert’s miracles and preserved a sermon of St. Aebba of Coldingham, where he may have lived for some time. The Priory also produced Geoffrey of Coldingham (+ c. 1215), its sacristan and a chronicler, who recorded the history of Durham between the 1150s and 1215 and probably composed the lives of St. Bartholomew of Farne and St. Godric of Finchale.

A true gem is kept at the British Library in London. It is the Coldingham Breviary, created in the late thirteenth century, by a monk of Durham (Coldingham Priory was a cell of Durham Monastery and later of Dunfermline Abbey) for Coldingham Priory. This beautiful manuscript in Latin and French contains the calendar of local feasts and commemorations (such as the dedication of the altars of the Archangel Michael and St. Aebba at Coldingham Priory, the consecration of the church in Coldingham, etc.), along with the texts for the feasts read during the year, and hymns and psalms to be read weekly, complete with illuminations. Among the relics once kept by the priory were a tiny piece of the True Cross and a nail with which the Savior was bound to the Cross. However, the Priory was almost wiped off the face of the earth several times over its history—for example, by King John of England in 1216, during his punitive expedition to the north after signing the Magna Carta.

Coldingham Priory was of such great renown that King James IV of Scotland included revenues from this monastery among the gifts to his wife, Queen Mary Tudor, for their wedding in 1503.

In 1560, during the Scottish Reformation, Coldingham Priory was dissolved, the relics of St. Aebba and other holy objects destroyed, and its lands passed to a local landowner. The Priory’s demolition was completed in 1650, when Oliver Cromwell besieged it and drove out some Royalists who had taken refuge inside it. Later it was extensively used as a quarry by locals. In 1852 a splendid new church was constructed in Coldingham using the materials from the Coldingham Priory ruins. This church is open to this day. It belongs to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and is called “Coldingham Priory”. Although the current church is huge, it comprises materials from only one section of the former monastery’s choir. Recently work to improve the state of the Priory ruins was carried out and theme gardens dedicated to its history were added. The remains of the original monastery of St. Aebba were unearthed beside this church in 2019. The radiocarbon analysis results showed that the fabric, materials and butchered animal bones are from the Anglo-Saxon period—between 660 and 860 A.D. Among the most impressive finds was the original ditch, or vallum, that surrounded St. Aebba’s Monastery.

Today only remains of the wall foundations, chapel ruins and a well survive from the supposed community of St. Aebba at St. Abb’s Head near Coldingham. Interestingly, no finds of any significance were made during excavations at St. Abb’s Head, as opposed to a wealth of discoveries at the Coldingham site. This indicates that there was no permanent community at St. Abb’s Head throughout its history, apart from the buildings whose ruins are mentioned in the article. Coldingham is slightly further inland, and it was logical if St. Aebba set up her main community there. As for St. Abb’s Head, the saint may have used it for quiet prayer and retreats.

The remains are concentrated on the headland called Kirkhill close to the lighthouse at St. Abb’s Head, a local landmark. The chapel was built in the Middle Ages by the neighboring Coldingham Priory to perpetuate the memory of their pre-Norman predecessors. This place was visited by many pilgrims in the late Middle Ages and miracles were worked. Thus, a girl who was blind in one eye and deaf in one ear was healed after praying at the chapel for fifteen nights.

In his work, Britain’s Holiest Places, Nick Mayhew-Smith mentions two small coves beside St. Abb’s Head; one of them was certainly used by St. Cuthbert for nocturnal prayer in the waters (the Horse Castle Bay). The other cove preserves a well chamber, which was popular among pilgrims in earlier days who came here to commemorate the local saints; another well which reportedly has water in it is close by and is dedicated to St. Aebba (this second bay is called the Well Mouth). This area offers spectacular views of the seashore, with recurring howling gales and waves crashing beneath, as in the time of St. Aebba.

The village of Ebchester in County Durham stands on the site of the Roman fort of Vindomora. It was believed that St. Aebba founded one of her monasteries here, but it was subsequently plundered by pirates and never restored. The village church is dedicated to St. Aebba and dates back to the eleventh or twelfth century, its foundations being pre-Norman. However, no traces of an earlier monastery have been found so far. In the Middle Ages this isolated and rural spot attracted many hermits and it was known as a haven for anchorites.

There is St. Aebba’s Church in Beadnell village in Northumberland, which has a stained glass window depicting Sts. Aebba and Oswald. The village sits on the North Sea coast not far from Bamburgh. The church was built as a chapel in the eighteenth century and rebuilt in the following century. Apart from this there is a narrow promontory called Ebb’s Nook on the edge of the village, where in 1853 a very ancient stone chapel was dug up. The chapel was dedicated to St. Ebba and dated back to the thirteenth century. During the latest excavations in 2012 many burials, much earlier remains and a series of earthworks were found around it, presumably of the seventh century, enabling historians to suggest that St. Ebba may have founded a hermitage/skete here and the later chapel was erected to commemorate her. Now the site is carefully preserved.

There is the Episcopalian St. Ebba’s Church in the fishing town of Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders of the Diocese of Edinburgh, built in 1887. There used to be a St. Abb’s holy well beside the famous Ayton Castle at Ayton village in the Scottish Borders.

Finally, a district, a street and a parish church in the city of Oxford are named after St. Aebba (“St. Ebbes”). Historically, it may have been the oldest parish church in this university city. Though its origins are unknown, it formed part of Eynsham Abbey in Oxfordshire in 1005, and even then it was referred to as “a very ancient church.” St. Aebba is depicted in it on an old stained glass window. According to one version, the presence of a St. Aebba’s Church so far in the south is explained by the fact that she may have accompanied her brother St. Oswald to the nearby Dorchester-on-Thames to attend the baptism of King Cynegils of Wessex by St. Birinus, the enlightener of this region. Thus this church may have been built to commemorate the holy maiden’s visit to the area. The present church was almost wholly rebuilt and enlarged in the nineteenth century, while retaining some medieval monuments, stained glass and communion plates; over its history it was connected with some outstanding figures.

Perhaps this holy princess, one of numerous seventh-century powerful early English women, should be revered on a par with her brother St. Oswald, who founded Lindisfarne Monastery, making history and enlightening the north-eastern England. Likewise, his sister, St. Aebba founded Coldingham, made history and contributed to the enlightenment of south-eastern Scotland. They truly are two stars—two of a large number—shining in the firmament of seventh-century Britain.

Holy Mother Aebba, pray to God for us!


Dmitry Lapa writes for Pravoslavie on Church history.


The featured image shows, St. Ebba in stained glass from St Ebba’s Church Beadnell, Northumberland.

Saint Augustine, First Archbishop Of Canterbury

Together with St. Gregory the Dialogist (Gregory the Great, according to the Western tradition), the Pope of Rome, St. Augustine (also Austin) is venerated as “the Apostle of the English”. He was most probably born in Sicily in the mid-sixth century and became a friend of the future Pope Gregory. In his youth St. Augustine led the monastic life at St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome, which had been founded by St. Gregory, and later became its prior (the abbot’s assistant; with St. Gregory as its abbot). St. Gregory praised Augustine for his brilliant knowledge of the Scriptures and excellent administrative abilities.

Around the year 596 St. Gregory sent Augustine at the head of the mission of forty Italian monks to England. The history of this crucial mission of English and even European history is well-documented and, specifically, described by Venerable Bede in his History of the English Church and People. The prehistory of this mission is also remarkable. Once St. Gregory happened to visit a slave market in Rome where he spotted three young male slaves with fair hair from northern England. He asked the slave trader who they were and where they came from. The latter answered that they were Angles and brought from Deira (then a kingdom in northern England). The future Pope with all his heart wished that these Angles would became like angels and come from the wrath of God (“de ira” in Latin) to eternal bliss.

So, when the time came, St. Gregory decided to fulfil his great ambition: to re-establish Orthodox Christianity in the now English land (we use here the word “re-establish” knowing that Christianity had existed in Britain during the Roman occupation perhaps from the first century till 410—when the Roman legions withdrew from Britain—but soon after almost completely and rapidly disappeared until the Augustinian mission; while in Wales, Dumnonia,1 Ireland, and Scotland, inhabited by Celtic peoples, a developed Church and monastic life was already flourishing by that time).

On their journey to Albion the missionaries stopped in Gaul, present-day France, where, it is said, St. Augustine performed his first miracle in Anjou: through his prayers a well with miraculous properties gushed forth there. The companions first stopped at the famous Lerins monastery in southern Gaul. Monks in Gaul told the missionaries about the life and customs of the Angles, especially that they were for the most part ferocious and cruel heathen. The fellow-missionaries of Augustine were scared and rather hesitant to go ahead, so it was decided to send St. Augustine back to Rome and ask the Pope Gregory what they should do further. The Pope encouraged Augustine, blessed him to go back, and commanded other brethren not to lose heart, but to go forward without any hesitation. He promised to pray hard for the success of their mission.

In spring 597 the Italian monks, accompanied by a number of Frankish priest-interpreters, arrived on the shores of Kent in the south-easternmost corner of England. According to tradition, they landed in or very near Ebbsfleet in Kent, on the Isle of Thanet which then was separated from the mainland England by a small river or channel, but now is part of the mainland (a memorial cross still stands on the site to commemorate the arrival of the missionaries). At that time Kent was the most influential of all the early English kingdoms and it had mostly been settled by the Germanic tribe of Jutes.

From the year 562 Kent had been ruled by the pagan Ethelbert (later to become St. Ethelbert). Fortunately, his spouse, Queen Bertha—a Frankish princess—was a Christian. Kent had permanent trade links with Gaul and communication with the continent and the Christian world, unlike other local kingdoms. Born in Gaul, Bertha had agreed to marry Ethelbert on condition that she was allowed to practice her Christian faith in England and to take her confessor, the priest Liudhard (+ c. 603) with her. Not only did Ethelbert consent to this condition, but even provided her with a small and ancient church of St. Martin of Tours in Canterbury (though it has since been rebuilt, this very ancient church, which is about 1700 years old, survives to this day).

King Ethelbert knew about the Christian faith and thus received St. Augustine very kindly, but at the same time with caution. He did not invite the saint to his palace, but preferred to talk with him “under an oak tree”, obviously hoping in this way to protect himself from “Christian magic”. The royal residence of the Kentish king was situated in Canterbury, which then was called Durovernum. Tradition tells that the first official meeting between the King and Augustine took place in Richborough near Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet. Augustine was accompanied by his monks: all of them sang beautiful Christian hymns, and welcomed the king with a large silver cross and a large icon of Christ the Savior.

Ethelbert was impressed by the look of the monks and by their speech. There St. Augustine preached his first sermon to Ethelbert through an interpreter, and a chapel was later built there to commemorate the event. St. Ethelbert was more interested in Christ, though confessed he was not yet prepared to embrace the new faith. However, he allowed Augustine and all his brethren to be accommodated in Canterbury (the capital of Kent), to preach Christianity among his subjects freely, and provided them with the church of St. Martin.

According to tradition, on Pentecost Sunday of the same year, 5972, King Ethelbert was baptized at St. Martin’s church, together with many representatives of his nobility. Soon afterwards some 10,000 people of Kent voluntarily resolved to follow their ruler and be illumined by holy baptism. The mass baptism took place in the small River Swale in Kent. It was the first mass conversion to Orthodoxy in the English part of post-Roman Britain. This remarkable event was accompanied by numerous healings and miracles. It is noteworthy that neither Augustine nor King Ethelbert forced any of them to accept baptism—it was the voluntary decision of the people. Among those baptized were Jutes, Angles and Saxons. The monks began to live in Canterbury near the present-day Staplegate, to fast, pray, keep vigil, imitate Christ in their life, to go out to the people and preach the Good News to them. Soon further miracles followed. It was evident that the abundant grace of God had descended on this corner of the future England.

Meanwhile, in the following year of 598, St. Augustine travelled to Gaul for a short time where he was consecrated archbishop. Thus, he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the English Church. The city of Canterbury ever since has been considered to be the English ecclesiastical capital. On account of his success in his mission in Kent and partly in neighbouring parts of England, St Augustine has been regarded as the enlightener of the Angles, and he shares this title with St. Gregory.

Among the monks who came with Augustine to England there were several other saints: St. Laurence, the second Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 619); St. Honorius, the fifth Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 653); St. Peter, the first Abbot of Canterbury (+ 607); and, probably, St. James (d. late seventh century), an illustrious deacon in York. In the year 601 new missionaries were sent from Rome by St. Gregory, some of whom later became saints as well: the future St. Mellitus, third Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 624); St. Justus, the fourth Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 627); and St. Paulinus, the first Bishop of York (+644). They brought relics, liturgical books, church vessels and vestments from Rome.

St. Augustine founded his Cathedral in Canterbury and dedicated it to Christ the Savior. It was said that an earlier church had existed on the same site, perhaps from Roman times. The present Canterbury Cathedral, the main Cathedral of the Church of England, is the successor of the Cathedral founded by St. Augustine. It is known that the archbishop began building a monastery in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul near the walls of Canterbury, which was completed after his repose. That was the first monastery in England. In Canterbury St. Augustine also built a school where many Christians of that period came to study, and produced many future saints and Church figures. A generation after St. Augustine’s repose this school had already sent missionaries to help enlighten the Kingdom of the East Angles.

St. Peter, mentioned above, became the monastery’s first abbot; but he unfortunately drowned during his journey to Gaul in 607 near Ambleteuse, not far from Boulogne, where his relics are still venerated. Among old Christian churches restored by Augustine in Canterbury let us mention the church of St. Pancras (an early Orthodox boy-martyr in Rome, some of whose relics were later translated to England, where, for example, one of London’s railway stations is called St. Pancras in his honor to this day). Of this once splendid church only ruins survive today.

St. Augustine also founded the diocese of Rochester in the kingdom of Kent. The first bishop of Rochester was St. Justus, who was afterwards raised to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury. The first Cathedral at Rochester was dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. One of his subsequent bishops in the seventh century was St. Ithamar, the first English-born bishop, from whose relics miracles were reported. The present Norman Cathedral in the port town of Rochester on the River Medway’s estuary is dedicated to Christ and the Mother of God. It is possible that under St. Augustine a fine church dedicated to St. Sophia, the Wisdom of God, was established in Reculver in Kent. Ruins of this church can be seen to this day.

By the end of his life St. Augustine had founded another diocese—in London, in the Kingdom of the East Saxons, which was at that time also under the control of Kent as St. Ethelbert was recognized as the supreme ruler of all the English lands situated to the south of the river Humber. In all his labors to spread Christianity and establish the Church throughout Kent, St. Augustine was helped by king Ethelbert. The holy king along with his wife Bertha were highly praised by St. Gregory from Rome, who in one of his letters even compared them to Sts. Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles.

During his ministry in England St. Augustine corresponded regularly with Pope Gregory. Their correspondence, all of which is considered by the majority of researchers to be authentic, survives to this day. Both hierarchs discussed numerous liturgical, pastoral and ritual matters, and methods of missionary work. On the Pope’s advice it was decided to bring the English people to the true faith gradually and not to force anybody to embrace Orthodoxy. All the idols were removed from pagan temples, but the temples themselves were not demolished – they were converted into Christian churches. The missionaries acted little by little.

In order to make the English people give up their old pagan habits, new Christian festivals were established, and the days of their celebration often coincided with the former heathen ones. However, the local customs and traditions which had nothing to do with paganism were not abolished, but were instead preserved and transformed in the light of the Christian life, so that the English people might cultivate their own distinctive Christian culture. The English Church thus was developed after the model of the Roman Orthodox Church but with local customs in mind.

It was recorded that during one of his journeys across the country St. Augustine healed a dumb girl by prayer in Chilham in Kent, and through his prayers, in the settlement of Cerne Abbas in Dorset a stream gushed forth which had healing powers. St. Augustine tried to reconcile the native British people—Britons3 who had a relatively developed Church life—with Angles and Saxons who had come to England from the continent. But despite his efforts, the Britons still regarded Angles as their invaders and enemies—they did not wish to reconcile themselves with them or communicate with them, although the Angles began to come to Christ in numbers. They also refused to recognize St. Augustine as their bishop. It was only closer to the end of the seventh century that the great archpastor, the Greek Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, succeeded in reconciling and bringing together these two peoples—the British and the English.

Augustine’s mission played a huge role in the conversion of Angles and Saxons to Christianity, though the same can be said of that of St. Aidan, the Celtic monk from Ireland who organized a very successful mission from northeastern England some three decades after St. Augustine. The role of both these saints in introducing and spreading Orthodoxy in seventh-century England cannot be overestimated—they lived in somewhat different yet complementary traditions, in the same pure Orthodox spirit. The existence of these two different types of post-Roman Christianity in England enriched the Church and made it more diverse.

St. Augustine lived in England for only seven or eight years but by the end of his life could see the formation of the early English Church with his own eyes. Shortly before his repose, the Savior Himself appeared in a vision to St. Augustine. The holy archbishop passed away soon after his beloved teacher St. Gregory, either in 604 or 605, and was buried at the monastery he had built in Canterbury. It is known that he performed miracles in his lifetime. In the year 747 the official veneration of St. Augustine was confirmed by an English Church Synod in Clovesho.

Miracles continued especially in 1091 after his relics were translated to the new Norman church of the Canterbury monastery (it was at that time that the learned monk Goscelin wrote his famous Life of St. Augustine in two parts, and an account of the translation of his relics). There they were kept until the Reformation, when most of the relics were destroyed. However, small portions of them survived and later were translated to Chilham church in Kent where, unfortunately, they were destroyed as well. A tiny portion of St. Augustine’s relics is kept at the Orthodox Church of St. John of Shanghai in Colchester (Essex) and another small part of a bone was not ago acquired by St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Ramsgate (Kent) which also houses a relic of St. Laurence of Canterbury.

Many Catholic and Anglican parish churches are dedicated to St. Augustine of Canterbury in England, though more are dedicated to Blessed Augustine of Hippo. Only two of the eight ancient manuscripts brought to England by the Italian missionaries 1400 years ago still survive. One of them is a fragment of the Rule of St. Benedict from the early seventh century, which is kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (Oxford also has a mid-seventh-century Gospel book associated with St. Augustine), and another is the illumined “St. Augustine’s Gospel” from the early seventh century, which well may have belonged to the saint himself (this is kept at the library of the Corpus Christi College, Cambridge). This Gospel is used at the enthronements of the Archbishops of Canterbury to this day (and each time is taken to Canterbury on this occasion).

There are ancient depictions of St. Augustine on a fourteenth-century stained glass window at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, at Canterbury Cathedral (c. 1470), on the miniatures of “the Breviaries of the Duke of Bedford” (1424) as well as on fourteenth-century frescoes at St. Gregory’s Church in Rome. For their contribution to spreading Orthodoxy in England and great support of the Augustine’s mission both King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha were venerated as saints after their repose in 616 and c. 603 (or 612) respectively, though no information on the official feast day of St. Bertha survives. Although after St. Augustine’s death a number of pagan reactions occurred in various parts of southern England, his mission revitalized life in the country and began the long process of its re-Christianization. This mission brought spirituality, learning, art, literature, music, and medicine to the English people who had been in isolation and regress for around two centuries before Augustine.

Let us now talk about the holy sites in Canterbury associated with St. Augustine.

The little church of St. Martin of Tours is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world still in use. A part of it dates back to the late Roman period. Though most of it was rebuilt, part of its construction still includes Roman brickwork. A section of a wall on the south side of its sanctuary is purely Roman. The doorway dates to the Saxon era. The church was obviously enlarged with time (because the number of the faithful townsfolk increased) as the original church was tiny even in comparison with the present structure. It was used as St. Bertha’s private chapel—her confessor, St. Liudhard, served here; after the arrival of Augustine it was restored, and the hierarch himself worshipped here before his main cathedral was completed. Both Sts. Ethelbert (who was baptized here) and Bertha are commemorated in this church: St. Ethelbert is depicted in stained glass which shows his baptism, and St. Bertha in a statue on the Roman wall.

The church font’s upper part is mainly from the twelfth century, while its lower part is much older, and it is quite possible that it was used for the king’s baptism. A curious find was made in St. Martin’s churchyard in the 1840s. A Saxon gold coin, or medal, which was probably used as a medallion, was found here in a woman’s grave. The name of St. Liudhard was inscribed on one side of the coin and a patriarchal cross is depicted on the other side. Thus the existence of St. Liudhard was confirmed for those academics who by that time had begun to doubt it. Now the unique relic is housed at the World Museum in the city of Liverpool.

The ruins of Canterbury Abbey, founded by St. Augustine, is another precious gem. They are located not far from the Cathedral and are now attached to Canterbury’s Kings School. Some consider this school to be the heir of the great school opened by Augustine himself. That school grew into one of the most important in the whole country. It was developed especially under St. Theodore of Canterbury and the Holy Abbot Hadrian of Canterbury (he was a Berber from Africa who ruled the monastery for over forty years until his repose in c.710). For a long time this monastery was the burial site of the abbots and Archbishops of Canterbury and Kings of Kent. It had a huge library and a scriptorium for copying manuscripts. The monastery, originally dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul, was rededicated in the tenth century by St. Dunstan in honor of its founder, St. Augustine.

The medieval monastery was so large that it could be compared with the present huge Canterbury Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and gradually ruined—after over 900 years of permanent monastic life, education and learning on this site. Now the ruins are cared for by English Heritage. Large-scale excavation work was carried out here recently and there is a museum/visitors’ center nearby that tells the story of this site—indeed one of the most significant sites in English history. Remains of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul and that of St. Pancras can be distinguished among the ruins. Big bronze statues of Sts. Ethelbert and Bertha stand by the ruins. This is a very holy place also because more early saints were buried here even than at the Cathedral. Lately English Heritage has put markers (some of them symbolic) on the supposed graves of the early saints on the territory of the abbey. (Who knows, maybe the relics of some still lie in the ground under them).

The names of the saints buried at the St. Augustine’s abbey are: St. Augustine (first Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Laurence (second Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Mellitus (third Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Justus (fourth Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Honorius (fifth Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Deusdedit (Frithona in baptism: the first English-born and sixth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 664), St. Theodore of Tarsus (eighth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 690), St. Berhtwald (ninth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 731), St. Tatwine (tenth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 734), St. Nothelm (eleventh Archbishop of Canterbury; + 739), St. Jambert (fourteenth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 792), St. Hadrian of Canterbury, St. Ethelbert of Kent, St. Bertha of Kent, St. Mildred of Minster on Thanet (d. early eighth century; some of her relics were translated here in the first half of the eleventh century to rescue them from the pagan Danes), St. Mildgyth (St. Mildred’s sister, late seventh century).

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Canterbury, the current edifice of which is mainly from the twelfth century and built of Caen stone, is one of the most visited buildings in England, and the historic heart of the English land. The first Cathedral was built by St. Augustine by the year 602. Not long ago part of the Saxon building was discovered under the nave of the present Cathedral. The earliest part of the Cathedral is the crypt—some of it is from the eleventh century. The Cathedral has very many memorials and artefacts, though most of its treasures were barbarously destroyed during the Reformation initiated by Henry VIII nearly 500 years ago. The Cathedral precincts are entered through the impressive Christ Church gates with the splendid figure of Christ above you. The west towers of the Cathedral along with the famous Bell Harry Tower are magnificent. The beautiful huge West Window of the Cathedral is reputedly the oldest surviving stained glass in England (dating to the 1170s).

The twelfth-century murals inside St. Gabriel’s Chapel depict scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The high altar at the end of the Cathedral choir is dedicated to St. Thomas Becket who was murdered in 1170 by knights of King Henry II (the latter then tried to atone for his sin, walking to the Cathedral as a simple pilgrim, praying for his forgiveness at Becket’s tomb and even allowing the Canterbury brethren to whip him). On both sides of the high altar are markers showing the sites of the former shrines of Sts. Dunstan and Alphege, great Orthodox Archbishops of Canterbury. Many sites within the Cathedral are still dedicated to the memory of Thomas Becket, who is venerated by the Catholic Church—his shrine at this Cathedral attracted millions of pilgrims in the Middle Ages, as he was the most venerated Catholic saint of England and one of the most venerated post-schism saints in the whole of Western Europe. Though his shrine and major relics were destroyed during the Reformation, a tiny portion of his relics still survives at the Catholic Church of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury to this day.

Among other treasures of the Cathedral are thirteenth-century stained glass windows with images of various saints (for example, a twelfth-century image of St. Paul the Apostle with a snake), depictions from the life of Christ and, notably, the thirteenth-century Purbeck “St. Augustine’s Chair” on which each Archbishop of Canterbury is officially enthroned. There is also a remarkable chapel dedicated to all the modern martyrs of major Christian denominations, called “the Corona Chapel”. Here is the list of the saints buried within Canterbury Cathedral (nobody knows whether the relics of any of them still rest concealed there or not, though the Lord may reveal it one day):

St. Cuthbert (twelfth Archbishop of Canterbury; +760), St. Bregwin (thirteenth Archbishop of Canterbury; +764), St. Ethelhard (fifteenth Archbishop of Canterbury; +805), St. Plegmund (twentieth Archbishop of Canterbury; + c.923), St. Athelm, or Athelhelm (twenty-first Archbishop of Canterbury; + c. 927), St. Odo, or Oda the Good, or Severe (twenty-third Archbishop of Canterbury; + c.958), St. Dunstan (twenty-sixth Archbishop of Canterbury; + 988), St. Aelfric (twenty-ninth Archbishop of Canterbury; not to be confused with the learned abbot, scholar and spiritual writer Aelfric of Eynsham; +1005), St. Alphege the Martyr (thirtieth Archbishop of Canterbury; +1012), St. Aethelnoth the Good (thirty-second Archbishop of Canterbury; +1038), St. Eadsige (thirty-third Archbishop of Canterbury; + c.1050), St. Swithin of Winchester (his head relic rested here; +862), St. Wulganus (an eighth century British missionary who enlightened the Atrebati in Gaul and lived as hermit in Arras; a portion of his relics rested here).

As we can see, twenty-two early (and Orthodox) Archbishops of Canterbury were canonized—and St. Augustine is at the head of them. During the Second World War Canterbury was heavily damaged by Luftwaffe bombs but the cathedral was rescued by the city residents and, of course, through intercession of St. Augustine. As we know, a similar miraculous event happened in Durham in 1943: St. Cuthbert whose relics rest there saved the city of Durham and its cathedral from Luftwaffe bombs by hiding them in thick fog!

The Way of St. Augustine” is a pilgrimage trail from Ramsgate to Canterbury embracing some 20 miles and covering places associated with St. Augustine. It begins from the Catholic church-shrine of St. Augustine in Ramsgate and passes, among other places, through the village of Cliffsend (according to one version, it was here that the saint first landed in England; the Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa also landed here in 449 A.D. to settle in England), St. Augustine’s cross, Minster-on-Thanet, and Fordwich near Canterbury (claiming to be the smallest English town; it has the old St. Mary’s church which houses a tomb believed to be the one that once contained St. Augustine’s relics).

Holy Hierarch Augustine, pray to God for us!


Dmitry Lapa writes about Orthodox history and faith. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Orthodox Christianity.


The featured image shows, “St Augustine at Ebbsfleet,” by Frank Brangwyn, painted in 1920.

International Intervention In The Little Civil War

It is widely believed that international peace restoration action is a military phenomenon that was born in the 20th century, especially since the establishment of the League of Nations and the United Nations. However, there are earlier recorded precedents of action to stabilize interstate and intrastate conflicts.

External military intervention is an ordinary phenomenon in international relations. And in the 19th century, especially during critical times for Europe, several interventions took place, focused on re-establishing, sic et simpliciter, the institutional and social order threatened by nationalistic, social and economic demands. This was especially true in Italy, where foreign forces were deployed across the peninsula to help local dynasties facing liberal and national unity uprisings.

A De Facto Architecture

The backbone of those actions was the Quintuple Alliance, successor of the Holy Alliance established after the Napoleonic wars. This alliance (a 19th-Century version of the contemporary concept of the “coalition of the willing”) was originally set up to crack down on possible hegemonic ambitions by France. It then saw a mutation in its membership with the inclusion of France in its diplomatic and military architecture. Consequently, it saw a re-orientation in its mandate, focused on supporting the legitimacy of the power system in Europe against internal threats, stemming from the political heritage of the French Revolution.

These ideological calls aside, the Quintuple Alliance also responded to the need to counter demands for social justice that the beginning of the industrialization process had brought about. At the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in October-November 1818, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia, in exchange for payment of war reparations (albeit reduced), approved the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the North of France.

The France of Louis XVIII was also invited to adhere publicly to a political statement on the brotherhood of the four powers, cemented by the bonds of Christianity, that the four victorious powers over Napoleon had signed. France’s re-inclusion in the Concert of Europe dates from this period, which saw the transition from the Quadruple to the Quintuple Alliance. The full adhesion of France became operational only in 1822.

Furthermore, at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, in addition to the decision to re-admit France, the four powers had simultaneously signed a secret protocol, which contained a mutual guarantee against France. The move of Paris, from a defeated power to a full-fledged ally, could be traced back to a decision by the Congress of Verona (between 9 to 14 October 1822) to authorize France (against open British dissent) to conduct a military expedition in Spain, to restore the absolutist government of Ferdinand VII of Bourbon, which had been overthrown by a liberal uprising.

Long-Standing Instability

The Patuleia War (or Guerra da Patuleia), also known as the “Little Civil War” (to distinguish it from the “great” civil war that ended in 1834, the War of the Two Brothers) was another moment of the quasi-permanent instability which affected Portugal from the end of the Napoleonic invasion and the re-establishment of the Braganza dynasty from its exile in Brazil. During this period, Portugal was run by British-supported elites.

Pressure then started to mount from the professional classes to obtain more power, in contrast with the conservative approach by the monarchy. Such pressure began with the 1820 Revolution, which established a liberal constitution and turned Portugal into a constitutional monarchy. In 1826, thanks to British influence over Lisbon, a political compromise was established between conservatives and liberals. Their ideological divide, however, was to remain a constant dynamic in Portuguese society, affecting also the military institutions.

The War And Foreign Intervention

Britain and Spain, two Powers that for different reasons were deeply interested in the Portugal, emerged as natural actors in the attempt to stabilize the conflict and avoid a de facto military stalemate on the ground, which could lead the country into a deeper crisis. Britain, since the Peninsular War, had a heavy influence on the country, while Spain kept a wary eye on its neighboring country.

The growing tensions exploded when, in October 1846, Queen Maria II handed power to General Saldanha, a controversial personality in 19th-Century Portugal, who embodied administrative principles rejected before the insurrection of Maria da Fonte which had occurred months earlier. This move of the Crown faced immediate countrywide resistance, organized into local “juntas.” Among these, the one in Porto merged resistance to the new ministry.

Prime Minister Palmerston, using Lisbon’s appeal of help as an opportunity, did not accept Spain acting unilaterally and militarily, as desired by Saldanha, in re-establishing the statu quo ex ante. Nor did Palmerston fully accept the mandate, assigned to Madrid, by the spirit and letter of the Quintuple Alliance. The parties accepted the mediation – rather arbitration – with Great Britain, which played a determinant role in the crisis, thus blocking the political, rather than military, action of France in support of Madrid, and aimed at repeating the political success of Paris in the Spanish crisis of 1823.

It is in this light that the meaning of the agreement, signed in London on 21 May 1847 by the three powers (Britain, Spain and France), should be read. This agreement, initiated by the British, and not eagerly supported by Madrid and Paris, who reluctantly had to accept the approach of London for solving the Portuguese issue, in which Britain took charge of all naval aspects, while was relegated to looking after ground operations, and France was given a minor naval role. More importantly, the London meeting of 1847 paved the way, politically speaking, for the Convention of Gramido.

The Structure Of The Foreign Forces

The core of the British military action in Portugal was carried out by the Royal Navy, which deployed the Channel Fleet in those waters. The deterring presence of a powerful naval force was a fundamental element in the crisis, together with the action of the diplomats, led by Sir Hamilton Seymour, British Envoy to Lisbon. (It is also worth mentioning the contribution of the last British troops who earlier Portugal in 1826, namely, the 12th Lancers, 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers).

The Channel Fleet was commanded by Sir William Parker who, because of his knowledge of Portugal and its politics, was also given the additional command of the Channel Squadron while still remaining in charge of the Mediterranean Fleet. The Channel Fleet was led by Sir Charles Napier.

On 1st May 1847 took place the first major military action of the international forces. A convoy of rebel troops, commanded by the Conde das Antas, was being ferried by sea along the coast, with the aim of securing the mouth of the River Tagus, thus blockading Lisbon. The convoy was intercepted by a British squadron and ordered to surrender.

When Antas refused, boarding parties of Royal Marines and sailors captured all the transports, despite coming under fire from coastal batteries. Some three thousand rebel soldiers were disarmed and held in São Julião Fort by the Royal Marines until relieved by loyal Portuguese troops. The captives were later released and given amnesty after the Convention of Gramido. The Tagus operation showed that British forces were already on the ground and operating, while multilateral negotiation were still ongoing.

Spain cooperated with Great Britain and France in sea blockades in Portugal, Azores and Madera and also carried out land operations. On 11 June, four Spanish divisions (about 10,000 men, who thus outnumbered the rebellious liberals) entered Portugal and operated mainly in the North, since Porto was the backbone of the liberals. Other Spanish forces entered the central region in order to protect Lisbon from possible incursions by the forces of the Junta.

The Spanish land operation did not meet resistance, and given the weakness of the Portuguese regular forces, this meant that the liberals were not able to exasperate the situation to affect diplomatic negotiations between the Junta and the consuls of Britain, Spain and France in Porto.

The Spanish operation reached its objective two weeks later, with the taking of Porto. The city was now controlled by Spanish troops (which were quickly replaced by the newly constituted force of the Civil Guard, in the duties of public order) and the Royal Marines, which had landed from the British ships at the castle of Foz.

On 10 July, the British, Spanish and French ships ended their blockade the liberals-controlled area. Two months later, all foreign forces left Portugal.

The Convention Of Gramido

The treaty was co-signed on 29 June 1847 by General Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha y Irigoyen, Marques of Duero, Count of Cancelada and Grandee of Spain, Commandant of the Madrid Expeditionary Force, along with Colonel Senen de Buenaga for Spain; Colonel Wylde for Great Britain; Marquis of Loulé for the Lisbon government; and General César de Vasconcelos for the Junta of Porto. It was a short document of just nine articles, which included the four points of the of the London agreement of May, and focused on reaching an agreement without exasperating the divisions affecting the various Portuguese factions.

The Convention also regulated the presence and role of foreign forces in the area of Porto, which were focused on stabilizing the situation, keeping out the forces of Lisbon and avoiding any kind of retaliation against the local populations. Disarmament, immunity and freedom of movement of personnel of the Junta was also guaranteed. An innovation introduced was the possibility of integration (or reintegration) of military personnel of the Junta forces within Lisbon military units.

Conclusion

The British and Spanish operation in Portugal, on behalf of the Quintuple Alliance, to end the Little Civil War (also known as Guerra da Patuleia), did not create a coherent precedent for similar missions. However, military and diplomatic action by London and Madrid signaled the beginning of the concept of an “international community” (its closest version at the time was the so-called Concert of Powers or Concert of Europe) as a main vehicle of stability in relationships among States.

The silent rivalry between the most influential powers, Great Britain and Spain, did not pose an insurmountable obstacle to the signing of a peace agreement, which was eventually co-signed by the commanders of the British and Spanish forces.

Despite their good intentions, the peace treaty between the liberals and the conservatives unfortunately did bring greater stability to Portugal. Analyzing the role of foreign forces in the conflict, some official sources, such as the Spanish Civil Guard, reported playing a quasi-peace-keeping role.

In reality, on the surface, it appeared similar to other interventions that occurred in that period (e.g., Austrian intervention in the Italian peninsula), which did lead to the brutal suppression of liberal and nationalist movements. The main difference was in the legal instrument signed at the end of the military operations. The peace treaty forced the Portuguese monarchy to adopt a more moderate approach and remove the most controversial points from the constitution and other legislation.

Under this point of view, the international intervention in Portugal could be seen as an interesting and original combination of peace enforcement and peacemaking. Applying contemporary concepts to events in the mid-19th century may appear daring, but in reality, such robust foreign intervention reduced the military strength of the insurgents and paved the way to political dialogue with the Cartista Government, which was also obliged to adopt a more flexible approach.

The Convention of Gramido brought an end to the Little Civil War, temporarily recomposing the divide between liberals and conservative, although the deeper economic, social (and political) causes of instability remained unresolved. Nevertheless, to this day the Convention remains a good example in which the international community, under the leadership of one country, was able to play a positive role, Great Britain’s imperialist interests and motives notwithstanding.

Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations.

The image shows, the “Battle of Cape St. Vincent,” by Léon Morel-Fatio, painted in 1842.

What Is England?

Not to submit forever, until
The will of a country is one man’s will,
And every soul in the whole land shrinks
From thinking – except as his neighbor thinks.
Men who have governed England know
That dreadful line that they may not pass
And live.

These lines are from The White Cliffs, that famed long poem by Alice Duer Miller, written in September of 1940, in the very midst of the Battle of Britain, that epic struggle of the few against the myriads of the Luftwaffe. By the time this opening phase of a six-year long war finally ended in October of that year, 544 of the “few” had been shot down and killed over English skies. Eighty years on, their sacrifice is remembered by way of commemorative events, but what of the England that they died for? Has it endured in its will, in its national character, which Miller points to in her poem?

This, perhaps, leads to a larger question, one more difficult to answer – what is England in the 21st century? Further, is a nation a set of ideas, or the shared experience of a group of people bonded by common origins, or simply a geographical location in which people live without espousing anything essential other than circumstance of birth, or economic necessity and advantage?

To write a history of a nation encompasses far more than the tracing out of events, since the past must now more than ever also be justified as possessing intrinsic worth that will yield its value to all upon its retelling. Given the entrenchment of intersectionality, the past is fraught territory, lest anything within its ambit be glorified and thus foreground essentialist conclusions of “Englishness.”

Jeremy Black’s most recent book, A New History of England, rather deftly navigates these tricky waters to arrive at an apt justification, in that “past and future also exist in a counterpoint with each other.” Black understands that “The future and identity of Britain… have become unclear…” and thus, “…In this context, there is renewed interest in considering the identity of England.” He is also well aware of the now-contentious ground of history: “Those who fear the future tend to praise the past, while those who chart hopeful destinies for the future are often critical of the past. The curse of the past is particularly present for those who seek to empower themselves through past grievances, whether real or imagined; but to abandon history leads to the broken continuity with the past in which identities are lost and values atomised.”

Perhaps the reason why history is now so problematic is that we have a lot of problem defining the discipline properly. What is history? The totality of events, or the written report of said events? Adding to the ambiguity is the shift away from any and all notions of human destiny in favor of causal laws, which then makes history a rational explanation, by way of description or reconstruction of what happened in the past. Since modernity lacks cohesion, only point of view, opinion remains. Thus, existentialist, neopositivist and historicist opinions see history as capricious, without true description – which means that history is not an explanation but simply another story, in a much-tangled network of narratives. Nothing but this network exists or matters. The great flaw in this argument is that history is not a natural science that it must meet standards of rational causation – and more importantly, it is a necessary component in contemporary life – and thus cannot be rejected nor simply be a story poorly or deftly told.

Black rather admirably grounds the importance of history within the expanse of res gestae, by both acknowledging that consciousness is the standard of truth for modernity, while also recognizing the necessity of transcendence, in that history must also contain “…the far more complex reality of overlapping and often very different, if not clashing, senses of identity. Alongside nationhood, people can also identify through social structures, religion, gender, ethnicity and other factors, although there is a risk of putting excessive weight on modern ideas of self-identification through gender, ethnicity and other factors.”

Such an understanding allows for a rather precise conclusion: “… the English are those who live in England.” As to why the book is about the history of “England” rather than a history of “Britain,” Black offers this clarification: “…the idea of Britain, especially of the Anglicised bits of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, is, in many (but by no means all) respects, essentially a ‘bigger England’ view: an English identity was stamped on some of the ‘Celtic Fringe’ and, in turn, opposition to real or alleged English interests and values helped drive local identities and political activism.” The “idea” of Britain is also summarized. It is the “…strength of the core of England – Westminster, London, the monarchy, the [national] system.”

Thus, the first chapter is geographical in nature, or that other “history, that of the relationship with the environment.” Accordingly, the impact of human activity throughout the breadth of the region is examined, with the ensuing loss of certain species of both flora and fauna. However, the area that comprises England is also the most fertile in the entire island, thanks to the Gulf Stream and reliant rainfall. This gave those who lived in this region economic power and thus the “fuel” to extend control.

Further, being an island, geography required an outlook and thus institutions which were markedly different from the Continent. Thus, there was a reliance on the navy, which made conscription for a standing army less important (although this did not preclude England from getting involved in various military ventures). Raw materials also played their part, especially coal. Therefore, it is not surprising that the notion of environmentalism as integral to history is developed in England, in the 19th century by Charles Pearson.

The second chapter looks at the condition of England before the arrival of the Romans, starting with early hominid presence, and then the coming of the modern humans in the Paleolithic period, the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic, and the eventual spread of domesticated animals and wheeled vehicles and metalworking (copper, bronze and lastly iron). By the second millennium BC, there are stone circles and henges, with Stonehenge being the most famous, though certainly not the only one.

From 800 BC, England came to be dominated by the Celts, who spread westwards from what is now Germany. There were many settlements and towns, but no real indication of an urban civilization. What can be learned about this era is from archaeology mostly, as the Celts were not literate and left no written culture. This means that it is impossible to speak of a “proto-England” at this early era.

With the coming of Julius Caesar in 55 BC, the island became part of the Roman world, and thus Chapter 3 deals with Roman Britain. The subduing of the island was no easy maneuver and required much hard-fighting and effective military leadership, which lasted well into the next century, with the invasion by Claudius in 43 AD. This process finally ended with the conquest of Wales in 76 BC. The Romans, of course, never managed to hold sway over Scotland and Ireland. Hadrian’s Wall (seventy miles long), built in 122 AD, was an admission of this inability.

As Britain became a Roman province, it acquired the many benefits of Mediterranean civilization. Towns were established, provincial capitals established, with London being the capital of the entire province. As well, roads were laid down, agriculture improved, technology imported and trade with the rest of the world established. And important cultural changes, such as, Christianity, had immediate impact. On the whole, Roman Britain was peaceful; the source of the unrest were Roman military units who were always in turmoil because of the political ambitions of their commanders. Eventually, Britain, as with the rest of the Roman world in the West, could not hurl back the relentless attacks by barbarians. Rome itself was captured by Alaric the Goth in 410 AD. This also spelled the end of Roman Britain, which was left defenseless in the face of barbarian threats from the Continent.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 deal with three pivotal events in the history of the island – the coming of the Anglo-Saxons (which established the English language and England itself), Danish conquests (the Danelaw), and thirdly the Norman Conquest. The Anglo-Saxon period, from 450 AD to 1066, was one of rich culture, as evidenced by the finds at Sutton Hoo, as well as high literary achievement, in both Old English and Latin, such as, Beowulf and the work of the Venerable Bede.

During this 600-year period, the character of England may best be described as “Scandinavian,” since it was finely integrated with that northern world, culturally and linguistically. The fateful year of 1066 changed all that, for with the Norman Conquest, England not only changed dynasties but cultural alignment – the Normans sheared away Scandinavian influence (and made Scandinavia itself a back-water of Europe) – and merged England with the life of Europe.

Chapter 7 examines the medieval period, in which kingship was Norman and French. However, during this time, England also created institutions that were unique, for feudalism gave way to the Magna Carta, with the growth and establishment of parliament. The Church was a cultural engine, for it established monasteries, hospitals and universities. The resultant intellectual and economic growth led to innovations in technology and flexible civic structures (towns and corporations). England also extended westwards and now included Wales, which began the transformation of England into Britain. However, this was also the time of the Great Plague, the Hundred Years’ War and the devastation of the War of the Roses, which effectively ended the medieval age.

Chapter 8, examines the Tudors, which saw emerge a new energetic type, namely, the “gentleman,” who possessed power not by virtue of noble birth, but because of individual effort. The Tudors greatly promoted gentlemen, who in turn gave them wider influence and wealth. Such men defeated the Spanish Armada, brought English colonies into North America, extended trade, and gave England a novel status – that of world influence. Paradoxically, such expansion also meant that a more dynamic type of governance was needed. This was found in a refurbished parliament – and the consequent diminishing of royal power. By the time Queen Elizabeth I died, royalty had lost most of the “divinity” that once hedged a king.

Chapter 9 concerns the Stuarts and the Interregnum in which the Civil War and Cromwell’s rule ensured that parliament would now be above the crown. This meant that law was paramount (the habeas corpus) and the State limited in overreach so that the subject possessed rights that could not be supervened. More importantly, the crown, because it was under parliament, became an integrated part of the nation, instead of an overarching system of power. As well, England formed a union with Scotland (1707) and became Britain.

After the Stuarts, parliament could also readily “import” suitable sovereigns (William from Holland, who was in fact the grandson of Charles I, and after him the German Hanoverians). Such integration – people, parliament and crown – ensured great social, economic and political stability, something that the rest of Europe would never enjoy until well into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Chapter 10, concerns the 18th century, which was a period of great innovation and invention, for this saw the Industrial Revolution, the Age of Reason, and a global reach of the English language. France, with its Napoleonic Empire was defeated and humbled, which gave England the baton of a world power. But England had also suffered its own humility, with the American Revolution, which meant the loss of half the continent of North America and the creation of the United States. Internally, however, England saw none of the upheavals that gripped Europe throughout this period. This is because of three factors – the entrenchment of a powerful and independent legal system; Whig liberalism; and socially conscious Anglicanism, which fostered gentility, or what could come to be called, “the Sentimental Revolution.” These three political and social forces allowed England to maintain stability and cohesion.

Chapter 11 deals with the 19th century, which is also generally known as the Victorian Age, after the monarch whose reign spanned for much of the century. England saw its prestige and influence increase globally, as it also became an empire on which it was said “the sun never set.” This imperial achievement (thus, Great Britain), came as a result free trade (beginning with the abolition of the Corn Laws) and a more streamlined fiscal system that also had simplified taxes. There was also the establishment of the post office; the laying down of an extensive rail network; the creation of a civil service that was not political aligned but concerned with the responsible management of the nation. England also brought an end to the international slave trade.

But rapid industrial growth created untold misery, for the ordinary factory-worker had no real protection and exploitation was rife in a Britain rapidly industrializing. The Factory Act of 1819, and its later refinements, imposed limitation on the number of work-hours for men, women and children; which, in turn, brought about the weekend holiday (beginning with half the Saturday off). The work week (the “English week”) gave dignity to labor that was previously absent. More importantly, a new class of citizenry was created – the middle-class, which soon became the backbone of the nation. All this did not mean that there was no mismanagement and bad decisions (like the Great Famine in Ireland). Nevertheless, there was always the higher ideal of working towards stability and peace.

Chapter 12 deals with the 20th century, which brought an end to the power of England, by way of two World Wars, even though Britain won both. The cost of victory was great, for meant dismantling the empire itself into a Commonwealth of nations and dominions (beginning with Ireland). England, as in the start of its history, slowly retracted until it once again became an island nation, within the broader context of Europe, which eventually brought it into the European Union (an economic and cultural relationship that is now, in turn, being dismantled through Brexit). Britain is no longer Great, but merely the United Kingdom.

The final chapter engages with an interesting issue – that of English identity, where the unity itself of the Kingdom is now being called into question by those who would like to see it dissolved, so that England once again becomes surrounded by other nations – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Thus, regionalism has meant a collapse of another kind – that of cultural continuity, so that “Englishness” is nothing more than a heap of fragments which cannot really be glued back together again – for there is no “glue” available to accomplish such a task. As Black observes: “Thus, the destruction or weakening, from the 1980s, of traditional and, until then, still vital benchmarks of national identity – the Common Law, Parliamentary sovereignty, national independence, the monarchy, the Church of England, a culture of tolerance – was not followed by the creation of any viable alternatives.”

So, what lies ahead? Black is not overly optimistic about England: “Not only the sovereignty and the cohesion of the United Kingdom, but also the character and unity of England are being recast, or is it destroyed, in the name of modernity. It is difficult to feel optimistic about the outcome.” It appears that those who now govern England have now rather blindly passed that line which Alice Duer Miller warned about in her poem.

This book was a joy read, for it is marked by deep insight, clarity of thought, and an impressive marshalling of facts. It really should be on every thinking person’s bookshelf, for it possesses that rare quality among books of its genre – it does not disappoint.

The image shows, “The Departure of a Troop of 11th Hussars for India,” by Thomas Jones Barker, painted in 1866.

The Importance Of The Vienna Conference

Foreword

Quite often post-war peace is fragile, having inside it the germs of future conflicts and confrontations. Too much attention has been given to the study of the causes and courses of the Napoleonic wars without equal attention having been given to those techniques which allowed nations to maintain peace effectively over a long period of time. Historians and policy makers such as Henry Kissinger, C. K. Webster, and Harold Nicholson have looked back at the post-Napoleonic era with some romanticism and have written of the “Concert of Europe;” or the years after the Vienna settlement as an era of peace and international order.

Certainly, the peace efforts of 1814-1815 helped provide Europe with almost a century of general peace, though no one asserts that absolutely no fighting or confrontation existed among the major European powers.

It should be acknowledge that the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Klemens von Metternich, the British foreign minister, Lord Castlereagh, and the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, should receive credit for devising a system which produced the long-sought peace after a generation of conflicts and social fractures produced by the wars of the Napoleonic era – thus establishing, even in an embryonic, contradictory and intermittent form, a system which guaranteed a mechanism of consultation and action, which allowed the European continent to move away, rather rapidly, from a long season of turmoil.

Controversial Peace And Reintegration Of France Within the Power System

1. The Vienna Congress: A Quasi-Inclusive Peace

The 1814 Treaty of Paris deprived France of her Rhine frontier, and she was reduced only to her boundaries of 1792, which in effect were her ancient borders, plus the significant additions of Avignon, Savoy, and several communes along the North and North-Eastern frontier. The terms of the treaty were lenient; the allies intended to avoid weakening the restored Bourbons or humiliating France so that Frenchmen could more easily accept the return of the Bourbons.

Considering Napoleon’s triumphant return from Elba, Liverpool’s announcement that the policy of 1814 had been a failure can hardly be called inaccurate. In an abrupt change from the lenient policy of 1814, the British Prime Minister proposed that the allies primarily focus upon their own security rather than leaving it to the Bourbons. “The French nation is at the mercy of the allies, in consequence of a war occasioned by their violation of the most sacred treaties. The allies are fully entitled to indemnity and security.”

Having begun in September 1814, five months after Napoleon’s first abdication, the treaty completed its “Final Act” in June 1815, shortly before the Waterloo campaign and the final defeat of Napoleon. The settlement was the most comprehensive treaty that Europe had ever seen; but it also showed how deep were the divisions between the winners (or major actors) – which behind a formal unanimity were, ijn fact, engaged in a bitter diplomatic fight.

Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain – the four powers chiefly instrumental in the overthrow of Napoleon – had concluded a special alliance among themselves with the Treaty of Chaumont, on March 9, 1814, a month before Napoleon’s first abdication. The subsequent treaties of peace with France, signed on May 30 not only by the “four” but also by Sweden and Portugal, and on July 20 by Spain, stipulated that all former belligerents should send plenipotentiaries to a congress in Vienna. Many of the rulers of the minor states of Europe put in an appearance, foreshadowing the progressively expanding G-8 to G-14 and other similar forums.

However, the “four” still intended to reserve the real making of decisions to themselves. Two months after the sessions began, Bourbon France was admitted to the “four.” The “four” thus became the “five,” and it was the committee of the “five” that was the real Congress of Vienna, which looked forward to the Council of the League of Nations, and more recently the Security Council of the United Nations.

Representatives began to arrive in Vienna toward the end of September 1814. Klemens Prince von Metternich, principal minister of Austria, assisted by Friedrich von Gentz, represented his Emperor, Francis II. Tsar Alexander I of Russia directed his own diplomacy, together with Karl von Nesselrode.

King Frederick William III of Prussia had Prince Karl von Hardenberg, as his principal minister, and Whilhem von Humboldt.

Great Britain was represented by its foreign minister, Viscount Castlereagh. When Castlereagh had to return to his parliamentary duties, the Duke of Wellington replaced him; and Lord Clancarty was principal representative after the Duke’s departure. The restored Louis XVIII of France sent Talleyrand, and after his resignation, sent the Duke of Richelieu, a former émigré.

While the official reason was to settle a comprehensive peace with France, the real agenda of the Congress included the disposition of Poland and Saxony (the major points of contention), resolving the conflicting claims of Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, and the adjustment of the borders of the German states. In general, Russia and Prussia were opposed by Austria, France, and England; however, the plans were submitted frequently adjusted, especially vis-à-vis France. It was often Austria and Prussia that were the hardliners against Paris, while Britain and Russia advocated a moderate approach, seeking as they did the stability of the entire continent.

Strategically, the strategy was as follows: Austria and Prussia wanted to establish a de facto protectorate over North-Central and Southern Germany as well as Italy respectively; France wanted at all cost the rapid and full reintegration into the major powers, with the highest possible rank of parity with others; while Britain, always looking for a balance of power in the continent, and was increasingly worried about Russia encroaching into the Southern Balkans and the Mediterranean Sea.

The inclusion of France put into the agenda of the Congress the re-inclusion of Paris in the Power system; and the brilliant action of Talleyrand exposed the differences among them (as he mentioned in a letter to King Louis XVIII). Despite the furious hostility, especially of Metternich, who planned just for a formal presence of France in the Congress, Talleyrand got the inclusion of French diplomats into several sub-bodies which supported the work of the main diplomatic body, similar to the Paris Conference of 1919 (namely, French diplomats now sat on the Commissions for Germany, for Switzerland, for Sardinia and Genoa, for the Duchy of Bouillon, for the slave trade, for the sea routes, for the precedence’s, for statistics and for the redaction of the texts of treaties).

The results of the action of Talleyrand were remarkable. Aside from the obtaining of the inclusion of France into the decision-making system of former enemies, he obtained the reinstallation of the Bourbons in Spain, Naples, and he saved the crown of the Prince of Saxony (the cousin of King Louis XVIII) from the aggressive policy of Prussia. Then, he reduced to minimal the border modification in France’s disfavour, and minimized the impact of a massive presence of Prussia on France’s Eastern borders.

All these points, which formalized the concept of war against Napoleon and not against France, however had a high price for Talleyrand, who was not able to limit the rapacity of the occupation forces in France (at least in the earliest time), nor affect the return of art looted by Napoleon, nor prevent the fall of Italy into a kind of Austrian protectorate (despite a presence of a Bourbon in Naples). These stood as points against him, together the opposition against the partition of Poland, which alienated the Tsar (against him, more than against France).

However, the desperate diplomatic battle of Talleyrand paved the road of his successor, the Duke of Richelieu, who was well acquainted with the Russians, having lived in exile in their country and having served in the Russian army and as governor of Odessa. The Duke was this better positioned, vis-à-vis the other allies, as he was an émigré, which gave him positive currency, and neither did his diplomatic efforts begin at zero as was the case with his predecessor.

But along with the settlement of a comprehensive peace with France, other diplomatic efforts began a hidden rivalry between Austria, Prussia and Russia, especially for Poland, which again stood divided among the three powers. Also, the reshaping of Germany meant that Prussia got two-fifths of Saxony and was further compensated by extensive additions in Westphalia and on the left bank of the Rhine. It was Castlereagh, who mediated this and who insisted on Prussian acceptance of this latter territory, with which it had been suggested the king of Saxony should be compensated.

The objective of Castlereagh was to have a strong Prussia to guard the Rhine against France and to act as a buttress for the new Kingdom of The Netherlands, which comprised both the former United Provinces and Belgium. Austria was compensated by Lombardy and Venice and also got back most of the Tirol. Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden on the whole did well. Hanover was also enlarged. The outline of a constitution, a loose confederation, was drawn up for Germany – a triumph for Metternich. Denmark lost Norway to Sweden but got Lauenburg, while Swedish Pomerania went to Prussia. Switzerland was given a new constitution.

In Italy, Piedmont absorbed Genoa, while Tuscany and Modena went to an Austrian archduke. Parma was given to Marie-Louise, consort of the deposed Napoleon. The Papal States were restored to the pope, Naples to the Sicilian Bourbons. Valuable articles were agreed upon for the free navigation of international rivers and diplomatic precedence.

Castlereagh’s great efforts for the abolition of the slave trade were rewarded only by a pious declaration. The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna comprised all these agreements in one great instrument. It was signed on June 9, 1815, by the “eight” (except Spain, which refused, as a protest against the Italian settlement). All the other powers subsequently acceded.

2. Congress Of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818) And The G-8

The Congress or Conference of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), held in the autumn of 1818, was primarily a meeting of the four allied powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia) to decide the question of the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France and the nature of the modifications to be introduced in consequence to the relations of the four powers towards each other, and collectively towards France.

The Congress, which looks forward to the revision conferences of the UN system, convened in Aachen on 1 October 1818. It was attended in person by Emperor Alexander I of Russia, Emperor Francis I of Austria, and Frederick William III of Prussia. Britain was represented by Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington, Austria by Prince Metternich, Russia by Counts Ioannis Capodistria and Nesselrode, Prussia by Prince Hardenberg and Count Bernstorff. The Duke de Richelieu, by favor of the Allies, was present on behalf of France, even if his presence was in reality part of the new political reality.

The evacuation of France was agreed upon in principle at the first session, with the consequent treaty being signed on 9 October. The immediate object of the Conference having been thus readily disposed of, the remaining time was taken up with discussions of what form was to be taken by the European alliance, and the “military measures,” if any, to be adopted as a precaution against a fresh outburst on the part of France. The proposal of Emperor Alexander I to establish a “universal union of guarantee” on the broad basis of the Holy Alliance, after much debate, broke down because of the uncompromising opposition of Britain.

Thus, the main outcome of the Congress was the signature, on 15 November, of two instruments: a secret protocol confirming and renewing the Quadruple Alliance established by the treaties of Chaumont and Paris (of 20 November 1815) against France, and a public “Declaration” of the intention of the powers to maintain their intimate union, “strengthened by the ties of Christian brotherhood,” of which the object was the preservation of peace on the basis of respect for treaties. The secret protocol was communicated in confidence to Richelieu; as to the Declaration, France was invited publicly to adhere to it. This sub-architecture, named the Quintuple Alliance, was the first of a long series of mutual and secret treaties of insurance and counter-insurance, which forcibly led the same powers to the first civil pan-European war, namely, World War One.

The Quintuple Alliance is largely perceived as the final moment of a path of reintegration of France into the power system and the end of the state of exception which marked the political landscape since the launch of the Vienna Conference.

What transformed the Aix-la-Chapelle Congress in a de facto European Summit, more and more similar to the Allied and Associate Powers after WWI with its huge agenda (e. g. the fate of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Fiume, the borders of Albania, etc.), were the number of areas left unsettled in the hurried winding up of the Congress of Vienna; or those which had arisen since. Of these, the most important were the methods to be adopted for the suppression of the slave-trade, and the Barbary pirates of Maghreb and their activities. In neither case was any decision arrived at, owing mainly to the refusal of the other alliance powers to agree with the British proposal for a reciprocal right of search on the high seas and to the objection of Britain to international action which would have involved the presence of a Russian naval squadron in the Mediterranean.

In matters of less importance the Congress was, of course, more unanimous, such as, on the urgent appeal of the king of Denmark, Charles XIV of Sweden received a peremptory summons to carry out the terms of the Treaty of Kiel; the petition of the Prince-Elector of Hesse to be recognized as king was unanimously rejected; and measures were taken to redress the grievances of the German princes. The more important outstanding questions in Germany, e.g. the Baden succession, were after consideration reserved for another international conference to be called at Frankfurt/Main.

In addition, a great variety of questions were also considered, from the treatment of Napoleon at Saint Helena to the grievances of the people of Monaco against their prince, and the position of the Jews in Austria and Prussia. An attempt made to introduce the subject of the Spanish colonies was defeated by the opposition of Britain. Lastly, certain vexatious questions of diplomatic etiquette were settled once and for all.

The Congress of Aix-la Chapelle, which broke up at the end of November, is of historical importance mainly as marking the highest point reached in the attempt to govern Europe by an international committee of the alliance powers, even at the informal level. The detailed study of its proceedings is highly instructive in revealing the almost insurmountable obstacles to any really effective international system.

After Aix-la-Chapelle, the alliance powers met three more times: in 1820 at Troppau (Opava, Poland), in 1821 at Ljubljana, and in 1822 at Verona. Afterwards, a similar procedure, even if informal, was convoked in major conferences for specific themes and issues, e.g., the Berlin Conference for the Balkans (1878), the one for the West Africa (1884-1885), and the Algeciras Conference (1906) for Morocco.

Even after a destructive conflict, as was WWI, the setting up of a new, organic and complex architecture, the League of Nations, with a parallel sub-system set up by the “winners,” like the Allied and Associate Council (with the Ambassador Conference as operational arm and the galaxy of Committees in charge of many issues as the first was the controversial demilitarization of the Central Powers ), showed that the states were not yet ready to resign to their own sovereignty authority; and another destructive conflict, WWII, allowed for the set-up of a more effective one system, around a galaxy of organizations, that surround the globe with a network of agreements. Nevertheless, the risk of war remains ever-present for mankind.

In reality, this system, due to the absence of a permanent architecture and focused on a rotational mechanism, from a contemporary perspective, appears to have inspired the multiple systems which now proliferate (G-7, G-8, G8+5, G-11, G-14, G20 developing nations, G-20 major economies, G-33, G-77 plus China).

Demilitarization, Occupation And War Reparations – The New Elements Of Peace?

1. The French Demand To Reduce Foreign Occupation Troops

In July, 1815, the British Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, first suggested that the Allies place an occupation force inside now-defeated France. Liverpool deemed that the “magnanimous policy” introduced in 1814 had been a complete failure; and the allies agreed with British Prime Minister’s assessment. The dispatch of an allied occupation force of 150.000 troops for a period of five years, became a key element of the Allied policy towards France.

This was quite an innovative element of winner-defeated relationships, and would be frequently used in subsequent conflicts, such as, the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, WWI and WWII. Of course, there were earlier examples of this procedure during the Napoleonic wars (e.g., the occupation by French troops of the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy and Illyria, even though the institutional framework was different in consideration of the fact that these states were allied or annexed).

The issue was perceived as extremely unjust and politically counterproductive by the new French leadership, which, correctly, saw the occupation force as a formidable weapon in the hands of supporters of Napoleon, whose used it to show that the Bourbon dynasty, having just returned, was weak and not able to save the prestige and dignity of France. Thus, it became imperative to reduce the impact of this opinion, in order to build support for the monarchy (and insure the survival of the king’s government), Richelieu sought a reduction in the troop strength of the occupying army earlier than originally proposed by the allies.

He broached the subject with the Allies in the summer of 1816, barely a half-year into the occupation. Public order had been maintained, he told the occupying powers, France was paying the cost of the occupation; the local authorities were cooperative with the occupiers. Richelieu then pointed out the greater good that would be achieved if the Allies reduced the number troops – there would be a reduction of the cost of the occupation to France, and this would demonstrate the good intentions of the Allies, and this further would confirm their confidence in the French crown, the French people (and the Richelieu ministry).

Richelieu communicated his thoughts personally to the Duke of Wellington in a meeting on June 6, 1816. It was readily apparent to Richelieu that Wellington was the key to achieving a troop cut, and, if Wellington were convinced that a reduction was in order, the allied governments would surely accede to his decision. Wellington forwarded the message to his government, which convinced Richelieu that he had gained the field marshal’s unqualified support.

Richelieu also wrote to his old benefactor, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, expressing his hopes for a reduction, but without a formal request. According to the Treaty of Paris of November 20, 1815, the Allies agreed that the army of occupation would remain in France for a maximum of five years, with a review of the issue after three years. It was in France’s interest that the earliest possible departure date be secured. Perhaps more importantly, Louis XVIII and the Duke of Richelieu had vested interest in producing an early departure to demonstrate, just as they had with the partial reduction of 1817, their ability to govern France effectively, and restore her to her position of greatness.

The push for troop reduction gave renewed popularity to the King’s rule. Negotiating a final removal for a date prior to the stated five-year occupation program would add a further sense of stability to the Bourbon monarchy. Richelieu spent three years directing France toward a stable internal situation acceptable to the allied leadership, thus refusing to leave the Allies any valid reason for their continued occupation of France, which was formally decided at the Aix-la-Chapelle conference (October 1818). The Allies agreed to withdraw their forces by the end of November 1818 as the French government ‘had fulfilled with the most scrupulous and honourable punctuality all clauses of the Treaties and Conventions,” stated the specific document of the Aix Conference.

Aside from seeking the withdrawal of allied forces, the Richelieu government designed and then rebuilt the French army so that it was capable of insuring domestic order and tranquillity. This was another key point of the France policy, showing to the Allies the willing of Paris to be ready to guarantee the internal stability an adequate military (but not overly powerful to re-awaken Allied concerns). Internally, this renewed national pride in the French, which had suffered a crisis of image after the defeat at Waterloo. Thus, ground forces were brought to 240,000 troops in 1818 and 400,000 in 1824. Soon France was able to consider herself second in military strength only to Russia and second in naval power to Britain.

2. The Fortress Issue

The issue of dismantling the chain of fortresses that had protected France since the 18th century is an aspect not often considered in analysis of the long-term effects of conflicts during the Napoleonic period. Napoleon’s 1815 military campaign in Flanders demonstrated that the guaranteeing of the defense of the southern border of the Netherlands belonged to all Europe. The Allies included the reconstruction of the Dutch barrier fortresses, running along the current Belgian-French border, in the 1815 peace-­making process. This would mean the setting up of a semi-continuous line of fortresses along the Eastern frontier of France, joining together the Rhine valley, and protecting Switzerland and the alpine side of the Kingdom of Sardinia, together with a general demolition of French fortresses.

Britain had voiced its support for an adequate military barrier in the Lowlands to the Allies in 1814. Prime Minister Lord Liverpool considered the defence of the Low Countries a “distinct British interest” of great significance. Castlereagh told Parliament “that to fortify the places in Belgium was not a Dutch object merely, but one which interested all Europe, and this country in particular.” The Morning Chronicle stated, “The fair interest of Great Britain extends no further than a secure frontier for the Netherlands, and if that can be obtained by the re-establishment of the Flemish fortresses, it is no more our policy…to promote dismemberment [of France] by which we cannot profit.”

This new guarantee became part of the overall European plan to establish and maintain order. Though the barrier forts were not the direct responsibility of the army of occupation, both devices were part of the peacemaking process and were designed to keep France within her borders. The allies would not consider withdrawal unless at least the Dutch barrier reconstruction program was completed. But the Duke of Wellington, already in 1816, along with Richelieu, agreed in principle for a reduction of the British occupation forces in consideration that the work to build the Belgian fortresses was well advanced.

The issue of the fortresses launched again a bitter diplomatic fight among the Allies, and between them and France. But France also took advantage of the division of Britain and Russia against Austria and Prussia, which failed in their attempt to force France to pay for the construction of these fortresses – a cost that was to be outside that of the general payment by Paris to the Allies.

After bitter negotiations, the Allies (always deeply divided among themselves) and France agreed to a complex mechanism with two specific protocols (one for Germany and one for the Belgian-Dutch and Savoy but against the German fortresses), which included financial payment from Paris, organizational and limited border variations with the Netherlands (Philippeville, Marienburg transferred to the Netherlands and 60 million francs to help pay for forts on the border with France). France demolished the forts in Hunningen, while the fortified city of Saarlouis was assigned to Prussia (along with the surrounding region). Prussia obtained 20 million francs for fortifications in the Lower Rhine, and another 20 for the ones in the Upper Rhine.

The rest of the 60 million, nominally assigned to the German Confederation, went in majority to Bavaria. But none of the recipients was given complete freedom of action – the construction of the fortresses in Belgium were under British supervision, while Austria and Prussia supervised the works in Germany (despite the disagreement of Bavaria), As well, Austria supervised the reinforcement of the alpine fortress of the Kingdom of Sardinia.

The issue of the fortresses saw Austria and Prussia looser (financially before than political in consideration of the use that they hoped to made of the additional war indemnity that they would want to have from France) in consideration of the lack of interest on this issue of Russia, strumentalized in its own favour by Great Britain.

3. The Arbitration Of War Payments

The extent of destruction, especially in some areas, because of military operations and occupation which went for several years, raised the issue of the war reparations as another element of the attempt to settle the conflicts of the Napoleonic wars. However, like future peace deals, the amount of war damage costs opened a Pandora Box of recriminations and furore among the parties.

The lists of compensations for the wars and occupation by French troops were submitted at the Vienna Conference. The total amount requested was immense: 775.5 million francs (Austria 200, Prussia 120, Bavaria 73, the Netherlands 65, Kingdom of Sardinia 70, Hamburg 70, Brema and Lubeck 4,5, Denmark 42, Saxony 20, Tuscany 4, Pontifical State 30, Hannover 25, Saxony and Prussia 15, Switzerland 12, Other 25).

Furthermore, Spain submitted a separate request for 263,331.912.85 francs; Great Britain, Portugal and Russia did not submit separate requests. Talleyrand first, and Richelieu later, determined to save as much of the French economy as possible, launched a strong diplomatic offensive, which closely resembled that of the future German Weimar Republic’s resistance between 1920 and 1930. Talleyrand and Richelieu outlined the impossibility for France to pay this amount without serious damage to the national economy present and future, and the risk of destabilizing the country.

Austria and Prussia put up a strong opposition – and thus the Congress was in a stalemate, which was resolved through an arbitration panel, chaired by Marshall Wellington (looking forward to the role of the US in the aftermath of WWI).

Thus, the enormous amount was reduced to a more acceptable figure (for France) of 240,664,325 francs (Anhalt-Dessau received 73,507, Anhalt-Bernuburg 350.000, Austria 25 millions, Baden 650.000, Bavaria 10 millions, Brema 1 million, Denmark 7 millions, Pontifical State 5 millions, Spain 17 millions, Imperial city of Frankfurt 700.000, Electoral Hesse 507.099, Hesse 8 millions, Hannover 10 millions, Hamburg 20 millions, Ionian Islands 3 millions, Lubeck 2 millions, Mecklenburg-Schwerin 500.000, Duchy of Nassau 127.000, Parma 1 million, Prussia 52.003.289, the Netherlands 33 millions, Portugal 818.736, Saxony 4,5 millions, Kingdom of Sardinia 25 millions, Saxony-Mainhingen 20.694, Switzerland 5 millions, Tuscany 4,5 millions, Wurttemberg 400.000, Saxony and Prussia 2.200.000, Electoral Prince of Hesse 14.000, Hesse-Darmstadt and Bavaria 200.000, Hesse-Darmstadt, Bavaria and Prussia 800.000).

This decision by Wellington, however, opened up another fracture among the Allies (the anti-French sentiment), which spread such ill-will among the claimants that Spain decided not to sign the final act of the Conference.

The sensible reduction of war payments is a key to understand the insistence of Austria and Prussia that the financial instrument of construction/rebuilding of the fortresses should be separate and not made part of the general account of French war reparations. Also, in this concern for France, both Britain and Russia emerged the winners, while Austria and Prussia were the looser. With a more manageable amount of war reparations, Richelieu’s ministry successfully negotiated loans to enable France to meet the financial obligations imposed on her and closed the dossier in the 1820, with the support of the major European banks.

Conclusion

It is a fact that the conflicts that had devastated (mainly) the European continent between 1789 and 1815 left enduring legacies, such as, the pursuit of inclusive peace, disarmament and arms limitation of a defeated power, and the establishment of mechanisms (not yet formal architectures) for consultation and political action in order to set a more stable framework.

All these were initiated on the basis of perceptions, as mentioned, of the social risk presented by the values of the French Revolution and later by a new, more powerful than ever, French attempt to establish a continental hegemony.

The example of the Congress of Vienna, and its follow-ups, despite divisions among the winners, agreed to a non-excessive punishment of the defeated and the inclusion of the defeated in a consultation mechanism, which unfortunately was not implemented and which eventually led to the Franco-Prussian war.

The lessons of the Congress of Vienna were forgotten in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war, despite the efforts of Chancellor Bismarck, whoi tried to move forward in peace negotiations in the face of hostility of the military staff and the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany. Dire punishment of the defeated created, as everyone knows, the conditions for a new and cruel conflict forty years later.

Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations.

The image shows a colored engraving after a water colour by Jean-Baptiste Isabey of the Vienna Congress, 19th century.

What Made 18th-Century Britain So Innovative?

We are so very thankful to The Critic to allow us to bring to our readers a new series – History Talks – which are podcasts by Professor Jeremy Black, in conversation with Graham Stewart, The Critic’s political editor.

The purpose of these podcasts is to inform and also delight. Each month, Professor Black answers an important question, explores an interesting web of ideas, or simply tells us about things we may not know about. This means that each of his talks is nothing short of a “Grand Tour” of the past, providing exquisite nuggets of historical details that you can carry with you as delightful souvenirs.

We begin this month with an intriguing question – Why was 18th-century Britain so innovative? The ideas and inventions that emerged on this little island in the 1700s changed not only Britian but the entire world.

Things that we take for granted would have been impossible if they had not been invented and created in Britain, such as, free speech, a free press, consumerism, industrialization, urbanization. All this is finely summarized in Rupert Brooke’s famous words:

For England’s the one land, I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go…

But why did all this not happen in any other country? Why did it happen only in Britain? Let’s listen to Professor Black for the answer.

What Made 18th-Century Britain So Innovative?

The image shows, A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a Lamp is put in place of the Sun or The Orrery, by Joseph Wright of Derby, painted ca., 1766.