Saturday, 27 April 2013

Prince Philip's New Canadian Honours

Prince Philip accepts the insignia of the Order of Canada from David
Johnston, the Governor-General

During a short visit to Canada the Duke of Edinburgh has been awarded two new decorations by the Governor General.

He has been made an Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada and a Commander of the Order of Military Merit.

The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to mark the centenary of Canadian Confederation.  There are three grades - Companion, Officer and Member.

Prince Philip was offered appointment to the order as an Honorary Companion (ie, the grade given to non-Canadians) in 1982, but he refused on the grounds that, as the consort of the Queen, he was a Canadian and thus entitled to a substantive appointment (as is the case with his Australian honours).  In 1993,  an amendment to the constitution of the Order was proposed, making the sovereign's spouse automatically a Companion, but Prince Philip again refused, stating that if he was to be appointed, it should be on his merits.  The grade of Extraordinary Companion is a new one, apparently created along the lines of the 1993 proposal.

The Companion's insignia is a neck-badge in the form of a stylized snowflake of six points, with a red annulus at its centre which bears a stylized maple leaf circumscribed with the motto of the Order, DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country), surmounted by St Edward’s Crown.

The Order of Military Merit is, as its name suggests, a military honour. It is open to all members of the Canadian Forces, whether regular or reserves, who have displaced extraordinary devotion or merit.  It was established in 1972 and has three grades - Commander, Officer and Member.

The Commanders' insignia is a neck-badge, a blue-enamelled, straight-end cross (four arms, narrow at the centre, wider at the ends) with an annulus in red surmounted by St Edward’s Crown. The annulus bears the inscription MERIT.MÉRITE.CANADA. 


And here's the OC in wear...

Friday, 26 April 2013

Books and Stuff

A regular round-up of my book news.

What I've been reading this week...

I continued with Parting Shots.

What I've bought this week...

Andrew Cook, Cash for Honours : The story of Maundy Gregory - £3.99
Peter Hennessey, The Hidden Wiring: Unearthing the British Constitution - £2.50

Thursday, 25 April 2013

10,000 Page Views!

Hard on the tail of my 150th post and 8 months into the life of the blog, we've had our 10,000th page view (10,013 at the time of writing)!

The picture says it all really - thank you for your visit and your time.  I hope you've found the blog enjoyable and/or interesting.

Some obligatory stats: 

Consistently most popular are my Royals in Medals posts - the most popular post being that on Prince Charles and his wives (587 views), followed for some reason by the Duke and Duchess of Kent (308).  My personal favorites though are the Mustaches and Old Salts

The busiest day was 18 Apr 2013 with 185 page views.  The location of individual visitors since the end of March can be seen in the flag gadget to the right of the page, but all-time traffic sources by page view are

United States
United Kingdom

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A New Knight of the Garter


Today is St George's Day, the celebration of the patron of the Order of the Garter, and the day on which new companions of the order are traditionally named.

Admission to the order is a rare honour.  In addition to the Queen and Prince of Wales (who are ex officio members) there are only 24 Knight (or Lady) Companions.  Other, supernumerary members, may be made up of the members of the royal family and overseas members.  Appointments are in the personal gift of the Queen, who in this acts without the advice of her ministers go (this privilege was restored to the Crown in 1946 - I will go into the whys and whyfores when I blog on the history of the order).

There had been three vacancies in the membership (one them caused by Lady Thatcher's death last week), but today one of them was filled by the appointment of Lord Stirrup.  He will be instituted in June on Garter Day, the annual gathering of knights at Windsor Castle.  The new knight will take his oaths and be vested in his insignia in the throne room before the companions process in their velvet mantles and plumed hats to a service in St George's Chapel.

The annual Garter Day parade

The membership of the order is currently as follows:-

Knights and Ladies Companion

  1. Lord Carrington KG, GCMG, CH, MC  (1985)
  2. The Duke of Wellington KG, LVO, OBE, MC (1990)
  3. Field Marshal Lord Bramall KG, GCB, OBE, MC (1990)
  4. The Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG (1992)
  5. The Lord Ashburton KG, KCVO (1994)
  6. The Lord Kingsdown KG (1994)
  7. Sir Ninian Stephen KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE (1994)
  8. Sir Timothy Colman KG (1996)
  9. The Duke of Abercorn KG(1999)
  10. Sir William Gladstone Bt, KG (1999)
  11. Field Marshal Lord Inge KG, GCB (2001)
  12. Sir Antony Acland KG, GCMG, GCVO (2001)
  13. The Duke of Westminster KG, CB, CVO, OBE, TD, CD (2003)
  14. Lord Butler of Brockwell KG, GCB, CVO (2003)
  15. Lord Morris of Aberavon KG  (2003)
  16. Lady Soames LG, DBE (2005)
  17. Sir John Major KG, CH (2005)
  18. The Lord Luce KG, GCVO  (2008)
  19. Sir Thomas Dunne KG, KCVO (2008)
  20. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers KG (2011)
  21. Admiral Lord Boyce KG, GCB, OBE  (2011)
  22. Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup KG, GCB, AFC (2013)
  23. Vacant
  24. Vacant

Royal Knights and Ladies

  1. The Duke of Edinburgh (1947) 
  2. The Duke of Kent (1985)
  3. The Princess Royal (1994)
  4. The Duke of Gloucester (1996)
  5. Princess Alexandra, Lady Ogilvy (2003)
  6. The Duke of York (2006)
  7. The Earl of Wessex (2006)
  8. The Duke of Cambridge (2008)

Stranger Knights and Ladies

  1. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg (1972)
  2. The Queen of Denmark (1979)
  3. The King of Sweden (1983)
  4. The King of Spain (1988)
  5. The Queen of the Netherlands (1989)
  6. The Emperor of Japan (1998)
  7. The King of Norway (2001)

Lord Stirrup will join a distinguished group
Lord Stirrup (right)

Lord Stirrup was Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of Britain's armed forces, from 2006 to 2010.

He was born Graham Eric Stirrup on 4 Dec 1949 and is known as 'Jock'.  He was commissioned into the RAF in July 1970 and, on secondment to the Sultan of Oman's Air Force, flew as a fighter pilot during the Dhofar War.

In 1983 he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his coolness and skill in landing his aircraft with one engine on fire following a bird strike.  He was station commander of RAF Marham in Norfolk during the 1991 Gulf War.  He became Assistant Chief of the Air Staff in 1998.  In 2001 he commanded Operation Veritas, the UK Force's operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.  He was promoted to Air Chief Marshal in Aug 2003 and appointed Chief of the Air Staff.  Three years later he was appointed Chief of the Defence Staff.  During his tenure, he supervised UK operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Following criticism of the Ministry of Defence for poor planning and problems in procurement and supply and the election of a new government, Stirrup was replaced earlier than planned.  He was granted a life peerage and entered the House of Lords as a cross-bencher.

Friday, 19 April 2013

On Give-aways, Gaming and the British Civil War of 1938

Lately I've been following several historical war-gaming and miniatures blogs in my copious spare time.

One thing that strikes me is the generosity and community feeling that some of these blogs engender. Not only do they share work-in-progress, experience and painting guides, but there's also a strong tradition of marking milestones by having give-away competitions.  These can range from physical prizes to services such as painting.

The latest competition is over at the Herfordshire 1938 Blog which is celebrating its 20,000th pageview - congratulations to JP, who has constructed a very interesting and entertaining website!  JP is offering to write a background (or 'fluff') for factions in the game he plays.

Now, I know that because of the scatter-gun approach of this blog, many people reading this won't have the slightest interest in war-gaming or miniature figures.  I think, however, it's worth bringing attention to this blog because it's concerned with a game/period which might be of interest to those who come here for royalty and odd historical miscellanea.

"Abdicate be damn'd!"
That's because the game is one called A Very British Civil War (VBCW) .  It's an alternative-history senario based in the late 1930s.  The premise is that Edward VIII refuses to bow to pressure to abdicate in 1936, forcing a greater constitutional crisis than that in reality.  The Baldwin government feels obliged to resign, and Edward appoints Oswald Mosley (leader of the British Union of Fascists) as Prime Minister.  This abandonment of the democratic principle leads to civil war.

As Jon says in his blog 'one of the most attractive facets of VBCW is being able to research the history of your own area and interweave elements of this into a fictional narrative'.  As is obvious from his title, Jon's area is Herefordshire, but I've also seen examples for Shetland, the Midlands, Essex and others.

All sort of fun can be had with historical and pseudo-historical figures and movements.  Factions proposed by the game's creators include the Edwardian Loyalists, the moderate Anglican League ('Middle England at War'), the Albertines (the Government in Exile elects Prince Albert, the Duke of York, Lord Protector), right-wing extremists, left-wing extremists (including the Liverpool Free State and the Glasgow Reds) and various nationalists (Scotland declares independence and there are movements to do so in Wales and Cornwall).  But gamers are encouraged to create their own - sometimes (very) irregular and humorous - factions.

Basically it's a question of 'old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist' but with Lee Enfields over their shoulders and hand grenades in their panniers.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Books and Stuff

What I've been reading this week....

I finished Men Whose Fathers Were Men: The story of a hobby by Centurion (Col Reginald Branwhite Jay).  The hobby of the subtitle is medal collecting, and this 1925 book is a lovely period-piece.  It takes the form of one decent chap telling another about collecting in a series of after-dinner chats in his den, during which he expounds on the C19th history of the British Army (particularly in the Peninsular and the First Afghan War).  Very theatrical!

So I've now started Matthew Paris & Andrew Bryson, Parting Shots, which was one of the things I bought last week.  It a selection of extracts from ambassadors' valedictory despatches from abroad.


What I've bought this week...

Sam Willis, The Admiral Benbow: The life and times of a naval hero - £3.99
Richard Sale & Eugene Potapov, The Scramble for the Arctic: Ownership, exploration and conflict in the far north - £2.99

Peter F Hamilton, Manhattan in Reverse - £3.99


More on that Bearer Party

For those interested, a MoD press release gives full details of the members of the bearer party, down to their ages and home towns.  It also tells us about the cap orderlies which, for some inexplicable reason, I didn't do in my last post.

No so long ago I commented on the unusual sighting (at the Pope's inaugural mass) of British diplomatic uniform.  Well, today we had something even rarer - Privy Councillor's court uniform!  This is the Rt Hon Alan Duncan, the shy retiring MP for Rutland and Melton.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Ceremonial Miscellany - The Thatcher Funeral

Just a few jottings on the Thatcher funeral that occur to me on watching the ceremony and looking at photos.

I'm not going to comment on the woman herself or the rights or wrongs of giving her a ceremonial/state funeral.  Please spare me from anything like that in the 'comments' section (I'll delete it anyway).

The gun carriage

The use of gun carriages to carry the coffin is traditional in state and ceremonial funerals. 

Since the funeral of Queen Victoria in February 1901, it has been usual in state funerals for the carriage to be drawn by members of the Royal Navy.  This is because when the coffin was loaded and the cortege moved off, the coupling broke on the carriage and the naval honour-guard jumped in to replace the horses in order to prevent delay.  The tradition has been followed for all state funerals (those of the subsequent kings, Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbattan) since.  That gun carriage, although belonging to the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA), is stored at the navy's gunnery school HMS Excellent at Portsmouth - photos and the full story here

It looks to me that the gun-carriage used for Lady Thatcher's funeral wasn't the state gun-carriage.  It was drawn by horses from the RHA, which appeared to be quite spooked at one point.

The Pall Bearers

The pall bearers were selected from military units with connections with the Falklands War.  They were arranged by the unit's seniority (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Artillery, Scots Guards, Parachute Regt and a member of the Brigade of Gurhkas) and chosen so the shortest was at the front, the tallest at the back - this meant that one of the two tallest was a Gurhka: not an easy choice!

The bearers were supervised by GSM Bill Mott OBE, LVO and commanded by Major Nicky Mott MBE, both of the Welsh Guards.  The Motts are brothers and both survivors of the RFA Sir Galahad disaster during the Falklands.  There's a nice article on them here.

What was on the cushions?

Unfortunately we didn't get a decent picture of them, but the cushions borne into the cathedral by Lady Thatcher's grandchildren and subsequently placed in her hearse had on them the insignia of the Order of the Garter and  the Order of Merit. 

Thatcher was made a member of the Order of Merit in 1990 and a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter in 1995.  The only other non-royals to hold both the Garter and the OM post-war were also prime ministers - Churchill and Clement Attlee (they were also both Companions of Honour).  The insignia of the Garter will be returned to the Queen, but the family will keep the OM.

I will add links to both these orders once I've posted on them.  I've been promising a post on the OM for months!

Who was the man with the Big Hat?

This was Roger Gifford, this year's Lord Mayor of the City of London.  This is a different position from the Mayor of London (Boris Johnston, the current mayor was also at the funeral, but didn't take any part in the ceremony).  Gifford is the 685th lord mayor, which is an indication of the antiquity of the post (established in 1189).  The lord mayor is elected from the among the aldermen of City of London (the 'Square Mile') every Michelmas (29 September) by the Liverymen of the City.  His function is ceremonial, charitable and to promote the interests of the City. 

Technically the Crown and Parliament doesn't have any authority within the city precincts and the Queen only attends St Pauls by permission of and attended by the Lord Mayor.

When she crosses the city boundaries on official duties, the Queen is met by the City Marshal and the Swordbearer (he's the one with the furry hat - a cap of maintenance, itself a rare privilege - peeking over the lord mayor's shoulder; his office is a newish one, first mentioned in 1419).  The City's sword is placed before her hilt first in a voluntary sign of submission, she then touches it before returning it to the Lord Mayor.

The sword used this morning is a special one, the Mourning Sword (one of five the City uses), it dates from the C16th and has been used as the Lord Mayors' mourning sword since the C19th.  It is distinguished by its black handle and accoutrements.  Like many things about this funeral, it was last seen at Sir Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965.

Which leads us to...

...The Queen

By custom the Queen only rarely attends funerals other than for members of the family (she'd never did anything else otherwise!), but sends a representative.  This was the first prime minister's funeral she's attended since Churchill's.

For those interested, 'From Her Majesty's Jewel Vault' has done it's usual bang-up job of identifying the jewelry the Queen wore at the funeral (one of Queen Victoria's pieces).

The Chelsea Pensioners

Part of the honour guard at St Paul's consisted of Chelsea Pensioners.  In retirement Lady Thatcher did a lot to support the Chelsea Hospital, visiting frequently and raising a lot of money for it.  The Hospital's 2009 infirmary wing is named after her.

The guard included Dorothy Hughes, one of the first two (and so far only)
female Chelsea Pensioners

Friday, 12 April 2013

Books and Stuff

A regular round-up of my book news.

What I've bought this week....

Peter Galloway, The Order of the British Empire - £10.00
Matthew Paris & Andrew Bryson, Parting Shots - £3.50
Donald E Pease, Theodor Seuss Geisel - £2.99
Julles Stewart, Crimson Snow: Britian's first disaster in Afghanistan - £3.99
Jules Stewart, The Khyber Rifles: From the British Raj to Al Qaeda - £2.99

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Bit More Lead

I had a bit of a jiffy bag dance this week.  I received some more miniatures.

First from the Perrys' range, which I've been impressed with for quite a while.

I chose to go on with my interest in the Sudan campaigns, by getting some basic firing lines (including some Sikhs) and an Gardner Gun crewed by men of the naval brigade. (The photos I've lifted from the Perrys website - I hope they don't mind on the grounds that it might generate some traffic for them!).

Secondly, I picked up a couple of second-hand pieces, originally from Black Cat, which seemed a bit of fun.   I got them because they're books - and that's enough for me!  But the figure on the right reminds me of a Lady Librarian of our acquaintance; and how can you go wrong with a book monster?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Milestone and Some Stats

This is the 150th post to this blog!

Although I haven't blogged with the same boyish enthusiasm as I did when I started last August, I don't think that this is bad going.

More surprisingly perhaps is that people (you, dear reader!) have been coming and reading my jottings.  At the time of writing, the blog has had 8,523 page views, so I must be doing something right.  The busiest day was 27 Mar 2013, when there were 166.

The most popular page is the 'Royals in Medals' entry for Prince Charles (and his wives), which has had 510 views - more than twice the number of the next in the list.

Last weekend I added the little flag gadget that you can see at the bottom of the column of stuff on the right-hand side of the page.  It counts individual visitors (as opposed to page views) and where they come from.  It's no great news that the majority of visitors would come from the USA and UK, but what does surprise me is that I've had visitors from 29 countries in the last week!   Welcome, wellkommen, bienvenue, croeso, etc!

I've also added a 'You might also like' gadget - hopefully it will point you to some of the less frequented pages of the blog.  Enjoy!

Books and Stuff

A regularish update of my book news.

What I've been reading this week...

I seem to have very little time to read these days, but this week I had to sit in a waiting room for an hour and a half, so I managed some more of Men Whose Fathers Were Men.

The problem I've had with this is that it's uncut, so I've been reading it in bed and found myself stymied when I've come across uncut pages.  I did take a paper-knife with me to the hospital, and it wasn't until I got there that I realised that I might have awkward questions to answer!

What's sitting by my bed half-read...

This is a very annoying habit:  I start a book and after a while get distracted and leave it, starting another.  I must make an effort to polish these off..


What I've bought...

Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle - £2.81
Diana Wynne Jones, The Chronicles of Chrestomanci - £2.80
Stanley Martin, The Order of Merit: One hundred years of matchless honour - £6.01


This was a nice illustration of the pitfalls of buying second-hand copies through Amazon.  Howl was fine and (as described) like new, but the Chronicles was a very dog-eared ex-library copy I wouldn't have bothered with if I'd seen it.

Depressing book news....

Is that Iain (M) Banks is dying, as the whole blogosphere is aware now.  Given what he's always said about about his 'genre' writing being ignored, it was ironic that the coverage the BBC gave it only mentioned The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road, although the reporter was standing in front of a table piled high with his 'M' books.

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