To Be Then Here Holden

Dissolution day has arrived for the Welsh Parliament with just a week to go before the election. The documentation I found on the matter did not specify a precise time, so my default assumption was that it took place at midnight. Since the Senedd only has sixty members it took under an hour to delete the “MS” post-nominals from all of their pages. For good measure I also created a box that could be slapped on the top of each article removing any doubt over the nature of events. I hope that in time the politically-oriented communities of Wikipedians will adopt something similar for all elections of this kind (preferably with a dedicated bot) as I think it is far more efficient than laboriously removing each and every reference to incumbency from each and every page. Also today the UK Parliament would be closing down, though not for an election.

Having been in session since 17th December 2019, Parliament was prorogued this afternoon, to re-open on Tuesday 11th May. As expected, the ceremony was much modified to meet the requirements of social distancing. The Lords Newby (Liberal Democrat) and Judge (Crossbench) were still named in the letters patent – along with Welby and Buckland, of course – but it was only Fowler, Evans and Smith who physically took part. Unlike in the abortive attempt of September 2019 the three commissioners were not huddled together but spaced apart, and it is clear now that the temporary bench between the woolsack and the throne is in fact three smaller stools which, until this occasion, were always pushed together. Black Rod summoned the Commons as before (reciting her command in a robotic fashion that suggested some very determined memorisation), but instead of walking in two columns with government members adjacent to their shadows the MPs had to shuffle awkwardly in single file. Upon reaching the Lords’ bar, Mr Speaker and Black Rod stood at the far ends of the panel behind the crossbench with the Clerk of the House of Commons in the middle some way back, while the Serjeant-at-Arms did not appear to be there at all. The nodding and doffing between Commons and Commission only occurred once each on entry and departure instead of the usual three times. A doorkeeper could be seen in the archway directing MPs to stand on the steps either side as they came in. The Reading Clerk (Jake Vaughan) read the patent as before, but for a while I wondered where the other two clerks were – given that since the start of the pandemic there has only been one chair at the table instead of three. For a moment I feared that Vaughan was going to have to do both parts of the Royal Assent maneuver himself – perhaps darting either side of the table – or that another clerk would be participating virtually. Instead the Clerk of the Parliaments (Simon Burton) and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery (Antonia Romeo) strode into the chamber from either side behind the commissioners, did their part as usual, then swiftly exited the same way.

When Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech had been read aloud and the MPs dismissed, Fowler stood up and stepped ahead of the woolsack while Evans and Smith sidled out to his right – in contrast to the normal procedure in which Evans would have moved first and thus brushed in front of him – then went out of the chamber behind the mace-bearer as normal. As this was to be his last sitting day as Lord Speaker I had wondered if there would be any cheering – let alone applause or other gesture of celebration – from the peers spectating, but instead the procession was as solemn as any. Upon returning to their own chamber MPs again had to arrange themselves in a distanced fashion while Sir Lindsay recited the list of acts granted assent. Handshaking was against regulations, so members merely bumped elbows or exchanged nods with the speaker either side of the perspex screen as they departed past his chair.

The timetable published some weeks back for the election of a new lord speaker would have had the winner (The Lord McFall of Alcluith, Senior Deputy Speaker since 2016) assuming office this Saturday and presiding for the first time next Tuesday, but the government’s decision to seek prorogation this week instead of next means that the new speaker’s debut will in fact be at the state opening. Exactly what role he will play there is still uncertain, for little more information has been revealed about the changes that ceremony will undergo to remain COVID-compliant.

What I often notice about royal commissions in Parliament is that the cameras and microphones are left running even when nothing is formally happening. In the upper chamber I heard Lady Smith converse with the backbenchers. I couldn’t make out the whole conversation

Smith: If you make me laugh you’ll be in trouble.

Unknown: The ~~~~* know how you feel.

Smith: Every sympathy.

Unknown: It’s nice to have some other people dressed.

Smith: You haven’t got to wear a hat though, have you?

Unknown: Well they do – he has a mitre!

Smith: I think it would fit better now I’ve got so much hair.

Unknown: The first law of politics is Don’t Wear A Funny Hat.

Smith: Don’t wear a subtle one either.

Unknown: As long as you don’t break into song.

Smith: My mates from school are all watching.

Unknown: Is the Lord Speaker allowed to keep his?

Smith: I’d hate to see what they’re saying on WhatsApp at the moment.

The rest of the conversation was insufficiently intelligible to transcribe, but I think one of the unknowns joked about Smith having her hair cut around the hat and somehow being electrocuted.

Also emerging today was the last of the Lord Speaker’s lectures from Fowler’s tenure, involving the Lords Mandelson and Clarke of Nottingham. For some reason it is unlisted.

EXTERNAL LINKS

*It sounded like “conventioners” or “adventurers” but in context it clearly referred to the bishops, and indeed Archbishop Welby was probably one of those replying.

Something Flagged Up

https://www.flaginstitute.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/1988lpool-01.jpg

Regular readers know by now that I am a keen heraldist and am always on the lookout for new – hopefully free – material on the subject. Indeed, I am rapidly closing in on my nine hundredth armorial illustration for Wikimedia Commons. I have not written so much about vexillology, although of course the topics frequently intersect. Earlier this week I was trawling through EventBrite to see if there were any more events coming up soon by the Heraldry Society and instead found an advertisement for the fiftieth birthday of the Flag Institute.

After the standard Zoom introduction by Chairman John Hall, President Malcolm Farrow lectured on the development of the institute itself and of British flag culture more generally over the past fifty years. “The flag institute is instrumental in slowly changing the culture of Britain from a nation which rarely flew flags, to one in which flying flags is becoming the law.” An overview was given of how local and regional flags have proliferated over the past two decades, having rarely if ever seen use before.

Andrew Rosindell MP gave a speech about his efforts to change public attitudes surrounding flags, in particular his campaign – including a personal conversation with The Queen – to have the Union Flag flown over the Victoria Tower throughout the year instead of only when Parliament was sitting. He also mentioned the recent erection of three new flagpoles in New Palace Yard.

There was also a lengthy preview of the documentary Look Away, Look Away by Patrick O’Connor about last year’s change of state flag by Mississippi. Unfortunately the video feed cut out midway through and had to be restarted after some awkward fumbling.

Later a guest asked if the “All-party” Parliamentary Group on Flags & Heraldry could really be called that when six of the ten officers were Conservatives with Labour, SNP, DUP and Crossbench contributing just one each. Rosindell reassured as that there were plenty more within the rank-and-file, but sadly it was hard to make out his words as his audio feed was suddenly plagued by feedback noise. I think he said that anything so traditionalist in nature was bound to disproportionately attract those of a conservative outlook but that there were still plenty of others who recognised the importance of flags and/or held a deep patriotism.

Here it would be prudent to make a distinction between heraldry and vexillology: A coat of arms, even when displayed on a flag, must represent a person. That could be a natural person (Betty Boothroyd, Johnny Hon, Desmond Wilcox) or a legal one (The Association of British Neurologists, Guy’s Hospital, Totnes Town Council). Flags cover a much broader remit, and can represent such abstracts as religions, ethnicities, and political ideals. Another important difference is that arms are only properly borne by their owners (though heralds can wear their masters’ arms and badges can be worn by servants or soldiers) whereas flags unless specifically restricted can be flown by anyone. It is only natural that use of flags is much more prevalent than that of arms, and also that any particular flag is a lot more likely to cause a stir than any particular escutcheon.

There is a prevalent line of thought which deems too overt an invocation of British patriotism to be distasteful and thus, in itself, anti-British. Another related line says that nations more generally are not a meaningful affiliation and that flags – along with their natural companion, anthems – are a distraction for feeble minds. Attitudes toward our national insignia are quite sharply polarised by partisan affiliation and by demographic divides. HM Government has been conspicuously campaigning over recent months for greater use of the Union Flag in both public and private, resulting in praise from some quarters and mockery from others.

It doesn’t look as if there will be any more from the Flag Institute for some time, but the Heraldry Society will be back on 14th May with Crosses and Crossings – Huguenot Heraldry. That the banner heading shows a star looking to be by Sodacan and a coat of arms by Rs-nourse is intriguing by itself.

EXTERNAL LINKS

And Ever Shall Be

It was always difficult to work out the exact year in which a given episode of Victoria was taking place, given the series’ sloppiness with chronology. Series 2 ended with “Luxury & Conscience” in which Sir Robert Peel resigns as prime minister following the murder of his personal secretary Edward Drummond – events which actually took place three years apart. Series 3 picks up with “Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown”, which covers the revolutions of 1848 and features Lord John Russell in charge. Dialogue indicates that the return of the Whigs to government is a recent development. In between these installments is the 2017 Christmas special “Comfort & Joy”, set in 1846 and showing, among other things, the adoption of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (which happened in 1850). The curious thing about the Christmas special is the absence of the political side of things. In real life Russell’s ministry had already been in place for six months but, in the series’ uncertain timeline, the political situation is simply ignored. This is almost certainly deliberate, as the intention is for the holiday special to be a purely family affair. Plus, with more than a year’s gap between the series it’s entirely possible that the later story arcs hadn’t yet been planned out, nor the relevant characters cast.

Flash forward to 2021: The Duke of Edinburgh had wished for a low-key funeral (well, by royal standards at any rate), and the pandemic meant that something on the scale of the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002 or even Lady Thatcher’s in 2013 would not be possible. Instead Philip’s coffin was driven a short distance within the bounds of Windsor Castle and then lowered into the vault. Hundreds of soldiers were still present outside, but COVID regulations forbade more than thirty attendees. Ordinarily it would be expected that prime ministers and other senior officials would attend, but Boris Johnson (and, presumably, any others concerned) relinquished his place to make room for more of the deceased’s family. The resulting guest list included eighteen descendants of King George V, eight spouses thereof, three other descendants of Queen Victoria and one spouse thereof. I had wondered if the family or the press would have sought to orchestrate a photograph of Prince George of Cambridge saluting the coffin à la John Kennedy, but it was decided that the great-grandchildren were too young to be involved.

While the masks and social distancing ought to be obvious giveaways, I actually found that the reduced attendance gave the ceremony a strangely timeless quality – it was effectively a bottle show. Other than Msssrs Mozzia and Brooksbank all the people there were the same people one would have expected to see there at had this happened at any point in the last ten years – admittedly Viscount Severn and Lady Louise would have been smaller. Justin Welby might be considered a semi-political figure and he took office in 2013, but as St George’s Chapel is a royal peculiar he played a minor role compared to David Conner, who has been Dean since 1998. Thomas Woodcock as Garter King of Arms could also be considered vaguely political given his role introducing new members of the House of Lords, with that office the public tend to remember the uniform rather than the face. The sounds of the past week, too, were those you’d expect to here: steady footsteps, military orders, cannon blasts, church bells, and, from the studio, the interminable wittering of Gyles Brandreth. Now the burbling of a Land Rover TD5 has been added to the mix. Even that adds to the timeless effect, since the Defender was in production for a third of a century and without a number plate even I – a subscriber to Land Rover Enthusiast for a few years – could not guess at a glance the decade in which this one was constructed.

Those who have studied British political history know that long ago the House of Commons met in St Stephen’s Chapel, with the Speaker’s chair on the altar steps and the members facing each other in the choir stalls – an arrangement which has been maintained in subsequent legislative chambers in Britain and around the world. As a consequence today’s proceedings – with only a few dozen people carefully spaced apart – resembled a session of the hybrid house, or perhaps even the failed 1am prorogation in 2019. Hopefully on this occasion the ceremony won’t have to be repeated a month later.

Having already done a piece about television scheduling in light of COVID, it would be pertinent to review it in relation to the royal death. Of course major newspapers and broadcasters have documentaries and obituaries prepared years in advance of the event – not just for the Duke of Edinburgh but for a wide range of prominent public figures. Eye 1545 page 18 notes how, in the build up to his centenary on 10th June, contributors often had to do each interview twice – the first speaking in present tense wearing light suits, the second in past tense wearing black ones. It was also noted that, in addition to different networks’ documentaries often – and unavoidably – using the same stock footage and delivering the same story as each other, there were some instances of companies recycling interview footage from their own documentaries in 2011 or even 2007, with talking heads who nowadays are visibly much older or even who themselves have died in the intervening years.

On other occasions this temporal tangle would be cause for disdain, but to commemorate a man who has been “a constant” for longer than most of the world can remember, somehow it feels oddly appropriate.

UPDATE (20th April)

The video I originally embedded (from the firm’s own YouTube channel) has now been set to private. The BBC’s has also disappeared. I have replaced it with the Teletrece version.

UPDATE (1st May)

That one has gone as well. I’m now using the one from 6abc Philadelphia.

The Badge of The Magpie

HMS Magpie, circa 1944.

I am always on the lookout for heraldry-related literature, especially if it can be read online for free. Yesterday I discovered that the county of Somerset and the former county of Middlesex have – or at least had – their own heraldry societies, and each publishes on its website a large back-catalogue of society journals – the Somerset Dragon and the Seaxe respectively.

The Seaxe‘s 34th edition (from September 2000), contains an article about the heraldic badges used by HMS Magpie, which the late Duke of Edinburgh once captained.

HMS Magpie and her Badges by Roland Symons

It has become the fashion recently for Royal Naval badges to be redrawn or even completely changed. Some have been altered for aesthetic reasons, some to reflect in status and some because the original design is now considered ‘politically incorrect’! The badge of HMS Forward for example originally consisted of a hunting cap and horn but, being the Royal Naval Reserve Establishment in Birmingham, it now carries the crest of the City of Birmingham. This may be current fashion but one change of badge design came as a result of a schoolboy’s initiative in 1952. There have been seven Magpies in the Royal Navy. The first was a re-named prize – a four-gun schooner captured at Perros in 1807. The last was a sloop of the Black Swan Class, launched in 1943. She saw active service in the Atlantic, the Arctic and off Normandy whilst in 1944 she formed part of Captain F J Walker’s Second Support Group and, along with HMS Starling, HMS Kite and HMS Wild Goose, helped in the sinking of U238 and U592 in that year. In January 1943 had been granted a badge consisting of a magpie volant proper. In September 1952 a pupil from Monkton Combe Junior School, in Bath, saw HMS Magpie at Gibraltar. The badge of the School happened to be a magpie and this appeared on the cover of the School’s magazine. And so, armed with a copy of the magazine, young Michael Swift boarded the Magpie! This contact led to links being forged between the School and the ship. The captain of the Magpie, Commander Graham Lumsden DSC, was rather taken by the design of the magpie used by the School and which had been designed by the art mistress, Miss Bulmer. He enlisted the support of a previous captain of HMS Magpie, HRH Prince Philip, in an effort to get the ship’s badge changed and in January 1953 a letter arrived at Monkton Combe Junior School stating that His Royal Highness feels that your magpie is nicer than the present ship’s badge and he has asked me to write to the Admiralty to suggest that it might be substituted for the one in existence. In May 1953 this was achieved and a new badge and a new badge was granted; this could be blazoned as white within an annulet black a magpie statant rousant proper.

Apart from the bird being turned around to face the right way, the badge was that of Monkton Combe Junior School. Sir Arthur Cochrane, however, surrounded the badge with a black annulet. An annulet is symbolic of unity and friendship, here officially linking school and ship, but it may also be derived from the ‘magpie’ found on a shooting target. Sadly, in 1956, HMS Magpie went into reserve and then to the breakers’ yard in 1959. One of Magpie’s final appearances was to ‘act’ the part of HMS Amethyst in the film The Yangste Incident – and when Amethyst moves in that film, it is in reality Magpie! As a token of her friendship with Monkton Combe Junior, the School was presented with with the ship’s bell and Division Trophies -the former is still used for the christening of children of staff members! In 1970 another chapter in the story was written when the Magpie’s badge made an appearance in the South Atlantic, this time on a postage stamp – the ascension 2s.6d. issue, being one of a series featuring Royal Naval badges. In 1988 Monkton Combe applied for a Grant of Arms and to accompany it, the Junior School asked for its badge to be registered on the same Grant. There was a moment of worry – could the School retrieve its magpie from the Royal Navy? Thanks to the efforts of Hubert Chesshyre a design was produced which satisfied all concerned. It is blazoned within an annulet embellished in chief with a fleur-de-lys Azure a magpie proper. Somewhere amid the cast-off clothing of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal there are two rather small sweaters featuring the new badge of their father’s old command. They were given by the School as presents in 1953! and, of course, there was the Warship Class diesel locomotive named Magpie but that is a story for the Editor to tell !

***

The Editors Tale is unfortunately all too quickly told. When the Railway Modernisation Plan of 1955 got under way the Western Region of British Railways (the old Great Western Railway) surprisingly obtained authority to pursue the development of diesel traction, based on a German technology, which was completely different from that authorised for the rest the country. As part of this development several hundred highly individual locomotives were built between between 1958 and 1963, including a batch of 71 intended for hauling express trains between London Bristol and the West of England. The WR in a characteristic gesture of defiance to the dictates then coming down from the British Railways Board gave these engines names commemorating well-known warships primarily of the World War II period. No.829 which was built at Swindon and entered service in 1960 was Magpie, the name being carried on impressive aluminium plates on either side of the locomotive. Many of these engines were also adorned with beautiful cast plaques bearing the appropriate ship’s badge but in the case of Magpie this was regrettably not to be. The arrival of the new 2,200 hp diesel-hydraulic locomotive was reported in the Monkton Combe School Magazine at the time and the School’s Railway Correspondent commented: These diesels will go on running for forty or even fifty years yet, so let’s hope that the then headmaster will acquire the name-plate or any other part of value to go with the bell of its fellow Warship! His prophecy was unfortunately to prove highly inaccurate, the bitter internal politics of British Rail eventually leading to the damning of the “Warships” on the grounds of high maintenance costs and they rapidly disappeared from the scene. Magpie fell victim to the cutter’s torch in 1972, being then just under twelve years old. The nameplates almost certainly still exist, such items nowadays commanding very high prices – but regrettably one did not find its way to Monkton Combe.

It is fascinating to have uncovered this story so soon after publishing my grandmother’s memoir relating to the ship. Unfortunately I have not found any articles about the Pelican‘s badges just yet.

FURTHER READING

 

Memories of Malta

Fort Manoel in Gżira, Malta, 1880.

This is Thursday and I still haven’t written anything and in any case, with the way I have been feeling and the things that have happened, I can’t even remember what I was supposed to write about. However, this week has seen the Queen celebrate her 80th birthday, and being a true royalist I was sitting watching the film of her life. She is a few months older than I am and was always there when I was a child. The two little princesses were my favourite pair. No television in those days, but I used to keep a scrapbook and cut out every picture I could find of them.

Sitting watching the program, Paull came and sat with me and I started telling him different things that had happened to granddad and myself over the years where our lives had touched with Elizabeth and Philip and had just been telling him about our lives in Malta when he left me to my program. No sooner had he gone than Malta appeared on the screen and I called him back. He watched the program with and said Grandma, you should write about these things. You knew all about that, didn’t you, so here you have a few memories. Just a few, I won’t bore you too much.

P.O. Stanley Edward Taylor & wife in Malta, 1949.

Stan and I met at Royal Arthur, a shore base at Butlins in Skegness. The first time I saw him he was wearing a pink tu-tu and dancing with four other PTIs to the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Shortly afterwards, Royal Arthur moved across country to Corsham in Wiltshire. There were three huge camps there: The first was the Ship’s Company camp for the Wrens, sailors and officers. The second was the working offices and training camps where new entries were taken in and trained, and their instructors lived on the same camp with them. I was a writer pay as it was termed and our office was very close to the gym where Stan spent his time. Up the road there was another camp, Kingsmoor where petty officers took their courses and it was there that we first made contact with Philip. We had been told that Prince Philip of Greece would be joining us and none of us had ever heard of him. We honestly thought that he was to be one of our young entrants so we were absolutely bowled over when this handsome blonde young man whizzed through the gate in an elderly open-topped sports car. The first time my friend and I saw him we were just going through the gate back to our working camp when this old black car without even slowing down shot past us taking Jean’s jacket off her arm and leaving it in the dust. Now, Jean was a Hull girl and no-one did that to her. When he didn’t stop she took her shoe off and aimed it at him together with a load of abuse. The poor old jaunty was dancing up and down waving his arms and mouthing no-no-no. That was our first meeting with Philip. We would occasionally meet him at sports events and he met with us when we played mixed hockey. Rumours started to circulate that he was getting mail from Buckingham Palace and returning from London one day he had a slight car accident. It was reported straight back to the Palace and Elizabeth dashed out and got into her car and started off for Corsham. However, word was sent that she had to be turned back and back home she was sent. Later, of course, came the Royal Wedding and ten Chiefs and Petty Officers from Kingsmoor were invited to the wedding and much to their embarrassment were known ever after that as the bridesmaids.

Philip’s ship, the Black Swan-class Magpie.

The following year Stan and I were married and Stan was posted to Malta where he was the PTI for six frigates, one of which was Philip’s Magpie. Stan was based on the Pelican which wasn’t easy for sport with six ships to look after and as we were newly-weds he pleaded his case and was allowed to stay ashore with me, except when they all went on exercises together. The little ships had never been heard of in the Med sports before but he went from one ship to the other getting his teams together by means fair and fowl. He had more AN Others on his lists than actual names, but by the time he had told each of his boxers that it didn’t really matter as so-and-so was a better boxer anyway, he ended up with his teams and that year took every cup in the Med. I can still see him and Captain Bonham Carter standing behind the goal with their faces up to the nets calling come on, hit me, hit me, and seeing their caps go flying in the air with each goal.

Stan’s ship, the Egret-class Pelican.

We went out with the footballers that night, starting out in Sliema, but the boys got restless and wanted to go down the Gutt as the red light district is known, but couldn’t because they knew Stan wouldn’t let me go. He said “As long as I am with her she can go anywhere.” and off we all went to Floriana. I was very innocent in those days and watched a matelot dancing with a large lady in a pink satin blouse. After a quick glance at this pair I remarked to Stan “What a large lady that is!”, at which all the lads curled up with laughter. We then went on to the main Gutt and after a while one of the lads came to Stan and whispered in his ear, and Stan said okay and decided that it was time we got ourselves home, and off we went. The next morning there was an SOS from Philip: “What have you done to my crew? Get yourself down to the local prison and see if you can get them out!”, and that was when I learned that Stan had been asked to remove me as there was a fight brewing between the navy and the army.

Lt. Mountbatten with the Princess Elizabeth, 1947.

Elizabeth sometimes came down to Manoel Island when the boys were playing friendly matches. There would hardly be a soul watching and a matelot would walk to the side of the of the pitch with a wooden chair and a few minutes later she would appear. No sign of her detective though, he was always around watching from a distance, and in no time a little group of sailors would be standing around her chair watching the match. She always looked so happy in Malta. They were very happy days for all of us.

Must go, it’s bedtime.

Written 27th April 2006
by Pauline Taylor (1927-2018)
 
UPDATE (12th April)
The Lord Judge, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, referenced his own Maltese memories in a parliamentary speech earlier today.

The Late Duke

His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark was born on 10th June 1921. He was the only son of His Royal Highness Prince Andrew of Greece & Denmark, who in turn was a younger son of His Majesty King George I of the Hellenes. Through his agnatic line he was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, while his mother Princess Alice was from the House of Battenberg. Queen Victoria was his enatic great-great grandmother.

Philip’s titles have an interesting history, in that he was born a prince of Greece and of Denmark but later renounced these titles to obtain British citizenship. This move later turned out to be unnecessary as the Sophia Naturalization Act 1705 meant he had British citizenship already. He adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was used by his maternal uncle Louis (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma) and represented an Anglicised version of Battenberg. The subsequent controversy over whether his descendants should be the House of Windsor or Mountbatten-Windsor is a little ironic given that Philip himself was already effectively going by his mother’s maiden name rather than his father’s.

The marriage certificate says Philip Mountbatten.

New titles were bestowed rapidly in advance of his wedding: On 19th November George VI appointed him a Royal Knight of the Garter (one day after The Princess Elizabeth, to maintain her seniority) and granted him the style of Royal Highness (on British authority this time), then on 20th raised him to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich – all of which now belong to his eldest son. The lack of simultaneity between these events means that for a single day he was styled “Lieutenant His Royal Highness Sir Philip Mountbatten”. On the 21st his title was inserted into the Book of Common Prayer. He was ceremonially introduced to the House of Lords on 21st July 1948. For a while there was some controversy over whether or not he was a prince. This was resolved on 22nd February 1957 when his wife, now sovereign, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, which put him level with her sons and uncles. There were some suggestions of making him “Prince Consort” like Albert or “Prince of the Commonwealth” to reflect the monarchy’s larger purview but these were ultimately turned down.

His precedence at this time is unclear, though obviously the lowest he could have ranked was as the newest ordinary duke. A royal warrant on 26th September 1952 declared his should “upon all occasions and in all Meetings except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament have, hold and enjoy Place, Pre-eminence and Precedence next to Her Majesty”, which again followed the example set by Victoria with Albert. This technically made him second man in the land, for the monarch is always first man even when female, and is the reason he was often seen walking two paces behind his wife on formal occasions.

Heraldic banner at St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, 2010

Philip’s heraldic status in his youth is not clear to me, but as a British adult he was – rather unconventionally – given two grants of arms. In 1947 his armorial achievement showed the arms of Greece surmounted by those of Denmark, which in turn were surmounted by those of his great-grandmother Alice (albeit omitting the Saxe-Coburg inescutcheon she used, which the British royals had abandoned in 1917). For reasons difficult to uncover these were deemed “unsatisfactory” so in 1949 the shield was replaced by a new quarterly version. The first quarter showed the lesser arms of the Kingdom of Denmark, the second quarter the white cross of Greece, the third the black and white stripes of Battenberg and the fourth a castle on a rock for Edinburgh. That last part is especially unusual as peers’ shields do not normally incorporate the municipal insignia of their nominal territories. These arms were of course rendered as a rectangular flag (confusingly called a royal standard, even though “standard” refers to a very different style of flag) and a square banner above his Garter stall at Windsor. In composing this article I also discovered that he had a badge, showing the castle surmounted by a princely coronet and encircled by the Garter, though I do not recall ever seeing it in use. Livery colours are not so prominent in modern times, and those of the royal family no longer change with the dynasty. Philip had his own personal livery of “Edinburgh Green”, used for his personal cars and the uniforms of his staff.

New badge illustration, published mere minutes ago.

Sodacan has of course illustrated all of these for Wikimedia Commons, and already I have spotted several instances of his illustrations being used in television coverage of his death as well as in reports online.

EXTERNAL LINKS

The Bus Law of By-Elections

Portraits by Richard Townshend, 12th January 2020 (CC-BY-3.0)

It has been nearly two years since the last by-election to the UK House of Commons – in Brecon & Radfordshire, where Jane Dodds unseated Chris Davies. This is said to be the longest gap since the end of World War Two, though I suspect you could look a lot further back than that and not find one. It is quite remarkable that over the course of 2020 no MPs died despite several testing positive and one having to be put on a ventilator.*

Things got moving again on 16th March when Mike Hill, facing an employment tribunal, took the Chiltern Hundreds. A by-election for his constituency of Hartlepool is scheduled to take place on 6th May, alongside the many local elections across the country. Already eleven candidates have been put forward. The list is rather fascinating in that three former Labour MPs will be competing against each other for different parties: Paul Williams (Stockton South 2017-19) is still fighting for the red rose but Hilton Dawson (Lancaster & Wyre 1997-2005) is now secretary of the North East Party which seeks a devolved parliament for the region similar to those in Scotland and Wales and Thelma Walker (Colne Valley, 2017-19) has defected to the Northern Independence Party which seeks to revive the ancient kingdom of Northumbria as a democratic socialist republic. The Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer is a farmer and Hambleton (North Yorkshire) District Councillor. Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party) is putting forward businessman John Prescott (not the former Labour MP) and the Liberal Democrats have chosen Andy Hagon, a teacher who also stood there in 2017 and 2019. It has cause some controversy (and mirth) to note that so few of the candidates are actually from Hartlepool. Once the domain of Peter Mandelson, this constituency is part of the so-called “Red Wall” of traditional Labour seats that has swung towards the Conservatives after voting to leave the European Union. You might reasonably think that any seat which stayed red in 2019 couldn’t possibly go blue now, but a recent Survation poll gave the Conservatives a seven-point lead. Obviously it’s too early to call at this stage, but the prospect of the government gaining a seat from the opposition again in just over four years would be seriously humiliating for the latter, although we can hope that on this occasion the prime minister will not be tempted to go for a snap general election as a consequence.

On 23rd March Neil Gray took the Manor of Northstead, vacating the constituency of Airdrie & Shotts in order to contest the same seat for the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood**. In this instance the returning officer has decided that it would be safer not to have the two polls on one day, so instead the by-election will take place a week later on 13th May. The candidate list for this election is not yet as long, nor as amusing. Notable here is that there has not been a Commons by-election in Scotland since Inverclyde in 2011 and never at all where the National Party was defending.

On 4th April Dame Cheryl Gillan died at the age of 68 following “a long illness“. She had been MP for Chesham & Amersham since 1992 and was the twenty-fourth most senior by continuous service. No candidates have yet been announced for this by-election and neither has the writ been moved when the others were. Partly this is because she died when the Commons had already risen for the Easter recess, and partly it is because of the convention to delay political machinations until after the late member’s funeral.

*The other place was less lucky, with Lord Gordon of Strathblane succumbing to COVID on 31st of last March. A few hereditary peers have retired or died of other causes in that time but their by-elections have been repeatedly postponed.

**This is required by the party’s rules, rather than those of either legislature.