Given that so much of my YouTube intake is about history, civic architecture, and trains, it is perhaps surprising that I did not come across the Hull History Nerd sooner. Though the channel claims to date back to 2012 the videos list that I can see begins in 2019, and a large proportion of it focuses on forgotten Yorkshire railways.
This video, however, lays closer to home. The presenter is standing on the banks of the humber about 1500m from my house. His topic is the construction upon the riverside mud of facsimiles of Hull’s docks to distract German bombers.
I don’t have much to add beyond what is said in the video itself, though it would have been nice if he had walked a little further down the bank to inspect some of the other World War Two relics nearby.
Recently I was browsing the Straight Dope Message Board and found a thread entitled Wait… ______ is still alive? As you’d expect, it’s about people one could reasonably assume to have died a long time ago who are actually still living. The one that caught my eye was post #40, mentioning that Clarissa Eden “died only last week”.
Having maintained the Wikipedia pages of British political figures past and present for the last few years, I was intensely aware of the curiosity of Clarissa’s continued existence. One of my earliest posts was on the centenary of Harold Wilson, but his wife had already passed that marker two months earlier. Whereas he died in 1995 at age seventy-nine, Mary finally passed in 2018, aged one hundred and two. Clarissa falls a little short of her record at one hundred and one. By comparison, Lady Dorothy Macmillan died in 1966 (aged sixty-five), the Lady Home of the Hirsel in 1990 (aged eighty), Sir Denis Thatcher in 2003 (aged eighty-eight) and the Lady Callaghan of Cardiff in 2005 (aged eighty-nine).
Still, it is interesting that so little media coverage was given to her death. In most newspapers that mentioned her at all it was as a minor footnote. Perhaps that is the ultimate tragedy – to outlive your fame by so long that nobody even remembers you. Indeed, her title itself would not be recognised – her three stepsons all predeceased her with no offspring of their own so the peerages are long extinct. Clarissa is so far the last premier’s spouse to be a countess*. There may never be another.
Clarissa’s heraldic achievement – the arms of Eden impaling Spencer-Churchill
*Eden’s immediate successor Macmillan was the last prime minister to receive an earldom, but that was long after his wife had died. Douglas-Home was of course a countess before her husband’s tenure but died a mere baroness. The title refers to the River Avon in Warwickshire. A county called Avon (referring to a different Avon river in Bristol) was created by Heath’s reforms in 1974 then abolished by Major’s reforms in 1996.
Amateur or professional, few students of Britain’s royal, political and constitutional history will be unaware of Dr David Starkey. With an extensive collection of literary and televisual credits, plus a famously oversized personality, he was for many years a giant among celebrity historians. His most prominent was his 2004 series Monarchy, followed by Magna Carta in 2015, but he can be traced back much earlier, appearing in The Trial of King Richard the Third in 1984. He has even been featured on the royal family’s own YouTube channel.
His career, though illustrious, has not been smooth sailing, for his character is notoriously abrasive and his reputation has been rocked by a string of ill-worded outbursts – in most notably in 2011 and 2015. His performance in directly teaching the youth was also rocky.
I was quite surprised, early in 2020, to see him interviewed on Akkad Daily. It taxed my mind to decide whether this pairing more represented Benjamin going up in the world or Starkey going down. Certainly the latter plummeted with great velocity that summer following a catastrophic episode with Darren Grimes, which resulted in many of his professional contracts being terminated and accolades withdrawn.
Given the severity of that latest offence, and given that he was seventy-five years old, one could have expected Starkey to vanish from public life altogether and slip quietly into retirement. For a few months that looked to be the case but then he began popping up again on various virtual conferences and current affairs broadcasts, suggesting there is still a place for him on the talking head circuit (well, the right-wing parts of it anyway).
A week ago he launched his own YouTube channel on which, seemingly alone, he gives lengthy speeches to his camera about his specialist subjects. Much of it recycles what he has already said in his earlier lectures and documentaries, some of which are of course no longer available. His motivation is not clear: it could simply be a charitable effort for the sake of public education (sort of a more sedate Crash Course) but then his website asks for monetary donations and boasts about the number of supporters he has in his “fight back”.
In between these was Charlie Brooker’s end of year mockumentary Death to 2020, in which Hugh Grant plays the historian Tennyson Foss. Judging by the hair, clothes, spectacles and voice I am fairly sure this is meant to be a pastiche of Starkey’s own interviews, although hints at the character’s backstory are clearly different.