Heraldry in Upstart Crow

Ben Elton’s BBC sitcom Upstart Crow, covering the life of William Shakespeare (David Mitchell), contains some interesting heraldic treasures. A subplot of the series involves the playwright’s attempt to elevate himself to the gentry with the acquisition of a grant of arms. Robert Greene (Mark Heap), Master of the Revels, seeks to deny him this, viewing the Shakespeares as of insufficiently high birth.

Success comes in the third season, Elizabeth I allegedly having been so impressed by Shakespeare’s latest play that she decreed “Only the son of a gentleman could have writ such wit!” and thus elevated the bard’s father accordingly.

There are other armorial treats, though also causes for confusion: At the theatre where Shakespeare and his troupe are seen rehearsing, there is a large cloth of the royal arms at the time – quarterly France & England – hanging in the background. There appear to be multiple versions of this prop used. On some occasions the arms are depicted in the correct tinctures, on others the field colours are swapped so that the fleur de lis are on gules and the lions on azure. There are other curiosities in that same set, for on either side are other shields which also get swapped out at various points. On the right, in seasons 1 and 2, is a shield resembling that of the Dauphin of France, though again with the background tinctures changed, while those appearing on the left are not those I can identify.

The Queen herself (Emma Thompson) appears at Hampton Court Palace in the 2017 special A Christmas Crow. Behind her is a large, colourful relief of the modern-day royal arms, showing quarterings for Scotland and Ireland but not for France, and featuring a unicorn argent as the sinister supporter. These elements would not be brought together until the union of the crowns, which of course occurred at Elizabeth’s death. The specific iteration shown in this episode, with the motto scroll floating in the air, would belong to the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI.

NOTABLE CLIPS

FURTHER READING

The Green Chair Quartet

The Ways & Means Committee was, and in some countries still is, a subgroup of the national legislature responsible for proposing changes to fiscal policy. In the House of Commons a tradition developed whereby the Chairman of Ways & Means, rather than the Speaker, would preside over the chamber during the annual budget statement. From 1853 the Chairman took on the role of the Speaker’s deputy in general. This was codified by the Deputy Speakers Act of 1855. The Chairman was given his own Deputy in 1902.

The committee itself was abolished in 1967, with full authority over fiscal matters going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the chairmen retained their functions as deputy speakers. Like the main Speaker they do not speak in the chamber except on matters of procedure, nor vote unless to break a tie. Unlike him they remain members of their respective parties and must fight as party candidates at general elections. Traditionally the Speaker was elected at the first sitting day after each general election, whereas the deputies were appointed just after the first State Opening.

The table that I have created shows all of the speakers and their deputies since the beginning of the 45th Parliament in 1970.

The Commons assembled on 29th June and Dr Horace King, member for Southampton Itchen, was elected to a third term as Speaker, having taken office following the death of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster in 1965. On 2nd July he was given Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Conservative, Nantwich) as Chairman and Betty Harvie Anderson (Conservative, East Renfrewshire) as Deputy.

On 12th January 1971 King retired and former Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd was, with a bit of difficulty, elected to replace him. This briefly resulted in an all-blue speakership trio. Ten months later the post of Second Deputy Chairman was established and conferred upon the Labour backbencher Sir Lancelot Mallalieu. Anderson resigned her post at the end of the third session. After the state opening Mallalieu was promoted to replace her and his position given to Oscar Murton, Conservative member for Poole.

Ferris and Mallalieu both retired from the Commons at the general election of February 1974. The short-lived 46th Parliament saw Lloyd re-elected as speaker and Murton promoted to First Deputy, with former Secretary of State for Wales George Thomas becoming chairman. Seemingly no Second Deputy was appointed that time. After the October election Lloyd, Thomas and Murton were restored, with Sir Myer Galpern (Labour, Glasgow Shettleston) becoming Second Deputy. This arrangement persisted until 3rd February 1976 when Lloyd retired and Thomas was elected to replace him. That same day Murton and Galpern were promoted one step each, with Sir Godman Irvine brought in at the bottom.

At the 1979 general election Murton and Galpern both retired from the Commons and were kicked upstairs that summer. Anderson, a backbencher since her resignation, did the same with the unusual title Baroness Skrimshire of Quarter, of Dunipace in the District of Falkirk, but she suffered a fatal asthma attack just a week after her introduction to the Lords. Thomas resumed his place, with Irvine becoming First Deputy under Bernard Weatherill (Conservative, Croydon North East). Richard Cranshaw (Labour, Liverpool Toxteth) was then appointed Second Deputy. Cranshaw vacated the post in February 1981 when he defected to the Social Democratic Party. He was replaced by Ernest Armstrong (Labour, North West Durham). On 28 May 1982 Armstrong was promoted after Irvine’s resignation, with Paul Dean (Conservative, North Somerset) appointed below him.

At the 1983 general election Cranshaw was defeated while Thomas and Irvine both retired. The former two were ennobled. Weatherill then became Speaker and Harold Walker (Labour, Doncaster Central) became Chairman. Armstrong and Dean stayed still.

In 1987 Armstrong retired. Weatherill and Walker remained, with Dean made First Deputy and Betty Boothroyd (Labour, West Bromwich West) Second. In 1992 Weatherill, Walker and Dean all stood down. Boothroyd beat Peter Brooke to the Speaker’s chair. She acquired a new team of Michael Morris (Conservative, Northampton South), Geoffrey Lofthouse (Labour, Pontefract & Castleford) and Dame Janet Fookes (Conservative, Plymouth Drake). They too departed on masse in 1997 – the latter two voluntarily, the former less so.

Their replacements were Alan Haselhurst (Conservative, Saffron Walden), Michael Martin (Labour, Glasgow Springburn) and Michael Lord (Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich). Martin succeeded Boothroyd upon her retirement in 2000, and was himself replaced by Sylvia Heal (Labour, Halesowen and Rowley Regis). This team remained stable for most of the noughties.

Martin resigned in 2009. Haselhurst and Lord both contested the ensuing election, the former getting a measly sixty-six votes and the latter just nine. The winner was outsider John Bercow (Conservative, Buckingham). That knocked off the party balance for the first time in thirty-five years. At the 2010 general election Heal left politics behind and Lord moved upstairs, taking the title Baron Framlingham, of Eye in the County of Suffolk, to avoid the obvious joke.

At the start of the 55th Parliament Bercow was re-elected Speaker, and new rules took effect requiring deputies to be elected a ballot of members rather than appointed in the old manner. Haselhurst was no longer eligible to be Chairman, only First Deputy, so he became Chairman of the Administration Committee instead. Those elected were Lindsay Hoyle (Labour, Chorley), Nigel Evans (Conservative, Ribble Valley) and Dawn Primarolo (Labour, Bristol South). Evans resigned as First Deputy in September 2013, and the next month Eleanor Laing (Conservative, Epping Forest) took his place.

In 2015 Primarolo left for benches redder. Bercow, Hoyle and Laing continued, with Natasha Engel (Labour, North East Derbyshire) taking the junior spot in a rather noncompetitive election. Engel was defeated in the 2017 snap election. Haselhurst stood down, accepting a life peerage the next year. The new Second Deputy was Dame Rosie Winterton (Labour, Doncaster Central).

Some awkwardness ensued in 2019 when another snap election was imposed. Bercow resigned his seat in the 57th House of Commons two days before it was due to dissolve. All three deputies sought to succeed him as Speaker, with Hoyle ultimately prevailing. His former position as Chairman of Ways & Means was left vacant on the one remaining sitting day.

The present parliament assembled on 17th December and Hoyle was swiftly re-instated, but the deputies were not elected until January. Laing was made Chairman, with Winterton becoming First Deputy unopposed and Evans coming back in as second. How long this team will stay together is to be determined.

You may notice that there are some italicised names not yet mentioned. The new arrangements for electing deputies contained a caveat that the old system could still be used to appoint up to three temporary placeholders from among the surviving members of the previous house’s Panel of Chairs so that the Speaker was not left to carry the whole workload alone for the first few days. Haselhurst was kept on in 2010 with Hugh Bayley (York Central). In 2015 the appointments were Sir Roger Gale (Conservative, North Thanet) and George Howarth (Labour, Knowsley). In 2017 they were Howarth and Sir David Amess (Conservative, Southend West). In these instances the documentation of was hard to find, and I really only know who served as temporary deputies from the Speaker thanking them once the permanent deputies were elected. In no case was it made clear which member acted in which particular office, so I have assigned them to the roles for which they would have been eligible to contest in the elections, and according to seniority of service in the house.

For 2019-2020 it was much clearer, with an explicit statement in the appointment motion that Gale would be Chairman, Howarth would be First Deputy and Sir Gary Streeter (Conservative, South West Devon) would be Second.

FURTHER READING

https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/principal/deputy-speakers/

Farewell to Cottingham Road

Obviously my hair is a lot longer this time, but the suit is the same.

It is a very small proportion of blogs that get serious attention. The same is true of video channels, social network profiles, books, magazines, newspapers and academic journals. For every best seller or household star, there are thousands of obscurities whose volumes fill up discount bins and whose view counts barely break out of single figures. Indeed there are many whose authors just give up or even forget about them, and sit incomplete for eternity. This one was created just shy of five years ago, and this shall be the seventy-fifth published article. A glance of WordPress’s site statistics function shows that there have been 4923 views in total. The mean view count per post is therefore a moderately impressive 66.5, but an inspection of the ranked list shows that the median is a less impressive 6. Factoring in a margin of error for me reading the site myself, I suspect that at least a dozen posts – mostly those talking about student union meetings – actually had no other readers at all. Two articles seriously inflate the mean: The runner up is Interview at Selwyn College, detailing my ill-fated application to matriculate at Cambridge. By far the winner, made just fifty-three weeks ago, is Farewell to Cottingham, discussing my time at The Lawns. Today it is time for the sequel.

All satellite accommodation having closed, the only dwellings available were those in or immediately around the campus. Once again I was slow to investigate options and was primarily concerned with minimizing the expense, so instead of the luxurious newer sites I opted for a Kexgill-owned house with three others on nearby Cottingham Road. In contrast to where I lived before, the history of this house was not well documented, though what sources I can find suggest the road itself dates back to the eighteenth century while the nearby North Hull Estate was constructed between the World Wars, but the construction date of my particular residence and the other student houses adjacent is far from clear. As is to be expected with properties of this nature, a great many fittings and furnishings have been changed over the years to types bought in bulk by the owners, thus obfuscating the property’s true vintage. Buildings like this often have subtle vestigial features which hint at grander days gone by. In our case it was a stained glass window at the top of the staircase. A few dozen metres east of us were houses that had mosaic tile art in their porches. Otherwise they were indistinct from any other undergraduate digs.

The desks, cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and shelves were the same plywood varieties that were seen in the old halls, while the white goods often had panels that were turning yellow. Very little of the flooring in any room was truly flat and very few of the walls were truly straight. In particular my bedroom window had sagged a little on its hinges and did not properly line up with the frame. Full closure required a lot of brute force to lift it up at the same time as pulling it in, the strain of which eventually caused the handle to come off in my hand. The main problem which we experienced in the early months was the cold – even in September it was apparent that there was a sudden drop in temperature upon entering the house. The contract said that Kexgill remotely controlled the central heating for all their properties and so for a while it was assumed that they were leaving it as late as possible before switching it on to save money. As nights got longer and longer we eventually complained and were issued space heaters for our bedrooms. The house was advertised as containing a living room, but on viewing it was clearly a downstairs bedroom with the bed removed. Very little socialising occurred in my time but when it did it was invariably in the kitchen instead. The living room, whose only unique feature was an ironing board (but no iron) was mostly used for storing laundry.

It wasn’t all bad: We had a normal washing machine in the kitchen between four of us, rather than having to use an overstretched institutional launderette with a needlessly complex card payment system. The dryer was less of a boon, as it warped one of my old jumpers until it would have better fitted Mr Tickle. It broke in the spring and a new one was dragged in. The kitchen had further problems: In mid-October the lights broke, forcing me to cook dinner wearing a head torch for a few days. In April the radiator sprang a leak. It was dumped in the bush in the rear garden and a brand new one was fitted in its place. There were also signs of rot or mould having infected one of the storage cupboards. Supposedly this had been treated by spraying the area with bleach, the smell of which lingered for the whole academic year.

The main benefit of the place was that it was barely a two minute walk away from the university’s premises. The result was that I could pop home between lectures, and even access the library at night, without having to carry all the day’s necessary items on an arduous walk or an uncertain bus ride. It was also very close to a large number of food shops, which was especially handy in the last few months.

The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 caused a great upheaval, of course. At a stroke it negated the benefit of proximity to campus, as the university’s physical presence was closed and teaching became purely virtual. From then on the house might as well have been in the next county. The ensuing national lockdown reinforced how little space there was in the property – we had front and rear gardens, but they were a far cry from the large open space at The Lawns. With no access to the library, the lecture theatres or the student union, our house became our whole world – a billet for which it was obviously not prepared. Thankfully I had earlier taken a few steps to alleviate the drabness of the off-white walls, which eased my sanity during the long period of isolation: in October, when the university’s photocopiers were still available, I had printed off family portraits and hung them in my bedroom. In November I bought several rolls of robin-themed Christmas wrap and made wallpaper out of it. Constantly having to adjust the shifting blu-tack was a pain but if I squinted I could almost convince myself that I inhabited a place of greater splendour.

As mentioned on this blog many times before, there is often a lengthy wrap-up period in May-June when academic courses have concluded and students scuttle off home. This time around it started abnormally early due to lockdown, and two of my three housemates jumped ship straight away, returning only briefly weeks later to collect their belongings. In terms of practical space the departure of one’s co-residents is a benefit, as each remaining person controls a greater share of the communal areas. On a theoretical level, though, the space actually diminishes: their rooms disappearing from the map as the doors are forever closed. They also revert to being identified by number rather than by name.

The depersonalisation culminated today in my own departure. It was with heavy heart that I dismantled the decorations I had spent so long erecting, decanted the contents of my shelves into a pile of plastic bags and scrubbed away at the various empty surfaces they uncovered. By the end, as in all such cases, it was as if I had never existed, just like all of those before me.

The future of these houses, as with so much else in 2020, cannot be predicted with confidence. During my stay our rooms were measured for refits, so it is likely that, even if a new cohort eventually move in, they will not inhabit quite the same home that I did. On some level, therefore, the pattern continues.

Rails Go Ever Ever On

Illustration of “Edward’s Day Out” by William Middleton

The Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry’s The Three Railway Engines, first instalment in what would become the world famous Railway Series, was originally published seventy-five years before today. After his death, the franchise he created was carried on by his son Christopher. That can, of course, be said of another great English writer, though sadly his Christopher’s own demise came earlier this year. Present circumstances impede me from coming up with a more comprehensive tribute, but perhaps this could be the basis for a joint effort between Clamavi de Profundis and The Tuggster Intensifies one day:

Rails go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree.
By tunnels where no sun has shone,
Canals that never find the sea;
Ploughed through snow by winter sown,
And past the merry flowers of June,
Over sleepers lain on stone,
And viaducts o’er valleys hewn.

Rails go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet wheels that thundering have gone
Roll at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and smoke have seen,
And horror in the smelter’s place
Look at last on buffer clean,
In cosy sheds they longed to face.

The track goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the line has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary wheels,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many points and switches meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The track goes ever on and on
Out from the yard where it began.
Now far ahead the line has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with pistons worn
To silent sidings will crawl in,
To down for night and sleep ’till dawn.

Still ’round the next bend there may wait
A new branch or secret gate;
And though I long have roamed this isle,
I never could lose cause to smile
Upon the realm my line does span
West of Barrow, East of Mann.

Adapted from The Road Goes Ever On by J. R. R. Tolkien, circa 1937.

Kilnsea Sound Mirror

A year ago I and my parents attempted to reach the sound mirror at Kilnsea, but could not traverse the terrain. Today we made a second attempt, parking rather closer and walking in from the other direction. We found the large concrete concavity surrounded tightly by a primitive fence and dappled with lichen. The land around the fence is dense with weeds and getting to the mirror required a lot of creative stomping. There were some notice boards explaining the features of the landscape but they were few and far between. From some angles the structure appears merely to be a solitary artifice in the middle of nowhere. Still, at least there is no entrance fee.

Forging the Iron Lady with Terrence Casey

This could be the venue, or it could be the set for an upcoming Ken Loach remake of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Having attended quite a few guest speeches by this point, I expected tonight’s to fit into the familiar mould. I was a little thrown-off, as were the those in charge, to find that the fixed tiers of seats in the lecture hall were folded away at the back wall and instead we were circled around a splatter of smaller tables. In retrospect it felt a misstep to wear a business suit to the occasion.

This was the Annual Norton Lecture, delivered by Professor Terrence Casey of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Trying very hard to minimise his references to Trump or Brexit, he spoke to us about the turbulent politics of the 1970s and the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

As someone who has watched a lot of old documentaries about British politics, as well as listened to a lot of Professor Vernon Bogdanor’s lectures for Gresham College, I was on familiar ground for much of the talk. Casey took us through the story of how the post-war economic consensus broke down through the tenure’s of Heath, Wilson and Callaghan, from the imposition of far-reaching price controls in 1972 to the Winter of Discontent in 1979. There was also the concurrent parliamentary story of the “Who Governs?” election, followed by Wilson’s achievement of a very slim majority, then the pacts with the Liberals when that got worn away.

The more original parts of the lecture (from my perspective at least) were on the backstage parts of the story – how policies were formulated and parties managed. Casey was keen to stress that the Margaret Thatcher of 1970, newly appointed as Secretary of State for Education & Science, was a far cry from the character that exists in public memory now. At that point, the notion of her ever becoming prime minister, let alone the godmother of a new political age, would have been considered farcical. Her emergence as a right-wing firebrand, he said, was more by a series of random chances (such as Callaghan’s decision against an election in 1978, or the backbench resentment of Heath in 1975) than by any divine ordination.

Casey rejected the idea that “Neoliberalism” – a term rarely spoken kindly but rather spat out in contempt by those who use it at all – was thrust upon the unwilling masses in an unethical manner by a nefarious elite. Instead he described it as the natural result of the masses falling out of love with the Keynesian regime that had prevailed before and looking for an alternative solution which the Thatcherite faction – with particular mention of Sir Keith Joseph – provided them. He also noted that whereas the throwing out of what is sometimes called Butskellism occurred quite rapidly after the economic breakdown and industrial unrest of the 1970s, the backlash against Blatcherism ensuing from the 2008 credit crunch took a much longer time to result in any serious change of course from the governments of the nations affected.

In the lengthy question & answer session which followed, I asked Professor Casey the same question which I had put to Paul Danahar ten months ago – When does he last remember politics being normal? He replied that there could never be a clear single cause or moment identified, but that the tide would have been turned by the culmination of many small factors. He also reassured us that although he had singled out the nineteen-seventies and the new tens for the purpose of his speech tonight he was aware of many other much rougher times in public discourse, all of which society survived mostly intact.

Heraldic Humour – A History

Eight days ago the President of the United States gave an address at the Teen Student Action Summit of the political organisation Turning Point USA. As is often the case for such appearances, he was flanked by projections of the presidential seal. This time, however, something was wrong.

A derivative of the Great Seal, the presidential seal is known less for the rather diminutive escutcheon (Paly of thirteen Argent and Gules, a chief Azure.) than for the much larger supporter – a bald eagle displayed, holding in its dexter talon an olive branch and in the sinister thirteen arrows all Proper – and for the motto of “E Pluribus Unum”, which was considered the effective motto for the whole country until the controversial imposition of “In God We Trust” in 1956. The presidential seal in all its variants is famous worldwide. Even my own letterhead is based on it, though swapping the eagle for my namesake passerine. This very familiarity makes it all the odder for the recent substitution to have gone unnoticed until too late.

The seal which appeared beside the president last week may have looked legitimate at first glance, but on the second there are some glaring differences. The most obvious is that the bundle of arrows has been replaced with a set of golf clubs. The next is that the eagle has two heads pointing in opposite directions. Peering closely at the emblem, it can also be seen that the olive branch has been replaced by a wad of dollar bills and that the motto scroll says “45 es un títere”.

Designed by Charles Leazott, once a loyal Republican who defected after the rise of Donald Trump, the doctored image paints the incumbent as a puppet of the Russian Federation whose primary concern is for his own wealth and leisure.

This is far from the first instance of heraldry being used for satirical purposes. During the American Civil War, H. H. Tilley produced a mock coat of arms for the Confederacy – which had not yet adopted a real state emblem. A cigar-smoking plantation owner and a hand-manacled slave support a shield of cotton, tobacco, and sugar, with three slaves hoeing the fields in base and some of their owners’ characteristic tools in chief. The motto given is “Servitudo Esto Perpetua”. Behind the crest rooster are two flags in saltire. One is clearly the battle flag used by several of the southern armies, the other is a skull and crossbones with the number 290. This latter flag could refer to the CSS Alabama, which was built in secret and known merely as “Hull No. 290” prior to launch.

Going back further to 1814, the Anglo-German publisher Rudolph Ackermann released and Explanation of the Arms of Napoleon Bonaparte. This particularly savage illustration has, for a crest, the world being set on fire and stabbed with French standards. The escutcheon, a montage of eight acts of barbarity attributed to the recently-deposed Emperor, is supported on the dexter by Death holding an hourglass and on the sinister by Satan wearing an iron crown.

Not all heraldic satire is quite so brutal: a 1909 Punch cartoon by Bernard Patridge alludes to the art by citing “an heraldic inversion”, in which the prime minister Herbert Asquith has to stand with his limbs awkwardly spread out to hold Winston Churchill (President of the Board of Trade) and David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) on his shoulders. The drawing was made during the crisis over the “People’s Budget”, the commentary being that Asquith’s prominent ministers were the real protagonists of the government, their nominal leader being in fact subservient.

A famous Gillray cartoon from 1797 shows William Pitt the Younger looming over the House of Commons. Notable is the suggestive positioning of the royal coat of arms (affixed to the canopy above the speaker’s chair to indicate the royal authority of the legislature) between the premier’s legs. The message is that Pitt had no passion beyond the accumulation and exercise of state power.

These armorial parodies continue into the modern day – many being found on Wikimedia Commons, though these do not see much use. A particularly memorable instance comes from 2011, showing the arms of Princess Beatrice of York, the coronets replaced by the unusual hat she wore to the wedding of her cousin the Duke of Cambridge.

FURTHER READING

Farewell to Cottingham

Compared to other students who live in far off regions of the country, or indeed the world, university was no great distance away for me. Even so, the years I spent getting up at the crack of dawn for school and college convinced me that moving closer to campus would still be preferable to more long commutes.

In recent years Hull has constructed much new and lavish accommodation for its undergraduates, which it is keen to advertise to new applicants. There are also several private companies dotted around the campus offering homes to students. Since I accepted my offer at short notice it quickly became apparent that all of the more prestigious lodgings had been taken. In a fraught telephone exchange I was told that I could be offered a temporary dwelling on a camp bed until a space opened up somewhere else. A day later I was contacted again to say that a vacancy had been found at Ferens Hall. Through quick research online (mostly on The Student Room), I discovered that this was generally considered the least desirable of The Lawns’s buildings, the few compliments being reserved specifically for the recently-refurbished M block which I did not occupy.

In fact, my room turned out to be the perfect location, as I was opposite a bathroom and beside a kitchenette, as well as having one of the shortest walks to either the dining hall or the main road. Each shopping trip might have been up to ten minutes shorter than that endured by a resident of Grant Hall at the other end of the complex. Most importantly, for an undergraduate at least, it must have been some of the cheapest student accommodation in Britain.

One notable anecdote is of Christmas 2017 when Colin Colborn, the hall’s warden, invited residents to a film quiz. I was partnered with his daughter, and we were the winning team, which I found surprising given that I haven’t been to a cinema for about a decade.

That said, there were certain issues: The dining facilities comprised a small kitchenette on the first and second floor of each block, plus a proper kitchen directly under my bedroom which was apparently shared with two neighbouring blocks. This arrangement proved woefully inefficient as a cooked meal had often had to be carried back to one’s own room for lack of sitting space. We also had persistent problems with stiff windows that either jammed open in winter or closed in summer. Then there was the time that part of a ceiling spontaneously collapsed, though luckily few people were in the building at the time.

That hall was removed from the options list after 2018, as the university planned to sell it off. In the event it still ended up being used for temporary accommodation in the first few weeks of this academic year because some of the newer buildings on campus were not finished on time. By the winter it had become a ghost hall, with all the rooms empty but, for some reason, many lights left on, including new desktop lamps which projected ghostly white spots into the night.

For my second year I went to Lambert Hall. I chose it specifically because it was the one closest to where I had been before. In the autumn of 2018 there were several occasions on which I absentmindedly wandered back to my old door at Ferens and wondered why the key didn’t fit.

The experience here has been different, as it is easier to establish a sense of community with split levels and wide landings instead on discrete floors and narrow corridors. Whereas Ferens was built in the traditional quadrangle shape, the others are built in a more experimental design. Another distinction is that nearly every room has a small balcony, which sometimes gives the impression of being in a holiday camp. The much larger kitchen provisions also helped.

In my earlier posts I have noted the transitory presence which a student body constitutes, and how this is particularly true of Hull due to its major reorganisations and redevelopments in the last few years. Threads and discussions from as late as 2013 can already feel like archives from a lifetime ago, and therefore public records can be seriously out of date. In particular I noticed references to the use of lounges and common rooms in the individual halls, but I would never experience this in my own time. During my term at Ferens I took every opportunity to sneak into all the other blocks in search of the place I had seen pictured on Wikimedia Commons from ten years before my arrival. I never found it. I can only assume that it was obliterated long ago. For the other halls the common rooms can be seen but not accessed. Through the windows I often saw that they were being used for storage of spare bedding. Opposite can be seen other locked doors with faded signage marking them as the entrance to laundry rooms, and next to them are empty post racks. All of these facilities have been transferred to The Lawns Centre. Notably I have often seen the lights on at Reckitt Hall’s common room as well as reasonably modern-looking books on the shelves, but never anybody in there.

Throughout the last few years the university has been focusing all of its efforts, and the students all their demands, on the central campus. This means that the satellite facilities have suffered a slow death. Returning last September, I and my fellow residents observed that our little commune was much quieter than it had been the previous year, with several blocks across the site being unoccupied. One could walk by the other halls and peer through the windows to see bare shelves and uncovered blue mattresses. This spring we received letters to tell us that, since only a small handful of students had applied to live here in the 2019-2020 term, the whole site would be closed down and sold off. This follows the closure of nearby Needler Hall in 2016 (I witnessed it being demolished and rebuilt as an Aldi.) and Thwaite Hall in 2017 (still sitting there, boarded up and waiting for sale). The secondary campus in Scarborough appears to have suffered a similar fate. I have the odd distinction of being the last occupant of my hall two years in a row.

I have stayed on later than most other students, the majority of whom were quick to depart once their examinations concluded. For the last fortnight I have continually seen parents driving in to collect their offspring, and trudging past my window with suitcases whose tiny wheels dragged noisily over the undulated path. Eventually I found myself all alone in a house and park strewn with other people’s abandoned leftovers. Still, I got my money’s worth out of it.

UPDATE (June 2020)

This post is by far the most popular of any on the blog, so I thought I’d write a sequel.

EXTERNAL LINKS

The Arms of the Speakers

On the whole, my ideas for new Wikipedia pages have not gotten far. My template for life peers was rejected because the category was too large. My template for husbands of princesses was rejected because the topic was considered irrelevant. My plot to list all current members of the House of Commons by length of continuous service was aborted once I found that such an article already existed.

Recently, and without having received any direct notice, I discovered that one of my proposed articles had been accepted  – a list of the armorial bearings of all the Speakers of the House of Commons since 1707.

From the Acts of Union of England & Scotland (a useful jumping-on point for “British” parliamentary history, though the death of Elizabeth in 1603 could also work for the royal component), there have been thirty-three holders of the office. Each of them acquired a grant of arms during their term if they were not armigerous already. Depictions of their arms appear on small wooden escutcheons which are carved onto the interior walls of the speaker’s official residence in the Palace of Westminster.

To create a Wikipedia list of these grants seemed natural given the presence of similar armorial lists for heads of state and government in this and various other countries. Unfortunately my first submission of the list was swiftly rejected for the lack of reliable sources. Cracroft, it seems, is not considered worthy.

Scouring the subject on Google Books, I discovered a tome from 1851 which gave biographical accounts of a great many former speakers, each concluding with his blazon. It is a shame that modern publications do not consider such details so important. Speakers John Smith to Charles Shaw-Lefevre were covered thus, but their successors from the latter half of the nineteenth century were not so easily ticked off. I tried looking for biographies of later speakers, but frequently found that only limited previews were available.

Only rather a long time into my heraldic hobby did a thought occur to me which, in retrospect, should have been obvious from the beginning – that being in a university library I could find many of those same books in physical form. Sure enough a scout around the fourth floor uncovered several such books. More importantly, I also found a shelf holding several old copies of Burke’s and Debrett’s accounts of the Peerage & Baronetage.

A Herald’s Treasure Chest

These titles were not new to me, for I had heard and read them referenced many times in relation to matters of the British aristocracy. Previously I had understood these volumes to be address books and genealogical guides for upper class, which indeed they are. I had not, however, realised that they also functioned as an armorial database. This discovery allowed me to vastly expand my portfolio for all heraldic uploads, but in particular it gave me access to the arms of several speakers in the twentieth century.

As the names imply, Burke and Debrett detail the peers and baronets of the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. Some also document the knightage and companionage, but these entries do not include arms. This means that speakers who are neither peers nor baronets will not have their arms listed – a problem for several of the individuals being studied.

It is customary for a retiring speaker to leave the house altogether and ascend to the other place – the monarch having been petitioned by MPs to confer some mark of her royal favour upon him, and the prime minister having recommended that this be a peerage. George Thomas’s arms can therefore be located as those of the Viscount Tonypandy, as can William Morrison’s as Viscount Dunrossil. Some speakers, though, never moved from the green leather to the red. This can either be because they preferred to remain commoners (in the case of Whitley) or because they did not leave office alive (in the case of Fitzroy and Hylton-Foster). A difficulty also occurs for those speakers whose peerages were short-lived: The shelf had volumes from 1949, 1959, 1972-3, 1985 and 2000. The viscountcy Ruffside does not feature, having existed only from 1951 to 1958. The barony Selwyn-Lloyd (1976-78) was similarly absent. Of course, the deferment of elevation until one’s retirement means that no edition would include the contemporary speaker, only the emeriti. In a few cases I was helped by other Wikipedians who had access to editions which I did not, but that still left me with a smattering of omissions from the record.

As explained before, when no blazon can be found then one can only resort to replication by visual inspection. Speaker’s House is often used for public events, and pictures often make their way online. Of course, the photographers are typically not there to take closeups of the wall decorations, but in a handful of cases I was able to get a good look at the escutcheons which had previously eluded me. The shields are arranged sequentially, so that if at least one of them is already known then a viewer can count along the line to identify the others. It was an easy deduction that the Stuart-era royal arms defaced by a bendlet sinister would belong to Edward Fitzroy, agnate of the Dukes of Grafton. Selwyn-Lloyd’s could be spotted two spaces down from Weatherill’s, but the depth of field made it difficult to precisely identify the charges.

Michael Martin’s arms were a challenge to reproduce as they contain a great many non-standard charges and a motto in Gaelic, “Gorbals Mick” wishing to emphasise the proletarian lineage which set him apart from most other politicians. The display of large graphics online had become much easier by the time John Bercow matriculated his arms, so that their appearance was widely distributed by various news outlets. There is currently some uncertainty as to when, if ever, he will relinquish the chair, but it is likely that the achievements of his eventual successors will receive similar publicity.

The only remaining gaps in the list are for John Henry Whitley and Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, both of whose shields I have seen in the photographs, but too far away to capture the fine details. The latter case is especially infuriating because although Sir Harry perished as a mere knight, a barony was conferred upon his widow, Audrey – who also happened to be Ruffside’s daughter. I sought out her entry in Debrett’s expecting to see the arms of her father and husband impaled, but instead the books gave her no heraldic information at all.

As I am unlikely to be invited to the speaker’s residence in person any time soon – being not a politics student, after all – these last two items may well stay beyond my grasp indefinitely. Still, it’s nice to finally have an article I may call my own after all these years.

EXTERNAL LINKS

  • E. Churton – The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons by James Alexander Manning, 1851.
  • Burke’s Peerage – The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland & Wales by Sir Bernard Burke, 1864.
  • C-SPAN – Bernard Weatherill reflects on his career, 7th April 1992.
  • C-SPAN – Betty Boothroyd shows of her residence, 1st July 1995.
  • Whitehall 1212 -Torcuil Chrichton sheds some light on Michael Martin’s charges, 4th December 2008.
  • UK Parliament – John Bercow is interviewed with some escutcheons behind him, 7th September 2009.
  • The Daily Telegraph – Response to Bercow’s arms and portrait by Christopher Hope, 28th November 2011.
  • The Guardian – Report on Bercow’s arms, 28th November 2011.
  • The Workers’ Photos Archive – Photographs inside the speaker’s chamber, 19th June 2013.
  • I CAN – Photograph inside the speaker’s chamber showing the arms of Selwyn Lloyd, 26th November 2013.
  • UK Parliament – Bercow before row of escutcheons paying tribute to Jo Cox, 15th June 2017.
  • Hansard – Bercow pays tribute to his deceased predecessor, including a brief description of his arms, 1st May 2018.
  • Reddit – Members were not impressed by my first attempt at Boothroyd’s lozenge, 28th January 2019.

Wikipedian Heraldry in ITV’s Victoria

Last night “A Show of Unity”, the fifth episode of the third series of ITV’s Victoria, premiered in Britain. It featured two heraldic anomalies that I wanted to examine.

Some of this episode takes place at Classiebawn Castle on the Palmerston estate in County Sligo. A dining room scene features a blue cloth hanging from the back wall which bears an illustration of Palmerston’s arms. Shortly afterwards there is an establishing shot of the outside of the building showing a flag of similar composition (although smaller and portrait) supported by a sculpture of a dog (possibly a talbot sejant, as in Palmerston’s crest). In both cases the depiction of the arms looks suspiciously similar to this one by heraldic artist Rs-nourse, who has produced a great many armorial illustrations for Wikimedia Commons. His works are distinguishable from Sodacan’s in that they are generally more stylised, with greater texturing and shading. As per usual, there was no attribution in the credits.

The use of this particular image also creates an anachronism. This episode, featuring The Queen’s first visit to Ireland and the discovery of her seventh pregnancy, should be set in 1849. Nourse‘s graphic, however, has the shield surrounded by the blue circlet of the Order of the Garter – to which Lord Palmerston was appointed in 1856. Another strange anomaly is that the outdoor flag seems to be topped by a flat metal impression of a coronet. Only four pearls are seen, implying the rank of baron. Meanwhile the printed display already features a coronet with seven pearls, appropriate to Palmerston’s rank of viscount (though he did have the subsidiary title Baron Temple).*

These scenes are surrounded by two scenes back at Buckingham Palace. Even though the monarch is absent, the establishing shots of the palace both feature the Royal Standard flying over the Marble Arch. The flag is too far away and too crumpled for me to determine where they found the image.

*In reality a baronial coronet features six pearls around its rim and a vicomital coronet sixteen, but on a two-dimensional drawing it is not possible to show all of them simultaneously.