The Decoy Docks

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.

FURTHER READING

Countessing Your Blessings

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

EXTERNAL LINKS

*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.

A Stark Vision

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.

Matters of the Harp

Heraldists and historians will know that there have long been two versions of the British royal arms. Prior to the death of Elizabeth I the arms of England had been three yellow lions passant guardant on a red background, while those of Scotland had been one red lion rampant on a yellow background. When James VI of Scotland ascended to the English he quartered the arms of both countries to indicate their personal union, albeit varying the precedence so that each kingdom had its own arms in both the first and fourth quarters with the other’s confined to the second. This duality continued even after the 1707 union into Great Britain, although the “English” version is the standard one used internationally, with the Scottish version being purely for internal purposes. Though the first, second and fourth quarters of the shield have chopped and changed much over the centuries, the third quarter of both shields has consistently been Azure a harp Or stringed Argent. This represented the Kingdom of Ireland since its creation in 1542, though its usage in other capacities can be traced back much further. Prior to 1603 Ireland was not referenced in the English royal arms. What is a little perplexing to those interested in this subject is that neither James nor his successors ever created a distinct Irish arrangement of the shield as he had English and Scottish ones. Instead it seems that Ireland (both before and after the 1801 union) used either the same arrangement as in England or the harp alone.

One might have expected some other curious heraldist to have come up with such illustrations by now – for the interpolation is fairly simple – but I could not find any, so set about performing the thought experiment myself. After a few hours of cutting and splicing Sodacan’s familiar pictures I had produced Irish arrangements not just of the royal arms in their present state, but for every other variation that has occurred since the union of the crowns.

There were some aesthetic challenges here, the most prominent of which is that the harp in the fourth quarter has to be significantly smaller than that in the first to fit the curve of the shield, though that would be alleviated if the instrument would face right rather than left (as in the Guiness logo). It also produces some interesting colour combinations – especially in the 1714 version where the impalement of England & Scotland lines up perfectly with that of Brunswick & Lüneburg.

Readers will note that I have only made shields here, not full achievements. That is largely because I was unsure what the other elements would be. While the crowns, supporters, mottos and crests for England and Scotland solidified long before their personal union and have been consistent ever since despite numerous changes to the shield, those of Ireland are much less clear. A crest was designed for James I (A tower triple towered Or from the portal a hart springing Argent attired and unguled also Or) but it was not much used, and neither supporters nor motto were granted at all. Occasionally depictions can be found which copy those pieces from the English achievement, but this is the result of artistic fancy rather than official sanction. I would hesitate to put the Order of St Patrick around the shield, since it was only instituted in 1783 and became dormant in 1974, never achieving the same prominence as the Garter or Thistle nor appearing much in heraldic art. Certainly the present Republic of Ireland uses the shield alone and the achievement of the government of Northern Ireland from 1924-1972 is of sufficiently different appearance and origin to be ruled out as any indication of what to use here.

On a different note, the YouTube channel Terrier55Stepney recently put out a video documenting another visit to the Talyllyn Railway. Fifteen minutes in the camera points at a framed page of drawings and blazons for Sudrian heraldic devices. I mentioned this before but this time I could see the whole page (though the legibility of the handwriting remains a difficulty). I hope to have illustrated at least some of them fairly soon.

The Heraldry of the Pastons

This afternoon I attended a virtual presentation by the Norfolk Record Office concerning the heraldry of the Paston family. I knew little of these people before signing up, but the topic was as intriguing as any other heraldry lecture.

The presenter was Dr John Alban of the University of East Anglia. He apologised for not being physically present in the office – having to divide his time equally between Norfolk and South Wales – but said it didn’t matter since in a virtual lecture he was not restricted by location. That comment fell quickly into irony. The first few minutes of the lecture were plagued by technical difficulties as the audio failed completely for many in the audience, requiring us to log out of the session and then back in again. That was far from ideal, of course, since it caused us to miss the introductory sentences. At least we could see the slides, including establishing what the Paston arms were in their simplest form: Argent six fleurs-de-lis three two and one Azure a chief indented Or. He then showed us a gallery of uses of those arms in various places and by various institutions, whether alone or marshalled with others.

The main thrust of the presentation was in showing how arms mutated and evolved in the period before heraldic regulation, and how even after that armigers would be keen to manipulate the historical record for their own ends. Thus we saw a few alternate prototype versions of the Paston arms and their appearances in medieval and Tudor records. One especially interesting case study shown to us was William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, whose family history before Henry VII’s accession Alban reckoned to be entirely fabricated.

At the end of the presentation an attendee asked Dr Alban to recommend books on heraldry. He suggested the works of Charles Boutell and Arthury Charles Fox-Davies, and was pleased when I pointed out that older works such as these were available for free on Google Books or Archive.org for those who could not access physical copies.

In these meetings I tend to scan the list of attendees for anyone remotely famous. This time I found Elizabeth Roads, Lyon Clerk from 1986 to 2018. As per usual I attempted at the end of the session to plug this blog. I probably left it a little too late as we were being instructed to log out (and I’m fairly certain Roads already had), but there already seems to be a bit of an uptick in view count, so at least someone spotted it.

The Deputies That Weren’t

In the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle it was announced that Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State since 2019, had been appointed Deputy Prime Minister. This would appear to be the latest in a long though intermittent line of appointments to that title. On closer inspection, however, the line may not be as long as once thought. A year ago the Wikipedia page listed eight people as having held the post, with a footnote about a possible ninth. By last month, that had been revised to just three official title-holders, supplemented by alternate lists of many more unofficial ones.

The main sources for these were Vernon Bogdanor’s 1995 book The Monarchy and the Constitution, Jonathan Kirkup & Stephen Thornton’s 2015 article ‘Everyone needs a Willie’: The elusive position of deputy to the British prime minister, Rodney Brazier’s 2020 book Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain, and the Lord Norton of Louth’s 2020 book Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. The latter has been much advertised on his lordship’s blog in recent months. The differences in the lists that they give shows that there is much scholarly dispute over who can be canonically considered a deputy prime minister in this country. In addition to those who were thought to have the title but actually didn’t, there are several listed as not having the title but still performing essentially the same function.

Different authorities have different criteria for who should be counted – Bogdanor lists those who chaired the cabinet in the prime minister’s absence and chaired numerous cabinet committees, Kirkup & Thornton use a five point checklist:

  • Styled as Deputy Prime Minister in Hansard or the Gazette
  • Designated as such by the Prime Minister
  • Recognised as such by their cabinet colleagues
  • Listed second in the cabinet hierarchy
  • Answered Prime Minister’s Questions

Clement Attlee, generally considered the trope maker and codifier, was Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955, a period which included the 1940-1945 wartime coalition government. Churchill had him appointed Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1940, then Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in 1942, then Lord President of the Council in 1943. He deputised for Churchill in parliamentary questions and cabinet meetings, with many sources saying he essentially ran all domestic business of the government while Churchill focused on the war. Curiously the time period usually given for his tenure as DPM begins only in February 1942. The Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield asserts that George VI’s minute for that reshuffle just said “Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs” and that it was Churchill who wrote “Deputy Prime Minister” on a separate paper. Bogdanor also asserts that Attlee was never formally given the latter title by the King.

Herbert Morrison was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons through most Attlee’s premiership from 1945 to 1951, switching to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the last few months. He is counted by Bogdanor, Kirkup & Thornton and Norton but not by Brazier.

Sir Anthony Eden was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during Churchill’s peactime ministry of 1951 to 1955. He is considered by all the lists to have functioned as DPM, though the King did not formally appoint him as such.

R. A. Butler is counted by all, though there is dispute as to when he took office. Under Eden and Macmillan he held several overlapping posts: Lord Privy Seal (1955-59), Leader of the House of Commons (1955-61), Chairman of the Conservative Party (1959-61), Secretary of State for the Home Department (1957-62) and First Secretary of State (1962-63). Brazier considers him to have been DPM beginning in 1955 but Norton believes he only started in 1962. Both agree he ceased when Douglas-Home replaced Macmillan in 1963.

George Brown became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1960 and remained so throughout Wilson’s first two governments, resigning after the general election of 1970. From 1964 to 1966 he was First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, then he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs until 1968. It could be a typo, but Brazier apparently still considered him to have been DPM after that despite him no longer being in government.

Michael Stewart was First Secretary of State from 1966 to 1968 then Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs from 1968 to 1970, succeeding Brown in both offices. He is counted by Bogdanor as well as Kirkup & Thornton to have been DPM in the last two years.

Curiously none of the authors consider Barbara Castle (First Secretary of State 1968-70) to be worthy of inclusion.

Reginald Maudling had been appointed by Heath as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party in 1965. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department following the party’s election victory in 1970. He resigned both posts in 1972. Bogdanor and Brazier consider him to have been DPM for two years.

William Whitelaw was Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1991, being created Viscount Whitelaw roughly halfway through this period. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1979, then Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords from 1983 to 1988. All the lists include him as DPM while he was in government, but are clear that he did not actually hold the formal title.

Sir Geoffrey Howe is widely considered to have been DPM from a reshuffle in 1989 until his famous resignation in 1990. He held the posts of Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. When I commented on Norton’s blog suggesting his inclusion the noble lord replied:

Sir Geoffrey Howe was offered the title, but as he explained in his autobiography:
Charles Powell then contacted him to tell him that Buckingham Palace ‘had had a little difficulty in accepting the official description “Deputy Prime Minister” . They were proposing to follow the precedent of Eden with Churchill and use the form of words: “Sir Geoffrey will act as Deputy Prime Minister”.

Michael Heseltine, it seems, is the first to be definitively appointed Deputy Prime Minister. He held the title from 1995 to 1997 as well as being First Secretary of State.

John Prescott was the second canonical incumbent. He had been elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1994 and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister after the general election of 1997, resigning both posts in 2007. For his first four years in government he was Secretary of State for Environment, Transport & the Regions. Thereafter he was First Secretary of State.

It is another curiosity that none of the lists include anyone for Gordon Brown’s premiership, even though the Lord Mandelson (First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Council 2009-2010) was widely considered to be DPM for the last eleven months of New Labour.

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats throughout their coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015, was the third canonical DPM. He was also appointed Lord President of the Council and Minister for Political & Constitutional Reform. He regularly stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.

William Hague was First Secretary of State through the same period. He was the second Conservative in the cabinet hierarchy and answered Prime Minister’s Questions when both of his superiors were absent. He was the senior member of Cameron’s shadow cabinet and so probably would have been DPM had the party won outright in 2010.

George Osborne was First Secretary of State and second in the cabinet ranking during Cameron’s second government of 2015 to 2016. He answered Prime Minister’s Questions in Cameron’s absence.

Theresa May did not appoint a DPM for FSoS during her first ministry. Most seem to have assumed that Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer) was deputy by default. When she missed PMQs on 7 December it was David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, who stood in for her.

Damian Green was appointed First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office in June 2017 but had to resign in scandal in December. He was second in the cabinet ranking and deputised at PMQs.

David Lidington was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from January 2018 to July 2019. He was second in the cabinet ranking throughout despite not holding either of the usual titles. He again deputised at PMQs during this period.

Dominic Raab was appointed First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs in July 2019. He resigned both posts this month in favour of Deputy Prime Minister, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and Secretary of State for Justice. Bizarrely many press sources called this a demotion. He took charge of the government last year when Boris Johnson was in intensive care, and has deputised at PMQs many times, including last week. He would appear to be the fourth canonical DPM, having the title in Hansard as well as in government publications (no Gazette mention yet). Oddly the cabinet rankings until recently had him below the Chancellors of the Exchequer (Sajid Javid, then Rishi Sunak) and the most recent list of cabinet committees showed he wasn’t chairing any of them.

One might reasonably be wondering at this point as to the constitutional distinction between Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State. Put simply, the latter actually exists in law. Every time a new first secretary is appointed there will be an order in council recording it, in the same way as for all the other secretaries of state. The office commands a salary in its own right and so an incumbent does not need to hold a sinecure in conjunction. This is in contrast to Deputy Prime Minister, which has no legal existence and is, in effect, simply a courtesy title given by the actual Prime Minister. Every holder of the title has simultaneously held at least one other ministerial office.

There is, though, one way in which First Secretary of State is like the Deputy Prime Minister and unlike the other secretaries of state. As I commented to Norton last year:

The main difference between the First Secretary of State and all the others is that he is a minister without a ministry. While there is an Order in Council to appoint a new First Secretary of State each time, there has never been a statutory instrument to establish a corresponding First Department. For this reason there is a little similarity with the title of Deputy Prime Minister in that leaving the position vacant has the same practical effect as abolishing it (indeed the press often don’t know which term to use), because the role cannot be proven to exist if it is not occupied.

Ever to Succeed

News has broken that two days ago Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice, Mrs Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, gave birth for the first time. Her yet-unnamed daughter is eleventh in line to the throne. I wished to edit the relevant Wikipedia article accordingly, but that proved difficult as the list had multiple levels of indentation to reflect the generations and all the numbers had to be changed manually.

There is a challenge in deciding just how many names to include on the page. The legitimate non-Papist descendants of George I’s mother number well into the thousands nowadays and the vast majority of them are non-notable. The editors have here decided to limit the display to the descendants of the sons of George V. In practice this just means Bertie, Harry and Georgie, since David and John both died without issue. Even that restricted selection comprises sixty-three living people, of whom thirty-two have no pages of their own.

The clumsiness of editing this list brought up an idea I had some years ago for giving each member of the diaspora a numerical code to indicate their position within the succession. The electress herself, being the origin of the succession, would be 0. Her eldest son Georg Ludwig would be 1, her next son Frederick Augustus 2, Maximilian William 3 and so on. For each generation a digit is added, so Georg’s offspring George Augustus and Sophia Dorothea would be 1.1 and 1.2, while George Augustus’s children would be 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 and so forth. Under this system Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent & Strathearn would be 1.11141 while Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York would be 1.111411221. Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark would, I think, be 1.111416331. The beauty of this system is that the crown always goes to the living person with the lowest number, rather than each new birth or death close to the throne forcing everyone downstream to be renumbered.

There are downsides, of course. First, there is always the danger of one day discovering a missing sibling who died young and was forgotten to history. Second, until the commencement of the Perth Agreement the crown followed male-preference primogeniture, so any girl’s code was liable to change upon the arrival of a brother. Third, if any person in the line has more than nine legitimate children then the numerals would be inadequate (as in George III’s case, though perhaps there one could only number his nine sons and omit his nine daughters, none of whom had surviving children of her own), and an alphabetical system might be needed instead – Elizabeth II would be AAAADAABBA and the late Prince Philip AAAADAFCCA.

On a related note, I have been keeping tabs on Judiciary UK for some months looking at new judgements as they come out. My main interest was Bell v Tavistock, but the day before that was resolved my eye was caught by the decision of Sir Andrew McFarlane (President of the Family Division) not to publish the Duke of Edinburgh’s will. Sir Andrew spoke at length about official etiquette regarding the royal family, and shed some light on that term’s definition. For Wikipedians, academics, press and others, there has always been a little confusion as to when membership of the family ends**. Is it the top X in line to the throne? Everyone descended from the current monarch? All descendants in the male line from George V? From Victoria? Everyone styled Royal Highness? Everyone on the balcony at Trooping the Colour? Then there are the gradations – often the headlines talk of “minor royals”, usually meaning the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent but sometimes including the Prince of Wales’s siblings and niblings, while mentions of “senior royals” are even more nebulous. One reason for this difficulty is that there are really three separate types of rank within group – precedence is determined by one’s relationship to the incumbent monarch, style and title by generations’ removal from any monarch and succession by primogeniture of descent from Sophia. McFarlane, in his judgement, may have given some more substance on which to build at least the latter’s definition.

From paragraph 15: This Court has been informed that in recent times the definition of the members of the Royal Family whose executors might,as a matter of course,apply to have the will sealed up has been limited to the children of the Sovereign or a former Sovereign, the Consort of the Sovereign or former Sovereign, and a member of the Royal Family who at the time of death was first or second in line of succession to the throne or the child of such a person. In addition, the wills of other, less senior, members of the Royal Family may have been sealed for specific reasons, or, as the list of names suggests, a wider definition of “Royal Family” may have been applied in this context in earlier times.

From paragraph 23: The confidential note that was disclosed and is attached to Charles J’s judgment contains an interesting account of the development of the practice of sealing Royal wills during the last century. That note provided that, in particular,the practice of applying to the Family Division applied, as a matter of course,to ‘senior members of the Royal Family’ who were defined as:

•The Consort of a Sovereign or former Sovereign;

•The child of a Sovereign or former Sovereign;and

•A member of the Royal Family who, at the time of His/or Her death, is first or second in line of succession to the throne or the child of such a person.

This means that, for judges’ purposes “senior royal” essentially means monarchs themselves, their consorts and their children (not necessarily children-in-law), as well as the first two in line to the throne and their children. Monarchs’ children are easy enough to spot from the rest, with the definitive article in their princely styles and their coronets of crosses interspersed with fleur-de-lys, but the latter category could be unstable – Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of York would have been senior by this definition during their grandfather’s reign but would have lost that status had Edward VIII sired children of his own.

Applying it to the current situation, then, we can see that the seniors of the present royal family are:

  • HM The Queen
  • HRH The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
  • HRH The Prince Andrew, Duke of York
  • HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
  • HRH The Princess Anne, Princess Royal
  • HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
  • HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Sussex
  • HRH Prince George of Cambridge
  • HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
  • HRH Prince Louis of Cambridge

There is one part of the judgement with which I take issue – paragraph 13 says It is understood that the first member of the Royal Family whose will was sealed on the direction of the President of the Probate, Admiralty and Divorce Division was His Serene Highness Prince Francis of Teck. Prince Francis was the younger brother of Princess Mary of Teck who, upon her marriage to King George V, became Queen Mary in 1910. Later that same year, at the age of 40 years, Prince Francis died. An application was made for the will to be sealed and not published. The application was granted. This is a little misleading, as Mary married Prince George, Duke of York in 1893 and became Queen on his accession in 1910. The judge’s text implies that she didn’t marry him until he was already King.

*Some in the press have claimed that as her father is an Italian count, the baby will be a countess, but the title is not recognised by the Italian republic or by the United Kingdom. Most likely she will be Miss [[Firstname]] Mapelli Mozzi.
**Of course, any family can present this difficulty as few are consciously defined by any formal rules.

UPDATE (1st October)

Princess Beatrice’s baby is named Sienna Elizabeth Mapelli Mozzi.

In Those Circles

Five years ago I discovered a project called the Culture Concept Circle. It is run by Carolyn McDowall, an “independent cultural and social historian”. The YouTube channel comprises a long series of short documentaries about the history of art and design, a lot of them focusing on British architecture. The videos are not as polished as those you’d see on television – they are mostly just zooming or panning along stock still images (often low resolution) with a voiceover lecture – but this should not diminish their appeal for anyone already interested in the subject matter. If anything, they highlight how much of a modern TV documentary is essentially padding. The People Profiles are somewhere in between, as are History Matters and Extra History.

I’ve also recently discovered English Heritage podcasts. They cover an eclectic range of subjects from royal romances to Darwin’s gardens. The one that particularly caught me was How the railways shaped the nation. This is less because of its actual content than because it is narrated by collections curator Dr Matt Thompson, whose voice sounds remarkably similar to that of Ted Robbins.

On Ladies’ Garters

Dr Andrew Gray

Just a day after York’s presentation, I attended yet another heraldic zoom lecture, this time by Dr Andrew Gray for the Heraldry Society, concerning Ladies of the Order of the Garter. I made a post about this topic two years ago and advertised it in the chat box. Unusually the host actually drew attention to it, and my site traffic is already seeing an uptick.

The lecture began with the special statute enacted by the newly-ascendant Edward VII in 1901 to appoint his wife Alexandra to the order, followed by a similar instrument in 1910 for Queen Mary. Gray noted that this was unusual at the time but not unprecedented. In 1358, just ten years into the order’s creation, Edward III made Philippa of Hainault a lady of it. Gray mentions that the early gentlemen of the Garter had ladies in their company on ceremonial occasions, though their status – and even identity – is vague. In the period of 1358-1495 Gray identified seventy-four Ladies of the Garter in the records, most of whom were wives of the knights and/or members of the royal family. He notes that there were probably a lot more but the necessary records are missing. The ladies received robes, and wore the garter itself on the upper arm (whereas the men wore it on the leg).

There then followed an examination of the ladies appointed in that time, their arms, and their relation to the contemporary monarchs. One of those highlighted was Jacquetta, Countess Rivers, whom Gray noted had been made famous by Philippa Gregory. She was allegedly descended from the water goddess Melusine and gifted psychic powers, which the present monarch has presumably inherited.

The appointments of ladies of the order ended in 1495 with Margaret, Countess of Richmond and mother of Henry VII. Over the next few centuries there were five female sovereigns of the Garter but no female appointees until the sudden spurt in the twentieth century. There was also some discussion of the issues I raised in my aforementioned 2019 post regarding female crests and helms.

While I enjoyed the presentation it still left me a little confused – I don’t recall learning any explanation as to why the installation of ladies was discontinued in the sixteenth century, nor the precise distinction between plain “Lady” and “Lady Companion”. Still, at least I got to flog the blog rather effectively this time.

The society’s lecture series is taking a break now, and will return on 24th September.

The College of Arms in the Eighteenth Century

The early decades of the eighteenth century saw the College of Arms at its lowest point in its history, when its relevance and even its survival seemed to be in doubt. Very few grants of Arms were being made, heraldic regulation was increasingly ineffective, and the practices of its Officers were in decline. Appointments were sometimes made for the wrong reasons, so that Officers might not be there for their heraldic or genealogical skills. Could the century see a revival of the fortunes of this ancient institution? Could it find new venues for its activities, new areas of expertise, and new sources of revenue? Could heraldry adapt to the changing fashions and aesthetics of the Enlightenment and Romanticism? This talk will seek to examine and answer these questions.

So said the online invitation. Today’s virtual heraldic lecture was given by Peter O’Donoghue, York Herald since 2012. As the title implies, the lecture covered the ups and downs of life and work at the college from 1701 to 1800. As this one, unusually, has been uploaded to YouTube, I do not think it necessary in this instance to type out a long account.