Heralds-a-Heralding

Today and yesterday, Charles III was formally proclaimed as King across the world, following the meeting of his accession council. This is only the fourth accession in Britain since the invention of the television, and the first time that the council itself has been broadcast live. Indeed, to my knowledge the only other time that any meeting of the council in Britain has been recorded was for the 1993 documentary Days of Majesty, and even then only a small clip was shown. There was supposed to have been a meeting (probably done virtually) some days ago for the swearing in of Liz Truss’s new cabinet, but the fading of Queen Elizabeth’s health prevented it. When that session will eventually take place is unknown. The ceremony was something of a consolation prize for Penny Mordaunt, who lost the bid to become Prime Minister but was instead appointed Lord President. She took the lead role in the day’s proceedings. Once the proclamation had been approved and various oaths had been taken it was read out by David White, Garter King of Arms, on the palace’s balcony. Not long later it was repeated by Timothy Duke (Clarenceux) on the steps of the royal exchange. The next day it was read by Robert Noel (Norroy & Ulster) at Hillsborough Castle. Joseph Morrow (Lyon) read it at Mercat Cross, as did Morfudd Meredith (Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan) and Thomas Lloyd (Wales Herald) in Cardiff. The other proclamations made around the British Isles, and the Commonwealth, are far too numerous to list.

Times such as this are a rare opportunity (others being state openings and, next year, the coronation) to see officers of arms in their full finery. They will be very busy over the coming months.

It can be taken as read that, following his ascent to the throne, the undifferenced arms of the United Kingdom, and those of all his other realms and territories, now belong to His Majesty. The arms of his siblings, niblings and cousins have no reason to change from what they were before. The arms of his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law are all due for upgrades.

Probable arms of Camilla, Queen Consort


Camilla, as Queen Consort, can now be expected to impale the Shand arms with those of the King. Given that William now has all of the statuses and titles that his father held a week ago, it is most probable that he will bear the same heraldic achievement, with which Catherine will impale the Middleton arms. It is yet to be seen (and there are conflicting precedents) of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex will similarly upgrade by swapping their five-point cadency label for one of three points, and removing the strawberry leaves from their coronets. The ever-present yet ever-uncredited Sodacan has already uploaded multiple illustrations of how he expects the revised armorial achievements to look.

Probable arms of Catherine, Princess of Wales

There is some controversy over whether Charles will change the heraldic depiction of the crown from St. Edward’s (depressed arch) to Tudor (no depression). There is a perception that St. Edward’s Crown is for queens and the Tudor crown for kings (due to the latter being preferred from 1901 to 1952) but this is not binding and St. Edward’s was regularly used by kings before Victoria’s reign.

FURTHER VIEWING

 

Demise and Disarray

The death of Elizabeth II is a time of serious grief for her family and her many peoples. It is also a time of mild confusion for public bodies, and of course Wikipedians. Here is a run-down of some of the changes that have recently been made.

The Monarch

The man long known as Charles, Prince of Wales is now King. For many years there had been speculation that he would take the regnal name George VII in honour of his maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, but shortly after his accession it was confirmed that he would indeed go by Charles III. There was a brief period when his page was at Charles, King of the United Kingdom before being changed to Charles III. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the article title should include “of the United Kingdom”. The side in favour argues that there have been many other monarchs over the centuries called Charles III from whom the present monarch needs to be differentiated. The side against argues that Charles is king of far more than just Britain, and that if you included one realm in his title you would have to include all of them, lest you imply that one is more important than another.

The Consort

Camilla Shand, at the time of her marriage in 2005, was not popular among much of the public still grieving Diana Spencer. So as to avoid appearing to usurp her legacy, she never styled herself “Princess of Wales”, instead going by “Duchess of Cornwall”. It was also suggested back then that, upon her husband’s accession, she would be styled “Princess Consort” (presumably derived from Prince Albert) rather than Queen. How true this proved to be was always a matter of public relations rather than constitutional law. By the start of this year it was clear that her reputation had recovered sufficiently to abandon that idea, and Elizabeth II in an open letter explicitly endorsed her daughter-in-law to be called Queen Consort. Currently all major media and government sources are very insistent on styling her “The Queen Consort”, rather than simply “The Queen” as other queens consort were before her. It is not yet clear if she will be described this way for the whole of Charles’s reign or if it is simply a temporary measure so as not to confuse the public while the late queen regnant is still being mourned. Again, there is dispute over whether her article title should include “of the United Kingdom”.

The Heir Apparent

In 2011 Prince William of Wales was ennobled by his grandmother as Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He has not ceased to hold these titles, but they are now buried beneath several others. The dukedom of Cornwall, in the peerage of England, is governed by a 1337 Charter instructing that it belongs automatically to the eldest living legitimate son of the incumbent monarch and the heir apparent to the throne, and that if these two statuses are held by different people then the title is left vacant. This means that all dukes (save Richard of Bordeaux) are deemed to have held the original peerage, rather than it being created anew each time. The Duchy of Cornwall, a substantial land-holding corporation in the south of England, is governed by the same. The dukedom of Rothesay in the peerage of Scotland is mandated by an Act of Parliament from 1469 to follow an identical succession, as are the titles Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince of Scotland and Great Steward of Scotland. The titles of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, by contrast, are not automatic. They are conferred by letters patent at the discretion of the monarch. It appears from news reports that Charles III has opted to do so almost immediately after coming to the throne, though I am still waiting to see this formally confirmed in the Gazette or the Court Circular. There was a short interlude in which the royal website and Wikipedia styled him “Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge”. I argued that it was poor form to include Cambridge while leaving out Rothesay, to which an anonymous user replied:

It would, but we don’t have a basis for that usage in Wikipedia practice. The hierarchy is very much What the Papers Say > legal/heraldic/formal/official names > anything that actually makes sense. I’m guessing there will be a followup announcement about his distinct style in Scotland and indeed in Northern Ireland, and maybe they’ll end up with something more logical and less clumsy. After workshopping every other possibility.

The Others

The accession of a new sovereign causes a reshuffle in the orders of precedence among the royal family. In the male order, Charles is naturally now on top. His sons William and Harry also move up, as do his grandsons George, Louis and Archie (their position before, as great-grandsons of the sovereign, was a little unclear). Andrew and Edward are demoted from sons to brothers, James and Peter from grandsons to nephews, and the Earl of Snowdon from nephew to cousin. The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and Prince Michael are unaffected. On the female side Camilla achieves supremacy, followed by Catherine, then Meghan, then Charlotte, then Lilibet, then Sophie, Anne, Beatrice, Eugenie, Louise, Zara, Birgitte, Katharine, Marie-Christine, Sarah and Alexandra.

The styles and titles of Charles’s descendants are also upgraded (though those of his siblings and niblings are not diminished). William and Harry both gain a definitive article in their princely titles. George, Charlotte and Louis are now “of Wales” rather than “of Cambridge”. There has, of course, already been a famous Princess Charlotte of Wales, so until an alternative solution emerges their Wikipedia pages must be differentiated by the awkward use of years in brackets. Archie and Lilibet, as children of a younger son of the sovereign, now qualify as royals under the terms of the 1917 letters patent. They could now correctly be styled as “His Royal Highness Prince Archie of Sussex” and “Her Royal Highness Princess Lilibet of Sussex”, though no move has been made in that direction so far. The situation regarding the Earl of Wessex’s children remains ambiguous. Charles could, of course, amend or revoke the letters patent however he wishes, but there has not yet been any indication in that regard.

The dukedom of Edinburgh, earldom of Merioneth and barony Greenwich, which were conferred by George VI on his daughter’s fiance Philip Mountbatten in 1947, and were then inherited by Charles in 2021, have now merged with the crown. Any of them can be bestowed anew on whomever His Majesty chooses. His brother Edward has long been presumed to receive them next, but no decision has been taken at this time.

Under the Regency Act 1937 Camilla (consort) and Beatrice (fourth adult in line) have become Counsellors of State.

The office of Lord Great Chamberlain of England (not the same as Lord Chamberlain of the Household) has automatically transferred from the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley to the 7th Baron Carrington. The former therefore loses membership of the House of Lords under Section 2 of the 1999 Act while the latter gains it. What happens to the place he already held among the ninety elected hereditary peers is still to be determined.

The Courts

The Queen’s Bench Divisions of the High Courts of England & Wales and of Northern Ireland, as well as the Courts of Queen’s Bench for the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, have all been renamed King’s Bench. The status of Queen’s Counsel in Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand has likewise changed to King’s Counsel, and all who hold it have had to amend their post-nominals accordingly. Only last month I created a new template for judges of the Queen’s Bench Division and had scrupulously added the specification to each of their infoboxes. Now I have had to change all of them. Still, it helps boost my edit count I suppose.

A Note on the Leadership Race

As Boris Johnson’s premiership draws to an undignified conclusion, a new leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party is to be elected for the third time in just over six years.

When last that happened, Professor Norton blogged about about four different types of Prime Ministers: Innovators who want to implement specific and ambitious goals of their own design (e.g. Thatcher), reformers who want to implement the goals of the party overall (Attlee), egoists who are in it for their own fame (Eden, Wilson, Johnson) and balancers who are concerned with keeping the peace between rival factions (Macmillan, May). He has not claimed these to be definitive or exclusive, but merely the labels he finds most useful. Recently he has revisited the idea.

In my view the roles of innovator and reformer are a little difficult to distinguish, as political ideas are often credited to the prime minister who enacted them even when their invention was owed to another (e.g. much of Thatcherite thinking was actually the product of Sir Keith Joseph). It might be better to merge them into one category of ideologue.That of balancer more obviously stands apart as someone less ambitious about specific goals and more concerned about overall stability. Egoist, of course, is something that few politicians would admit of themselves and which often comes across as a slur (not that it is untrue).

At present the nomination window has yet to formally open let alone close, so the field is still prone to change, but let us take a look at those declaring so far:

  • Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden), lately a junior local government minister
  • Suella Braverman (Fareham), current Attorney General
  • Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey), current health committee chair
  • Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove), lately health secretary
  • Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North), a junior trade minister
  • Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield), current transport secretary
  • Rishi Sunak (Richmond Yorks), lately Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk), current foreign secretary
  • Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge & Malling), current foreign affairs committee chair
  • Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon), current Chancellor of the Exchequer

At present Sunak and Truss are perceived as most likely to make the final ballot. Sunak seems to be positioning himself as a balancer. He wants to be perceived as a safe pair of hands and broadly popular among the public. Truss is going more for the ideologue side, particularly those who had favoured a harder departure from the European Union. Both are obviously egoists at heart, given that both appear to have registered their campaign websites some time before there was any hint of Johnson’s resignation. Concerns have long been raised about Truss spending government money on her own publicity, while Sunak seems to have hired a social media specialist to improve his personal brand.

Among the other candidates, Mordaunt and Tugendhat might be considered together. Their support (and that for defence secretary Ben Wallace, who was the front-runner before he ruled himself out) seems to come from the same source – a desire to clean up the party’s image and get politics back to normal. The quest for them is less about any specific policy goals and more about cleaning up the party’s image. They are seen to have demonstrated competence in their roles so far (a rare treat in modern politics) and avoided the scandals plaguing those at the top. Their military backgrounds are likely a large part of their appeal.

Javid and Hunt are somewhere in between. Hunt was the runner up in 2019 and has stayed out of Johnson’s government, so is a champion for the opposing faction (especially Remainers). Javid is more closely associated with Johnson but not seen as a lackey to the extent that Sunak or Truss are. Both are well-established within the parliamentary party so probably seek the same safe-hands image, as well as leaning on their reputations as businessmen.

Badenoch and Braverman both have fairly low national profiles which they are probably hoping to raise. They are unlikely to win but may be securing higher offers in the new cabinet or the next leadership election, whenever that may be. The former is well regarded for her chamber and studio performance, and promoted as a competent officeholder, whereas the latter seems to be favoured more as a stalking horse for an economic sect of the party.

That leaves Shapps and Zahawi, whose analysis must be very carefully phrased. Like Hunt and Javid they both have business backgrounds, but these may prove more a hindrance than a help. Shapps has several times attracted controversey over the conduct of his companies as well as denial of operating them under pseudonyms while serving in the Commons. In late 2015 he had to resign from the government due to alleged negligence in handling bullying claims within the party. He’s even been caught editing his own Wikipedia page to remove inconvenient details. Zahawi is distrusted by some in the party for having accepted a great office of state from Boris Johnson immediately before demanding he step down. There have also been numerous concerns raised about his private business interests, and flags raised by HMRC over his tax affairs.

Without commenting on the veracity of these particular claims, it raises the prospect of another category of leader – the featherer. Like egoists, no candidate would outright admit to being one, but unlike them the goal is less to acquire personal fame and more to protect one’s personal interests – or those of a different person supporting them. This would be hard to use in an academic textbook though, since such nest-feathering typically does not become known until many years after the accession has taken place.

UPDATE (12th July)

Shapps and Javid have withdrawn, Rehman Chisti dipped his toe but shortly withdrew again. Badenoch, Braverman, Hunt, Mordaunt, Sunak, Truss, Tugendhat and Zahawi have qualified for the first round.

York and Swinfen

Late last night Professor Norton blogged about the decease of his noble friend Roger Swinfen Eady, 3rd Baron Swinfen. The photograph he used in his post was a screenshot of him in the upper chamber on 1st February 2018, taken from parliamentlive.tv, and displayed on his Wikipedia page. I know because I put it there.

Swinfen was not photographed for an official parliamentary portrait, nor in any other setting that resulted in an image released with a Wiki-compatible licence, so I had to resort to a Fair Use screenshot, as with so many other deceased parliamentarians, in order to illustrate his page. Thankfully the fact that both houses (and indeed the devolved legislatures) have recently gotten into the habit of publishing high-quality portraits under CC-BY-3.0 or similar means that such a trick will likely be needed less often in the future.

Of course, I also illustrated his coat of arms a year ago, and being the copyright owner for that graphic I released it under the same.

Last month Norton blogged on a different topic – the repeated floating by the government of plans to move the House of Lords to York. Not, to be clear, moving Parliament as a whole along with the royal households, the senior courts and the departmental headquarters of the executive, but just moving the upper house while leaving everything else in London. On Thursday he secured a lengthy debate in the chamber on that topic. The peers who spoke were unanimous in their savaging of their proposal. Many of the issues I commented on Norton’s post regarding the practical absurdities of a separation and the apparent powerlessness of ministers in the upper house to influence their Commons colleagues were repeated by members in their speeches. My favourite contribution was by the Lord Addington: Michael Gove’s comment was the sort that usually comes up halfway through the third round in a pub, that should be forgotten by the end of the fourth, and certainly not remembered the next morning.

Thanks for the Memoiries

Politician’s autobiographies are a strange beast. Everyone who’s anyone (and some who maybe aren’t) eventually publishes a weighty tome detailing their time in (or out of) power with a view to putting a favourable account of themselves in the public’s minds, as well as perhaps generating income and attention lost since holding office. A few of these, such as Alastair Campbell or Alan Clark, become famous in their own right but I suspect the majority sink into obscurity as fast as their authors do.

When I discovered it four days ago, the Wikipedia article on British political memoirs was a left much to be desired. The list was long and disorganised. After many hours of code crunching, I had rearranged it into three big tables, searchable by name and publication date. I also added details of the authors’ notability as well as the publisher. The list is, of course, incomplete, given that there are new memoirs coming out every year as well as older ones overlooked (indeed I discovered a few along the way), but with as much as is already there I can spot a few trends. Harper and Collins (together or apart) got the top picks of the right wing while Penguin and Random House (ditto) got the left’s. I don’t know if that says anything about those companies’ corporate politics or if it’s just a herd mentality among their clients. Biteback, a company dedicated to political publications, is happy to print for any party.

I am sometimes struck by how early some of these books were published: Jess Phillips, who became MP for Birmingham Yardley in 2015, released her first book Everywoman in 2017 and already seems to be on at least her third. Gerald Kaufman published How to be a Minister in 1980, when his own ministerial experience amounted to just five years as a junior minister. Maureen Colquhoun wrote A Woman In The House having been voted out of the Commons after just five years. Even those who have served a long time still stand to miss out on what happens after – Ken Clarke’s Kind of Blue, debuting in 2016, mentioned how he was glad that Kaufman cut ahead of him when taking the oath in 1970, for he had no desire to be Father of the House. I presume he didn’t expect Sir Gerald to die so soon, to say nothing of the chaos of 2019.

The titles of such books are also interesting. Both Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester 2001-10) and Matthew Parris (West Derbyshire 1979-86) described themselves as “outsider”. Almost forty of the books listed actually had “memoir” as part of the name. Some attempted puns on their own names, such as Coming Up Trumps or Teddy Boy Blue. Of particular significance is the number of books actually named after people other than the subject: Three Conservative autobiographers defined themselves in relation to Thatcher, while only one Labour book similarly refers to Blair.

Although a large proportion of the writers end up being members of the House of Lords at some point, relatively few devote more to it than a brief note in the epilogue. Those who were MPs tend to regard their time on the green benches as their real career, with ennoblement marking its end. Often the book is already out by the time the scarlet robes are put on. Clement Attlee stands out here – he apparently wrote and released As It Happened in 1954 while he was still leading his party!

FURTHER READING

Counting Stars

Aside

After eight years as a Wikipedia editor, I have made over eighteen thousand edits, which puts me at the service rank of Veteran III, or Most Perfect Tutnum. These ranks are gained automatically by reaching the necessary tenure and edit count, with users themselves left to keep track of them. They are not any kind of deliberately-selected prize from those in charge. The Wikipedian honours system is large, varied and probably not well understood by the majority of users, including me. The one thing I had managed to comprehend was the barnstar, essentially a token of appreciation which any ordinary user can award to any other. I woke up today for some reason thinking of these, pondering why I had never gotten one. Of course, I could never draw attention to this, for nothing could be more pitiful. I thought of designing a userbox saying “This user has never received a barnstar, but he pretends not to be disappointed”. It’s the sort of ironic cloak to one’s frustrations that could well have caught on. Then, late this afternoon, I found a message on my Commons talk page from senior editor Cardofk, giving me the graphic designer’s barnstar for all the the coats of arms I’ve uploaded. So much for that plan!

State of Change

May I see the wine list?

Late last night it was announced that, due to episodic mobility issues, Queen Elizabeth would not be personally present for the state opening of Parliament today. While the shortness of notice is unusual, it is far from unprecedented for a parliamentary session to begin without the monarch. The present queen missed the openings of 1959 and 1963 due to pregnancy. Victoria loathed to visit Parliament at all during her forty years of mourning. On those occasions the standard procedure was to open the session by commission, with the Lord Chancellor reading the speech. This time, perhaps in consequence of the shortness of notice, the full state ceremony went ahead but with the Prince of Wales reading the speech instead of his mother.

The last time an heir apparent opened Parliament in this way was 23rd November 1819, when the Prince Regent opened the second session of the sixth Parliament on behalf of George III, a mere nine weeks before actually ascending to the throne. Charles, of course, is not full regent, and performed today’s ceremony in his capacity as counsellor of state. Such counsellors are required to act in pairs, hence the first appearance of the Duke of Cambridge at the event.

It was reported in the BBC coverage that Charles was sitting on the consort’s throne, with the monarch’s throne being removed from the chamber completely. The Imperial State Crown was displayed on a small table to his right where the monarch’s throne would normally be, while his wife and son sat on the smaller chairs in the alcoves either side.

Convention has long been for the peer reading the speech to do so in first person, as the sovereign herself would have done, but Charles opted to switch to third person, repeatedly describing the government and its ministers as “Her Majesty’s” instead of “my”*. I do not know if he was making the substitution mentally or if the speech was actually printed again with altered wording – which would require a downgrade in materials.

Also last night it was announced that Professor Anne Curry had been appointed Arundel Herald Extraordinary. This did not make her a member of the College of Arms, but did allow her to take part in the procession with the other heralds.

This afternoon the House of Lords Flickr account published twenty photographs of the ceremony, taken by Annabel Moeller and licensed as CC BY 2.0, enabling me to quickly absorb them into Wikimedia Commons. It is unusual for us to have such number and quality of images for events like these. The trend towards releasing photographs in this way is encouraging, even if it is intermittent.

Given that this if the first time counsellors of state have been used to open a legislative session, and that the decision was not known until thirteen hours prior, one has to wonder how much improvisation was employed in today’s ceremony, for example:

  • Their Royal Highnesses travelled entirely by motorcar. Had there previously been plans to use the horse-drawn carriages?
  • The Prince of Wales was in full military uniform as for most state openings, but his wife and son were in morning suits as for the “dress down” occasions in June 2017 and December 2019. The inconsistency is inexplicable.
  • There was no mention of the Union Flag over the Victoria Tower being swapped for the royal standard. Was a banner of the heir apparent’s arms available?
  • The limousine carrying Charles had his own shield of arms mounted on the roof, but that carrying William used the generic red shield with a crown. Has a shield of William’s arms been made for this purpose?
  • The carpet on the lowest step to the throne was plain red, whereas previously the pattern of lions and roses continued all the way.
  • Sir Lindsay Hoyle is wigless for the third consecutive state opening, despite promising to wear it before his election. It can’t still be missing, can it?

When the ceremony is over, both houses debate a response to the address. Tradition dictates that the motion be introduced by a long-serving older member and seconded by a younger, recently-elected one. The role of the “old duffer” was this time fulfilled by my own MP, the “shy and retiring” Graham Stuart. He said of his constituency:

Beverley and Holderness comprises four towns—Beverley, Hornsea, Withernsea and Hedon—and many other hamlets and villages that are dotted across east Yorkshire. It is a beautiful part of the world and has history as well as charm. Beverley has contributed more than most places to the improvement of our democratic system over the years—admittedly chiefly by running elections in such a corrupt manner that the law had to be changed afterwards. After the unseating of the victorious candidate in 1727 by a petition, his agents were imprisoned and Parliament passed a whole new bribery Act. But Beverley’s notorious freemen were not to be put off so easily. Beverley continued to be a byword for electoral malpractice. The novelist Anthony Trollope stood in the Liberal interest, unsuccessfully, in 1868, and such was the level of wrongdoing that a royal commission was established especially and a new law passed disenfranchising the town and barring it from ever returning a Member of Parliament again. Obviously the law did change. Free beer and cash inducements were the electoral controversies then, rather than, say, beer and curry today. Never in the history of human conflict has so much karma come from a korma.

FURTHER READING

*The version used on the Hansard website for both the Commons and the Lords is in third person as Charles delivered it, while that on the government’s site is in first person, as well as annotated with the names of the bills being described.

Fighting Corruption in the Judiciary

Many times before I have virtually attended the kinds of events that I could not attend in person. Sometimes it is because the location is too far away, other times because I am not a member of the organisation hosting. On this occasion it was both.

When I first found the flyer for today’s presentation on Eventbrite I assumed it would be an academic or professional presentation similar to all the others. Only upon entry did I realise it was actually the preparatory talk to a competition (which I obviously will not be entering).

The challenge was for high-schoolers and undergraduates to imagine that they were junior staffers at the justice ministry in a fictional Eastern European country which, having emerged from the Warsaw Pact, signed and ratified the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention but then, after a change of government, withdrew from it, and wanted to make changes to the method of appointment and dismissal of judges. The student’s task was to make a video presentation about the meaning and consequence of corruption. They should outline the basics of a legal strategy to bring their fictional homeland in line with the convention again, and produce three key ideas on enhancing judicial independence.

The speaker, Alice Thomas, then went on to make some general points about political corruption: It exists everywhere in some shape or form. What we know is only what other people have found out, and in countries without an independent media it can be difficult to find out anything. Most countries have anti-corruption strategies, at least on paper. The United Nations often follows the work of smaller regional groups, because having fewer members means it takes less time to reach decisions. North Korea, unsurprisingly, did not sign the aforementioned treaty at all. Some countries signed but did not ratify. International cooperation is important for asset recovery and information exchange, since corruption is often a cross-border phenomenon. The judiciary, legislature and executive are there to monitor each other. In a country without a functioning judiciary everybody can basically do as they please. Corruption may take the form of individual judges being bribed or coerced rather than the whole system being controlled. For a government to ensure judicial independence without inadvertently encroaching on it is a complicated task, since attempts to scrutinise the courts would themselves resemble the executive applying  political pressure.

Rather amusingly, Thomas ended by telling participants to be careful about their sources and not to rely on Wikipedia because “it’s not always very accurate. It’s a very subjective thing. It relies on who writes what in it.” – me, for example.

EXTERNAL LINKS

More Speakers, More Arms

Almost three years ago I constructed, for Wikipedia, a list of all the coats of arms borne by Speakers of the House of Commons. That list covered the lower houses of Great Britain (1707-1800) and the United Kingdom (1801-present). Finding sources for the later incumbents was difficult – quite a few were missing from Burke’s and Debrett’s, so I had to get creative in looking for visual evidence, often relying on photographs from corporate events at Speaker’s House.

A few weeks ago the heraldic artist Baz Manning, whose photographs from Lincoln’s Inn I had already used for a similar page about Lords of Appeal, contacted me to say that he had taken extensive photographs inside the Palace of Westminster of the speakers’ arms, and would be uploading those on Flickr too. Not content with merely documenting those speakers who served since the Acts of Union, he had photographed the shields commemorating just about every speaker since the age of Henry III. It was therefore only natural that I should make a Wikipedia list for them as well.

In addition to these photographs I had written the written source of the 1850 book The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons by James Alexander Manning (Related? I’ll have to ask.), which I had already used for the earlier entries in the British list. The relative ease of accessing these compared to what I had before meant the prequel was much more easily accomplished than the original.

That is not to say that there were no difficulties, however – whereas speakers from the Georgian age onward generally served a good number of years in the green chair before ascending to the red bench*, in medieval to Stuart times their tenures were often very brief – indeed, the legislatures themselves were often only in existence for a few weeks. It was also much more common for members to serve non-consecutive terms, which means confusion about how to arrange their entries.

A particularly knotty problem is that many of these men lived and died in an age long before English spelling was nailed down, which means tricky decisions on what to actually call them (e.g. Guildesborough or Goldsborough, Broke or Brooke). Another is that different sources often contradict each other as to what exactly their armorial bearings were, Baz even pointing out quite a few instances where the painted shield on the wall does not conform to the blazon in the grant, or when there are two separate illustrations that are not in agreement.

Still, the page is up, and unlike last time it does not appear that I will be stuck waiting months for review and clearance, so I’m counting this as a success. It remains to be seen if one more armorial page can be squeezed out of this topic. Obviously the old Parliament of Scotland had no elected speaker (being unicameral and chaired by the Lord Chancellor much like the House of Lords), but the House of Commons of Ireland before 1801 had one much like its English counterpart. I will have to see if a similar gallery of painted shields is maintained at College Green, and if any other budding heraldists have been able to photograph it.

*Only five speakers of the English House of Commons ever ascended to the peerage, whereas only ten speakers of the British house have not, and several of them died in office. Quite a lot of English speakers were at least knights or baronets, though that introduces the further difficulty of finding out if each one was knighted before or after their time in office.