* A Welcome and a note on Provender and Parliament
* Letters to the Editor
* The de Vere Star
* The Martlet
* Classical Heraldry
* King Robert and Princess Sam
* Scams ~ Halberts Still in Business
* The Disunited Kingdom
* Genetically Modified Provender
* Genealogically Modified Parliament
* The View from Westminster
* When the Turrets Fall . . . . . . .
* JAG-1: Feudal Titles
* Heraldic Badges
* Looking Around: The Burlington Arcade
* Pegasus Armorie
* What is Lawful?
* Our Sponsors and Advertisers
WELCOME ~ AND A NOTE ON PROVENDER AND PARLIAMENT
We were recently asked how we knew what our readers wanted of us, and after reflection we agreed that we did not know. This newsletter has a primary purpose, which is to link regular Baronage readers to those articles in the magazine that might interest them (heraldry is an art that needs colour, and hyperlinks allow colour to be used indirectly, at the click of a mouse) ~ but the content of the magazine is guided only by the wish to cater for readers who are interested in the art, symbolism and meaning of heraldry, and in the history, politics, warfare, books and entertainment to which heraldry has thematic links
Recent events in the United Kingdom threaten to disunite it, and this brings constitutional politics into more prominence in the magazine than we allowed during our first three years of operation on the Web. The topics currently bubbling in Brussels and Scotland, and the politicians currently babbling at Westminster, together will suggest to most readers that this may continue for a little while.
This last couple of weeks plots for Genetically Modified Provender have joined the plans for a Genealogically Modified Parliament as the principal subjects of conversation. (The Government intends to remove from Parliament peers with the wrong genes.) In this issue we shall look briefly at these two developments under the heading of GMP.
We hope our overseas readers will not consider this temporary prominence of constitutional matters misplaced. Perhaps, to lighten the mood, we might reflect on the tale of Maelbrigte, mormaor of Mar (a mormaor being a Pictish dignity meaning Great Steward and having in rank an equivalence with the "kings" of Ireland), a predecessor of the Earls of Mar. Circa 892, Maelbrigte was slain in battle by Sigurd I Riki, the Mighty, Jarl of Orkney, who thereupon severed his head and galloped triumphantly about the field with it dangling from his saddle bow. The mormaor was known, however as "Maelbrigte the Tooth" and it was his famously prominent tooth that, bouncing up and down in the gallop, cut into Sigurd's knee, poisoned his blood and shortly thereafter killed him. Mr Tony Benn, the former Anthony Wedgewood-Benn (the erstwhile Viscount Stansgate), might reflect on this incident of post mortem vengeance, for, as related below, he lectured the House of Commons on the antiquity of peerage titles, and was in gross error in respect of the Earls of Mar (as he is habitually in much else).
But to continue, after thanking the core of loyal readers who have stayed with the magazine from its beginnings (we are now in our fourth year), and after welcoming the new readers who have found us only recently, we shall begin with some of the heraldic items to be found in the latest issue of Baronage.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The policy on incoming letters has been changed to allow publication of those which might arouse interest among the general readership. We publish in the current issue one relevant to the improper use of arms for which the user has no authority, for it may be helpful to those organising clan associations.
THE DE VERE STAR
The original intention with Mists of Antiquity had been to publish it as a traditional book, splendidly illustrated not just with the coats of arms, but also with the borders and diapering mediaeval artists used. That may still happen, but for the present we continue with the existing format and move into the second volume which, as with the first, we shall expand to ten electronic chapters.
The de Vere Earls of Oxford formed a line inseparable from English mediaeval history, and left a name redolent of chivalry and triumph and courtliness and tragedy, a name much used by romantic novelists and also by old families wishing to record a distant connection of blood or marriage. In this new volume of Mists of Antiquity we look at the famous de Vere star that killed Warwick the Kingmaker.
Heraldry features a wide variety of birds, most of which exist in natural life. Among those that don't, the martlet and the popinjay do have a link to reality ~ the former, although without feet and sometimes without a beak, may originate with the martin or swallow or swift or even the dove, while the latter, perhaps inspired by a parrot, probably started its European life as an archery target (but today, of course, for those uninterested in heraldry, it is only a gaudily dressed fop).
This new series of articles, under the title of Curiosity Corner, begins with the martlet. In the next issue we shall examine the gryphon (or griffin).
Continuous frustration at the effect the bucketshop scams are having on the public appreciation of heraldic art was the initial prompt for the introduction of the Gallery section. The 18th and 19th centuries did produce some monstrosities, but analysis often shows the perpetrators to have been competent artists who followed the then fashion for the over-ornate and did not quite understand the uses and purpose of helmets, shields, crests and mantling. Modern vandals are, in most cases, not even artists - they are copiers who draw and paint imitations of other heraldic imitations onto their templates, and do so with no appreciation of proportion or artistic perspective.
The intention is that while we reproduce examples of classical art created during the centuries since heraldic disciplines first becam recognised, we should also discuss the principles artists observe. In this issue we look at the shape of the shield, and show how the classic "heater" profile is constructed.
More information on the boardgame of Regency is added in this issue. We intend to have it available for sale online later this year, with credit card orders accepted on the secure server that displays the Banneret Books order form. If only a limited number are produced (the first trial of 5,000 sold out, and a limit may again be set), those who have made provisional orders will receive priority. Placing a provisional order does not bind the applicant, but it does give the publisher an indication that allows the quantities and prices to be calculated more precisely.
We might add here that Regency is in our view by far the best of the board games available for enjoyment by both adults and children, both together and separately. It offers the partnership interaction of Bridge, the statistical challenge of Backgammon and the spatial and strategic thought of Chess. Moreover, it provides immense fun for all who are willing to learn its natural and simple rules.
Both children and adults can find Regency addictive, but as it can teach children history and heraldry, as well as an understanding of statistics, the game grabbing and holding their attention is no bad thing at all. (Adults may be surprised to find that children have an intuitive grasp of odds which will power them to victory in this game over even the most thoughtful of older players.)
Additionally, Regency is flexible ~ in that it can be played in the sort of competition Duplicate Bridge players enjoy, where players compete against the players at other tables using the same numbers thrown by the umpire's dice; and it can be played without dice (which is its most intellectually demanding form).
KING ROBERT AND PRINCESS SAM
Bookpost in this issue reviews the latest book on ROBERT THE BRUCE, completed by Caroline Bingham last year, shortly before her death. We recommend it because she gives a useful account of his life, one that exposes the lie of Hollywood's monstrous travesty "Braveheart", and portrays Wallace as what he was - a member of the knightly class into which he was born, committed to the feudal system, the only one he knew or could imagine, and not the film's peasant boy, a Scottish Joan of Arc, with a messianic vision. Robert the Bruce, who is our nomination for "Man of the Millenium", is revealed as the Hero King of traditional Scottish history.
The other book reviewed in this issue, ROYAL FLUSH, tells a fairly provocative story of a newly-liberated British princess on the loose in North America, kidnapped by terrorists, rescued by an unusually unconventional cop, and fleeing to uninhibited freedom in Arizona. It is an e-novel, tailored for onscreen reading (although as it is a PDF file it can be printed out easily if wished), which means that the author, William Dennenberg, uses an economical style and a fast pace. He offers some informed and amusing sidelights on royal life that regular readers of the magazine should find fascinating.
The review carries a warning - "this is not a conventional royal romance. Don't expect anything in this novel to be conventional. Nothing is!"
ROYAL FLUSH can be bought from the Order Page located at the end of the first chapter we publish in this issue of the magazine. The secure server of Banneret Books accepts several credit cards, and the book is delivered by e-mail following card clearance.
Obviously, the Baronage operation receives a contribution towards our costs from every sale (which is very welcome), and those of our readers who have benefitted from our enquiry service, or who have enjoyed our published articles over these last years (all of which have been provided free), and would enjoy an amusing adventure, are encouraged to consider buying this notably unconventional e-novel.
The way Dennenberg has written ROYAL FLUSH tends to persuade readers that they are watching a movie, so perhaps someone may make the jump mentally and suggest it to a producer. By coincidence, the annual offering to the magazine from John Hill, the successful scriptwriter we claim as "Our Man in Hollywood", examines the virtues of novels and screenplays as the way in to the studios and everlasting fame.
As always, his analysis is crisp and unequivocal.
SCAMS - HALBERTS ARE STILL IN BUSINESS !!!
(But we could not really expect otherwise. There are just too many people with a genuine hunger for their family histories, and the Halberts merchants need to hook only a very small proportion of them to make a neat profit.)
The following appeared in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (copyright 1998 by Richard W. Eastman and Ancestry, Inc.) We republish it here with Dick Eastman's permission.
THE NEW WORLD BOOK OF YAKIS
San Francisco Supervisor Michael Yaki recently received an advertisement from the notorious Halberts, supposedly doing business in Bath, Ohio.
Upon opening the letter from Halberts, Yaki found a notice of the "New World Book of Yakis, an international directory compiled after searching sources in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Poland and South Africa."
Michael Yaki was able to figure out easily that such a "family history" was a scam. You see, Yaki's ancestry is entirely Chinese and Japanese. I wonder where Halberts found all their "data" on the Yaki family.
AND SO - TO THE DISUNITED KINGDOM ???
With the "New Labour Party" locked in battle with the SNP (Scottish National Party) over the choice of who should run Scotland from the new Edinburgh "parliament", the choice is seen by most pragmatists as a move towards or from "Independence for Scotland". The view of the Baronage magazine is that there are credible cases to be argued both for and against Independence, but that on balance the case for the continuance of the United Kingdom wins.
It has been our view also that a great deal of nonsense is published by both sides, and that if we measure the amount of this the SNP wins very easily, perhaps because it has no staff of objective civil servants to produce its papers, and thus persuades itself to publish whatever emotional absurdities its most crazed supporters can dream. An extreme example recently occurred in a BBC interview when the SNP spokesman on defence was revealed not to know the difference between a cruise missile and a ballistic missile, believing the latter type of missile had been fired against Iraq. (Non-military readers may visualise the cruise missile as a bicycle and a ballistic missile as a motorcar for a rough indication of the fundamental difference.)
This highlights one example of the lack of talent and experience (it is only one example of a multitude of examples in every department of future government) among the aspirant representatives of the people of Scotland, but in general, although real, it is not so easy to demonstrate. When it becomes easy to demonstrate, it will be far too late.
For the present then, what we can do is suggest that our Scottish readers visit the SNP's own website, where they can read what the SNP's own leaders think of themselves. In this issue we reproduce what the SNP's most vocal leader thinks of himself. It is worth a few minutes.
And we add to this what Robert Burns thought of being United to England.
G M P ~ GENETICALLY MODIFIED PROVENDER
By far the most impressive comment we have yet heard in respect of the controversy at Westminster over genetically modified foods was to the effect that no one in the House of Commons appeared to know or understand what they were talking about. It was all so similar, we thought, to the discussion about the Government plans for the future of the House of Lords (the Second Chamber in the British parliamentary system) and the abolition of the voting and debating rights of hereditary peers. It was so depressingly similar.
An historian's view of the controversy would be only the recognition that we have been modifying crops genetically for many centuries, and the significant difference now is that the pace of change has accelerated, leaving less time to identify and isolate harmful or undesirable results.
We should therefore, knowing that we have only months instead of decades available, increase our precautions to a level consistent with the dangers the acceleration has the potential to create.
G M P ~ GENEALOGICALLY MODIFIED PARLIAMENT
Let us continue with the theme that there is an unbecoming ignorance in the House of Commons in respect of the true nature of Parliament and of its contribution to the British system of government. Let us recognise that some of this ignorance is owed to the widespread misrepresentation of the House of Commons as "Parliament", of its Members as the only representatives of "the British People", of the role of Parliament being the prompt approval of the legislation the Government has chosen to introduce - all misrepresentation Members of the House of Commons appear now to believe themselves.
But Parliament in its full sense consists of the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The Monarch has an hereditary appointment traceable back over more than a thousand years. The House of Lords has hereditary peers, non-hereditary peers (life peers), and the bishops (whose succession is quasi-apostolic). The House of Commons alone has no hereditary element, its Members being chosen by party committees and confirmed by the largest electoral vote in each constituency in what is described as "the-first-past-the-post system". The hereditary principle on which Parliament has rested for centuries is under attack by the so-called "democrats", none of whom appears to recognise that democracy is a means to the achievement of good and just government, not an end in itself, and none of whom appears to recognise that the sovereignty of the British is of far greater importance, especially to our liberty, than vague notions of this much exploited, abused and prostituted term "democracy". (Democracy in Britain has become the system that allows the sovereignty of the British People to be stolen by the clique that rules in Westminster.)
The largest bloc of the "the-first-past-the-post" winners agrees to form the Government, but we must remember that it is Parliament that represents "the British People", not these party committee choices. More importantly, Parliament is not assembled to do the Government's bidding ~ Parliament, as the representative of the British Sovereign People, is there to keep a check on the "elected" Government. The Government is accountable to Parliament (although the Government ministers who do recognise this are those who seem keenest to emasculate the House of Lords).
Does that shock? Baroness Jay, the Government's Leader in the House of Lords, its most fervent advocate of the emasculation of Parliament's Second Chamber and the curtailment of its powers to protect the Sovereign People that Parliament represents, stated categorically and without any possibility of misunderstanding that the reform of the House of Lords was about "modernising government". If Baroness Jay wishes to modernise government, her reforms should start with the Government itself, not with the checks and balances that have for so long guaranteed liberty to the People that Parliament in its totality represents. (It may be argued that Government is being reformed, that the halving of the Prime Minister's appearances to answer questions in the House of Commons is just the start, and that complete reformation is intended to establish totalitarian powers ~ which may explain why the Prime Minister is being portrayed by the information media as a "Control Freak".)
But we intended to look at ignorance. Let us consider, as one example, the recent lecture to the House of Commons delivered by the modest and loquacious Mr Benn. (Those of our overseas readers who know little of Mr Benn may be interested to learn that he is on record as stating that Japan asked to surrender three months before the atomic bombs were dropped, and that the United States refused to accept because of the American determination to show the world who was to be boss in the future. Those of our younger readers who know little of that war may be relieved to learn that readily available documents show this to be wholly untrue.)
So, to Mr Benn in full flow ~
"However, let us be clear about the House of Lords ........... For my sins, I had to read the history of the place. Let me give the House a few examples. When peerages began in 1272, they were not hereditary."
And now to the historic truth ~
Peerages (or, more correctly, peerage titles) did not begin in 1272, as Mr Benn claims (and nor did peerages). The Countess of Mar sits with a title held by the first Earl around 1115. Its progression did not then follow modern principles, but from 1228 it did, and Duncan, 4th Earl of Mar, is her direct ancestor. In England the Earls of Oxford and of Essex spring immediately to mind. The first of the former, Aubrey de Vere, was created Earl by charter in 1142 and his heirs in that title are almost inseparable from our national history (as Chief Justice Crewe and Lord Macaulay both famously declared). The first of the latter, his brother-in-law Geoffrey de Mandeville, was created Earl of Essex in 1140, and the royal charter specifically states that he is granted the earldom for himself "et heredes sui post eum hereditario jure."
While Mr Benn solemnly lectures the House of Commons and has his false "examples" recorded for posterity in Hansard (the official record), the Government mill grinds on and on, spitting out its genetically modified seeds of unwisdom. Until very recently the official publication on the House of Lords Website announced that the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the Law Lords) were, in effect, "the first Life Peerages." But English sovereigns have created life peers at least since 1377, when Guichard d'Angle was created Earl of Huntingdon for life. The first lady to be created an English life peer was Margaret, Countess of Norfolk, who was created Duchess of Norfolk for life in 1397. Life peerages were created also in the Scots Peerage, the last of these being for Francis Abercromby of Fetterneir, who was created Lord Glasfoord for life in 1685 (no creations of any peers being possible in the Scots Peerage after 1707).
The propagation, deliberately or ignorantly, by the Government and its supporters, of misinformation about the way Parliament works, and about the role of Parliament in the British Constitution, will continue, and especially in respect of the hereditary peers, the one element that is too independent for the Government to control, the one element that can still protect the People from the dictatorship of their "democratically elected" Government, the element that the Prime Minister is pledged to remove "in the interests of good government". In our next issue we shall look at more examples, and in particular at the misinformation given to the House of Commons in this matter by the Leader of the House, Mrs Becket.
THE VIEW FROM WESTMINSTER
Most readers not resident in the British Isles may have missed the turmoil among the leaders of "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition" (principally within the Conservative Party in the House of Commons) in respect of the reform of the House of Lords and the abolition of the independence of its exercise of its powers. The divergence of views became public knowledge when the leader of the Conservative party removed from office the Conservatives' principal spokesman in the House of Lords, Viscount Cranborne.
This article discusses Lord Cranborne's approach to reform in the light of the traditional role of the Second Chamber.
WHEN THE TURRETS FALL . . . . . . .
We quoted earlier the views of Robert Burns on the benefits of a United Kingdom. Here is Sir Walter Scott with words he could have written after the State Opening of Parliament, when certain Members of the House of Commons laughed at the Queen's mention of the legislation planned to remove the rights of the hereditary peers.
The Ruin of a Kingdom
The jest at which fools laugh the loudest,
The downfall of our old nobility ~
Which may forerun the ruin of a kingdom.
I've seen an idiot clap his hands and shout
To see a tower like yon stoop to its base
In headlong ruin ; while the wise look'd round,
And fearful sought a distant stance to watch
What fragment of the fabric should follow ;
For when the turrets fall, the walls are tottering.
JAG-1: HERALDRY AND TITLES
The Journalists' and Authors' online guide has been restructured to eliminate the frames that troubled some readers' older browsers, and new pages will appear from April onwards.
Of the large number of queries e-mailed to us on heraldic badges, by far the larger proportion concern the badges of Scottish clans. The first article on these will be uploaded during March.
LOOKING AROUND: The Burlington Arcade
The magazine features occasional articles on shopping areas of genuine historical interest to ancestor-hunting tourists in the British Isles. One such is the famous Burlington Arcade, of which we have featured a description for several months. This has recently been updated with details of the new attractions there.
Tanner Krolle, about whose luxury leather goods we have received a host of enquiries since we first featured them two years ago, now have a shop at 38 Old Bond Street in London.
We continue to receive a large number of letters beginning - "Please send me a picture of my coat of arms." These show the widespread influence of the bucketshop heralds who have seemingly persuaded thousands of punters that coats of arms belong to family names.
Pegasus will supply pictures of arms that we are willing to certify as having been borne by named individuals (and those individuals are named on the picture), but Pegasus Armorie is not in the fraudulent business of supplying "arms for names" with the implication that the arms supplied may be lawfully used by the buyer.
However, there is undoubtedly a market demand for armorial display. The colours and shapes of heraldry have been so long in our history that they are sunk deeply into our subconscious minds. We respond accordingly to their beauty.
And so Pegasus has begun to produce a series of illustrations that will be suitable for framing and hanging on the walls of bedrooms, halls, studies, libraries, etc. Initially these will be appropriate for Scottish names, and in each case they will feature the badge of the clansmen of that name surrounded by the arms of the families whose daughters have been the ancestors of the present chief of the name.
An example will be uploaded in March.
WHAT IS LAWFUL?
The display of arms is the subject of many questions sent to us. Briefly, the situation is as follows ~
It is historic practice and permissible in law to display the arms of living and dead persons for purposes of decoration. It is permissible for Jean Gordon, for example, to display the arms of the Queen (her sovereign), the Marquis of Huntly (the chief of her clan), Charles Gordon of Buthlaw (who died in 1797, and to whom she believes she is distantly related), James Gordon (a colleague to whom she is not related at all), and John Smith (an old friend). All this is lawful ~ so long as Jean does not use any of these arms for any purpose other than decoration, and does not make any claim as to the arms being hers or those of someone else other than the lawful possessor, and does not imply such, and so long as the arms are or were lawful according to the relevant armorial authority in the appropriate national jurisdiction.
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