The Devil Spares Pravda

General Heinz Guderian & Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein, Sept 1939, credit Wikipedia

The Devil Spares Pravda

The Devils’ Alliance; Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941, Roger Moorhouse, Basic books, New York, 2014, hb, 382pp, $29.99 US, reviewed by Leslie Jones

As Roger Moorhouse observes in this compelling account, the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact of August 1939 was “one of the salient events of World War II”. It isolated Poland and thereby led directly to war. In line with the secret protocol of the treaty, Poland was then divided up by “its two malevolent neighbours”. The Soviet annexation of the Baltic states and of the Romanian province of Bessarabia was another direct result of the treaty. Hitler’s occupation of Western Poland subjected the Poles and the Jews to “a horrific regime of exploitation and persecution”. In the aforementioned territories annexed by the USSR, likewise, “class enemies” were killed, persecuted or deported. As the author remarks, Hitler ethnically cleansed Western Poland while the eastern portion was politically cleansed by the Soviets.

Some commentators considered the USSR a “worker’s paradise”, which Stalin was only trying to protect. By means of the pact, they maintained, Stalin enlisted Nazi aggression to accelerate the eventual fall of capitalism. Hitler had been turned West and become an “unwitting tool of the Soviets”. Beatrice Webb, initially appalled, took comfort from the prospect of the Western capitalist democracies being destroyed. Stalin’s policy was “a miracle of successful statesmanship”, she averred. The distinguished future Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, then a Cambridge graduate, had “no reservations” about the new party line. “Stalin never errs”, according to some Communists and fellow travellers. Douglas Hyde, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, thought that to protect communism, Stalin should, if necessary, “make an alliance with the devil himself”. But Professor Moorhouse dismisses the notion that Stalin’s motive for engineering the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was to buy precious time to prepare for an inevitable war with Nazi Germany. He notes that Kingsley Amis, editor of the New Statesman, suspected that the pact’s twin signatories shared something sinister in their DNA. In Le passé d’une illusion; essai sur l’idée communiste au XXe siècle (1995), François Furet subsequently explored this persuasive idea in depth.

The naïve notion that the Nazis were uniquely evil bespeaks a woeful ignorance of this era, according to the author. After the German invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941, Winston Churchill, for one, downplayed his anti-Bolshevism. If Hitler invaded hell, he quipped, he would make a favourable reference to the devil. Germany, for the time being, could no longer invade Britain. Keep the Russians fighting was therefore the order of the day, notwithstanding the disturbing disappearance of thousands of Polish officers in Soviet occupied Poland.

When Brest Litovsk was amicably ceded to the Soviets in September 1939, Heinz Guderian was the local German commander. His Soviet opposite number was Brigadier General Semyon Krivoshein. During “an earlier blossoming of German-Soviet collaboration” in the 1920’s, they had worked together at the Kama tank school in Kazan. Ideology apart, there was a longstanding perception that the USSR and Germany were perfect economic and military partners. This perspective was assiduously promoted by “Easterners” in the German Foreign Office. The Soviets needed technology and precision tools etc and the Germans required raw materials, with which to withstand another possible wartime blockade. Between 1939 and 1941, accordingly, the Nazis and the Soviets “traded secrets, blueprints and raw materials”.

The author always has an eye for the telling detail. He tells us that Heinrich Hoffmann, who photographed the ceremonial signing of the pact, was known as the “Reich Drunkard”; that on Hoffmann’s return to Berlin, Hitler asked him whether Stalin’s earlobes were “ingrown and Jewish, or separate and Aryan”; that Hitler instructed Hoffmann to doctor his photographs, which originally showed Stalin chain smoking; and that Stalin told Ribbentrop that Beria “is our Himmler, [adding that] he’s also very good”.

“Propaganda, all is phony”. According to Machiavelli, “politics is a morally neutral activity concerned with manipulating power…”. There is no ethical or divine order that indicates the ideal state or the highest good for man (quotation from Conflict, War and Revolution, 2022, by Professor Paul Kelly). Viewed from this perspective, British support for Russia, after the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941  (like the by then defunct Nazi-Soviet pact) was “an exercise in realpolitik, a strategic necessity, an uneasy marriage of convenience” (Moorhouse).

Molotov & Ribbentrop, credit Wikipedia

Dr Leslie Jones is Editor of Quarterly Review

 

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City in the Sands

City in the Sands

By Bill Hartley

Western Sahara, or, depending upon your point of view, the Southern Provinces of Morocco, is a disputed territory consisting of 103,000 square miles of desert. Spain seized control following the Berlin conference of 1884, which decided spheres of interest in Africa among the European nations. During the latter years of the Franco era, Spain resisted calls from the UN to decolonise. Then, following his death, the Spanish government announced its intention to hold a referendum on independence. However, in 1975 King Hassan of Morocco, in pursuit of a dubious claim to sovereignty, initiated the ‘Green March’ whereby thousands of his people crossed the border to occupy the territory; a fait accompli which has been in place ever since.

The only significant settlement in Western Sahara is Laayoune the capital, which lies near the coast. It is strange to discover that in what was once a Spanish colony, the language is seldom heard. The only Spanish speakers are likely to be elderly residents, since Morocco has effectively imposed the French language in second place behind Arabic. Or to put it another way, Morocco, a former French possession, has successfully imposed the language of its onetime colonial master on a former Spanish colony. Even the menus in the local McDonald’s are in French and on the wall they tactfully display a picture of King Mohammed VI.

Morocco has endeavoured to upgrade and gentrify the city centre, with wide boulevards flanked by avenues of palm trees. The homes of the more prosperous citizens lie here, as do outposts of various government ministries. But beneath this modern urban veneer it’s not hard to discern why Laayoune is known as the ‘City in the Sands’.

Since most of Western Sahara is desert, unsurprisingly water is in short supply. Even in the heart of Laayoune this is evident. Silhouetted against the sky on the roof of a six storey apartment block, a man uses a rope to haul up a hose. He is standing on a large water tank which is to be refilled from a bowser parked below. This is mounted on the back of a 1960s Bedford truck: the local workhorse for water distribution and a common sight on the streets of the city. Even the most modern buildings get their water this way.

Out in the desert, far to the east, there is a conflict going on, hence the presence of UN troops. A few of these are Russian, which, given the alternative posting, is a good place to be right now. Western Sahara has a government in exile, which calls itself the Sahwari Democratic Republic and is based in Tindouf, Algeria. Their guerrilla arm is the Polisario Front which comes complete with a logo sporting the inevitable Kalashnikov. They occupy 20% of the territory; not so good as it sounds since this consists of uninhabitable desert, around which the Moroccans have built a sand berm and laid minefields. The Polisario is able to operate because relations between Morocco and Algeria aren’t good. One of the reasons is the former’s occupation of Western Sahara.

Beyond the well manicured centre of town, the place to mix with the locals is the Ski Kina market, a dense collection of shops, stalls and workshops. The latter are open to the street with metal bashing, vehicle repairs and furniture manufacture under way. Elsewhere ironmongery, haberdashery, cosmetics and foodstuffs are to be found. The butcher’s is easily identifiable from a distance, since there is a severed cow’s head in the window. This low level retailing without a supermarket in sight, is a place to both shop and socialise. Since Laayoune is largely tourist free, the visitor can wander at will and be treated little differently to the locals. Given the high daytime temperatures most of the activity in the market takes place during the evenings. Here, men gather to drink coffee and watch European football in the cafes. Street food includes the local speciality, barbequed camel. For those who need a ride to reach the market there are taxis available, though the etiquette is somewhat unusual. It’s quite likely that a passenger will be sharing a cab with the driver’s mother or brother, who has come along for the ride. Should the driver need directions then one solution is to pick up another fare who may know the way; sharing the journey and appropriating the taxi once the destination is reached.

Even in this isolated city the Moroccans leave little to chance. Apart from a military presence there is also a Gendarmerie, the Surete National. It’s not unusual to see their vehicles equipped with water cannon rolling past. Although the city is a long way from the conflict zone, the Moroccans take internal security seriously and like to let the locals know they are equipped to deal with disorder.

The main economic reason why the Moroccans are here is the Bou Craa phosphate mine. This site helps make Morocco the world’s third largest producer of the mineral with 2.4 million tons extracted annually. It comes from an open caste mine so huge that it is visible from the International Space Station. The UN objects to the exploitation of resources in a disputed territory but to no avail. There are also thought to be gas and oil reserves but as yet their viability has not been proven.

In this year’s report to the Security Council on the activities of MINURSO, the UN mission to Western Sahara, the secretary general describes low intensity hostilities. The report refers to what it euphemistically describes as ‘firing incidents’. In response, the Moroccan army has begun using drones and there have been civilian casualties on the Algerian side. Happily, on a diversity related note, the secretary general also reports that one third of their personnel in Western Sahara are now female.

The UN mandate only extends to October 2022 but is expected to be renewed. It seems unlikely that there will be any resolution to the Western Sahara question in the foreseeable future. Even so, Laayoune, the City in the Sands, remains an hospitable outpost in the far reaches of the Arab world.

William Hartley is a Social Historian

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Endnotes, November 2022

‘Dance of Apollo and the Muses’, Baldassare Peruzzi

Endnotes, November 2022

In this edition: Haydn from Kent: a fanfare from America, reviewed by Stuart Millson

The East Malling Singers, conductor, Ciara Considine, performed Haydn’s Nelson Mass to warm applause last month, in the fine acoustic of their village church, St. James the Great. Accompanied by a an exceptionally fine line-up of soloists – Gillian Ramm (soprano), Rachael Lloyd (mezzo-soprano), Tom Robson (tenor) and Luke Gasper (bass) – the Singers successfully scaled the heights of the work’s imposing opening, the great Kyrie, which rises in martial mood with timpani and brass to the fore.

Cohesion of voices and a ‘tightness’ in the delivery of many of the more ornate sections of the work carried this Nelson Mass along, as if sailing on a strong tide. The emphatic delivery of the opening section seemed to spur the choir to even greater things in Gloria in excelsis deo; a jubilant release from the brooding introduction. Like Mozart, Haydn possessed that seemingly inexhaustible capacity and inspiration to compose masses (and Masses) of music, in practically every form; from oratorio (the magnificent, The Creation, has also been performed here in East Malling) to chamber works, solo piano pieces and concertos.

Born in 1732, Joseph Haydn was a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and for a great part of his musical life was engaged by the powerful Esterhazy family, for which he composed celebratory pieces, such as a mass for the name day of Princess Marie Hermenegild. The latter work was composed in 1798, not long after Haydn had completed The Creation. Yet he registered the work (completed, incidentally, in the record time of just over 50 days) as: Mass in Straitened Times. Let us not forget that the end of the 18th-century/beginning of the 19th, was a period of extreme political turbulence for Europe; the continent dominated by Napoleon, the sea-lanes by the resisting Royal Navy, hence Haydn’s choice of title.

The first performance took place in Eisenstadt, and it was on a visit to that town in 1800 that Admiral Nelson heard the work; his celebrity conferring a new title on the piece: Nelson Mass. At the time, people sought to find echoes of Nelson’s career and achievements in this forty-minute-long piece. Had not Nelson defeated the French at the Battle of Aboukir Bay in the very same year in which Haydn had composed the mass? That was indeed true, but there is no evidence to suggest that Haydn, in his Austro-Hungarian fastness, would have had any idea of the sea-battle taking place between Nelson and Napoleon’s Mediterranean fleet. Here we truly find a work named because of a happy accident: Nelson simply attending a Haydn concert.

For the East Malling Singers, the great tenderness, generosity and often just simple melodies – such as in the Agnus Dei, or even the gently-rolling, optimistic ending – Dona nobis pacem – provided some heart warming highlights to the evening, but it is surely in the opening of the Credo that Haydn gives us an arc of light: a movement of breathtaking baroque majesty, more than competently taken up by this ‘amateur’ band of voices.

Haydn lived to see the defeat of the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805, but not the final demise of that audacious son of Corsica who became Emperor of France. The composer died in 1809, but became forever enthroned as one of the great classical-era composers; establishing that famous canonical trinity which, after J.S. Bach, set the gold-standard for music: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven.

In the first half of the concert, the choir performed Bruckner’s motet, Locus iste, and Josef Rheinberger’s Abendlied – both works creating an immediate atmosphere of Middle-Europe: dimly-lit churches in Upper Austria, twilight forests in Bohemia; with the tenor, soprano, mezzo and bass soloists also contributing a medley of operatic arias and English song. Offenbach and Bizet sparkled (accompanied by pianists Nick Bland and John Hayden), but for this observer, the piece that truly stood out was Vaughan Williams’s Vagabond, from Songs of Travel. In bass, Luke Gasper’s hands (and in this, the Vaughan Williams 150th anniversary year), we truly found ourselves on the moonlit, open road through rural shires and candlelit villages.

Finally, in complete contrast, a discovery: the music of contemporary United States composer, Randall Svane – his majestic fanfare (a live recording sent to The QR on an mp3 file) also manages brief moments of introspection, as if we are floating above the Appalachian mountains, just pondering the grandeur of the scene. Spans of brass writing bring a Copland-like horizon into view, and at the end, with Randall Svane unleashing his full force, it as if we were leaving the orbit of the Earth altogether on a NASA mission!

We are looking forward to hearing more from this composer, and it looks as though the Three Choirs Festival here in England have recognised his talents: a new work for orchestra, Quantum Flight, is destined to dazzle them soon, at Gloucester Cathedral.

Stuart Millson is Classical Music Editor of QR

 

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Craftwork

Jacques Bertaux, Prise du Palais des Tuileries, credit Wikipedia

Craftwork

Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion and Politics, Sylvana Tomaselli, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2021, 230pp, pb, reviewed by Leslie Jones

The first riposte to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) was Vindications of the Rights of Men (1790), by one Mary Wollstonecraft. Sylvana Tomaselli, a Lecturer in History at St John’s College Cambridge, notes that Wollstonecraft’s thought was profoundly “shaped” by both Burke and Rousseau. [i] She reviewed several of Rousseau’s works and had studied Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) and his Vindication of Natural Society (1757). Although hardly an original thinker, she was an eloquent writer and a powerful polemicist. Women in contemporary society, she averred, “learn to lisp, to totter in their walk, and nick-name God’s creatures”.

In his Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité (1750), Rousseau maintained that the only inequality in the state of nature was the natural inequality between men, some being stronger and more adroit than others. But, with the establishment of private property and the development of agriculture and industry, the effects of natural inequality were magnified and compounded. Enter inequality of wealth, of social standing and power and all their attendant abuses – to wit, idleness, luxury, poverty, the mutual dependence of the rich and the poor and the selfish wish of the individual to benefit at the expense of others. The upshot was that “Man was born free but is everywhere in chains” (Rousseau, Du Contrat social, 1762). Continue reading

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A Defense of Classical Literature

Vaishali, Pillar of Ashoka, credit wikipedia

A Defense of Classical Literature

By Darrell Sutton

Past centuries saw the creation of various literary treasures whose worth cannot be gauged by modern standards because what has been handed down possesses unique qualities. Forms of spelling, stylistic idiosyncrasies and provenance all contribute to a text’s general reception. Accordingly, titular divisions developed and became important to writers and readers. Those distinctions are still important for historians today. It is for this reason we encounter such contrived divisions like Golden Age Latin, Silver Age Latin etc. Prehistorians whose expertise concerns pre-written material have been unable to provide exact dates for any number of events because the resources available for determining their place in time can provide only unconfirmable dates that fall within the specific limits prescribed by them.

Literary sources offer some things that are concrete and supply literate persons with more realia than one’s imagination can supply. Ancient books are access points into antiquity, which are unique gateways established for learning about heroic men and women, exotic customs, and esoteric characters whose habits may have been either prudish, licentious, or somewhere in between. So the benefits of acquiring a rudimentary knowledge of historical texts and their translations are many. There is an undeniable truth: orally transmitted tales from times of yore were invaluable to collectors of legends in any age. Religious convictions pervaded ancient societies. They were absurd to some; obscure to others. The thesis that ‘Rome had no myths’ was itself a myth. But it was one popularized by the noted scholar, Kurt Latte (1891-1964), who in writing about a peculiarity of the Italian conception of God, stated ‘für diese unspekulativen phantasielosen menschen… keine mythilbildende phantasie schlingt ihre ranken um die götter’/for these unspeculative people lacking imagination no mythical fantasy coils its tendrils around the gods [Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 24 (1926), 244-58]. Studies in the histories of religion, and the unearthing of thousands of inscriptions, have proved him and several of his peers to have been in error. Therefore, scholars of classical texts, although sometimes misjudging the extant facts and data, find that philological reinterpretation of those same literary sources, in time, will bring readers nearer to the truth. Continue reading

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Endnotes, October 2022

Alma Mahler in 1909, credit Wikipedia

Endnotes, October 2022

In this edition: Mahler’s Fifth Symphony from the Czech Philharmonic, Elgar, choral music from Severnside, reviewed by Stuart  Millson

Sometimes described as a “journey from darkness to brilliant light”, the Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler (1901-02) is one of the composer’s most closely-argued works. A portentous, but nervous trumpet fanfare opens the first movement, leading the listener into an expansive orchestral landscape, yet along clear, direct lines throughout. No significant diversions, no meandering, just taut – sometimes perilous, sometimes radiant – spans of writing that carry you to a glorious, perhaps Brucknerian as much as Mahlerian, finale.

In this new CD from the Pentatone label, the Czech Philharmonic under Mahler expert Semyon Bychkov, provide a remarkable view of the “Middle-European” orchestral sound: a sharp, rasping edge to trumpets and brass, and a precise sound to strings, never the deep richness to be found in some orchestras, but nevertheless with a brightness and depth that is needed for the moods of Mahler. For those who know their Mahler recordings, the new CD puts one immediately in mind of a Deutsche Grammophon version of some considerable vintage; the reading by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the great Rafael Kubelik (which can still be obtained via the following catalogue number, 429 519-2). Kubelik’s Bavarians give, what to this reviewer, is the near-definitive interpretation of the Fifth – at least in terms of tempo and “outlook”, not to mention the thrilling playing of Munich’s and southern Germany’s outstanding radio orchestra. Now, we have a perfect match, in the form of Bychkov’s realisation of the score – where the Czech Philharmonic achieves a truly satisfying blend of forward-motion, but never sacrificing Mahler’s shattering ability to dwell on profound emotions.

The enormous funeral march that is the first movement keeps its dignity, but does not stall or wallow. The next movement is one of supreme agitation, and early violence, yet Bychkov brilliantly conjures at the end glimpses of radiance and heaven; keeping a thrilling tension to the orchestral sound. The Austrian country-dance atmosphere of the landler-dominated scherzo has a pleasing sense of sunshine gleaming through trees and over Alpine peaks (Mahler composed the Fifth during productive summer months); and the famous Adagietto (Editorial notesupposedly a portrait of Alma Mahlerfloats and sighs through moonlit glades and dreams. The last movement – an affirmation of the composer’s ability to build musical power, through sequences that all seem to be climaxes of sound in their own right – take us to the overwhelming final minutes; the Czech Philharmonic sound captured in all its volume and detail. The “inner sounds” of the score – the sinews and strains, the details of woodwind, the hues of the immense string ensemble – this is Mahler’s Fifth at its finest.

In complete contrast, on the ever-questing Somm label, comes choral music from Elgar’s beloved world of Worcestershire and the Severn. Entitled ‘The Reeds by Severnside” (Elgar, as a boy, could often be found by the river, trying to translate into music the sound of the reeds), Somm has assembled a rare sequence of church music by a composer who always remembered his roots – as a local organist, a wanderer, walker and bicycle-rider through the lanes of his home county. Performed by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, under William Vann (with Joshua Ryan, organ), the new CD offers such gems as the Angelus, O hearken Thou (Op. 64), the Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode. The better-known, Give unto the Lord, (Op. 74) – Elgar at his most typically Victorian, ‘Sunday best’ and earnest – also appears, but most eye- or ear-catching is a Credo on themes from Beethoven’s symphonies; choral variations on passages from the Eroica and the Fifth, in which the music of Bonn’s great master manages to sound completely English. A strange feeling, and a fine recording, William Vann keeping a sense of Elgar’s provincial church tradition: noble, yet intimate – a thought that after the recital, one could emerge from listening or worship into the fresh English air.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review

Recording details: Mahler, Symphony No. 5, Czech Philharmonic/Bychkov, Pentatone – PTC5187021.

The Reeds by Severnside, choral works by Elgar, Somm label, SOMMCD278.

 

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Fade to Grey: Aida Review

Fade to Grey: Aida Review

Khedieval Opera House, Cairo, credit Wikipedia

Aida, an opera in four acts, music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, conductor Sir Antonio Pappano, director Robert Carsen, Royal Opera, 30th September 2022, reviewed by Leslie Jones

For unrepentant ‘Remainer’ Stephen Pritchard, this “impressively radical new production” of Aida is “…a howl of protest against nationalism”. Set in a concrete bunker in a totalitarian state, it is “an Aida for the 21st century, with many pertinent things to say about oppression, and nationalism”. “We could be in Beijing, Pyongyang, Moscow,” he avers (see Bachtrack, 26 September). He evidently forgot to mention Trump’s America, that other bête noire of the liberal intelligentsia. Director Robert Carsen, in similar vein, considers Aida “a cri-de-coeur against war”. It “makes us question nationalism”, he concludes –  cue pointed comments about “Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine”. Director of Opera, Oliver Mears and Music Director Antonio Pappano are no less convinced that this new production “moves the action decisively away from pyramids and elephants (sic) towards a contemporary…and distressingly timely way to tell the story”. The awkward fact that Verdi was himself an Italian patriot is overlooked, although as Professor Roger Parker points out, “‘Va pensiero, from the Chorus of the Slaves in Nabucco, only attained “patriotic status” after Italian unification in the early 1860’s (see ‘’Va pensiero’: Biography of a Chorus’, Nabucco, Official Programme, December 2021).

Continue reading

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Criss Cross

Criss Cross

La Princesse de Trébizonde, Jacques Offenbach, libretto by Étienne Tréfeu & Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter, English narration adapted by Jeremy Sams, sung in French, London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Daniel, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Friday 16th September 2022, reviewed by Leslie Jones

In ‘Go North, Young Man’, (QR, June 29th 2022), we commented that a concert performance of Wagner’s Parsifal “hardly constituted ‘the total integration of music and drama’ (gesamtkunstwerk) proposed by the composer”. However, given the exorbitant cost of staging opera, with scenery, costumes and chorus etc this pared down type of production seems here to stay. Witness this concert performance of La Princesse de Trébizonde, at Southbank Centre.

Opera Rara is on a mission “to restore, record, perform and promote the lost operatic heritage of the 19th and early 20th centuries” (Concert Programme p14). But this begs the question – why do certain operas get lost in the first place? Wagner, for one, considered most contemporary opera as “childish”. He would doubtless have regarded this ‘lost’ work by Offenbach, with its convoluted plot and contrived happy ending, as an example. Continue reading

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Rules for Everyone

Rules for Everyone

By Bill Hartley

Old turnkey

Most of our larger cities still have what used to be called a local prison. Usually they date from the nineteenth century and are monuments to Victorian civic pride. Like other public buildings of that period they were meant to impress. Leeds Prison for example, is said to have taken its inspiration from Windsor Castle, though the soot blackened facade doesn’t quite match the original.

By 1877, all prisons were under the control of commissioners, whose governance was exercised by standing orders of immense detail, running to over 1000 paragraphs (plus appendices). The 1925 edition is a masterpiece of bureaucratic micromanagement, taking in every aspect of institutional life, both for prisoners and staff. Back then the prison officer was required to work a 96 hour fortnight, presumably calculated in this way to allow maximum flexibility when detailing for duty. Augmenting pay, a variety of allowances were available for various additional tasks. Perhaps the most peculiar being five shillings for assisting at an autopsy. Interestingly the usual age for retirement was 55 with no-one permitted to remain beyond the age of 60. Today’s prison staff may view this with some envy, since their union has been waging a so far unsuccessful ‘Sixty Eight Is Too Late’ campaign, against the raising of the retirement age.

Allowances followed a strict hierarchy based on rank. On transfer, for example, a governor was allowed a maximum weight of furniture of eight tons whereas at the bottom end of the scale an officer was permitted only two. Some strange additions and omissions are to be found. ‘The removal expenses of sons of officers will not be paid after they have attained the age of 18 unless such sons have become dependant on their parents by reason of mental or physical disability’. Daughters don’t seem to have been considered at all. Perhaps, because ‘in no case will the expenses of more than one domestic servant be allowed without the previous sanction of the commissioners’ and ‘The railway warrant or fare for a servant will be third class’. Surprisingly, there was no mention of which ranks might be bringing a servant with them on transfer. Married officers were required to live in quarters and even here regulations intruded. Permission to have guests ‘for a short period’ was allowed, after submitting a request in writing to the governor. Continue reading

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Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come

On the 14th September, six days after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll, Stuart Millson, Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review, was present at The Mall

On Thursday 8th September, during the course of the afternoon’s broadcasting on news channels, presenters appeared in dark suits and black ties. Meanwhile, at the House of Commons, notes were passed across the despatch boxes – alarm and concern appearing on the faces of politicians of all parties. Reports had stated that HM The Queen, 96 years old and suffering from “mobility problems”, was now “under medical supervision” at Balmoral, the Royal residence in the heart of Scotland, to which all members of her family were now travelling, post-haste. By early evening, 6.30pm, BBC News showed the Union Flag of the United Kingdom being lowered at the Buckingham Palace flagpole – a scene transmitted with no commentary or explanation. Then, the programme’s presenter Huw Edwards, made the announcement that Elizabeth ll had died peacefully that afternoon (although this fact was only later released) – his words being followed by the playing of the National Anthem. Via television and radio, and news alerts to millions of mobile phones, the long, second Elizabethan Age came to its end: the Queen’s first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was born in 1874: the 15th and last Prime Minister of her reign, Liz Truss, in 1974.

Acres of newsprint and hours of broadcast time, online comment and expert constitutional discussion of Her Majesty’s 70-year-reign, have since followed. One common assessment is that “in an age of change, the Queen remained constant” – followed by another, that the late monarch “devoted her life to duty”, in endless Royal tours; the presiding-over and patronage of numerous charities; the hosting of countless foreign leaders and fellow-monarchs; and as the guiding light of the Established Church and the Armed Forces. Continue reading

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