Sunday, 8 May 2011

Past Conflicts Present Feuds

Staggered into London yesterday, it was not one of the better trips; hot , humid, very crowded and with foul air quality, luckily the performance made it just about worth the journey. But there was one thing that caught the eye.

The current flag of the Duchy of Lancaster was being flown rather than a Union Jack over a building owned by the Crown. It is by the Savoy Hotel and this part of the Strand was the fabulous Palace of Savoy of the Middle Ages that was home to the Dukes of Lancaster when they were not rampaging around their other estates and in dynastic conflicts.

Later, it became a Royal Peculiar; that is a location that was outside the normal legal system with literally having its own laws. It was a favourite haunt of debtors, minor criminals and people with a reason to set themselves apart from others. Quite unlike the Savoy Hotel of today which hosts only the superior kinds of such people.

One of the fictions of present myths is that the dynastic conflict between the Houses of York and Lancaster somehow equated with the much later provisions for the Counties in local government, sport and the rest. The main base of the Lancastrians was the Honour of Pontefract from the castle there and taking in a large part of mid Yorkshire.

One of their major supporting magnate families were the de Welles, based in Lincolnshire and around. Similarly the Yorkists were well spread out across the land. So all those people, as for example at Butlins’s Holiday Camps who were engaged in rivalries were encouraged to believe that this somehow mirrored the chivalry of the Middle Ages.

This ancient dispute seems to be resurfacing amongst the many fractures now in our political system. At the Royal Wedding, the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice of York made a blatant fashion statement to attract attention and the support of the fashionista celebrity London media needing to protest against the domesticity and tradition of the Lancastrian factions.

This was retaliation against the spurning of the Duchess of York and the sniping at the present Duke of York. He, in the meantime, has been cultivating a number of our richer and more commercial politicians and their associated oligarchs. He has visited a number of wealthy tyrant magnates on their behalf to build a power network of formidable strength.

Historically, there have been few monarchs named Eugenie, one was the Empress of the French Second Empire of 1851-1870 who retreated in exile until 1920 to deepest Hampshire, Farnborough, adjacent to the rifle ranges of the Aldershot Garrison. Her only son died with the British Army in South Africa caught in open ground by a Zulu impi.

This Eugenie was much admired in Paris during her reign for her cultural, fashion and style interests but the levels of conspicuous consumption entailed amongst her elite did a great deal to encourage the spread of socialism amongst the masses and the eventual creation of a Third Republic.

She was a maternal grand daughter of William Kirkpatrick of Closeburn in the County of Dumfries, not far north of where Robert Burns farmed at Ellisland. Her later family married into the Battenburg (Mountbatten) family of Prince Philip and that of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, one of the unluckier monarchs of history who upset General Franco.

My problem is that in England if the simmering rivalry between the Houses of York and Lancaster emerge again which side should I be on? It is all very complicated.

And history is not much of a guide; perhaps I should read some Burns again?

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