Saturday 18 July 2015

Taking The Salute

The pictures from 1933 of Her Majesty, along with her mother, sister Margaret Rose and Edward, Prince of Wales, doing the Fuhrer's salute have been splashed all over the media.  My childhood was camera free for which I am very grateful.

It was the year when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and imposed one party rule of an extreme form.  So he was all over the press and media.  He was seen a copy cat Benito Mussolini whose extravagant attitudes and gestures had already become regarded as something of a comic turn in Britain.

In that year the British Government were facing the question of defence spending.  The turmoil in the world then posed threats, not least in the East.  But the public wanted peace and in the East Fulham bye-election in October the pacifist Labour Candidate won on a 29% swing from the Conservatives.
It is one of the essential rules of life that one should be most careful in one's choice of uncles.  Errors of judgement can lead not only to advice better avoided but embarrassments of many kinds.  At the age of seven, like Her Majesty at that age, an uncle of my father's caused all sorts of fraught ructions.

He was strongly Presbyterian of Scottish origin and my error was to visit him shortly before Christmas out of politeness and in the hope of a shilling or two in the pocket.  I did not get the money.  What I did get was a firm, polite and convincing explanation of why Christmas was a charade and falsity.

In particular Santa Claus aka Father Christmas was a sinful and demeaning fraud that led to greed, vanity, envy and sundry other sins.  On leaving he pressed a religious tract in my hand and told me go forth and tell truths.  Which inspired by his nobility of manner and indeed sense of pawky humour I did to my cousins on the other side of the family.

This group had been building up to a big family Christmas with as much as they could afford and at the centre for my many cousins was the whole Santa caper, which in my sincerity of purpose I ruined.  The wrath of the aunts and other uncles fell upon me.

One indeed telephoned a leading member of the local clergy to come to heap fire and brimstone on my head and tell me to believe in Santa Claus.  He demurred on the grounds that Christmas was a busy time and that there were technical difficulties.

As uncles go, Her Majesty is certainly to be criticised for having Edward. Prince of Wales as an uncle.  A man both given to be excited easily and of indifferent judgement he was better avoided.  Why, for example, did she not choose Lord Reith or Lord Hardinge as uncles or even Stanley Baldwin?

In 1933, her uncle was the heir to the throne.  This should have been enough to warn her.  Heirs to the throne are notoriously unreliable in matters involving the media and latest fashions of one sort or another.  Her Majesty herself made that mistake when pictured in overalls attending to a three ton truck.  She was holding the spanner the wrong way round.

One of my uncles was acquainted with Mrs. Wallis Simpson from his work on ocean liners.  He advised her on the advanced techniques of shooting craps with dice, notably the skill of detecting loaded dice and the knack of using them against the suppliers.

She never managed to get Prince Edward to understand them.  If he had he might have been King for a lot longer.


  1. "What I did get was a firm, polite and convincing explanation of why Christmas was a charade and falsity."

    He was right though.