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Royal Anxiety

Gabriele Annan, 9 June 1994

The Queen 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 341 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 297 81211 4
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Divine Right: The Inglorious Survival of British Royalty 
by Richard Tomlinson.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91119 4
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... black knickers for state funerals, tartan for Balmoral, knickers printed all over with corgis for home, and appliquéd with real holly for Christmas, ‘which is why she keeps her Christmas message very short’. She gets into a terrible flap trying to decide which pair to wear for a visit to the child narrator’s school. The little girl ‘puts her at her ...

Cowboy Coups

Phillip Knightley, 10 October 1991

Smear! Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorrill and Robin Ramsay.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £20, August 1991, 9781872180687
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... a term coined by Anthony Verrier to cover the Cabinet Office, the upper echelons of the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, and the ‘Permanent Secretaries Club’, the very senior civil servants who are often called the ‘Mandarins’; the City of London, led by the Bank of England and its Governor, the press; and think tanks and ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... appropriate to consign the episode to history.’ It was an odd letter and I would be surprised if Lord Goodman had drafted it, even though it comes from his office. (It was Hailsham who said in June 1963: ‘A great party is not to be brought down by a woman of easy virtue and a proved liar.’ Something of a sting at the time.) The idea conveyed is that ...

In the Shallow End

Conor Gearty, 27 January 2022

... Supreme Court had produced 111 judgments since his appointment, 53 in 2020 and 58 in 2021, with Lord Reed himself sitting in 56 of these cases. These decisions give us an opportunity to assess how his Supreme Court is performing in the current malign political atmosphere. Reed has been a justice since February 2012, making him (with ...

Above it all

Stephen Sedley, 7 April 1994

Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity 
by Abimbola Olowofoyeku.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27.50, December 1993, 0 19 825793 7
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The Independence of the Judiciary: The View from the Lord Chancellor’s Office 
by Robert Stevens.
Oxford, 221 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 825815 1
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... the Mansion House was not struck by a thunderbolt on the night in 1936 when the Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, told the guests at the Lord Mayor’s Dinner: ‘His Majesty’s Judges are satisfied with the almost universal admiration in which they are held.’ Or, for that matter, on the same occasion in 1953 when the ...
The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain 1914-1945 
by K.D. Ewing and C.A. Gearty.
Oxford, 451 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 19 825665 5
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... Special Branch, which Ewing and Gearty describe as ‘the private political police force of the Home Secretary’, didn’t give it a stir, just in case. After one raid a senior police witness was asked what was seditious about Darwin’s Origin of Species, which he had taken away. He replied that he didn’t know. A pamphlet was then handed to him ‘with ...


William Thomas, 16 October 1980

Holland House 
by Leslie Mitchell.
Duckworth, 320 pp., £18, May 1980, 9780715611166
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Genius in the Drawing-Room 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 188 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780297777700
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... Hannay is acute and sensitive on Lady Holland and Lady Blessington in the early 19th century. Lord Egremont’s essay on Lady Desborough and ‘the Souls’ is delightful. Victoria Glendinning’s study of ‘Speranza’, Oscar Wilde’s mother, is a tour de force. But the talk itself, conversation as an art to be cultivated and passed on, eludes us. If ...

‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 4 April 1991

After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... That Diary is reproduced in this devotional work: an assembly of writings and addresses (at home and abroad) on Wodehouse, with the transcript of a seance thrown in. Devotional, did one say? Yes, but witty, sagacious and an example to the dons and soldiers tilling the same vineyard. We now learn that Richard Usborne (whom I have known since the days ...


A.J.P. Taylor: The Mosleys and Other Affairs, 17 November 1983

... My dear friend Gerald, Lord Berners, died in 1950. I thought that not more than half a dozen people remembered him. But the centenary of his birth has brought him back into attention. There have been concerts of his music, performances of his ballets and an exhibition devoted to his life on the fifth floor of the Festival Hall ...

Children’s Fiction and the Past

Nicholas Tucker, 17 July 1980

The Lord of Greenwich 
by Juliet Dymoke.
Dobson, 224 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 234 72165 0
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A Flight of Swans 
by Barbara Willard.
Kestrel, 185 pp., £4.50, May 1980, 0 7226 5438 3
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Fanny and the Battle of Potter’s Piece 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 45 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 9780434949373
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John Diamond 
by Leon Garfield.
Kestrel, 180 pp., £4.50, April 1980, 9780722656198
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by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 150 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 5285 2
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I was there 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 187 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 6434 6
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The Time of the Young Soldiers 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 128 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 7226 5122 8
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The Runaway Train 
by Penelope Farmer.
Heinemann, 48 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 0 434 94938 8
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... hopes and fantasies about their eventual place in the world. The story of Dick Whittington, fabled Lord Mayor of London, has for centuries helped underpin a belief that extreme social mobility always remains a strong possibility for everyone, however illusory the idea may often be in practice. Later, 19th-century adventure novels set in the past, such as ...

Bobbing Along

Ronald Stevens: The Press Complaints Commission, 7 February 2002

A Press Free and Responsible: Self-Regulation and the Press Complaints Commission 1991-2001 
by Richard Shannon.
Murray, 392 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 6321 6
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... 1980s responding ineffectively to growing tabloid contempt until, in 1989, Douglas Hurd set up a Home Office committee under David Calcutt QC to consider measures (including legislative measures) to protect individual privacy against the press. Calcutt was given a year to report, and it was while his committee was at work that David Mellor, then a junior ...

The Common Law and the Constitution

Stephen Sedley, 8 May 1997

... with the remit contained in the white paper which set it up. It is not the leading judgment of Lord Parker which today merits rereading bur the second one, in which Lord Justice Diplock observed that what was in dispute was the last unclaimed prize of the constitutional conflicts of the 17th century. Government had ...
The Sea of Fertility 
by Yukio Mishima.
Secker/Penguin, 821 pp., £18, July 1985, 0 436 28160 0
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Mishima on Hagakure 
by Yukio Mishima.
Penguin, 144 pp., £2.95, May 1985, 0 14 004923 1
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The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima 
by Henry Scott Stokes.
Penguin, 271 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 14 007248 9
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... should, as his duty, commit disembowelment to register his righteous protest when he judged his lord was committing a grave error but would not listen to his urgent advice. To be allowed to pay for one’s sin or mistake by seppuku was an honour reserved for the privileged class, the mercy of a samurai to another samurai. A scene of seppuku on a Kabuki ...

Fs and Bs

Nicholas Hiley, 9 March 1995

Renegades: Hitler’s Englishmen 
by Adrian Weale.
Weidenfeld, 230 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 0 297 81488 5
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In from the Cold: National Security and Parliamentary Democracy 
by Laurence Lustgarten and Ian Leigh.
Oxford, 554 pp., £22.50, July 1994, 9780198252344
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... tuned their sets to 213 metres on the medium wave (a little higher than the frequency of the BBC Home Service) were in for a shock. ‘Have you ever seen Beaverbrook?’ asked one of the announcers, referring to the current Minister for Aircraft Production. ‘Well, we often have in meeting halls, and what we could never understand was, why he was on the ...

A Keen Demand for Camberwells

Rosemary Hill: Location, Location, Location, 21 March 2019

Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain 
by Desmond Fitz-Gibbon.
Chicago, 240 pp., £79, January 2019, 978 0 226 58416 4
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... course of handcuffing the ‘Hetling’ artist, the police having finally tracked him down at his home in Cornwall: ‘We didn’t get Keating. We’re going to fucking get you.’ While investigating the case in London, the Cornish police visited galleries, dealers and ‘known associates’ of the suspects, including an antique-dealer friend of mine. He ...

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