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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Brave Harry




Take a good look at this fresh-cheeked young man in his Sandhurst dress uniform.

He is H.R.H. Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, dit Prince Harry, third heartbeat in line to the British Throne, and as of yesterday, is awaiting DEFINITIVE transportation to the Iraq theatre of war.

His regiment, The Blues and Royals (motto: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense -- Shame on him who thinks it evil), are part of the Regiment of Guards, which are the most socially, and militarily elite regiments in the British Armed Forces.

Of course, Old Etonians, later Sandhurst graduates, are a dime a dozen in the Guards. He doesn't stand out for that, one whit.

Even my father, an old Wykhemist, later Oxford grad, went into the Coldstream Guards (motto: Nulli Secundus -- Second to None), which had been his father's and his father's father's regiment, since before the turn of the last century. Like him, his brothers are all medical doctors who served in either the Senior Service, the Royal Navy, or in other regiments.

Now, we are not aristocratic, but our family share one thing in common with the Royal Family.

An unwavering dedication, not just in code of honour, but in practise, to preserve the Realm and to keep its subjects safe from invasion or worse, subjugation.

As Nancy Mitford once said of this warrioring breed:

"Say what you want about this class, but they have never failed to put their money where their mouth is, when it comes to fighting for England."

And today, that dictum was borne out yet again by this young man's decision to stay put with his regimental comrades.

Now, you may be asking yourself, does this make Harry more worthy of being admired because of this decision?

No, it doesn't.

- Does this make him a more decent guy than he has been proved to be, before?

Not really.

- Should we care about this situation in the great scheme of things?

Probably not.

You can also ask, will Harry's military duty eradicate visions of him admitting to having smoked pot, of dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, or of drinking and carousing with his mates in stripper clubs, or of this decidedly poor choice of T-shirt?





Chances are, it may not for you. Or for me, come to that.

But I will tell you one thing.

Prince Harry easily could've resigned from his regiment, as his uncle Prince Edward did when the Royal Marines got to be too much for his delicate personality.

Indeed, the Royal Family could have insisted that he be transferred out of The Blues and Royals, due to their scheduled deployment to the most dangerous place on earth -- Iraq.

But they didn't.

And you know why that is?

Because after you strip away all the royal palavah, with the funny hats, the stuffy protocol, and oft-ridiculous customs, they have never shirked their duty when it comes to being front-and-centre in times of military action.

Obviously, the monarchy and the military are intertwined and in fact, are indissoluble from one another -- a once and forever link to their feudal past.

The Queen is the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces, and holds the highest rank in all its branches.

She herself served, as millions of other girls did in Britain at the time, in the A.T.S. during World War II, and not just for show, either.





As the film, The Queen, showed so vividly, she is a mean car mechanic when push comes to shove.

In doing so, she and today her grandson were following the natural course of service any member of the Royal Family is expected to give, during their lifetimes.

In fact, rare is the Royal personage who HASN'T or DOESN'T serve in some military capacity.

And though most people do not know this, rare is the Royal generation who hasn't given to his country the ultimate sacrifice, of giving his life for it.

Below is a list of men in the immediate Royal Family of their time, who have all died in action, often in pitched battle.

1. Prince Henry of Battenberg: Son-in-law to Queen Victoria, daughter of her youngest daughter Beatrice, Prince Henry died during the Ashanti campaign, in 1895.

2. Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein: Grandson of Queen Victoria, son of her daughter Helena, Prince Christian Victor perished in Pretoria in 1900 whilst serving with his regiment the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, a victim of the Second Boer War.

3. Prince Maurice of Battenberg: Son of Prince Henry, Prince Maurice was killed in action whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles in 1914, one of the very first victim's of the First World War.

4. H.R.H. George, Duke of Kent: Son of King George V, the Duke of Kent was killed when his R.A.F. plane hit a mountain in Scotland in 1942, en route to Iceland during military service.

Then there are male members of the Royal Family, who served valiantly during the course of their military careers.

George, Lord Lascelles (future Earl of Harewood): Grandson of King George V, Lord Lascelles was captured by German forces, whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles, and held in notorious Colditz prison. He escaped...TWICE. His mother, Mary, the Princess Royal, had been notified twice of his death, but she later said she never believed it.

H.R.H. Edward, Duke of Kent: Grandson of King George V, son of George, Duke of Kent, who served in Northern Ireland, when his regiment the Royal Scots Greys, were deployed to Belfast at the height of the Troubles. When there was a suggestion by his Colonel-in-Chief that he perhaps resign his commission, rather than to subject either he or his regiment to unncessary murderous attention, his battalion threatened to resign EN MASSE, if he were not allowed to serve with them. He stayed.

H.R.H. Prince Andrew (future Duke of York): Served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy and saw heavy action during the Falkland Islands campaign, in Port Stanley.

Since the 1890s at the very least, members of the Royal Family have been in the thick of action, wherever the Union Jack was hoisted during battle.

This list is by no means exhaustive, since I have failed to include many, many other extended members of the Royal Family, who died or served in the military, not all of them for the British cause.

Princess Margarethe of Prussia, sister of the last Kaiser of Germany (yet another grandchild of Queen Victoria), and mother of the only two known sets of royal twins in history, lost FOUR of her six sons fighting for their country.

Why even Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry's blustery granddad, won a row of medals for his participation in battle as a Royal Navy lieutenant in WWII, and was even present on a British cruiser during the Japanese surrender, in Tokyo Bay.

But perhaps most tellingly of all, for our purposes to highlight royal duty in the field of warfare, the future King who abdicated, Edward, Prince of Wales, put his life in danger during his visits to the front line, during World War I.

This despite the fact that he had been categorically refused from serving with his regiment, the Grenadier Guards, in battle.

When he went in person to protest to Lord Kitchener, the man whose very image of outstretched hand and pointing finger, was the focus of the most successful recruiting programme in British history, told the naive princeling...





"Sir, if I could be assured that you would be killed in battle, I wouldn't hesitate to authorise you to join your regiment in the front-line. You have four brothers living, after all.

But we cannot take the risk of you being a propaganda tool by falling into enemy hands."

Years later, I remember putting down the Duke of Windsor's memoirs after having read this paragraph, and saying to myself, Lord Kitchener was right.

As horrible a thing as it is to be able to tell a young man, eager and willing to fight as part of his chosen career path, that his death was not so much important -- it's as nothing as the embarrassment his capture by his sworn enemy, would be to his country.

Besides, the times of the ransoming of kings, are long since over.

No, Prince Harry isn't notable amongst his royal brethern for his stance in wanting to serve in Iraq.

Nor is he particularly noble because of it, because it's expected of him by tradition, and by conviction.

But nevertheless, Prince Harry is one brave young man.

He is worthy, at least, of our respect for his decision...not to be killed, so much as to the possibility of his being captured by dozens of men, who then would parade him happily on Al-Jezeera.

Let's hope this never comes to pass for this spirited young officer.

Give 'em hell, Harry!

UPDATE: My blogger colleague, and Sundries commenter, Ron points us to this link -- which gives the young Prince's military minders a few pointers on how to best protect the prince in Iraq. It's very interesting!

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13 Comments:

  • I can inject my family into the post, but I wouldn't inject myself into its sentences.

    However, for the record, I would serve in any capacity, in case the United States were to be in need of me, even in battle.

    On September 11, 2001, I went to the local recruitment office near the University of Miami's main campus, exactly 1 hour after hearing that the World Trade Centre and Pentagon had been attacked, and tried to enlist in the Navy.

    I forget how the P.O. in charge phrased it, but I believe as a non-citizen I was ineligible to enlist at the time.

    Note: The law for foreign combatants has since been changed.

    (I applied for US citizenship, the very next day)

    And not just for my newly-adopted country either.

    If Britain were invaded or threatened, I would return without hesitation, as they say, to "do my bit" for my homeland.

    This has nothing to do with me, character-wise, as a person.

    I would do so because I come from a military family, and we don't need to be told our duty to our homeland.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 22, 04:27:00 am GMT-5  

  • Most people don't realize the injury counts for Royals, and indeed, officers, is much higher than for the enlisted men...The Civil War? They drop like flies, because they lead from the front.

    By Blogger Ron, at Thu Feb 22, 06:03:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria, your reaction on 9/11 was very impressive. I remembered how shocked most of us were. I remembered family and friends being disconcerted and/or scared for months. Many did react like you and that is part of what makes this country so great.

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Thu Feb 22, 10:42:00 am GMT-5  

  • Great post, but I'd suggest an addition to your list of Royals who died in battle, Lord Mountbatten's death at the hands of terrorist is no less a 'military' death.

    And given that he seemed to be more father to the current #2 than his biological father, seems like even if he wasn't in the line of succession, should be considered part of the family.

    Given the nature of current conflict that distinctions between losses on the battlefield and losses due to terrorist activity are meaningless.

    By Blogger XWL, at Thu Feb 22, 02:12:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Most people don't realize the injury counts for Royals, and indeed, officers, is much higher than for the enlisted men...The Civil War? They drop like flies, because they lead from the front.

    Also the case in almost every war, despite the popular notion that officers sit in their luxurious tents, or stay far away from battle, merely planning them.

    Obviously, that is the case with some officers, but not all.

    Let me all say that when wars are lost, it'll always be the officer class that one prosecutes first (rightly so though).

    A Nazi officer would always get first priority at the Nuremberg trials, than a Nazi sergeant (and never mind about lower than that).

    Wasn't the survival rate for a new lieutenant in the First World War, a few weeks -- two IIRC? And the rate of survival for an air officer, an average merely a few days.

    Brave lads, all.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 22, 03:19:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Victoria, your reaction on 9/11 was very impressive.

    Well, there are personal reasons why I did what I did, as well, so don't attribute my reaction to something higher than it was.

    Primarily, I knew I needed to contribute something in the trying times ahead.

    You know what ultimately I did?

    I became a poll worker, later Clerk of a polling station.

    Big whoop.

    I remembered how shocked most of us were. I remembered family and friends being disconcerted and/or scared for months.

    I'm so sorry, Jose. :(

    Yes, I recall that MLB baseball was suspended for a week, and when we came back to normal, it was weird.

    But wonderful.

    I remember the days after Hurricane Andrew, and I NEVER thought there would be such a sense of community, of gratuitous affection for one another in this city...

    Until 9/11.

    It was awful, and terrible, and magical, and inspirational, all at once.

    Many did react like you and that is part of what makes this country so great.

    RIP Pat Tillman, et. al.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 22, 03:23:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Great post, but I'd suggest an addition to your list of Royals who died in battle, Lord Mountbatten's death at the hands of terrorist is no less a 'military' death.

    That's great reference, XWL, and a good suggestion to me personally, because (though not exactly a hero of mine, since I knew people who knew him well, and he was at times magnificent, but really really arrogant), he was a brave man whom I admired.

    But if I include him, then I'd have to include King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Kaiserin Elisabeth of Austria, King Umberto I of Italy, King Carlos I of Portugal, and a slew of other royals who died not militarily, per se, but still bravely in assassination by "terrorist" forces.

    In a way, to include him would be a little dishonour to the way the other men died, since they died in battle or in war.

    And given that he seemed to be more father to the current #2 than his biological father, seems like even if he wasn't in the line of succession, should be considered part of the family.

    He considered himself part of the family, and only the very very jealous would not have -- he was the great-grandson of Queen Victoria, son of her favourite granddaughter, and namesake.

    And yes, he was in line to the Throne, but you see my reasons atop.

    (Still the only time Prince Charles wept in public, was his funeral, though...)

    Given the nature of current conflict that distinctions between losses on the battlefield and losses due to terrorist activity are meaningless.

    Perhaps.

    But being a stickler for tradition, in many respects, there is still a distinction in my mind.

    Interestingly for you though, you might consider my attitude a bit trenchant until I tell you the following.

    The civilian deaths at the hands of a terrorist attack mean MORE in my mind, than those who perished in the Pentagon attacks (as difficult, and possibly as heartless as that may sound).

    Maybe this is the case with others too, but FOR ME, the military personnel in the Pentagon signed up and knew the risks they were taking for their country.

    Whereas civilians didn't sign a damn thing, and signed up for nothing.

    I bless both equally, regardless of any picky stance I may have otherwise.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 22, 03:31:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Wow, Vicky, how I envy that idealistically-naive spirit that you have. Do you know what I thought on 9/11, watching the WTC fall on TV? It was - "they finally did it" - and by "they" I meant GWB and DC. (Even now, I'm not 100% convinced they didn't have a role in the attacks - maybe 99%, and 1% doubt still lingers). The thought it might be a foreign act (such that enlisting would make sense) didn't even cross my mind. I sometimes hate myself for being so jaded and cynical, but I guess the atmosphere where one grows up leaves the soul permanently scarred.

    Now to more pleasant stuff - why is the Blues and Royals' motto the same as that of the Order of the Garter? Or vice-versa?

    And totally OT - did you notice that I've almost caught up with you on RSS EPL? Serves you well for not having Berbo in your lineup. ;)

    Cheers,
    Elko

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 22, 09:33:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Wow, Vicky, how I envy that idealistically-naive spirit that you have.

    The thing of it is, I'm not really an idealistic person.

    In fact, I would say I am not AT ALL idealistic. I just have an inner sense of duty, which I think I was born with.

    My grandmother used to say that I was born with an "old soul".

    My motives were tied to my sense of duty to my own country, but as I said, I had more personal motives too, which I won't bore you with.

    Do you know what I thought on 9/11, watching the WTC fall on TV? It was - "they finally did it" - and by "they" I meant GWB and DC. (Even now, I'm not 100% convinced they didn't have a role in the attacks - maybe 99%, and 1% doubt still lingers).

    That's a shame, Elko.

    Conspiracy theories are the graveyard of the intellect.

    It's where all logic goes to die.

    The thought it might be a foreign act (such that enlisting would make sense) didn't even cross my mind. I sometimes hate myself for being so jaded and cynical, but I guess the atmosphere where one grows up leaves the soul permanently scarred.

    I'm concerned because your upbringing of a closed society has primed you to believe the worst of your fellow man, Elko.

    It doesn't have to mean that you are ripe pickings for the Loose Change crowd -- because I would hope that once you watch and hear what they have to say, you would realise they're full of crap, but because doubts aligned to a president you mistrust, allows you greater ease in thinking such awful thoughts.

    I would counsel you as a friend, Elko, to be wary of these types of conspiracy theories.

    They exist only because we have doubts.

    The doubts are legitimate, but the conclusions are a panacea for
    ignorance.

    Now to more pleasant stuff -

    Sex. Soccer. Beaches. Fine Food. :)

    why is the Blues and Royals' motto the same as that of the Order of the Garter? Or vice-versa?

    Good question!

    The Blues and Royals are part of the Household Cavalry and an amalgamation regiment formed from the old Royal Horse Guards and Blues, and the 1st Dragoons.

    I'm guessing one or the other, used to have that motto, and it was simply coopted by the new regiment when it was formed in the 1960s.

    Dad didn't know this either. :)

    (The Coldstream Guards' motto, is easier -- they are the oldest regiment, and when they parade past, they take the far wing, whilst their arch-rivals, the Grenadiers, take the other one. Thus they are truly SECOND TO NONE)

    And totally OT - did you notice that I've almost caught up with you on RSS EPL? Serves you well for not having Berbo in your lineup. ;)

    WHAT!

    My God, ever since I dropped him, and got Yakubu and Kanu, I've been in crapsville.

    I need to catch up, because it'll never do that you're on top of me.

    Women on top, darn it. ;)

    (Congrats Elko!)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 22, 11:01:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Great stuff. I'm a dreadful Anglophile.

    I always think of him as K of K - Kitchener of Khartoum. Went down to the Sudan and killed the Mahdi, after the Mahdi killed Chinese Gordon, and was none too delicate about it.

    Had another Sandhurst graduate along with him, writing for the newspaper while still in the army. Winston Spencer Churchill.

    Laurence Olivier plays the Mahdi in a wild performance in "Khartoum." You should hear the accent Charlton Heston attempts as Gordon. He loses interest halfway through and just starts talking like Ben-Hur again.

    By Blogger SippicanCottage, at Fri Feb 23, 10:16:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Great stuff. I'm a dreadful Anglophile.

    Erm, okay. ;)

    I always think of him as K of K - Kitchener of Khartoum. Went down to the Sudan and killed the Mahdi, after the Mahdi killed Chinese Gordon, and was none too delicate about it.

    Chinese Gordon! My God, I just remembered an old IRC pal from Northern Ireland, who was his descendant.

    Thinking of Malte (madcynic) and your mention, just jogged that memory.

    Had another Sandhurst graduate along with him, writing for the newspaper while still in the army. Winston Spencer Churchill.

    Oh yes. :)

    You probably know this anecdote, but do you know how WS Churchill got into Sandhurst?

    He just wasn't doing well in his crammer school to try to pass the entrance exam.

    So he pounced on the idea of simply studying everything about ONE topic, in this case, Australia and her military fortifications, including memorising relevant maps.

    When he sat down, and opened his exam, to his overwhelming surprise and joy, one of the exam questions he could choose from was about Australia!

    He said it was like hitting the lottery. :)

    (He passed obviously. In fact, I believe his exam was rated one of the best ever taken by any aspirant officer candidate)

    Laurence Olivier plays the Mahdi in a wild performance in "Khartoum." You should hear the accent Charlton Heston attempts as Gordon. He loses interest halfway through and just starts talking like Ben-Hur again.

    LOL!

    Do you remember "Mrs. Miniver"? I think that was the American Walter Brennan playing the veddy British Greer Garson's husband.

    He didn't even TRY to sound "British", and when they showed the film in Blighty at the height of the Blitz, they said it was the best decision ever to come out of Hollywood. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Feb 24, 05:43:00 am GMT-5  

  • I think it was New Zealand, not Australia.

    There's a slight possibility that Winston Churchill was the most interesting person that ever lived.

    By Blogger SippicanCottage, at Sat Feb 24, 09:47:00 am GMT-5  


  • There's a slight possibility that Winston Churchill was the most interesting person that ever lived.


    If not for the existence of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Jesus Christ, I would agree.

    Let's just say, he's the most enjoyable interesting person who ever lived, and leave it at that. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 25, 01:57:00 am GMT-5  

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