Friday, 2 December 2016

Britain's Oldest Manufacturing Company To Close - Whitechapel Bell Foundry (Est. 1570)

After almost 250 years, The Whitechapel Bell Foundry (Est. 1570) is to leave this historic building
-- the company's future is uncertain
Does any city have a sound more instantly recognisable than the toll of Big Ben?  The mighty bell’s unmistakable hourly peal and the familiar Westminster Chime of its sister bells ("All through this hour; Lord, be my guide; And by Thy power; No foot shall slide") are famous throughout the world, immediately conjuring up evocative images of a foggy day in old London town. 

Bells have echoed through London’s soundscape for centuries.

When London was a walled city, church bells rang out the curfew every evening to signal the locking of the city gates. Traditionally, true cockneys are said to be born within earshot of “Bow Bells” (the bells of the church of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside), and generations of children have grown up singing “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clements”, a nursery rhyme identifying the bells of various City churches.
Since 1570 many of London’s most important bells have been produced by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the oldest manufacturing company in Britain and the most famous bell manufacturer in the world.

In 1752 America’s famous Liberty Bell was struck here and just over a century later, in 1858, the Foundry cast Big Ben, its most famous bell. Visitors to the Whitechapel premises walk through a cross section of Big Ben upon entering the front door. 

A Cross Section of Big Ben around the entrance to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Over the centuries, the bells of the Whitechapel Foundry have rung out over cities as far afield as imperial St. Petersburg, Chennai, Washington DC and Toronto.

Alas, I am sad to announce that despite this magnificent history, after over two centuries in the same ancient building, this great London institution is to extinguish its Whitechapel furnace and close its doors forever in May 2017. The building is likely to be sold. What will become of the almost 450 year old company remains to be seen.

The Foundry is currently located on Whitechapel Road in 17th century buildings constructed shortly after the Great Fire of London.  The Grade II listed heritage buildings were originally part of a coaching inn named the Artichoke before their conversion into bell-making workshops by the Master Founder of Whitechapel in 1739. 
The historic premises, frozen in time, should not give the impression that the Foundry has rested upon past glories. Through the 21st century the company has continued to manufacture and assemble a wide variety of bells and accessories of assorted shapes and sizes.

Given the Foundry’s long association with London, it was fitting that it was commissioned to design the special Olympic Bell that rang out at the opening ceremony of London’s 2012 Olympic Games, connecting the reign of Queen Elizabeth II with that of Queen Elizabeth I over 400 years earlier.

The Olympic Bell is the biggest in Europe and the largest harmonically-tuned bell in the world. 

The Olympic Bell is the biggest in Europe and the largest harmonically-tuned bell in the world. 

Also in 2012, the Foundry cast the bells used in the lead barge at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant, and which now hang at the City church of St. James Garlickhythe.

The Queen visits the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Speaking of the decision to close the Whitechapel Foundry, owner Alan Hughes (Master Bellfounder since 1972) said:

“We have made this decision with a heavy heart, but in response to the changing realities of running a business of this kind. The Bell Foundry in Whitechapel has changed hands many times, but it has always been a family business. My own family has owned the foundry since 1904, but other families have run the firm through its history, which stretches back to 1570. The business has been at its present site over two hundred and fifty years. So it is probably about time it moved once again. We hope that this move will provide an opportunity for the business to move forward in a new direction.” Alan & Kathryn Hughes

Press Statement:

"1st December 2016

Whitechapel Bell Foundry Ltd announces, with regret, that by May 2017 it will cease its activities at the Whitechapel Road site that it has occupied since its move there in 1738.

The company intends to complete work on all projects presently in hand during the coming months. It will not be entering into new contracts for the time being whilst discussions with the company's staff and other interested parties regarding the future direction, ownership, and location of the company are ongoing."

We can only hope that this cherished London institution, the oldest manufacturing company in the land, will continue to exist in another form on another site.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is simply too important to Britain's national heritage to close forever.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, 32/35 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1DY

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Death of Andrzej Ciechanowiecki, celebrated philanthropist, art collector & historian and anti-communist / WWII resistance figure.

Deeply saddened to learn of the death in London yesterday of my friend, and (in my youth) my great mentor in matters nobiliary and chivalric, the celebrated philanthropist, anti-communist agitator, art historian and collector, Andrzej (Andrew) Ciechanowiecki (1924-2015), Knight of the Order of the White Eagle (Poland's highest honour, the equivalent of the Order of the Garter) and Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. [Andrew held more Orders than almost anyone I knew]

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Andrew spent several weeks living with my grandparents (he and his parents were very old family friends). Having fought in the Underground Home Army in the Warsaw Uprising 1944 and escaping deportation to Siberia, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1952 by the Polish communist governement for allegedly assisting British, American and Vatican spies.

Released after 6 years, he eventually arrived in the UK and became an extremely successful art dealer, most notably co-owning the Heim Gallery on Jermyn Street. He remained a Londoner, spending his final years in a beautiful flat on Mount Street off Berkeley Square.

Andrew's collection grew so large (he had one of the finest collection of bronzes) that he founded the Ciechanoweicki Foundation at the Royal Castle in Warsaw to hold much of his collection. Andrew played a huge role in obtaining art and furniture to fill the palace following its post-war reconstruction. He also curated several important international exhibitions of Polish art and treasures, largely self-funded the construction of a church on the outskirts of Krakow and also helped fund a wing of the University of New Mexico.
Andrzej Ciechanowiecki (seated) with members of the Ciechanowiecki Foundation 
at home at his flat, with some of his celebrated bronzes visible behind.
Very active in anti-communist international relations, Andrew was a friend of Pope John Paul II and many heads of formerly reigning royal houses. He was also extremely active in dynastic and confraternal military-religious orders.

Andrew was one of the most decorated men I knew. Wikipedia lists the following Orders:

Order of the White Eagle (1998)
Order of Polonia Restituta Grand Cross (25 February 1993)

Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Vatican)
Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour & Devotion, Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Grand Cross of Order Pro Merito Melitensi
Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Commander of the Order of the Polar Star (Sweden)
Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria.
Commander of the Order of Merit of Senegal
Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Order of Friendship of Peoples (Belarus)
Order of Francisc Skorina (Belarus)

Dynastic Orders
Grand Cross of the Order of St Januarius (Two Sicilies)
Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George with Collar (Two Sicilies)
Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I (Two Sicilies)
Gold Medal of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (Two Sicilies)
Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Savoy)
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the House of Savoy (Savoy)
Gold Medal of Merit of the House of Savoy (Savoy)
Knight of Justice of the Order of Saint Stephen (Tuscany)
Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Joseph (Tuscany)
Grand Cross of the Order of St Andrew (Imperial Russia)
Grand Cross of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (Imperial Russia)
Grand Cross of the Order of St. Anna (Imperial Russia)

Bust of Andrzej Ciechanowiecki 

Honorary Doctorates:
University of Warsaw, Poland (1991)
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA (1992)
Belarusian State University, Minsk (1993)
Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland (2009)

In addition he was:

Honorary Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Honorary Member or Life Member of many learned societies both foreign and Polish, FSA, member of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, member of the Board of the (Countess) Lanckoroński Foundation, Council Member of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, the Counts Raczyński Foundation, and the Polish Historical & Literary Society in Paris (SHLP), chairman of the Polish-Belarusian Bilateral Commission for the Conservation of the National Patrimony.

However to his English friends, who could not pronounce his surname "Ciechanowiecki" he was simply "Chicken and Whisky".

The funeral will be at the Brompton Oratory.


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Release of My Book: "A London Peculiar: The London You Missed"

I am pleased to announce that my book, A London Peculiar: The London You Missed, is now available to order from most good bookshops (in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia & New Zealand).  

Come on a fascinating journey through a London less explored and discover some of the most unusual and intriguing hidden gems to be found in the city. 

To "Look Inside" the book, please click on this link and you will be taken to Amazon's website:

A London Peculiar shines a light into London's secret corners, revealing a remarkable array of little-known curiosities, many of which are published here for the first time. 

Highlights include:

* James Bond's London - where to dress, dine and drink like Ian Fleming and James Bond 

* The terrifying cell in which the Knights Templar were imprisoned 

* London's only lighthouse 

* London's smallest and oldest houses 

* The "Birthplace of America" 

* The exclusive shops that supply the Royal Family 

* The pub frequented by Jack the Ripper's victims 

* The church that was used by the KGB for Cold War espionage 

* The street that is home to the world's oldest hat,wine, tobacco and barber shops 

* The alleyways in which Charles Dickens dined and in which he set Scrooge's counting house 

* The Seven Noses of Soho 

* London's strangest museums 

* Fences made from Second World War air raid stretchers 

* The rose garden in which Shakespeare set the start of the War of the Roses.  

A London Peculiar is an insider's guide that will entertain those who have never been to London, those who are seasoned visitors and those who call London home.

To order A London Peculiar or "Look Inside", please click here: 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Should Canada Create Knighthoods? (CBC Article, Radio Interview & Online Vote)

This week, following recent news items about Americans receiving knighthoods from HM The Queen, Canada's CBC Radio broadcast an interview with me as part of a segment about the desirability of Canadian knighthoods.

The segment may be heard here: Audio: Knighthoods for Canadians?

CBC Radio is also featuring an online poll in which Canadians can vote for one of the three Canadians I have suggested as suitable contenders for a titular honour: Astronaut Chris Hadfield, sportsman Wayne Gretzky and singer Anne Murray.

Voting is still underway at this link: Why Canadians can't be 'Dames' or 'Sirs'-- and why some people want that to change

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Wartime Propaganda Posters that Promote British Patriotism

In the context of this week's Scottish independence referendum campaign, it is interesting to reflect on the strong unionist symbols used in wartime propaganda posters.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Scottish Referendum and The Queen's Speech -- Precedents

The front page of today's Daily Telegraph contains an article bearing the dramatic title "Scottish Independence: The Queen is Urged to Intervene". Following the release of a second opinion poll (this one by TNS) confirming that the shambolic Better Together campaign is indeed running neck and neck with the Yes Campaign, several panicked MPs are now urging the Prime Minister to request that The Queen intervene at this time of national crisis.

In support of their request, the MPs make reference to an earlier precedent: The Queen's Silver Jubilee speech of 1977 in which, in the context of the possibility of devolution and the damage it might cause to the Union, Her Majesty made what was perhaps her most political statement:

 "I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland. Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of the United Kingdom.

This brief statement was not a compromising political intervention but it enabled The Queen to speak in support of the Union, an issue that falls squarely within the fundamental interest of the Crown, and which it is the Crown's duty to protect. Importantly (and in stark contrast to any speech that might be delivered in the next few days) this carefully crafted speech, long in the planning, was not delivered in the run up to a highly charged political vote, but was presented at an appropriate time and place.

Unfortunately, The Queen's other comments relating to political affairs are not quoted in The Telegraph article, which is a shame. No British commentator or expert appears to be aware that The Queen, in her role as Queen of Canada, twice involved herself in an equally sensitive issue of national unity. In 1987 The Queen delivered two speeches in which she spoke about the Meech Lake Accord, a controversial accord designed to strengthen Quebec's position within the Canadian family. When the Accord was rejected in 1990, the future of a united Canada appeared uncertain and the possibility of Quebec separation seemed very real, as real as Scottish separation seems today.

The Queen arriving at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada, 1990
In the middle of this intense and very nasty political drama, The Queen made an official visit to her Canadian realm to participate in the huge Canada Day celebration that is held annually outside Ottawa's Houses of Parliament, and which is the focus of national attention. On the advice of her Canadian ministers The Queen delivered a moving, and perfectly pitched, speech to the tens of thousands of people who were assembled in front of Parliament; it was also broadcast live on television to millions of homes.

Her Majesty's words in Ottawa in 1990 could well be repeated today in Edinburgh:

"I am not just a fair-weather friend and I am glad to be here at this sensitive time. I hope my presence may call to mind those many years of shared experience and raise new hopes for the future. The unity of the Canadian people was the paramount issue in 1867 as it is today. There is no force except the force of will to keep Canadians together."

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

"Winston Is Back": 75th Anniversary of Churchill's Appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty

75 years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany and Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he had held during the Great War. 

10 minutes after the Royal Navy received notification of the commencement of hostilities against Germany, the Admiralty sent a second telegram to the fleet. The telegram contained only three words, three words that Lord Mountbatten said had 'an electrifying effect throughout the fleet': "WINSTON IS BACK." 

This clip from "The Gathering Storm", with Albert Finney as Winston Churchill, captures the spirit of the occasion.

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man." In this period of immense geo-political instability some may have good reason to ask "Where is our Churchill?"

Friday, 6 June 2014

The New World steps forth to help the Old.

Seeing this image taken today in France of The Queen gallantly assisted by the President of the United States and the Governor General of New Zealand at the international ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, some words of Sir Winston Churchill immediately sprang to my mind:

"...the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

("We Shall Fight On the Beaches" speech to Parliament, June 4, 1940)

I shall refrain from commenting (as others already have) on the obvious symbolism of the Russian leader's isolation from the main group of western leaders.  

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Canada's Prince: The Canadian Associations of HRH The Prince of Wales

The Royal Canadian Homecoming of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall commenced on 18 May. On that day, the day before Victoria Day (The Official Birthday in Canada of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada), The Prince of Wales was appointed to The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. HRH was sworn in as a Privy Councillor during a private audience with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at Government House, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Prince of Wales's father, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, is the second-longest serving member of The Queen's Privy Council for Canada (appointed 1957).

The Privy Council advises the Government of Canada and includes all past and present Ministers, as well as a number of select persons honoured for their contributions to Canada.

HRH The Prince of Wales with HE The Governor General of Canada at Government House, Halifax, Nova Scotia
(C) The Government of Canada

Quick Canadian Facts about The Prince of Wales (some courtesy of the Canadian Prime Minister's Office):

The Prince of Wales has been visiting Canada for almost 45 years. He has visited Canada from coast to coast to coast.

This year’s Royal Tour is His Royal Highness’ 17th Tour of Canada. 

During this year’s Tour of Canada, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will join Canadians in marking milestones in the country’s history in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

The Prince of Wales is patron or president of more than 400 organizations around the world. 

HRH The Prince of Wales in the uniform of a Lieutenant General in the Canadian Army
HRH is a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy, a Lieutenant General in the Canadian Army and a Lieutenant General in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

HRH is Honorary Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Colonel-in-Chief of several regiments and the air reserve:
  • Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadian)
  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles
  • The Royal Regiment of Canada
  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons
  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
  • The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's Own)
  • The Air Reserve Group
HRH is an Honorary Member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, holds the Canadian Forces Decoration and two clasps, as well as the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal.

HRH's patronages include Canadian organizations, such as The RCMP Foundation, The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, The Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, The Regina Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, The Royal Conservatory of Music and Earth Rangers. 

HRH is responsible for the creation of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (the Canadian affiliate of the Prince’s Youth Business International), that helps disadvantaged young people become entrepreneurs. 

HRH is a strong proponent of the conservation of historical Canadian places including through the Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership that bears his name. 

HRH is also an honorary member of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and the Canadian Society of Painters in watercolour. 

Pre-Royal Tour Reception for UK-resident Canadians hosted by Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall at St. James's Palace

On Wednesday 14 May, in preparation for the Royal Tour of Canada of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (commencing 18 May), a reception for Canadians working or living in the United Kingdom was hosted by The Prince and The Duchess in the State Apartments of St. James's Palace.

The weather, which in London can be very unpredictable, was warm, bright and sunny. This afforded guests the opportunity to visit the garden of St. James's Palace (which is shared with Clarence House).

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall spent 1.5 hours meeting the (approximately) 100 Canadians who were present.

Photographs from the event may be seen HERE at the official Flickr site of The British Monarchy.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

8 May - VE Day 1945 -- The Royal Family and Winston Churchill

The Royal Family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, VE Day 1945
Today, 8 May, is the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

Last month British Pathe released into the public domain some 80,000 newsreel items from its extensive archives. A remarkable range of subjects are covered. Amongst the items is this footage of Winston Churchill rehearsing his VE Day speech. I believe this is the first time this footage has been seen in public. Well worth watching, particularly for his rousing finish: "Advance Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!:

Additionally, here is some rarely seen colour footage of the Royal Family and Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day. The Royal Family are extremely relaxed. Note the three different styles of royal waves -- none of which have survived to this day.  Churchill does not wave (it would have been deemed inappropriate). He is one of only two politicians to have been honoured to join the Royal Family on the balcony.

As part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, a flag-waving crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered outside Buckingham Palace, similar in size to that which had gathered in 1945. Legendary wartime singer Vera Lynn and other well-known figures were present to entertain the crowd. 

The doors to the Buckingham Palace balcony opened and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother walked out on to the balcony and stood alone for approximately one minute -- cheered by the adoring crowd. The Queen and Princess Margaret then walked out and stood either side of their mother. A moving recreation of the balcony scene from 1945 (only Churchill and George VI missing). 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

"Privilegio del Bianco" exercised by The Queen of Spain at the Canonisation of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII

TM The King & Queen of Spain, TRH The Grand Duke & Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, TM King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium and HMEmH The Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta were amongst the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the canonsiation of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII by HH The Pope. HRH The Duke of Gloucester represented HM The Queen.

Estimates vary, but some commentators believe up to 1 million people may have attended the divine liturgy and accompanying ceremony. Much of St. Peter's Square was awash with Polish flags, at times resembling the sails from a flotilla, as Poles paid tribute to their great national hero, Saint John Paul II.


L to R: HM King Albert of Belgium, HM The King of Spain, HM The Queen of Spain

As seen above, Queen Sofia exercised the "Privilegio del Bianco" (a.k.a. "Privilege du Blanc"), the privilege accorded to certain Catholic queens, princesses and duchesses to dress in white, with a white mantilla, for papal audiences and other special occasions. Queen Paola and The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg were similarly attired. The head of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household is likely to have decreed that this privilege would apply for this special occasion.

The privilege is not automatically granted to all Catholic queens or consorts. Historically it has been held by the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, the Queens of France, Spain, Bavaria, Naples, Italy and Belgium, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and princesses of the House of Savoy.

Most recently it was extended to Princess Charlene of Monaco -- she wore white during a papal audience with Pope Benedict in 2013. The privilege has not been extended to Liechtenstein.

It is worth noting that Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (who is a Catholic despite marrying into the protestant royal family) also does not have the Privilegio del Bianco -- but as she was born in Argentina perhaps Pope Francis may choose to make this another reform! 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

BBC TV Interview -- Royal Tour of New Zealand: The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and the popularity of the Monarchy

I appeared on BBC News TV yesterday to discuss the success of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of New Zealand and to examine and compare the popularity of the Monarchy in Australia and New Zealand.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Victory for the Monarchy at Cambridge Union Debate - 27 February 2014

On Thursday, 27th February I was pleased to participate in a lively debate at the Cambridge Union on the motion "This House Would Abolish The Monarchy".

Hugo Vickers, Rose Beal and I formed the Opposition and spoke in support of the Crown. I am happy to report that we successfully defeated the motion -- the vote was 105 against the motion (i.e. in support of the Monarchy) and 65 for the motion.

Founded in 1815, the Cambridge Union Society is the world's oldest operating debating society and the largest society at the University of Cambridge. The Union served as a model for the foundation of other university debating societies, including the Oxford Union and the Yale Political Union.

Chamber of the Cambridge Union (C) Cambridge Union Society

Full details of the debate and participants are included below:

This House Would Abolish The Monarchy

The announcement that Prince William is studying in Cambridge this term has prompted comment and outcry across the national and student media. The monarchy is Britain’s most iconic national institution, a central non-partisan plank of our constitution – according to some. For others, it is an outdated relic that impedes our democracy and entrenches elitism. In this debate, we put the arguments, and the modern monarchy, to the test.
Graham Smith is chief executive of the pressure group Republic, which calls for an elected head of state. Graham also writes for the Guardian.
Peter Kellow is Leader of the Democratic Republican Party, and writer for the Huffington Post. Peter believes there is a need for radical changes in UK politics.
Kate Maltby is a member of the executive team for Bright Blue, a pressure group for liberal conservatism. Kate writes for the Telegraph on politics and culture.
Hugo Vickers is known for writing royal biographies such as Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Hugo was appointed Chairman of the Jubilee Walkway Trust in 2002.
Rafe Heydel-Mankoo is a historian and royal commentator. He is the deputy editor of Burke's Peerage: World Orders of Knighthood, and a Research Associate at the public policy think tank, ResPublica.
Rose Beale is a finalist at Trinity studying management. Rose has been involved in Trinity Politics, the Wilberforce Society and Cambridge Development Initiative.
RESULT:  Proposition AYES: 65. Opposition NOES: 105

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Last Indian Member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India - The Maharani of Travancore

HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (1922-2013)
Maharaja of Travancore (1991-2013)

My letter to the editor of The Times following the publication of the obituary of 
HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of Travancore was published today. The Maharaja's brother had been the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore and, in that capacity, was the hereditary guardian to a temple containing an ancient horde of treasure valued at many billions of pounds. However as hereditary guardians, generations of maharajas of Travancore, remaining true to their faith, refused to sell a single item from this immense treasure.

The Imperial Order of the Crown of India
Dear Sir,

As a footnote to your obituary of HH Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of Travancore, it is worth noting that his aunt Maharani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1895-1985) was the last Indian member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India.

Maharani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi CI(1895-1985) 
Founded by Queen Victoria in 1878, the Imperial Order of the Crown of India was a "ladies' order" restricted to female members of the Royal Family and Indian princely families, as well as the families of senior British officials in India. Sri Uthradom's aunt was appointed to the Order in 1929 in recognition of her service as Maharani Regent of Travancore (1924-1931) during the minority of her nephew, Varma's brother, Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (later Major General HH Sri Chithira Thirunal Sir Balarama Varma, GCSI, GCIE, the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore). Along with the insignia, members were entitled to bear the post-nominals "CI".    
HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon CI, GCVO
Wearing the insignia of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India
along with the Royal Family Orders and the Royal Victorian Chain
Following the deaths, in fairly short succession, of HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the Imperial Order of the Crown of India now has only one surviving member: HM The Queen (who is also Sovereign of the Order). Through this membership The Queen provides one of the last direct connections to the British Raj. 

Lord Mountbatten once said of the Maharani of Travancore: "No one who met her once could ever forget her. She stands as a shining example to womanhood as a great queen and a great woman." I'd wager many would say the same of our own Queen.


Rafe Heydel-Mankoo

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Act of Reconciliation signed between the claimants to headship of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies

Yesterday, Friday, 24 January 2014, was a day of great importance for the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies, for the Illustrious Royal Order of St. Januarius/San Gennaro, for the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and for all their friends and supporters.

An Act of Reconciliation between both branches of the House was signed in Naples by HRH Don Pedro, Duke of Noto, son of HRH The Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria (head of the Spanish line), and HRH Don Carlo, Duke of Castro (head of the Neapolitan line). Let us hope that this will be but the first step towards greater cooperation and an enduring and harmonious rapprochement.

The two branches have come together in Naples for the Beatification of HM Queen Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies (1812-1836), the first Queen consort of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, which takes place today at the Basilica of Santa Chiara, where HLM is buried.