Category Archives: Society & Culture

Library Books

Sussex-Regional-Library-photo-j-stewartIn January, when stricter Covid-19 rules resumed, the Sussex Library was open only for pickup of books ordered online. We had not realized this. So when my husband went there to get books for me, a librarian told him he couldn’t go in.

Oh, ok, he said and turned to walk away. “What does she like?” the librarian asked. “Mysteries,” he said. And she asked him to wait while she got some books for me.

He came home with three books with really nice covers by authors I’d never read. And of course, the story of how he happened to have them. I couldn’t wait to see what a total stranger had chosen for me. And I was thrilled that she had chosen them at all! She could have just said, too bad, so sad, check the website next time.

The three books

cover An Irish HostageThe first one I read was An Irish Hostage by Charles Todd. Set in 1919, it’s the story of an English nurse who goes to Ireland for the wedding of her WWI nursing comrade. Tensions between Irish and English are still running high after the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland, and the bride’s family is in the thick of it. It’s the 12th in the ‘Bess Crawford Mysteries’ series, published by HarperCollins in 2021. Excellent.

Behind Closed Doors coverNext I read Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris. It’s about a perfect marriage. I found myself reading just one more page, just one more chapter, just until I finish this bit. It’s very creepy, and very good. But a trigger warning, I guess. There’s a small part about a dog, and it stayed with me – not in a good way. Despite that, I’m very glad I read the book. It was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2016.

Hostage book coverLastly, I read Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. A flight attendant learns about a threat to her family while she’s on a long haul flight. She has to do as she is told, or else. You’re right there with the crew and passengers. The jacket asks: what would you do? I really don’t know, despite thinking about it a lot. But I’d be hard pressed to get on an airplane and not think of this story. Published in 2021 by Sourcebooks.

Tap book covers to see on Amazon, plus others below and in sidebar.

So thank you, Sussex librarian, for introducing me to these three authors. I loved the books. And, especially, thank you for going out of your way to make sure I had something to read. Having spent a lot of time in the Sussex Library, I know that the staff is always pleasant, knowledgeable, and helpful. Still, this time, you went way beyond the call of duty and I greatly appreciate it.

Dr. Elliott Leyton

Dr. Elliott Leyton, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, died in St. John’s on February 14, 2022 at the age of 82. He leaves a huge hole in the heart.

His courses at MUN were not required for graduate students, but I sat in on one of his War and Aggression classes. A huge lecture theatre – filled – and a mesmerizing performance by him. I could see why it was one of the most popular courses at the university.

Elliott had a huge influence on me then, and even now. Things pop into my head and I think of something he said, or wonder what he would say. Some academic, some just random.

Learning from Elliott

I found out about email from him. Elliott came into the Anthropology Department office one day while I was standing there. He told the secretary about something a police chief somewhere in the UK had just said to cover Hunting Humans by Elliott Leytonhim about crime statistics. Elliott realized I was unabashedly listening in on this conversation, so he included me. He explained he was emailing with police authorities, and… “What’s emailing?” was my contribution. That took him back a bit! He started explaining, realized I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. So he said come on, and took me to his office. There he showed me the computer screen with messages going back and forth, with the time sent on them. I was absolutely blown away.

cover Dying Hard by Elliott LeytonIt wasn’t just anthropologists and academics who knew Elliott’s work. My brother, a miner, read his book Dying Hard about fluorspar mining in Newfoundland. My husband knew of him from Hunting Humans, his book about serial killers.

Elliott and his wife Bonnie went with photographer Greg Locke to Rwanda after the massacre there in 1994. Elliott to write about the work of Médecins Sans Frontières, Bonnie to make art, and Greg to take photographs. I had dinner with Bonnie and Elliott after they returned. It was, unlike other dinners we’d had, solemn. We’d been to some of the same places, some different. We had seen some of the same gruesome sights, some different. Bonnie talked about her idea for pottery tableaux of what she’d seen. Could work, I thought, and it did. Elliott and Greg published a book, Touched by Fire.

Missing (detail), watercolour on paper, Bonnie Leyton in Bearing Witness exhibit

Elliott saw opportunity for thought and research in everything. I ignored a suggestion he threw in my direction one day. Sitting around the library in Queen’s College with several grad students, Elliott said “I think Dorothy should go to England and study the aristocracy.” Sure, Elliott, that sounds right up my alley! We all laughed, and that was it. But when I’m googling something going on with the British royals, I wonder. Maybe I should have taken the idea more seriously. So I straighten my tiara, and thank Elliott for thinking that about me.

Tap book covers for links to them on Here’s Dr. Leyton’s obituary.

Queens and Consorts

The_Queens_Head-2010-Wolfgang-Wild-wikicommonsSeventy years ago, in classrooms and public venues in the UK and Commonwealth, people sang God Save the Queen for the first time in 51 years. On February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth came to the throne. Queen Victoria had died on January 22, 1901.

In the half century between, it had been God Save the King. Victoria was followed by her son Edward VII (1901-1910). He by his son George V (1910-1936). Then he by his sons, Edward VIII (1936) then George VI (1936-1952).

Victoria and Elizabeth II are the two longest reigning monarchs in British history, nearly 64 years and 70 years respectively. They are queens regnant, monarchs in their own right. Wives of kings, also called Queen, are queens consort. Short form for both: Queen.

Queens and King

That’s why, in 1952, the British royal family had three queens. Elizabeth II was the reigning monarch. Her mother, also Queen Elizabeth, became a dowager queen and queen mother. Her grandmother Queen Mary, widow of George V, was also a dowager queen and queen mother.

3-queens-1952-vaguelyinteresting.co_.ukWhile there can be more than one queen, there is only one king at a time. The title of king outranks queen and so is given only to a reigning male monarch. Elizabeth gave her husband Philip the next highest title, Prince. Victoria named Albert, her husband, Prince Consort. Only twice was the husband of a British queen regnant given the title of King (Queens Mary I and II) and, both times, the husbands acted as if they were the predominant monarch. So it hasn’t been done again in over 300 years.

When Elizabeth’s father took the throne in 1936, the year itself was worthy of commemorative plates and tea towels. King George VI was the third king that year. That had happened only twice before: in 1066 when William the Conqueror vied with two other contenders for the throne and in 1483 during the War of the Roses.

The_year_of_the_three_Kings-pd-wikicommonsHalf a millennium later, in January 1936, George V died. His eldest son took the throne as Edward VIII, then abdicated in December to marry Wallis Simpson. Edward had no children, so his younger brother became George VI. His heirs were his daughters, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

God Save the King – and Consort

If Elizabeth’s heirs live good long lives, it will be a long time before anyone again sings God Save the Queen. Charles, William and George – all future kings. Charles and William already have their future queens.

Prince_Charles_Christening_Family_Portrait-15-Dec-1948-Anefo-wikicommonsBut would Charles’ wife be Queen Camilla? The circumstances of their 2005 marriage had busied the royal problem solvers. The solution was announced by Buckingham Palace: when Charles becomes king, Camilla would be called HRH The Princess Consort. A brand new title, designed specifically for her.

The need for this was due both to protocol and optics. The Church of England did not permit divorced people to remarry. Camilla was divorced from Andrew Parker Bowles. Charles, technically a widower by that time, had also been divorced. This already slippery ground for the Church was further made impossible by appearances.

Charles’ first wife had been Diana. Her life, marriage and death played out on the public stage. Camilla was the co-star of the show. So, just as it was deemed unseemly for Camilla to use the title by which Diana was known, the Princess of Wales, it was deemed unseemly for her to take the title which would have been Diana’s in a different future, Queen.

Since then, however, speculation has been that Charles wants Camilla to be called Queen Consort when he comes to the throne. Yesterday, in her Accession Day message, Queen Elizabeth ended the speculation. She wrote “it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort.” So, a hope that time has  lessened the controversy? I doubt the Queen’s wish will be denied, so it’s Camilla, Queen Consort or Queen Camilla.

With William and Kate, assuming they continue as they’ve been, there is no reason for debate over her titles. She will be Princess of Wales, then Queen Catherine. A queen consort.

God Save the Queen

Queen_Elizabeth_II_artwork-2012-AK-Rockefeller-wikicommonsMeanwhile, “long to reign over us, God save the Queen.” The metal to mark a 70th anniversary is platinum. The alternate metal for it is iron. Rarity and strength – both emblematic of Queen Elizabeth II.

Modern Pentathlon

Modern_Pentathlon_Tokyo_2020-wikipediaThis Olympics, I’m watching the Modern Pentathlon. I heard of it a few months ago, in a novel that mentioned that Gen. George Patton had competed in it in the 1912 Olympics. What’s that, I asked Google. The answer was you want to watch!

It’s five sports, performed by each competitor all in one day. Since 2012 two of the activities have been combined. So it’s now four events with competitors doing two sports within one of them.

The sports are:

1. Fencing
2. Show jumping
3. Swimming
4. Pistol shooting
5. Cross-country running


Shooting and running have been combined. All five are Olympics sports in themselves. So Modern Pentathlon Olympians must master five very different sports at the top level in the world.

There are other combined events in the Olympics. Equestrian eventing is show jumping, dressage and cross-country riding. Very different, but all done with a horse. The decathlon and heptathlon, respectively ten and seven activities, are all track and field sports – running, hurdles, long jump etc.

Eli_Bremer_in_2008_Summer_Olympics_modern_pentathlon_fencing_event_3-Tim-Hipps-wikicommonsBut running, shooting, fencing, swimming and riding: what’s the connection? A bit more thought on General Patton might have given me the clue. Soldiering.

Skills of a cavalry soldier

The connection is purpose, not surface. The event was introduced in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. A cavalry soldier needed to be able to ride but also run, swim, shoot and do sword battle.

So the winter biathlon – skiing and shooting – is closest to it. It also started as a military training-based sport. But to make the biathlon comparable to the Modern Pentathlon, let’s add, say, snowboarding, luge and ice dancing. And do that last one with a random skater paired with you 20 minutes before competition starts. That’s how the Modern Pentathlon equestrian teams are chosen.

Eli_Bremer_in_2008_Summer_Olympics_modern_pentathlon_show_jumping_event_2-Tim-Hipps-21-aug-2008-wikicommonsOlympics Modern Pentathlon is an individual competition only. Between 1952 and 1992 there were also team events. It was men only until 2000, when women’s competition was introduced. A maximum of 4 athletes per nation can qualify, 2 male and 2 female.

In the beginning, all five events were separate and took place over five days. Over the years, the event has been compressed in times allowed, distances and requirements for competition. Shooting – lasers now, not pistols – is combined with running. Run 800 metres, stop and shoot, run, stop and shoot, 4 times over. The entire event now takes place over three days at the end of the Olympics. A day for qualifying rounds, then one day each for men’s and women’s competition.

Laser_Run_Mixed_Relay_Modern_Pentathlon_2018_YOG_29-BugWarp-wikicommonsAccording to Horse Sport, in 2024 the Modern Pentathlon will be compacted yet again – 90 minutes for the whole thing. Shortening the event is not the choice of the athletes. It’s the IOC’s decision – and presumably the television networks. But I can’t ever remember seeing it on television. And after beach volleyball took over the summer Olympics broadcasts pretty much 24/7, I’ve scoured the networks and sports channels for anything else.

Chad_Senior_Modern_Pentathlon-swim-2000-olympics-Robert-A-Whitehead-USAF-wikicommonsOlympic Dreams – of everything

I can’t imagine the child who would think to say “I want to be a modern pentathlete.” But I am humbled by the enormity of that dream. Canadian modern pentathlete Kelly Fitzsimmons says “We are the Swiss army knife of athletes”.

Canadian modern pentathletes receive no funding from Sport Canada. So their sixth skill must be fundraising for their training – in the pool, track, shooting range, riding arena and wherever it is you fence. Going through Wikimedia Commons, it looks like the military connection is still there.

Sadly, Canada will not be represented in Tokyo. Athletes from 31 countries will compete. It will take place August 5-7, at midnight and after in North America. I will watch – in awe, I’m sure.

See my Olympic Games of Chance – the 2016 Rio Games when it seemed  that everything that could go wrong did. Little did we know!

Molly Ann Gell

Lt. Robert Petley, Fredericton NB from the Oromocto Road, 1837 Library and Archives Canada

In 1807 a Wolastoqiyik girl named Molly Ann Gell entered the Sussex Vale Indian Day School in Sussex Corner, New Brunswick. It was run by The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, an Anglican mission also known as the New England Company. Historian Leslie Upton told Molly Ann Gell’s story in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Here’s part of what he wrote:

Gell (Gill), Molly Ann (Thomas)

Molly Ann Gell was one of the five children of Joseph Gell, whose wife died in the winter of 1807. Aged and infirm, he was unable to provide for his family and turned them over to the company for the clothing allowance and 2s. 6d. a week. Molly was sent to learn domestic service in the household of the Reverend Oliver Arnold, master of the New England Company’s school at Sussex Vale (Sussex Corner) and minister of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Arnold had some half dozen apprentices at a time, for each of whom he received £20 a year.

There were especial hazards for the female apprentices. On 6 Jan. 1809 Molly Ann Gell deposed before the magistrates that, returning from Saint John the previous July, she had met a stranger who “Carried her into the Bushes and Against her Will forced her to Comply with his Wishes.” A son was born to her in February 1809, Joseph Solo Gill, who was taken on as an apprentice at birth by Arnold. Molly Ann Gell’s indentures expired in 1811; years later she confessed that the father of the child was Arnold’s son Joseph, who had seduced her in his father’s house.

This treatment of female apprentices was not uncommon. The illegitimate children were taken on as apprentices and so tended to make the program self-perpetuating. No fewer than 13 persons of the name of Gell, for example, appear on the apprenticeship lists.

William G. R. Hind Harvesting Hay, Sussex NB 1880. Library and Archives Canada

Dr. Upton says that in 1822 Molly Ann married a black man named Peter Thomas. They had five children and lived near Sussex Corner.

Google could not help me find out more about Molly Ann, Peter Thomas or their children. In his 1892 biography of Rev. Arnold, Leonard A. Allison lists seven Arnold children but none named Joseph (pp. 16-17).

School closed after 30 years

Sussex Vale school closed in 1826. Two reports (Bromley 1822 and West 1825) cited operational and efficacy problems. In terms of the school’s operation, there was maltreatment and abuse of students. Molly Ann Gell’s story was not unique. There was also undue enrichment of school management and local white residents, through the “fostering” stipends and free labour. Secondly, the school wasn’t doing its job. Students were not actually receiving any useful education and neither they nor their families were converting from Roman Catholicism to the Anglican faith.
Sussex Vale, New Brunswick. Currier and Ives print ca. 1870

The New England Company didn’t rethink the merits of white, Christian education for First Nations. They just changed how they did it. They moved west from New Brunswick and adopted a fully residential school system.

For more see Judith Fingard, “The New England Company and the New Brunswick Indians: A comment on the colonial perversion of British benevolence, 1786-1826” in Acadiensis (Spring 1972) 1:2:29-42.  Also see Andrea Bear Nicholas, “The Role of Colonial Artists in the Disposition and Displacement of the Maliseet, 1790s-1850s” for more on the artist Robert Petley, in J. of Canadian Studies (Spring 2015) 49:2:25-86.

Mrs. Elizabeth Keckley

Mrs. Elizabeth Keckley was fashion stylist to the stars of Washington DC in the mid-1800s. As dressmaker and companion of Mary Todd Lincoln, she worked in the White House during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Mrs-Elizabeth-Keckley-1861-wikicommonsBut Elizabeth Keckley was not born into American high society. Well, in a way she was. She was born in 1818 in Dunwiddie County, Virginia. Her father was Col. Armistead Burwell, owner of the plantation. Her mother was Agnes, one of the plantation slaves. So Lizzy, as she was known, was born into slavery.

Agnes was born on the Burwell plantation in 1786. Her mother’s name was Kate.  An accomplished seamstress, Agnes made clothes for the entire household. She also could read and write. She taught her daughter her skills.

Early years of Elizabeth Hobbs

Some time after Elizabeth’s birth, Agnes married George Pleasant Hobbs, a slave on a neighbouring plantation. When Elizabeth was 7, Hobbs was allowed to live on the Burwell plantation with her mother and her. But soon after he was forced to move, maybe to Kentucky or Tennessee. He never saw his family again. All three being literate, and allowed to correspond, they kept in touch by letter. Elizabeth believed George Hobbs was her biological father. Only shortly before Agnes died did she tell her daughter the truth of her parentage.

Hillsborough NC historical plaque

When Elizabeth was 14, she was sent to the Hillsborough NC household of the Burwell’s eldest son Robert, a Presbyterian minister. There she was forced into a sexual relationship with Alexander McKenzie Kirkland, a friend of Rev. Burwell. She had a son by him about 1838. She named the baby George.

Elizabeth returned to Virginia in 1842, to the household of Armistead’s daughter Anne and her husband Hugh Alfred Garland. Armistead Burwell had died in 1841. His widow Mary now lived at the Garlands, as did Elizabeth’s mother Aggy.

St. Louis, Missouri

In 1847 they all moved to St Louis, Missouri. Hugh Garland, a lawyer, was in financial trouble and hoped the move would improve his situation. He acted for the slave holders in the landmark Missouri case Dred Scott v. Sanford. Elizabeth kept his household afloat with the money she made making dresses for St. Louis society ladies.

In St. Louis, Elizabeth renewed an acquaintance with James Keckley from Virginia. He said he was free. They married. There is little about him in the autobiography she later wrote: “I lived with him eight years, let charity draw around him a mantle of silence.” She kept his surname, however.

While deciding whether to marry Keckley, she asked Hugh Garland if she could buy freedom for herself and her son. She did not want to have more children born into slavery. The price was $1,200 Garland said, knowing she had little chance of saving that amount of money.

Family tree of Elizabeth Keckley

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley family tree
Tap to enlarge. ON connection may be Maj. L. Burwell’s great-grandfather Edmund S Burwell.

Then Hugh Garland died in October 1854. Armistead Burwell Jr., a Vicksburg MS lawyer and Unionist, came to sort out his brother-in-law’s estate. He convinced his sister Anne to honour the agreement Elizabeth had reached with Hugh.

But raising $1,200 was still a huge problem. She decided to go to New York and fund-raise among anti-slavery groups there. Anne told her she could go if six white men would guarantee to cover the Garland “loss” should she not return. Five men agreed. Not enough.

Hearing of her distress, one of Elizabeth’s St. Louis clients stepped in. Mrs. Le Bourgois said she still owed Elizabeth money for dresses she’d made. Others also paid their “debts” or loaned Elizabeth money. So Elizabeth got the money she needed and, in November 1855, her emancipation papers.

She stayed in St. Louis another five years, working as a seamstress until she paid back those who had loaned her money. In 1857 her mother Agnes, who had gone to Armistead Jr.’s home in Vicksburg, died.

Washington DC

In 1860, Elizabeth and George moved to Washington DC. At first she taught dressmaking, then set up her own shop. Her contacts in St. Louis proved useful, and she gained a reputation as Washington’s preeminent dressmaker. Mary Todd Lincoln became a client. Eventually Mrs. Lincoln asked Elizabeth to work exclusively for her.

George-KirklandAnne Garland and her children returned to Virginia in 1861, no longer welcome in St. Louis due to their Confederacy sympathies. Her son Col. Hugh Garland Jr. was killed in the Battle of Franklin TN in 1864. He was Commander of the 1st Missouri Infantry.

Elizabeth’s son George, Hugh Jr.’s cousin, also fought and died in the Civil War. He enlisted under the surname Kirkland in the (white) 1st Missouri Volunteers of the Union Army. Pvt. Kirkland died in the Battle of Wilson Creek August 10, 1861. (Read more about him.)

Lincoln White House and after

Amazon link for Behind the Scenes
Tap for Amazon link

Mrs. Keckley spent the war years at the White House with the Lincoln family. In 1866 she published her autobiography, entitled Behind the Scenes, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. It shocked Washington society, and angered Mary Lincoln. Mrs. Keckley meant it as a defence of the impoverished and increasingly criticized former First Lady. But the book was seen as airing private matters and trading on connections. Her social standing, and dressmaking business, plummeted.

Elizabeth moved to Ohio in 1892 where she became head of the Department of Sewing and Domestic Science Arts at Wilberforce University. She was then 74. She returned to Washington where she died at the age of 89. Examples of her dressmaking – including the gown Mrs. Lincoln wore for her husband’s 2nd inauguration – are in museum collections. So too is a quilt she made from scraps of the silks and satins she’d used in making those gowns. (More on Mrs. Keckley’s design style.)


Distant cousins, maybe

If my Canadian Burwell family is related to the Virginia Burwells, then Elizabeth Keckley is my 8th cousin 4 times removed. That makes Armistead Burwell and his whole slaveholding family my cousins as well. Mrs. Keckley reconciled that somehow. She didn’t sugarcoat her years in slavery, but she remained in contact with Anne Garland to the end of her life.

Whether or not we are related, it’s interesting. Within the immediate family of Armistead Burwell, you find those who were enslaved and those who enslaved them. Those who worked for slavery and those who worked against it. Soldiers in the Union Army and in the Confederate Army. America in a nutshell maybe.

The White House Historical Association gives more details on Mrs. Keckley’s life and that of the Burwells. George Kirkland’s photo is from Petersburg Preservation. Below are links to a biography of Mrs. Keckley and a historical novel about George Hobbs Kirkland, both by Jennifer Fleischner.

Prince Philip’s Horses

“If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested.” That, it is said, is how Prince Philip described his daughter Princess Anne. But if the amount of time he spent with horses is anything to go by, the Prince also had a fondness for hay-eating, farting creatures.

“The Royal Family in 1957. From left to right, Princess Anne on William, Prince Charles on Greensleeves, Her Majesty the Queen on Betsy, and the Duke of Edinburgh on Mele-Kush (photograph from Her Majesty’s album)”

He was a polo player and later carriage driver. From 1964 to 1986 he was President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the longest-serving ever. He was succeeded by Princess Anne. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

A 1965 book The Queen Rides by Judith Campbell is about the royal horses and their riders. Here is part of the section on Prince Philip, with photographs from the book.

Prince Philip’s Polo Ponies

The Prince originally learned to ride when he was nine or ten years old, and the teaching was continued when he went to Gordonstoun by two well-known instructors, Mr. and Mrs. Saloschin. At school the boys not only rode, they were taught stable management and were expected to look after the ponies…

Prince Philip first began playing polo in Malta, when he was on active service in the Royal Navy. He has an excellent natural eye for a ball, and since he is also a lover of violent exercise, particularly of anything spiced with danger, it was almost inevitable that polo should become his first love in sport…

“Prince Philip’s interest in his ponies is not confined to the polo field. He frequently visits them and discusses their well-being with Miss Donaghue. Here he is having a look at Global, a four-year-old, bred by the Queen”

Prince Philip’s Yard, where his polo ponies are kept, is small and compact. The tack and work rooms are at one end, the food stores at the other, and the ten loose-boxes face each other on opposite sides. The yard is paved in grey stone, easy to keep clean but disliked by some of the occupants, the thoroughbreds in particular, who mistrust its apparently slippery surface.

Miss Donaghue runs the yard with the help of three girl grooms, and Cain the Boxer. There is little she does not know of the care of polo ponies, and most of them are old friends…

All polo ponies have to be obedient and supple, quick on the turn, fast on the straight, and immediately responsive to neck-reining: that is, at once moving away from the rein pressed against the pony’s neck, an essential in animals that have to be ridden with one hand. English-trained ponies are given what is almost a form of elementary dressage schooling at first, and are taught to have their hocks well under them, the weight back…

The majority of the Prince’s blood ponies are bred by the Queen at Sandringham. Global, a four-year-old, is one of these, still playing very slow polo. He is a bit of an enigma and Prince Philip thinks he is the sort that could prove useless, or might be very good indeed. Only time will tell…


The Queen sometimes remarks rather despairingly that most of the horses she breeds seem to have lop-ears. There are certainly plenty of good-looking ones without this technical defect, but a pony called Bullseye, belonging to Prince Philip, does illustrate her words. By tradition lop-eared horses are supposed to be quiet and generous, but ears that flop sideways or forwards do tend to give their owners a clown-like, depressed appearance. In addition to his ears, Bullseye has rather ungainly, elongated conformation, and what can only be described as a somewhat loopy expression. In 1963 he was the despair of all, including the Prince, but in the next year Bullseye suddenly became an enthusiastic participant in the game. From obviously having regarded the whole affair as a ridiculous waste of time, he has suddenly decided that polo is fun. The Prince is very pleased with Bullseye, and that despite the fact that it was a fall with this pony that put his shoulder temporarily out of action in 1964. Bullseye slipped when travelling at speed, and his subsequent antics are described by his rider as akin to someone falling on ice – arms and legs splayed out in all directions, and skidding along on his stomach…


Like some human beings, there are animals that seem to have everything in their favour – looks, breeding, potential brilliance – yet never quite reach the heights because of their temperament. The bright chestnut thoroughbred mare, Lightning, is one of these… Prince Philip speaks of her with affectionate exasperation as ‘The idiot woman!’ She does her best to bite him before mounting, and though she is very fast and should be a remarkable polo pony, she gets into a ‘tizzy’ and works herself up until she behaves like a ‘raving lunatic!’ in the company of other ponies. Even her tail cannot be bound up to keep it out of the way in the approved style, because she tears around swishing it madly, banging herself until it comes undone, or she goads herself into a worse frenzy. Whether, unlike the leopard, Lightning will ever change her spots and calm down sufficiently to fulfill her promise is a matter for the future.

Max Charge QH

There is another pony that should, all being well, join Prince Philip’s string in a few years’ time and whose début will be of particular interest. This is Max Charge, a two-year-old bright chestnut quarter horse, at present in Ireland receiving her first schooling as a future polo pony. She was presented to Prince Philip at the Royal Windsor Show by members of the Canadian Cutting Horse Association, who were touring the British Shows during the summer of 1964…

“Max Charge, the young quarter horse presented to Prince Philip by members of the Canadian Cutting Horse Association”

She has the low head carriage, good shoulder and withers, short cannon bones, small feet, exceptionally powerful quarters and broad, ‘fork’ chest, that are typical of her breed. Like the majority of quarter horses she is also good tempered and intelligent, but is of the type that is seldom trained as a cutting horse, being a little less solid, and showing more of her thoroughbred blood. Had Max Charge not been destined for a royal polo pony, she would probably have been trained for taking part in the essentially American and Canadian competitions for reining or roping horses – for which the performance demanded is roughly equivalent to that of our top-class hacks…

No doubt when Max Charge does come to join Prince Philip’s Yard, the Prince of Wales will take as much interest in her progress as his father, wondering if, in the years to come, he may also possibly be able to play this quarter horse polo pony. [pp 38-45]

“Prince Philip plays polo whenever he can spare the time”

In 1969 Prince Philip spoke of the impacts on the financially strapped Royal Family: “I shall have to give up polo fairly soon.” His example of cost-cutting caused outrage, but I think anyone who has a horse understands what he’s talking about.

The Queen Rides author Judith Campbell wanted to write about the Queen’s family horses, so she wrote to her. From The Australian Women’s Weekly, Aug. 4, 1965: “‘Looking back, I realize it was rather a daring thing to do,’ says Judith, ‘but I didn’t know then the Queen never gives interviews.’ The Queen took some time to think things over. Then she wrote, ‘I think it would be a good idea.'”

Look online for copies or in used bookstores.

It’s a wonderful book for anyone interested in the royals or horses. Others of interest are The Duke of Edinburgh’s 30 Years On and Off the Box Seat about carriage driving, Lord Louis Mountbatten’s An Introduction to Polo (Amazon link below) published under the nom de plume Marco, and Ruth Oltmann’s Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies (Amazon link in sidebar) where I learned a bit about the Saloschins and more about a remarkable German aristocrat who settled in Alberta.

The Royal Family posted on Facebook that, in his funeral procession Saturday April 17th, “The Duke of Edinburgh’s two fell ponies – Balmoral Nevis and Notlaw Storm – will pull a carriage designed by The Duke of Edinburgh eight years ago.”

The Sussex Interview

Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan is on a par with the 1995 BBC interview with Lady Diana. It asked for compassion, and got it. And, like Diana’s, did it manipulate too? Oh yes.

So much in those two hours, but a couple of things niggled at me. Things that weren’t only in the murky realm of “they said”. Rather things that can held up and examined.

Romance or irresponsibility

Meghan said she did no research into Harry or the Royals before agreeing to marry him. No, she didn’t google her husband-to-be. And she said, as an American, she knew very little about the Royal Family.

However, as Oprah pointed out, when anyone marries, they are marrying the family as well as a person. In the case of a royalty, you’re also marrying a whole nation, a whole commonwealth maybe. I think it’s incumbent on you, in that case, to find out what you’re letting yourself in for. Or simply learn about the people and country you’re going to be a part of. As my husband said, if you were asked to give a speech to the Caterpillar Collectors of Peoria, you’d likely google them and Peoria just so you’d know a little bit before you got there.

If you don’t, at least in marriage, the person you’re marrying should point familial expectations and potential pitfalls to you. Especially, I’d think, when it’s a royal family with a national – and international – press hungry for any and all details about you.

Harry has had a few girlfriends leave him because they didn’t want to be part of the circus that comes with being a royal in Britain. Plus, as he made clear in this interview, he knows how horribly wrong it can go. So wouldn’t he make it crystal-clear to Meghan what she was letting herself in for?

A funny story Meghan told suggests that he didn’t even make it clear what it would be like being a family member. On the way to Andrew’s house, where the Queen was expected to drop in, he casually asked her if she knew how to curtsy. Five minutes away from arriving, Meghan laughed, no time to even google it. So some practice curtsies outside before she went in to meet the queen of the family, the Queen of the realm.

That gobsmacked me. Harry not realizing that there is absolutely no reason why Meghan would know how to curtsy. Unless she needed to know for a period piece she was acting it, it’s just not something regular people learn. So was he really still that wrapped up in his royal cocoon?


Meghan and Harry said that their security had been pulled when they lived in Canada. Oprah asked who provided the security. The UK, he said. Wait a minute, Harry. You might want to acknowledge Canada did too, through the RCMP. Our government was pretty tight-lipped about the amount because Canadian taxpayers on the whole weren’t very happy about it.

But we had no choice while you were working royals. You were then classified as IPPs – internationally protected persons. All countries agree to pay security costs for visiting IPPs. So while you were here, we paid. When you no longer were working royals, the security obligations ended. That’s how it works. It wasn’t personal.


The security discussion led Meghan to talk about Archie’s titles, or lack thereof, and again the unidentified “them”. Security being withdrawn from Harry and Meghan meant no security for the baby either. If he were a prince, she implied, he’d be entitled to security. Huh? Is he a working royal? He’s two.

Then she went into a confused and confusing explanation of why Archie doesn’t have a title and won’t in future, she says. The “George V or George VI convention” – her words. There’s probably several libraries in the palaces, and there’s a resident queen who knows a lot about this stuff. But, failing those, there’s Google.

I goggled it: Archie will become a prince, and HRH, when he is a grandchild of the reigning monarch. At present, he is a great-grandchild. It was the Queen’s grandfather, George V, who decided how many generations for what titles in his 1917 Letters Patent.

Queen Elizabeth changed some of those rules in 2012 before the birth of Prince George. She removed the male heir precedence and she deemed all children of direct heirs to the throne to be styled Prince or Princess. That would be the children of William, who is the heir after Charles. Harry and his children are not in that direct line. Charles may do his own Letters Patent and change things again when he is king.

As working royals, the Sussexes – and their children – were entitled to security paid for by the British government. But now, with their change in status, they’re not. Again, it’s not personal.


Towards the end of the interview, Harry and Meghan said what a great loss for the Commonwealth that their removal from official royaldom was. They were emblematic of it, and as Meghan said “see it, be it.” True, and quite possibly part of the Queen’s thinking when she appointed them President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

  • Here’s what I wrote when Harry and Meghan got married. Feels like a long time ago, but less than three years.

The Trump Goodbye

Every day there’s something on the television screen that you’ve never seen before. Something that you want to capture for your own historical record. The departure of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, has produced many. More than any other president in the history of the country, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Trump.

Jan. 9, 2021 CNN

Here are a few of the shots I grabbed my camera for. They are just from the past ten days. Only one more day, and he’s gone. But I think there will still be newsworthy, even historic, images on our tv screens for quite a while to come. He may be going, but I doubt he’ll quietly retreat.

Jan. 11, 2021 CNN

But I gave up predicting what Trump might do a long time ago. Soon into his term, I didn’t think he’d make the full four years. He’d quit – bored by all the work people expected him to do. Be impeached – for just about anything he was doing. He was impeached, but his fellow party members made sure it didn’t come to anything. The 25th Amendment. A military coup to take power away from a madman. I actually saw that as an option preferable to him remaining as president!

A Teflon Horseshoe

None of those things happened. He’s got a horseshoe – the luckiest horseshoe ever – firmly up there somewhere. The Teflon President, Ronald Reagan, has nothing on The Donald.

Trump has often been compared to Richard Nixon, the last president before him to be impeached for political chicanery. But Matt Tynhauer, director of The Reagans, compares Trump to Ronald Reagan. It is a compelling argument, in terms of the two men’s media styles, their responses to domestic crises. and the international political havoc they wrought. Also in their long-term effect in moving to Republican Party to the right, the evangelical, and the lunatics. Reagan gave voice to the Moral Majority, which led to the Tea Party, which led to – well, a siege of Capital Hill by Trump supporters.

Jan. 11, 2021 CNN

I will miss Donald Trump, though. Living in a Biden presidency, I think, will be like being back with Dad after a wild weekend with crazy Uncle Donny. You never knew from one minute to the next, with Trump, what would be headlined in the news. “He did what?” was a phrase often heard in our household. Sometimes whatever it was made us laugh ’til we cried. Other times, we just cried, or got really angry. Four years of watching a nation unravel.

and Melania

I will also miss the First Lady. Melania, we hardly got to know you! Her clothes spoke for her mainly. Fitting, I guess, for a model. But what messages they so often gave! Where were the handlers, the image managers?

Jan. 11, 2021 CNN

Sometimes, though, Melania herself speaks. Maybe best of all was her heal-the-nation statement following the attack on Congress. After expressing her disappointment that people had been mean to her, she wrote:

“It is inspiring to see that so many have found a passion and enthusiasm in participating in an election, but we must not allow that passion to turn to violence.”

I hope this sentence is put on a plaque and displayed prominently in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library. Right above a picture of QAnon Shaman sitting in the Vice-President’s Senate seat. Or the mob beating a guard with a flagpole, American flag still affixed. It’s like Participaction endorsing dine-and-dash: Eat healthy and get your exercise!

Jan. 13, 2021 CNN

And a park!

The Trump legacy will maybe best be found in a New York park. The Donald J. Trump State Park in Westchester and Putnam Counties. He donated the 486 acres to the state after being unable to turn it into a golf course. He got a substantial tax deduction for doing so. It hasn’t been developed as a park either. It is vacant land. There is, apparently, lots of road signage for it, but nothing there. That’s beautifully emblematic of Donald Trump. And it’s likely the only land that Donald Trump has ever protected. For both those reasons, I think the state of New York should leave it exactly as it is, both the land and its name.

Jan. 15, 2021 CNN

Goodbye, Trump family. We’ll never forget you. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

and also see…

  • From way back in the early Trumpian era, here’s my First Hundred Hours, when I couldn’t really imagine that it could get much worse.

General Jack and Warrior

Warrior was called “the horse the Germans couldn’t kill.” He was a war horse. The 15.2 hand Thoroughbred gelding was General Jack Seely’s charger. Gen. Seely was a British career soldier and MP. He was also the first commanding officer of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Warrior and Seely painting by Munnings Canadian War MuseumThe Brigade was comprised of three cavalry units and an artillery battery. They were:

• Royal Canadian Dragoons
• Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians)
• 2nd King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment)
• The Fort Garry Horse (replaced the British 2KEH in1916)
• Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

Lucky man, lucky horse

Seely himself was called “the luckiest man in the Army.” He and Warrior narrowly missed death many times over four years of battle. They both returned to their home in England.

Seely and Warrior arrived in France in August 1914. Warrior first saw shell fire the next month at Mons in September 1914. In December, Seely was made commander of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. He and Warrior were at the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915, where the dismounted Brigade fought as infantry. They were at the Somme on July 1st 1916. In 1917 they were at Passchendaele and then Cambrai. In March 1918 Warrior and Seely led one of the last cavalry charges in modern warfare. It was the Battle of Moreuil Wood. The renowned horse artist Sir Alfred Munnings painted the scene.


War is over

In April 1918 General Seely inhaled poisonous gas. So his war was over. But Warrior’s was not. He stayed until the end. General R. W. Patterson took over command of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, with Warrior as his mount. Finally, in December of 1918, Warrior returned to Seely’s home on the Isle of Wight.

Jack Seely continued his political career after the war. He did not forget, though, that many hundreds of thousands of British horses remained in Europe. He spoke to his friend and colleague Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill, a soldier who knew the value of these horses’ service, successfully repatriated about 60,000 of them.

Queen-Mary-with-Warrior-1934-warriorwarhorse.comGeneral Seely was made Baron Mottistone in 1933. Warrior was a respected celebrity. He attended remembrance events and greeted visiting dignitaries to the island, like Queen Mary. He won the 1922 Isle of Wight point-to-point, a race his sire had won 15 years earlier. Jack Seely wrote several memoirs, including My Horse Warrior. It was illustrated by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Gen Seely and Warrior warriorwarhorse.comSeely and Warrior lived at Mottistone Manor for the rest of their lives. Warrior died in 1941, at nearly 33. Lord Mottistone died age 77 in 1947.

Warrior was sired by Straybit, bred by Mr. E. Hobson. Straybit was by Burnaby out of Myrthe. Warrior’s dam was called Cinderella. Her registered name is not known, and so neither is her ancestry. Seely bought her in 1902 after watching her in military manoeuvres.
Warrior pedigree from Pedigree Query – tap to enlarge

Jack – or John Edward Bernard Seely – was the son of Sir Charles Seely, 1st Baronet, and Emily Evans. Sir Charles too was an MP and son of an MP. Jack had seven children with his first wife Emily Crichton, and a son and stepson with second wife Evelyn Murray Nicholson. Military and political service, the Isle of Wight and horses are found throughout the careers of his descendants.

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Brough Scott, son of Seely’s daughter Irene, is a horse racing journalist and former jockey. He wrote a biography of his grandfather entitled Galloper Jack and reissued My Horse Warrior. In honour of the centenary of World War I, Warrior was awarded the Dickin Medal for animal bravery in 2014. On his website Warrior, Scott writes:

“His greatness was also in the simple, uplifting, heroism of having faced danger without flinching and never having let fear take the reins. That same heroism was shown by the hundreds of thousands of horses and mules that were not blessed with Warrior’s outrageous slice of fortune for survival.”