I happened to stumble upon the Order of Malta church in Vienna while meandering down the Kärntner Straße in the middle of a snowy day. It’s a small and relatively simple church consisting of a Gothic nave with an organ gallery. The Order has occupied the site since 1217, though the bulk of the current church dates from the fifteenth century. In 1806, Commander Fra’ Franz von Colloredo had the façade remodelled in the Empire style fashionable at the time. The altarpiece, a painting by Johann Georg Schmidt depicting the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, is from a few decades earlier in 1730, and there is a splendid Neoclassical monument to Jean de la Valette including telamonic Saracens. The church is also decorated with forty coats of arms: five of grand priors, one cardinal, a grand commander, twenty-nine commanders, and one bailiff.
IF, LIKE ME, YOUR Venn diagram shows a massive overlap for the circles representing politics, history, aesthetics, and design, then the Irish Election Literature website is a dangerous place where you can waste many minutes of your day. Not long ago, I stumbled across their collection of electoral bits related to Valerie, the Hon. Lady Goulding — at least I think that’s the proper style, these realms are arcane and murky. She was most often, but incorrectly referred to as Lady Valerie Goulding, the fate of many wives of baronets I’m afraid.
She was born Valerie Hamilton Monckton in 1918 at Ightham Mote (pronounced “item moat”, obv.), the house noted for its Grade I listed dog kennel. Her father, Sir Walter Monckton (later 1st Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) was a trusted friend of Edward VIII, and the teenage Valerie was employed as a messenger shuttling letters between the King’s refuge at Fort Belvedere and Stanley Baldwin in Downing Street. Visiting Fort Belvedere in 1993, Lady Goulding recalled the last lunch she had attended there in December 1936:
She [Mrs Simpson] was leaving that afternoon for Cannes, and everyone was talking about nothing so as to avoid what was on everyone’s mind. But one really nice thing happened: there were four bottles of beer next to my place. The King had remembered that when we were rounding up the ponies on Dartmoor the previous year I had a beer in the pub, and that he had remarked that I was very young to be drinking. It was very touching.
In 1939 she attended the Fairyhouse races and met Sir Basil Goulding at a dinner party. Goulding had significant business interests in Ireland and became known for once entering a bank board meeting on rollerskates. On her second visit to Ireland, they became engaged, and married quickly as the threat of war loomed on the horizon. Sir Basil served in the RAF, rising to the rank of Wing Commander, while Lady Goulding opted for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry before switching to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. After the war, the Gouldings moved to Dargle Cottage in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. (more…)
Yesterday, I was very saddened to hear of Fra Freddy’s death. Fra Freddy was a legendary character whom I was introduced to in my first year at St Andrews. He was invited to speak to the Catholic students most years on some subject or another — an introduction to prayer or a lenten meditation. I was quite pleased when he was so taken with a poster I designed to advertise one of his talks that on his way back to Edinburgh he nipped out of the car at the last minute and grabbed a large copy. Fra Freddy was an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud with a good sense of humour, but he also had the capability to surprise with a kind word when you least expected it.
Fra Fredrik John Patrick Crichton-Stuart was born September 6, 1940 to Lord Rhidian Crichton-Stuart (son of the 4th Marquess of Bute) and his wife Selina van Wijk (daughter of the Ambassador of the Queen of the Netherlands to the French Republic). He was raised in Scotland and North Africa (where his father was British Delegate to the International Legislative Assembly of Tangier) and was educated first at Carlekemp in North Berwick and then at Ampleforth. He joined the Order of Malta in 1962, later being named the Delegate for Scotland & the Northern Marches. In 1993 he was appointed Chancellor of the resurrected Grand Priory of England. Fra Freddy became Grand Prior himself when his cousin, Fra Andrew Bertie, died in 2008 and was succeeded by the then-Grand Prior of England, Fra Matthew Festing.
Fra Freddy was a devoted follower and promoter of the traditional form of the Roman rite. He joined Una Voce Scotland in 1996 and became secretary in 2000. Two years later he was named councillor and senior vice-president of FIUV, the International Federation ‘Una Voce’, and briefly served as its president in 2005.
Over the past year or so Fra Freddy had been varying ill but seemed to recover. I am told he was found dead yesterday morning, still clasping his breviary. He was well-known in Edinburgh and beyond, and he will be missed by his many friends as well as those who worked and volunteered with him or interacted with him in his charitable activities.
6 September 1940 – 14 June 2011
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
Various sources have brought to light the new film “Lourdes” by the Austrian director Jessica Hausner. The film depicts the pilgrimage to Lourdes of a non-particularly religious woman (played by Sylvie Testud) suffering from Mutiple Sclerosis who is healed of her illness. The film by a non-believing director has met with both praise and suspicion from Catholic quarters, and has been compared, at least stylistically, to the work of Michael Haneke (whose latest, “The White Ribbon” is currently showing in New York). Latest to weigh in is the Catholic Herald‘s indispensable Anna Arco, who writes:
I saw it as an exercise in theodicy where God loses. In a quiet dispassionate way, Jessica Hausner, the film’s Austrian director, paints a bleak picture of a world where fate is a blind, arbitrary force and human beings clutch at the straws of faith, half-truths in their cowardly despair. The suffering are not healed, human nature is selfish and the problem of pain is not solved. God can’t exist because he isn’t fair. Christianity offers a web of half-truths obscuring a nihilistic reality.
Miss Arco recently spoke with the director, and the interview will be published in the next Catholic Herald. (more…)
The Order of Malta recently paired up with Scotland’s own Adelphi Distillery to produce two variants of Scotch, proceeds from the sale of which support the Order’s worldwide charitable efforts. Adelphi produced a single malt called ‘The Grand Master’ and a blend named ‘Torphichen’, after Torphicen Preceptory, the headquarters of the Order in Scotland until the Reformation. The last Preceptor of the Order in Scotland lamentably converted to Calvinism, surrendered the Order’s lands to the Crown (which were then re-granted to him specifically), and received the title Lord Torphichen (pronounced Tor-fikken). Unlike most peerages, that of Lord Torphichen can be inherited by any assigned heir. In practice, it has descended through the Chiefs of Clan Sandilands, but in principle the holder could decide to designate any old Tom, Dick, or Harry as the next Lord Torphichen. (more…)
During Fra’ Andrew Bertie’s reign as Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ, the “of Malta” at the end of “the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta” was not a mere historical anachronism. The Prince & Grand Master had a house in Malta where he attended to his cultivation of oranges (the old Grand Master’s Palace in Valetta is now the Presidential Palace of the Maltese Republic). “A friend of Malta,” a recent statement from the Maltese knights of the Order states of Fra’ Andrew Bertie, “his love for Malta and the Maltese peoples’ affection for him originated the inspiration to this wonderful project, to erect a befitting marble lapidary in his memory.” This summer Fra’ Matthew Festing, successor to Fra’ Andrew as head of the Order of Malta, travelled to the Mediterranean island to unveil the Bertie Monument at Casa Lanfreducci, the Order’s Maltese seat. (more…)
A correspondent of this site sends these images of the Order of Malta in Peru. The Order of Malta has a long history in Peru: Manuel de Guirior, 1st Marqués de Guiror and a knight of the Order (right, baptised José Manuel de Guirior Portal de Huarte Herdozain y González de Sepúlveda) was Viceroy of Peru from 1776 to 1780, having previously served the King of Spain as Viceroy of New Granada.
More recently, in 2008, this investiture (above) was presided over by Fernando de Trazegnies, Marquis of Torrebermeja, the former Dean of Law at the Catholic University of Peru and now head of the Peruvian Association of the Order. The investiture took place in the eighteenth-century Church of the Magdalena, and the Mass was offered by the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani.
His Most Eminent Highness, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Prince & Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta made a four-day visit to Hungary last month, from 8-11 of February. The Grand Master was invited to Hungary by the President of the Republic, Mr. László Sólyom, who met with Fra’ Matthew at the Sándor Palace in Budapest. The President and the Grand Master discussed the various collaborative efforts between Hungary and the Order of Malta in health and social fields and discussed the possibility of further developing those projects.
This is my favourite photo of Ludovico Chigi della Rovere Albani (Prince & Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, 8th Prince of Farnese and Campagnano, 4th Prince of Soriano, 8th Duke of Ariccia and of Formello, Marquess of Magliana Pecorareci, Hereditary Marshall of the Holy Roman Church and Guardian of the Conclave) who oversaw the rebuilding of Monte Cassino. Here, he distributes prizes to medical students at the International Missionary School of Medicine and Surgery.
This past November His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Prince & Grand Master of the Order of Malta, led the order’s annual pilgrimage of Italian youth to the Marian shrine of Loreto, which last year had been led by his predecessor the late Fra’ Andrew Bertie.
It was with great sadness that I learned this morning of the death of David Lumsden. He was an exceptionally genial and affable man, and was relied on to provide good company at many events, from balls to Sunday lunches and everything in between. But David was generous not only with his good company but with his patronage, as is attested to by the countless organizations he helped and guided. Here was a man who was generous of spirit. David’s death came very suddenly yesterday afternoon in his hotel room at the annual conference of the 1745 Association, of which he was president. Just last Sunday he had attended the traditional Mass at St. Andrew’s, Ravelston in Edinburgh, where a friend described him as “looking as hale and hearty as ever”.
David Gordon Allen d’Aldecamb Lumsden of Cushnie, sometime Baron of Cushnie-Lumsden, was born on 25 May in 1933 in Quetta, Baluchistan in the Empire of India. He was the son of Henry Gordon Strange Lumsden, a Major in the Royal Scots, of Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire and Sydney Mary, only child of Brigadier-General Charles Allen Elliot.
He was educated at Allhallows, Devon, Bedford School, and at Jesus College, Cambridge before serving in the Territorial Army with the London Scottish while working at British American Tobacco. He was a Knight of the Order of Malta, as well as of the Constantinian Order, and was Patron of the Aboyne Highland Games. David enthusiastically served as Garioch Pursuivant to the Chief of the Name and Arms of Mar (presently Margaret of Mar, the 30th Countess of Mar), one of the four surviving private officers of arms in Scotland recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon.
Lumsden with friends, at the Aboyne Highland Games.
David co-founded the Castles of Scotland Preservation Trust and the Scottish Historic Organs Trust and was President of the Scottish Military History Society. In addition to his Magister Artium from Cambridge, he was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was on the council of The Admiral the Viscount Keppel Association and was one of the patrons of the famous Russian Summer Ball in London. He was Convenor of the Monarchist League of Scotland and was on the council of the Royal Stuart Society.
In the realm of sport, he was a keen shot and had rowed at Cambridge, in addition to his interest in sailing and riding.
Left: Representing the Royal Stuart Society at the Henry IX commemoration at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Right: In his capacity as Garioch Pursuivant of Arms, at the XXVIIth International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in 2006.
David had a passion for architecture, and especially that of his native Scotland. Returning in 1970 after a spell in Africa, he undertook the restoration of two family properties: Cushnie House, built in 1688 by Alexander Lumsden and Tillycairn Castle, built in 1540 by Matthew Lumsden. He later went on to restore Leithen Lodge at Innerleithen, an 1880s shooting lodge built in a distinctly Scottish take on the Arts & Crafts tradition. Under the auspices of the Castles of Scotland Preservation Trust, in 1994 he oversaw the restoration of Liberton Tower just south of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.
“David was a unique man possessed of an insatiable love of life and learning,” his friend Rafe Heydel-Mankoo said. “He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by those fortunate enough to have met him.”
“David was at the centre of so many things, and brought together so many different people,” said Lorna Angus, the wife of Robin Angus. “He could bring life to any gathering and he made so many good things possible.”
Robin Angus, meanwhile, said that David Lumsden “personified a world of precious things — things which are imperilled, but which never seemed imperilled when he was there.”
“David no longer visibly with us is unimaginable,” Robin continued. “What his friends must now do is keep the flame, and — as he did — pass it on to others with the same generous wisdom. He was the soul of old Scotland. I hope that, in Heaven, Raeburn will make amends for what the centuries did not allow, and paint his portrait.”
While I wholeheartedly agree with Robin, it must be said that those who were blessed to know David are left with a portrait of him in our hearts and minds far greater than even the brush of Raeburn could achieve.
David Gordon Allen d’Aldecamb Lumsden
“… hold fast to that which is good.”
— 1.Thess 5:21
Requiem aeternum dona eis Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescat in pace.
Philipp Freiherr (Baron) von Boeselager, the last surviving member of the conspiracy of anti-Nazi German officers, has died at 90 years of age. The freiherr‘s background and upbringing were distinctly Catholic. The Boeselagers are a Rhenish family with Saxon origins in Magdeburg. Philipp was the fourth of eight children and was educated by the Jesuits at Bad Godesborg. His grandfather had been officially censured by the Imperial German goverment for publically taking part in a Catholic religious procession.
Boeselager had most intimately been involved in the March 1943 plot to assasinate Hitler and Himmler when the the Fuhrer and the SS head were visiting Field Marshal Günther von Kluge on the Eastern Front. Boeselager, then a 25-year-old cavalry lieutenant under the Field Marshal’s command, was to shoot both Hitler and Himmler in the officers mess with a Walther PP. Himmler, however, neglected to accompany Hitler and so the Field Marshal ordered Boeselager to abort the attempt fearing that Himmler would take over in the event of Hitler’s death, changing nothing.
«It was clear that these orders came from the top: I realised I lived in a criminal state. It was horrible. We wanted to end the war and free the concentration camps.»
Boeselager later procured the explosives for the famous July 1944 plot (the subject of the upcoming film “Valkyrie“), under the cover of being part of an explosives research team. He handed a suitcase with the explosives on to another conspirator. When the bomb exploded in Hitler’s conference room, Boeselager and his 1,000-man cavalry unit made an astonishing 120-mile retreat in under 36 hours to reach an airfield in western Russia from where the aristocrat would fly to Berlin to join the other conspirators.
At the airfield, however, he received a message from his brother (Georg von Boeselager, a fellow cavalry officer who was repeatedly awarded for his consistent bravery on the battlefield) saying “All back into the old holes”, the code signifying the failure of the coup. Even more astonishingly than his swift retreat was his return, with his unit, to the front quickly enough not to raise any eyebrows. As a result, he was not known to be part of the conspiracy and escaped the gruesome tortures and executions dealt to many of his fellow conspirators.
After the war, his role in the plot was revealed and Philipp von Boeselager was awarded the Legion d’honneur by France and the Great Cross of Merit by West Germany. He joined the Order of Malta in 1946, eventually co-founding Malteser Hilfdienst, the medical operation of the German knights of the Order, and helping coordinate German pilgrimages to Lourdes.
The greater part of his post-war years was spent in forestry, and Boeselager served as head of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Waldbesitzerverbände (the coordinating body of private and cooperative forest-owners) from 1968 to 1988. Coincidentally, he was succeeded in that post by Franz Ludwig Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, the son of the July ’44 plot mastermind.
FRA’ MATTHEW FESTING, the Grand Prior of England, was today elected Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta. The new grand master was chosen in a secret ballot by the Complete Council of State. After receiving the approval of the Pope, His Most Eminent Highness swore the Oath before the council and the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi. Fifty-eight years old, Fra’ Matthew was, up to this point, an art expert for the auction house Sotheby’s. The Prince is the son of Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing who, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was the effective head of the British Army. Sir Francis converted to Catholicism and married a member of the Riddells of Swinburne Castle, a prominent recusant family. Through his mother, Fra’ Matthew is descended from the Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, an English Knight of Malta who was martyred for the Faith in 1539. The grand master’s brother Andrew Festing, RP is a noted portraitist.
As a child, Fra’ Matthew lived in Egypt and Singapore where his father held army postings, and was educated at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire and St. John’s College, Cambridge. Passing out from Sandhurst, he was commissioned an officer in the Grenadier Guards, Britain’s most senior infantry regiment. (The Coldstream Guards are actually older, but their seniority was reduced for backing Cromwell in the Civil War). Currently holding the rank of Colonel in the Territorial Army, Fra’ Matthew served the Queen as Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland for many years, and was appointed OBE.
“The new Grand Master affirms his resolve to continue the great work carried out by his predecessor,” an official statement from the Order of Malta said, noting Fra’ Matthew’s “wide range of experience in Order affairs”. Having joined the Order of Malta in 1977, Fra’ Matthew took solemn vows in 1991 and was appointed Grand Prior of England in 1993, when the Grand Priory was resurrected after 450 years in abeyance. In that post he led humanitarian missions to Kosovo, central Serbia, and Croatia, and has attended the annual British pilgrimage to Lourdes with the handicapped and the disabled. “As well as his passion for the decorative arts,” the official announcement continued, “and for history, for which his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Order is legendary, as is his very British sense of humour, Fra’ Matthew spends any free time possible in his beloved Northumberland countryside.”
This election is a most welcome one, and I would go so far as to say the councillors have chosen very wisely. It is an immense honour for we English-speaking Catholics that yet another Grand Master has been chosen from our ranks. But of course Fra’ Matthew was not chosen for being an Anglophone but rather for being Matthew Festing. Like Pope Benedict, he is a friend of the old rite of the Mass, and he was among the many prominent British Catholics (whose number included James MacMillan, Michael Ancram, Damian Thompson, Jamie Bogle, and others) who signed the ‘Appeal from the British Isles’ to Pope Benedict imploring a liberalization of the restrictions on the Tridentine rite (duly granted by the Holy Father in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 2007).
While certainly an ardent respecter of tradition, Fra’ Matthew is by no means a stuffy man but rather, as the Order’s official statement noted, is known for his sense of humour. On the only occasion on which I met Fra’ Matthew, I introduced him to Mrs. Burke (then Fraulein Hesser). Upon discovering that Abby hailed from the great state of California, Fra’ Matthew regaled us with his memories of driving from Denver all the way to the Pacific coast of California. Upon reaching the great ocean (the Grand Prior very enthusiastically informed us), he took off his shoes, rolled up his trousers and went straight in!
The Order of Malta has been remarkable in that it has had no qualms about modernization while at the same time unabashedly keeping to its ancient traditions. In this, it is a shining beacon in a world which too often and too easily disregards the time-tested ways of our ancestors. The very prompt election of Fra’ Matthew shows that the Order is of a firm mind and on a sound footing. We have no doubt that Fra’ Matthew will continue the great centuries-long tradition of the Order of Malta: to defend the Faith, to serve the Poor.
Prince and Grand Master
of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John
of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ
Category: Order of Malta
MAGISTRAL PALACE, ROME, 8-FEB-2008 — The death is announced of His Most Eminent Highness the 78th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, Fra’ Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie, in Rome on 7 February 2008. The Grand Commander of the Order of Malta, Baillif Frà Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, has been sworn in as Lieutenant ad interim of the Order, and remains acting head of the Sovereign Order until a new Grand Master is elected.
Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was the first Englishman to be elected to the post of Grand Master in the Order’s 900-year history. Born 15 May 1929, he was educated at Ampleforth College, Christ Church Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. After military service in the Scots Guards, he worked as a financial journalist in the City of London, before taking up the senior post in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at Worth School, Sussex. Admitted to the Order in 1956, he took solemn religious vows in 1981 and served on the Sovereign Council (the government of the Order) for the following seven years before being elected Grand Master on 8th April 1988.
The Prince & Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Andrew Bertie, meets with young pilgrims during the Order’s annual pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Loreto in the Italian Marches.
Category: The Order of Malta
I received the following via e-mail this morning:
The Peruvian Association of the Order of Malta has already started its relief activities with teams of doctors and paramedics on the ground tending to victims of the earthquake. The Association is preparing to bring relief goods into the disaster area and is working with local parishes to distribute them in the most effective way. The longer-term challenge will be to rehabilitate those affected.
The greatest need now is for medical supplies, foodstuffs and the wherewithal to start rehabilitation. Much of this is best bought locally. The Order worldwide is now launching an appeal to help our Peruvian Association by sending money that will enable them to continue the work that it has already started. The British Association is determined to contribute to this effort; and we are therefore writing to ask you for your help.
Please consider donating to this very urgent and worthwhile cause. Your money will go directly to help those who have lost everything in this earthquake: as an organization of volunteers, the Order incurs only minimal overheads.
You can donate online through our website, where you can stay up-to-date on the progress we are making, or by sending a cheque made payable to BASMOM Foreign Aid Service. If you are a UK taxpayer and complete the GiftAid form below, we can also reclaim the tax on your donation.
We thank you for any donation you can make.
ROME, 21 MAY 2007 (From the Order of Malta) — The Grand Master’s meeting in Warsaw with the President of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczynski and the joint signature with the Health Minister of a framework cooperation agreement were two of the most significant moments of the state visit of His Most Eminent Highness Fra’ Andrew Bertie to Poland.
Received at the presidential palace with military honours, after the exchange of decorations, the Grand Master and the President of the Republic, flanked by their respective delegations and by ambassadors Vincenzo Manno and Hanna Suchocka, enjoyed a long and cordial conversation. A tangible sign of solid bilateral relations is the signature of the cooperation agreement for medical and hospital assistance. The order’s Grand Hospitaller and the Polish Health Minister signed a document that will help to improve the assistance given by the Order of Malta’s Polish Association, and in particular to the poorest and most needy. There will also be increasing support for terminal patients and the disabled through the numerous Order of Malta centres active in Poland, as well as cooperation for the development of emergency and first-aid medicine.
THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY returns, and so too the Knights of Malta Ball with its requisite sojourn to Edinburgh. If I have a confession to make, it is that I am a creature of habit, and having gone the past three years, I didn’t see why the intervening distance of the Atlantic Ocean should make any particular difference this year. If I may make another confession, it is that I am incapable at organizing things competently, and of course left sorting out tickets to the last week. “Impossible,” quoth Zygmunt Sikorski-Mazur when I contacted him. “Too late I’m afraid, and there is even a waiting list of people who’ve paid up just in case tickets become available”. Well, I had accomodated myself to the concept of heading up to St Andrews and having a grand night out instead, but luckily Christian de Lisle came to the rescue. “Perchance,” saith the youthful Old Harrovian, “I have a spare ticket and you can have it if you wish”. Well, that settled it.
Carried off by taxicab to the Assembly Rooms in George Street from the similarly-monikered Assembly bar in Bristo Square, it was something of a disappointment to find the fine Georgian building veiled in scaffolding and lacking the usual looming Scottish standards of the Order (smaller version seen here) and the flanking flags hanging, floodlit, from the splendid façade. Nonetheless, the Assembly Rooms have been in need a fixing-up for some time now, so it’s a relief to know that the City of Edinburgh have finally coughed up the dough. Interior restorations are to follow in the coming years, but then where will the Ball during such a restoration? Ed Monckton suggested the Castle as an acceptable substitute, and I’m inclined to agree.
It was quite the enjoyable ball, as per usual. His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh was affable as ever. (Last year, a photo of His Eminence, Lt. Col. Bogle, Abigail, and myself at this very event made it onto the social page of Scottish Field. I hope that is as far as my life in the limelight goes!). I ran into Fra’ Freddie (Crichton-Stuart) and he exclaimed “What are you doing here!”, though he subsequently admitted that his “little spies” had, actually, informed him I would be popping over from New York. Ed Monckton shared an amusing tale of his late grandfather and the Duke of Wellington commandeering a tank to gain entry to a public house and disengaging street lamps by means of firearms. California’s own Chevalier Charles Coulombe, of course, talked to everyone, even the bouncers, who had a decidedly mafioso look to them this year. I, forgetfully, neglected to pick up a pack of Dunhills beforehand, but Gary Dench and I ran into Albert and he kindly offered his brand: an excellent, unfilitered variety of (naturally) German origin.
One of the unintended consequences of the Scottish smoking ban is an increase in socialization: a greater appreciation of the brotherly bonds of nicotine intake. Now that we of the smoking habit are forced to congregate outside entrances you have an instant bond of solidarity with complete strangers. I met an Austrian fellow named Camilo, an Edinburgh University student, and we agreed on the excellence of the Scottish system of higher education. (If one could dignify it with that term; perhaps ‘style’ is a better word than ‘system’). As it turned out, he had also spent some time in dear old Argentina, and so we swapped stories of the people and their particular ingenuity.
Later, Zygmunt introduced me to his son Nicholas, a very intelligent fellow who sounds terribly Scottish because he was educated in France rather than England with all the other Scots. (Alright, some Scots are educated in Scotland. There are Gordonstoun, Fettes, Glenalmond, and elsewhere needless to say). There were also two young Cypriot ladies, sisters if I recall correctly, who were very charming and whom we managed to drag onto the dance floor for a reel (and one of whom even managed to drag me onto the dance floor later in the evening). Typically, their names have been filed away in some deep but, alas, inaccessible fold of my brain. At any rate, we all agreed that the Turks ought to be given the boot. (Seems to be a recurring theme in European history, eh?).
Jamie Bogle was extremely late in arriving, and it turned out there was a story behind it. The trains from London were a typical shambles and there was every type of delay imaginable. Having used his mobile to make a phone call, the good Lieutenant Colonel was approached by another fellow asking if he could make a call. Jamie happened to overheard the fellow discussing “chambers” and so inquired if he (like Jamie) was a lawyer. The chap applied in the affirmative. Later in discussion, they discovered they were both actually heading to Edinburgh, and furthermore, as it turns out, to the Knights of Malta Ball! They realized they would both be terribly late, and so resigned themselves to the bar car, where they drank the train dry of champagne. The fellow’s name is Christopher Boyle, and he and his wife made for some excellent conversation, along with Amanda Crichton-Stuart, whom I singularly failed when sent to procure cigarettes for, as the few newsagents along George Street had shut by that time in the evening. I did, however, introduce her to Albert, who offered one of his cigarettes, and happily they seemed to get on well. Unhappily, the Sunday following, Albert’s Jack Russell terrier (who goes by the name of Cicio) took serious umbrage with my throwing a stick around with a female German shepherd Cicio clearly had eyes on. He ran up to me and bit me in the leg! Albert was very apologetic, and with a rolled-up newspaper and a “kommen zie here!” forced Cicio to likewise apologize. You know, as he lay prostrate before me with a teary look in his eye, I actually felt pity for the blighted creature which, only moments before, had planted its jaws on my right calf! Well, these things do happen.
On a more positive note, I actually won two prizes in the tombola raffle! A china mug bedecked with the insignia of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta and a placemat with an unrecognizable coat of arms emblazoned upon it. I shall have to get my heraldic detectives to work investigating the bearer of the arms; needless to say I will be quite prepared should he come for dinner.
EVENTUALLY, THE BELLS tolled and the staff encouraged us to exeunt the Assembly Rooms and we duly complied. There was then some prolonged pondering about after-parties. Zygmunt, Nicholas, and myself made a foray into the hopping Opal Lounge across the street, but I found it not to my particular liking (too loud! too crowded!) and thus decided to retire to bed. All in all a much-enjoyed evening. I congratulated Henry Lorimer on the night for having pulled it all off. “You have no idea how glad I’ll be when tomorrow comes!” was his response. Well, all the organizers deserve our thanks and appreciation. I have been to the ball four years in a row now and each time it has been excellent, though, because of the variety of parties I’ve gone with, excellent in very different ways. I wonder if I will attend next year? I hope so, as the more excuses to go to Edinburgh I have, the happier I shall be.