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Spectator letters: The country that didn’t want its treasure back

Plus: Dr Welby; Heathrow’s advertising message; Chinese money laundering; Tory leaders; Pierre Boulez; EU

23 April 2016

9:00 AM

23 April 2016

9:00 AM

Safe keeping?

Sir: James Delingpole will be relieved to hear that not everyone follows the fashion for demanding repatriation of historical treasures (‘Give thanks for the tomb raiders’, 9 April). When presenting my ambassadorial letters of credence to the President of Haiti, René Preval, in 2010, I mentioned in passing that a rare (possibly unique) copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence had recently been discovered in our National Archives at Kew. At this point Preval’s foreign minister leaned forward and suggested that Her Majesty’s Government might wish to repatriate the document. Preval laughed at the suggestion. ‘No no, ambassador,’ he said with rueful acknowledgement of Haiti’s troubled past and precarious present; ‘It’s better that you look after it for us.’
Steven Fisher
HM Ambassador to Haiti (2009–2015)

Dr Welby is correct

Sir: Charles Moore refers to the Archbishop of Canterbury as plain ‘Mr Welby’ (Notes, 16 April), and insists ‘it is correct’ because ‘he was an oil executive and not a theologian’. This is a little like saying that Mrs Hughes of Downton Abbey ought to have been called ‘Miss’, because until she conjoined with Mr Carson she was an unmarried housekeeper. What is ‘correct’ in social forms of address is not always courteous in occupational etiquette.

Since Lambeth doctorates are no longer awarded honoris causa to diocesan bishops, there is no absolute Crockford’s protocol on the form of address for an archbishop without a DD. But Justin Welby would not need a particular doctorate in theology (or, indeed, to be a theologian) to be styled ‘Dr’. In fact, the Archbishop holds two doctorates (honorary; Coventry and Durham). If the current Bishop of London may correctly be styled ‘Dr Chartres’ (including in this magazine) by virtue of his honorary degrees; and if Samuel Johnson’s doctorates (honorary; Trinity College, Dublin and Oxford) are universally recognised out of respect for a distinguished man of letters, then courtesy and consistency demand that Dr Moore (honorary; Buckingham) recognise Dr Welby.
Dr Adrian Hilton
Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire

Pilot project


Sir: Last week (16 April) both The Spectator and Private Eye carried a full-page advertisement for Heathrow Airport extolling its third runway proposal. It consisted of a cartoon front view of an aeroplane, with Cameron wearing captain’s epaulettes, sitting in the right-hand pilot’s seat, while Osborne, with first officer’s epaulettes, sits in the left-hand seat. As any fule kno, the captain normally sits in the left-hand seat on an aeroplane.

A captain does, however, sit in the right-hand seat when, as a training captain, he is teaching his co-pilot to be a commander. Maybe the Heathrow advertising copy-writers got it right after all?
Ian Frow
Outwood, Surrey

Chinese laundering

Sir: I fear that Rod Liddle gives the Swiss too much credit in suggesting that they invented money laundering (‘Whoever invented referendums needs a kicking’, 9 April). Money laundering on a large scale was first practised by wealthy Chinese merchants in the 3rd century bc, when punitive taxes prompted them to hide their wealth, often by investing it in remote provinces or inflating invoices in order to move it overseas. The Swiss are adept at money laundering, yes, but its inventors? No. As with so many things, we Westerners often forget that the Chinese got there first.
Susan Grossey
Cambridge

Leaders who quit

Sir: David Cameron’s ‘historian friend’ who has been asked to establish how many Tory leaders have quit entirely of their own volition will not have a time-consuming task (Politics, 16 April). There are just three. In May 1834 the Duke of Wellington, then leader in opposition, passed the baton amicably to Sir Robert Peel, convinced that the next Tory premier should be in the Commons. The great Lord Salisbury departed serenely in July 1902 at the age of 72, determined to avoid the mistake made by some of his predecessors who, in his words, stayed after ‘their intellects had evaporated’. The third is the well-known case of Stanley Baldwin in May 1937. He said, ‘I go of my own choice, in my own time, and on the top of my form.’ Will David Cameron be able to say the same when he departs?
Alistair Lexden
Official Conservative party historian
House of Lords, London SW1

Irrelevant speculation

Sir: Peter Phillips’s characteristically negative piece about three prominent composers (two of whom are my friends) had to drag in the sexuality of these two (Arts, 9 April). Peter Maxwell Davies, of course, made no secret of his. As to Pierre Boulez, I wonder where Mr Phillips’s evidence came from. His sister Jeanne once told me ‘Il est celibataire’, and at least one of his early works implies passionate interest in a woman. But the issue is in any case gratuitous. Mr Phillips, an admirable choral conductor, has a platform in The Spectator, which he should not misuse for speculation about composers whose music he doesn’t like.
Robert Ponsonby
London NW2

Guaranteed entry

Sir: The government’s EU leaflet states: ‘We have control of our own borders, giving us the right to check everyone, including EU nationals…’ But a valid EU passport provides guaranteed entry to the UK. Would a theatre or football stadium consider it had satisfactory ‘control’ over entry if there were some 500 million valid tickets in circulation?
Peter Richardson
Amersham, Buckinghamshire


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