English civil law has become a luxury good beyond the reach of most of us

In March 2020, Charlotte Leslie, a former Conservative MP, and widely regarded as a thoughtful, friendly woman, had her life turned upside down. The threat of professional and financial ruin hit her, and stayed with her until a few months ago, solely because she had offended a wealthy man. Leslie was the director of the Conservative Middle East Council. Mohamed Amersi, a businessman worth hundreds of millions of pounds, appeared from nowhere and announced that he wanted to become the council’s chairman. Leslie politely showed him the door. The next thing she knew, Amersi had set up a rival Middle East organisation to liaise between the Conservative party and the

The Duke of Windsor had much to be thankful for

Once a King is trumpeted as ‘game-changing’, a ‘trove of never-before-seen papers which shed fresh light on the maligned Duke of Windsor’ and will ‘turn on its head long-accepted stereotypes’ about him. These are bold claims, but do they stack up? ‘The lost memoir of Edward Vlll’ actually consists of an early draft of the Duke of Windsor’s self-serving memoir, A King’s Story (1951), which Jane Marguerite Tippett found in the papers of the former king’s ghostwriter Charles Murphy in the Boston University archives. Far from being lost, the papers have been known to historians for 20 years and largely ignored in favour of more important collections elsewhere, not least

BBC radio has excelled itself over the past week

Listening to BBC Radios 3 and 4 over the past week has been like meeting an old friend who, after decades of squeezing into age-inappropriate designer clothes, has suddenly reverted to a sensible wardrobe. It’s a pity that it took the death of our beloved Queen for this to happen, but I’ve been enjoying it while it lasts – because, like the miracle drug that Robin Williams gives his dementia patients in the film Awakenings, this dose of sanity will quickly wear off. Radio 4’s long-prepared tributes to Elizabeth II were, by the BBC’s standards, remarkably impartial. Even Saturday’s Today programme rose to the occasion. The Catholic journalist Catherine Pepinster’s

The political cunning of Elizabeth II: BBC1’s The Longest Reign – The Queen and Her People reviewed

In all the tributes to Her late Majesty’s constancy, dignity, wisdom and devotion to duty, not enough has been said about her political cunning. But BBC1’s The Longest Reign: The Queen and Her People made a compelling case that Elizabeth II knew just how to tilt the balance. When she toured the new towns of the 1950s (see image), waving at the crowds with their little Union Flags and taking tea with the young families on the just-built housing estates, she was giving her wordless blessing to the welfare state. When she wanted to bolster the No side in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, her intervention – commenting to a

The art of the monarchy

Elizabeth II spent virtually all her life surrounded by one of the world’s greatest art collections. Even when she was a child, and the likelihood of her inheriting the throne still seemed remote, visits to her grandparents at Buckingham Palace involved looking at pictures, since George V enjoyed showing her the Victorian narrative paintings that hung there, such as William Powell Frith’s ‘Ramsgate Sands’. Nobody knows exactly how many works of art there are in the Royal Collection, but at the end of Elizabeth II’s reign nearly 300,000 objects had been catalogued online, probably just under a third of the whole. Among the many masterpieces are Andrea Mantegna’s monumental sequence

Why I love Her Majesty

I’ve often wondered whether Her Majesty the Queen glances through The Spectator from time to time. And if she does, I wonder whether her kindly eye lights on this column. And if it does, I wonder what she thinks of what she reads there. ‘Philip, there’s a man here writing about going to the Cheltenham Festival and messing his pents.’ ‘Very easily done at Cheltenham, my dear. I’ve often wondered why nobody has written about it before.’ Or, ‘Philip here’s that man again, the one who messed his pents at Cheltenham, assisting the ferret-judging at a country show. It’s frightfully interesting. The judge takes so long to judge each class,

In praise of Greek royalty

New York Prince Pavlos, heir to the Greek throne, turned 55 recently and I threw a small dinner for him. Pavlos is a hell of a prince, father, husband and businessman. He’s tall, good-looking, a gent in every way, intelligent, hard-working and has never put a foot wrong. Neither has any member of his immediate family. Compared with them, the rest of European royals seem wanting, but then I’m prejudiced. The Greek royals are Danes, and the oldest reigning clan of Europe. Unlike another royal family whose name escapes me – it is the Platinum Jubilee issue after all – the Hellenic one has had no divorces, no scandals, and

You can make anything up about the royal family and it will be printed as fact

There are quite a few things that Tina Brown doesn’t know: what ‘jejune’ means; when Louis XIV came to the throne; what the passive voice in prose is (not ‘recollections may vary’); what members of the aristocracy are called (Lady Romsey becomes Lady Penelope Romsey) or what members of the royal family are called (the ‘Dowager Duchess of Gloucestershire’ puts in an appearance).Another thing she doesn’t know (which she shares with other authors of works in this obscenely overstuffed genre) is what’s been going on between members of the royal family in the period between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the death of the Duke of Edinburgh

Will the end of monarchy in Barbados spark a chain reaction?

As of this week, the Queen is down to 15 thrones, after the royal standard was lowered in Barbados in the early hours of Tuesday morning. A presidential flag now flies there. Elizabeth II still remains, by some margin, the host with the most in terms of square miles per head of state. Presidents Xi, Biden and Putin do not come close to the Queen of Canada, Australia and Papua New Guinea plus a chunk of Antarctica, little old Britain and all the rest of her realms and territories. Depending on how much ocean you include, she remains Sovereign of somewhere between an eighth and a sixth of the Earth’s

Donald Trump: monarchist?

As the Harry and Meghan carnival rumbles on, the Queen has found an unexpected source of support: Donald Trump. During an interview with Nigel Farage, Trump said of Meghan: ‘I’m not a fan of hers. I wasn’t from day one…she is trying do things that I think are very inappropriate.’ Meanwhile, he painted the Duke of Sussex as her plaything: ‘I think Harry’s been used and been used terribly. I think it’s ruined his relationship with his family, and it hurts the Queen…I think some day he will regret it.’ If Trump doesn’t like Harry and Meghan, there’s no doubting his affection for the Queen. He described her in the interview which

Did any of this actually happen? The Crown, season four, reviewed

‘We have to stop it now!’ says Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), smoking another cigarette, obviously. She’s talking about the impending royal wedding between her nephew Charles and a pretty but gauche young thing called Lady Diana Spencer. Spoiler alert: none of the family will listen. Yes, The Crown is back on Netflix for its fourth season, and naturally I skipped straight to the episode that will be of most interest to everyone: the royal engagement and its aftermath. Why is this subject so grimly, pruriently, enduringly fascinating? Because even though it really did happen and many of us remember it vividly, it yet has the fantastical implausibility of the

The disconnected language of ‘connectivity’

Facebook recently told readers of the Sun that satellites could ‘bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking’. Sajid Javid in happier days not long ago told the Telegraph that HS2 would ‘create greater North-South connectivity’. Connectivity seems an unnecessarily abstract way of expressing it. E.M. Forster didn’t attach the epigraph ‘Only connectivity’ to Howards End. It was not the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connectivity. No, the novelist, with the epigraph ‘Only connect’, wanted to connect ‘the prose and the passion’ and the Countess wanted her Connexion to be precisely whatever she said it was at any one time, whether Methodist, or Calvinist or dissenting. The dominant application