Thursday, 31 December 2020

Bridgerton | Official Trailer | Netflix // Queen Charlotte was the wife of George III and, like him, of German descent. But did she also have African ancestry?

Bridgerton review – Netflix's answer to Downton Abbey is a moreish treat


Preposterous and cliche-ridden, this tale of Regency intrigue – with Julie Andrews giving a Georgian Gossip Girl touch – nonetheless leaves you wanting more


Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan


Fri 25 Dec 2020 08.00 GMT


It cannot be – no, most assuredly and for the good of humanity, it cannot be – that there are people out there who aspire to write like Julian Fellowes. It simply cannot be. And yet. Now has come Bridgerton (Netflix), suddenly into our lives, and as the minutes and the hours and the eight episodes of the new costume drama roll, the thought becomes ever more inescapable.


For Bridgerton is the tale, set in 1813 London, of the Regency rivalry between the lordly Bridgerton family and the lordly Featherington family who are each keen to be seen as the most lordly of lordly families and lord it mostly lordily over the rest of Regency London’s high society. We are in the Regency period, btw, and London. I, like the writers of the show, wish to make this very clear (the extensive filming in Bath notwithstanding).


Those writers – foremost among them Chris Van Dusen, who is (is “credited” the right word?) with creating the series, which is based on Jane Austen superfan Julia Quinn’s series of romance novels – show every sign of having watched one too many episodes of Downton Abbey. Like learning one too many facts before an exam and it pushing everything else out of your mind, that final, fateful hour in the company of the Crawleys has squeezed out everything the writer once knew about dialogue, language and character and left them only with the echoes of Fellowes ringing – as they might put it – round their mental ears.


How else do we explain the abundance of lines that look like English, sound like English but are not in fact English, and certainly not English as she is spoke? Lines such as: “It has been said that of all bitches dead or alive a scribbling woman is the most canine!” And: “But! As we all know, the brighter a lady shines, the faster she may burn!” Not if you haven’t already established that she’s shining as a result of conflagrations we all don’t! Lines such as: “They all try to avoid the dreadful condition known as the Spinster”. By which point I myself was leaning fully into the condition known as the Heavy Drinker. Because when nothing matters, nothing matters – y’know?


Anyway. Let us turn towards the condition of the plot. It is nugatory. Everyone with daughters is preparing them to be presented to Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) at court. Lady Featherington (Polly Walker, who remains da bomb, da very bomb) is lacing her daughters Penelope (Derry Girls’ Nicola Coughlan), Prudence (Bessie Carter) and Philippa (Harriet Cains) into their corsets and doubtless inspiring a thousand fanfics as she goes. The Dowager Countess Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) is doing likewise for her brood. Her hopes for advancement are pinned on the delicate Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and at first it looks like she’s bet on the right corseted horse. Prudence passes out in front of the Queen (“I have failed to avoid the condition of Unbecoming Crumpled Heap at the Foot of Royal Personage” she cries as she goes down. No, she doesn’t. I can’t speak for the first draft though) but the radiant Daphne is anointed with a kiss. “Flawless, my dear,” says the Queen. “And in the condition of The Vertical!” No, again, not the second bit. But …


Then it all goes to the condition of pot for everyone. Daphne’s oldest brother, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), Deputy Acting Lord Bridgerton now that his father has died and nobody in American TV seems quite sure how inheritance works, is overzealous in his protection of her and puts off every suitor save a particularly determined man who makes Mr Collins look like Mr Darcy. Her untouchable status becomes the staple feature of a new, scurrilous newsletter written by “Lady Whistledown” (Julie Andrews in arch voiceover, giving a touch of Georgian Gossip Girl to the whole thing – and let the record show that should anyone wish to commit in full to such an endeavour, I would be entirely here for that).


Lady W’s other favourite topic is the new arrival at the house of Featherington; the girls’ cousin Marina, who eclipses the trio in every way and whose star rises as rapidly as Daphne’s falls but who is harbouring a growing secret of her own. Dum-dum-daaaah!


Throw in the arrival of the dashing Duke of Hastings, an abandoned (by Anthony) mistress, and there you have it. A programme. I felt by the end of the first episode it had delighted me with its presence long enough, and yet … and yet … Was there not, after all, room for just one more? And, perhaps, another after that? This is not a feeling I ever had about Downton, so maybe Bridgerton is … better? Or – I am now worse? I find myself in the condition of Unable to Judge.


• This article was amended on 28 December 2020 to make clear that Bridgerton’s setting is London, with Bath often the site of filming. A daughter who fainted in front of the Queen was Prudence, not Penelope.


Sir Allan Ramsay’s 1762 portrait of Queen Charlotte in the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Guardian


Was this Britain's first black queen?


Queen Charlotte was the wife of George III and, like him, of German descent. But did she also have African ancestry? By Stuart Jeffries


Stuart Jeffries

Stuart Jeffries

Thu 12 Mar 2009 00.01 GMT


Queen Charlotte died nearly two centuries ago but is still celebrated in her namesake American city. When you drive from the airport in North Carolina, you can't miss the monumental bronze sculpture of the woman said to be Britain's first black queen, dramatically bent backwards as if blown by a jet engine. Downtown, there is another prominent sculpture of Queen Charlotte, in which she's walking with two dogs as if out for a stroll in 21st-century America.


Street after street is named after her, and Charlotte itself revels in the nickname the Queen City - even though, shortly after the city was named in her honour, the American War of Independence broke out, making her the queen of the enemy. And the city's art gallery, the Mint museum, holds a sumptuous 1762 portrait of Charlotte by the Scottish portrait painter Allan Ramsay, showing the Queen of England in regal robes aged 17, the year after she married George III.


Charlotte is intrigued by its namesake. Some Charlotteans even find her lovable. "We think your queen speaks to us on lots of levels," says Cheryl Palmer, director of education at the Mint museum. "As a woman, an immigrant, a person who may have had African forebears, botanist, a queen who opposed slavery - she speaks to Americans, especially in a city in the south like Charlotte that is trying to redefine itself."


Yet Charlotte (1744-1818) has much less resonance in the land where she was actually queen. If she is known at all here, it is from her depiction in Alan Bennett's play as the wife of "mad" King George III. We have forgotten or perhaps never knew that she founded Kew Gardens, that she bore 15 children (13 of whom survived to adulthood), and that she was a patron of the arts who may have commissioned Mozart.


Here, Charlotte is a woman who hasn't so much intrigued as been regularly damned. In the opening of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities she is dismissed in the second paragraph: "There was a king with a large jaw, and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England." Historian John H Plumb described her as "plain and undesirable". Even her physician, Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar, reportedly described the elderly queen as "small and crooked, with a true mulatto face".


"She was famously ugly," says Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of the Queen's pictures. "One courtier once said of Charlotte late in life: 'Her Majesty's ugliness has quite faded.' There was quite a miaow factor at court."


Charlotte's name was given to thoroughfares throughout Georgian Britain - most notably Charlotte Square in Edinburgh's New Town - but her lack of resonance and glamour in the minds of Londoners is typified by the fact that there is a little square in Bloomsbury called Queen's Square. In the middle is a sculpture of a queen. For much of the 19th century, the sculpture was thought to depict Queen Anne and, as a result, the square was known as Queen Anne's Square. Only later was it realised that the sculpture actually depicted Charlotte and the square renamed Queen Square.


Hold on, you might be saying. Britain has had a black queen? Did I miss something? Surely Helen Mirren played Charlotte in the film The Madness of King George and she was, last time I looked, white? Yet the theory that Queen Charlotte may have been black, albeit sketchy, is nonetheless one that is gaining currency.


If you google Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, you'll quickly come across a historian called Mario de Valdes y Cocom. He argues that her features, as seen in royal portraits, were conspicuously African, and contends that they were noted by numerous contemporaries. He claims that the queen, though German, was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, whom Valdes takes to have been a Moor and thus a black African.


It is a great "what if" of history. "If she was black," says the historian Kate Williams, "this raises a lot of important suggestions about not only our royal family but those of most of Europe, considering that Queen Victoria's descendants are spread across most of the royal families of Europe and beyond. If we class Charlotte as black, then ergo Queen Victoria and our entire royal family, [down] to Prince Harry, are also black ... a very interesting concept."


That said, Williams and many other historians are very sceptical about Valdes's theory. They argue the generational distance between Charlotte and her presumed African forebear is so great as to make the suggestion ridiculous. Furthermore, they say even the evidence that Madragana was black is thin.


But Valdes suggests that the way Queen Charlotte is depicted in Ramsay's 1762 portrait - which US artist Ken Aptekar is now using as the starting point for a new art project called Charlotte's Charlotte - supports the view she had African ancestors.


Valdes writes: "Artists of that period were expected to play down, soften or even obliterate undesirable features in a subject's face. [But] Sir Allan Ramsay was the artist responsible for the majority of the paintings of the queen, and his representations of her were the most decidedly African of all her portraits."


Valdes's suggestion is that Ramsay was an anti-slavery campaigner who would not have suppressed any "African characteristics" but perhaps might have stressed them for political reasons. "I can't see it to be honest," says Shawe-Taylor. "We've got a version of the same portrait. I look at it pretty often and it's never occurred to me that she's got African features of any kind. It sounds like the ancestry is there and it's not impossible it was reflected in her features, but I can't see it."


Is it possible that other portraitists of Queen Charlotte might have soft-pedalled her African features? "That makes much more sense. It's quite possible. The thing about Ramsay is that, unlike Reynolds and Gainsborough, who were quite imprecise in their portraits, he was a very accurate depicter of his subjects, so that if she looked slightly more African in his portraits than others, that might be because she was more well depicted. How can you tell? She's dead!"


Shawe-Taylor says that a more instructive source of images of Queen Charlotte might well be the many caricatures of her held at the British Museum. "None of them shows her as African, and you'd suspect they would if she was visibly of African descent. You'd expect they would have a field day if she was."


In fact, Charlotte may not have been our first black queen: there is another theory that suggests that Philippa of Hainault (1314-69), consort of Edward III and a woman who may have had African ancestry, holds that title.


As for Valdes, he turns out to be an independent historian of the African diaspora who has argued that Peter Ustinov, Heather Locklear, the Medicis, and the Vanderbilts have African ancestry. His theory about Charlotte even pops up on, where she appears alongside Mary Seacole, Shirley Bassey, Sir Trevor McDonald, Zadie Smith, Naomi Campbell and Baronness Scotland as one of our great Britons. Despite being thus feted, Charlotte has not yet had much attention, say, during the annual Black History week in Britain.


Perhaps she should get more. The suggestion that Queen Charlotte was black implies that her granddaughter (Queen Victoria) and her great-great-great-great-granddaughter (Queen Elizabeth II) had African forebears. Perhaps, instead of just being a boring bunch of semi-inbred white stiffs, our royal family becomes much more interesting. Maybe - and this is just a theory - the Windsors would do well to claim their African heritage: it might be a PR coup, one that would strengthen the bonds of our queen's beloved Commonwealth.


Or would our royal family be threatened if it were shown they had African forebears? "I don't think so at all. There would be no shame attached to it all," says the royal historian Hugo Vickers. "The theory does not impress me, but even if it were true, the whole thing would have been so diluted by this stage that it couldn't matter less to our royal family. It certainly wouldn't show that they are significantly black."


What's fascinating about Aptekar's project is that he started by conducting focus group meetings with people from Charlotte to find out what the Queen and her portrait meant to citizens of the US city. "I took my cues from the passionate responses of individuals whom I asked to help me understand what Queen Charlotte represents to them."


The resulting suite of paintings is a series of riffs on that Ramsay portrait of Charlotte. In one, a reworked portion of the portrait shows the queen's face overlaid with the words "Black White Other". Another Aptekar canvas features an even tighter close up, in which the queen's face is overlaid with the words "Oh Yeah She Is".


Among those who attended Aptekar's focus groups is congressman Mel Watt, one of very few African-Americans in the House of Representatives and who represents the 12th district of North Carolina which includes Charlotte. "In private conversations, African-Americans have always acknowledged and found a sense of pride in this 'secret'," says Watt. "It's great that this discussion can now come out of the closet into the public places of Charlotte, so we all can acknowledge and celebrate it."


What about the idea that she was an immigrant - a German teenager who had to make a new life in England in the late 18th century?


"We were a lot more immigrant-friendly in those days than we were friendly to people of colour," says Watt. "We all recognised that we all came from some place else. But there was always a sense of denial, even ostracism, about being black. Putting the history on top of the table should make for opportunities for provocative, healing conversations."


Does Valdes's theory conclusively determine that Queen Charlotte had African forebears? Hardly. And if she had African forebears, would that mean we could readily infer she was black? That, surely, depends on how we define what it is to be black. In the US, there was for many decades a much-derided "one-drop rule", whereby any white-looking person with any percentage of "black blood" was not regarded as being really white. Although now just a historical curio, it was controversially invoked recently by the African-American lawyer Alton Maddox Jr, who argued that under the one-drop rule, Barack Obama wouldn't be the first black president.


In an era of mixed-race celebrities such as Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey, and at a time when in the US, the UK and any other racially diverse countries mixed-raced relationships are common, this rule seems absurd. But without such a rule, how do we determine Charlotte's ethnicity? If she is black, aren't we all?


It's striking that on US and UK census forms, respondents are asked to choose their own race by ticking the box with which they most closely identify (though there can be problems with this: some people in Cornwall are angry that the 2011 census form will not allow them to self-define as Cornish because only 37,000 ticked that box in the 2001 census and that figure has been deemed too small to constitute a separate ethnic group). We will never know which box Queen Charlotte would have ticked, though we can take a good guess. But maybe that isn't the most important issue, anyway.


For congressman Watt's wife Eulada, along with some other African-Americans in Charlotte, the most important issue is what the possibility that Queen Charlotte was black may mean for people in the city now. "I believe African-American Charlotteans have always been proud of Queen Charlotte's heritage and acknowledge it with a smile and a wink," she says. "Many of us are now enjoying a bit of 'I told you so', now that the story is out."


But isn't her heritage too sketchy to be used to heal old wounds? "Hopefully, the sketchiness will inspire others to further research and documentation of our rich history. Knowing more about an old dead queen can play a part in reconciliation."


And if an old dead queen can help improve racial trust in an American city, perhaps she could do something similar over here. Whether she will, though, is much less certain.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

A look back at the life of designer Pierre Cardin who dies at 98 // French designer Pierre Cardin dies aged 98

French designer Pierre Cardin dies aged 98


Cardin, who upended fashion styles in 1960s and 70s with futuristic looks, dies in hospital near Paris


Morwenna Ferrier Deputy fashion editor

Tue 29 Dec 2020 15.27 GMT


The French designer Pierre Cardin, who upended fashion in the 1960s and 70s with his futuristic looks and pioneering approach to merchandise, has died at the age of 98.


His death was announced by France’s Fine Arts Academy on Twitter. Cardin’s family told Agence France-Presse he died in hospital in Neuilly, near Paris.


Cardin was well-known for his bold, space-age designs in the late 1950s. Well-regarded by the Parisian haute couture set, he went on to dress 60s luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot and the Beatles, whose radical, collarless jackets – inspired by Cardin and worn on The Ed Sullivan Show – became the new standard for a generation still wearing their father’s suits.


But in a career that lasted more than three-quarters of a century, it was Cardin’s canny business sense that elevated him to household name. Licensing and affixing his name – and often just initials – on to everyday items such as pens, clocks, trousers and shoes, and later hotels, perfumes and restaurants, he became a branding pioneer, bringing the inaccessible world of high fashion to the masses and with it, a steady stream of revenue that earned him the unofficial title “the Napoleon of licencers.”


“They said pret-a-porter [ready to wear clothes] will kill your name, and it saved me,” he once said. He sold Pierre Cardin-brand goods in more than 140 countries on five continents.


Pietro Cardin was born near Treviso in Italy in 1922, the youngest of 11 children. His family fled Mussolini’s regime and moved to France when he was a child. Growing up in the French industrial town of Saint Étienne, it was hoped that Cardin would become an architect but his interest lay in fashion.


“Italian by birth, Pierre Cardin never forgot his origins while bringing unconditional love to France,” his family said. It’s thought he learned to be a tailor aged 17 working alongside the Red Cross.


Moving to Paris, he worked on the set of the film Beauty and the Beast with the poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau in 1947. Cocteau introduced him to Christian Dior, and by 1950 he had established his own label.


He went on to open his own boutique, Eve, on Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and create his 1954 bubble dress – tight at the waist, loose at the thigh and narrow at the hem, and famously worn by Eva Perón.


By 1959, in a career first for a French designer, he was showing ready-to-wear for women at the department store Printemps, shocking Paris’s fashion establishment, which had thus far managed to keep the everyday consumer away from couture.


According to the BBC, he was expelled from the rarified guild of French fashion designers. A year later, however, he was showing his first ready-to-wear menswear, a cutting edge collection that included those Nehru-style collarless jackets (an adaptation of the type worn by the Indian prime minister) sold at his Adam boutique, which would go on to inspire the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.


Cardin’s interest in futurism and the Apollo space programme led him to put models in knitted catsuits and space helmets, as well as men and women in avant garde tunics (also setting a precedent for unisex fashion).


In 1969, in a career high, Nasa commissioned him to create a spacesuit. “The dresses I prefer are those I invent for a life that does not yet exist,” Cardin said at the time.


In 1979, Cardin became the first French designer to trade with China, and in 1983, he became the first to trade in the Soviet Union. He was also the first designer to hold a fashion show in Red Square, Moscow, drawing a crowd of 200,000 in 1991.


In a statement to the press, Cardin’s family praised his “tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life”, as well as his contribution “early on into the flow of globalisation”.


By the 00s, the Pierre Cardin brand had lost some of its cache, and in 2011 he put his fashion label up for sale for €1bn, although it failed to find a buyer. Yet Cardin is still considered a trailblazer in the lucrative world of futurism, fashion and merchandise. As he told the New York Times in 1987: “I was born an artiste, but I am a businessman”.

Monday, 28 December 2020

THE MARCHESE MALACRIDA // VIDEO: Postcard from Eltham Palace, London | England Drone Footage


Marchese Piero Luigi Carlo Maria Malacrida de Saint-August (1889–22 April 1983) (also known as Pier or Peter Malacrida) was an Italian aristocrat, playboy and London-based interior designer. He and his first wife, the poet Nadja Malacrida, were prominent socialites in London in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Piero Malacrida is best known for his interiors at Eltham Palace. Following the death of Nadja in 1934, Malacrida withdrew from public life, although he later remarried.


Malacrida was a former cavalry officer who had studied Engineering at the University of Leeds. On 6 December 1922, he married an Englishwoman, Louisa Nadia Green, at St Bartholomew-the-Great. She was a niece of Lord Cowdray, usually known by her pen name of Nadja. She was a prominent socialite and literary celebrity in 1920s London. Known not only for her looks, charm and intelligence; she was also a BBC radio broadcaster, an aviatrix, racing driver, poet and set designer. She is best known today as a World War I poet.


The couple lived in a large and luxurious flat in Grosvenor Street and a country house at East Molesey, where they entertained many of the leading literary and artistic figures of the day.[6] As a result of their numerous accomplishments and connections the couple acquired a certain glamour and were frequently mentioned in society gossip columns and the court pages of the London newspapers. In addition, Malacrida himself frequently wrote articles on design for international publications such as Vogue. All this brought him to the attention of wealthy clients and patrons.


The marriage is reported to have been happy; when apart, they wrote each other daily.[6] Each pursued their own hobbies independently while sharing many common interests and collaborating on some of their written works; however, both professed to not being natural authors.[6]


Writing in the late 1920s, Malacrida rejected the then current concepts of interior design; he specifically criticised what he described as the "cottagey-inglenook-pickled oak school" and also the "walnutty Queen-Annish style" then currently in vogue, describing them as "locked in the past." The former style was later to be described by the architectural historian, Osbert Lancaster, as Stockbroker Tudor. Malacrida, though, was not beyond drawing upon medieval and Gothic motifs as was obvious in his design for a staircase hall in Upper Brook Street, London. There, bare stone walls were adorned with medieval wooden figures and Venetian bucentaur lanterns while the room itself is covered by a trompe l’oeuil ceiling depicting leaves against a sky.


Malacida's early works mostly drew on classicism for inspiration, often designing circular or semi-circular columned rooms in the manner of temples. Such was the bathroom he designed in 1932 for Samuel Courtauld, in a house - now a Grade II* listed building - at 12 North Audley Street, Westminster, which not only had columns, but also painted feature panels by Rex Whistler.Another bathroom design, "in the Pompeian style", with walls of red marble, commissioned in 1922 by Samuel Courtauld was for a suite, now known as the "Lady Islington suite", in Home House, Portman Square. The Audley Street work and an article by Malacrida in a 1928 edition of Vogue show his designs to be very much in the style that Osbert Lancaster was to describe as Curzon Street Baroque. The Vogue article shows the ecclesiastical niches and prie-dieux, large feature paintings and trompe-l'œil which were the hallmarks of that style.


By the early 1930s, Malacrida's work had become a pared back, streamlined form of Art Deco which never quite fully embraced Modernism. Malacrida is best known for his interiors in the 1930s rebuilding of Eltham Palace for Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia, Stephen was the brother of Malacrida's earlier client, Samuel Courtauld.


Withdrawal from public life

Piero Malacrida de Saint-August has been described as mysterious. This is because he arrived suddenly on the London high society social scene in the early 1920 and his work and social activities, along with those of his even better known wife, were almost instantly and incessantly reported in the press.[3] Then, almost as suddenly as he appeared, he disappeared.


His departure from public life was precipitated by the death of his wife in an unexplained motor accident in 1934. Driving alone, she was returning to London from a weekend in the country when her car left the road and plunged down an embankment, she died instantly from a broken neck. A love of speed was a mutual passion the couple had shared; they had owned a series of fast cars including Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes and Isotta Fraschini.


Following his bereavement, Malacrida immediately left London for a month, eventually returning only to complete his work at Eltham Palace. In 1935, he published Finale. Self-portrait of Nadja Malacrida, this included a memoir of Nadja by Cecil Roberts, a close friend of the couple. The book was a tribute to his late wife and contained letters the two had sent each other in the month before her death. Following publication of the book, Malacrida retired from public life to live in Ireland.


Today, few of Malacrida's works survive. Those that do include Eltham Palace and the bathrooms at North Audley Street and Home House.


Sometime in the early 1950s Malacrida remarried. His second wife, May (née Murphy) of Clonmel was a widow – her husband, Bernard Culhane, died on 29 December 1949 in a Dublin nursing home. Peter and May resided at Correen, a suburban villa, at 42 Ailesbury Road, Donnybrook, Dublin.

May Malacrida died on 11 September 1983 at 28 Shrewsbury Road, Dublin 4. The Irish Independent of 23 April 1983 has a short death notice – ‘peacefully in a Dublin nursing home in his 95th year. The Marchese Peter M., beloved husband of May, Shrewsbury Road, Dublin 4.’ He is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.


In his will, he bequeathed a clock, once owned by Napoleon's mother, Letizia Ramolino, to the Irish State. However, the great wealth of his younger years was gone, he had sold his library of rare books in 1935 and his collection of fine French and European furniture and objets d’art in 1963. His Grant of Probate proved his wealth at Just £11,000.


Louisa, Marchesa Malacrida de Saint-August (née Louisa Nadia Green, 15 June 1895 – 3 October 1934), known by the noms de plume Nadja Malacrida and Nadja, was an English writer, radio broadcaster, racing driver, and socialite. A novelist, playwright, and poet, she published three books of war poetry during the First World War. An Italian aristocrat by marriage, she was a prominent figure of 20th-century London high society.


Malacrida, an only child, was born on 15 June 1895 in Hampstead, London, to businessman Charles Edward Green and his wife, Louisa Cass. She grew up at Paddockhurst in Sussex, the country estate of her uncle and aunt, Weetman Pearson, Lord Cowdray (later Viscount) and Annie Pearson, Lady Cowdray.



Malacrida published her first collection of poems, Evergreen, at the age of fourteen. A second edition was published in 1912. During the War, she published three volumes of poetry: Love and War (1915), For Empire and other poems (1916) and The full heart (1919). Brian Murdoch finds Malacrida's war poetry "well worth rescuing from the obscurity of the lost voices" and sees some ambiguity in the long poem "For Empire" for which the collection For Empire and other poems is named, with "very little of the patriotic tonality left". She donated the proceeds of her war poetry to two First World War charities that still exist as of 2019: St. Dunstan's, a home for soldiers blinded in the war, now with a wider remit under the name Blind Veterans UK, and the Star and Garter Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond.


Malacrida and her husband collaborated writing two lightly disguised romans à clef about the London society scene, using the pseudonym P. N. Piermarini: Life Begins To-Day (1923) and Footprints on the Sand (1924). She also wrote a play, Cheque Mate, in 1932, using the masculine pen name Lewis Hope.


Malacrida took part in an early John Logie Baird television broadcast in 1933,[8] and in 1934, the last year of her life, she frequently read mostly Victorian prose excerpts and poetry on BBC radio, under the name Nadja Green. She also appeared in a national newspaper advertising campaign for Vim household cleaner, where she was quoted as explaining that it was "no use having new ideas of decoration if you have old ideas of dirt"and contrasting the dusty hangings and bric-à-brac of the Victorian era with the simple, spare modern interiors, which must be kept clean because "every speck and spot is glaringly obvious".


In June 1921, Malacrida met her future husband, Marchese Piero Malacrida de Saint-August, an Italian journalist and former cavalry officer, at a charitable fundraising event known as Alexandra Rose Day at The Ritz Hotel, London. They were married on 6 December 1922, at St Bartholomew-the-Great, making her the Marchesa Malacrida de Saint-August. Her husband's family were a noble family from Lombardy. Shortly after their wedding, her husband expanded his activities into writing on interior design, and designing interiors, especially luxury bathrooms, for the upper class. The couple would buy flats at smart London addresses, then remodel and sell them, trading under the name "Olivotti". In 1926–1929, they lived at 4 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair.


The Malacridas were celebrities of their time, appearing at all the big society functions, and much reported on in the newspapers of the day. The marriage was reportedly very happy. They wrote to each other every day when apart, and their correspondence during her final month was published as Finale. Self-portrait of Nadja Malacrida. after her death in 1934, including her memoir by the Malacridas' friend Cecil Roberts.


Her portrait in oil was painted in 1926 by Ettore Tito. It was donated by her husband to the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna in 1981, two years before his death. Another portrait, by Olive Snell, featured on the front cover of the 4 December 1929 issue of The Sketch.



On 3 October 1934, Malacrida was killed in a single-vehicle crash while driving, alone, back to London from Cecil Roberts' country cottage just outside Henley. Her car was going uphill when it left the slippery road and plunged down over a 35-foot embankment; she died instantly from a broken neck. Her body, thrown from the car, was discovered by the groundsman of the Henley Cricket Club while her pet spaniel was discovered later uninjured. She was an experienced and competent driver, who had driven a car for 20 years. The couple shared a love of fast driving and owned several vehicles including Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes and Isotta Fraschini, and she had previously driven at Brooklands motor racing circuit. She is buried at Fairmile Cemetery, Henley-on-Thames.



In 1933, millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld were looking for a semi-rural property within easy reach of central London. Eltham fitted the bill, and they took a 99-year lease from the Crown.


They commissioned the budding architects Seely & Paget to design a modern home on the site of the 19th-century buildings, while retaining as much as possible of the historic palace. After some controversy over the scheme, because of its impact on the palace remains, it was eventually carried through with the help of Sir Charles Peers, formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments with the Office of Works, who acted as consultant for the repairs to the great hall.


The exterior of the new house, in a ‘Wrenaissance’ style partly inspired by Hampton Court, is designed to complement the great hall. The interior styles (ranging from historical to moderne) resulted both from the Courtaulds’ own tastes and from the architects, designers and craftsmen they commissioned. As well as Seely & Paget they included Peter Malacrida, Rolf Engströmer, Carlton Attwood and Gilbert Ledward.


The house was ideally suited to display the Courtaulds’ extensive collection of works of art, which included contemporary pieces as well as Old Masters. It also provided ample space for entertaining their broad social circle. As well as royalty – Queen Mary visited twice – celebrity visitors included Stravinsky, Gracie Fields, Malcolm Sargent, film producers Basil Dean and Michael Balcon, band leader Lew Stone, and politicians such as Rab Butler and Leo Amery.


The Courtaulds also took full advantage of new technology. There were electric fires and in most rooms synchronous clocks which were regulated by the incoming mains supply, and a loudspeaker system that could broadcast records to rooms on the ground floor. Siemens installed a private internal telephone exchange. There was a centralised vacuum cleaner in the basement. Gas was used to power underfloor and radiant ceiling heating throughout the house. Virginia Courtald’s pet lemur even had its own heated quarters on the first floor.


Keen horticulturalists, the Courtaulds also created a variety of garden features including a rock garden, formal rose gardens and a series of garden ‘rooms’, the latter being more typical of the Edwardian period or Arts and Crafts style.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Deepfake Queen: The Making of our 2020 Christmas Message

With risqué jokes about Harry and Meghan, the Prime Minister and even Prince Andrew it's a Christmas message that is likely to send many a Brussel sprout down the wrong way.

And to add insult to injury, Channel 4 has used advanced digital technology to give the impression the Queen herself is delivering the broadcaster’s now traditional ‘alternative Christmas message’.

The broadcast uses ‘deepfake’ technology to superimpose the voice of an actress onto a manipulated film of the Queen appearing to address the nation.

The result is an unsettlingly accurate impression of Her Majesty making jokes about Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leaving Britain, and the risk of getting pregnant posed to NHS staff who treated Boris Johnson for coronavirus.


Channel 4 creates ‘deepfake’ Queen for alternative Christmas message


Broadcaster claims stunt will highlight dangers of misinformation


Adam Forrest



A digitally-created “deepfake” version of the Queen will deliver Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message and offer a stark warning about misinformation and fake news.


The artificially-rendered monarch will appear to share her thoughts on the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew and his connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.


The fake Queen, played by actress Debra Stephenson, will also be seen performing a TikTok dance routine and revealing her penchant for “Netflix and Phil” with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh.


The broadcast will also appear to show the Queen telling viewers: “On the BBC, I haven’t always been able speak plainly and from the heart. So, I am grateful to Channel 4 for giving me the opportunity to say whatever I like, without anyone putting words in my mouth.”


Deepfake technology has become increasingly prevalent in recent years and can be used to create completely manufactured video content of high-profile figures – most notably of former US president Barack Obama.


The end of the message will show the artificially-created images disappearing to reveal the green screen used to manufacture images of Buckingham Palace and show it was in fact Ms Stephenson playing the Queen.


The actress said: “I have an intense fascination with deepfake technology. For years I have studied people to impersonate them for TV, but now I can truly become them. As an actress it is thrilling but it is also terrifying if you consider how this could be used in other contexts.”


Many royalists have expressed their outrage at the idea on social media, calling it a “disrespectful” way to treat the Queen. “How dare they,” tweeted Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.


However, the director of programmes at Channel 4, Ian Katz, claimed the this year’s alternative message had been designed to act as a “powerful reminder” of misinformation. “Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth,” he said.


“This year’s alternative Christmas address – seemingly delivered by one of the most familiar and trusted figures in the nation – is a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes.”


The deepfake video, devised by special effects creatives at Framestore, was directed by William Bartlett. “With Channel 4, we wanted to create a sequence that is hopefully entertaining enough that it will be seen by a lot of people and thereby spreads the very real message that images cannot always be trusted,” said the director.


Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message airs opposite the BBC’s broadcast of the Queen’s official annual televised message to the nation. It has previously been delivered by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, actor Danny Dyer and The Simpsons.

Friday, 25 December 2020

Barbour: Celebrating 125 Years and Five Generations of Barbour // Barbour jacket soars in popularity after TV exposure

Barbour jacket soars in popularity after TV exposure


The jacket – a favourite of the British upper classes – has been enjoying a moment, thanks in large part to The Crown


Priya Elan

Fri 25 Dec 2020 08.00 GMT


Despite the fact it’s been a year of economic deprivation for many, one of the most ubiquitous jackets of the year has been the Barbour: a symbol of wealth, and of the British upper classes.


The canvas jacket, made famous by Steve McQueen and, in more recent years, Daniel Craig’s James Bond, has been featured in many of the hottest TV shows of the year that have been eagerly watched on both sides of the Atlantic.


From I Hate Suzie to Industry and perhaps most prominently in The Crown, the jacket has been a prominent piece of costuming for lead characters. The fourth season of the royal saga saw the Queen (Olivia Colman), Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) wear Barbour, prompting the Cut to call the show “Barbour jacket porn”.


Subsequently, searches for the garment are up by 196% in the last three months, according to Digitaloft. But what does the jacket’s popularity say about how consumers see themselves? “The jacket is as much a symbol of wealth as it is traditionalism,” said Daniel Smith, author of The Fall and Rise of Britain’s Upper Classes.


“As an idiom of aristocracy, the Barbour jacket both stands for keeping calm and carrying on, as much as it does facing the future with prosperity.”


In I Hate Suzie, Billie Piper’s character wears a Barbour in the throes of her identity crisis. For costume designer Grace Snell, the jacket became an essential societal signifier. “We loved the idea that it was a suggestion of country life, an attempt at country life,” she said. “I wanted to give a contrast to ‘actor’ and ‘popstar’ Suzie by wearing one. But it is still slightly off. The coat is an ‘Alexa Chung x Barbour’, so her coat would still be different from the locals and more traditional country folk.”


In 2020, wearing a Barbour has more than a suggestion of “off-ness” and irony about it. “Nostalgia is part of our brand, generally speaking,” said Jack Carlson, the founder of Rowing Blazers, who released a capsule collection with Barbour (as well as reproducing Princess Diana’s famous sheep sweater). “I see it as part of a broader zeitgeist. Irony is something all ages are embracing.”


Yet this can be problematic for the brands themselves. Snell ran into difficulties trying to get usage of the jacket because Piper’s Suzie character didn’t fit the brand’s upper-class image.


“The head office at Barbour weren’t sure about us using Barbour jackets in the series, saying: ‘We believe the show does not fit our brand’s image,’” she said. “I loved this comment from them so much, and was exactly why I wanted to use it in the show.”

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Channel 4 under fire for deepfake Queen's Christmas message


Deepfake queen to deliver Channel 4 Christmas message

Published1 day ago


Deepfake Queen looks very like the real one


This year's Channel 4 alternative Christmas message will be delivered by a deepfake of the Queen.


While the Queen is delivering her traditional message on the BBC and ITV, her digitally created doppelgänger will be sharing its "thoughts" on Channel 4.


Buckingham Palace told the BBC it had no comment on the broadcast.


Channel 4 said the intention was to give a "stark warning" about fake news in the digital age.


Deepfake technology can be used to create convincing yet entirely fictional video content, and is often used to spread misinformation.


In the message, the deepfake will try its hand at a TikTok viral dance challenge.


'Countless imitations'

The five-minute message will refer to a number of controversial topics, including the decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to leave the UK. It will also allude to the Duke of York's decision to step down from royal duties earlier this year after an interview he gave to the BBC about his relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.


The BBC's royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell was not impressed: "There have been countless imitations of the Queen. This isn't a particularly good one.


"The voice sounds what it is - a rather poor attempt to impersonate her. What makes it troubling is the use of video technology to attempt to sync her lips to the words being spoken."



Channel 4 says its deepfake video of the Queen is meant to act as a warning


Some members of the public have also suggested the video is "disrespectful" via posts on social media.


The media watchdog Ofcom said it had received "a small number of complaints", but because it is a post-transmission regulator could not consider them at this time.


While current technology does allow for voice deepfakes, the voice of this deepfake will be dubbed by British actress Debra Stephenson.


The TV star was previously the voice of a puppet of the monarch in the 2020 revival of satirical sketch show Spitting Image.


Stephenson said: "As an actress it is thrilling but it is also terrifying if you consider how this could be used in other contexts."


The deepfake has been created by Oscar-winning VFX studio Framestore.


Deepfake detection

Deepfakes first rose to prominence in early 2018.


At the time, a developer adapted cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques to create software that swapped one person's face for another.


However, the process has since become much more accessible.


There are now numerous apps that require just a single photo in order to substitute a Hollywood actor for that of the user.


Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled a tool that can spot deepfakes.


The firm said it hoped to help combat disinformation, but experts warned it was at risk of becoming outdated due to advances in technology.


Nina Schick, author of Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, told the BBC there was growing concern about the other malicious ways deepfake technology could be used.


"While it offers tremendous commercial and creative opportunities, transforming entire industries from entertainment to communication, it is also a technology that will be weaponised.


"Used maliciously, AI-generated synthetic media, or deepfakes, are sophisticated forms of visual disinformation."


The Alternative Christmas Message will be shown on Channel 4 at 15:25 GMT on 25 December.


Channel 4 under fire for deepfake Queen's Christmas message


Broadcaster says video, showing digitally altered monarch reflecting on Prince Harry, intended as warning about fake news


Molly Blackall

Thu 24 Dec 2020 15.58 GMT


Channel 4 has sparked controversy and debate with a deepfake video of the Queen as an alternative to her traditional festive broadcast, to be aired on Christmas Day.


The broadcaster will show a five-minute video in which a digitally altered version of the Queen shares her reflections on the year, including the departure of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as senior royals and the Duke of York’s involvement with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.


The deepfake Queen, voiced by the actor Debra Stephenson, can also be seen performing a dance routine from social media platform TikTok.


Channel 4 said the broadcast was intended to give a “stark warning” about the threat of fake news in the digital era, with its director of programmes, Ian Katz, describing the video as a “a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes”.


Some experts suggested the broadcast might make the public think deepfake technology was more commonly used than is the case.


“We haven’t seen deepfakes used widely yet, except to attack women,” said Sam Gregory, the programme director of Witness, an organisation using video and technology to protect human rights. “We should be really careful about making people think that they can’t believe what they see. If you’ve not seen them before, this could make you believe that deep fakes are a more widespread problem than they are,” he said.


“It’s fine to expose people to deepfakes, but we shouldn’t be escalating the rhetoric to claim we’re surrounded by them.”


Areeq Chowdhury, a technology policy researcher behind deepfakes of Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson during the 2019 general election, said he supported the decision to highlight the impact of deepfakes but that the technology did not pose a widespread threat to information sharing.


“The risk is that it becomes easier and easier to use deepfakes, and there is the obvious challenge of having fake information out there, but also the threat that they undermine genuine video footage which could be dismissed as a deepfakes,” he said.


“My view is that we should generally be concerned about this tech, but that the main problem with deepfakes today is their use in non-consensual deepfake pornography, rather than information.”


Deepfakes expert Henry Ajder said: “I think in this case the video is not sufficiently realistic to be a concern, but adding disclaimers before a deepfake video is shown, or adding a watermark so it can’t be cropped and edited, can help to deliver them responsibly.


“As a society, we need to figure out what uses for deepfakes we deem acceptable, and how we can navigate a future where synthetic media is an increasingly big part of our lives. Channel 4 should be encouraging best practice.”

The Guinea Pig (1948) clip - on BFI Blu-ray from 20 July 2020 | BFI // Britain’s Boarding School Problem // Posh Boys by Robert Verkaik review – how public schools ruin Britain

After ‘Tom Brown’s School days’ and ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips’ and before ‘IF’, ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘The Riot Club’ … 'THE GUINEA PIG' (1948)


It is a rather hard to believe in this day and age that THE GUINEA PIG caused a bit of a sensation upon its initial theatrical release… for the simple reason that the shocking word 'Arse' was used! My my, how some things have changed - but if this Richard Attenborough-led vehicle from 1948 is anything to go by then one thing hasn’t changed much at all is the English Public School system…


This drama-comedy concerns Jack, a fourteen-year old working class boy (played by 25-year old Dickie Attenborough) and son of Walthamstow tobacco shop owner Mr. Read (Bernard Miles). Following the so-called Fleming Report, young Read is offered a scholarship to Saintbury, an exclusive public school (think Eton or Harrow), thus turning him into the ‘guinea pig’ of the film’s title. The Fleming Report, ah yes: After their war efforts it would appear that the British working class may have felt they deserved just a little bit more as they were (and still are) mainly nothing more than underpaid and poorly educated slaves to the ruling classes (the only way the status quo can be maintained). Perhaps some upper class foundations felt 'the workers' should be given some sort of a chance... and if we are to believe this film (originally a play by Sherborne-educated Warren Chetham-Strode) then Jack Read, lucky little fellow, is given such a chance by being picked to be taken out of his rank working class environment and transported to a world utterly alien to him.


Will Jack with his 'bad' accent and his uncouth manners be able to fit in with a load of posh fellows from privileged backgrounds? After being seen off at the railway station by his humble and hard-working parents - sporting his splendid new school uniform - it becomes pretty obvious in the packed railway carriage that young Jack Read has a lot to learn for none of the other boys have even heard of ‘Walfamstow’ (as most working class locals would mispronounce it).


On his first day, Jack is befriended in the local village by the sympathetic and progressive Junior Master Mr. Nigel Lorraine (Robert Flemyng). Unfortunately the Senior Master, Mr. Lloyd Hartley (Cecil Trouncer), a rigid 'old school' snob, takes an instant dislike to Jack. Really, if this kind of thing is encouraged people might start getting above themselves - a chap should know his place in the world or anarchy may ensue. As expected, young Jack has a pretty tough time during the first term, leading to a number of (unintentional?) laughs. The 'arse' kicking incident is part of a new boy’s initiation ceremony: they are supposed to bow down before the statue of the school's benefactor - no less a personage than one of Britain's most odious monarch's, Henry ‘the wife killer’ - VIII. The senior school prats then kick the newcomers up the arse – sorry, posterior. Fortunately little Jack is put into the care of an older boy called Fitch (John Forrest, who just a few years later landed the part of the ultimate school bully Harry Flashman). Fitch is a decent fellow who does what he can to lend a helping hand. Though of course Jack has also an enemy in David Tracey (Oscar Quitak) who, just like Mr. Hartley, resents him for being a ‘working class oaf’. At good old Lorraine's suggestion the chaps fight it out in the boxing ring and become pals. At the end of the first term Jack wants to chuck it all in as he feels he simply doesn’t belong to this world but Mr. Lorraine has a word and the young fella agrees to persevere.

The second term (and the film’s second half) is less amusing and entertaining: already Jack is speaking with an improved accent and wants to become a School Master. This means Cambridge and a lot of money unless he is clever enough to win another scholarship and well, the Senior Master has no fondness for him. However that awfully nice Mr. Lorraine – romantically involved with Mr. Hartley’s daughter Lynne (Sheila Sim – Attenborough’s real life wife) can pull a few strings….


This was Attenborough’s second film for the Boulting Brothers (he played psychotic gangster Pinkie Brown in BRIGHTON ROCK the year before) and he makes for a creditable schoolboy despite his age. It is all rather pat and probably well meaning and it would be nice to see a latter day variation. Bernard Miles, who plays Jack’s father Mr. Read, co-wrote the screenplay with Warren Chetham-Strode. Curiously Jack's ordeal at the fictitious Public School 'Saintbury' (in reality Sherborne where the writer Chetham-Strode was actually educated) pails into utter insignificance in comparison to young Tom Brown's at Rugby (in ‘Tom Brown’s School Days) over a hundred years before. Is this an institution that should continue? Does it spell progress and social enlightenment? Will it persevere? Of course it will. One only needs to look at the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ilk.


The Guinea Pig Review

Posted by Gary Couzens


Jack Read (Richard Attenborough), son of a London tobacconist, wins a scholarship to Saintbury, a public boarding school, as part of an experiment in mixing boys of different social classes. He’s greeted with particular snobbery by the other boys, and struggles to fit in.


Made in 1948, The Guinea Pig is a comedy-drama based on Warren Chetham Strode’s 1946 play of the same title. Although both play and film are slight period pieces – Jack’s first term at Saintbury is in the autumn of 1942 – they were certainly topical, inspired by the 1944 Fleming Report into education. This called for a greater integration between public schools (for which, read private and fee-paying, so largely the preserve of the wealthy) and the general education system. The report suggested that up to twenty-five per cent of places at public (secondary) schools should go to children from the state system, from working-class backgrounds, to broaden their outlook and opportunities. That’s the situation young Jack Read finds himself in.


 The Guinea Pig (released as The Outsider in the United States) is a film of two halves. The first part centres on Jack and his struggles to fit in at the public boarding school he finds himself in. He’s regarded as a “street oik” by his much posher classmates and expected to act as a “fag” to one of the senior boys. But it’s clear that, once he settles in as best he could, his education has benefited him and there’s talk of his going to Cambridge as the years pass. However, around halfway through the film, the emphasis shifts and Read moves more into the background. The film then becomes a dramatisation of the conflict between the traditionalist housemaster Hartley (Cecil Trouncer) and the younger more outward-looking housemaster Lorraine (Robert Flemyng), who at the start of the film had just come back from the war, having lost a leg from being shot at El Alamein. This is complicated by the romance between Lorraine and Hartley’s daughter Lynne (Sheila Sim). There’s a sense by the end of the film that time, and society, just emerging from a devastating world war, have moved on.


The Boulting Brothers, John and Roy, were identical twins who worked as a filmmaking team and had broken into the film industry before the War. The most usual arrangement was that John produced and Roy directed – which is the case with The Guinea Pig – but sometimes this was reversed and sometimes they co-directed. The script credit goes to Chetham Strode and Bernard Miles, the latter doing double duty as he also plays Jack’s father in the film, “in association with” Roy Boulting. What this meant in practice was that both Chetham Strode, who didn’t want too many changes to his play, and Miles worked separately and Boulting produced the final script from both their work. The film is a little censorship milestone, as it was able to retain the line “kick up the arse” which had been in the play. This is often reckoned to be the first use of that mildly rude word in British cinema, though John Oliver in his booklet essay with this release, does identify an earlier “arse” (in the 1933 film Britannia of Billingsgate, for those who like to know these things).


 Richard Attenborough gives a sensitive performance as Jack, though he’s clearly too old to be the teenager he’s meant to be. He was actually twenty-four and already married, to his co-star Sheila Sim. The rest of the cast is strong, and you can see some future well-known names playing schoolboys, Anthony Newley and Timothy (billed as Tim) Bateson among them. Although this is nominally a comedy, DP Gilbert Taylor doesn’t shoot the film like you might expect a comedy to be shot, even in black and white: there are some quite shadowy night scenes and the film is quite grainy in places.


The Guinea Pig opened with a gala premiere on 21 October 1948, its main London venue being the Carlton cinema (now the Empire) on Haymarket. It was generally well received though seems to have bypassed awards consideration. The film is along similar lines to many of the ones the Boultings produced, popular entertainment with some food for thought. As its topics have moved on more than seventy years later, it inevitably shows its age, but as craft and entertainment still holds up.


 The Disc

The Guinea Pig is a dual-format release from the BFI. A checkdisc of the Blu-ray (Region B) was provided for review. The transfer begins with the film’s original U certificate, though it is now a PG. A Letter from Wales is a U. The remaining extras are documentaries or actualities which are exempt from certification though they contain nothing likely to be troubling.


The film was shot in 35mm black and white in Academy Ratio (1.37:1) and that’s the way it is presented on this disc. The transfer is derived from a 2K scan of two nitrate duplicating positive elements. As mentioned above, the film is quite grainy in places, but that’s a feature not a bug, and not having seen the film before, projected or otherwise, I can’t dispute the way it’s meant to look and the grain and contrast do seem natural if the latter is a little marked. In high definition, what looks like some brief stock footage of a cricket match does stand out somewhat.


The sound is the original mono, rendered as LPCM 2.0, and it’s clear and well-balanced. There are English subtitles available for the feature (not the extras) and I didn’t spot any errors in them.


Those extras are divided into two groups, both with Play All options. The first is “Old School”, films on the subject of education. These begin with two from Mitchell and Kenyon: Audley Range School, Blackburn (1:23) and York Road Board School, Leeds (2:46), from 1905 and 1901 respectively, both silent with music scores, and both putting their respective establishments on display for the camera and the local audiences Mitchell and Kenyon showed their films to soon afterwards. Your Children’s Play (20:04) is a Central Office of Information short from 1951, detailing the importance of play in your child’s development. A Letter from Wales (14:37) is a short drama from the Children’s Film Foundation in 1953 in which young Rhys writes to his Australian penpal about his childhood exploits and his local school. Comprehensive School (11:07) is again from the COI, from 1962, detailing the new system of comprehensive education about to be introduced, a film intended more for overseas viewers than home ones. Finally, That’s GCSE (20:40), from 1987 and the only item on this disc in colour, is an introduction to the new General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations, which replaced the old O Level and CSE. Presented by Esther Rantzen, it’s in the style of, and features many of the personnel of, the popular programme That’s Life! It gave me flashbacks of a programme I used to watch.


The second batch is “The Make-Do-and-Menders”, giving some background to the wartime and immediate post-War setting of The Guinea Pig, with rationing still in force. The first two items featured on the BFI’s DVD release Ration Books and Rabbit Pies from 2016 but here appear in high definition. These are When the Pie was Opened (8:10) and Bob in the Pound (2:18). The former, made in 1941, is a short film made for the Ministry of Food, about making meals with the limited foodstuffs available. But as New Zealand-born Len Lye was the director, the result is an inventively surreal flight of fancy. Bob in the Pound, from 1943, probably needs the explanation to younger viewers that “bob” was slang for the pre-decimal shilling, and this short animated piece is meant to encourage you to invest in wartime saving bonds. Bob the animated coin talks with popular entertainer Tommy Handley and ends with “After you, Tommy.” No, after you, Bob.” “No, I’m after Hitler!” The next item is In Which We Live Being the Life Story of a Suit Told by Itself (12:45), from 1944, is pretty much self-explanatory, in which the suit tells us its journey from first manufacture to becoming worn out and cannibalised into a pair of shorts and a skirt. Make-do-and-Mend (1:22), from 1945, tells you how to make your clothing coupons go further.


The final item on the disc is a self-navigating stills gallery (12:13).


The BFI’s booklet runs to twenty-four pages and begins with an essay by John Oliver (spoiler warning) which is called “Bridging the Divide: Class and Consensus in The Guinea Pig”, which sums up its approach. It’s followed by a profile of the Boultings by Corinna Reicher, full film credits, notes and credits for the extras, transfer notes and stills.


Joanna Scutts/September 14, 2018

Britain’s Boarding School Problem

How the country’s elite institutions have shaped colonialism, Brexit, and today’s global super-rich


When socially privileged children are separated from their families at a tender age, some develop what psychotherapists have called “Boarding School Syndrome”: “a defensive and protective encapsulation of the self,” in which they learn to hide emotion, fake maturity, and assert dominance over anyone weaker. They develop loyalty to their institutional tribe and suspicion of outsiders; they become bullies devoted to winning above all. If these traits sound familiar, it may be because the men who sent Britain careening into the catastrophe of Brexit—David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage—are all products of elite boarding schools, notorious symbols of social and economic inequality. These institutions—Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster and their ilk—may be quintessentially English, but, as they have become the ultimate educational status symbol for the global super-rich, their influence today extends across the world.


Robert Verkaik’s new book Posh Boys is a detailed and damning history of the institutions that at once run and ruin Britain. The most venerable of the confusingly-named “public” schools were established in late medieval England to educate poor but talented boys in religion and classics. They continued to teach that curriculum long after their charitable purpose had faded, and by their golden age in the nineteenth century, the public schools’ main purpose was to groom upper-class boys to become the administrators of the British Empire. They instilled an “unshakeable confidence” and sense of superiority in their pupils, as members of the best class of the best nation in the world. In return, they demanded unswerving loyalty and a willing submission to a rigid hierarchy.


Bullying was not just endemic, it was structural, with younger boys acting as servants for older ones, carrying out menial tasks and enduring whatever punishments their teen overlords could dream up, in the knowledge that eventually they would get to mete it out themselves. They went on to demand similar submissiveness and loyalty from the native populations they were sent out to rule, having been taught to regard them as unruly children in need of discipline.


A taste for violence and an obsession with hierarchy also work quite well to prepare boys for the military, and to this day the vast majority of teenagers enrolled as cadets in Britain attend private schools. Verkaik points out, however, that the military ideology bred in the public schools is mostly vainglorious myth. The British won battles across the Empire in the 19th century because they had vastly superior weapons, not better tactics or leaders—and the legend that the Battle of Waterloo was won “on the playing fields of Eton” is “fatally undermined” by the detail that school had no playing fields at the time.


Critics of the public schools have argued instead that their obsession with militarism—absorbed bone-deep by generations of prime ministers and generals—has in fact more often than not goaded the country into war and prolonged the bloodshed, most ruinously during World War I. The British army, led by a Harrow graduate, simply reproduced civilian class hierarchies, installing public schoolboys as officers with command over hundreds of working-class men whose life experiences were as foreign to them as those of the African villagers their forefathers subjugated. A disproportionate number of these aristocratic boys, including the prime minister’s son, died in the fighting for the nihilistic, vaguely classical ethos that death in battle would be the most noble end to their lives.



Public schools continue to place a strong emphasis on violent sports—at many schools rugby, which was invented and much mythologized at the northern English school of the same name, is preferred, while Eton lays claim to the notorious “wall” game, a violent mass scramble that killed a boy in 1825. Historically, masters encouraged games and military drills, as a way of exhausting the body and beating out any dangerous tendencies like gentleness, kindness, and affection. But given their cultures of loyalty and secrecy, it’s hardly surprising that sexual abuse has been rampant in the public schools for centuries. In a pattern that mirrors similar cover-ups in religious communities, Verkaik writes, “children were either disbelieved or silenced” and “the teacher quietly moved on.” The stories of victims are currently engulfing many of the country’s most elite schools in scandal, with a pair of comprehensive independent inquiries underway that will make their findings known in 2020.


Would even the most damning revelations puncture the lingering mythology of the public schools? For generations, these schools have guaranteed exclusivity and loyalty through elaborate codes and rituals (which saturate English literature from Tom Brown’s Schooldays to Enid Blyton novels and Harry Potter,). Old Etonians are famed for identifying each other with the question, “Did you go to school?” as though there is only one school worthy of the name. Those strictly-controlled networks can sustain a graduate throughout his or her life, but in the short term, a parent’s investment pays off in improved chances of entrance to Oxford and Cambridge, or another top-tier university. Eton was established in 1440 as a feeder school to my own alma mater, King’s College, Cambridge—which prided itself, when I was there, on taking more state-school pupils than any other college, but still held places for choral scholars, often from Eton and other public schools (since not many comprehensives train their students in world-class choirs.)


Fee-paying schools educate 7 percent of British schoolchildren, but in 2016, 34 percent of Cambridge acceptances and 25 percent of Oxford places went to privately educated applicants—actually much lower numbers than in previous years, as both universities have tried to tackle their elitist image. Yet in Britain the professions—from politics to the military, law, journalism, and banking—all remain dominated by private school graduates. Access, a hand up the ladder, is what the schools sell. And it can have immeasurable value—ask Kate Middleton’s wealthy middle-class parents, who sent their daughter to the exclusive co-ed boarding school Marlborough College as a stepping stone to St. Andrew’s University, where she met and started to date a member of the royal family.


One weakness of Verkaik’s analysis is that it doesn’t really consider how the most traditional all-male schools like Eton differ from all-girls schools and co-ed schools. There is no doubt that girls in private schools, whether single sex or co-ed, benefit in similar ways from the improved chances of university access and the post-school network, but it’s still harder for professional women to accumulate wealth and power on a scale to match the entrenched advantages of their male counterparts (girls’ schools struggle a great deal more to attract alumnae donations, for example.)


Exclusivity and access have justified enormous hikes in private school fees in recent years, leading some to fear that fees are rising in a “bubble.” In 1990, annual boarding-school fees were less than £7,000 per year, they now hover around £40,000. At Eton, extras like uniforms, trips, supplies, and miscellaneous “donations” can run another £10,000 on top. It’s in the interest of all schools to keep pace. In 2001, two boys at Winchester College hacked their school’s private email system and exposed a price-fixing scheme aimed at ensuring that fees rose well above inflation across the sector. One email even began with the phrase, “Confidential, please, so we aren’t accused of being a cartel.”


Such behavior is all the more galling because public schools in the United Kingdom enjoy tax-exempt charitable status. Several governments, Tory and Labour, have attempted to reform the relationship between the schools and the state—either by taxing school fees, cutting off some state funding, or forcing the schools to behave more like charities, perhaps by educating some poor children for free. But in general, any discounts on fees tend to benefit middle-class, professional parents, who are the bottom-feeders of the ecosystem at a school like Eton. Genuinely poor children remain, for the most part, a purely theoretical species. In order to become need-blind in their admissions, the schools would need endowments similar to those held by the leading private American universities, and a fundraising infrastructure to match—something that might be in the reach of Eton and Harrow, with their oligarchs in the rolodex, but certainly does not look feasible for less prestigious schools.


The cozy relationship of public schools to the global super-rich has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of wealthy Russian pupils at elite UK boarding schools more than tripled, and a group of Eton students made headlines when they were granted a private audience with Vladimir Putin. During the Cold War, the KGB notoriously recruited several public-school-educated British boys as spies and double agents, but Russia’s relationship with the status-symbol boarding schools today is far more open, visible, and lucrative, both to the schools themselves and the highly paid consultants who ease the admissions process.


UK private schools and colleges are attracting more and more of their fee income from wealthy overseas parents, but they are not compelled to report or investigate suspicious transactions, raising concerns that they could be targets of corruption or organized crime—in 2014 a prestigious Somerset boarding school was caught up in a global money-laundering investigation when it was discovered that a pupil’s fees had been paid via an illicit shell company. But Transparency International, the anti-corruption organization, has warned that it is not just money—the schools also have the power to whitewash the shadiest family reputation.


Despite the risks, the value of the school brand in a global marketplace is too high to pass up, and several English schools have established campuses in China, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Qatar, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere, educating some 30,000 children of the rich and influential, in “an important expression of Britain’s own soft power.” At the same time, some foreign buyers have been disappointed by the quality of the product so expensively purchased. One German banker, who sent his children to Westminster school, cautioned his countrymen against sending their children to these bastions of excess and entitlement, where the education was no better than what children gained for free in Germany. Like France and many Scandinavian countries, Germany has barely any culture of private schooling beyond religious institutions. Why would you pay for something that ought to be your right as a citizen?


For Britain’s privately educated leaders, politics is a ladder to be climbed, and policy-making a game.


That question leads to murkier, deeper waters: What is an education for? How can we know it’s good? There is plenty of historical evidence that public schools did not offer the best education: Their commitment to the classics and deliberate, disdainful neglect of the sciences during the nineteenth century meant that most of the figures whose innovations drove the Industrial Revolution were educated outside the system. More recently, the moral code that elevated “muscular Christianity” and its ethos of leadership seems to have dissolved, leaving pure muscle behind. Verkaik observes of the 46 boys in former Prime Minister David Cameron’s 1984 Eton house, only one could claim to have gone onto a career in public service: He became a schoolteacher, although eventually “returned to the private fold.” The others became politicians, bankers, journalists, entrepreneurs—professions where success rests on something that public schoolboys learn to excel at: public speaking, debate, the subtle art of blagging. These boys dominate British politics across parties: Labour leaders Tony Blair and current leftist hero Jeremy Corbyn both have public-school pedigrees.


For Britain’s privately educated leaders, politics is a ladder to be climbed, and policy-making a game. Never has this been clearer than in David Cameron’s colossal gamble on Brexit in the summer of 2016, when a referendum dominated by bad-faith messaging, data breaches, and campaign-finance violations triggered the UK’s limping exit from the European Union. It was not a cause for which the majority of citizens was seriously advocating. The only real victors so far have been those (often privately educated) financiers who made millions by betting on a massive drop in the value of the pound.


The ethos of the modern British private school is not the same now as it was in the days that molded the country’s current leaders. The turn against bullying and the emphasis on a well-rounded, pupil-centered education have penetrated even their forbidding ivy-covered walls. Still, Verkaik’s book is not a call for the reform of the schools, but for their abolition. Tweaking their tax status, or limiting the numbers of top-tier university places their pupils can earn, will not absolve the schools of the real damage they do to communities by encouraging their most privileged members to opt out.


Verkaik argues that “pushy” middle-class parents are needed to pull up the standards of struggling state schools, and that the presence of their “articulate, confident, able” children will help their less privileged peers. But this is a painfully one-sided view. As the American journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has frequently pointed out in her work on school segregation—racial and socioeconomic—in the United States, the white, middle-class kids have just as much to gain from learning alongside children who are different from them. Difference challenges us, and so does community: It requires that we put ego aside and commit to values that transcend our individual tastes, wants, and needs. It may be uncomfortable, but difference is not harmful. The alternative is segregation, isolation, and a cripplingly narrow vision of success.

Society books

Posh Boys by Robert Verkaik review – how public schools ruin Britain

A trenchant j’accuse against the old-boy chumocracy and the ‘apartheid education system’ that perpetuates social inequality in the UK


Houman Barekat

Fri 29 Jun 2018 07.30 BST


From a 21st-century perspective, the term “public schools” is a semantic puzzle: what is “public” about a private, fee-paying school? But Winchester, Eton, St Paul’s and Westminster all started out as philanthropic institutions whose statutes expressly excluded the children of the wealthy. Moneyed interests forced their way in, and fee-paying pupils outnumbered free scholars by the 15th century; in 2017, only 1% of pupils attending independent schools paid no fees at all. In order to justify their charitable status – which confers tax advantages worth an estimated £2.5bn per year – independent schools are legally required to do a modicum of work “for the public benefit”, but a 2011 court ruling held that it is up to their own trustees, not the government, to determine whether they have met this criterion.


“The public schools were founded to educate the poor and ended up serving the interests of the rich,” Robert Verkaik writes in Posh Boys, a trenchant j’accuse against what he calls the “apartheid education system” that perpetuates social inequality in modern Britain. Research suggests the standard of teaching in the private sector is not significantly higher than in the state sector: parents “are really paying for smaller classes … and a place in the privilege network”. Public schools are steeped in an oppressive culture of hierarchy and domination – the now obsolete practice of “fagging”, whereby senior pupils used younger ones as servants, persists in attenuated form in the prefect system – but the pay-off is substantial. As Evelyn Waugh’s Grimes puts it in Decline and Fall: “One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the social system never lets one down.”


Verkaik cites the career of David Cameron as a textbook example of old boy “chumocracy” at work – Tim Farron observed that Cameron’s resignation honours list was “so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court” – but his critical scrutiny is not restricted to the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn, he reminds us, attended the kind of prep school where a boy could be flogged for “having your cap at a rakish angle”; Momentum media strategist James Schneider was also privately educated, as were Labour apparatchiks Seumas Milne and Jon Lansman. Verkaik contends that the preponderance of “inflated egos” with “an innate sense of entitlement and … an almost pathological willingness to risk everything” accounts for the adversarial and polarising tendencies in contemporary politics.


The middle of the last century was the last time the political establishment gave serious consideration to tackling the problem of public schools. In the interwar era, thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw and RH Tawney advocated the introduction of an integrated national system of education. Such was the clamour for change that even Winston Churchill was making noises about it in 1940, but a number of reform initiatives in the postwar years ultimately came to nothing. Tony Blair’s government rejected a proposal to do away with public schools’ tax exemptions on the grounds that the resultant loss of income would limit their altruistic capacity, thereby denying access to some less well-off children. This epitomised New Labour’s ideological trade-off, offering the sop of social mobility in exchange for the preservation of the status quo. Blair garbed his stance in the rhetoric of class, arguing that old-school socialists were elitist “intellectual types” who wanted to keep the aspirational middle classes in their place.


For all its supposed radicalism, Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto went no further than proposing to abolish the VAT exemption on school fees. The kind of radical upheaval Verkaik would like to see – “a slow and painless euthanasia” whereby the privileges of the private sector are slowly whittled away – is well beyond the mainstream political pale. He makes a persuasive case, but his prediction that “in a post-Brexit, populist world, an education policy of inaction may no longer be an option” seems like wishful thinking. The much-vaunted “populism” of Brexit was driven by powerful vested interests, without whose machinations there would never have been a referendum. There is no equivalent lobby for radical reform of the independent schools; on the contrary, the overwhelming majority of people in positions of influence are content with, and invested in, the present state of affairs.


Verkaik’s book is nonetheless a timely intervention that asks all the right questions. Its sweep is impressively broad, encompassing everything from child abuse scandals to concerns about money laundering amid the recent influx of oligarch wealth. Verkaik dismantles the myth that Britain owes its strong military tradition to the public schools: contrary to the quote that has been misattributed to Wellington, Eton didn’t own any playing fields at the time of the battle of Waterloo; the Royal Navy, which sustained Britain’s imperial might, was run by people from relatively humble backgrounds.


There is a brief but insightful cameo from the comedian David Baddiel, who explains that, for Jews and other minorities, a public school education is as much about assimilation as climbing the social ladder. Posh Boys is, for a book about public schools, decidedly comprehensive.