Wednesday 28 April 2021

The Hidden History of Bandanas

A bandana or bandanna (from Sanskrit बन्धन or bandhana, "a bond") is a type of large, usually colourful kerchief, originating from the Indian subcontinent, often worn on the head or around the neck of a person. It is considered to be a hat by some. Bandanas are frequently printed in a paisley pattern and are most often used to hold hair back, either as a fashionable head accessory, or for practical purposes. It is also used to tie around the neck to prevent sunburn, and around the mouth and nose to protect from dust inhalation or to hide the identity of its wearer.


Bandanas originated in India as bright coloured handkerchiefs of silk and cotton with spots in white on coloured grounds, chiefly red and blue Bandhani. The silk styles were made of the finest quality yarns, and were popular. Bandana prints for clothing were first produced in Glasgow from cotton yarns, and are now made in many qualities. The term, at present, generally means a fabric in printed styles, whether silk, silk and cotton, or all cotton.


The word bandana stems from the Hindi words 'bāndhnū,' or "tie-dyeing," and 'bāndhnā,' "to tie." These stem from Sanskrit roots 'badhnāti,' "he ties," and Sanskrit 'bandhana' (बन्धन), "a bond."[4] In the 18th and 19th centuries bandanas were frequently known as bandannoes.


The Global History of the Bandana


How an Indian export became part of the fabric of American life


By Laura Hilgers




Long before American cowboys sported bandanas, the European snuff user of the 18th century suffered from an embarrassing problem: Blowing his nose into a white or solid-colored handkerchief left behind dark tobacco stains. He found a stylish solution in India, where textile makers employed a millennium-old tie-dyeing technique called bandhani to create colorful silk and cotton kerchiefs covered in lively patterns. After the Dutch and English East India companies imported these kerchiefs to England, snuff-takers embraced them to make their habit more discreet, and the name was anglicized to “bandana.”


By the early 19th century, Europe had started producing its own bandanas, most notably in Mulhouse, France, where dye producers developed a version of Turkey red, the color most commonly associated with bandanas today. The original dye was made of sheep dung, madder root and olive oil, and applied to fabric through a process so complicated it inspired “all sorts of industrial espionage,” says Susan Brown, associate curator of textiles at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. The familiar paisley pattern imitated Kashmir shawls.


In colonial America, bandanas were sometimes printed with maps, as guides for travel. They also made a splash during the Revolutionary War. One bandana from the period featured a likeness of George Washington astride a horse, encircled by a series of cannons and the words, “George Washington, Esq., Foundator and Protector of America’s Liberty and Independency.” Historians suspect that Martha Washington commissioned this cotton bandana, likely made in 1775 or 1776 by Philadelphia textile manufacturer John Hewson.


Bandanas have appeared frequently in American politics ever since. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 bandana included the words and music for his boisterous campaign song, “We Want Teddy.” The bandana for Adlai Stevenson’s 1956 presidential campaign featured a smiling photo of the candidate and exhorted voters to go “All the Way with Adlai.”


Still beloved by cowboys and bandits—including a bank robber in Miami Lakes, Florida, this January—bandanas today are used as a handkerchief, neck covering, head scarf or, in Covid-19 times, face mask. “They were largely meant for hard use,” says Madelyn Shaw, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s division of cultural and community life. Despite their all-American status, the best-selling bandanas during the pandemic aren’t red, white or blue. They’re black.


The History of the Bandana


UPDATED: MAY 9, 2018  | 




You see them in back pockets, around foreheads, on necks and even wiping noses. The bandana is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing to have entered the wardrobe of modern western civilization. There are an infinite number of ways to use that light square of roughly 20 by 20 inch cloth, but where did the bandana as we know it today originate?


From ancient South Asian roots to an early American rebrand, we’re going deep on the classic bandana.


Reminiscent in shape, size and function of the kerchief, which has been in use since ancient Roman and Greek times, the bandana is defined as a printed, square-shaped piece of plain-woven cotton, called cambric (although it could be made of silk). This separates the bandana from its forerunner, which was traditionally made from linen and had less emphasis on prints and colors as opposed to name embroidery and the like.


The bandana has served an important function for generations, worn by the likes of sailors, seafarers, farmers, cowboys, bikers and miners, and its use even extends to the LGBT community, gang members and general rebel culture. And the two-tone paisley-printed cotton cambric cloth has come a long way from the traditional resist dye techniques of Turkey and India, at times representing political campaigns and patriotism, at others, aiding in the promotion of popular culture and other twentieth century advertising.


The word itself is suspected to come from the sanskrit word ‘badhnati’ which means binds or to tie. Through colonization and trade, the name found its way into the English dictionary around the mid-eighteenth century. Badhnati was later anglicized into ‘bandannoe’ via Portuguese and eventually it came to be the bandana we know today.


From Persia to Paisley


You might be surprised that the famous paisley pattern that most of us associate with printed bandanas doesn’t actually come from Paisley, Scotland, but rather the region of Kashmir (once part of the Persian empire).


Paisley is traditionally known as a distinctive, intricate pattern of curved feather-shaped figures, originally based on an Indian pinecone design. Having read a vast amount of speculations in the origins of the paisley, or ‘boteh’ as they call it in Persian, this might not be an entirely accurate description of the pattern.


Boteh has several meanings in Persian: bush, shrub, a thicket, bramble, herb. Some would even take it to mean a palm leaf, cluster of leaves (perhaps as a repeated pattern) and flower bud. For those looking for a jumping point, the boteh design dates back to over two thousand years ago and, given, Kashmir’s location, it also reached India, where they referred to it as ‘buta’.


Woven cashmere with buta prints were imported to Europe via the Dutch East India company in the eighteenth century, and quickly grew popular. Used as women’s shawls, these printed pieces symbolized great status, but were also quite expensive and eventually demand outgrew supply. Prices increased and thus many European (particularly English and Scottish) companies began to produce their own shawls in these styles.


In Western culture, this lopsided teardrop had many different associations depending on the country. In France, they called it ‘tadpoles’; in Wales they were ‘Welsh pears’; and in America, which was probably the most accurate, they referred to them as ‘Persian pickles’. But it was still the name ‘paisley’ that ended up sticking with the masses as the design spread across the globe.


The invention of the Jacquard loom would shutter many of the Scottish mills weaving Paisley style fabrics, but their dyeing dexterity and chemistry know-how would keep the Scots in the textile game.


Popularization of the Bandana

A seminal happening in the popularization of the bandana came during the American Revolution. Martha Washington, the wife of Continental Army general George Washington, had a souvenir bandana made featuring the likeness of the Commander-in-Chief.


The idea came to her when she met a printmaker by the name of John Hewson. Hewson was a talented artist and, more importantly, not afraid to defy the British ban on textile printing at the time. Hewson designed a bandana of her husband on horseback, decorated with cannons, flags and a ring of promotional text, highlighting Washington’s dedication to liberty and American independence.


Considered the first-ever bandana—at least as we know them today—it would go on to inspire political campaigns for centuries. In the 1950s, this type of political promotion was becoming increasingly popular, as politicians started to print their campaign slogans on similar bandanas for their supporters, peaking with Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 Win with Ike for President.




Later, the bandana would come to affect advertising and marketing in the fast-changing pop culture landscape that came on the heels of the Industrial Revolution.


As variety, experimentation, and imagination became intrinsic elements in popular entertainment it bled over into new styles of advertising. Many made bandanas to show their affinity for sports teams, musicians or movie stars. Anything from the Yankees to Elvis to promotion of Disney characters, could be found on bandanas, and Kellogg’s cleverly used bandanas as collector’s pieces in order to sell more boxes of cereal. A new marketing strategy was born, and you could tie it around your head.


Bandanas in Workwear

After becoming an advertising medium, the bandana became an even more important symbol in the fight for worker’s rights. The West Virginia Coal Miners March of 1921 was one of the largest armed uprisings in labor history and, at the march, over ten thousand United Mine Workers wore red bandanas to demand unions, an event many equate to the popularization of the derogatory term “redneck.”


It was a battle between scarcely armed miners and armed lawmen of Logan County, but President Coolidge called in federal troops to support the strikebreakers. With more than a hundred casualties—mainly from the ranks of the coal miners—and almost a thousand arrests, management came out on top, but the labor movement would spark a change that eventually led to better conditions for union workers all over the country.


The bandana really came into its own during World War II, as women on the home front entered American factories and used them to tie their long hair back. Due to this, and partly due to John Wayne Westerns, the bandana became an iconic accessory that’s lasted to this day (even weathering the storm of some unfortunate applications, at times getting used as outlaw face protection and as a key piece in the vagrant’s bindle).


In the 70s, the bandana—and its different colors—was used in an entirely different fashion. Implemented by the gay community, the handkerchief code became an easy way to identify not only other gay men but also tell sexual preferences and/or fetishes from potential partners. Different colors and pockets were a quick way to communicate in plain sight with a community that was still largely forced underground.


However, this movement is far different from the affiliation color code implemented by prominent gangs of the 80s, such as the Bloods and Crips, who would show their affiliation by wearing a red or blue bandana, respectively.


Produced for centuries in the east, the Turkey red-dyeing process would later became synonymous with printed cottons in Scotland, and thus the original, mainstream bandana. Brought to Scotland in 1785 by a French entrepreneur, it was then adopted by manufacturers in the Vale of Leven, Dunbartonshire.


It was a both complex and laborious process, involving madder root and alizarin to fix the dye to the cloth, as well as sheep’s dung, bullock’s blood and urine. This admittedly odd combination produced a highly valued color, one that wouldn’t fade with sunlight and washing–aka colorfast. The phenomenon of color fastness was a new and valued concept, but the use of the term wasn’t actually introduced until sometime around 1916.


Due to competition from Europe—production began in Manchester, the Germans developed synthetic dyes and Asian manufacturing scaled their volume — the three biggest companies, William Stirling and Sons, John Orr Ewing and Co. and Archibald Orr Ewing, amalgamated and formed United Turkey Red Co. in 1898. It was a large and successful operation that would go on to exist for almost two hundred years, closing their last factory in 1961.


According to Kiro Hirata—designer of Japanese brand Kapital and creator and curator of the Elephant Brand Bandana Museum, in Kojima, Okayama—the first Turkey red bandana dates back to around the 1850s. He’s opened this museum to share his interest in bandanas and the intriguing history attached to it. With over 250 bandanas on display, he’s managed to document the storied journey of an iconic, enduring design.


Another famous bandana brand featured at the museum, is the NYC-based Davis and Catterall, which existed from the 1920s to the 1970s. Also known as The Elephant Brand by collectors, because they implemented little elephants on their bandanas, Elephant Brand is widely recognized as the original Americana bandana. Because of this, many of these are sought-after collectors pieces, with price tags depending on age and design, with advertising variations being the most collectible.


Famous for their little elephant logo, which was typically printed next to an inscription saying: “fast color, 100% cotton,” the pictured elephant has gone through a few variations.


During the 50s, the trunk of the elephant, which had originally been facing down (dubbed as “trunk down”), was flipped, so it was turning up (“trunk up”), in order for Elephant to distinguish themselves from the competition. In 1986 a “classic” red/black/white (amongst other colors) bandana was entered into the Cooper Hewitt [Design] Museum, New York, donated by Penelope McClain, also indicating the historical significance of the bandana.


And the bandana market has continued to expand to this day, even if it hasn’t necessarily flourished. The little square cloth maintains its versatility as a close-at-hand accessory—both as a headband, necktie or even as a cloth to wipe off your phone screen. But who knew that this simple design would’ve had such a massive impact on so many different cultures.

Monday 26 April 2021

The Tension Between The Queen Mother & Prince Philip / Philip, the media and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Millions across Britain watched the coronation live on the BBC Television Service, and many purchased or rented television sets for the event. The coronation of the Queen was the first to be televised in full; the BBC's cameras had not been allowed inside Westminster Abbey for her father's coronation in 1937, and had covered only the procession outside. There had been considerable debate within the British Cabinet on the subject, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill against the idea; but, Elizabeth refused his advice on this matter and insisted the event take place before television cameras, as well as those filming with experimental 3D technology. The event was also filmed in colour, separately from the BBC's black and white television broadcast, where an average of 17 people watched each small TV.

How Prince Philip courted the media, from the Queen’s coronation to his infamous ‘gaffes’

The Duke of Edinburgh was a central player in a key period for the British monarchy

Rather than inviting condemnation, Philip’s ‘gaffes’ appeared to only increase his popularity. An eyeroll, a wry chuckle, a ‘here he goes again’ (Photo: Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By Laura Clancy

April 9, 2021 2:43 pm

“It will democratise it, make them feel as though they share in it, understand it”, says Matt Smith’s version of Prince Philip in The Crown, during a scene in which he persuades the Queen (as played by Claire Foy) to allow her coronation to be televised.


As a member of the Coronation Executive Committee, Philip did indeed play a key role in staging the coronation spectacle. We’ll never know if he actually said Matt Smith’s words, but multiple royal biographers have claimed he did insist that the coronation was televised, despite politicians and the palace having serious reservations that live coverage might, in the words of nineteenth-century political analyst Walter Bagehot, “let in daylight upon magic”.


It seems impossible, now, to imagine a time when televising the coronation was even up for debate, and indeed Harry and Meghan’s wedding demonstrated that the public now expects a multi-media spectacular. But airing the coronation ceremony turned out to be a formative moment in the vast technological developments within media industries since the 1950s, which have transformed the way we watch and interact with the royals.


According to some sources, Philip was also key to the development of the infamous documentary Royal Family in 1969, which looked like what we would now recognise as reality television. Viewers were ‘treated’ to scenes of the royals enjoying a barbecue, with the Queen chopping salad and Philip frying sausages.


The film has since been redacted by Buckingham Palace and almost all footage removed from public archives, allegedly because it was “too intimate”. But at the time it was revolutionary – it showcased new fly-on-the-wall film-making techniques, and three quarters of the British population tuned in.


While there is no evidence (and it is, let’s face it, unlikely) that Philip had anything to do with the creation of the official Royal Family Twitter or Instagram accounts, he certainly seems to have been a central player in a key period of reinvention of which these social media pages are part. In order to stay relevant to a new generation of potential royalists, the monarchy had to move with the times.


Of course, given some of Philip’s more – shall we say – conservative viewpoints, it seems incongruous to suggest he ‘moved with the times’. His infamous ‘gaffes’ – as they have somewhat obsequiously been called – account for most of the media reporting of him during his decades as the Queen’s consort. Many of these ‘gaffes’ recall an age past: the late 50s or 60s perhaps, when unchecked racism was paired with a post-war conviction of British power and prestige.


It is particularly significant to be talking about this in the age of Trump and Brexit, when these sentiments made a comeback. But rather than inviting condemnation, Philip’s ‘gaffes’ appeared to only increase his popularity. An eyeroll, a wry chuckle, a ‘here he goes again’.


But ‘gaffes’ makes it appear like these comments are accidental; as though Philip simply ‘couldn’t be controlled’. The monarchy is a global institution at the heart of the British establishment – if it wanted to stop Philip making offensive comments, it would have.


Philip’s comments allowed the monarchy to appear authentic, as though it’s not entirely staged and scripted. They made royal events – run to a strict schedule and prepared to the minutest detail – look natural, informal. The ‘gaffes’ were as much a key part of democratising the monarchy as televising the coronation was, or as ‘Kate and Wills’ going on Radio 1 to discuss their favourite Netflix show was. It’s all part of remaking a populist monarchy for the celebrity age.


Philip was a central player in a key period for the British monarchy. The 20th century saw it forced to adapt to new tools of media culture, and learn to use them for its advantage. Whether successful like the coronation, or less so like Royal Family or the even more controversial It’s a Royal Knockout (if you haven’t seen it, prepare yourself), mass media has permanently altered our relationship to the royals.


As the monarchy continues to develop in the modern world, only time will tell how these lessons for monarchical PR play out.


Laura Clancy is a media academic at Lancaster University

Saturday 24 April 2021

How Tea Time Came to England

Europe  Portugal

 Food & Drink

The true story behind England’s tea obsession


A stiff upper lip and an almost genetic love of tea are what makes the English English. Except that the latter was actually influenced by a Portuguese woman.


By Billie Cohen

28 August 2017


Imagine the most English-English person you can think of. Now I’m fairly certain that no matter what picture you just conjured up, that person comes complete with a stiff upper lip and a cup of tea in their hand. Because that’s what the English do. They carry on and they drink tea. Tea is so utterly English, such an ingrained part of the culture, that it’s also ingrained in how everyone else around the world perceives that culture.


Tea is such an ingrained part of the culture, that it’s also ingrained in how everyone else around the world perceives that culture


And while it’s fairly common knowledge that Westerners have China to thank for the original cultivation of the tannic brew, it’s far less known that it was the Portuguese who inspired its popularity in England – in particular, one Portuguese woman. Think about that next time you’re sipping steaming oolong from delicate mugs at the Ritz, or standing under the portrait of Earl Grey in the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Few people know that it was the Portuguese who inspired tea’s popularity in England


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Travel back in time to 1662, when Catherine of Braganza (daughter of Portugal’s King John IV) won the hand of England’s newly restored monarch, King Charles II, with the help of a very large dowry that included money, spices, treasures and the lucrative ports of Tangiers and Bombay. This hookup made her one very important lady: the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.


When she relocated up north to join King Charles, she is said to have packed loose-leaf tea as part of her personal belongings; it would also have likely been part of her dowry. A fun legend has it that the crates were marked Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas (Transport of Aromatic Herbs) – later abbreviated to T.E.A.


That last bit probably isn’t true (etymologists believe the word ‘tea’ came from a transliteration of a Chinese character), but what is for sure is that tea was already popular among the aristocracy of Portugal due to the country’s direct trade line to China via its colony in Macau, first settled in the mid-1500s (visit today to sample the other end of this culinary exchange, the Portuguese pastéis de nata, aka egg custard tarts).


When Catherine arrived in England, tea was being consumed there only as a medicine, supposedly invigorating the body and keeping the spleen free of obstructions. But since the young queen was used to sipping the pick-me-up as part of her daily routine, she no doubt continued her habit, making it popular as a social beverage rather than as a health tonic.


Everything from Catherine's clothes to her furniture became the source of court talk


“When Catherine married Charles, she was the focus of attention – everything from her clothes to her furniture became the source of court talk,” said Sarah-Beth Watkins, author of Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen. “Her regular drinking of tea encouraged others to drink it. Ladies flocked to copy her and be a part of her circle.”


Hot poet of the time, Edmund Waller, even wrote a birthday ode to her shortly after her arrival, which forever linked the queen and Portugal with the fashionable status of tea in England. He wrote:


“The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe

To that bold nation, which the way did show

To the fair region where the sun doth rise,

Whose rich productions we so justly prize.”


To be fair, tea could be found in England before Catherine arrived, but it wasn’t very popular. “Waller is recorded drinking tea in 1657, which is a whole six years before Catherine turns up,” said Markman Ellis, professor of 18th-Century Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and co-author of Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World. “He is a well-known aficionado for tea, which is unusual because it was so expensive and everyone was drinking coffee at this time.”


The reason for the cost was threefold: England had no direct trade with China; tea from India wasn’t around yet; and the small quantities that the Dutch were importing were sold at a very high premium.


“It was very expensive because it came from China and it was taxed very heavily,” explained Jane Pettigrew, author of A Social History of Tea, winner of the 2014 World Tea Awards’ Best Tea Educator and director of studies at UK Tea Academy.


Indeed it was so pricey (a pound went for as much as a working-class citizen made in a year), that, according to Ellis, “it ruled out anyone but the most elite and wealthiest sectors of society. So tea became associated with elite women’s sociability around the royal court, of which Catherine was the most famous emblem.”


And what happens with famous people? Non-famous people imitate them. “When the queen does something, everyone wants to follow suit, so very, very gradually by the end of the 17th Century, the aristocracy had started sipping small amounts of tea,” Pettrigrew said.


Of course, the upper class didn’t invent the ritual of tea-drinking themselves – they were imitators too. As Pettigrew recounted, “Until tea arrived with the Dutch, we [the English] didn’t know anything about tea. No sugar spoons, no cups, no tea kettles (only kitchen kettles), so we did what always happens: we copied the entire ritual from China. We imported [Chinese] tiny porcelain tea bowls, the saucers, the dishes for sugar, the small teapots.”


Catherine’s home country had a hand in in popularising this aspect of the tea experience, too. “Portugal was one of the routes [by which] porcelain got to Europe,” Ellis noted. “It was very expensive and very beautiful, and one of the things that made tea drinking attractive was all the pretty stuff that went with it, like having the latest iPhone.”


Since it was so prized, porcelain was probably part of Catherine’s dowry, and, like other aristocratic ladies, she would have accrued many gorgeous trappings to pad out her tea sessions once she was living in England. Pettigrew explained, “She started it as an aristocratic habit in her palaces – very posh, very upper class, and so the ceremony that arrived from China was immediately associated with fine living. As soon as tea arrived, it had very strong connections to feminine women and very big houses, I suppose through Catherine, because the porcelain cost huge amounts of money. The poor had to make due with earthenware. So everything that was expensive had to do with the aristocracy. It’s the same as today: You buy expensive things to show how important you are.”


Eventually the lower classes transformed tea into a more egalitarian drink, but today, travellers to London can still experience the aristocratic pomp and circumstance at upscale hotels’ afternoon tea services, most notably at the Langham Hotel’s Palm Court in London (which claims to be the birthplace of afternoon tea), the famed Ritz London and Claridge’s.


You can find fancy tea events in Portugal too, but even there, the link to Queen Catherine is not well known. In the historic municipality of Sintra, though, one hotel is trying to change that. At the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Sintra Hotel, general manager Mario Custódio is about to launch a special afternoon tea themed after Catherine in October. “In school we don’t get this [history],” Custódio said. “I had no idea. Even the Portuguese don’t know this.”


The area of Sintra, spread across lush green mountains about 30 minutes outside Lisbon, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, noted for its concentrated displays of European romantic architecture. The Seteais Palace, built in the 1780s by Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester, is just one of several ornate, whimsical estate homes that dot the Sintra landscape; wedding-cake follies overlooking intricate, sprawling gardens and parks. Queen Catherine never lived here, but the concentration of old wealth and must-see mansions makes it the perfect place to reflect on what the lives of Portuguese nobility used to be like. You can easily imagine opulently dressed noblewomen gathering in opulently draped drawing rooms, clinking teacups and swapping news and gossip.


For Custódio, bringing these little-known bits of history to life is what makes the travel experience special and personal for visitors. “I’m trying to [present] these things that are very unknown because that is luxury today,” he said.


If Queen Catherine gave you a gift of marmalade, she didn’t think that much of you


The daily tea service (open only to hotel guests), will highlight aspects of the Portuguese connection to this genteel tradition. For instance, Custódio is working with a historian to serve the type of tea Catherine would have drank (Ellis thinks it’s most likely a green tea, as no tea came out of India until the 1830s, long after she’d passed away). Marmalade will also be part of the menu, as that’s another part of the Catherine of Braganza mythology that Custódio has stumbled across in his research. The tale goes that, since some of the best oranges in the world come from Portugal, Catherine had them shipped over to her new English home regularly. The ones that didn’t make the journey in top condition were turned into marmalade. Of course, whole oranges were a more prized snack, so if Queen Catherine gave you a gift of marmalade instead of oranges, it meant she didn’t think that much of you.


The spread at the Seteais Palace will come with no such judgments. Custódio is simply hoping that by mingling with visitors during the themed tea service and by gifting them with a small book – complete with QR codes for more photos, historical facts and fun stories – he’ll be helping to share some of the culture and colour of his home and reinforce the long-term influence of a little-known transplant queen.


“We Portuguese want to believe that Catarina was responsible for the tea. I don’t want this history to die.”

Sunday 18 April 2021

Helen McCrory: looking back at the life of the 'fearless' star


How Helen McCrory Shone, Even in a Haze of Mystery


She was unforgettable onstage playing seemingly serene women who rippled with restlessness.


Ben Brantley

By Ben Brantley

April 17, 2021


Selfishly, my first feelings on hearing that the uncanny British actress Helen McCrory had died at 52 were of personal betrayal. We were supposed to have shared a long and fruitful future together, she and I. There’d be me on one side of the footlights and her on the other, as she unpacked the secrets of the human heart with a grace and ruthlessness shared by only a few theater performers in each generation.


I never met her, but I knew her — or rather I knew the women she embodied with an intimacy that sometimes seemed like a cruel violation of privacy. When London’s theaters reawakened from their pandemic lockdown, she was supposed to be waiting for me with yet another complete embodiment of a self-surprising life.


Ms. McCrory had become world famous for dark and exotic roles onscreen, as the fiercely patrician witch Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies and the terrifying criminal matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC series “Peaky Blinders.” But for me, she was, above all, a bright creature of the stage and in herself a reason to make a theater trip to London.


More often than not, she’d be there, portraying women of wit and passion, whose commanding serenity rippled with hints of upheavals to come, masterly performances in masterworks by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Pinter, Ibsen, Rattigan and Euripides. Sometimes, she’d take you to places you thought you never wanted to go, to depths where poise was shattered and pride scraped raw.


How grateful, though, I felt at the end of these performances, even after a pitch-bleak “Medea,” at the National Theater in 2014, which she turned into an uncompromising study in the festering nightmare of clinical depression. Granted, I often felt sucker-punched, too, maybe because I hadn’t expected such an ostensibly self-contained person to unravel so completely and convincingly. Then again, that was part of the thrill of watching her.


Most of Ms. McCrory’s fans felt sucker-punched by her death, I imagine. Aside from her family — who include her husband, the actor Damian Lewis, and their two children — few people even knew she had cancer. The announcement of her death was a stealth attack, like that of Nora Ephron (in 2012), who had also managed to keep her final illness a secret.


I have great admiration for public figures who are able to take private control of their last days. Still, when I saw on Twitter that Ms. McCrory had died, I yelled “No!,” with a reiterated obscenity, and began angrily pacing the room.


Damn it, Ms. McCrory had within her so many more complex, realer-than-life portraits to give us. Imagine what we would have lost if Judi Dench, Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren had died in her early 50s.


Like Ms. Mirren, Ms. McCrory, at first glance, exuded a seductive air of mystery. Even in her youth, she had a sphinx’s smile, a husky alto and an often amused, slightly weary gaze, as if she had already seen more than you ever would.


In the early 21st century, I saw her as the languorous, restless Yelena in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” a role she was born for (in repertory with a lust-delighted Olivia in “Twelfth Night,” directed by Sam Mendes); as a defiantly sensual Rosalind in “As You Like It” on the West End; and (again perfectly cast) as the enigmatic friend who comes to visit in Harold Pinter’s “Old Times” at the Donmar Warehouse.


In those productions, she brought to mind the erotic worldliness of Jeanne Moreau. It was her default persona in those days, and one she could have coasted on for the rest of her career. She brimmed with humor and intelligence, and I could imagine her, in another era, as a muse for the likes of Noël Coward.


But Ms. McCrory wanted to dig deeper. And within less than a decade, between 2008 and 2016, she delivered greatness in three full-impact performances that cut to the marrow of ruined and ruinous lives. First came her electrically divided Rebecca West in Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm,” a freethinking “new woman” torn apart by the shackling conventions of a society she could never comfortably inhabit. Then there was her heart-stopping Hester Collyer, an upper-middle-class woman destroyed by sexual reawakening, in Terence Rattigan’s “The Deep Blue Sea.”


In between, she dared to be a Medea who had hit bottom before the play even started. In Carrie Cracknell’s unblinkingly harsh production, Ms. McCrory played Euripides’s wronged sorceress as a despair-sodden woman who believed she would never, ever feel better. It was the horrible, dead-end logic of depression that drove this Medea.


“Nothing can come between this woman and her misery,” observed the household nanny (played by a young Michaela Coel). But it was Ms. McCrory’s gift to lead us into that illuminating space between a character and her most extreme emotions, and to make us grasp where those feelings come from and how they have taken possession of her.


Ben Brantley, the former co-chief theater critic, wrote more than 2,500 reviews for The New York Times over 27 years beginning in 1993, filing regularly from London as well as New York. He retired from regular reviewing in 2020.

Friday 16 April 2021

Prince Philip's funeral


Prince Philip: William and Harry to walk apart as Queen sits alone at funeral


Brothers will be separated by cousin Peter Phillips as they walk behind coffin, Buckingham Palace reveals


Caroline Davies

Thu 15 Apr 2021 18.26 BST


The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex will walk apart for their grandfather’s funeral, which is likely to see the Queen sitting alone, details released by Buckingham Palace reveal.


Prince William and Prince Harry, whose troubled relationship was further strained after the Sussexes’ controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey, will be separated by their cousin Peter Phillips as they walk behind the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday.


The decision, said to be the Queen’s, is unlikely to dampen speculation of a rift between the brothers, or raise hopes of reconciliation at this emotional time for the family.


Buckingham Palace would not be drawn on any “perceptions of drama” the public might draw from the order of procession as senior royals walk first behind the coffin as it is borne by a modified Land Rover, and then again inside St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle. A spokesperson said: “The arrangements have been agreed, and they represent Her Majesty’s wishes.”


The palace also confirmed no military uniforms would be worn by royals, as is usually traditional at a ceremonial royal funeral such as the duke’s, with royals entitled to wear the ceremonial uniforms of the honorary military ranks bestowed on them.


According to reports, the decision was made to spare embarrassment to Harry, who having been stripped of his honorary military positions on stepping down from royal duties, would be the only senior royal in civilian clothes, despite having served two tours of Afghanistan.


The no-uniform decision would also quell an internal palace row over whether the Duke of York should be permitted to wear the uniform of admiral, a rank Andrew, 61, was due to be promoted to on his 60th birthday. The promotion was deferred in the fallout of his disastrous Newsnight interview over his friendship with the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.


A palace spokesperson said: “Members of the royal family will be wearing morning coat with medals or day dress. That’s to say members of the royal family will not be in military uniform.”


Refusing to elaborate on the reasons, the spokesperson said: “All arrangements have been signed off by Her Majesty.”


Prince Charles and Princess Anne will lead family members walking behind the coffin as it travels from the castle to the chapel within the grounds in an eight-minute long procession. Both William and Harry will walk behind Andrew and Prince Edward.


Inside the chapel, as a bearer party of Royal Marines carry the coffin to the catafalque, William will walk next to Peter Phillips, and ahead of Harry.


The 30-strong congregation will all wear masks inside St George’s chapel, and sit 2 metres apart from those outside their household or support bubble. Those walking in the procession will don masks before entering the chapel.


The Queen, masked, will travel in the state Bentley at the rear of the ceremonial procession and be accompanied by a lady-in-waiting who will then take a seat at the back of the chapel, away from the quire, where the main congregation will be seated.


No seating plan has yet been released. But with social distancing observed, it is likely the Queen will sit alone.


Mourners will include the duke’s children and grandchildren, as well as relatives from the German side of his family, who have flown into the UK and are isolating before Saturday’s service. Those invited are Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg – two great-nephews and a cousin – who are staying at a house in Ascot.


Not invited is the Duchess of York, whom the duke famously refused to speak to after her separation from Prince Andrew.


Also missing from the guest list is the Duchess of Sussex, heavily pregnant and advised by physicians not to fly. But the Queen has invited Philip’s carriage-driving companion – one of his closest confidantes – Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The 67-year-old countess is the wife of Earl Mountbatten, Norton Knatchbull – the grandson of Philip’s beloved uncle, Louis Mountbatten, who was murdered by the IRA in 1979.


A choir of four will perform music chosen by Prince Philip, which has been specially adapted to be performed by a minimal number of choristers. The choir will be located in the nave of the chapel, away from the seated congregation. In line with public health guidelines, there will be no congregational singing. As the coffin is lowered into the royal vault at the end of the service, the choir only will sing the national anthem.


Also situated well away from mourners, buglers from the Royal Marines will sound the last post and trumpeters will sound the reveille. A lament will be played by a pipe major. Buglers will also sound “action stations” – a naval warship announcement that all hands must go to their battle stations – at the duke’s request.


“At its heart, it is still a family event. We are following the Covid guidelines. There is a limit on who could be invited as a guest and Her Majesty wanted to ensure that all branches of the duke’s family were there and had to make some very difficult decisions about who would be there,” said a spokesperson.


He added: “Her Majesty and the royal family are grateful for all the messages of condolence from around the world and have been touched to see and hear so many people sharing fond memories of the duke in celebration of his life. The tributes received from young and old are truly a testament to the remarkable life and lasting endeavours of His Royal Highness.”


Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to Marlborough House – the home of the Commonwealth – to look at floral tributes, which had been laid at the gates of Buckingham Palace, but moved each evening. Tributes included a model of a Land Rover, similar to one that will bear Philip’s coffin on Saturday. Some notes were written for the Queen, including one card quoting the monarch herself, which read: “We are so sorry for your profound loss. Your Majesty’s ‘strength and stay’ will endure in our hearts always.”



Order of procession to St George’s chapel


The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin.

Princess Royal – Prince of Wales.

Earl of Wessex – Duke of York.

Duke of Sussex – Peter Phillips – Duke of Cambridge.

Admiral Sir Tim Laurence – Earl of Snowdon.

Personal protection officer – private secretary.




Order of procession inside St George’s chapel


Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dean of Windsor.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin, carried by a bearer party from the Royal Marines.

Princess Royal – Prince of Wales.

Earl of Wessex – Duke of York.

Peter Phillips – Duke of Cambridge.

Duke of Sussex – Earl of Snowdon.

Vice admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Mourners arriving by car


The Queen – travelling with a lady-in-waiting in the state Bentley.


Others: The Duchess of Cornwall; Countess of Wessex, Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor; Duchess of Cambridge; Zara and Mike Tindall; Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi; Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank; Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto; Duke of Gloucester; Duke of Kent; Princess Alexandra; the Hereditary Prince of Baden; the Landgrave of Hesse; Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg; Countess Mountbatten of Burma.