12 January 2018


As the Coronation of George VI on May the 12th 1937 drew closer, Press interest in those who desired to be differently monarched did not lessen. Towards the end of April, an eccentric fantasist called Captain Henry Wheatley-Crowe announced to the media that the King over the Water had appointed him Regent of the Three Kingdoms, in which capacity he protested against the imminent Coronation (Crown Prince Rupprecht very quickly made clear that the Captain's claims were totally without foundation). At the beginning of May it seems that, back at Balliol, Peter Geach made a second foray in the Jacobite interest. The Milwaukee Journal reports that the "Oxford university authorities frustrated, as a student prank, a Jacobite demonstration scheduled to proclaim Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria 'king of England'. Peter Geach, 20-year-old, pink cheeked leader of Oxford Jacobites, had prepared a proclamation acclaiming Rupprecht as the British Monarch and denouncing 'a certain George Windsor' as a pretender to the throne. ... One of [Geach's] supporters was arrested Friday and fined a pound ($5) by the university's proctors."

I do rather wonder whether the nameless undergraduate 'arrested' and fined may in fact have been Geach himself. It is not clear whether the Bulldogs 'arrested' the young man, whoever he was, or the Police nabbed him and handed him over to the Proctors. There seems to be a legend that this declaration was to be made at Magdalene Bridge; which would make sense, since it was from that bridge, according to Oxford tradition, that two undergraduates were hanged during the events of 1745 ("the '45"), when Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales and empowered by a Commission of Regency from his father King James III and VIII, was endeavouring to restore the rule of law during the usurpation of ... I am indebted to that great Englishman and Oxonian Mr Max Beerbohm for this diverting periphrasis ... 'smug herrenhausen'.

Perhaps, entering into the idiom of the eighteenth century, one could aver that the future Professor Geach was "out" in "the '37".

As well as during "the '45", there were 'disorders' in Oxford, in favour of King James, during 1748, which were serious enough to make the University authorities very frightened indeed that the Whig de facto regime might come down heavily on Alma Mater Oxonia. The Dedication of the Radcliffe Camera had to be postponed; when, in 1749, that event was able finally to take place, the renewed 'disorders' were led, this time, by a don rather than by the undergraduates. A lengthy Oration was delivered by 'the Pretender's great agent' [Horace Walpole's description] Dr William King. Jacobites gathered from all over England and Wales to hear King's ringing denunciations of the wealthy Whig oligarchy, its network of informers, its culture of bribery, its militarism ... leading up to a magnificent peroration in which paragraph after thundering paragraph began with the word REDEAT ["May he {i.e. Prince Charles} return"]. But the Latin syntax was so delicately manoeuvred that the subject of that subjunctive was, technically, never explicitly Prince Charles. Since in Latin word-order a subjunctive like REDEAT can come first in its sentence (and, in a rhetorical cause, might indeed prefer to do so; vide the last line of this post), King could utter it, pause awhile to milk the enthusiastic applause, and then carry on to supply some other, vaguer, phrase as the 'official' grammatical subject (e.g. 'Redeat ... magnus ille genius Brittaniae'). King prudently included in his printed text a prohibition against any translation being made into the vernacular: a process during which grammatical niceties might well have been fatally coarsened.

'Fatally' because Dr King's head, indeed, did depend upon the syntactical nicety!

Vivat Rex! Floreat Oxonia! Requiescat in pace vir doctissimus Petrus Geach!

1 comment:

Ben Trovato said...

Magdalen Bridge, surely!