A selection of Lord Lexden's letters this year to The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New Statesman, The Spectator and others. You can read letters from previous years in the menu to the left.
10/02/20 - Airey Neave's murder
Sir, Your obituary of Sir Michael Cummins (Feb 6) asserts that the bomb that killed Airey Neave in 1979 was planted in the Palace of Westminster’s car park by the so-called Irish National Liberation Army. That was the claim made by the terrorists. The Metropolitan Police had no doubt that the bomb was put in place while Neave’s car stood outside his nearby flat during the night with a tilting device that caused the explosion as he drove up the ramp from the car park the following day.
Political adviser to Airey Neave,1977-79
10/02/20 - Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale Queen Victoria
The Daily Telegraph
SIR - The exhibition on Florence Nightingale’s later life (report, February 3) should give prominence to Queen Victoria’s deep and lasting admiration of her.
“I envy her being able to do so much good,” Victoria wrote during the Crimean War. The pair met in 1856. Expecting to encounter a battleaxe, the Queen was enchanted to find the now famous nurse was modest and demure, “refusing all public acclaim”. The sorrowing monarch roused herself from her widow’s seclusion in 1868 to open St Thomas’s Hospital in London “ for Miss Nightingale”.
The bond between them was further strengthened when, a few days later, news arrived that two nurses trained by Nightingale and sent to Sydney Infirmary had ensured the recovery of the Queen’s favourite son, Prince Alfred, after an assassination attempt in Australia.
Recalling her indebtedness to the Lady with the Lamp, the Queen insisted that money sent to her by the public for her Golden Jubilee in 1887 should be used to establish the Queen’s Jubilee Nursing Institute, the world’s first professional nursing organisation.
She would have been appalled by the refusal of her successor, Edward VII, to include the legendary figure in the new Order of Merit which he created in 1902. “ Women are not eligible,” he insisted. He eventually gave way in 1907 after the prime minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, had lectured him about “ the revolution which her services and example effected.” It was as Florence Nightingale 0M that she died in 1910.
16/01/20 - Another Duke of Sussex who went his own way
Sir, Prince Harry’s Hanoverian predecessor as Duke of Sussex, Prince Augustus, loved breaking the rules. He is the only royal to marry twice without the monarch’s consent required under the Royal Marriages Act. After the death of Lady Augusta Murray (“History repeats itself as the Sussexes fall out of favour”, Jan 13), he married Lady Cecilia Buggin, widow of a London Alderman, in 1831. The match won widespread public support, enhanced by the duke’s endorsement of parliamentary reform and the enfranchisement of Jews to the horror of his right-wing family. Though Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, thought “it would be very ridiculous” to grant the illegal wife any public recognition, in 1840 Queen Victoria created her Duchess of Inverness “as long as she did not go out or take place before any other duchess”. A rebel to the last, her husband rejected in his will a burial at Windsor in favour of Kensal Green cemetery, proving his piety by accumulating some 1,000 editions of the Bible.
House of Lords
08/01/20 - George III - a most conscientious king
The Daily Telegraph
SIR - It is very good that George III is to be the subject of an exhibition that will “seek to redefine what is known about the monarch” (report, January 3).
That should include his remarkable stamina and devotion to state affairs. It was his habit to rise at six in the morning to deal with ministerial papers that had arrived overnight. After a morning ride, breakfast and divine service, he worked until eight-thirty in the evening, with a break in the afternoon for public occasions such as receptions for ministers and courtiers. He wrote all his own letters and policy papers until 1805 when failing eyesight compelled him to use a secretary. He was the only Hanoverian monarch to keep up such a strict daily routine, playing the flute, harpsichord or piano in the evenings for recreation.
A leading authority on the period, Professor Peter Jupp, concluded that “ by the end of the 1770s he was probably the best-informed statesman of his time on the full range pf policy issues.” Sadly, mastery of detail was not always rewarded by political success.