The Third Leader: Sorry about the war

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England expects. There are times when it is impossible not to feel proud of this country, despite the best efforts of the Home Office. And today, with its commemorations of the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, is one of them.

England expects. There are times when it is impossible not to feel proud of this country, despite the best efforts of the Home Office. And today, with its commemorations of the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, is one of them.

No one, it is said, can do ceremony like the British. The more contestable assertion is that we are any good at it. We do funerals well, but death is the one occasion when our embarrassment about a bit of a fuss is thought bad form.

No, our great national ceremonies take the village fête as their example: bags of slightly chaotic enthusiasm and lots of concern about not offending anybody.

So, today, marvellously, we have invited everybody to celebrate our great moment of national apotheosis, including the losers; and, even more marvellously, we are not re-creating the triumph, merely presenting "vignettes", with the names changed to protect the losers. Sorry? Yes, "vignette" is a French word, but I wasn't going to mention it. Or the War.

What would Nelson have thought? He would have been fizzing with fury, being a hero, and even more atypical than most. Many must have greeted the great man's death with some fortitude: can you imagine what he would have been like after Trafalgar? Bluff, crusty Wellington is much the preferred model of the British warrior, along with Sergeant Arthur Wilson of the Home Guard, Walmington-on-Sea.

You will be shooting all sorts of holes in such crass generalisations; but, please, do not pray in aid of Trafalgar Square, or Waterloo Station, as they are only called that so we can apologise for them.

Comments