I’ve been musing on the merits of three individuals made Knights of the Bath during the past three hundred years, their friends, and subsequent careers.
Benito Mussolini was Knighted by King George V in 1923.
Nicolae Ceaucescu was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.
Keir Starmer was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2014.
Benito Mussolini was a leading Socialist and a doctrinaire atheist. He took his politics and atheism from his father. One of his middle names was after one of his father’s
heroes. (There’s a parallel with the case of today’s Knight in Shining Starmer, whose first name was conferred in commemoration of the Socialist Keir Hardie.) Before
the First World War Italy had been in a Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria, but was prevailed upon to join Britain, France and Russia in their attack on its former
Allies. The Italian Socialists favoured Neutrality, but Mussolini broke with them and , as Editor of the paper he founded in 1914 “IL POPOLO ITALIANO” supported the
war. From 1917, on the advice of Sir Samuel Hoare, who headed a 100 strong Secret Service Office in Rome, the British subsidised Mussolini’s paper to the tune of the
modern equivalent of £6,000 per week.
Six years later Mussolini was considered sufficiently loyal to his old paymasters to merit one of Britain’s highest honours. But Mussolini paid Britain back, putting money into the coffers of the Suez Canal Company for the passage of Italian troops, arms, horses and other material to the Rape of Abyssinia. (At the League of Nations, the President of its Council of Ministers, Eamon de Valera, demanded, in vain, that its members honour its its Covenant and defend Abyssinia. He was willing to commit Irish Defence Force personnel to a common effort. But the other delegates and their governments reneged on their obligations.
Sir Samuel Hoare, as Foreign Secretary later negotiated a deal with French Premier Pierre Laval, to give part of Abyssinia to Italy, and the rest to Italy to run under a
bastard “Home Rule” type deal. Abyssinia was not consulted, the British Parliament did not endorse it and Abyssinia went down fighting to Rome Rule. Pierre Laval was shot in October 1945 in France for treason.
Hoare was a real “Cute Hoor” as we say in Ireland and survived to his 80th year unpunished. In 1959 he passed beyond accountability in this world.
Mussolini sent troops to support Franco’s mutineers in Spain and to take over Albania in 1939. The leading citizens in the leading “Liberal Democracies” as well as Pope Pius XI ( “Ratti by name and ratty by nature” as a Priest uncle of mine described him) thought IL DUCE a wonderful fellow. Winston Churchill was one of his foremost admirers. The author, Evelyn Waugh, a wonderful writer, but a horrible racist and snob, who covered the Abyssinia conflict for the Daily Telegraph, particularly admired the poison-gassing of the natives.
Mussolini, like Laval came to a sticky end at the hands of his fellow countrymen.
Nicolae Ceauscescu was born in 1918 and was made a Knight of the Bath in 1978 by Queen Elizabeth II .He had been a Communist since his teens and remained one till he met a sticky end at the hands of his own countrymen in December 1989.
His wife shared his fate, as Mussolini shared his,
Keir Starmer currently describes himself as a socialist. He has been a Knight of the Bath just six years.