Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Prince Arthur's Sword

The Calm before the Storm
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The National Library's lecture theatre at about a quarter to one today (6/5/2015). Very much the calm before the storm. The room started filling up and at about five past one the storm broke.

Mark Leslie, second in succession to the Leslie Baronetcy currently held by his uncle Jack, launched us into his family's tempestuous history, peppered with fascinating stories and all the while way up the social ladder.

It all revolved around the family home, Castle Leslie in Glaslough Co. Monaghan, now a very high class hotel and equestrian centre.

The title of Mark's talk was "Norman Leslie and the Sword of Prince Arthur". Norman was Mark's grand-uncle who had a very colourful career in the British Army, so much so that he was awarded a specially inscribed sword by Prince Arthur, first Duke of Connaught.

Norman died at the Western Front in 1914 while leading his men in a charge and holding the sword aloft as befitted an officer. While his body was subsequently located and buried, the sword could not be found.

Many years later, a Belgian farmer, ploughing his field, unearthed the sword and seeing the inscription returned it to the War Office who returned it to the Duke of Connaught, who in turn returned it to the family. It is a treasured heirloom which now surfaces on important family occasions.

Mark Leslie launching his talk

So that explains the title of the talk. Norman had also been probably the last British Army soldier to engage in an officially approved duel. That arose out of his womanising and he was lucky to survive it.

We heard about Mark's antecedents, including a bishop who defied Cromwell, and in more modern times, a relation who got away with wearing a tiara which was bigger than the Queen's at a royal reception in Buck House.

If I were to recount the many other great stories I'd be here all night so I'll just say that this was one of the, if not the, best talks I've ever been at, and if it ever comes to a location near you in the future make sure not to miss it.

And if it doesn't and is being given in a faraway place, make sure you travel to it.

You won't regret it.

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