The Rest Is History

Preparations for a royal death, an Irish tradition observed by the American government, and the irresistible allure of existential philosophers.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, March 17, 2017

 HRH Princess Elizabeth in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, April 1945. Imperial War Museums.

• Jane Austen died young. What would her work have looked like if she had lived longer? (Prospect)

• What happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies? “The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, ‘Hyde Park Corner,’ to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out. For Elizabeth II, the plan for what happens next is known as ‘London Bridge.’ The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say ‘London Bridge is down’ on secure lines. From the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre, at an undisclosed location in the capital, the news will go out to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a symbolic figurehead—a face familiar in dreams and the untidy drawings of a billion schoolchildren – since the dawn of the atomic age.” (The Guardian)

• Brahms versus Wagner. (The Awl)

• In the Oval Office during the St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Ceremony: “To many Americans and Irish alike, the symbolism of the Shamrock Ceremony verges on diddly-eye tokenism. Consider a few of the most groan-worthy Irish jokes presidents have told at the event over the years. Eisenhower once offered: ‘Wouldn’t it sound funny if I tried to say O’Eisenhower?’ Gerald Ford started off an address: ‘All Americans know there is a bit of the green in the red, white, and blue.’ When not threatening Democrats with shillelaghs, Reagan quipped of the holiday: ‘Leave it to the Irish to be carrying on a wake for 1,500 years.’ George W. Bush jested: ‘Taoiseach, good morning—or should I say, top o’ the morning.’ And last year, Obama attempted some Irish lingo while touting his heritage: ‘The Obamas of Leinster are nothing if not welcoming. We’ve got trad. We’ve got pints of black. It’s up to you to provide the craic.’” (Atlas Obscura)

• The immigration story of Vice President Mike Pence’s grandfather. (New York Times)

• The charm of the existentialists: “It’s true that existentialism isn’t always ‘easy,’ but it helps that many of the existentialists themselves were irresistible. As a young man, Sartre hurled water bombs from classroom windows, yelling ‘Thus pissed Zarathustra!’ Simone de Beauvoir improvised elegant solutions to the straitened circumstances of life in Nazi-occupied Paris, wearing turbans when she could not secure a haircut, and sleeping in ski-wear to save on heating. Albert Camus, who was investigated by the FBI at the request of J. Edgar Hoover (the file was mislabelled ‘Canus’), could sit in the street in the snow, lamenting his love life, until two in the morning. He adored his cat, a creature blessed with the perfect moniker: ‘Cigarette’.  Tell me what’s not to love about these existentialists.” (The Times Literary Supplement)