Saturday, 22 January 2011

007 Ball - London - Polish Order of Malta Volunteers (UK)

The Polish Order of
Malta Volunteers
request the pleasure of your company at
The 007 Ball
in aid of
The Poznan Appeal
Saturday 5th March 2011
The Savile Club
69 Brook Street

The Earl of St Andrews
General The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank
Joanna Meeson
Vice Chairman
Monika Bojarska

Clara Andersson
Rafal Heydel Mankoo
Silke Lohmann
Catherine Vereker

7.30pm Champagne Reception
8.00pm Dinner
10.00pm Auction
10.30pm Casino & Dancing
2.00am Carriages
RSVP Joanna Meeson
07947 048766
Tickets £150
(£125 before 1st Feb)

Bond Characters
Black Tie & Decorations

Tickets may be purchased by sending a cheque, made payable to "APKM (UK)", to the Chairman, Joanna Meeson, please contact her at for postal address. Please remember to include your return address and the names of all guests.

Alternatively, tickets may be purchased on-line via Pay Pal on the Official Website of the Association of the Polish Knights of Malta (UK) -- NB: If paying on-line via PayPal please send a follow up email to with your name and address, stating that you have bought tickets via paypal. 007 Ball tickets may be purchased here:

Social Committee
Eduardo & Alexandra de Aranda Godlewski   Lalage Barran
Candice Berrier Plater  James Bland
Philip Bujak Edward and Aurea Connolly
Joanna Dabrowska  Michel Dembinski
Alexandra Fudakowska Stefan Kosciuszko
James Lewis Kasia Madera
Anna Maria McKeever Oskar Milczarek Mele
Robert Morrisson Atwater  Afsaneh Moshiri
Nicolas Moussette  Cezary Pietraszik
Zigmunt Sikorski Mazur Przemyslaw Skwirczynski
Andrew Visnevski 

The Work of the Polish Order of Malta Volunteers (London)

Founded before 1099, the Order of Malta is the world’s oldest International Hospitaller Order working to help the poor and the sick. Today the Order is a major global organisation providing care for the chronically disabled and disadvantaged.

With assistance from the Volunteers, over 80,000 permanent volunteers and 11,000 doctors and nurses support the Order’s work. Projects of the Polish Association include a first aid and ambulance corps, social centres for street children as well as a variety of medical and aid centres for the physically and mentally challenged. Last year the Knights were able to open a Centre in Krakow for the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy. This Centre, which is fully active and highly successful, is now the largest centre of its kind in Europe. 

The Order remains very dependant on funds from outside Poland and consequently in 2007 the Polish Order of Malta Volunteers (London) was set up to support the Order and continue its fundraising efforts. Our group has constantly grown over the years and our events have become more dynamic. It’s thanks to the efforts of the Volunteers that we are able to embark upon an ambitious fundraising project.

The POMV is now raising money to rebuild and modernise Poznan’s Oncological Out-Patient clinic. Each year, the clinic’s 60 volunteers diagnose and treat, at no charge, over 5000 patients. Medical departments include oncology, gynaecology, radiology, internal medicine, cardiology, pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, surgery and path morphology. In order to rebuild and provide equipment for the building we need to raise £1,300,000. It would be wonderful if the POMV could achieve this! To date we have raised tens of thousands of pounds. This was fantastic but we still have a long way to go. Your support would be extremely valuable and is greatly appreciated. Any cheques with donations to the Polish Knights of Malta can be made payable to “APKM (UK)”, (Reg. Charity No. 1102122).

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Crown -- a force for unity and national identify

Republics are primarily the end product of political strife, upheaval, conflict, revolution, coups, civil wars, or acts of independence. It is the anniversary of these dramatic events which provides an annual occasion for national celebration, acts of patriotism and reaffirmation of founding principles (Bastille Day, July 4th etc.). Constitutional monarchies, in contrast, are notable for their stability; thus, in Britain, there is no national “birth of nation” myth. The Sovereign, as the personification of Crown, state and nation, has become not merely a constitutional mechanism, but the focal point for unity and national celebration. Our greatest occasions of state ceremonial, patriotism and national unity are focussed upon the Monarchy: the Coronation, jubilees, royal weddings, funerals and birthdays.

The symbolic and ceremonial role of Monarchy is one of its most important. American patriotic fervour is directed at its constitution and flag. In France it is the French Revolution which defines, but continues to divide, the nation (the failure to create a clear focus of national unity may in part explain the French Republic's turbulent political history). But, lacking a humanising aspect that makes the authority tangible, constitutions, flags and myths can never truly personify the nation. 

The distinction between the concepts is perhaps best illustrated through the national anthem. The British national anthem (which was the world's first, with the melody adopted by several other countries) may be distinguished from those of many other states because it is not addressed to a fatherland, flag or constitution but to God, and is focussed on the Sovereign rather than an intangible notion of “peoples” or “nation”.


Walter Bagheot divided the constitution into two elements: the “efficient” (administration, the work of Government, implementation of policy etc.) and the “dignified” (symbolic and ceremonial). Dignified elements include the monarchy and are essential to promoting national unity and providing legitimacy for government.
Nations require ritual and ceremonial; it is essential to our identity and exists in all cultures – the inauguration of an American President is a mediocre version of a Coronation. British state ceremonial is the greatest show on earth – its star role provided by royalty. Monarchy resonates with us and appeals to us in a deeply visceral way. We can debate political and constitutional niceties but it is the Monarchy’s emotional connection with the people that will ensure its survival.

Official ceremonies, tours and engagements enable the people to see the Sovereign and thereby connect with the nation. The Queen is probably the most recognisable figure in the world, as iconic as any brand logo. As a figure who has occupied the public stage for over 80 years, The Queen connects us with our collective memory. She is a reassuring presence and manages to symbolise both modern British popular history (through herself as a long-standing public figure) and the great totality of British history (as symbol of the Crown).
A national ceremony of celebration or commemoration without the presence of the Sovereign or a member of the Royal Family would strike the public as very odd and would diminish the impact of the event, making it appear somehow incomplete or unsatisfying.

The Queen as Head of State symbolises the state and government in the performance of various duties (receiving ambassadors, state visits, opening Parliament). The Queen as Head of the Nation symbolises national values and beliefs and serves as the focal point for national identity and unity – this is achieved through the conferral of honours (recognising achievement in a wide variety of sectors and at all levels of society), presence at historic national occasions, participation in great ceremonies of state, attendance at local events, the sending of letters and telegrams of congratulations, Christmas Day speeches, patronage of charities etc.

The unifying nature of Constitutional Monarchy has made it uniquely well-equipped to hold a democratic society together. That has particularly been the case in multinational entities. The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy for example was held together largely by the person of the emperor, Franz Josef, and it is often said that the King of the Belgians is the only true Belgian, all others being Flemish or Walloon. 

The monarchy stands above class distinctions, beyond political ambitions and above factional interests. It is the pre-eminent symbol of patriotism, the centre of national celebration and the ultimate example of stability and continuity in a changing world.  As Britain faces a future filled with challenges and threats to national unity (globalisation, devolution, ghettoized and segmented communities, and increased participation in the European Union) the Crown could play a vital role as a cohesive element for British society.

This is of fundamental importance for, in my opinion, the single most important function of a constitutional monarchy, is the promotion of national unity and values and the cohesion of civil society through charitable endeavours and moral leadership.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Guiding Principle of Lords Reform: better government

The House of Lords receives a bad press. Although more representative of modern society than the House of Commons and approximately two-thirds cheaper, the House of Lords continues to be portrayed as a private gentlemen’s club, occupied by privileged old men and political hacks from a by-gone era. The perpetuation of such hackneyed stereotypes lies behind many of the calls for Lords reform and obscures a plain reality: the House of Lords works extremely effectively and the institution in most urgent need of reform is the House of Commons.

Following the removal of all but 92 of the hereditary peers in 1999, the House of Lords has become noticeably more confident. With an increased sense of legitimacy, the Lords has defeated government legislation more than 500 times since 1999 and has become more insistent upon legislative amendment, which is good for democracy and for the quality of legislation. This rise is also due to the fact that no party enjoys a majority in the upper chamber, with the Conservatives and Labour broadly equal and the Liberal Democrats and cross-benchers holding the balance of power. The lack of a single party majority in the House of Lords is a positive development which strengthens Parliament (this is not an issue of the House of Lords versus the House of Commons, it is Parliament versus the Executive) and must be replicated in any reformed second chamber. Around the world, second chambers that have the same majority as first chambers are prone to government influence and are less effective.

Many of the post-1997 constitutional reform initiatives were criticised for the failure to consider their legal and political implications.  Similarly, advocates of an elected House of Lords have routinely failed to consider the profound impact the introduction of the elective principle will have on the operation of Parliament as a whole.  It is imperative that those in favour of reform properly understand the fundamentally important complementary relationship that exists between Commons and Lords.

This is not to argue against any reform. On the contrary, the steady increase in the power of the Executive at the expense of the House of Commons, the adoption of the Human Rights Act and the more general constitutional evolution that has taken place since 1997 are all arguments in favour of Lords reform. The House of Lords is also unmanageably large. With the addition of 111 new peers in the six months following the last general election (compared with 205 during the entirety of the Thatcher government), the number of peers entitled to sit in the second chamber has swelled to 792; this makes the upper house by far the largest of any democracy and, after China’s upper house, the second largest in the world.  Given the size of the British population the continued growth of the House of Lords is unsustainable and, in light of plans to reduce the size of the House of Commons, unjustifiable. A cap on total membership of the House of Lords needs to be set with appointments of further peers suspended until mechanisms for retirement and resignation are in place.

Reform is welcome on the condition that it correctly identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the upper chamber, preserving and improving the former and correcting the latter. One of the reasons Lords reform has failed thus far has been the inability of reformers to effectively demonstrate precisely how the introduction of an elected element will improve the performance of the upper house.  Any reform needs to make the quest for better government its guiding doctrine. 

Saturday, 8 January 2011

From Placentia to the Palace -- the Canadian roots of the Countess of St. Andrews

An article on the Canadian roots of the Countess of St. Andrews, featuring commentary from me, appeared in today's The Telegram (a Newfoundland newspaper), authored by Steve Bartlett

"From Placentia to the Palace: The Queen’s first great-grandchild isn’t the only Canadian with a connection to the throne -- The Telegram - January 8th 2011

Not many people born in this province can say the late Princess Diana was their son’s godmother.
Or that their in-laws live in a palace. Or that their youngest child is in the line of succession for the British throne.
Or that there is speculation as to whether she’ll present the trophies at the Wimbledon tennis championship.
But Placentia-born Sylvana (Tomaselli) Windsor can make such claims.
“(She) is one of the least known members of the Royal Family. She and her husband maintain a very low profile,” explained Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, an editor with Burke’s Peerage and Gentry, a guide to the genealogical history of royal and noteworthy families.
Canadian connections to the monarchy recently made holiday headlines.Autumn Phillips, the Montreal-born wife of the Queen’s grandson, Peter, had a baby girl Dec. 29.
The newborn is Elizabeth II’s first great-grandchild, and she’ll hold dual British and Canadian citizenship, making the child the first Canuck to be in line for the throne. (She’s 12th on the list.)The baby girl and her mom weren’t the first Canadian citizens to be part of the modern-day Royal Family, though. Sylvana married George Windsor 23 years ago Sunday at a registry office in Scotland.
George’s father is Prince Edward, the Queen’s first cousin. He’s also the Duke of Kent, a title that involves carrying out official duties on behalf of the Queen and sees him living in a Kensington Palace apartment.
With his “I do,” Sylvana’s hubby gave up his place in the succession to the throne. Because she was Catholic, the Act of Settlement barred George — but not his children — from the crown. (Not that there was ever a realistic chance he’d become king.)
Sylvana and George have three children, a boy and two girls. The two oldest converted to Catholicism and are also blocked from the line of succession. The youngest child has not converted and is 29th in line for the throne. George Windsor’s title is Earl of St. Andrews, making Sylvana the Countess of St. Andrews. Both are considered courtesy stylings.
Heydel-Mankoo noted that George will become the Duke of Kent with the passing of his father. Sylvana would then be the Duchess of Kent.
But they will not be Royal Highnesses, as the current Duke and Duchess are. It was decided in 1917 that Royal Dukedoms — as the five dukes are known — would no longer be “Royal” after the third generation.
George and Sylvana will instead be known as His Grace and Her Grace, Heydel-Mankoo explained.
Given the increasing distance between the Duke of Kent and the throne, the peerage expert said it’s doubtful the couple would fulfil as many duties on behalf of the crown as George’s parents do.
“It will be interesting to see whether the Earl of St. Andrews will succeed his father as president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon,” Heydel-Mankoo said. “And, if so, whether the Countess of St. Andrews will present the Wimbledon trophies, as her mother-in-law famously did until recently.”
Sylvana did not respond to The Telegram’s request for an interview.
There are next to no public details about her life in Canada, and Newfoundland especially. She was born at Placentia in May 1957, to Maximillian Tomaselli and Josiane Preschez.
Town resident Rhonda Power checked church records for The Telegram Friday and confirmed Sylvana was baptized at the Holy Rosary Parish on July 20th of the year she was born.The sponsors at the christening were not local, suggesting a possible connection to the U.S. naval base at nearby Argentia. Other than that, it’s known that Sylvana was married to a John Paul Jones in Vancouver in 1977, and they divorced in 1981. 
The Telegram spoke to numerous people knowledgeable about Placentia and the Argentia base, but the name Tomaselli didn’t ring a bell with any of them. That’s not surprising, since it’s hardly a common surname in Placentia, Fox Harbour and Jerseyside.
George Wiscombe worked on the base at the officer’s club from the mid-’50s until 1994. When asked if he knew a Maximillian Tomaselli, he replied, “No, sir, I don’t.” Wiscombe said there were thousands of serviceman who went through, and unless Tomaselli was an officer, he wouldn’t have known him. People with in-depth knowledge of the Placentia cottage hospital didn’t recognize the name either. 
Outside of Sylvana’s royal ties, what’s known about her is that she’s a respected scholar.
According to Heydel-Mankoo, she graduated from York University in Ontario with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in arts before going on to study at the University of Cambridge.That’s where she met her royal husband and where she currently lectures, at St. John’s College. Listed on the school’s website under her maiden name, Sylvana specializes in 18th-century political theory and is the director of studies in history.
She has written numerous scholarly articles and edited or co-edited four books, Heydel-Mankoo said.
Her three children appeared in a fashion spread for Tatler, a British magazine, this past November. Still, Heydel-Mankoo said their notoriety is not on the rise. “The have maintained a discreet and respectable lifestyle,” he said, attributing that to the importance of their faith.
Interestingly, the Daily Mail reported in October that the late Princess Diana was the godmother of Sylvana’s son. (There are old pictures online of Sylvana sitting next to Diana, who has a baby on her lap.)
Sylvana’s journey from Placentia to the Palace must have been interesting, without a doubt. If only more were known about it."

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Magic of Monarchy

Monarchy carries an undeniable magic and mystique. Even the seriously-minded Victorian essayist Walter Bagheot acknowledged this. Psychologists have proven that a “happiness effect" accompanies occasions graced by royalty – this is of course not because of the royals themselves but relates to the atmosphere created by the occasion and generated by their presence. Much the same effect will be felt in a crowd gathered to meet the Pope, the Dalai Llama or another figure of global stature (in earlier years we would have mentioned Mother Teresa and some undoubtedly would have cited Diana, Princess of Wales). This phenomenon does not relate to the political and constitutional Monarchy – this is the personal and emotional face of Monarchy – but it is no less important.

We saw the power of the magic of monarchy a few months ago when The Queen addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations.  The atmosphere was electric and many of the cynical and seasoned diplomats turned into giddy school children beaming with smiles as they jostled to get a good view; some even took their mobile phones out to snap a photograph of this slight old lady who had come to address them as the world’s only trans-national monarch, Head of State of 16 Nations, Head of a Commonwealth of 54 Nations and Sovereign for almost as long as the UN has been in existence. No other world figure would have been accorded such a spectacular reception.

A healthy and productive society requires role models and icons. Their function is manifold but they ultimately serve to motivate, inspire and guide both the society as well as its constituent parts. Our era, for whatever reason, suffers from a paucity of true role models.  By committing her life to personal self sacrifice, dedication to duty and service to the nation, The Queen has come to epitomise much that is truly noble in the human spirit. Can we say the same of elected politicians?