History Today eBook: The Second World War

Colonel Sibthorp: A Festival Centenary

Christopher Sykes on an influential, eventful - though entirely fictional - parliamentary career.

This year a clique of which I am member celebrates a man and an event. The man’s name was Colonel Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp, and in the middle years of the nineteenth century he was one of the best-known political figures in England. He did not die in 1851, but in this year and the one preceding it he passed through his finest hours, which we of the Sibthorp following remember today. A word about us. We are for the most part the readers of old Punches, those who delight in this magazine when it has lain in the cellars for a long time. One of the things we most relish in early numbers are sketches by four of the greatest of Punch draughtsmen: Thackeray, Leech, Doyle and the young Tenniel, of a cross little bearded man wearing strange clothes and an enormous quizzing glass. He is usually called C—1 S—p, Hon. Member for L—n. He is our hero of whom I now treat.

Colonel Sibthorp came of an ancient family of much eminence in the city and county of Lincoln. The family seat was a classical mansion which stands on the southern upland of the Witham valley, opposite to and about a mile from the old city of Lincoln and the great cathedral on the northern side. Here Charles Sibthorp was bom, the second son of the family, in 1783. Not much has been preserved of his early life. We are unable to reconstruct the psychological “pattern” of his infancy, boyhood, and youth, in Order to account, in the approved manner, for the outrageously fantastic character which was to emerge in his maturity. All that seems to be known is that shortly after he left Westminster School he entered the army, that he became a Captain in the Scots Greys, and then transferred to the 4th Dragoon Guards with whom he served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula. He must have been thirty-one when the campaigns were over. I take it that he then came home, for if he had been at Waterloo I am sure he would have said so often.

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