The High Price of Peace

Bernard Crick looks at the cost of historical mediations.

The tercentenary of the Battle of the Boyne stirs a memory and prompts an historical meditation on some seemingly insoluble problems. As a young man I worked on a guide to manuscripts relating to American history in Great Britain and Ireland. I visited a retired India-hand in Limervady, Sir Henry MacDonald Tyler. He apologised for what he felt the need to show me, being sure that it had been done for my benefit. Because I had written on the notepaper of the Institute of Historical Research, and because the postal services were, as he delicately put it, 'so communal', or possibly because he had few visitors, my importance would have been exaggerated. So on the wall of his town house in freshly dripping whitewash were the words, 'F... THE KING'. 'Ah', he said, 'I know what you will be thinking Dr Crick, that my compatriots of the other religious persuasion are ignorant fellows in not realising that all too evidently our new sovereign liege is a woman and not a man. No, far from it; they have a profound historical sense. They are still busily and energetically King Billy and the Boyne'.

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