Tokenism in Diplomacy, Title Inflation at the Abbey


The pattern of foreign involvement in the Spanish Civil War continued to repeat itself as steps were taken to try to control the participation of foreigners in the war. Britain and France were keen to curb the arrival of “volunteers” from the Fascist powers, but wholly lacking in any leverage to achieve this or resolution in trying to do so. Germany fobbed them off with a supportively phrased, but quite empty reply. In a pitiable attempt to set a good example, Britain and France paraded their own efforts. Britain promised to apply the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870 vigorously to Spain and France more vaguely promised legislation.

In Italy respect for Fascist forms was reinforced when Achille Starace, Secretary of the Fascist Party and the nearest thing Mussolini had to an ideologue, renewed his call that the official ban on traditional hand-shakes should be respected. Such a conservative, bourgeois gesture betrayed “scanty fascist spirit”. The official Fascist salute approximated to the Hitlergru├č, albeit delivered with far less precision and military aplomb.


British Palace officials wrestled with the problem of allocating seats in Westminster Abbey for the Coronation in May. They were dogged by a factor as potent then as it is today: the inflation in the number of individuals on whom the powers that be had conferred the status of being a distinguished individual. Compared to the Coronation of George V in 1911, there were sixty extra Privy Councillors (generally ministers and ex-ministers) and no fewer than 200 extra Knights Grand Cross, the top tier of each order of knighthood, usually awarded to military men and civil servants.

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