Page 303. " Why didn't we send the Italian fleet to the bottom of Mare Nostrum? "

The snippets of conversation in this section provide a potted history of British and European affairs during the mid 1930s, a period of great political turmoil.

This particular question refers to the Abyssinia Crisis (Abyssinia was the name given to the empire of Ethiopia and Eritrea) of 1935 and 1936.

In October 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia. The League of Nations attempted to impose sanctions on Italy, but had little impact. Italian forces captured Addis Ababa, the capital, in May 1936.

Mare Nostrum is the Mediterranean Sea.

Evelyn Waugh spent some time in Abyssinia in 1930 when he attended the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie. The experience inspired his novel Black Mischief (1932), in which the fictional Azania is a thinly disguised Abyssinia.

Waugh returned to Abyssinia in August 1935, on the eve of war with Italy, as a foreign correspondant for the Daily Mail. The visit led him to write Waugh in Abyssinia (1936) and Scoop (1938).  


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Page 303. " Why didn't we blow Spezia to blazes? "

Naval shipyard at La Spezia
Creative Commons AttributionNaval shipyard at La Spezia - Credit: Alessandro, Flickr
 La Spezia is a city in Northern Italy, situated on the Gulf of La Spezia.

Its harbour is the base of the Italian naval fleet.


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Page 303. " Why didn't we land on Pantelleria? "

Pantelleria is an Italian Island in the Mediterranean Sea, situated between Sicily and the Tunisian Coast.

The island held strategically important Italian radar installations and an airfield. It was finally captured in 1943, ahead of the Allied invasion of Sicily, in Operation Corkscrew.


Google Map


Page 303. " Franco's simply a German agent. "

Francisco Franco (1892-1975) was a Spanish military general who headed a dictatorship in Spain between 1936 and 1947. He was known initially as the head of state before becoming regent of the restored Kingdom of Spain, a title he held up until his death in 1975.

He led the Nationalists against the Popular Front (Republican) Government during the Spanish Civil War which began in July 1936 and lasted until April 1939.

Page 303. " 'Why didn't we close the canal? "

The Suez Canal in Egypt, an artificial waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, is an important maritime link between Europe and Asia.

It was under British control until 1956 when the series of events known as the Suez Crisis led to its being put under the control of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

During the Abyssinia Crisis, closing the Suez Canal would have made it more difficult for Italian troops to reach Ethiopia.


Google Map


Page 304. " Chap just come from Fort Belvedere "
King Edward Vlll by Vandyk (1936)
Public DomainKing Edward Vlll by Vandyk (1936) - Credit: Vandyk

This is another reference to the abdication crisis, as Fort Belvedere was one of Edward VIII's homes, situated on Shrubs Hill in Windsor Great Park.

It was the setting for the final meetings between Edward VIII, his brother the Duke of York, and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin prior to Edward's signing of the Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936.

Follow this link for an image of Fort Belvedere.

Page 304. " Chap just come from the Palazzo Venezia "
The Palazzo di Venezia in the Piazza Venezia, Rome
Public DomainThe Palazzo di Venezia in the Piazza Venezia, Rome - Credit: Lalupa, Wikimedia Commons

The Palazzo Venezia is the Rome palace in which Benito Mussolini (Italy's fascist dictator between 1922 and 1943) had his offices.

Mussolini made many speeches from the balcony of the palace to crowds gathered in the Piazza Venezia below.

Page 304. " A show-down with Baldwin "
Stanley Baldwin
Public DomainStanley Baldwin - Credit: Bain News Service

Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister on three separate occasions: 1923-24, 1924-29, and 1935-1937.

It was Baldwin who tried (and failed) to persuade King Edward VIII to relinquish his plans to marry Mrs Simpson.

Page 304. " A show-down with Hitler "

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was Chancellor of Germany between 1933 and 1945. He also awarded himself the title of Führer (leader) which corresponded to the title Il Duce adopted by the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini.

By 1936, Hitler's Nazi Party had absolute control in Germany and was operating a one-party dictatorship whose anti-semitic and racist policies were already causing some concern amongst the international community.



Page 304. " the land of Clive and Nelson "
Robert Clive (1764)
Public DomainRobert Clive (1764) - Credit: Charles Clive
Horatio Nelson
Public DomainHoratio Nelson - Credit: William Beechey (1753-1839)

Robert Clive (1725-1774), often known as Clive of India, was a famous British soldier. As an employee of the East India Companyhe played a significant role in establishing British military and administrative power in India. 

Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was a British naval officer, renowned for his distinguished service during the Napoleonic Wars. He was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar where his famous last message to the British fleet was, England expects that every man will do his duty.

Page 304. " My country of Hawkins and Drake "

Bust of Sir Francis Drake
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBust of Sir Francis Drake - Credit: Philip Halling
 Admiral Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595) was an English Elizabethan naval commander, shipbuilder and slave trader.

His naval strategy during the Anglo-Spanish War contributed to England's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) was an English Elizabethan sea captain, pirate, politician and slave trader. In his role as second-in-command of the English fleet, he played a significant role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Page 304. " My country of Palmerston "
Lord Palmerston (1862)
Public DomainLord Palmerston (1862) - Credit: John Jabez Edwin Mayall

Henry John Temple (1784-1865), generally known as Lord Palmerston, was a British Tory politician.

He served in various governments as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary prior to becoming Prime Minister in 1855, a post he held almost continuously until his death in 1865.

Page 307. " And Coronation Week, when you ran away from London. "

This is the coronation of King George VI which took place at Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937 (the date had previously been reserved for the coronation of King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne).

Charles Ryder would, no doubt, have run away from London to avoid the crowds which descended on the city to line the route of the coronation procession, in spite of the rain.



Page 310. " in the robes of a Knight of Malta "

The Knights of Malta are a Catholic order. It has a range of different names including the Order of St. John, Knights Hospitaller and the Sovereign Military Hopitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. 

The order, founded in the 11th Century, was originally a community of monks who cared for the sick at the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem, although it later became a military order of knights.

Having evolved over many centuries, the order is still in existence today.




Page 311. " The Flying Scotsman? "

The Flying Scotsman is the name given to the train service between London and Edinburgh on the East Coast Line.

It is also the name of a locomotive, completed in 1923, which was used on that line.

The Flying Scotsman locomotive, which has undergone restoration, may be viewed today at the National Railway Museum in York:




Page 311. " The Charge of the Light Brigade? "
'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Woodville
Public Domain'The Charge of the Light Brigade' - Credit: Caton Woodville

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a famous cavalry charge by British forces during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. The disastrously conceived offensive resulted in significant British losses.

The tragic event was immortalised by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his 1854 poem of the same name.


Extract from The Charge of the Light Brigade:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thundered;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Full text  

Page 311. " Henley Regatta? "

The Henley Royal Regatta is a five-day annual rowing event held near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire in early July.

It has traditionally been one of the highlights of the British social season.


Scene from the Henley Regatta (pre-1914)
Public DomainScene from the Henley Regatta (pre-1914) - Credit: Imperial War Museum (photographer unknown)


Page 311. " like Macbeth "

Macbeth (the English version of the Gaelic: Mac Bethad mac Findlaich) was a King of Scotland who ruled between 1040 and his death in 1057.

Macbeth is also the title of a play by William Shakespeare, written between 1603 and 1607. Although the title character is based on the real-life Macbeth, the events of the play are largely fictional.


'Macbeth and Banquo meeting the witches on the heath' (1855) by Chassériau
Public Domain'Macbeth and Banquo meeting the witches on the heath' (1855) by Chassériau - Credit: Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856)
Page 317. " never the cool sepulchre and the grave clothes spread on the stone slab "
'Jesus in the Sepulchre' by Tissot
Public Domain Jesus in the Sepulchre - Credit: James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836-1902)

The cool sepulchre is a reference to the Holy Sepulchre, the tomb in which Christ was laid following his crucifixion and from which his body later disappeared. The grave clothes, the garments which had been used to bind his body, were left behind in the tomb. The fact that the grave clothes remained was seen by Christians as evidence for Jesus' Resurrection.

Julia seems to be suggesting that she was more aware of the distressing aspects of Christianity than of its comforting, or redeeming aspects. In particular, she was more aware of the suffering of Christ than of his resurrection.

Page 317. " always the midday sun and the dice clicking for the seamless coat "
'Apostles surrounding the sepulchre' by Piazza
Public Domain Apostles surrounding the sepulchre - Credit: Albertino Piazza

The Seamless Robe is said to have been worn by Jesus as he carried his cross under the midday sun to his crucifixion.

St. John's Gospel (19:23-24) recounts that soldiers cast lots for the robe following Jesus' death.

Page 319. " a picture of Holman Hunt's called The Awakened Conscience "
'The Awakening Conscience' (1853) by Holman Hunt
Public DomainThe Awakening Conscience (1853) - Credit: William Holman Hunt

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) was an English painter who belonged to the group of artists known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Hunt's 1853 painting The Awakening Conscience (not The Awakened Conscience), is a work full of symbolism. It depicts a young woman rising from the lap of a man, the implication being that she is beginning to doubt the morality of what she is doing (just as Julia is starting to doubt the morality of her relationship with Charles).

Page 319. " I had seen a copy of Pre-Raphaelitism in the library "

Pre-Raphaelitism  was a book of art criticism by John Ruskin, first published in 1851. 

Full text



This 1865 edition does not appear to contain a discussion of The Awakening Conscience, although Ruskin is said to have written a letter to The Times defending the painting and commenting, there is not a single object in all that room but it becomes tragical if read rightly. 

Possibly, other editions were published with additional material. 

Ruskin is also said to have praised Holman Hunt for creating a narrative for his painting from his imagination rather than relying on some pre-established story. 

Page 319. " with the Last Trump so near "
'Judgement Day' fresco by Vasnetsov
Public Domain Judgement Day - Credit: Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)

The Last Trump appears in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 15:52:

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

In this context, the idea of the last trump is connected with the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgement.

However, there is also reference to the sounding of a seventh trumpet in Revelations 11:15, where it marks the ending of a period known as the Tribulation. This is also viewed by some as the last trump.

Can anybody clarify this rather confusing subject?

As used by Julia in Brideshead Revisited, the idea of the Last Trump appears to be linked to the idea of tragedy being imminent.

Page 323. " Goering told a friend of mine "
Hermann Göring (1932)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHermann Göring (1932) - Credit: German Federal Archive

Hermann Wilhelm Göring (1893-1946) was a leading member of the Nazi party.

Following the Second World War, he was tried at Nuremberg where he was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He was sentenced to death by hanging but committed suicide by cyanide poisoning the night before his execution was due to take place.

Page 323. " Goebbels told a friend of mine "
Goebbels, his wife, children and stepson
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGoebbels, his wife, children and stepson - Credit: German Federal Archive

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945.

He was heavily involved in the persecution of the Jews, and renowned for the virulence of his anti-Semitism.

As the Second World War was drawing to a close in 1945, Goebbels, his wife Magda and their six children joined Hitler in his bunker in Berlin. The couple committed suicide on 1 May 1945 after having arranged for their children to be killed through the administration of morphine and cyanide.

Page 323. " Ribbentrop told me "
Joachim von Ribbentrop (1938)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJoachim von Ribbentrop (1938) - Credit: German Federal Archive

Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946) was Foreign Minister of Germany between 1938 and 1945, and German Ambassador to Britain during 1936/37.

Following the war he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes.

During his time as Ambassador in London, he is said to have committed the social gaffe of greeting King George VI with a Heil Hitler salute.  Whilst he was in London, it was also rumoured that he was romantically involved with Wallis Simpson who became the Duchess of Windsor in June 1937 following her marriage to the former King Edward VIII. However in her memoirs, published in 1956*, the Duchess of Windsor denied any such involvement. 

* WINDSOR, Wallis: The Heart has its Reasons: The Memoirs of the Duchess of Windsor (Bath: Chivers Press, 1956).

Page 323. " if it wasn't for Chamberlain "
Neville Chamberlain
Public DomainNeville Chamberlain - Credit: unknown

Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940.

He notoriously adopted a policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany, epitomised by his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938. He believed the agreement would maintain peace between Britain and Germany, but when Poland was invaded the following year the British Government (still under his Prime Ministership) decided that there was no option but to declare war on Germany.

Chamberlain died of bowel cancer in November 1940 after having resigned from the post of Prime Minister (due to his health problems) in September.




Page 323. " If it wasn't for Halifax "
Lord Halifax with Hermann Göring in 1937
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeLord Halifax with Hermann Göring in 1937 - Credit: German Federal Archive

Lord Halifax (1881-1959) was a British Conservative politician who served as Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1940.

Like Neville Chamberlain, his name is associated with the policy of appeasement in relation to Hitler and Nazi Germany.

During the Second World War, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.



Page 323. " If it wasn't for Sir Samuel Hoare "
Sir Samuel Hoare
Public DomainSir Samuel Hoare - Credit: unknown

 Sir Samuel Hoare (1880-1959) was a British Conservative politician who served as Home Secretary from 1937 to 1939, and as British Ambassador in Spain between 1940 and 1944.

As Foreign Secretary in 1935, he co-engineered the Hoare-Laval Pact which would have handed a part of Abyssinia to Italy had it not been scuppered by a leak and subsequent public outrage. Hoare was forced to resign when the Pact was made public.

Page 323. " the 1922 Committee "

The 1922 Committee is a parliamentary committee whose membership (up until 2010) was confined to back bench (non-ministerial) Conservative Members of Parliament.

It meets every week while Parliament is in session to allow the expression of views which may be in opposition to front bench (ministerial) policy.

The committee plays a significant role in choosing the Conservative party leader.

Page 323. " Peace Pledge "
A memorial to Conscientious Objectors in Tavistock Square Gardens, London - the erection of which was co-ordinated by the Peace Pledge Union.
GNU Free Documentation LicenseA memorial to Conscientious Objectors in Tavistock Square Gardens, London - the erection of which was co-ordinated by the Peace Pledge Union. - Credit: Pvasiliadis, Wikimedia Commons

The Peace Pledge Union is a pacifist organisation that was founded by Dick Sheppard, Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, in 1934. It is still in existence today.

Originally a men-only movement, it began admitting women members from 1936 onwards.

Between 1936 and 1961, its official newspaper was Peace News which is also still in existence today, although it is no longer affiliated to the Peace Pledge Union.

Page 324. " the Grecian tents where Cressid lay that night "
'Cressida' by Poynter (1888)
Public Domain Cressida (1888) - Credit: Edward John Poynter (1836-1919)

Cressid, often written Cressida, Cresseid or Criseyde, first appeared in a work by the 12th Century poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure.

A young Trojan woman living during the Siege of Troy, she is in love with Troilus, the youngest son of King Priam. But whilst a hostage in the hands of the Greeks, she is seduced by Diomedes, a Greek warrior.

The story was retold by Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde, and by Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida.

Cressida is sometimes seen as symbolising inconstancy in love. Whether Waugh wishes us to equate Julia with Cressida is not clear.