‘Irish Times’ editorial praises British aristocracy for sacrifices in first World War
1916/2016: a miscellany
British soldiers wait in the trenches on the Western Front during the first World War. Photograph: HO/Reuters
February 16th, 1916
Irish Times editorial – “Noblesse Oblige”: “In the old days of party politics everybody at one time or another said things about men, or classes of men, which he has lived to regret: none of us can afford to throw the first stone. We think, however, that the politicians who, not so long ago, sought votes by attacking the British aristocracy have special cause to blush for themselves. They used to say that our titled families were worthless idlers and ‘enemies of the people’. When the test came, these families, without any fuss or advertisement, and in the natural order of duty, gave of their best and dearest to the people.
“The Times has published a list of heirs to British peerages who have fallen in the war. This roll of honour includes 47 names. One heir is ‘missing’ and many younger sons of peers have died, in addition to several members of the House of Lords. The peerage’s losses in the war have been heavier than those suffered by any other class in the community. Moreover, it risks one loss which the other classes do not share: a German bullet may write finis to a title that has shone in the forefront of British history for half a dozen centuries.
“Of these 47 young men, six left no brothers or other near relatives to succeed them; their deaths will mean the extinction of six peerages at the deaths of the present holders. It would be grossly unfair that the truest patriots should be rewarded in this fashion and we have no doubt that the Prime Minister will adopt the suggestion that he should advise the Sovereign, as the fountain of honour, to provide against such extinction of titles. The King can do this by granting special remainders which will enable the bereaved fathers to be succeeded, at their own deaths, by their next-of-kin . . . The war may have quickened the march of Socialism, but it has destroyed the worst element in the sort of Socialism that was rampant in England three years ago – the element of class hatred. The British aristocrat and the British working man have learned to know one another in the trenches, and the knowledge will bear good fruit in the coming years of peace.”