Sunday, October 30, 2011

The West End Front by Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet is an official hero of this blog for his books Inventing the Victorians and Shepperton Babylon. The former argues that the Victorians were a great deal less Victorian than we now imagine and the latter shows that the idea that British films are cosy and twee is nonsense.*

Today's Observer Magazine has a feature by him, drawn from his new book The West End Front: The Wartime Secrets of London's Grand Hotels:
On 17 July 1945, in a room at Claridge's hotel, the rules of cartography went into abeyance. England receded to the four walls of suite 212 and Yugoslavia – a country that has since disappeared from the map – rushed to fill the space. On a bed borrowed from the London Clinic, a 24 year-old woman lay in the agonies of labour – and as far as she, her husband and Winston Churchill were concerned, the baby who was born that day, Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, took his first breath on Yugoslav territory. Just to make sure, there was a box of earth under the bed.
Wikipedia brings the story up to date:
Alexander first came to Yugoslavia in 1991. He actively worked with the democratic opposition against the regime of Slobodan Milošević and moved to Yugoslavia after Slobodan Milošević was deposed in 2000. In March 2001 Yugoslavian citizenship was finally restored to him by the government.
Today he lives in a former royal palace in Belgrade and campaigns for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Serbia.

Anyway, I enjoyed Sweet's earlier books so much that I shall have to buy a copy of the West End Front.

* I am indebted to another of this blog's heroes, the children's writer Malcolm Saville, for teaching me the former/latter construction. Perhaps he was overfond of it, but I thought it very grown up.

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