BRITISH TROOPS BURN DOWN PEKING’S SUMMER PALACE
[ 18 October 1860 ]
On this day in 1860 British troops set fire to one of the world’s greatest collections of art work and treasure, the legendary Summer Palace in Peking, also known as the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming Yuan). Burning all the buildings which stretched across eighty square miles was an enormous task which occupied 4,000 men over three days.
Lord Elgin, who’s father had ripped the marbles from the Parthenon at Athens, gave the order for its destruction. He later explained that “it was the Emperor’s favourite residence, and its destruction could not fail to be a blow to his pride as well as his feelings.” For days billowing clouds of smoke dropped the embers of priceless works of art across the city.
PM ADVISED TO BE “ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH” OVER DETENTION OF CATHOLICS.
[ 18 October 1972 ]
On this day in 1972, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was briefed to be “economical with the truth” when he met the Irish Taoiseach Jack Lynch and inform him only that “the police (in Northern Ireland) draw no distinction between Catholics and Protestants in the investigation of security offences and the prosecution of such offences.”
In reality, as Ministry of Defence memos of the time acknowledge, while Catholics could be detained for an indefinite period without trial on reasonable suspicion of terrorism, the Northern Ireland Office had a covert “Arrest Policy for Protestants” under which they remained exempt from such draconian measures. Unlike Catholics, Protestants could only be detained on criminal charges and with the usual required standards of evidence, regardless of any suspicion of involvement in terror attacks.
Discussions among British ministers regarding this covert policy continued the following month and an MOD memo dated 8 December noted that “ministers have judged that the time is not at the moment right for an extension of the arrest policy (indefinite detention without trial) in respect of Protestants.” Such discrimination alienated the Catholic community in Northern Ireland who quickly realised that the rule of the law was not being applied equitably.
- Tiffany Jenkins, “The loot from China’s Old Summer Palace in Beijing that still rankles,” Oxford Today accessed online at http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/opinion/loot-chinas-old-summer-palace-beijing-still-rankles
- Margaret Urwin (2016), “A State of Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries,” Mercier Press, Cork p66-67.
- Ibid p69