The price of a slice of the truth

Nearly 350 years ago William Prynne, a lawyer from Lincoln’s Inn, found himself in a dank and dirty corner of the Tower of London.
It was a place where soldiers and civil servants refused to work ‘for fear of fouling their fingers, spoyling their cloathes, endangering their eyesight and healths by the cankerous dust and evil scent.’
Prynne was King Charles II’s new keeper of the National Archives.
And he was no stranger to the Tower. He had been jailed for life, had his cheeks branded with the letters SL – for seditious libel – and his ears chopped off, for a pamphlet attacking actresses and, by implication, Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.
A report of  the trial of William Prynne Esq, in the Star Chamber, for writing and publishing 'A Scourge for Stage-Players,' can be found in the Archives. Subsequent keepers have been less harshly treated.
Prynne wrote: ‘In raking up this dung heap I found many rare antient precious pearls and golden records &c.’
It is a sentiment echoed every day in the modern National Archives building at Kew, where researchers request 600,000 document files a year and millions of documents are viewed online.
These are just some of the gems from my researches, many of them published for the first time, but none of them worth losing an ear for.

© These pages and their content are copyright of Peter Day 2012.


 April 2013

georgeTax breaks paid for princes to hunt and play polo

The future King George VI was given the equivalent of a £20,000 a year tax break so that he could go hunting and play polo.
His courtiers argued that he only did it as part of his official duties. When the Inland Revenue disagreed they were overruled by the attorney general. A deal was done behind the scenes to avoid telling parliament and has been kept secret until Treasury papers from the 1920s were released in April.

tornadoPretty girls paved the way for defence contracts

Margaret Thatcher was warned 30 years ago that Middle East defence contracts worth billions of pounds could only be won in competition with corrupt practices by foreign arms dealers. Files released at the National Archives show how hard she pushed ministers to do whatever was needed to beat off rival bids.
Her most enthusiastic supporter, defence secretary John Nott, told her:  ‘Competition from the Americans and the French is of course very strong and some of the methods of the French in particular are not easily matched. So often, it is gifts of country estates and pretty girls that win contracts around the world – not determination, quality or price.’

andropovThatcher refused to spare KGB chief's blushes over spy trial

Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong tried to keep Soviet leader Yuri Andropov’s name out of a British spy trial to avoid embarrassing him.
He was over-ruled by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to newly released documents at the National Archives.
Canadian professor Hugh Hambleton was being tried on two charges of selling Nato secrets to the Russians during a 30 year career as a KGB agent.



Portfolio from the papers:-

Chamberlain proposed secret deal to Hitler's PR man

Beauty who stole an agent's heart for Japan

Cold War? I'll say it was!

Kylie Minogue's great-great grandad jailed for molesting a serving girl

England footie legends Matthews & Mortensen in black market scandal

'Cavalier' Fiennes given icy reception

1947 Savoy hotel strike blamed on Russians

Diana Dors and the outraged Home Secretary








Desperately seeking Susan ... MI5 femme fatale

Susan Barton was definitely not the bored housewife portrayed in the Madonna film. She was a mystery woman of MI5, sometime femme fatale, deception planner and agent handler.
She flits in and out of the files in the National Archives and various books about the Security Service in the Second World War yet we never really find out anything about her.

Missing: 500,000 official files that should be made public

Nearly half a million official documents are being kept secret by the government in breach of their own regulations.
By far the biggest culprit is the Foreign Office which accounts for more than half the total. That includes their Special Collections, many of which are of enormous interest to journalists and historians. Nearly five metres of shelves are taken up with files on the Soviet spies, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean alone.

MI5 came to the rescue over Duke of Windsor

Musings of a masterspy

Trawler skipper sailed the Atlantic with a sixpenny atlas

MI6 bought luxury hi-fi for the King of Nepal

Russian Spetsnaz plotted to assassinate Mrs Thatcher to prevent nuclear strike

Fashion icon with a hot line to German intelligence

Singer's war hero father was under surveillance

Foolish Guardsman spared the firing squad to protect MI5

Gestapo double agent behind Venlo disaster escaped detection for six years

The scandal that SOE did not dare to tell the public ...

... but they had a sensitive side!

Pardon for deserter who killed policeman

Korean war prisoners were frozen on the spot

Rogue CIA agent supplied arms to Gadaffi

Aristocrat claimed ownership of Soviet uranium mine

Future King George VI contemplated leadership of 'Fascist' Crusaders



Surrey News Service

Specialising in archive research for newspapers, magazines, authors and family historians.

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