On 3 September 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, when His Majesty King George VI, spoke from the microphones of the BBC to justify the terrible sacrifice asked of his people, he said: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world. It is a principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the sovereignty and independence of other states. Such a principle is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth would be in danger. For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge”. This is the part of his speech (published on page…) that perhaps helps us most to appreciate the valour and the nobility of those who decided to enlist and offer their lives for the sake of freedom and the rule of law.
We dedicate this edition of Il Club to those men (most of whom were very young and some of whom claimed to be older than they really were in order to enlist), who fought in the Italian Campaign of the Second World War, which comprised the military operations carried out by the Allies to defeat the fascist regime in Italy. Between July 1943 and May 1945, the United Kingdom and the forces of the British Empire lost 45,469 soldiers. In this edition you will read the stories of two of the fallen, Ronald George Blackham and Friederick Rose, told by their families and by those who found their bodies, as well as a conversation with Sir Timothy Laurence, a member of the Royal Family and Vice Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which over the years has found and buried the bodies of the fallen in 41 war cemeteries throughout our country. One day, King George V, visiting a war cemetery in Flanders said, “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
“When you walk in peaceful lanes so green, remember us, and think what might have been.” We do. This is the motto of the Italy Star Association, which takes its name from the medal awarded by the British Commonwealth to commemorate the service given during the Italian Campaign. This magazine is dedicated to the King’s Soldiers, to those young lives sacrificed for our freedom. So we may never forget.
Francesco De Leo
The edition you are holding is dedicated to Stephen Hawking. On 15th June 2018, his ashes were interred beside the remains of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin in an extraordinary place: Westminster Abbey. The famous London church houses the remains and relics of people who have made history. The tombs and monuments are still a testament to human dignity and achievements. Over 3,000 people are buried or remembered here: kings, queens, princes, dukes, poets, scholars, scientists, musicians, artists, explorers and politicians. Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries was played in the Abbey to salute the man of the stars.
Reading the account given to Il Club by the physicist Remo Ruffini, who worked with Hawking, we can appreciate how immeasurable the English scientist’s contribution to humanity was: “Scientific knowledge is the meeting that enables man to evolve and nature to express itself. Without science, nature would be a pile of rocks. It is only the incredible effort of the human mind to acquire knowledge that allows nature to understand that it exists and understand the universe.”
“Always remember to look at the stars, not your feet,” Hawking used to say. A sound wave with his voice was beamed into space towards earth’s nearest black hole. Billions of years from now, when that black hole evaporates, his message of peace and hope “concerning the need to live in harmony with our planet” will become universal. The Esa Cerebros antenna was used to send his message, which was six minutes long and recorded with a background of music created by the Greek composer Vangelis.
The black hole, called 1A 0620-00, is approximately 3,500 light years from our planet. During our time on earth, it’s worth remembering one of his lessons: “The next time you think you can’t do something, when you think life has been unkind to you, just ask yourself: what would Stephen Hawking do?”
“The path that leads to knowledge is a path that passes through good encounters,” said the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Il Club has spoken with people who met Stephen Hawking and their stories are a gift to the readers of this magazine.
Francesco De Leo
In the fourth issue of Il Club (july 2018):
- Event. The Security of the Individual.
- DOSSIER . Time, Knowledge and Illness. In memory of Stephen Hawking.
- Those three days with Stephen Hawking. The memories of the Director and staff at the Centro Clinico NEMO in Rome.
- My friend Stephen. Interview with Prof. Remo Ruffini.
- Hope beyond illness. By M. A. Farina Coscioni
- Il Club at the historic Lloyd’s building in London. By Davide De Leo
- Conversation with Ivo Impronta, the great City broker.
- Il Club’s Forum. Three newly elected “Londoners”.
- The Queen’s Birthday Party at Villa Wolkonsky.
- The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: The Travellers Club. By Sheila Markham
- Il Club in London.
A Royal Charter is a royal recognition given by the monarch of the United Kingdom to certify the special public interest of an organisation. In 1923, the document was issued by King George V, the grandfather of the current Queen Elizabeth, to the British Institute of Florence, founded six years earlier by English and Italian intellectuals with the aim of opposing anti-British propaganda in Italy.
A year ago, in Florence, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, took part in the Institute’s hundredth anniversary celebrations at Palazzo Lanfredini, choosing the Institute as the place from which to begin their tour of Italy, which we have chosen to commemorate in this edition of Il Club. It was an unforgettable trip, in terms of both the number of towns visited and the great enthusiasm with which the Italian people welcomed the Royals.
I was among the guests invited to the event by the Director, Julia Race, and I remember that while we waited for the Royals to arrive, members of the British community living in Tuscany, Florentine nobility and students from the Institute, admired the library, which has one of the largest collections of books in English available to borrow in continental Europe. It was among these books (over 52,000 of them) that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, did most of her studies during her gap year in 2000.
That evening, Florence seemed more beautiful than usual, if that is possible. Lungarno Guicciardini was illuminated by a gorgeous sunset. The extremely elegant Royals made a toast to the century long history of the Institute. Beside them was the always cheerful Jill Morris, UK Ambassador to Italy, who introduced me to the Prince. “Remember that many Italians choose to live in Britain for life,” the heir to the throne told me. It was then, perhaps because of a special ‘Genius loci’, that the idea of founding the magazine you are holding was born.
As this edition was going to print, the Sergei Skripal story broke with far-reaching consequences. Downing Street informed the international community of the attempted murder of a former Russian spy who had lived in Britain for years and his daughter, Yulia, both poisoned with a nerve agent produced by the Russians. This action by the Russian government was highly dangerous and put the lives of innocent British citizens at risk on home soil.
“This is not a bilateral matter,” wrote the UK Ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris, in a letter to an Italian newspaper, “but a pre-established scheme through which Russia is dismantling the international order.”
In light of this, we would just like to salute the umpteenth confirmation of how essential Britain is in protecting that common heritage that we call “democracy”.
Maurizio Molinari, editor of La Stampa newspaper, in a recent editorial, wrote: “The strength of a democracy is measured by the number of citizens it manages to protect: safeguarding their rights and stimulating their dreams”.
We dedicate this edition’s dossier to this subject.
Francesco De Leo
In the third issue of Il Club (april 2018):
- Raffaele Trombetta, the new Italian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
- SECURITY DOSSIER
- Il Club meets Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.
- Terrorism. Three questions for Andrea Manciulli, Raffaello Pantucci and Lorenzo Vidino.
- A Conversation with Richard Barrett. By F. Semprini
- The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: The Army and Naval Club. By D. De Leo
- Babingtons in Rome, 125 years of history in a tea room.
- The Magic of Rugby. By M. Ricci
- THE ROYAL VISIT TO ITALY
- Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in Italy. By V. Sabadin
- Marinella. A legend in the heart of Naples.
- A year and a century for the British Institute of Florence.
- In Florence for Tuscany’s great wines and oil.
“I have a very simple message for you…We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.” When the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, addressing Russia, which is responsible for a “campaign of cyber espionage and disruption” against Europe, used this language, I was reminded of the words of the UK Ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris, Honorary President of Il Club, in her speech at the inaugural event for this magazine held at her residence: “We are leaving the European Union, not Europe.” At a historical time when the liberal international order is “under threat”, as Bloomberg commented recently, the importance of this resolve is even clearer.
It was during the Second World War that Britain, along with its allies, made the greatest contribution to the formation of that precious, common, ontological heritage with which we associate Europe. All the belligerent democratic powers had been defeated and Britain was the only beacon of liberty in Europe. King George VI addressed his people saying: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world. It is a principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the sovereignty and independence of other states. Such a principle is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth would be in danger. This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.”
Long before that, eight hundred years ago in June, an English king established the basis for the rule of law and democracy with the Magna Carta: “To all free men of our kingdom we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs”. Every European is tied to this first step towards universal recognition of citizen’s rights, which, even in the context of a feudal system, expresses a range of liberal principles, covering law, economics and religion, which today continue to represent paradigms for the identity of our communities.
So Brexit does not us part, the title of our first edition, is the pay-off of Il Club magazine. As well as a hope, it represents a moral obligation. The future path of a 27-state Europe must never disregard the contribution of the country that gave freedom, democracy and law to the Continent, enriching the collective heritage of the individual through history.
Francesco De Leo
In the second issue of Il Club (january 2018):
- Launch of ‘Il Club’
- BREXIT DOSSIER. The opportunities.
- The reasons behind the vote to ‘Leave’. Eamonn Butler, Adam Smith Institute. By D. De Leo
- Brexit. A divorce from 27 wives. Interview with Niall Ferguson. By P. Peduzzi
- ‘No deal plus’. By J. Jessop
- The Club Torino in London. By Michele G. Porfido
- The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: The Carlton Club. By A. Simoni
- My years in London. By P. Terracciano
- That bench in Hyde Park. Sabrina Corbo. By the editorial team
- A model of social housing. Domenico Meliti. By D. De Leo
- The legend of Caernarfon Castle. By Vittorio Sabadin
- Premier Vs Serie A. Two types of football compared. By G. Teotino
- I was the Captain of the “Three Lions”. Interview with Sol Campbell. By S. Boldrini
- The story of the Thin White Duke. By K.Cann
- The photo that made history. By B. Duffy
20 centuries, the United Kingdom and Italy share a truly special relationship. From the time of the legendary Romano-British leader, Ambrosius Aurelianus, from whom the figure of King Arthur was said to have originated, traces of an Italian presence began to appear in ancient Albion.
There was once an Italian Archbishop of Canterbury, colonies of merchants and bankers are said to have chosen Britain during the Renaissance, a significant community was established during the Tudor period and, throughout the eighteenth century, England became a favourite destination for Italian musicians, artists and intellectuals. However, it was only after 1830 that the flow of migration from Italy assumed the character of a mass movement and today over 500,000 of our compatriots are living their lives in the land of Her Majesty.
The affection is mutual. As the historian Amedeo Quondam wrote, Italy has been the land of dreams in the British imagination, an inspiration for its writers and poets. This British Italophilia reached its height in the literature of the Grand Tour and was reaffirmed during the Risorgimento of the nineteenth century, which embraced English liberalism and Italian patriotism. Today, British born people living in Italy number 65,000.
Il Club originated from the need to create a source of information and a community for discussing British culture at a complex moment in history, characterised by the effects of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The potential misunderstandings that could arise from the challenges posed by the task that lies ahead, now require a decisive reaffirmation of our communities’ identification with those values that laid the foundations for the rule of law and democracy, which were developed in Great Britain, thanks to habeas corpus, free trade, common law and liberal democracy. These make up the great legacy that, one June eight hundred years ago, an English king left us in the form of the Magna Carta, laying the foundations for the rule of law and democracy.
The founders of Il Club are convinced that the decision of the British people could seriously undermine treaties and conventions, create instabilities and concerns, but it must never destroy our connection to the principles of democracy and British culture.
The name of this magazine is respectfully inspired by The Club, an association founded in London in February 1764 by the painter Joshua Reynolds and the scholar Samuel Johnson. It was intended that it should consist “of such men, as that if only two of them chanced to meet, they should be able to entertain each other without wanting the addition of more Company to pass the evening agreeably”. Johnson wanted a “group composed of the heads of every professional and literary field, somebody to refer to in our doubts and discussions, by whose science we might be enlightened”.
According to Martin Luther, the printing press was “God’s ultimate and greatest gift”. After all, it was his only tool for converting others. Of course, we now have other ways of communicating, but we have chosen paper because we can’t resist it.
In the first issue of Il Club (october 2017):
- “My first year in Italy.” The UK’s Ambassador to Italy tells her story. By Jill Morris
- The spirit of Dunkirk. By Vittorio Sabadin
- BREXIT. Challenges and opportunities. By Marco Piantini
- The 25th edition of the historic British Council conference. By Paul Sellers
- Oxford and Brexit. By Alastair Buchan
- Nadey Hakim. The art surgeon. By Davide De Leo
- Gianluca Vialli. “I’ll tell you about my England”. By Stefano Boldrini
- Maurizio Bragagni. The Italian entrepreneur who loves Britain. By Davide De Leo
- Ernesto Nathan. The London gentleman, Mayor of Rome. By Anna Foa
- The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London: The Story of the In & Out (Naval and Military Club). By Tommaso Alberini
- Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis championship in the world. By Claudio Giua
- Do you know dog law? A dog’s life in the UK. By Eugenio Montesano