Last Word on Remembrance Day


Sir Douglas Haig was described by David Lloyd George as being “brilliant to the top of his boots” HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Of the several criticisms leveled against Ernest Newman’s four-volume biography of Richard Wagner was that it never mentioned that his patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, was mad.

Newman admitted that he had no expertise in diseases of the mind and therefore had not felt qualified to make a diagnosis.

Moreover, he offered this contrast as indicative of the difficulties that even the most expert must face.

Ludwig had been considered ‘mad’ because, instead of joining Bismarck’s war-making, he had almost bankrupted his kingdom by sponsoring opera and building three palaces.

Douglas Haig, on the other hand, having convinced the British cabinet that he was the greatest military genius since Napoleon, presided over a strategy that ended in the deaths of more than a million of his countrymen. After the war, the cabinet rewarded him with a peerage and £100,000. Had Field-Marshall Haig claimed to be Napoleon, Newman mused, surely even Lloyd George would have had him committed to Dartmoor with the other criminally insane.

Humphrey McQueen
Nov 2018

P.S. In 1921, a professor of philosophy, Norman Kemp-Smith, contemplated returning to belief in a Divine Providence because, as he put it, and not unreasonably, it was ‘intolerable, impossible’ to accept that the fate of Europe depended on Lloyd George.

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