Harry et Meghan sont lassants

Le prince Harry et le journaliste Anderson Cooper pour l’émission 60 Minutes (The Telegraph)

Le comte Jean des Cars est un historien et auteur réputé qui a consacré plusieurs ouvrages au sujet de la monarchie britannique. En 2022, j’ai eu le privilège de recenser son Pour la reine : Hommage à Elizabeth II ainsi que la réédition de la biographie Elizabeth II naturellement consacré à la souveraine. Les deux livres sont publiés chez Perrin.

Dans la foulée de ces recensions, M. des Cars a aimablement accepté de répondre à mes questions pour une première entrevue qui fut publiée sur ce blogue à la fin du mois de septembre dernier. J’ai de nouveau échangé avec cet auteur – qui est l’un des meilleurs spécialistes francophones des têtes couronnées – et qui fut le premier journaliste français reçu à Buckingham Palace par celui qui était à l’époque connu comme étant l’héritier de la Couronne, et ce, avant même son mariage avec Diana.

Tradition et innovation: Elizabeth II a réussi ce mariage fascinant!

Selon lui, « le décès d’Elizabeth II a été l’évènement le plus considérable de l’année 2022, notamment pour une raison que le public ignore souvent: elle fut le seul chef d’État en fonctions (de 1953 à 2022), qui avait vécu la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. En 1939, elle avait…13 ans! Quand elle devient reine, Staline est toujours [au pouvoir] à Moscou! La longévité de la reine est extraordinaire. Nous ne reverrons jamais un tel « spectacle », notamment parce que la jeune souveraine avait compris, bien avant Churchill, le futur pouvoir de la télévision. Elle fut, dans bien des domaines, une pionnière. Tradition et innovation: elle a réussi ce mariage fascinant! »

Le décès de la bien-aimée souveraine, survenu le 8 septembre dernier, est naturellement venu changer la donne et marquait le début d’un nouveau chapitre dans l’histoire de la monarchie.

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The Harry and Meghan episode is worse than the abdication crisis

There are lots of parallels between Wallis Simpson and former King Edward VIII (left) and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (right) (Insider)

Few weeks ago, I reviewed Andrew Lownie’s enthralling and fascinating book Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. The author – a disillusioned monarchist who believes in institution but feels let down by some members of it – generously accepted to answer a few questions for this blog. Below is the content of our discussion.


Mr. Lownie, while researching Traitor King, did you make any findings that surprised you?

Lots not least the extent of the Windsors’ dealings with the Nazis which can be found in documents, the knowledge that the Royal Family and Government had of their activities and the rather bizarre relationship the couple had and their bisexuality. Also, the degree of the attempted British cover up of his treachery.

Understandably, Winston Churchill is a frequent guest in the book. I might be wrong, but I didn’t get the sense that he became a tooth-and-nail opponent of the Duke of Windsor during the war. How would you describe the evolution of the relationship between the two men?

Churchill had been one of the Duke’s strongest supporters during the Abdication, mainly because of his romantic notion of the monarchy, but the scales fell when he saw the Duke’s duplicity over the financial settlement in 1937 and the disloyalty shown during the war when Churchill had to threaten him with court martial. The relationship then became more pragmatic with Churchill trying to find him a job after the war and suppressing the embarrassing captured German documents, but he refused to join a cruise when he learnt the Windsors would be present.

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The Prince of Wales – Bouncer of the Monarchy

“‘I put my arm around my brother all our lives […], and I can’t do it any more. We’re separate entities’” Prince William once said about his relationship with his brother Prince Harry. With the release of the Netflix so-called documentary about the life of the Sussexes, media outlets report that the Prince of Wales will respond in a “swift and robust” manner to any unjust claim made by his brother and sister-in-law, whose second part will air tomorrow, December 15.

Anyone eager to know what kind of response Harry and Meghan might encounter from the principal members of the Royal family should immediately grab Robert Lacey’s enthralling and insightful book Battle of Brothers – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (Harper). Full disclosure, I received a review copy of this book more than a year ago. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II prompted me to dive into it. I think the timing couldn’t be better, even though I know an updated version is available with new material.

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Le point de bascule de 1942

L’année 1942 aura toujours une signification particulière pour moi. Mon défunt père est né cette année-là, pendant la bataille de Stalingrad. Il m’a initié à la Seconde Guerre mondiale par une belle collection de livres à l’intérieur de laquelle je me suis plongé le nez très jeune. Dans leur magnifique livre 1942 (Passés / Composés), Cyril Azouvi et Julien Peltier m’ont permis de découvrir toute l’envergure et la signification de cette année « bissectrice de la guerre » pour reprendre l’expression citée et empruntée à l’historien français Henri Michel.

Pour revenir à Stalingrad, il ne devait suffire que « […] d’une seule journée pour réduire en cendres cette cité moderne et pluricentenaire » selon les plans établis par les hautes sphères allemandes. À la tête de troupes mal équipées par sa faute pour un combat hivernal, Hitler avait pourtant mal évalué le coriace adversaire qui revêtait l’uniforme du soldat soviétique et qui allait payer avec son sang les erreurs stratégiques commises par Staline au début de la guerre. Quant aux soldats portant le feldgrau, ils sortiront de la ville éponyme du dirigeant soviétique la gueule cassée et promis à une rude captivité après 6 mois et 22 jours d’une bataille dont la Wehrmacht ne parviendra pas à se relever.

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Boris Yeltsin and “The Crown”

Queen Elizabeth II and Russian President Boris Yeltsin (The Telegraph)

I’m watching every episode of The Crown, not only because of my love and appreciation of the monarchy in all its complexity but mainly for its entertainment value. For obvious reasons, I never take the content of the series at face value since there are many aspects which differ from reality.

Nevertheless, episode 6 of The Crown’s Season 5, titled “Ipatiev House”, brought many questions to my mind. For one, Russian President Boris Yeltsin never went to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II, which makes the whole diatribe in which he insulted the Queen in Russian fictitious and potentially misleading for anyone believing that the series is an accurate portrayal of reality.

I therefore decided to ask Sir Rodric Braithwaite, Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Moscow between 1988 and 1992 and the author of an excellent recent book about the history of Russia, to shed some light on the relationship between the Crown and the two-headed eagle.

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Donald Trump was an unprincipled commander in chief

At the crest of the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, I devoured retired Admiral William McRaven’s book Sea Stories, relishing its numerous anecdotes. One of them concerned Abu Ghadiya, a terrorist mastermind responsible for the highest number of American and Iraqi deaths, notably at the hands of suicide bombers. At a crucial moment, the US Army received intelligence on his whereabouts in Syria, giving them the possibility of neutralizing him. President George W. Bush’s approval was necessary to conduct the operation.

To make a fascinating story short, Admiral McRaven was tasked with briefing President George W. Bush about the sensitive mission. During the briefing, the commander-in-chief, who didn’t have a strong reputation as an intellectual or a man of detail, asked a very pointed question about the ordnance proposed to conduct the mission. “He was so well versed on the missions and the nomenclature of the specific ordnance that he understood that using a precision-guided five-hundred-pound GBU-31 was in fact the right munition for the job. I was momentarily taken aback by the question.”

In Countdown bin Laden, Chris Wallace says much the same about President Barack Obama during the quest to neutralize Osama bin Laden. “He was a president who carefully analyzed everything before making a decision”, observed the veteran journalist.

Unsurprisingly, things took a turn for the worst when Donald Trump arrived in the Oval Office. In a very insightful – yet scary memoir – former Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper paints the portrait of “[…] an idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and unprincipled commander in chief” and a man as despicable as one can be.

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The Source of JFK’s Greatness

For as long as I can remember, November 22 has always been a sobering date on my calendar. My late father, like many of his generation, revered John F. Kennedy. He owned several pieces of memorabilia. He also vividly remembered where he was and what he was doing on that fateful day when his favorite statesman tragically fell under the bullets. Before the Roosevelts, Truman, LBJ, Reagan and both Presidents Bush – commanders in chief for whom I have tons of admiration – JFK was the first one who piqued my intellectual curiosity.

I cannot proclaim that I have read every book regarding the main figure of contemporary Camelot, but I always make a point of skimming the pages of as many as I can. Mark K. Updegrove is a presidential historian whose work I have always been interested in. I was, therefore, impatient to grab a copy of his recent book Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency. I was expecting a good read because the author has an enthralling writing style. But I got much more than that.

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“Putin’s war has forged Ukraine’s sense of nationhood on the battlefield”

Ukrainian soldiers (McGill University)

Two of the greatest pleasures I have as a blogger is reading the best books and being in touch with their authors. Few things make me happier than when they accept to answer a few questions for an interview.

I have always been a huge fan of Sir Rodric Braithwaite, and I was extremely happy to read and review his recent and captivating book about the history of Russia at a time when this country is at crossroads.

As a former British Ambassador to Moscow between 1988 and 1992 and a former foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister John Major, he combines the experience of a man who was on the ground when the URSS was on the cusp of exploding and the talent of an inspired historian.

I, therefore, felt extremely privileged when Sir Rodric generously agreed to answer my questions. I trust you will find his answers of tremendous interest.


Sir Rodric, I’m of the school according to which great leaders make history. In that regard, I would be curious to know which Tsar or leader impresses you the most in the history of Russia and why?

The question of whether history is made by great leaders or impersonal forces will never be settled. It is the intellectual underpinning for Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In my view, you need both. Even the greatest leader cannot buck reality: Bismarck is eloquent on that.

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The King who jeopardized the Monarchy

The cover of Prince Harry’s memoir was released last week, in mounting anticipation of the day it hits the shelves next January. Since their wedding in May 2018, Harry and Meghan have proven to be distracting – to say the least – for the Royal Family. Their staunch desire to center everything around their desires, feelings and intentions goes against the grain of an institution based on selflessness and duty.

Even though the revelations contained in his book will probably rock and ruffle Buckingham Palace, Prince Harry’s fifth position in the line of succession to the throne render his tribulations much less catastrophic than those posed by his late grandmother’s uncle, King Edward VIII. On December 10, 1936, this Monarch deposed the scepter and the orb for the sake of marrying the Queen of his heart, the American-born divorcee Wallis Simpson.

His brother, George VI, was left to pick up the pieces. He was neither supposed nor prepared to accede the throne. The reputation of the institution was severely tarnished, but the history of the world can be grateful that George Windsor was tasked with this mission because his brother David (Edward VIII)’s presence on the throne would have proved catastrophic in the period leading to and during World War II.

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« Il y a chez cet homme du Churchill et du Clemenceau »

Le président ukrainien Volodymyr Zelensky parcourant les tranchées qui contribuent à défigurer son pays depuis le début de la guerre lancée par la Russie. (source: Kyiv Post)

Le général d’armée Henri Bentégeat est un militaire français qui a servi en tant que chef de l’état-major particulier du président de la République entre 1999 et 2002 et chef d’état-major des armées de 2002 à 2006. Il est l’auteur de deux excellents livres, Chefs d’État en guerre et Les ors de la République, tous deux publiés chez Perrin.

Je suis privilégié de le compter parmi mes interlocuteurs appréciés. Le général Bentégeat tient à conserver un devoir de réserve, pour ne pas porter ombrage à son successeur, le général Thierry Burckhart. Ce qui est très louable. Il a néanmoins accepté de partager quelques observations à propos du leadership de guerre du président ukrainien Volodymyr Zelensky.

« Qu’attend-on d’un chef d’État confronté à la guerre », de se questionner réthoriquement l’ancien proche collaborateur des présidents Mitterrand et Chirac? « D’abord, une vision claire des enjeux, ensuite une capacité à se fixer des buts de guerre ambitieux et réalistes, enfin la capacité à mobiliser l’ensemble des ressources du pays pour conduire la guerre; accessoirement, le choix de chefs militaires compétents et loyaux. Selon ces critères, le président ukrainien est parfaitement à la hauteur de ses lourdes responsabilités. »

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