The office of King’s Champion and Standard Bearer at coronations is still held by the Dymoke family. They’ll fight anyone who challenges them for the job.
On 28 February 1895, playwright Oscar Wilde was at the height of his powers as he headed along Dover Street towards his club. After a long run of successes, his latest and most popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest, had just opened to rave reviews. There wasn’t a playwright in the English-speaking world who wouldn’t have swapped places with him for a share of his professional success.
All that changed when Oscar arrived at his club. The hall porter handed him a card left ten days earlier by a half-witted peer of the realm. A poor speller, the peer had addressed it ‘To Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite’.
Most of the writing was illegible, but the message was clear. The peer was publicly accusing Wilde of homosexuality, then a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Oscar was outraged. ‘Who else has seen this card?’ he demanded.
‘No one, sir,’ replied the porter. ‘It was I who put it in the envelope and I don’t understand what is written on it.’
Oscar should have torn the card up there and then. Instead, he hurried back to his hotel with the intention of fleeing to Paris. But his luggage had been impounded until he paid his bill, so he wrote a note to his friend Robert Ross instead:
‘Bosie’s father has left a card at my club with hideous words on it. I don’t see anything now but a criminal prosecution. My whole life seems ruined by this man.’
HISTROIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 47. Who was Bosie? Who was his father?