Max Hastings

Jolly Spiffing

The Big Shots

By Jonathan Garnier Ruffer

Quiller Press 160pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

One Morning in 1911, when Edwardian England waited in breathless suspense to discover how the House of Lords had voted on the Liberal budget, Lord Ripon came down to breakfast at Southleigh and demanded: ‘What are the numbers?’ Lord Knutsford replied: ‘Two thousand six hundred and fourteen partridges.’

For once, Knutsford had answered the wrong question. But it was unjust of Ripon to be cross, since there was precious little evidence from the rest of his life to suggest that he possessed anything like as much interest in affairs of state as he did in the massed slaughter of wildlife. Even those of us who are today fond of shooting reel at the insane excess of the Edwardian sportsmen.

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