The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Julius Caesar invaded Britain for the first time in 55 B.C. A more successful Roman invasion occurred nearly 100 years later in 43 A.D. under the Emperor Claudius. The conquest was solidified over the next 34 years, leading to the installation of Julius Agricola as Britain’s Imperial Governor in 77 A.D. In 122 A.D. Hadrian’s Wall, which was named for the incumbent emperor, was constructed from the North Sea to the Irish Sea and marked the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire. Within this boundary the Romans established numerous forts (castra), the English versions of which live on in the names of towns ending in “cester” (Worcester and Leicester), “caster” (Lancaster) and “chester” (Winchester and Manchester). The Roman occupation continued until 407 A.D., when Constantine III withdrew the last Roman legion and took it to Gaul.
Although the Roman legions have been gone for 16 centuries, there’s still a very visible foreign presence in the largest castra in Britain. The two Premier League football (soccer) clubs in Manchester are owned by foreigners. The controlling interest in Manchester United is held by Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman who also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. United’s cross-town rival, Manchester City, is owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi. Chelsea Football Club, Manchester City’s opponent in a recent “friendly” (exhibition game) in St. Louis, is owned by a Russian billionaire named Roman Abramovich. I was in attendance at this game, which Manchester City won by a score of 4 to 3. A commemorative cup of Schlafly Beer cost $11.75, some of which will presumably help Sheikh Mansour and Mr. Abramovich afford the rather sizeable payrolls of their respective teams.
Foreign influence in Britain currently extends far north of Hadrian’s Wall into what is now Scotland. According to the New York Times, non-Scottish companies now control about 80% of the market for Scotch whisky. This is still less than the percentage of the American beer market controlled by foreigners, which is well over 90%.
For all this foreign presence, in the coming months the English have much to celebrate that is indigenously their own. On Saturday June 8th Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her official 87th birthday, nearly seven weeks after her actual birthday of April 21st. Approximately one month later, on a date still to be determined, Princess Kate is expected to give birth to a great grandchild for the Queen. In the meantime, approximately 22,000 people are expected to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge, where early Brits were worshiping more than two millennia before the Romans invaded for the first time. June 24th ,three days after the solstice, marks the start of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, the quintessentially British tournament most recently won by an Englishman in 1936. The record of Englishwomen is somewhat better, Virginia Wade having won the women’s singles final a mere 36 years ago, in 1977.
Taking nothing away from the royal family, modern pagans or tennis players, I think the biggest celebrations of the English summer will undoubtedly be the Rolling Stones concerts in London’s Hyde Park on July 6th and 13th. These will be part of the band’s 50 & Counting tour and will recall the concert in the same park on July 5, 1969. This concert was free (as the current ones will most decidedly not be) and attracted a crowd estimated at between 250,000 and 500,000 fans. The earlier concert included a eulogy to former Stone Brian Jones, who had died two days earlier. After lead singer Mick Jagger read a couple of stanzas from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Adonais, an elegy on the death of John Keats, several hundred butterflies were released into the air. The band then launched into its first song, “I’m Yours and I’m Hers,” an interesting selection in light of the presence in the audience of two of Jagger’s paramours: Marianne Faithfull and Marsha Hunt. Some of the songs that were subsequently sung were ones I recall hearing when I saw the Rolling Stones in Baltimore on November 26th of the same year, among them: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Midnight Rambler,” Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction,” “Honky Tonk Women,” and “Love in Vain.”
While some of the songs at the Hyde Park concerts this summer may be the same as those performed 44 years ago, there’s one thing that might be very different: the beer served to concert goers. I happened to be in London in April of this year, around the time of the Queen’s real birthday, which coincided with the London Marathon. One of the things that astonished me most was the Roman invasion that had taken place since my last visit to the city in 1993. Many of the establishments in the neighborhoods adjoining Hyde Park (Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair etc.) no longer offer real English ales, with Rome-based Peroni often being the beer of choice for reasons I never completely understood. After 16 centuries the Romans are once again dominant in parts of Britain. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these neighborhoods were renamed Peronichester the next time I visit.