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Hasluck, Nicholas,
The Hasluck Banner,
Freshwater Bay Press, Claremont 2006

80 pp, illustrated, introduction, no index, contents page,
ISBN 1 74008 390 3, Dewey 929.92, $15.00

The right of Bruce Baskerville to be identified as the moral rights author of this work is hereby asserted in accordance with the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The review was originally published in Heraldry Australia Member's Circular, No. 128, July/August 2007: 3-5.

The Review

Nicholas Hasluck is a well-known Western Australian author and lawyer, son of Sir Paul Hasluck, former federal politician and Governor General, and Dame Alexandra Hasluck, each prolific published writers in their own right. Nicholas is their second child, but became heir to Sir Paul following his brother's sudden death in 1973.

This well presented monograph contains much of interest to a student of fin-de-siècle Australia in the 1990s, but for the heraldist it is the description of the book's namesake banner, and its transportation from Britain to Australia, that is probably of most interest.

Visitors to St George's Cathedral in Perth will find suspended above the door leading out of the south transept the heraldic banner of a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The banner, with its vivid design of blue and yellow Catherine wheels, is a striking feature in this corner of the cathedral. It is probably the only Garter banner in Australia. (page 1)

Sir Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck was appointed to the Order of the Garter in 1979. The Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by Edward III, who at the same time also created the College of St George at Windsor, giving the Order a twofold purpose: knightly companionship with the sovereign, and a fellowship in Christian worship. The Order's ritual observances culminate with Garter Day in a service in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. Within the Chapel Quire are the knight's stalls and insignia.

About 650 knights have been admitted to the Order since its foundation, of which only three have been Australian, all former governors general: Lord Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck and Sir Ninian Stephen. Admission is made by the sovereign's own decision (not as part of an honours list recommended by governments), and is limited to 24 at any one time.

A newly created knight is sworn in at the Throne Room in Windsor Castle in the presence of all the members and officers of the Order. This is followed by a service of installation in St George's Chapel when the knight takes his or her place in an allotted stall in the Quire, and the banner is mounted above the stall. Upon the back of each stall is fixed a small metal plate bearing the knightıs Arms and an inscription that remains in perpetuity. The number and variety of these plates spanning over 600 years is the largest such collection in the world. The only stall without any plates is that of the sovereign who lives on through the succession.

Upon the death of a knight, the banner is 'laid up' by being placed on the altar at a requiem for deceased knights. Afterwards it is handed to the knight's heir who is to provide for its safekeeping - usually by placing it in a perpetual institution such as a cathedral or chapel.

From this general overview Hasluck then recounts his own experience with providing for the safekeeping of his father's banner. Sir Paul died in January 1993, and among his belongings was his 'Garter Box', containing his insignia of the Order: the brilliant silver 'Star', the gold 'Lesser George' badge, and the red and blue Garter. The Collar with the George Appendant was retained in the custody of the Central Chancery in London. A signed Deed of Covenant with the box promised that a personal representative would restore the complete insignia to the Order upon Sir Paul's death.

Garter Box! Such an enigmatic description; two simple words, but in combination enriched by mystery. (page 33)

Various arrangements were made by Hasluck with Buckingham Palace and Canberra, and eventually he was granted an audience with The Queen and returned to her the Garter Box and its precious, mysterious contents. Two days later he attended a Memorial Evensong at St George's Chapel, and his father's banner was laid upon the altar with a prayer to revere the name of the departed knight and those companions of the Order "who have left to us the fair pattern of valiant and true chivalry".

Although Hasluck does not describe subsequent events, he has appended a copy of a letter from Garter King of Arms (Sir Conrad Swan) presenting, as a part of Garter's fee, the banner and crest of Sir Paul as a gift. Arrangements were made for the banner to be installed in St George's Cathedral in Perth. As Hasluck says,

It seemed fitting that it should be laid up in this place because of the patronal link between the Cathedral, the Chapel and the Order and the personal association that the Hasluck family have had with the Cathedral as residents of Perth when they worshipped here shortly after it was built in the 1880s. (page 11)

Much of The Hasluck Banner is filled with Nicholas Hasluck's reflections on tradition and change, on connections and associations, and relfections upon his father's life. The story of the transfer of the banner to Perth provides a structure for these reflections and reminiscences. There are several illustrations showing the banner and crest as installed in the Chapel at Windsor and then the Cathedral in Perth. Hasluck also notes that in the restored St George's Hall at Windsor Castle (following the fire of 2002) the Arms of all the knights of the Order are displayed in stained glass, with the Hasluck Arms in the same window bay as those for Princess Anne, Viscount De L'Isle (another former Governor General), Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and King Albert of the Belgians, which gives a hint of the high honour conferred on Sir Paul by his admission to the Order.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the installation of the banner in the cathedral in Perth does not seem to have attracted the same attention. Hasluck states that this is likely to be the only such Garter banner installed in Australia. Presumably it will one day be joined by Sir Ninian Stephen's banner, while the location of Lord Casey's seems a moot point? Hasluck's reminiscing seems to suggest that Sir Paul's appointment to the Order of the Garter (as were his two immediate vice-regal predecessors, Casey and De L'Isle) was the last such appointment because of an aversion to imperial honours. However, Sir Ninian Stephen's appointment to the Order in 1994 suggests that such an appointment needs to be understood as a personal gift of the sovereign rather than an imperial honour, and the possibility for further appointments, and subsequent patriation of banners, remains possible.

I recommend this interesting little book for the light it shines on contemporary heraldic practice in an Australia largely struggling with heraldic illiteracy. Hasluck's reflections add a further dimension, placing heraldry firmly within debates about national identity. It is a location that could be further explored. And, of course, St George's Cathedral should now be firmly marked on the map of every heraldic tourist to Perth!

Bruce Baskerville, Blackheath, June 2007