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Fanfic rants and resources: the British Army, bespoke tailors, and baronets - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Fanfic rants and resources: the British Army, bespoke tailors, and baronets

Right, you lot.  Before we all trot off for a last weekend at Brighton, or go forth to pick brambles only to find that they were early this year and there are none left (no jam for you this winter, I’m afraid), or pleat our kilts for the caber toss at the Invercharron Games, a few points.




If there is a genre of Potterfic, including AU/AH, that I should like to see done and done well, it is that that explores the Auror Corps, a Wizarding military establishment, and the civil politics of Wizard-dom.  Unfortunately, whilst I have seen it done, I’ve rarely seen it done well (I have sometimes contemplated bribing Age of Sail fen on my f’list to write some Potterfic simply to achieve this).  When I have seen it done, it has generally been by Americans – to which I am by no means objecting – who are usually Harmonians – which is hard to complain of in an AU, I suppose – and who know a great deal about weapons and arms, the US Army, and the like, but have no concept of the British Army (or police forces, in Auror stories that make the Aurors the Old Bill rather than an Armed Service), the regimental system, British and Commonwealth ranks and insignia (New Zealand subalterns do not wear ‘lieutenant’s bars’ on their collars, my dear fellow, they wear a star – ‘pip’ – or two on their shoulder or on their rank slide when in combat dress), the Queen’s Regulations, Army traditions, aid to the civil power, and the like: which I do complain of.


To remedy that, may I suggest these resources?


The Queen’s Commission: a Junior Officer’s Guide



Soldier Management – A Guide for Commanders



Manual of Defence Writing – JSP 101



I may also note that the writing advice in JSP 101 can be studied with profit by any writer in any fandom, and that the Seven Questions system in Soldier Management bears usage by any writer seeking to write a battle in any fandom.


Similarly, with rare (and in the main British) exceptions – ‘Corridors of Power’, say – political fiction in the Potterverse, with its utterly mad ideas of what a Wizengamot session might be like, and Ministers standing – usually written as ‘running’ – for election as such, is badly in want of instruction.  The Beeb’s guide to Parliament, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/a-z_of_parliament/default.stm, is, unlike its recent CBBC guide to 9/11, now replaced, is reliable and instructive.  Nick Robinson is not to be missed, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/, nor are Iain Dale, http://www.iaindale.blogspot.com/, Guido Fawkes, http://www.order-order.com/, and 18 Doughty Street, http://www.18doughtystreet.com/.  And of course there is the official website, http://www.parliament.uk/, the website of the History of Parliament Trust, at http://www.histparl.ac.uk/, and a useful site on the British constitution at http://britishconstitution.blogspot.com/. 


Then there is a matter that I have ranted about before.  No power on earth, it seems, can prevent people from writing snob-stuff in the Potterverse.  Unfortunately, most of them have no idea of the subject.  Armani, including ‘Wizarding Armani’, is not U.  There follows a representative, although by no means exhaustive, list of shops worth finding on the Web and studying, particularly where some of the tailors have guides and tips:


Bespoke tailors:

Anderson & Sheppard

Ede & Ravesncroft


Dege & Skinner

Gieves & Hawkes

Davies & Son

Maurice Sedwell

Henry Poole



New & Lingwood – NB: Old Etonian kit

Hilditch & Key

Hawes & Curtis

Thos Pink


Cufflinks &c:




New & Lingwood – Russia calf

Foster & Son


Church’s, w caution

Jno Lobb


Barber / hairdresser:

Geo F Trumper



Holland & Holland



Additionally, please to read, mark, and inwardly digest the work of Mr Thos Mahon, at http://www.englishcut.com/.


One of the worst and most persistent offences I see in snob-stuff Potterfic is the woeful misapprehension and mishandling of titles, honours, and post nominals.  May I suggest starting with the Honours System, http://www.honours.gov.uk/, and Order of Wear, http://www.honours.gov.uk/honours/wear.aspx?  Post nominals are shown at http://www.honours.gov.uk/honours/chivalry.aspx, and certain exceptions pertaining to the rule that ‘order of wear’ governs the order of post nominal letters after a name are found therein.


Correct form – that is, forms of address – is best addressed by Debrett’s Correct Form.  Buy it or go to the library.  (Not everything in this world is online for free, and I cannot do everything for you.)  For God’s sake, though, use your ’eadpiece.  He may be ‘Your Grace’ to the gardener, but to his equals it’s ‘Morning, Duke’ – or ‘Hullo, Charles’ or ‘Evenin’, Collingbourne’ or ‘Oi, Tubby!  You remember Weedy, here?  Fagged for me at Eton’ or ‘Uncle Charles!  Did you see how Mummy fell at the last fence, Uncle Charles?’ or what have you, depending on relationship.  But this begins to exceed the scope of my remarks.


Please look after this bear use these resources.  Your readers will thank you and your conscience will improve in tone – as will your writing.



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39 comments or Leave a comment
lazy_neutrino From: lazy_neutrino Date: September 14th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I say old bean, what a spiffing resource!

Bespoke tailors:

Anderson & Sheppard

Ede & Ravesncroft


Dege & Skinner

Gieves & Hawkes

Davies & Son

Maurice Sedwell

Henry Poole

Has Tommy Nutter gone from Savile Row, then? I used to walk past his shop in the late 80s and always loved the displays.

Armani, including ‘Wizarding Armani’, is not U.

Have you explained U and non-U in a previous post, then? I would love a link if you have!
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: September 14th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U_and_non-U_English would probably be a good start.
serriadh From: serriadh Date: September 14th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

There are more problems than that with writing potter!politics, I think.

Excellent points, all. I don't read that much Potterfic as I used to, but I still hugely enjoy these resource lists as much as an educational tool for my own interest (and to learn about what is, give or take the matter of class ;) ) my own culture.

What I find odd about Potterfic dealing with politics is that so litte deals with the rampant corruption/backwardness of the system as depicted in the books. I'm not historically knowledgeable enough to say what era is most representss, but the Ministry is certainly not that much like our Parliament. There's no hint of elections, for instance (see remarks on 'they wanted Dumbledore for Minister' etc.)... and it's also not clear what function the Aurors have, which makes it difficult to write them (though there is no excuse for not trying) - are they police? army? secret service? all of the above? are they under control of the Minister/Minstry or are they 'independent' like Uk judges?
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: September 15th, 2007 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: There are more problems than that with writing potter!politics, I think.

It's a definite omission, given how very rampant the corruption is. And we don't see much of the Aurors in action, and Harry is so ignorant of aspects of the wizarding world that others take for granted that the suggestion that he might make a good Auror might well be along the lines of "Have you ever considered a career in the KGB?"
wednesdayschild From: wednesdayschild Date: September 14th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Correct form – that is, forms of address – is best addressed by Debrett’s Correct Form. Buy it or go to the library. (Not everything in this world is online for free, and I cannot do everything for you.) For God’s sake, though, use your ’eadpiece.

Not Potterfic related, but my now-ex-boss was a Dame (and a Professor incidentally) and you would not believe the number of letters (including, more shockingly, job applications) we got that addressed her incorrectly. I'm not sure what was my favourite: 'Ms' or 'Lady'. Both caused many chuckles in short-listing meetings.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 18th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Snort. I can imagine.

Ah, well. As the American songwriters noted, there is nothing like a Dame....
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: September 15th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
For God’s sake, though, use your ’eadpiece.
That's would be the hardest part, I believe...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 18th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)


It was ever so. Alas.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: September 15th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Purdey's, that's the Georgette Heyer reference I was trying to remember! (We have a particularly contentious bunch on one of my fashion doll groups, and I wanted to suggest specifically the accessory that should come with a giftset of two new male dolls...)

You should cut us some slack with the Armani, though. It's really just a buzzword at this point. Plus, everywizard isn't Nature's Nobility, even if the family did happen to get itself represented in the Black Family Tree. Marcus Flint, Oliver Wood, any given Prewett, and other such: if they play pro Q and they're well-known, they wear Armani. It's like a law or something.

Here's something we Americans need serious help with! How do you get out of school without a ceremony? No graduations, no proms? How does a sixteen year-old girl get to wear an evening gown if there are no proms?

Give us some fancy social events -- balls (that don't depend on centennial events like the Tri-Wizard Tournament), tea dances, anything -- that involve pretty dresses!

shezan From: shezan Date: September 15th, 2007 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think you can possibly cut ANY slack with Armani (or "slacks", for that matter.) It's stuff Russian oligarchs' bodyguards wear.)
shezan From: shezan Date: September 15th, 2007 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to assume you're not mentioning Turnbull & Asser because it now belongs to the Fayeds? But I'm glad you list Hilditch & Clé, and Henry Poole.

There was a shirtmaker on Jermyn Street called Lewin's who had very good ties & handkerchiefs at non-silly prices. Many of my friends used it - still there? And Floris makes good shaving soap in a wooden bowl.
l_aqrchard From: l_aqrchard Date: September 16th, 2007 10:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Lewin's is certainly still there, and still selling things at non-silly prices. Definitely worth a visit.
luci0logy From: luci0logy Date: September 15th, 2007 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Geo F Trumper

I have used them in one of my fics. Their website is most informative too.

One of the main things that bothers me regarding Auror fics, is that time and again they seem little more than the WW version of the old bill. JKR has a department that deals with that - Hit Wizards. I do agree that as Aurors are supposed to be Dark Wizard catchers, then they are more likely to be like the army. I shall have to pump my son for information regarding training with weapons and battle tactics.

A terrific post, even for a brit.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 18th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're vy kind.

I rather suppose that the Aurors fill the role of the army and militia in the old Chartist-Captain-Swing-Riot-Act days, with the Hit Wizards as pre-Peel Bow Street Runners.
house_illrepute From: house_illrepute Date: September 15th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
please never delete this post!

this comes JUST IN TIME because I'm doing a ... well... post-DH Colin fic that deals heavily with the Auror Training Corp (he's a photojournalist and is 'assigned' to it)... so, while not truly ABOUT it, i did buy a couple books on Sandhurst and britain military books in order to make it somewhat 'realistic' or 'parallelistically real' if i can muck about with the language a bit...

thanks for doing this!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 18th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Wouldn't think of it.

Delighted to have been of use.
zanesfriend From: zanesfriend Date: September 17th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Question: what about a person who has both one or more of the awards you list and advanced academic degrees?

"Professor Sir XYZ, Ph.D., KCMG"? Or the other way around?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 17th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, if he's worth knighting, it's 'DPhil'....

Tabs and such use 'PhD', after all.

Easy, though: honours before academic qualifications, in order of precedence; then degrees in order of attainment followed by FRS or what have you.

If you really want to have fun, try an Irish earl who's a C of E cleric, privy councillor, and MP....
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