TRC: Royal acts: deeds of human nature? – Prince Albert Victor

01/03/2012 at 1:41 pm (Great Britain, History, Royalty) (, , , , , , , )


His father was a lady-killer. And so was he, some say. The difference is that when people say it about the Prince of Wales who became King Edward VII they mean it in a romantic sense. When they apply the term to his son, Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence, Eddy to his family, they mean it literally. We know for certain why the King was considered a lady-killer. Lillie Langtry and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s, great grandmother, Alice Keppel, were only two of many, many women to experience “little deaths” by his doing.

And isn’t it exceedingly odd: the great, great grandson and great granddaughter of a Prince of Wales and his mistress……..?

But we don’t really know whether or not Prince Albert Victor (PAV) was a lady-killer, of any sort. Was he involved with the Jack the Ripper murders, as some claim? Some descriptions by eye-witnesses of the killer seem to fit PAV. But Court documents show that he was elsewhere, Sandringham, for example, at the time of some of the murders.

And how was he in the realm of romance? It’s said that when his fellow army officers tried to make him a “man of the world,” he resisted their efforts. (TRC assumes they were offering moral support rather than their personal services.) But he proposed to his first cousin, Princess Alix of Hesse, in 1889 when she was seventeen and he was twenty-five. She refused. She had already fallen in love with the heir to the Russian throne, the future Tsar Nicholas II, the year before. Last time we mentioned the tragic ending of that marriage. Did her refusal of him drive him into a Cleveland Street homosexual brothel in July of that year? Yet another unsubstantiated claim about him, but it was a huge issue at the time. In letters to his aunt Victoria, Empress of Germany, Queen Victoria said he led a “dissipated life.” Some believe this referred to homosexuality.

In any event, the scandal hung like suffocating smog over the Court. Though the young, male prostitutes themselves never named PAV as a client, they said that his father’s Extra Equerry, Lord Arthur Somerset, was. He fled the country. PAV’s father, then Prince of Wales, managed to ensure that none of the clients, actual or suspected, was prosecuted. But PAV was dispatched on a seven month tour of India. Exile by any other name or for any duration is still exile, TRC says.    Some years after his death, a lady of the Raj he’d met in India, Mrs Margery Haddon, returned to the UK and claimed that PAV was her son’s, Clarence, father. Yet again, unproven. The reason why in 1887 Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales ordered him, as a soldier, to Malta also provides a hint of his emotional psyche. The Queen and his father were worried that, among other indiscretions, the twenty-three year old had an unhealthy crush on Winston Churchill’s married mother, ten years his senior.

Early on, PAV’s tutor, the Reverend John Neale Dalton, had reported that his student’s mind was “abnormally dormant.” Even some members of the Royal Family, and some aristocrats, derided his intellect. Yet he learned Danish, his mother’s native tongue; spent some months at the University of Heidelberg learning German and, for two years, was a student at Cambridge University. I’m told though by those who went to Oxford University that being a student at Cambridge is a sure sign that your mind is “abnormally dormant.”

Even the actuality and circumstances of PAV’s reported death at Sandringham House in January 1892 are questioned.

So, we know many claims about this prince but very little that is clearly fact. Great stuff therefore for novelists who dare to let their imaginations run fully free. And we at TRC did. Forget what historians say. Ignore claim and counter-claim. Read TRC, which tells an exciting, entertaining, creative story centred on PAV back then and now.

Next week: Rasputin

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Life Imitates Art on The Ruthless Courts of Wimbledon

01/07/2011 at 5:28 am (Books, Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The Ruthless Court is set at Wimbledon tennis and in Barbados, St Petersburg, wider London, Moscow and Madagascar. Read Chapter 1 free to see how our scene-setting matches up to this weekend at Wimbledon, with Djokovic, and a tall Russian woman in the Finals.

The Ruthless Court book cover

TITLE PAGE AND COPYRIGHT

The Ruthless Court

Autumn & Bonny St John

 This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters and their dialogue, incidents and locations either are used fictitiously or are created by the authors from their imaginations.  Any similarity to living or dead people and their current or past dialogue, events and locations is entirely coincidental.

 Copyright © 2011

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the authors, except for the inclusion of  brief quotations in a review.

Chapter 1

“Let’s go rumble with little Miss Womble, Your Majesty!”

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II involuntarily jerked her torso back as if avoiding an intended blow. She and the Lady Sophie Rycroft-Ross, Lady-in-Waiting, in startled unison exclaimed, “What!”

The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, frowned at Sir Richard Littlehyusen, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. They were in the hallway of the ladies changing rooms of the famous club. Sir Richard had a look close to horror on his face. His expression was out of place in the genteel surroundings. For security reasons, no one else was allowed to be in the area of the changing rooms at the same time as the Queen. Sir Richard had agreed that with her close protection team. He would therefore have some difficult explaining to do.

The voice they’d heard was that of a New York American but they couldn’t see him. The Queen’s chief close protection officer started walking determinedly and briskly in the direction the voice had come from. He unbuttoned his jacket, and briefly rested his hand on something out of sight at his right hip. Sir Richard trotted along behind the lanky, grey-haired man.

At that moment Catherine Verkhovnova and her coach Jack Petrovich came into the hallway. Jack, always unflappable and confident, immediately realised what had happened.  And the players and coaches had been advised by the club on the etiquette of addressing Her Majesty, if the occasion arose when they had to do so. She had been briefed about the players and coaches.

Jack smiled and with more of a nod than a bow said “Oh, sorry, Your Majesty, I was talking to Catherine here, the one and only Empress of Tennis!”

In spite of the lapse in security and protocol, everyone laughed, except Catherine.

“I am surprised, Mr Petrovich, that you’ve heard of our imaginary little friends, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.  Do you have children?” the Queen asked with a broad smile.

“No Ma’am, but in the dark, endless Winters of St Petersburg you’ll do anything to pass the time. Even allowing yourself to be persuaded to watch old tapes of the BBC’s Wombles stories,” Jack replied.

Laughter all round again, but Catherine stood unsmiling and as still as if she were rooted to the spot. Jack looked at her. She was trembling slightly. The nineteen year old seemed overwhelmed by coming face to face with the Queen. Her large, bright green eyes were fixed on the authoritative but kind face of this Queen Elizabeth.

Does she know that I am her cousin? Catherine thought. Has she, like me, been told the true story of her great uncle, my great, great, grandfather?

The Queen’s expression revealed nothing. Nothing but her mastery of the diplomatic skill of remaining poker-faced when one’s thoughts had to be kept secret at all cost. She abruptly turned to Sir Richard and nodded.

Guided by him, she and her entourage set off to complete her look round the modern facilities of the club. She had intended to do this two years ago, but had overrun her schedule by talking to players and officials much longer than expected.

Exceptionally, she had returned for the Gentlemen’s Singles Finals this year. During the past year, she had been coaxed and encouraged to do so by her young friends Lady Sophie and her brother, Lord Gervase Rycroft-Ross.

And either by monarchical magic or divine coincidence, Britain at last had a man playing in the Wimbledon singles final for the first time since Bunny Austin more than seven decades ago. In addition, to the nation’s joyful amazement, Georgie Gent had reached the Ladies’ Singles Final, with consummate spotlight sharing timing. And to crown it all for her, she was playing today, Sunday, in front of the Queen. As tradition dictated, the Ladies’ Final had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but, in the early morning, Catherine Verkhovnova, Georgie’s opponent, had complained of a debilitating stomach upset. The Championships referee, GJ Gillem, had insisted that the tournament’s official doctor should verify that the world’s number one female player was indeed incapable of taking to the court.

Once her illness was confirmed, the Wimbledon Committee pragmatically, if highly unusually, swapped the Ladies’ Final and the Mixed Doubles Final, bringing forward the latter to Saturday from Sunday. They soothed disappointed and increasingly unruly spectators by offering them a partial refund, before the hallowed name of Centre Court could be brought into disrepute.

But the Mixed Doubles players threatened, in McEnroesque style, not to play, annoyed by the sudden change. However, GJ Gillem used his diplomatic wiles and negotiating skills, honed during several ambassadorial appointments, including Washington, to talk them into playing. It helped as well that he and his wife, the fabulous jazz singer Ann-Nicole Bauer, had been Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champions, so he shared camaraderie with the current players.

The nation was agog with anticipation. The television audience in the UK was expected to be the largest ever to watch a sporting event.

And now on this glorious Sunday, thirty thousand people were flooding onto Henman Hill, Court One and all the “outside” courts to watch the two finals on large television screens. Centre Court, the place where history would actually be played out, was packed.

Inside, Jack took Catherine’s elbow and gently but firmly pushed her along. They headed to the players’ waiting room. When they got there, Georgie hadn’t arrived yet. Hers was not a name known to most of the public; and many tennis fans only knew her as Laura Robson’s sometime doubles partner. But she had shocked everyone by beating Caroline Wozniacki in their semi-final, lasting six hours and fifty-two minutes, the longest match in the history of women’s tennis. And Jack referred to her as Miss Womble only as a way of helping Catherine to relax. It was obvious that Georgie was a skilled competitor. But to write her name in Wimbledon’s brightest history she would somehow have to overcome Catherine, who was undefeated all year.

For her male counterpart, Andy Murray, to join her in tennis immortality, he would have to beat a rampant Novak Djokovic in their final. John Lloyd, the wise, former Great Britain Davis Cup team captain, was confident that Murray would win, as the Scot had demolished Rafael Nadal in three sets in their semi-final.

And so the Wimbledon Committee, unaware of all the coincidences which made it happen, was very pleased that the Queen was attending the two matches of great sporting historic importance for Britain. During the silver jubilee year of her accession, 1977, she had watched from the Royal Box as Virginia Wade won the ladies trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish. But, after so many, many years, for the two Britons to win on the same day, if they won, in front of her would surely be a great pleasure to her, the club’s patricians reasoned to themselves.

But just about then the long-reigning British monarch was thinking of 1959 and a lunch she had in Toronto, Canada, with the Grand Duchess Olga, who was her cousin and the younger sister of the late Tsar Nicholas II.

Olga, then seventy-seven years old, had told the young Queen an astonishing story about the latter’s great uncle, Prince Albert Victor. To all the world, he had died at Sandringham House, Norfolk, England, in 1892. But, in fact, he had lived long after that, mostly in Russia, where he had a deadly feud with Rasputin.

Like me, Olga would have instantly recognised that extraordinary girl as a descendant of Pyotr Asimov, the Queen thought. So she’s certainly part of the modern legacy of my great uncle, though I don’t know exactly how. Besides what I know, heaven knows what else Asimov got up to. And it was probably her and her advisers who wrote to me anonymously last year, the Queen surmised.  In any event, best for all if this particular past remains the past.

♛ ♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛

 This book has now been published as an eBook on Kindle (there’s a note below about Kindle books). But you don’t need a Kindle device to download and read it. Here’s a link which will take you to the free Kindle app (software/system) for PCs, Macs, iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc, which you can download: http://amzn.to/iCTErl.

And here are links to the book on Kindle: http://amzn.to/mx2X6f  (UK),  http://amzn.to/lkN7F0 (Europe),  http://amzn.to/kC0X3f  (Rest of the World). These should take you direct to the book’s location. If they don’t, you can go to Amazon.co.uk, search for The Ruthless Court and it will pop up. Hope you’ll take a look. If you decide to read it,  hope you do enjoy it–and don’t forget to tell your friends about it as well!

And if you don’t already know:

You can move within a Kindle book as easily as you can in a paper copy. The “GO” button on the menu bar lets you move to, among other places, the Table of Contents and to Page or Location. In addition, when you reopen a Kindle book it will open at the last page you were reading. A paper copy doesn’t do that. You either have to remember where you were or bookmark it!  A Kindle book also allows you to choose from three different page backgrounds: white, off-white (sepia) and black.

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New Extract from The Ruthless Court

17/05/2011 at 8:44 am (History, Royalty, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , , )


This second exclusive extract from The Ruthless Court reveals another episode in Rasputin and John Richmond/Prince Albert Victor’s bitter and eventful feud–and this time the Tsar and Tsarina are caught in the crossfire.

Encouraged by his father’s words, the Prince uses many devices to endear himself to the Tsarina, his Alix. He seeks out her opinion, sometimes on imaginary issues; he admires her children; he flatters her about her appearance. He finds this easy to do as he considers her to be still one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen. He gives her unusual and exotic gifts which satisfy some interest or personal preference she has expressed. But never any currently fashionable or widely owned object.

He believes that he’s achieving his goal as she more often than not meets him alone in her beloved Mauve Room, or in his mansion. On these occasions, they listen to music or perform it together; and read to each other. She is spellbound by the exotic concoctions which the Prince’s Tibetan and Georgian chefs cook. She is stimulated by their look, flavours and textures, and fully enjoys eating each mysterious but delicious dish.

One mid-afternoon in April 1909, the Prince and Alix are in her Mauve Room enjoying dancing to a gramophone recording of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. They are playing the music at a low volume, but the Tsar, in the Pallisander Room to retrieve some of his papers, hears the music next door. He puts his head round the door. He finds the lively efforts of Alix and the Prince comical, and laughs. This puts off the two dancers, and the Prince suggests that the Tsar should take a turn with the Tsarina instead. After some hesitation, the Tsar and his wife skip around the room together in time to a brisk piece… In the middle of the dance, Rasputin is ushered into the room by a footman.

“Father Grigori,” Alix says in surprise, as she and the Tsar stop dancing, “I didn’t expect you today. Why have you come?”

“I had a vision about Alexei. It was reassuring, so I thought that I should reveal it to you immediately.  But as my message from God to you is all good it can wait a little longer. Let’s dance. I am very good at these folk dances,” Rasputin boasts, reaching out to the Tsarina.

From his smell and the sound of his voice it’s clear that he has been drinking a generous amount.

“Not now, Father Grigori.  The Tsarina has to attend to other matters,” the Tsar says firmly.

Without warning Rasputin leaps at the Prince and seizes him by the throat.

“This is your doing. You have turned my Sovereigns against me!” he shouts.

The Prince flings both his arms upwards and outwards inside Rasputin’s, breaking his stranglehold. Rasputin staggers backwards. He crashes into a planter next to the Tsarina’s mauve sofa. He wheels away, landing in one of the delicate, architect-designed chairs, smashing it to pieces. Somehow, in spite of his intoxication, he springs upwards from the floor with the agility of a Cossack dancer. One by one, he picks up several of the Tsarina’s cherished transparent decorative cups from the top of a piano and pelts John Richmond with them. Some crash into the wall and break as the Prince sways and ducks away from them.

But instead of taking further action against Rasputin, the Prince turns and runs. He does not head to the Pallisander Room, from which he usually enters the Mauve Room, as that will take him towards Rasputin. Instead he dashes in the other direction.  So to a sharp cry of “No!” from Alix, he, chased by Rasputin, pounds through the imperial bedroom, the Tsarina’s dressing room, the Ladies-in-Waiting room, knocking over a maid who is tidying-up, along a passage into the entrance hall and out of the entrance used only by the Tsar and his wife and children.

With his long black hair flapping behind him and his boots thudding into the still partially frozen ground of Alexander Park, Rasputin rushes after the Prince. Two officers of the Okhrana palace detachment follow them out of the palace entrance, but stop once the two men leave the immediate environs of the palace.

The Prince swiftly strides out of the Tchihatchevsky Gate. But he doesn’t turn right along Dvortsovaya Ulitsa towards his mansion, to Rasputin’s surprise. Instead, he crosses the street into Malaya Ulitsa. As it ends, he swerves to his left towards the Town Hall. People gathering for a function there scatter as he plows through their midst. Behind him, in the distance, he can hear the heavy thump of Rasputin’s boots, and his loud swearing at anyone who gets in his away. People turn or look up from their activities to stare at the two running men.  But by now the people of Tsarskoe are accustomed to the odd behaviour of the bearded holy man and so return to their business.

At the Practical School the Prince bolts to his right and, near the Moskovsky Gate, he veers right again into the Otdielny Park.

Rasputin begins to feel uneasy. John Richmond seems to be leading him to somewhere specific, for some planned purpose. But his pride will not let him turn back. As he comes into a clearing in woodland by the palace of the Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, he sees “John Richmond” bent over with his hands on his knees. The target presented to Rasputin is too inviting to be ignored. Without breaking his stride he kicks out at “John Richmond’s” bottom. At that moment the Prince steps to his right, swivels and sticks out a leg over which Rasputin tumbles to the ground. But again, the Prince does not take advantage of getting the better of his opponent. Rasputin repeats his athletic trick of bouncing upright from a prone position. He propels himself forward, lashing blows at the Prince, who shields only his face. Rasputin’s heavy punches and kicks rain in on his body. He feels one of his ribs crack. Don’t fall, don’t fall, he thinks.

After about two minutes the Prince hears shouts. Rasputin runs off. Lowering his arms from covering his face, the Prince sees the Grand Duke Boris, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and two footmen approaching him.

“Why, it’s Mr Richmond,” young Dmitri says. Both he and Boris, first cousins of the Tsar, have socialised many times with John Richmond at Alexander Palace, where Dmitri occasionally resides. He has done so since the assassination of his guardian, Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich.

  The prince collapses to the ground moaning and holding his chest. At Boris’ order, the two footmen carry the Prince to the Grand Duke’s nearby palace.

 “Was that Rasputin beating him?” Dmitri asks as the footmen lay the Prince on a chaise-lounge in one of the palace’s drawing room.

“Yes. I wonder why,” his cousin replies, and addressing a footman says. “Alexander, go over to the Court Hospital and tell Dr Botkin that I need him to attend a medical emergency here.”

Find out more about The Ruthless Court

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In Russia, With Love: The Royal Wedding of the Last Tsar and Tsarina

29/04/2011 at 5:51 am (Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


So the Big Day is finally here! The biggest Royal Wedding Great Britain—and arguably, the world—has seen since Charles and Diana. Prince William and Kate Middleton are to be married at Westminster Abbey, complete with its specially installed 97 metre red carpet, at 11:00 am UK time, with 1900 guests in attendance and in front of the biggest worldwide television audience in all of history. Those lucky enough to be invited to the ceremony range from foreign princes to familiar footballers, war heroes to slapstick entertainers. Also present in the House of Kings will be no less than two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams to perform the wedding service’s music. The two processions, from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey and back again, take in such London landmarks as The Mall, Downing Street,Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

The Royal Wedding reception, to which 650 guests are invited, is to be held at Buckingham Palace. The host, of course, could only be Her Majesty the Queen. Ellie Goulding, one of William and Kate’s favourite singers, will provide the musical entertainment—without the backing of two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams, we imagine. Guests will dine on canapés as offered by circulating waiters.

But, of course, grand royal weddings have happened for eons. Here’s a verbal canapé about one of the most famous.

Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, are a pivotal couple in The Ruthless Court. How did their own royal wedding, on 26th November 1894, compare with William’s and Kate’s? It was a more sombre and low key affair, as it was sadly just one week after the death of Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III. However, as you can imagine, the new Tsar’s wedding to the German princess, known as Alix of Hesse before changing her name to Alexandra, was also attended by foreign princes and dignitaries (it is unclear if the 19th century Russian equivalents of Elton John, David Beckham and Mr. Bean were also in attendance).

The wedding took place at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, which was as surrounded with onlookers and well-wishers as Westminster Abbey is right now. Nicholas donned a Hussar’s uniform for the occasion, whilst Alexandra wore the traditional dress of Romanov brides. The post-ceremony procession saw the happy couple drive to Anichkov Palace, cheered on by astounding crowds, as no doubt the procession back to Bucks Palace will be later on. Whilst William and Kate are to nobly take an austerity honeymoon in Cornwall’s Scilly Isles, the Emperor and Empress had no honeymoon at all.

We at The Ruthless Court wish William and Kate a very long and happy life together. As everyone knows, the Tsar and Tsarina stayed in love and loyal to one another throughout revolt, constitutional change, the birth and lives of their children, WWI and finally, the Russian Revolution, which was to lead to their untimely death. In The Ruthless Court, however, their marriage is even more thrilling, laden as it is with secrets, intrigue and visitors from the past!

Be sure to follow our live tweet of the Royal Wedding as it happens!

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Forget Ivan the Terrible—Andy Murray Needs a Really Ruthless Coach

30/03/2011 at 12:14 am (Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Murray and Lenin--A Match Made in The Ruthless Court?

Upon seeing this tweet by David Law, giving a shout out to Jonathan Overend’s wit and wisdom, what else were we at The Ruthless Court going to do other than reflect upon which Russian historical figure would suit British world no.5 Andy Murray best as a coach?

For weeks now, the great and the good of tennis have been advising Andy to ‘get a coach’ (presumably they mean a coach other than BFF/glorified hitting partner Dani Vallverdu). The alleged need for a coach seems all the more acute now that Andy has parted company with part-time consultant Alex Corretja. The recent waterfall of cries for Andy to employ a full-time coach was initially prompted by Andy’s…interesting form since this year’s Australian Open. It’s interesting in the sense that he hasn’t won a match since his defeat in the AO final at the hands of the since-unbeaten Novak Djokovic. Yeah, that kind of ‘interesting’. But never fear, because we can reveal right here, right now that Andy will win Wimbledon 2011—it’s in The Ruthless Court so it must be true.

If, for some strange reason, you’re not comforted by this news and you still think Andy should just, you know, get a coach, may we suggest that neither the great Ivan Lendl nor the terrible Ivan the…Terrible are ruthless enough to guide the young Briton to his first grand slam? No, if you’re looking for the kind of ruthlessness that a Wimbledon-champion-in-the-making needs alongside him, then there’s no better place to look than The Ruthless Court. Move over Mr. Terrible–which of the iconic Russian figures who are actually in The Ruthless Court is best suited to getting Andy out of the small scrape he currently finds himself in?:

Tsarina Alexandra—Whilst she’s the perfect combination of Germanic efficiency and Russian eccentricity, her judgement isn’t too sound if her adoration of Rasputin is anything to go by. Also, as The Ruthless Court reveals, she has enough men in her life without having to worry about lanky tennis players.

Tsar Nicholas II—Er, there was a reason why he was the last Tsar of Russia. You’d be better off asking the captain of the Titanic to manage Manchester United.

Rasputin—Now we’re getting somewhere. Here’s a man who can understand Andy’s reluctance to stick to the rules and social norms. His wildness and passion would no doubt reignite a fire in the young Braveheart’s belly. And, if you believe the hype, good ol’ Rasputin is also a faith healer, so the next time Andy gets a bit of a wrist strain or sore ankle, he can just ask Coach to lay hands on him. Think of all the medical bills he’ll save on! Just one thing though, Andy is teetotal, whilst our man Rasputin…isn’t. So that could be a point of friction.

Lenin—Now then. A master tactician with no fear of or respect for the status quo. He’ll help Andy upset the cosy Grand Slam monopoly of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic by giving him the shrewd tactics that any cunning revolutionary would be proud of.  Forget Peace, Land, Bread—how about Game, Set, Match?

If you’ve got something to add to the debate, why not vote on this week’s brand new poll?

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