Dr. Lant is now writing his 31st book and he shares here some excerpts from his forth coming new book
Everyone has the collywobbles their first day of work. I was no exception.
Consider where my new work had taken me: Windsor Castle.
You’ve seen this seat of kings on the television, in films, and as the ending
or beginning place for so many lavish pageants. Windsor Castle was
founded in 1070 and has over the centuries since become the reigning
monarch’s residence, their home sweet home.
Buckingham palace is the shop, Balmoral is a place for excessive exercise
and clean, clean air. But Windsor is home, as the Queen herself
acknowledged when the Waterloo Chamber caught fire (November 20th,
1992). There the Queen joined the bucket brigade, just like Charles II when
London was in flames (1666). The Queen did her bit; the nation admired the
Queen. Oh yes, Windsor was home.
Now I had my own room in the castle, specifically in the Round Tower, and I
couldn’t have been happier, no doubt nauseously cheerful. I radiated good
cheer and high spirits on everyone, whether they liked it or not.
Once I had achieved the dignity of a Harvard PhD, I simply couldn’t wait to
escape from Cambridge, and to travel my own royal road to fame and glory.
Though it had never happened before, and I believe has not happened
since, I, a bona fide Yankee, was now to ascend the steps of the castle, an
ascension which could never have been imagined by my American
revolutionary antecedents, or perhaps by anyone in Britain.
To gain entry, I had to present my credentials to the powers that be, namely
Sir Robin Mackworth-Young (1920-2000), GCVO, the Royal Librarian. He
was a man who had no doubt that I, indeed anyone, would be impressed by
him. For not even Toad of Toad’s Hall had greater majesty and hauteur than
Sir Robin. It goes without saying, he hated me on sight. Equally it goes
without saying that I rendered irritating tit for supercilious tat. And this was
just the beginning.
I have always supposed that Mackworth-Young would have liked to have
trashed my unique application and passed on the opportunity of enjoying my
congenial company. Sadly for him, he could find no good reason for what
he so evidently desired.
After all, not only was I a Harvard PhD (admittedly of most recent vintage),
but I was also the select of His Excellency Walter Annenberg, the United
States Ambassador (1969-1974), a personal friend of Her Majesty.
Mackworth-Young may not have liked me, but those he needed to like him
most assuredly did.
Thus, one early morning, for I am of the early rising ilk, I took the train from
London to Slough, the only way to take the train from London to Windsor
and back again. Queen Victoria had a specially designed car for that bit of
track. It was feminine, stuffy, regal, and totally desirable. Alas, I only was in
that boudoir on wheels once, while it was stationary, and never was invited
for a more mobile journey.
Despite the fact that I was not travelling in the royal railway car, I exhibited
the most supreme happiness, for I, the prairie lad, was now en route to the
Queen’s residence and my destiny. Could someone please show me the
I walked up the slightly elevated pathway to the castle. I was about to show the
world what an ingenious Yankee could do when he had the chance.
Publish or Perish
All the great universities of the United States and beyond have an infallible
injunction: publish or perish. This meant that before academic advancement could
take place, you must present your peers with evidence of your dogged research
persistence, deft writing skills, and the ability to find and proclaim new truths.
I found a most remarkable way for altering the usual system to my decided
advantage. I created and perfected, and used to my utmost advantage, a new
way of doing business. Instead of writing one single refereed journal article, I
would use the same information in three different formats.
1) for my impending book
2) in a refereed journal, and
3) in what Sir Robin Mackworth-Young was pleased to call the ephemeral
press, that is to say newspapers and popular magazines.
For example, to give you but one illustration of many, namely the 1887 Golden
Jubilee coinage. You might suppose this was an unlikely place for an insight, but
you’d be wrong. I gathered all the information about this coinage from the
necessary information repositories, including the Mint, every British newspaper
of the period, the papers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the designers
whose work would be vetted, including Boehm, Parliamentary debate minutes,
interdepartmental memoranda, etc., etc.
The result was impressive. Whereas my colleagues at Harvard and elsewhere
would work only on one article at a time, I, by contrast, would work on and benefit
Now imagine that every aspect of a great Royal Pageant could, upon research,
be divided into these three publication departments.
In short order, I produced dozens of articles which were first published in refereed
journals, second, in the popular press, and third, in my book which became
“Insubstantial Pageants”. As fast as you could say boiled asparagus, I was
publishing more such works of the highest quality than all my classmates at
Harvard put together. Honi soit qui mal y pense.
This day, my first working day in the castle, I looked closely at Queen Victoria’s
1887 statue by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, Baronet, RA. Here’s the story.
Boehm was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s and she selected his effigy for the new
coinage to be released upon the occasion of her 1887 Golden Jubilee on the
Unfortunately, the whole business of sculpture and new coinage design
became a complete muddle, all played out in public. Only the Queen liked the
statue, no one cared for the new coinage design, which suffered from lack of
denomination. As a result, the coinage lasted only six years, the shortest period
for any coinage in the 19th Century. I know all this because I literally wrote the
book on the subject.
“The Jubilee Coinage of 1887” by Jeffrey L. Lant, published in “The British
Numismatic Journal”, 1972
I felt right at home at Windsor, and for good reason. I had already published the
definitive article on how this inelegant, overfed sculpture was developed. For I
had resolved I would not write a book of reverence, but absolute truth, liberally
sprinkled with my own sheer wit.
And so I enquired, “Where, sir, would a likely lad like me find entrance to the
castle?” And the guard smiled, for there was no dishonor in hoodwinking a
Yankee amongst the troops of Her Majesty’s brigades.
“So Her Majesty’s waiting for you?” I could only nod in satisfaction, though
even I felt the incongruity of the moment. But I was a dogged boy, from the
great Midwest, and I was here for a purpose I intended to achieve.
I was directed to the tradesmen’s entry, not precisely what I had in mind. If
the Windsor’s know one thing and know it well, it is keeping a person
squarely where they want that person to be. Thus, within my very first
moment, my status with the Queen and her courtiers was established. Her
Majesty top, Dr. Lant bottom. Bet the long odds.
In a moment, a footman in full powder, reminiscent of the high days of the
18th Century, popped his head out and said “Are you expected, Guvnah?”
I was forced to say of course I was. Then he said “What’s your purpose?” I
should have said “To take you down a step or two, you twit!” But I was a
polite boy from the great Midwest, and manners were my forte.
He then directed me to the great tradesmen’s book, into which he bade me
write my name with a quill pen he handed me. And so I did: Dr. Jeffrey Ladd
Lant. He then gathered a candelabrum, and a giant key that was right out of
Charles Dickens. Indeed, I felt the entire experience was crafted by Dickens
himself. It had his macabre touch.
My jolly footman escorted me to the massive door of the Round Tower, and with
the giant key, the largest I had ever seen, proceeded to unlock it. I felt sure
Merlin or some other wizard of consequence was there awaiting my arrival.
The powdered flunky then retreated, locking me in the Round Tower. Oh
mama, now I wondered if I had done the right thing after all, for the room
was dark, susceptible to dangerous consequences. Even my young eyes
could hardly make out the proper outlines of the chamber and its Poe-like
staircase, cold, massive, sunk in the darkest gloom, unpredictable.
I felt just then a tiny trembling of my untested pluck, and so I ascended the
great concrete stairs, leading to the very top of the castle with weariness
and timidity. Anything might happen…
Then, just as night gives way to day, the lurking darkness of the staircase gave
way to a door opened by Miss Jane Langton. “Hello, Dr. Lant,” she said with
aplomb and practiced friendliness. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Now I am a boy of the following description: my father, Donald Marshall Lant,
used to say, “If you drop Jeffrey on his head on the outskirts of Ulan Bator, by
dinner he would have the Prime Minister eating out of his hand.” I was a Harvard
man, and this was my right.
Thus for the first time in the history of the dynasty and the castle itself, an
American, born in the U.S. of A., had come to parlay and must needs be
given the limited hospitality for which the Windsors are famous. It was a
moment as significant, as important as Henry M. Stanley greeting Dr.
Livingstone in the depths of the Congo (1871). She might have said, “Dr.
Lant, I presume?”
She immediately gave me the conditions under which I was allowed to be in such
an exalted place, and woe if I did not attend to them precisely. No mistake allowed.
I must arrive upon the striking of the 10 o’clock hour. I must take tea with the
staff. I must inform the staff whenever I have found a document of importance,
for historians were allowed in, in part, to help identify and explicate hitherto
I must leave my little room in the castle tidy to go out for lunch; skipping any
meal not permitted. And so on, through a series of minute do’s and don’t’s,
above all else, I was to remember that every piece of paper I touched, every
manuscript, every hitherto lost letter found, was the property of Her Majesty
I must also understand and acknowledge that I could only work in the Round
Tower up to three particular days each week, that I must tell them what
documents I desired to see when I left for the evening to prepare for my next
visit, and that Sir Robin Mackworth-Young would expect periodic reports,
the more eagerly awaited, because I was the Yankee Doodle boy, as unwelcome
as the voracious hordes of Asia. And I must always remember, never forget,
I was there at H.M.’s distinct invitation. None of this fazed me.
I, however, had been a judicious breaker of such rules for a lifetime, mere Brits
would not deter me now. I have my own sacred conditions, after all
Tea, whether I liked it or not
Despite the fact we were two people speaking a common language, we managed
to jog along fairly well. But there are things I did not like, including one very
important matter that I found intolerant. Miss Langton and the staff, soft-footed,
highly curious, probably sent in by the MI5 staff, were interested in me to a degree,
for after all, they had never seen an American before, much less on who could
speak the Queen’s English with a semblance of wit and insight, as indeed I could.
I often had the distinct feeling that they were closely scrutinizing me. When, for instance,
they would bring me a new box of documents, they would often come in and ask
me what I had found, as if I were a scientist in a gilded cage. Sometimes, I even
The first problem came about because they made me take tea, everyday.
Everyday, to suffer through the chit chat, which perhaps all officers exhibit when
the mammals are munching. But I let it be known that I had not come thousands
of miles to drink tea at the 11 o’clock hour, no matter how fine it was. I had a purpose,
I meant to achieve it. Of course I got no cooperation whatsoever. “You will drink tea,
and you will like it!”, a sentiment which in Boston, my city, once led to the Boston
Tea Party, and the sundering of the first Great British Empire. Alas it was a pity
they never saw the analogy.
I intensely disliked being thrown out of the castle at lunch time. I had come
thousands and thousands of miles to do the necessary research, to write up
the necessary research, to publish the necessary research, and wandering
the precincts of Windsor Castle for sixty minutes was not on my agenda.
In this case I learned to cope with crossing the little foot bridge to Eaton, where
the famous school is located. Doing so so often, I came to have a sympathetic
regard for the monument to Prince Christian Victor (1867-1900), who was killed
in the Boer War.
Making the best use as I could with what I regarded as purely
wasted time, I scoured the antique markets of Eaton and Windsor. In one particular
coup, I befriended a fellow in the hyper market who had a quantity of hand colored
historic prints of the monarchy, many relating to the Victorian monarchy. The
charge? Twenty five cents a piece. I scoffed the lot, and have them still. I was so
proud the day I saw at the royal academy a colored print identical to one I had.
It was deemed rare, and I felt smug as a Cheshire cat. Thus, even exile may have
Things jogged along equitably and calm, but a storm was gathering. It concerned
Britain’s relationship to the United States in the period of the Second World War,
before Pearl Harbor. The accusation, whether implicit or advanced explicitly, was
simply this: that the United States had only joined the war when the British, exhausted,
distressed, disabled, had already finished the hard labor, and left us to reap the rewards.
We had said we were Britain’s friend, but treated her like a shabby relation we might
move about to whatever purpose we ordered.
This charge is not without merit. Reading Winston Churchill’s letters to Franklin
Roosevelt is often painful, Churchill so often looking like the impecunious relation
who would kiss any part of Roosevelt’s anatomy, say any cringing phrase, do any
humiliating deed to get what he needs for his tatty empire to sail on, oh ship of state.
Roosevelt so enjoyed this ruleless game, for Roosevelt played with kings and thrones as
if he were playing dice. Today he wants to reestablish the Austro-Hungarian Empire,
and dandles Archduke Otto, the imperial heir on his knee, until he decides what to
do with Poland, Greece, and Czechoslovakia, and a whole string of possibilities. Roosevelt was
destiny’s darling, and Roosevelt so loved the game of musical chairs that he
played it for its own sake, and didn’t care whose feelings he may have hurt,
or whose territory he may have given to someone else. It was all a part of the
great game, and Churchill had the name, the veneration, the respect of his great
nation, but he could not play the game of guns and butter like we could.
Annoyingly, everyday during tea time, some reference was made to this gnawing proposition. It was
America who left the British to die in their own blood, hardly a finger lifted. When the land of “Hope and
Glory” was on its knees, America waited just long enough to take everything it wanted.
In short, it made the Louisiana Purchase look puny and insignificant. I was vividly aware
that I, as the first American ever to work in the Queen’s private papers, had an acute
responsibility to build a bridge, and maintain it.
But I was that Yankee Doodle Dandy, I was that Yankee Doodle Boy. And one day,
upon hearing this commentary, meant as a sneer, and acute criticism, I exploded
with rage. It was primal, it was fiery, it was from deep within my heart. I heard them
as British, I responded as an American. I stood up in the Round Tower, and reeled
off the names of the menfolk of my clan who had all gone to France, to Iwo Jima,
to Normandy, to the Rhineland; uncle Bob, uncle Dwight, uncle Roy, uncle Will,
uncle Donny, any my own father, Donald Marshall Lant. I told them every male
relation I had had gone to war in defense of England, our Allies, and a better world.
But I chose to tell them just one story in detail, and that was the story of my uncle
Will, the handsomest man in Henderson County, Illinois, the swiftest player on the gridiron.
He was blinded by mustard gas when he served in the Great War as part of the
American Expeditionary Force, “Lafayette we are here.” Everyday that he lived
without sight was part of what he did for England, for France, and for peace. And if
politicians like Roosevelt and Churchill play games, why, that is what they do best.
As for me, while I spoke in anger, in rage, in long suppressed emotion now exhumed,
there was no sound in that room, but the sound of the first American to work in
this symbol of monarchy. Perhaps my auditors were anxious, perhaps they may have
even felt threatened by my ardor and fury, but there was no response then, and
as far as I knew, no further commentary on the matter thereafter, at least in my
But I learned this: that no one, absolutely no one, will be allowed to tread on my
nation or its flag. And while we may make mistakes, terrible, bruising, pernicious
mistakes, we still constitute the best and greatest chance of the survival of mankind.
You might have thought that such an incident would have sundered any professional
role, but in fact, it cleared the air and allowed us to work together more as equals than
as the prim and proper Brits and the bumptious prairie corn fed American. But then again,
this is where our Ambassador Annenberg so assisted me. For about this time, his excellency
granted me the unrivaled boon inviting me to accompany him to any of the
great orders of chivalry or other royal pageants, including the Most Honourable
Order of the Bath, The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George,
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and
most importantly of all, the service in honor of the 25th wedding anniversary of
Her Majesty the Queen, held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I sat literally just behind Prince
Phillip’s sister Sophie, Princess of Hanover, for all the world like a sprig of the house of Windsor.
The irony is that I descend from Hanover and Folk. What would they have thought of my proximity.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four college degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com
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