Wednesday 26 June 2013

Bunga bunga!

Is it any wonder that an unsolicited testimonial from a regular reader says that: "the Salvete blog is really the only on-line source that anyone of discernment needs to keep up with the things which really matter."

I am moved by such praise to pose the following topical question:

What links the novelist Virginia Woolf and the Italian statesman Silvio Berlusconi, sentenced this week to seven years in prison for his involvement with underage prostitutes?

Nothing, you might think, and you'd almost be right.

In 1910 a group of English friends, including VW, perpetrated the once-famous Dreadnought Hoax. Blacked up and dressed in exotic costumes rented from a theatrical costumiers, they pretended to to be the Prince of Abyssinia and his entourage and obtained permission to visit the British naval flagship HMS Dreadnought moored in Weymouth Harbour. They were treated with great respect and given a grand tour. Each time the Commander showed them some aspect of his ship, the pranksters mumbled the phrase bunga, bunga to each other. 

The hoax, once exposed, became a national talking-point and bunga bunga became, briefly, a popular catchphrase. It was revived (or rather re-invented) in 2011 when international media began to concentrate on Berlusconi''s sordid cavortings. So now you know.

You can read my review of a biography of Horace de Vere Cole, the man behind the Dreadnought Hoax here.

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