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The definition of true Englishness

July 27th, 1986

A letter to the Sunday Telegraph which was published on 27th July 1986.

A lady from Kent wrote in after reading this letter: “As a very ordinary Englishwoman, but nevertheless proud to be so, may I take this opportunity of saying thank you for your letter in the Sunday Telegraph stating so succinctly, the definition of true Englishness.  I shall cut out your letter and keep it in my wallet.”

John Gaskell asks (last Sunday) who are the English?  Leaving aside the shame that one bearing so typical an English name should ask such a question, let me tell him.

The English are the race after whom England is named.  They were first mentioned by Tacitus in AD 98 and are the subject of the greatest historical work (by Bede) of the millennium after Tacitus.  They are known the world over in every language as the natural owners of the land England.

There are about 42 million of the English living in England, the vast majority of whom, Mr Gaskell please note, know perfectly well who they are.  There are probably twice this number of people of English descent in the other Anglo-Saxon countries.

Place of birth has nothing to do with being English.  The Duke of Wellington, when asked if the fact of his being born in Ireland didn’t make him an Irishman rather than an Englishman, gave the classic commonsense answer, looking directly at his questioner: “If you had been born in a stable would that alone have made you a donkey?”