My Father’s Chair

Notes on the text

(by Peter Keating)


[Title] My Father’s Chair. The father is, first of all, any ordinary man taking responsibility for explaining to his children how England came to be the country it is, the same task that Fletcher and Kipling are themselves taking on in A School History of England.   He is also, however, the ancestral ‘father’ of all of us. The Chair is the English Constitution which ‘our fathers’ made and which we should take care to keep in good working order.

[Sub-title] Parliaments of Henry III, 1265. ‘Earl Simon has got much fame because, while he was ruling in 1265, there met, for the first time, in one assembly, barons, bishops, abbots, “knights of the shire” and citizens.’ [Fletcher, A School History, p. 81.]
Shortly after establishing his assembly, de Monfort was killed in a battle with Henry III’s eldest son Edward (the future Edward I), and Henry was restored to power.

[Line 1-2] There are four good legs … Crown.’ This refers to the gradual removal of absolute power from the monarch by developing counter-balancing institutions. The ‘four good legs to the chair’ are the Church, the People (not yet, of course, represented by an elected parliament), the Lords, and the Monarch.

[Line 4] And that’s the reason it don’t break down. Because it is perfectly balanced, like a four-legged chair, with no single institution able to take control without being undermined by the others.

[Line 11] And I never tilts in my Chair. I never lean back, balancing on just two legs of the chair, because that causes an imbalance and damages the chair (and the constitution).

[Line 16] one-legged stools. Dictatorships; any form of absolute power.

[P. K.]
©Peter Keating 2006 All rights reserved