Kipling attended a ceremony of the Cinque Ports Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling and made this brief speech at the lunch held afterwards. The practical motive behind the occasion was the plan of the Sandwich authorities to develop the war port of Richborough as a major link in the trade with France, and “French friends,” including the president of the French Chamber of Commerce in London, were therefore among the guests.
The Cinque Ports were five ancient ports in south-east England, Sandwich, Hastings, Dover, Romney and Hythe, together with Rye and Winchelsea, associated together by Royal Charter in 1155 for purposes of trade and defence. The Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling were two joint institutions for taking decisions on behalf of all, later joined together. ‘Brotherhood’ was a corruption of ‘Brodhull’, the place near Dymchurch where that court originally met. Similarly, Guestling is the name of the village between Hastings and Rye where that court first met. By the early twentirth century the role of these courts was essentially ceremonial.
Kipling wrote Stanley Baldwin on 30 May: “You would have loved the Court of Brotherhood and Guestling in the town hall at Sandwich. What 1 like about these ere mayors, jurats and eombarons of the Cinq Ports is that they get unaffectedly squiffy whenever they can get to liquor”
(ALS, Dalhousie University).
Mr Kipling was one of the speakers at the subsequent luncheon in the drill hall. Replying to the toast of “The Visitors,” he said:—I have noticed that the lot of most visitors to the Cinque Ports in the past has not been an easy one. The reception of the late Julius Caesar was marked by reserve and austerity that has continued down the ages.
Our French brethren—for they are now more than allies—may have noticed the same fact during their international sports with the English, which, having begun with a descent upon Dover, Sandwich, or other suitable place, were repaid by return visits to the French coast. There was never any rancour in the relations of our French friends and ourselves. Fighting was often followed by feasting.
—The Times, 20 May 1920.