politics and ideology

 The facts

“I was thinkin’ it’s time they came back. Civil wars, I mean. Can’t think why they stopped havin’ them. They’re much better than all these abroad wars. Cheaper, too, ’cause you’ve not got to waste money on tickets goin’ out abroad to ’em, an’ you could come home to dinner when you wanted to. Why, it’d save money, havin’ a civil war. An’ there wouldn’t be all this messin’ about with foreign langwidges. Everyone’d understand what everyone else said. There’s no sense in foreign langwidges, anyway. They had civil wars in hist’ry an’ it’s a pity they ever stopped.”


Excited by a history lesson about the War of the Roses, William affixes the following sign to the Old Barn:

a sivil war will brake out this afternun at three oklock
fre to ennyone bring weppons.
cined William Brown.

William did not notice an old gentleman in formal morning suit coming down the path till a hand descended on his shoulder and a voice said, “What are you doing there, my boy?”
William looked up at his captor then bared his teeth in an ingratiating smile. “Me no spick English,” he said.

By good fortune, the Hall has been let for the summer to the Young Conservatives so a ready-made target for the civil war is available.

Discovered creeping about the grounds of the Hall, William pretends to be a miscellaneous foreigner, but to no avail…

 The facts

“You see, dear,” Mrs Brown said, “you and your friends can form a sort of Houses of Parliament and… well,” vaguely, “pretend to be Ministers of the Crown and that sort of thing and… and discuss politics.”
“Yes,” said William and added with rising interest, “yes, it’s a jolly good idea.”
Mrs Brown stifled a slight feeling of misgiving.

  • Number: 29.2
  • Published: 1954 (1953 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: Mrs Brown suggests that William might like to play a game called ‘House of Commons’.


Inevitably William is going to turn Mrs Brown’s suggestion of a nice, quiet game – House of Commons – into a disaster. Partly because he believes that Black Rod is “the chucker-out”, partly because he takes the view that “it’s educational so that makes it all right, whatever happens”, and partly just because he’s William.

Their first task is to secure accommodation for their game:

“We’ll have to find a house. We ought to have more than one to call it the Houses of Parliament, but we’ll manage with one.”
“Yes, an’ how’ll we find one?” said Henry. “It isn’t so easy, findin’ houses.”
William glanced at the houses that bordered the road along which they were walking.
“There’s lots about,” he said carelessly.
“Yes, but there’s people livin’ in them,” Ginger pointed out.
“There’s lors about houses,” said Henry darkly. “Some people can’t get in ’em an’ some people can’t be got out of ’em. It’s not so easy.”
But William’s optimism was not to be dispelled. “I bet I get one,” he said, licking the last vestiges of lollipop from a stick before he threw it away. “I bet I get one all right.”
“I bet you don’t,” said Douglas, “an’ I bet even if you do it’ll get us in a muddle.”

“I’ll be the Foreign Secret’ry,” said Douglas. “I’m jolly good at bein’ foreign.” He extended his mouth in an imbecile grin, gesticulated wildly and said in a high-pitched squeaky voice, “Je suis, tu es, il est… hic, haec, hoc… bonus, bona, bonum… la plume, la porte, la fiddlededee, la thingamagig.”
William and Ginger laughed hilariously, but Henry looked doubtful.
“I don’t think the Foreign Secret’ry axshully is foreign,” he said.
“’Course he is,” said Douglas, elated by his success. “If he’s called a foreign secret’ry he mus’ be foreign.”
“’Course he mus’,” said William. “Stands to reason he mus’. Well, it’s news to me if a foreign secret’ry isn’t foreign.”

After ‘buying’ a house from a little girl for five shillings, and proceeding to eat its entire contents, they allocate roles (“Well, come on, let’s look for a whip”) and get down to business.

“That was a jolly good fight,” said William as he picked himself up.
“They call it a debate,” said Henry.
“Well, it was a jolly good debate, then,” said William. “Let’s have another.”

Fortunately, their occupation/ destruction of the house they are using turns out not to be as disastrous as could be…

 The facts

“Queen Elizabeth wasn’t very int’restin’,” said William. “She didn’t do anythin’ but go trampin’ about in puddles over people’s coats. Gosh! I bet they got into rows when they got home.”
“She beat the Armada,” said Henry.
“No, she didn’t,” said William. “Nelson did that.”
“Well, Drake, then. But she didn’t. I ’spect she jus’ swanked about in an ATS uniform, same as Ethel did in our war, but she didn’t do any fightin’. I don’t want to write a play about a woman, anyway. I don’t like women an’ I don’t see why I should write plays about them.”

  • Number: 27.2
  • Published: 1950 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William the Rebel Leader
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to kidnap the Chief Constable.


William decides to write a historical play about Perkin Warbeck; since the only information William has about Perkin Warbeck is (via Henry) that he was “a rebel”, William outlines the play thus: “All right, I’ll write a play about him an’ I’ll be him an’ the rest of you can be policemen.” Then he sets about writing it on a piece of paper “so grubby that it could only be called ‘blank’ by courtesy”.

It reads:

seen one pallis king seeted enter perkin warbeck disgized as george washington.
king. hello george washington cum in I’ll ask my mother if thou can stay to tea theres creem buns and sum jelly left over from sundy.
…”You see , he doesn’t know he’s a rebel,” explained William in parenthesis. “He thinks he’s jus’ an ordin’ry visitor.”
george washington (throing off disgize). I am not george washington thou villun I am perkin warbeck and I have cum to waid in thy blud.
exit king run after by perkin warbeck with ax.
Seen two a corpse enter rebbles.
Rebbles. Theres a pretty shady corpse over yonder lets sit on it.
…”What do they want to sit on a dead body for?” said Henry.
…”I can’t help you bein’ so ign’rantthat you don’t know that ‘corpse’ means ‘wood’ in plays an’ po’try” said William crushingly. “If I’ve got to write plays for people that don’t know any English, I might as well stop writin’ them altogether.”

William took up his stand on a packing-case in the old barn, and the audience drifted slowly in. There was generally an audience when the word had gone round that William was going to make a speech.

But writing about rebellions soon begins to pall when the boys realise how much more exciting it would be to organise one of their own. To this end, they decide to demand from the adult world the restoration of the privileges that have been so cruelly wrested from boykind (“goin’ down underneath the earth messin’ about with coal an’ goin’ up chimneys”).

Their method is to kidnap the Chief Constable, a chess opponent of Henry’s father, which somewhat echoes William Spoils the Party, 5.11. But the Chief Constable isn’t at all displeased to have an opportunity to inspect the contents of the garage in which he finds himself locked…