Did General Douglas MacArthur identify himself with King Arthur? – The Saturday Briefing


General Douglas MacArthur, left, and Richard Harris as King Arthur in the 1967 film Camelot

Q: Having read of the exploits of US General Douglas MacArthur in two world wars, I am left wondering whether he ever identified himself with the other brave warrior King Arthur of Avalon (mythical or not). In his emotional broadcast to the Philippines in the Second World War, MacArthur referred to, “the Holy Grail of righteous victory”.

Perhaps I am delving into the realms of fantasy but this suggests a connection with the King Arthur legend and I note the general’s father was General Arthur MacArthur and his grandson was an Arthur too.

Marjorie Guest – Mount Eliza, Victoria, Australia

A: I do not know of any direct reference to the king by the general but there is strong evidence to suggest he did identify with, or at least was inspired by, King Arthur.

According to ancient Scottish legend the Campbell clan and the MacArthurs descend from a Scottish son of King Arthur of the Round Table named Smervie Mor.

The earliest known reference to the MacArthurs by that name dates back only to the 13th century. General MacArthur himself was the grandson of an immigrant to the US from Strathclyde.

Q: Before the main film at the Odeon Cinema there is a male voiceover telling the audience to switch off their phones, stop talking and sit back and enjoy the main feature. Does this voice belong to a well known actor? He sounds very cheery and is a great start to the event.

Margaret from Lancashire by email

A: The voice is that of the English actor/director Chris Overton. His short sign-language film The Silent Child won an Academy Award this year for Live Action Short Film.

Q: Many packets of ready meals sold for home heating or cooking instruct the user to ensure the food is “piping hot”. How hot is “piping hot” and what is the origin of the expression?

Eric Harcourt, by email

A: “Piping hot” is an extremely old expression dating back at least to Chaucer in the late 14th century. It refers to the whistling sound made by steam passing through pipes, or compressed air passing through organ pipes. So I suppose the answer to the “how hot” part of your question is the temperature of boiling water.

Q: My youngest son David recently married Emma. At one of their early meetings Emma asked David what his parents’ names were. He said Ann and Tony and she was gobsmacked, as her parents are Ann and Tony too. Can you tell me what the odds of this happening are?

Tony Eathorne, Eastbourne, East Sussex

A: Well Tony, the first thing I have to ask is whether you’re a real Tony or is it short for Anthony? And are both the mothers Anns, or is one an Anne? Around the 1970s, when I estimate you were all born, around one in 75 boys were called Tony or Anthony, while one in 275 girls were Anne or Ann. So the chances of a boy, who is the son of Ann and Tony, marrying a girl whose parents have the same names is about one in 75×275 which is about 1 in 20,000, while if we’re strict about the exact names Ann and Tony, it’s about 1 in 3 million. So David can justifiably call her a girl in a million.

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