to fall on one’s sword

Have you noticed but it’s virtually impossible to find anyone these days willing, to fall on one’s sword.

If you don’t know what I mean, then you are obviously of a recent time period and more than likely a fresh-faced pimply youth, so here’s what’s meant by the expression ‘to fall on one’s sword’

Deep Breath…

‘It’s been some time since men routinely carried swords and the use of ‘to fall on one’s sword’ is now restricted to the figurative usage. There was a time when men who felt disgraced, actually did it, when they felt it right to take personal responsibility for a group action.
The expression was used widely following the resignation of Lord Peter Carrington, who resigned from his post as Foreign Secretary for the Thatcher government in 1982, following Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands. He was the last high-profile politician in the UK to take personal responsibility in such circumstances’.

So there you have it, a disgraced politician doing the honourable thing. ‘Falling on his sword’ or in other words, resigning.

Of course it’s not just disgraced politicians who would take the hard way out. It wasn’t unusual in days gone by to find a disgraced and bankrupt businessman going quietly to his study to ‘to fall on one’s sword’.  In these cases more often a pistol than a sword. Grisly I know, but you get the gist?

Anyway, what I’m pointing out here is the fact that no-one does it any more.

The news is full of lying business men, corrupt politicians, people from all walks of life who all have one thing in common. They have no honour. They lie and cheat as though it’s the norm and worse than that, they expect to get away with it…scot-free. 

Although their sins are up-front for all to see, they will cling on by their fingertips to retain their positions. Some will even (halfheartedly) apologise for their misdemeanours thinking a quick ‘sorry’ will let them off the hook. More often than not, they continue where they left off.  I can think of one or two politicians and public figures who have been ‘found out’. Where are they now? Why, surprise, surprise, in the Houses of Parliament or running a business. (K—- V– / Ar— B—-).

To fall on one’s sword.

However there is one politician who I can remember falling on his sword. It cost him his career but he was held in high esteem because of the way he went about it.

to fall on one's sword

An honourable man.

That man was John Profumo.  My home town’s (Stratford upon Avon) Member of Parliament, until he fell from grace by lying to Parliament. You can read all about ‘The Profumo affair here.

What is interesting and honourable about this man is how he showed remorse…read this important excerpt from his Wikipedia page…

Shortly after his resignation, Profumo was invited to work as a volunteer by Walter Birmingham, the warden of Toynbee Hall, at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. Profumo became Toynbee Hall’s chief fundraiser, and used his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money. All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth. His wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, also devoted herself to charity until her death in 1998. In the eyes of most commentators, Profumo’s charity work redeemed his reputation. His friend, social reform campaigner Lord Longford, said he “felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I’ve known in my lifetime”.[16]

Profumo was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975, and received the honour at a Buckingham Palace ceremony from Queen Elizabeth II, signalling his return to respectability. In 1995, former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher invited him to her 70th birthday dinner, where he sat next to the Queen. He appeared only occasionally in public, particularly in his last years when he used a wheelchair. His last appearance was at the memorial service for Sir Edward Heath on 8 November 2005.

Death and tributes[edit]

On 7 March 2006, Profumo suffered a stroke and was admitted to London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. He died two days later surrounded by his family, at the age of 91. In the immediate aftermath of his death, many commentators said that he should be remembered for his contribution to society and not his fall from political grace. He was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium,[17] his ashes buried next to those of his wife at the family vault in Hersham.[18]

Definitely a man of honour, the like of which is extremely rare if not, extinct.

Read about The Profumo Affair (below).

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