Friday, 17 February 2017

A New Flag Rises

Throughout history campaigners and fighters for human rights have used flags to rally their supporters. As we in the UK are celebrating LGBT History Month the USA is celebrating Black History Month. The black civil rights movement was the largest of those which emerged in the second half of the last century. Yet, like the lgbt community, there is still sections of society which need improvement to eliminate prejudice.

Last summer a new flag emerged which, it is hoped, will come to be a familiar symbol of pride for the black lgbt community. It was unveiled for the first time on 14th August 2016 during the Montréal Pride parade. Below is a photo of the flag being waved at the head of the parade.
Jonathan Lamothe, one of several members of Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique who carried the new flag at the head of Montreal’s Pride parade on 14th August 2016 (photo from Arc-en-ciel d’Agrique Facebook page)
Flags were a main feature of last year’s Montréal Pride. The theme for the parade was “Our Flag, Our Nature”. The Quebec-based organisation which supports the black lgbt community in the province, Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique, was invited to lead the parade. It was an excellent opportunity to highlight the challenges of prejudice and racism which the community faces.

As an enthusiastic vexillologist (flag-lover) I was particularly pleased with this design. Far too many lgbt community and diversity flags follow the striped format and look too similar. There are not enough flags that are distinctive. Another positive element I like in the new flag is its clear symbolism. The design speaks for itself and needs little explanation as all the elements are already well-known and recognised. The black background, the pink triangle, the clenched fist and the rainbow colours all derive from some form of activism or protest.

The black background became an “official” symbol of black African identity in 1921 when it was defined in the Universal Negro Catechism. This was published by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), one of the earliest black rights movements in the USA. The UNIA had adopted a flag of red, black and green horizontal stripes in 1920 which was created as a protest against racist attitudes in America at that time. I loath to repeat derogatory words, but as Marcus Garvey, the great black rights leader, said himself, “In song and mimicry they have said, ‘Every race has a flag but the coon’ … They can’t say it now …”. The flag became known as the Pan-African flag, and its colours have been incorporated into many flags of African nations and states ever since.

The pink triangle, as we all should know, has its origins in Nazi Germany. Its history and use within the lgbt community began in Germany itself when it was used as a symbol of activism by the gay liberation group Homosexualle Aktion Westberlin in the early 1970s. Since the creation of the Rainbow Pride flag the pink triangle has gradually declined in use in the community though, just as in this new flag, it still appears from time to time.

The Rainbow Pride flag, the flag of 6 stripes which we recognise today, was an adaptation of the original 8 striped version which first appeared at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade on 25th June 1978. The 6 striped version came about due to the practicality of production as much as protest. When San Francisco’s Harvey Milk was assassinated a few months after the Gay Freedom Day parade he was the first openly gay man who has been elected to office in the USA. Many San Franciscans wanted to show their protest against the deliberate homophobic murder by waving copies of the 8-striped flag, a giant version of which Milk had stood in front of on Gay Freedom Day. Some of the dyes used in the original flag were hand-mixed by its creator, Gilbert Baker, and demand was so great that he had to provide commercially available 6-striped flags instead. Those 6 colours have appeared in thousands of lgbt flags and logos ever since.

The clenched fist may be one of the oldest symbols of protest in existence. It appears in ancient statues, though it may be more symbolic of power rather then protest. Our modern interpretation dates back to a hundred years ago and the Industrial Workers of the World, an American left-wing worker’s union formed in 1905. They used a clenched fist on a campaign illustration. From then on the fist came to be identified with political militancy, and from there it became a general symbol of defiance and the fight for the rights of various communities. As a symbol of gender rights it was used extensively by the feminist movement in combination with the female gender symbol. Perhaps the most well-known use of the fist was during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic games when John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the gold and bronze medallist in the 200 meters, raised their gloved fists during the medal ceremony. This sign of protest had been used by the Black Panther Party and had become closely associated with the black civil rights movement.
All of these four elements came together last year in the distinctive new flag for the black lgbt community. I look forward to seeing the new flag flying at Pride events in the near future.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Flower Power : The Petals of Death

Horror and crime fiction have come up with some extraordinarily imaginative means of killing people but perhaps more have been as fragrant as being killed by rose petals. More accurately, millions of rose petals.

One of my favourite paintings, even though it looks very “chocolate box” in appearance, actually depicts the deaths of a group of unsuspecting guests at a party in which the host looks on.

The painting, shown below, is called “The Roses of Heliogabalus” and was painted by Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema in 1888. Heliogabalus, also called Elagabalus, was the teenaged Emperor of Rome who was the hereditary high priest who worshipped a meteorite.
The party depicted in the painting may not even have occurred. It could easily be a story made up to add extra atrocities to the list which Elagabalus is said to have perpetrated. Alma-Tadema based his painting on one specific reference in “Historiae Augustae”, a pseudo-history of Roman emperors probably written in the 4th century some 200 years after Elagabalus’s assassination. Most of “Historiae Augustae” is full of fanciful elaboration, but it was perfect material for Victorian artists.

Let’s have a closer look at the painting and the story it depicts.

The setting is the banqueting hall of the imperial palace. The teenage Emperor Elagabalus is hosting a party. Dressed in a flowing gold robe he lounges at the banqueting table with his companions, probably including the man he married (being a high priest Elagabalus could perform marriages with anyone he wished), his former chariot driver Hierocles. Undoubtedly present also was the emperor’s mother and grandmother, the powers behind the throne.

To symbolise the debauchery of the banquet Alma-Tadema paints a statue of the god Dionysus standing high in the background. Dionysus stands with his arm on the shoulder of his young boy-lover Ampelos, the personification of the grape vine (as featured in my “Star-Gayzing” article on the constellation Virgo).

As Elagabalus watches his guests below he signals for the false ceiling in the banquet hall to be opened, releasing millions of fragrant rose petals. As the petals flutter down the drunken guests gasp in wonder and pleasure. But these gasps turn to gasps for breath as the petals keep pouring and pouring down upon them.

The painting shows the early stages of the petal shower as the guests seen oblivious to their fate. Perhaps too drunk to move some guests find they cannot move under the growing weight of the petals until, eventually, they succumb to this shower of death.

The pseudo-historical account in the “Historiae Augustae” refers to “violets and other flowers” rather than rose petals. Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema chose roses which had a strong romantic symbolism which masks the hidden danger. He had thousands of roses shipped in from the continent especially for the purposes of preparing for this painting.

In many ways this painting illustrates both Elagabalus and Victorian England. They both are pleasant to look at but look closer and you find some very dark elements lurking behind the façade.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Queer Trace of Forensics

I love all those television programmes about forensic science, both factual and fiction, and so do millions of others. These days there are dozens of crime dramas and true crime series which deal with forensic detection.

Even though DNA testing has been around in crime detection since the early 1990s there is one particular technique developed by a gay forensic scientist which provides more plot twists than any other – trace DNA evidence.

We take it for granted these days that people leave microscopic traces of their DNA on objects they touch. That wasn’t always the case. At the end of the last century that gay scientist I mentioned, with the City of London Police and a Home Office agency, worked to create a means of obtaining DNA from microscopic trace, or touch, evidence obtained from hard surfaces.

The whole project was the brainchild of Dr. Nikolas Lemos (b.1971), a Greek-born forensic scientist who was until last year the Chief Forensic Toxicologist in San Francisco. By his own admission he was “the first ever openly gay chief forensic toxicologist in the world.”

In 1999 he was Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science at South Bank University in Greater London. In London at that time there had been a lot of computer thefts from some of the major financial institutions in the City. Millions of pounds-worth of equipment was stolen and police had difficulty finding the thieves.

Scientists had been using DNA found in dandruff, hair follicles and fingerprints as evidence in cases for several years. But what if there is no dandruff, hair or fingerprint? It was widely accepted that traces of DNA could be left behind on objects just by touch. But the technology to obtain DNA from evidence invisible to the naked eye wasn’t advanced enough. Nikolas Lemos believed you could obtain adequate samples if the DNA was put through a process of amplification (or duplication of DNA sequences) to provide one large enough to generate a profile. In standard DNA testing a sample of between 50 and 100 cells were needed to produce an adequate profile. The new technique developed by Nikolas Lemos at South Bank University, the City of London Police and the Forensic Science Service of the Home Office only needed 5 cells and is called LCN (low copy number) analysis.

It should be stressed that fictional crime dramas use over-simplification when featuring such techniques. In reality trace DNA identification by LCN is not without controversy. The technique is also not yet as widespread as crime dramas might suggest.
Despite its critics the LCN technique was adopted by the UK and has been used to provide DNA evidence in over 21,000 trials. Unfortunately, there have been some miscarriages of justice (as there can be if based on any other type of evidence) based on the LCN DNA used in some cases. Consequently, a review of the technique was conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2007 during which time the technique was suspended for a couple of months. The review found that it was “fit for purpose” and reinstated.

More recently an American judge refused to accept LCN DNA evidence because he didn’t believe the technique had gained enough acceptance among the US scientific community.

By that time Dr. Nikolas Lemos had left the UK and had been Chief Forensic Toxicologist at San Francisco’ Medical Examiner’s office for several years. His work had always involved general forensic toxicology and the LCN DNA detection is just one part of Nikolas’s ground-breaking work.

Other high-profile work he had become involved with while in San Francisco was the study of the toxic effects of cannabis, and the toxicology report on the death of Whitney Houston.

In 2005 Nikolas received a Proclamation of Achievement for his “prestigious involvement in crime detection” from the United States Congress.

As an openly gay man Nikolas had campaigned for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, even going so far as to dress up as the Statue of Liberty and stand on the steps of San Francisco’s city hall. In 2013 he was nominated as a Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride. Even though he wasn’t selected he again donned his Statue of Liberty costume to take part in the parade.

Dr. Nikolas Lemos left San Francisco’s ME office last year leaving a substantial contribution to crime detection and investigative techniques. Even though the LCN DNA technique he developed is not yet universally used it is a breakthrough that can only improve as science and technology advances.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Vote! Vote! Vote!

At the start of this year’s 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act which partly decriminalised homosexual activity in the UK there were 34 openly MPs in the UK’s House of Commons. This is the largest group of elected representatives sitting concurrently in any national parliament. This record was discussed in my previous article which followed the 2015 General Election when 32 lgbt MPs were elected.

The best resource available online which records and chronicles the current state of lgbt parliamentarians around the world is the LGBT Representation and Rights Researches Initiative at the University of North Carolina. If you’re interested in the subject you can look at their Facebook page which gives a continual update on world elections in which lgbt candidates are standing.

The Research Initiative begins its statistics with the 1970s. The first listed out MP, Coos Huisjan, was openly gay when he was elected to the Dutch parliament in 1976. It is certain that there were some lgbt people already elected to parliament who were not publicly open about their sexuality before this date.

During the period between the establishment of the Wolfenden Committee in 1955 and the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 there were several gay members of the UK parliament whose sexuality have since become known to us. Three of these had particularly colourful personalities and were semi-open about their sexuality in as much as it was an open secret in parliament and the press but not widely known by the public.

Robert Boothby (1900-1986) was a Conservative MP between 1923 and 1958. He was one of the first to call for the reform of homosexuality laws. He was also an advocate of the UK joining what is now called the European Union, ironic now that the Conservative Party are leading our departure.

Boothby was also a broadcaster on radio and television and appeared regularly in the society columns. It was his connection to influential media moguls that helped to keep his bisexuality out of the press, though his involvement with the notorious Kray Twins, Britain’s biggest crime gang leaders (one of whom was gay), caused a stir when revealed in the 1960s. At the same time the most sordid details of the parties they held were deemed too sensational for publication.

By the 1960s Boothby had left the House of Commons after being created a peer in 1958. In the House of Lords he continued to advocate for the change in homosexuality laws, and he voted in favour of the Sexual Offences Act at both readings in the Lords.

A close friend of Boothby’s, although on the opposite political side of the House of Commons, was Labour MP Tom Driberg (1905-1976). He, too, voted in favour of the Sexual Offences Act and was openly gay within the corridors of parliament but more discreet in public. Like Boothby, Driberg was an associate of the Kray Twins and had enough influential friends in the press, just like Boothby, to keep it out of the public eye.

Driberg’s public reputation lies in his left-wing politics and as a well-known newspaper columnist. Ill health led to his departure from the Commons but he was soon elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Bradwell.

From these two examples of pre-1967 lgbt MPs it might appear that it was common for such MPs to be associated with criminals and use their position in parliament to avoid prosecution. Being gay wasn’t illegal, gay sexual activity was, and it was only proof of sexual contact that was the whole point behind the pre-1967 laws.

We should not forget also that as well as the House of Commons there is “the other place”, as it is referred to by MPs, the House of Lords. There were a few lgbt peers who were as much responsible for the success of the Sexual Offences Act.

Perhaps the most colourful of those Lords was Gavin Henderson, 2nd Baron Faringdon (1902-1977). He inherited his title from his grandfather in 1934. He was a pacifist and conscientious objector and worked at various times with the London Fire Brigade and in a field hospital during the Spanish Civil War. Although not elected to parliament Faringdon was elected to the then London County Council (as a member of the Labour Party, mainly to shock his family rather than out of political belief).

Lord Faringdon was noted for his effeminate personality, once described as a “roaring pansy”. He is reported to have begun a speech in the House of Lords with the words “My dears” rather than the customary “My lords”. He, like his friends Boothby and Driberg, was open about his sexuality among family and parliament. His family forced him into marrying, though he spent his actual wedding night with a sailor. Not surprisingly, the marriage only lasted four weeks!

When the Sexual Offences Act was going through the House of Lords Faringdon, like Boothby, voted in its favour.

With the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act this year we can celebrate the fact that the often forgotten semi-openly gay MPs and lords mentioned today, and others who weren’t, helped to start the road to acceptance and equality under the law.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Queer Archaeology Rocks!

In celebration of this year’s World Diggers Day I’d like to feature a gay archaeologist who has played a significant role in the interpretation of one of the most enigmatic of archaeological topics – prehistoric rock art – and who pioneered the science of Queer Archaeology. His name is Thomas Dowson.

You may be familiar with images of the cave paintings at Lascaux in France of the rock art of the aboriginal Australians at Uluru. Cave paintings exist all around the world. There was a time when archaeologists couldn’t believe that there was any connection between them across the continents, but Thomas Dowson formed a theory which suggested they were – and he used South African rock art to illustrate it.

Thomas Dowson was born in pre-independence Zimbabwe. On the farm where he lived there were old paintings on rock outcrops which were to influence his decision to switch from geology to archaeology at university.

During the 1980 and 1990s he worked closely with David Lewis-Williams, one of the world’s leading experts on rock art. Together they studied the rock art of South Africa and the San people in particular. Up until then archaeologists only had vague ideas of how rock art fits into a society’s narrative history. Very few paintings would be dated and could have been painted between hundreds or thousands of years ago, so they were virtually ignored. Thomas Dowson showed that they were more important than most archaeologists had thought.

What Thomas was to claim was that much of the rock art was produced and influenced by shamanistic experiences and trances. When seen in this context many previously unexplained and enigmatic images in cave paintings become more understandable, such as human-like images with strange heads which could easily be portrayals of the shamans themselves wearing masks. Quite often the paintings would have been made by the shamans themselves during or immediately after their trances.

This theory didn’t go down well with the archaeological establishment. However, other archaeologists were coming round to a similar theory about other cave paintings on other continents. While there may still be some debate over individual examples the concept of shamanistic rock art has become an established part of scientific research.

And we have Thomas Dowson to thank for that, because he was instrumental in establishing the field of rock art studies in its own right. He co-wrote several leading books on the subject and came to the attention of the University of Southampton in the UK. They invited him to establish the world’s first postgraduate degree course on rock art.

The other academic discipline Thomas pioneered was Queer Archaeology. As an openly gay man he experienced homophobia and followed the emerging discipline of Queer Theory.

Queer Archaeology is very much a subject of the 21st century. It was in the October 2000 edition of “World Archaeology”, the world’s leading academic journal on the subject, that Thomas Dowson proposed and set out the concept of Queer Archaeology. That 2000 edition broke new ground. Queer studies had hitherto been more associated with the social and political sciences. Thomas had felt that archaeology should not be excluded from queer interpretations.

As with many other scientific subjects archaeology was dominated by male heterosexual thought. It was with some trepidation that Thomas approached the editorial board of “World Archaeology” and suggested an issue devoted entirely to Queer Archaeology. In a later interview he admitted that he was so nervous that he could barely speak and a colleague had to finish giving his ideas to the board. To his relief (and probable astonishment) his idea was accepted and he was appointed editor of the October 2000 edition.
Since that issue was published many other archaeologists have been looking at queer interpretations of some sites and artefacts. My short series of articles on archaeology in my “Ology of the Month” in April 2013 give some examples.
As far as Thomas Dowson is concerned he has set the ball rolling and has let others develop his concept of Queer Archaeology. He laid out the initial concept and can be claimed as its founding father.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Queer Achievement : A Pioneering Campaigner

[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]

In 1955 when John Wolfenden was chairing the committee which would influence the decision to partially decriminalise homosexual activity in England only 3 self-identifying gay men agreed to come forward to give evidence. One of them was a highly respected eye surgeon called Patrick Trevor-Roper (1916-2009).

One of Patrick’s suggestions to the committee was the equalisation of the age of consent which in 1955 was 16 for heterosexuals. The committee finally decided on 21 years for homosexuals. Even after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed Patrick Trevor-Roper continued to campaign for the equal age of consent. This was finally achieved only in 2001.

Patrick was also a co-founder of the UK’s AIDS organisation the Terrence Higgins Trust which held its first meeting at his home.

Patrick came from a family that can be traced back to ancient Welsh dynasties. His heraldic achievement and that of his brother, historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton, is illustrated below. The shield is divided into quarters which show the arms belonging to their ancestors, the Trevors and the Ropers.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters are the arms of the Trevor family – a lion rampant on ermine. The Trevors are an ancient Welsh family that can be traced with certainty back to the family of a man who is referred to these days as Tudor Trevor. He lived exactly 1,100 years ago. The traditional Welsh genealogies of that period give him a royal ancestry. Despite his name there is no direct male-line connection with the future Tudor kings and queens of England.

Tudor Trevor can best be described as a chieftain of an area on the modern English-Welsh border. In the 9th and 10th centuries when he lived there was no such thing as heraldry as we know it today. When it developed several hundred years later the heralds devised coats of arms for all the royal and noble families from their past. These are called attributed arms because there’s no way those families of the past could ever have used them. Think of it like cell phone companies listing phone numbers for people like Queen Victoria, George Washington, Confucius or Cleopatra.

Another modern concept that was absent in early medieval Wales was hereditary surnames. By the time surnames came into common usage in Welsh dynasties there were many descendants of Tudor Trevor who adopted different names (e.g. the present Trevor, Mostyn and Lloyd-David families, among others) but they all adopted the same attributed coat of arms.

One addition made by Patrick’s ancestor was the square to the corner of the Trevor arms and the adoption of a wyvern as crest. Both of these seem to have originated in 1809 when Patrick’s great-great-grandfather Cadwallader Roper inherited the Trevor name and arms from a cousin. Neither of them seem to have been used by the Trevor family prior to this. One later alteration made for Patrick and his brother Hugh was to change the colour of both the corner square and the wyvern from black to sanguine, a shade of red that is rarely used in heraldry. This is to distinguish their coat of arms from that of a distant cousin, Baron Teynham, who is also a Trevor-Roper.

The Roper coat of arms in the 1st and 4th quarters date back to the late 1200s. The earliest member of the family recorded as bearing them, or at least being attributed to him by later heralds, was Edwin Roper in the reign of King Edward I. As with the Trevor crest, the Roper crest of a lion has been changed from black to sanguine.

The Latin motto of the Roper family is shown below the shield. In translation it reads “My hope is in God”. As with previous achievements I’ve coloured the back of the motto scroll in appropriate lgbt colours. This helps to distinguish it from the arms of his straight brother, Lord Dacre of Glanton.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Extraordinary Lives : A Gay Pimpernel

On this Holocaust Memorial Day I want to bring you the story of another Holocaust hero. He was a great-grandson of the Chief Rabbi of England, the manager of the biggest department store in Berlin, and helped to rescue thousands of Jews from the clutches of the Nazis.

Dubbed “the Real Scarlet Pimpernel” by the Association of Jewish Refugees, with whom he worked during the war, Wilfrid Israel was born in London in 1899 into a wealthy Anglo-German Jewish family. He was destined to become the manager of the family business, a Berlin department store that was renowned throughout Germany. The store employed over 2,000 people and it was one of the first commercial businesses in Germany to offer sickness insurance and extra pensions for its employees. Facilities such as sports clubs, drama groups and long weekends were also provided. Being born into this atmosphere of philanthropy Wilfrid went on to go beyond this social conscience once the Nazis began their physical persecution of the Jews.

As a very wealthy Jew he had the financial resources and connections in England to escape the persecution, but he chose to stay in Germany and use these resources and connections to help the less fortunate to escape instead.

Wilfrid’s humanitarian work began in the 1920s after establishing contact with the Jewish Youth movement in Germany, the League of Nations and British intelligence.

The beginning of 1933 saw a huge change in European politics. Adolf Hitler was sworn in as German chancellor in January. In February the German parliament building was destroyed by fire in what Hitler proclaimed was a Communist plot. This gave him the excuse to ban all Communists from parliament and establish the Nazi majority rule that led to his dictatorship.

Wilfrid’s store was raided in March and he was arrested for not firing his Jewish employees. His influential connections helped to secure his release. However, Jewish businesses like his own were boycotted. He was determined to stay put even when other Jewish businesses closed down.

As the persecution of the Jews grew with Hitler’s power many Jews, aware of Wilfrid Israel’s progressive social conscience, came to him for help. He formed secret networks within the Nazi establishment which enabled him to influence the release of many people from concentration camps by providing documents and money to help them to escape Germany.

Unlike the Nazi party who sought to indoctrinate children Wilfrid saw them as innocent victims of propaganda and played as huge part in what is called the Kindertransport, the international programme which saw thousands of children being taken away from Germany and central Europe to more safe nations.

Despite being a known Jew and potentially dangerous Wilfrid was allowed to travel internationally. This enabled him to visit Palestine and the kibbutz Hazorea which was founded by Jews who had already left Germany. Wilfrid was a pioneer of the youth migration movement to the kibbutz and aided many in settling there, and today it houses his vast collection of Asian artifacts.

In 1940 Wilfrid moved to Britain after being alerted by his spies that he was about to be arrested. In Britain he continued to work for German Jews. Many had been locked up as “enemy aliens” in British camps and he worked for several refugee organisations in getting many of them released. He constantly urged the British government to do more to help children escape from Germany after the termination of the Kindertransport programme in 1940.

Thousands of immigration documents for the settlement of British-controlled Palestine were printed and Wilfrid set about distributing them. At the same time he was persuading the Jewish Agency to help him rescue thousands of Jewish refugees from Vichy France and fascist Spain and Portugal.

In 1943 he was sent on a mission to Lisbon to begin the task of getting refugees out of Portugal. Two months later, on 1st June 1943, he was flying back to London to prepare for rescue work in France when the plane was attacked by Nazi fighter planes and shot down. All 17 people on board were killed. This attack became one of the most well-known events of World War II. Not because of Wilfrid Israel but because of a more well-known passenger who perished on that flight, actor Leslie Howard, himself a European Jew.

It has been rumoured ever since that the plane was shot down because Leslie Howard was on board. Howard was reputed to have been a spy. The real reason may never be known, but it is also possible that the Germans knew Wilfrid Israel was on that plane and that he was the intended target.

In later decades the name and work of Wilfrid Israel faded from war histories to be overtaken by other great rescuers such as Sir Nicholas Winton and Oskar Schindler. A recent biography and film have brought Wilfrid’s name and great works into the wider public arena. This modest, very private, hero deserves to be recognised for his extraordinary bravery and efforts to see an estimated 30,000 people resettled or released from incarceration.
Poster for the 2016 film biography of Wilfrid Israel
Perhaps the final words should be ones attributed to Leslie Howard. Two of Howard’s most famous film roles were as the Scarlet Pimpernel and Pimpernel Smith, the latter having a remarkable similarity to the work of Wilfrid Israel himself. It is reputed that when Howard and Israel met one said to the other “I have only played the part of the Scarlet Pimpernel, but you were the Scarlet Pimpernel”.