When the Boy from Bassendean was convicted of historical sex crimes, people were quick to react. Perth Modern removed paintings from the wall, while Perth and Bassendean councils ripped up their memorial plaques. So what to do about a city named after a sadistic rapist?
In April 1826 Charles Howe Fremantle was arrested and charged with raping a 15-year-old servant. This had taken place in front of a woman and two children at Charlie’s lodgings in Portsmouth. A charge of ‘aggravated rape’ carried the automatic death penalty. Fortunately for him, daddy was a politician.
William Fremantle immediately called on his mentor, the much-hated Marquess of Buckingham. He told Charlie’s dad he would help get the young man out of this “sad scrape”, and would pay “bail to any amount”. Further, William was advised to “buy off the evidence” in order to keep the scandal out of the press.
Thanks to Buckingham’s dirty money, bail was granted and the marquess even advised on which dubious lawyer would best “get rid of the evidence”.
And so thanks to a corrupt aristocrat, daddy’s connections and a bent lawyer, a brutal rape was covered up and Charles was bundled out of the country to go and claim Western Australia. (The ungrateful sod had the nerve to complain about this mission!)
And, in due course, the evil bastard became an admiral.
Every now and again, someone claims Fremantle was only ‘charged’ with rape, never convicted. But simply read the correspondence between Buckingham and William Fremantle. There is no question about his guilt.
So, if we rip up plaques mentioning sex offenders, what do we do about an entire city?
I don’t want to comment on the veracity of this article or whether Fremantle should have its name changed.
I am however interested in the language that it uses. Particularly in the description of the Marquess of Buckingham. He is described as being corrupt and of despicable character, but why do you use his excessive weight to emphasise this? Three times!
If you want to back up your claim that he was dishonest and much hated, I’d suggest that you use facts about his actions – not his weight or any other physical characteristic. Imagine an obese person reading your piece. What do you think it says of your (and what you think are society’s) expectations of them?
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Thanks for your comments. They will be taken on board for future reference, but the piece above is as it is.
His size was repeatedly brought up in his day. Almost every nickname he had (and he had a lot of nicknames) was an unkind reference to his weight.
All the above (very short) piece does is reflect this attitude towards the marquess.
As for researching his biography to produce ‘facts about his actions’, this is a blog I produce in my spare time for the amusement of local residents. I am not a specialist in 19th century aristocrats, and have no intention of becoming one.
But, as I said, your comments have been noted, so expect less fat references in the near future!
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