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Christopher Joll

Educated at Oxford University (MA Jurisprudence) and the RMA Sandhurst (Armourers & Braziers Prize; Army Museums Ogilby Trust Prize), Christopher Joll was commissioned into The Life Guards in 1968, served four tours of duty in Northern Ireland and in 1975 left the Army to go into business.

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About Christopher Joll

Christopher Joll, a dynamic speaker with a diverse background, brings over twenty-five years of rich experience in finance, event management, and writing. Starting his career as an investment analyst at Lazard Brothers & Co., he quickly climbed the ladder, serving as a director at Alvis plc and chief executive at Georgeson & Co. His strategic role in the PR planning for landmark developments like The Shard and The Gherkin highlights his business acumen.

Shifting gears, Christopher channelled his passion into directing and producing events for charitable causes. He has masterminded several high-profile events, including the Household Cavalry Pageant and the Royal Hospital Chelsea Pageant.

A prolific author, Christopher’s works such as “Uniquely British” and “The Drum Horse in the Fountain” showcase his deep understanding of British history. His latest book, “Bonfire of History,” explores the intriguing past of Madame Tussaud’s. Additionally, his acclaimed “The Speedicut Saga” series demonstrates his flair for historical storytelling.

An engaging lecturer, Christopher has shared his expertise at various literary festivals and platforms, including Noble Caledonia cruises. His appointment as the Regimental Historian of the Household Cavalry in 2017 further cements his authority in military history.

Residing in Bath, Christopher’s personal interests are as varied as his career, encompassing everything from kitchen bridge to opera and fine art. He’s a dedicated collector of Post-Impressionist pictures, reflecting his deep appreciation for the arts.

Christopher Joll is not just a speaker but a multifaceted personality, adept at weaving narratives from history, finance, and the arts. His captivating presentations make him a valuable addition to any event, promising to engage and enlighten audiences with his unique insights and experiences.

To book Christopher Joll, contact The Speakers Agency on +44(0)1332 810481 or email enquiries@thespeakersagency.com

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Speech topics

The following fully-illustrated, 45 mins talks are immediately available

 THE PERILS OF THE FINAL JOURNEY
From the funeral of King Richard III, delayed by a mere 530 years, to the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, this talk examines not only how State Funerals are planned and organised, but some of the things that have gone wrong with the ceremonies. These include why the State Funeral of 1st Duke of Montrose in 1661 was corporeally incomplete, the story of why Nelson was buried in a coffin made of French oak; the awful problems encountered during the State Funeral of the 1st Duke of Wellington, problems that were eclipsed by those encountered during Queen Victoria’s funeral; the dreadful omen experienced by King Edward VIII at the State Funeral of his father, King George V – and many more.

 JUBILEES
In Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee year, this talk sets the events of 2022 in the context of past royal Jubilees, from that of King George II to the present reign, and takes a detailed look at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897, an event whose brilliant pageantry has never been surpassed since.

 CORONATIONS
Coronations are like swans – serene calm on the surface and frantic paddling underneath. This talk looks at a number of British coronations and lifts the lid on some of the many problems encountered during the ceremonies – including what went wrong during the Coronation of King Charles III…

 THE LOST CHORD ~ FANNY RONALDS
In the late 19th century Fanny Ronalds was a very famous lady but today she is almost entirely forgotten. Fanny was a rich American socialite, who mixed at the very apex of London society, but was also a noted amateur singer – and the long term mistress of Sir Arthur Sullivan, composer of the music for the Gilbert & Sullivan comic operettas. Although it is still occasionally played, Sullivan’s Lost Chord was, in its day, one of the most popular songs to be performed at concerts and soirées. Although not written for Fanny, she performed it with such success that it became her leit motif, Sullivan gave her the original manuscript, a copy of which was placed in her dead hands when she was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

[This is a short talk of 30 minutes duration and includes an early recording of the Lost Chord]

 NORTHERN IRELAND 1969
In the summer of 1969, the British Army was operationally deployed in Northern Ireland ‘in aid of the Civil Power’; it was to remain in that role until 2007 and was the longest campaign ever fought by the British Army. Among the first troops to arrive on the streets of Belfast was ‘B’ Squadron of The Life Guards, in which Christopher Joll was a Troop Leader. In this talk, Joll gives a first-hand account of the extraordinary, bizarre and sometimes hilarious build-up to the deployment, and the early months of soldiering in the Province when the IRA were nowhere to be seen and the Royal Ulster Constabulary were ‘the enemy’.

 SPOILS OF WAR
Drawing on his book, Spoils of War: The Treasures, Trophies & Trivia of the British Empire, Joll addresses head-on the controversial subject of the current demands for the repatriation of spoils of war. He does this by challenging his audience to make up their own minds, based on his account of some of the many items captured in battle during the rise and fall of the British Empire – from the Koh-i-Noor diamond to a pair of Eva Braun’s silk knickers.

 MINDSET OF A CHAMPION
Based on Black Ice, the memoirs of the Barbadian ex-soldier, double-amputee and World Para-Bobsleigh champion, Corie Mapp, this talk tells the extraordinary story of this remarkable man. Over 45 minutes, the audience is taken from the backwoods of rural Barbados, via a dangerous prison riot, to Corie’s service with The Life Guards – first on ceremonial duty in London, then serving under Prince Harry and, finally, in the mountains of Afghanistan, where he lost both his legs in an horrific IED explosion while under Taliban fire. Undaunted by his life-changing injuries, Mapp then goes on to become a World champion in the highly dangerous sport of bobsleigh, while serving as the UK’s only double-amputee policeman.

 THE PERILS OF WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION
Having published with some success The Speedicut Saga, a 15-volume historical action-adventure series, Christopher Joll is well-placed to know the perils of publishing historical fiction. In this talk, Joll draws on characters in the works of Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas, Margaret Mitchell and George MacDonald Fraser to make his sometimes controversial and/or shocking points.

THE MAMELUKES
At the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the famous Mamelukes, a Slavic slave-warrior caste whose military and political domination of the Middle East waxed during the Middle Ages and waned with the arrival of Napoleon in Egypt. In this talk, Christopher Joll examines the history of the Mamelukes, their resurrection after 1799 as an exotic but feared unit in Napoleon’s Consular and then Imperial Guard, and the story of the Emperor’s faithful Mameluke bodyguards, Roustam and Ali.

THE ROSETTA STONE
One of the most famous exhibits at the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone, the fragment of an ancient Egyptian stele that, from 1799, provided the means of decrypting Egyptian hieroglyphs. The stone, whose ownership is currently the subject of competing international claims for repatriation, has a fascinating and little-known history that is detailed in this talk, which also challenges the audience to decided whether or not it should remain in its current location.

SAVE GORDON!
Major General Charles Gordon is known to posterity as ‘Gordon of Khartoum’, but during his lifetime he was better known as ‘Chinese Gordon’. Against the backdrop of Gordon’s fascinating career and unconventional personality, this talk looks at the military expedition that was very belatedly (and, ultimately, unsuccessfully) sent to rescue the most prominent anti-slaver of his generation. Late in starting, bizarrely mounted on camels and tugboats, the Nile Expedition was fraught with problems from the outset and was to end in near disaster.

FRED BURNABY
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Colonel Frederick Augustus Burnaby of the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) was a real life Flashman: a giant of a man who could bend a poker in his bare hands. He was also an explorer, an author, a (failed but controversial) politician, a pioneering balloonist, and a rather inept soldier whose activities with a double-barrelled shotgun at the 2nd Battle of el Teb (1884) caused a national scandal. A year later, as part of the Nile Expedition sent to rescue General Gordon in Khartoum, Burnaby was killed at the Battle of Abu Klea under circumstances that remain highly controversial to the present day. This talk looks behind Burnaby’s reputation and exposes many previously unknown facts about the man and his alleged achievements.

CHARGE!
In 1882, a British Expeditionary Force, under the command of the future Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley (‘the very modern Major General’), was sent to supress a nationalist uprising in Egypt that threatened both the reign of Britain’s ally, the Khedive of Egypt, and (more importantly) the Franco-British owned Suez Canal. In the force was a composite regiment of the Household Cavalry, deployed for the first time on operational duty since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. On the night of 28th August, the Household Cavalry made a celebrated and successful charge against the insurgent in the moonlight. This talk is the story of the build-up to the Moonlight Charge, and the charge itself.

NELSON
From his early years, as a seasick Midshipman serving in the West Indies with the future King William IV, to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the diminutive one-eyed and one-armed sailor attracted controversy. Tricked into an unsatisfactory marriage; often seriously wounded in battle; notorious not only for his refusal to obey orders, but for his scandalous relationship with Lady Hamilton; famous for his unconventional but victorious tactics; and immortalised by death at the moment of his greatest triumph, Nelson was a highly unlikely British hero. In this talk, Joll looks behind and beyond the historical persona, and exposes little known or forgotten facts that add considerable colour to the life of England’s greatest sailor.

HEROES & ROGUES
Based on The Drum Horse in the Fountain: Tales of the Heroes & Rogues in the Guards, this talk focusses on Guardsmen and other British servicemen who have either made or lost their reputations in the Iberian Peninsula, including the story of the acrobatic Guards officer, who dressed up as a nun to entertain the Duke of Wellington; the almost unbelievable story of Operation WILLI (the plot to persuade the Duke of Windsor to defect to the Axis powers); and the embarrassing unmasking by the Spanish Police of a cross-dressing British spy.

SPOILS OF THE PENINSULA (1)
During the Anglo-French Peninsula War of 1808-1814, the British Army under the command of the future Duke of Wellington not only progressively pushed the French Army out of the Iberian Peninsula but, in the course of this long campaign, acquired many spoils of war that today are proudly displayed in British royal, national, regimental and private collections. In this first talk, Christopher Joll focuses on the many Imperial Eagle Standards of the French Army that were captured, often in very bloody circumstances.

SPOILS OF THE PENINSULA (2)
In his second talk about the ‘spoils of the Peninsula’, Joll describes some of the many other items captured during the campaign. These include a mortar taken at Cadiz, known as the Prince Regent’s Bombe (pronounced ‘bum’) which, when it was unveiled as a monument in central London, brought down a torrent of scatological ribaldry on the head of the future King George IV; and the extraordinarily valuable contents of Joseph Bonaparte’s carriage, captured after the Battle of Vitoria, which included pornographic etchings, four paintings by Titian, and a solid silver chamber pot, used ever since as a regimental loving cup.

MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE
The horse has been a continual and important presence in the life of this country from the dawn of history right up to the present day. In this talk, Joll takes his audiences on a hand canter through that history, highlighting along the way some of the more extraordinary events with which hoses has been involved. These include the terrifying attack on a stage coach by an escaped lion in 1816; the story of Copenhagen, Wellington’s charger, who nearly killed the Iron Duke at the moment of victory at the battle of Waterloo; and the saga of Queen Alexandra’s attempt to get the 2nd Life Guards’ horse, Freddy, a Boer war campaign medal.

THE DRUM HORSE IN THE FOUNTAIN
Based on his book, The Drum Horse in the Fountain: Tales of the Heroes & Rogues in the Guards, Joll talks about some of the extraordinary people who have served in the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards. These include the WW2 tank commander, known as ‘Killer’, who would go on to become Archbishop of Canterbury; the two Household Cavalrymen, who would win Best Actor Oscars; the Coldstream Guards soldier who would become a triple-agent; the Irish Guards regimental mascot, whose activities in Hyde Park nearly caused a war; and the deserter who adopted a new identity while on the run, re-engaged in the Foot Guards and went on to win a Victoria Cross.

BONFIRE OF HISTORY
Today, Madame Tussauds is a waxworks. But, prior to the evening of 18th March 1925 when a devastating fire ripped through the premises on the Marylebone Road, it was first and foremost a ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Other than a live parrot, some grotesquely distorted wax figures, and the contents of the Chamber of Horrors in the basement, by the time the fire was extinguished little remained of Tussaud’s extensive collection of historical art and artefacts. As this talk recounts, the lost collection had been started in the late-18th century by Madame Tussaud’s uncle, and then greatly expanded by the lady herself and her successors in the 19th century. Items that were lost in the 1925 fire ranged from an Egyptian mummy to the blood-stained shirt in which King Henri IV had been assassinated in 1610, clothing worn by King Charles I at his execution in 1649, the original guillotine that had dispatched Queen Marie-Antoinette, a huge collection of Napoléonica including the Emperor’s campaign coach and one of his teeth, King George IV’s coronation robes, and an assortment of personal items belonging to a clutch of Victorian heroes such as Gordon of Khartoum. Some items, however, were undoubtedly fakes masquerading as genuine. This talk exposes some of them.

 ~

In the coming months, Christopher Joll will be creating further fully illustrated, 45 mins talks based, inter alia, on his recently published books. The following are in preparation and available at 2 months notice.

THE BIRTH OF THE VICTORIA CROSS
The story of how and why the VC was instituted for acts of bravery during the Crimean War, profiles of the extraordinary men who were awarded the cross, the circumstances of their brave actions during the war, and some of the early and very bizarre presentations of the gallantry award by Queen Victoria back in England.

THE EMPIRE OF THE VENETIAN REPUBLIC
The story of how a small, Italian republic grew into the dominant power in the Adriatic only to be displaced by the Ottoman Empire and then abolished by Napoleon.

THE RAPE OF VENICE
The story of Napoleon’s annexation of Venice in 1796, his wholesale looting of the city, where the treasures went and how they were (for the most part) restored to La Serenissima after 1815 by the 1st Duke of Wellington.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
The extraordinary soldier of the Hon Aubrey Herbert, brother of the famous Egyptologist Lord Carnarvon, who championed the cause of Albania and was twice offered its throne. Herbert was also a half-blind WWI soldier, a diplomat and an MP, who died aged 43 of sepsis having had all his teeth extracted as a cure for arthritis.

FATHER-IN-LAW OF EUROPE
The exotic King Nicholas I (1841-1921), ruler of the kingdom of Montenegro, had 12 children. Five of his daughters married into the royal or imperial Houses of Serbia, Russia, Battenberg, Leuchtenberg, and Italy, hence his soubriquet. Set against the turbulent and often violent nineteenth-century history of the tiny, comic-opera country, this talk profiles King Nicholas and his children, their turbulent lives and their various fates.

BETTER THAN FLASHMAN
Tales of the disparate band of British soldiers who operated behind enemy lines in the Balkans during WW2. The stories include that of Brigadier ‘Trotsky’ Davies, whose heroic life and death is almost beyond belief; the inept soldiering of the novelist Evelyn Waugh and the alcoholic Randolph Churchill, son of the wartime Prime Minister; the Flashman-esque but true adventures of Geoffrey Gordon-Creed, who fought with great gallantry – when not in bed with the local girls; and the exploits of the one-armed, one-eyed Lt Gen Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, whose mission in wartime Yugoslavia ended with a plane crash, capture by the Italians, and a daring escape.

BAKER PASHA
The story of Valentine Baker, a disgraced English officer who disastrously led the Ottoman Sultan’s army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, and then went on to notch up yet more disasters in the service of the Ottoman Empire in Egypt.

THE REASON WHY
An examination of why an Anglo-French army was sent to the Crimea to prevent the Russians taking Constantinople, the awful saga of what happened next, and the many myths and legends arising from those events – particularly the undeserved rise and unjust fall of Lord Cardigan’s reputation.

THE END OF THE ROMANOVS
An account of the successful escapes to penniless freedom by some of the Imperial Family and their Households, mostly via the Crimea, and the reason why they didn’t try to escape the Russian Revolution earlier. The fate of the Tsar and his immediate family is well known, but the talk will also include the gruesome, and largely forgotten, fates of those of his extended family, such as the Grand Duke Michael and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, who didn’t manage to make it to safety.

THE SPY & THE GRAND DUCHESS
The stranger than fiction story of MI6 agent, Bertie Stopford, and his daring and dangerous (but officially unsanctioned) rescue (at the height of the Russian Revolution) of the fabulous jewellery collection of the Grand Duchess Vladimir – and what then happened to Stopford, the Grand Duchess and her rocks.

RESCUING REMBRANDT
How and why Prince Felix Yusupov, the richest man in Imperial Russia and Rasputin’s nemesis, literally risked his life not once but three times to recover his priceless art treasures from under the noses of the Bolsheviks in St Petersburg and Moscow, and smuggle them to Paris via the Crimea, leaving only a mere fortune in jewels behind.

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