< Back to blog

Keep calm and carry on; it’s the British way Posted On 30 March 2020

Keeping a stiff upper lip. It’s something for which the British are renowned: stoically battling on in the face of adversity, jaws clenched, teeth gritted, a resolute expression, a statement of intent

For example, think of that symbol of defiance, Sir Francis Drake continuing his game of bowls as the might of the Spanish Armada massed off our shores; the Earl of Uxbridge relaying a description of his injuries to the Duke of Wellington at The Battle of Waterloo (‘My lord, I seem to have lost my leg’); or the ultimate sacrifice from Capt Lawrence Oates who, crippled by frostbite and gangrene, stepped out of a freezing tent into a howling Antarctic blizzard to seal his doom because he thought he was slowing down Capt Robert Scott’s ill-fated march for survival.

Or the modern-day equivalent of trying to work from home during the Coronavirus lockdown while the internet buffers because EVERYONE is using it and the bored teenager next door kicks a football against a wall with metronomic repetition, sparking his pet dog to bark himself hoarse thinking it’s a game.

But what does it mean? And how did we coin the expression?

Obviously, the opposite of a ‘stiff upper lip’ is a trembling one, typically seen as a sign of weakness from someone who is suffering an episode of deep emotion.

As for the origins, many believe they can be traced to the Ancient Greeks and the Spartans, whose cult of discipline and self-sacrifice first influenced the Romans, with Emperor Marcus Aurelius musing: “If you are distressed by any external thing, it is not this which disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

However, the concept really took root in Victorian society, notably through the English public-school system and is best crystallised by Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If…’ and W E Henley’s ‘Invictus’.

During those brutally strict times, terrifying schoolmasters set out to instil a code of discipline and devotion into their charges with a series of character-building exercises, corporal punishment and freezing cold showers.

Already rife throughout the ruling classes, it naturally spread through the armed forces where courage in the face of death became a daily necessity.

And so it became seen as perhaps the ultimate sign of Britishness. Whatever the odds, we won’t let it stop us.

In short, keep calm and carry on. Stay home. Save Lives. It’s the only way…

< Back to blog

Connect with us

Recent Posts

Deck the halls… with moving boxes and wine

Moving is always a busy time in your life. However, when your move-in date arrives over the festive period, it can be especially stressful   Making the move out of an old house and into a new one in December can be a taxing time. But never fear: we are here to spread festive cheer …

Read more...

The success of I’m a Celebrity 2020

Only four stars left in the running to become the first King or Queen of the Castle (Contains spoilers)   It’s been nearly three weeks since the celebrities went into Gwrych Castle in Wales and it’s fair to say that even though the celebs didn’t make it to Australia that this year’s show has been …

Read more...

Housing demand hits record high.

NAEA records highest ever number of buyers in October The UK saw the highest ever recorded number of prospective buyers for the month of October, according to the latest figures from NAEA Propertymark. The average number of househunters per estate agent branch had fallen from 525 to 451 in the month of September, which is …

Read more...

UK house prices soar

Prices of properties in the UK are rising at their fastest rate for six-years   In more good news for the property market, according to Britain’s biggest building society, Nationwide, UK house prices have risen at the fastest rate in almost six years. The average house price rose 0.9% to £229,721 in November and October, …

Read more...

Snooker UK Championship kicks off …

The UK Snooker Championship will see big-hitters Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby battling it out to take Ding Junhui’s crown…   One of snooker’s most prestigious Triple Crown events, the UK Championship, started last week. It is the second-biggest ranking tournament after the World Championship. First held in 1977 in Blackpool, this year’s competition will …

Read more...