“Going at it Bald-Headed”
In 1760, during the Seven Year's War, John Manners, the Marquess of Granby (1721-1770), Colonel of “The Royal Horse Guards,” better known as “The Blues,” was a major general commanding a brigade of cavalry. At the Battle of Warburg (July 31st), Granby led six regiments of cavalry in a charge that decisively crushed the French right, and resulted in the capture of the town, bagging some 1,500 men and ten pieces of artillery in the process.
Now as he began the charge, the Marquess’ hat came off, followed almost immediately by the wig that covered his otherwise bald pate. Nevertheless, as the troopers thundered across the fields toward the French, Granby still managed to get off a snappy salute for the commanding general, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick.
As a result of the incident, which, by his salute, Granby changed from an embarrassing moment into a demonstration of sang froid, the expression “going at it bald-headed” came into circulation.
In addition, the incident gave rise to a unique custom in the “The Blues” (now the “Blues and Royals,” in which Prince Harry serves), for it is the only British regiment that allows saluting even when not wearing a cover.
M’ Acilius Glabrio Refuses the Imperium
The assassination of the maniacal Emperor Commodus on December 31, A.D. 192, naturally brought up the question of whom to select as his successor.
Publius Helvius Pertinax, a distinguished old soldier and experienced adminstrator, who had a hand in the demise of the late emperor, did not seek the imperial dignity for himself. Apparently because he was the son of a freedman, Pertinax felt he might not be acceptable to the Senators. So although many members of the Senate urged him to assume the honor, Pertinax proposed that Manius Acilius Glabrio become emperor.
Pertinax had a point. Although never among the most famous of Roman families, the Acilii Glabriones were an ancient and honorable clan of the plebian nobility, in fact, one of the few surviving families that could trace their lineage back to the Republic (and by their own claim, to Aeneas himself). They had first held the consulship nearly five centuries earlier, in 191 B.C., and mostly recently Glabrio himself had served as co-consul with the late, unlamented, Commodus.
But Glabrio refused the honor. According to the historian Herodian, Glabrio told Pertinax, “I myself, whom you consider the most eligible of all, yield the throne to you, and I together with all the rest happily concur in awarding you the supreme power,” and led him to the dais to be enthroned. And so Pertinax became emperor. It was January 1, A.D. 193.
On March 28, 193, Pertinax was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, who believed he had not been properly generous to them. This initiated a bout of civil wars among various claimants to the imperial dignity that did not end until 197, when Septimius Severus defeated the last rival claimant.
So perhaps, in turning down the imperial dignity, Glabrio was merely being cautious. It was a family tradition to be careful, which was one reason why the Acilii Galbriones outlasted pretty much everyone else; the last identifiable member of the family was Anicius Acilius Glabrio Faustus, who held the consulship in 438, more than 600 years after the family’s first consulate.