Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

Multum A Parvo

Member Articles

“The Curse Has Come Upon Me”

I suppose it is fair to say that jealousy (the “green-eyed monster” identified by Shakespeare in his play ‘Othello’) constitutes one of the less attractive features of the genus Homo sapiens. As such I must confess to feeling a little embarrassed at having succumbed to it so suddenly just recently. There are, however, mitigating circumstances which I think you will agree make this temporary lapse – while deplorable – a little less heinous.
It was during a visit to my son and his wife that Stephen (my son, whom I love dearly) announced that they were both shortly flying off to Egypt where they would be immersing themselves in the sights and artefacts of the Pharaohs’ ancient civilization. And by this I mean the Cairo museums and the Pyramids; the Valley of the Kings; a cruise down the Nile; Karnak; the Temple of Abu Simbel, etc. etc. Both he and I have had a longstanding interest in the life of Ancient Egypt and this startling news was followed (on my part) by a wave of jealousy that they would be experiencing sights that I would have given my right arm to see and which I have been somewhat obsessed with for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I am delighted that they are making the trip and I look forward to seeing the photos when they return. It is just that I am green with envy that I cannot experience it myself (bloody hell, it even includes son et luminiere!)
He confirmed that they would be visiting the tomb of Tutankhamun and, naturally enough, this led on to some reminiscing about its discovery by Howard Carter in 1922 and the subsequent Curse of Tutankhamun associated with the death of Lord Carnarvon and others and eagerly seized upon by the newspapers of the time. That in itself got me thinking about Curses as such, hence this brief anecdote on the subject.
The 1922 discovery of an intact pharaoh’s tomb understandably was of major international interest so perhaps we should not be too surprised that a fascinating myth such as the Curse should have developed in its wake. And there was indeed some circumstantial evidence to support it. For a start, Lord Carnarvon (present at the opening of the tomb) died shortly afterwards, although his demise has since been put down to a mosquito bite to his face leading to blood poisoning. His death was the precursor to several others with links to the excavation, and there was even a report that Cairo city lights went out at the time of the discovery. The creator of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle) actually told Americans that “an evil elemental spirit” created by priests to protect the mummy could have caused Carnarvon’s death (perhaps the chief priest was even called Moriarty!). On the other hand, there was no evidence to support the presence of any curse in the tomb itself, but it is interesting to speculate just what might have been written had one been found. Bear in mind Tutankhamun died at the age of 18 in the year 1323 BC so the Curse would have had to be in keeping with the times. It could possibly have invoked punishment inflicted by scorpions, snakes or hippopotami (while swimming in the Nile). Or perhaps visitation from some of the ancient Egyptian gods – Anubis (the jackal-headed one) or Sobek (the crocodile).
Since that time there have been numerous examples of famous curses culled from the Bible, history or literature. I have chosen just a couple to illustrate the genre and their impact.
The Hope Diamond was discovered by a Frenchman during a trip to India in the 17th century. However, its subsequent association with any form of curse is due entirely to modern manipulation in that Pierre Cartier sought to enhance its appeal (and price) by claiming it had been stolen from the statue of a Hindu goddess and it brought bad luck to all who owned it. This fact however did not deter an American heiress (Evelyn Walsh McLean) from purchasing it in 1912 and since she lived until 1947 one might think the ‘curse’ had signally failed as a deterrent. On the other hand, Evelyn’s son died in a car crash; her husband drank heavily, took a mistress, and was eventually declared insane; and her daughter died from a drug overdose. Spooky or what? The diamond eventually found its way to the Smithsonian where it resides today.
Following the creation of a curse purely for monetary gain, that associated with the 14th century Knights Templar was very much more your traditional howl of righteous anger. It seems the King of France (aided by the Pope} launched a surprise attack on the Knights on Friday 13th October 1307. Their leader was imprisoned and tortured over 7 years before being burned at the stake. He died cursing both the King and the Pope and – conveniently – both died mysteriously within the year, in addition to the King’s 3 sons some time after. Whether this constitutes evidence of the efficacy of the curse I don’t knpw but Friday 13th has become renowned as being an omen of bad luck ever since.
In spite of extreme provocation (the result of life in modern Britain) I have so far refrained from penning any personal curse. It would probably be rambling and contain a degree of effing and blinding and/or multiple asterisks if my nightly tirades against the TV are anything to go by. Instead I feel we should end as we began, by quoting the Bard’s own epitaph as follows:
“Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones And cursed be he that moves my bones.”