The Flagship ‘Speech’
INTERMEZZO 1: The flagship “in extremis”
Ideas of extremity were undoubtedly in the minds of many of the 2,223 passengers who started a unique trip in the late afternoon of April 14, 1912 on the greatest flagship of all, the flagship in extremis named the Titanic. We know the names of many persons on board, even their location on specific decks, because Walter Lord described them in his famous 1955 book A Night to Remember. Precious pieces packed in passengers’ luggage are today the object of sales, speculation, and collector mania—recall the 2016 “Premier Exhibitions” offers. The passengers’ diversity was also an index of their wealth and related social position, so that the book fused several key stories and fragments of discussion with a variety of social contexts and roles persons played on the unsinkable ship during its crucial hours.1
But the Titanic was neither officially nor in reality a flagship. Despite the supreme categories used to describe the Titanic, it was never a flagship in the correct and legal sense of the word. In the hundreds of essays, articles, and reviews published on the adventures of the ship, there was no commander to uphold a nation’s flag on the ship in a legally correct manner, no legal or economic qualification of the wharf, of the shipbuilding company, of the providers of all techniques and luxury on board that could officially make the ship a flagship. It was not the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, nor typically the...
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