The Supreme Court President talks sovereignty, sexism and the best present she's ever receivedby Brenda Hale / November 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
What is the first news event you can recall?
The death of King George VI in 1952. We were living in the boarding house of the school where my father was headmaster and the cook came into the nursery I shared with my younger sister crying at the news. He had so endeared himself to the people during the war, which was still fresh in the memory
What is the book you are most embarrassed not to have read yet?
Too many to mention but probably Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, because we were given it as a wedding present nearly 28 years ago…
Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with?
Again too many to mention, but Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, early 18th-century writer and feminist, sounds fascinating, as do Mary Wollstonecraft, Millicent Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst and Ivy Williams—you get the theme.
What is your favourite quotation?
One of those from our library in the Supreme Court: “Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverend than plausible, and more advised than confident” (Francis Bacon). Along similar lines is “The spirit of liberty is that spirit which is not too sure that it is right” (Judge Learned Hand). I try not to be too sure that I am right.
If you were given £1m to spend on other people, what would you spend it on and why?
That is hard, because there are so many good causes in the world and £1m is not as much as it sounds. Perhaps it would go furthest in supporting the education of women and girls in countries where they are still not treated equally with men and boys.
What are the best and worst presents you’ve ever received?
The best was undoubtedly my daughter. The worst I’d prefer not to say.
Which cases have you lost most sleep over?
You have to try very hard to decide cases honestly and correctly and not to lose too much sleep over them, however hard they are. But this was difficult sometimes in the Family Division, deciding whether children should be removed from their families or sent back to the countries from which they had been wrongly removed.
What are you most proud of your country about?
The twin pillars of our constitution—the sovereignty of the queen in parliament and the rule of law.
What are you least proud of your country about?
The racism and misogyny that were prevalent in my youth and have still not been entirely eradicated.
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
Though I’ve never been a sporty person, I’ve learned to take a great interest in rugby union football: a really exciting game played in a great spirit.