Iron hand in a velvet glove
Posted: 19 July 2007 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Continuing the velvet theme, OED has as first cite:

1850 T. CARLYLE Latter-d. Pamph. ii. 8 Soft of speech and manner, yet with an inflexible rigour of command..‘iron hand in a velvet glove’, as Napoleon defined it.

Do we know where or when he thus defined it? Or even, pace the shade of Carlyle, if?

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Posted: 19 July 2007 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A bit of googling suggests the term was used by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558).

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Posted: 19 July 2007 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, I saw that, as also the suggestion that he and Napoleon were translating freely the Latin expression, “Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re”. But I can’t find any definite source for either emperor’s words.

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Posted: 19 July 2007 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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No velvet glove, but…

Like a mighty octopus, the legions of Rome spread across England. For ten years Caesar ruled with an iron hand. Then with a wooden foot, and finally with a piece of string.

--The Histories of Pliny the Elder

by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens
(Goon Show series 7, Episode 25)

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Posted: 19 July 2007 10:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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(Wipes coffee splatter from screen). Curse you, Doc, that was totally unexpected!

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Posted: 20 July 2007 04:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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From here (Arthur Lévy, Napoléon intime, 1893):

L’Empereur disait souvent que les Français devaient être gouvernés par une main de fer dans un gant de velours.

[’The Emperor often used to say that the French had to be governed by an iron hand in a velvet glove.’]

According to this Listserv page, it goes back to Bernadotte, aka King Charles XIV John of Sweden:

_L’Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux (Notes and Queries Français)_,
vol 156, p. 618 (10 Nov. 1874):

<<Qui donc a la premier employé cette metaphore qui devait avoir tant de
succès? En connaît-on quelque édition antérieure à celle que rapportent les
biographes de Bernadotte, lesquels assurent que le roi de Suède aurait dit
au roi de France (Louis XVIII), qu’il fallait gouverner les Français avec
une main de fer couverte d’un gant de velours?>>

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Posted: 20 July 2007 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thank you, lh, that’s most helpful, not least for the intriguing comment by Douglas:

Interesting; this suggests a reanalysis of “an iron fist and a velvet glove” (assuming that was the original calque) into “an iron fist in a velvet glove”, just as our “hand-in-glove” meaning ‘intimate’ seems to have derived from the earlier “hand and glove”, which was the standard version until the early 19th century.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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“Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re” was the motto of the British Army’s Women’s Royal Army Corps, who translated it as something like “modest yet resolute”.

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