This is a story about something terrible that happened. It’s a story about the dying out of empire and the death of the empire of childhood. In the shadow of Brexit, amidst all the tumult over Britain’s future, some of the last living monuments of Britain’s past were shamed in the public square, served up like an overdone roast on a tarnished silver platter.

First, the Accusations

The headlines were ghastly, shocking, and seemingly everywhere: “Scotland Yard Launches Review into ‘VIP Paedophile Ring’ Probe,” “Harvey Proctor Says Allegations He Was Part of Westminster Sex Ring Are Polluted Ravings of a Fantasist,” “Police to Probe Leon Brittan’s Alleged Westminster Paedophile Cover-up Beyond the Grave.” Indeed, the names of the 12 accused read like a Who’s Who of postwar Britain, including the war hero and peer of the realm Lord Bramall; Sir Edward Heath, former Conservative Party prime minister; Sir Maurice Oldfield, once director of M.I.6 (Britain’s secret intelligence service); Sir Michael Hanley, former director general of M.I.5 (Britain’s domestic-security service); Lord Leon Brittan, former home secretary; and Harvey Proctor, a former Conservative Party member of Parliament for Billericay.