Max Mosley’s great-grandfather Algernon Freeman-Mitford, the 1st Baron Redesdale, was a diplomat and writer. After serving in St Petersburg and Peking, he was posted to Tokyo – known as Edo at the time – where he wrote “Tales of Old Japan” in 1871, a book which has long been credited with revealing classical Japanese stories to the world for the first time. One such story is that of “The Forty-Seven Ronin”, known in Japan as Chushingura. It has passed into folklore as an example of honour, loyalty and sacrifice, which are all concepts which are considered important in Japanese society.
Samurai warriors each served a master. If their master was killed they either committed ritual suicide, or they became “ronin”.
In 1701 Asano Naganori, the lord of the Ako Domain, offended Kira Yoshinaka, a powerful official in the government of the day, known as the Tokugawa shogunate. Kira’s insulted Asano as a result and finally Asano ran out of patience and attacked Kira with a dagger. The assault took place in the grounds of Edo Castle, where such things were forbidden. Kira was not badly hurt but Asano was ordered to kill himself. His lands were confiscated and his 47 warriors were made ronin. Kira was not punished. He was not a popular man and the 47 ronin decided to avenge the death of their lord by assassinating him.
The shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the ruler of Japan, was sympathetic and their deed was deemed righteous by many. However, they had committed murder and eventually, on the advice of the Confucian philosopher Ogyu Sorai, the most influential scholar of the day, the shogun was forced to rule that they must commit suicide, if only because the shogunate must retain control of the justice system.
“If general principles are impaired by special exceptions, there will no longer be any respect for the law in this country” Sorai wrote.
It is a story that Mosley and the FIA World Council would be wise to bear in mind when it comes to the Renault case on Monday…