“Haz, we will change the world!” With these words, it is reliably reported, the American television actress Meghan Markle put the seal on her engagement to Prince Harry – or Haz, as he was henceforward to be known to his beloved.

It may sound romantic to some, yet any admission on the part of anyone to a desire to change the world ought to set alarm bells ringing among the rest of us.

For me, a declaration of this sort will always call to mind the prototype of would-be world changers, as described by the great Spanish satirist Miguel de Cervantes. His name was, of course, Don Quixote, the “knight of the woeful countenance” who set out one day from his humble home on a self-made mission to put everything to rights.

Cervantes writes:

Now these dispositions being made, he would no longer defer putting his designs to execution, being the more strongly excited thereto by the mischief he thought his delay occasioned to the world, such and so many were the grievances he proposed to redress, the wrongs he intended to rectify, the exorbitances to correct, the abuses to reform and the debts to discharge.

Significantly, Don Quixote was middle-aged when he began to feel this way, and it was when approaching middle age that our best-known would-be world changer, Tony Blair, started to see himself as someone who had a duty to put everything to rights. It was to lead to all manner of accusations, particularly that he had lied to justify his invasion of Iraq in 2003. But what did it matter whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction? Was it not a worthy cause to rid the world of this evil tyrant?

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