I have updated my Other Publications page to note that Gilbert!, the magazine published by the American Chesterton Society, has published the second part of my essay on G.K. Chesterton's great counter-factual exploration of how history would been different in Don John of Austria, the Hero of Lepanto, had followed through on his notion to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots and marry her!
In 1911, G.K. Chesterton published his narrative poem Lepanto. Don John of Austria, an illegitimate son of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, leads the fleet of the Holy League of Catholic countries against the invading Ottoman fleet. . . .
Twenty years later, Chesterton returned to his great hero and wrote an article offering a fascinating proposal of marriage: the world would be different today if Don John of Austria had rescued Mary, Queen of Scots and married her. Chesterton argues that it would have been a good match for both of them. Most counterfactuals about English Reformation history—The Alteration by Kingsley Amis for example—assume that a Catholic England would be a medieval, backward country (betraying great ignorance of the Middle Ages of course). Chesterton proposes that something great could have happened in Scotland and England—in Christendom, in Europe, and the whole world— “if Don John of Austria had married Mary Queen of Scots”.
It takes some imagination to follow his argument and some knowledge of English and Scottish history to understand his examples, but it’s a rewarding exercise nonetheless. As “an earnest and plodding student of the dry scientific details of history”, (104) Chesterton uses many historical examples, and the purpose of this article is to explain some of the more obscure.
Please note that a subscription to Gilbert! is included in membership to the American Chesterton Society.