Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Northern Rebellion of 1569: A Review

The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics, and Protest in Elizabethan England
by K.J. Kesselring, Associate Professor History at Dalhousie University, Canada
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2010; Purchased by the Reviewer

Even some of the early Catholic historians of the English Reformation thought that Elizabeth I demonstrated tolerance toward Catholics until the Pope excommunicated her. Kesselring concurs in part, citing Norman Jones' term "tolerant confusion" to describe the slow progress of the religious settlement of the Church of England in years immediately following Elizabeth's accession and the passage in Parliament of the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity.
But in the mid- to late-1560s, Catholics began to see changes in that policy. As Kesselring details: 1) arrests of those secretly attending Mass increased; 2) fines of those not attending established church services increased; 3) more and more Catholics went into exile and soon William Allen established a seminary in Douai for those who fled England; 4) the Court of High Commission and the bishops' visitations demonstrated increased vigor in detecting and correcting recalcitrant papists; 5) iconoclasm and punishment of those who had protected religious imagery offended and humiliated Catholics; and 6) the Inns of Court expelled Catholics and barred them from commons and court. The period of "tolerant confusion" was over, and Elizabeth's Privy Council had a policy of ensuring religious uniformity in England.
Add to that pattern Elizabeth's policy of bypassing and slighting the established noble families so that Catholic earls like Thomas Percy of Northumberland and Charles Neville of Westmorland and other nobles like Leonard Dacre could not accept those slights and insults any more, Elizabeth's wavering decisions on what to do with Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scotland, complications in dealing with France, Spain, and Ireland--this is not a simple rebellion driven by either religious zeal or political manuevering. Nevertheless, religion played a crucial role in the recruitment of rebels and the response of Elizabeth's government.
What Kesselring offers in this focused volume is a very clear and balanced examination of what she calls the "multiplicity of motives" behind the Northern Rebellion including the crucial religious element, an excellent narrative of the course of the rebellion in the north of England and in Scotland, and a comprehensive analysis of the outcome of the rebellion. The Northern Rebellion of 1569, led by Northumberland and Westmorland, and the decree of excommunication issued by Pope Pius V in 1570 certainly accelerated and codified the policy of strict religious uniformity, but Elizabethan England was already enforcing that policy before the Catholic Earls recruited 6,000 followers in protest against the changes forced upon them, recalling old causes by marching under the banners of the Five Wounds of Christ and the slogan "God Speed the Plow".
As I read about Northumberland and Westmorland recruiting so many followers and yet not really knowing what their strategy was I thought of David Knowles' analysis of Robert Aske and the Pilgrimage of Grace--the English Catholic rebels did not seem willing to prosecute an uprising that would succeed. In 1569, success would entail widespread Civil War: death, destruction, a coup d'etat, possibly the execution of Elizabeth I--success could mean war in Scotland against those who supported the infant King James VI and his regents. Success meant that they would have to see their cause through all the blood, suffering, and gore. They did not, just as Robert Aske did not, and so they failed.
Once they failed, the Elizabethan propaganda machine ramped up attacks upon English papists, superstitious priests, unnatural women (wives who lusted after priests and thus encouraged their husbands to betray their Queen), and the Pope--it placed the religious dissension of the rebels at the center of their sinful uprising. By doing so, ignoring the political and diplomatic issues, her government was able to demonstrate that no Catholic could be trusted; every English Catholic was a rebel-in-waiting. The Northern Rebellion, on a smaller scale, became part of the sequence of Catholic plots, including the Spanish Armada, that Providence thwarted, thus proving the righteousness of the Protestant Cause--which would continue to be celebrated in the next century with the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot!
On the other hand, some Catholic propagandists protrayed the rebels as martyrs, unable to tolerate Protestant iconoclasm and desecration, suffering and dying under Protestant torture and abuse, upholding the True Faith. They also ignored the political and diplomatic issues that contributed to the rebellion's cause. Other Catholics, as I referenced above, took a different approach. They were the Appellants, who wished to negotiate some kind of leniency; therefore they condemned the disloyalty of the rebels. Nevertheless, after Catholic Emancipation and Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in the nineteenth, Thomas Percy (Northumberland) and a few others were beatified as martyrs by Pope Leo XIII.
Fortunately, we now have a dispassionate view of these events in this book, one that neither inflates or ignores religious matters, acknowledging the "genuine and widespread discontent" of the Northern rebels just as honestly as that of the followers of Wyatt's Rebellion during the reign of Mary I, and forthrightly analyzing the Elizabethan government's response (and comparing it to previous Tudor reactions).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cromwell and Catherine Howard in Historical Fiction

Henry VIII married his fifth bride on July 28, 1540. His Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex was also executed that day.

A few years ago I read Ford Madox Ford's historical novel about Catherine Howard, The Fifth Queen--on the other hand, I have not read Hilary Mantel's recent novel Wolf Hall. As both are works of historical fiction, I know they have to be judged both as works of history and as works of art.

Ford Madox Ford's Catherine Howard is much more purposeful than the historical figure was: she has the goal of restoring the "old ways" -- Catholicism--hoping to influence Henry VIII. She is idealistic and adamantine, absolutely unable to compromise, so Ford makes her into a martyr for the Faith. Her true story may not be "the saddest story I have ever heard" (that honor is reserved for Ford's The Good Soldier, the "finest French novel in English"), but is rather, pitiful, as is Henry VIII's reaction to the revelation of her infidelity to him.

Ford Madox Ford was a convert to Catholicism when he was eighteen and remained "nominally a Catholic" all his life, although his practice of the Faith was irregular, according to one of his biographers. Ralph McInerny wrote an insightful analysis of his art and his view of art, that "every work of art has--must have--a profound moral purpose." I wonder about the "profound moral purpose" that misinterprets the historical record. For a different view, link here.

Hilary Mantel's novel won the Booker Prize, but I have read several reader's reviews citing the narrative style of the novel as confusing and distracting (every "he" and "his" refers to Cromwell even when it's wrong gramatically). I don't think I agree with her view of either Thomas More or Thomas Cromwell, also gleaned through reviews.

Alessandro Manzoni, author of I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), whom Verdi honored with the great Requiem Mass, repudiated the practice of historical fiction in his Del Romanzo Storico (On the Historical Novel). After writing one of the greatest Italian historical novels ever, he decided he could not write historical fiction anymore--he determined that authors could not do justice to the demands of historical accuracy AND of art.

When real-life figures appear in historical fiction, I do look for them to match what we know of them historically.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England

On Friday this week, Son Rise Morning Show host Brian Patrick and I will discuss the events of July 30, 1540, when Henry VIII demonstrated yet again the consequences of Parliament and the Convocation of Bishops naming him Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England.

The Convocation of Bishops tried to put some limitation on the authority that gave him by adding the phrase "as far as Christ allows", but essentially both bodies had given Henry VIII tremendous power, which Henry wielded with ease. This was a Supreme Head and Governor who would punish both Catholics and Protestants: Catholics when they refused to swear his Oaths of Supremacy and Succession; Protestants when they refused to follow the religious doctrines he required, like Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

David Starkey has even called him a tyrant in his BBC 4 series "Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant" and the events of July 30, 1540, which I'll describe in my blog post that day and on the Son Rise Morning Show certainly reveal his tyranny and his strange consistency of upholding his supremacy in matters of religion.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wedding Bells for Mary and Philip

On July 25, 1554, Mary of England wed Philip of Spain, uniting the Tudor and Hapsburg houses.

It is a truism that many in England were opposed to this marriage and thought that Mary should wed an Englishman. The usual course of a royal marriage is to use it for diplomatic ends; thus English kings had long married foreign wives who became their Queen Consorts. There had been exceptions to this pattern lately of course, as Henry VII united the Houses of York and Lancaster by marrying Elizabeth of York, and four out of six of Henry VIII's wives were English. Nevertheless, a foreign spouse for an English monarch was not unusual.

It is also a truism that many in England were opposed to their Queen marrying a Spanish prince of the house of Hapsburg because Spain was an enemy of England. Yet Spain had also lately been an ally of England--Henry VII had arranged the marriage of two sons to Catherine of Aragon for that diplomatic edge. Queen Catherine had been very popular in England--the people loved her generosity, piety and kindness. Therefore, a foreign spouse for an English monarch could be very popular.

I think the crucial difference was the gender of the Monarch. Mary was a woman, and thus would be ruled by her husband once married; her interests would be subservient to his in the normal course. When Mary became the wife of Philip of Spain, many in Parliament and in the country feared that Philip would rule in England. Mary herself would not accept this view of their relationship. The Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain carefully spelled out the special relationship between the Queen and her spouse and the limits placed on Philip of Spain. He was not crowned or anointed King of England and although he would be referred to along with Mary on official documents, Mary was the Queen Regnant, the sole Monarch in England; Philip was her King Consort. For instance, Mary used the King's quarters, Philip used the Queen's! (Like Fred MacMurray and Polly Bergen in "Kisses for My President" a movie in which the first woman President of the United States resigns when she gets pregnant! Fred has the frilly First Lady's bedroom while Polly has the masculine President's bedroom.)

The marriage of the Queen of England to an Englishman also posed difficulties and could easily lead to factionalism at Court. One of the most popular candidates had been Edward Courtenay, released from the Tower of London when Mary regained the throne from Lady Jane Grey. Perhaps his involvement in Wyatt's Rebellion demonstrates his unsuitability to reign--he also attempted to marry Elizabeth; neither Mary nor her half-sister trusted him.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 24 and 25: The Mother Loses Her Crown; The Son Gains Another

On July 24 in 1567, Mary the Queen of Scotland abdicated, allowing James, her infant son by Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, to inherit the throne as the "Cradle King" the sixth of that name in Scotland.

On July 25 in 1603, James VI became James I of England, thus uniting the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland under his personal rule.

The first date eventually led Mary to seek protection, which became imprisonment, from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Held under house arrest, Mary became the focus of various plots to depose Elizabeth and bring Mary to the throne of England. Those plots finally led to her execution in 1587.

Leanda de Lisle describes the process of James VI's accession to the throne of England in her book, After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England (she certainly seems to have a penchant for very long subtitles!).

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Duke of Richmond

Henry VIII's illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy died on July 23, 1536. He was Henry's son by Elizabeth Blount, born in 1519 and Henry had bestowed many honors and much wealth upon him: the Order of the Garter; titles such as the Earl of Nottingham, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Admiral of England, Ireland, and Normandy, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland--these offices and titles made him very rich. His birth and survival was a sign to Henry that it was not his fault none of the sons borne by Katherine of Aragon survived.

In 1533 he married Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Henry Fitzroy died just when Henry VIII was considering naming him his heir, in spite of his illegitimacy, since he had no other son to succeed him. Fitzroy witnessed the executions of the Carthusians and of Anne Boleyn; we have no information about what he thought of the religious changes going on around him, although his wife was an evangelical reformer.
The Duke of Richmond's death, said by contemporaries to have been by consumption, at age 17/18 has provoked some wonder if he, Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's older brother, and Edward VI, Henry's son, all shared some congenital disease.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dudgeon over The London Dungeon

The Catholic Herald highlights a clear case of Anti-Catholicism in the now-banned advertisement of the London Dungeon's "Bloody Mary" exhibit. The advert was removed from screens in the Underground because it was disturbing to young children--a portrait of Mary, Queen of England and Ireland transformed into a hideously scarred zombie.

Fortunately, an English historian is standing up for Mary:

But Leanda de Lisle, author of The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey, said the portrayal of Mary Tudor as a monster was historically inaccurate.

She said: “It really is an example of England’s knee-jerk anti-Catholicism and how our history of the Tudor period has been distorted by post-Reformation propaganda.

“What about Elizabeth? People may be aware of the executions of Catholics, but there were many more people. After the 1569 northern rebellion, Elizabeth ordered that a man was to be hung in every village associated with the rebellions. It was on a similar scale to her father."

The exhibit itself sounds historically inaccurate (from the website):

"Bloody Mary, the deadliest daughter of Henry VIII is ruthlessly ridding the country of heretics.
"In her eyes there is only one faith and all those who believe otherwise must be punished. No one is safe from persecution – men, women and children are all suspect in the eyes of Bloody Mary.
"Feel the force of her wrath, the heat of the flames and the intensity of Mary’s obsession!
"Watch as Bloody Mary punishes non believers
"Frightening fire
"Punishment and persecution
"Horrid smells
"Hair raising silence"

According to Mary Tudor, Renaissance Queen, earlier promotion of the exhibit was even more historically inaccurate and "inflammatory"--

“Enter Bloody Mary’s private chapel and witness the fanatically Catholic Queen pass judgment on petrified heretics.”

“Experience the horrifying sights, screams, smells of the most painful method of execution known to man – being slowly burnt alive.”

I don't think the London Dungeon would be on my itinerary for a visit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21,1835 in Littlemore

Going through my photos from last year's tour of Oxford Movement related churches and places, I found this picture from the Anglican church John Henry Newman founded and built in Littlemore when he was Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. It is a memorial to his mother Jemima Newman, who helped place the cornerstone of the church on July 21, 1835 but died before its completion. Here is a detail of the plaque on her memorial: BTW: Our class completed this tour on Thursday, July 23, 2009. After visiting St. Mary-St. Nicholas, where Newman preached the sermon, "The Parting of Friends" after leaving Oxford, we went to The College at Littlemore. There he was received into the Catholic Church by Father (now Blessed) Dominic Barberi, a Passionist missionary to England.

Of course, one of the great highlights in The College is to see Newman's study, where the International Centre of Newman Friends has established a library (to which I donated a copy of Supremacy and Survival!).

We also visited an 18th century CofE church in Chiselhampton, now closed, which represented church architecture before the Oxford Movement (St. Katherine's). Notice the lack of stained glass or imagery, the pulpit and lector stand and the reredos at the front of the church.

The reredos featured the important texts for low church services: the Our Father, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed:
Then we toured Dorchester, which our tutor had studied extensively, having edited a book titled Dorchester Abbey: Church and People, 635-2005. After these visits outside of Oxford, we went back to Oxford to an area called Jericho to visit a very high High Church Anglican church named St. Barnabas, which had all the architectural touches of a Catholic church in the Roman Rite. They displayed an extensive series of pamphlets on Confession, Prayer to the Saints, the Rosary, etc. When you click on the link, you'll probably see what I mean--the home page of the church features a picture of Benediction!
We rode through this tour of Oxford environs in a small coach and ate lunch in a pub near Dorchester Abbey. It was a wonderful outing and one of the highlights of my Oxford Experience, 2009.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Spanish Armada and the Black Legend

The Spanish Armada, bound for England's shores, set sail on July 20, 1588. Christopher Check addresses some of the historical issues, including the BLACK LEGEND, in this article from This Rock:

Written by the Victors

For four centuries, English propagandists and poets have spun their version of the Armada: The small maritime nation defeated the fleet of a mighty world empire determined to drag the modern nation back into the Dark Ages of Papist superstition. The Spanish ships, laden with the ghastly torture instruments of the Spanish Inquisition, were turned away by doughty crews of Drake and his comrades, a defeat that was reinforced by a extraordinary tempest. If that were not evidence of the will of Providence, nothing was. (Even G.K. Chesterton, in his magnificent ballad Lepanto, indulges in healthy dose of Black Legend, caricaturing King Philip as a disfigured sorcerer brewing poison in his closet.)

Modern English historians, who should know better, cannot escape bias in their portrayal of Philip. David Howarth declares unapologetically at the start of his Armada history, distinguished for its nautical detail, that he finds Philip "altogether unworthy of admiration," a remarkable comment for a solid historian to make about this great monarch of the 16th century.

Still, one aspect of the English version of events should be given its due: the claim of decisiveness. Were the events of 1588 decisive? Well, was the Alamo decisive? Was the Loire Valley campaign of St. Joan of Arc? Was Thermopylae, or Lepanto? It is true that Spain flourished as a land and sea power for a generation after the Armada, facing her real decline during the Thirty Years’ War, but the defeat of the Armada has undeniably taken on the power of myth in the formation of the British Empire’s patriotic understanding of herself. The moment heralded the rise of Britannia’s ruling of the waves, and modern historians, whether out of Spanish sympathy or out of their hatred of a kind of triumphalism in all the stories of the West, are dishonest when they downplay the event’s significance in history.

A Long Defeat

But for Catholics, even the English version of events offers enough evidence to help them choose sides. That we cannot admire Drake and his fellow puritan pirates, seeking to vanquish the Whore of Babylon, is obvious. But there is more: Spain provoked, we are told, war with England because she denied English merchants commercial access to her colonies in the New World. To be sure, Spain was guilty as charged of practicing a kind of protectionism that was hardly unknown in England. In any case, the argument reveals what was most at the heart of the English motives, trade—Mammon—and when Britannia began her own colonial adventures in the New World two decades after the Armada, the enterprise was one of state capitalism, not evangelization. Whatever faults we can find in Philip II or in any of the men who served this most Christian of empires, we cannot deny that at the origin of Spain’s policies—from the Netherlands to the new lands across the sea that Columbus claimed for Christ in 1492—was the cross, and the spread of its message of Redemption for all mankind.

The courageous men who sailed with the Spanish Armada, endured its privations, and died in the horrors it suffered are no less a part of this legacy in salvation history than are the glories of Don John of Austria or Hernan Cortez. The via dolorosa, for example, walked with such quiet patience and humility by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who, in his abundant correspondence and diaries, blamed no one but himself for the Armada’s failure, is no less an inspiration. God does not measure the progress of salvation history with political victories. Indeed, there may be no better way to contemplate the tragic tale of the Grand Armada than with the words found in the correspondence of J.R.R. Tolkien: "I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat.’"

The Black Legend, of course, is a propaganda campaign that demonized Spanish Imperialism--as though English Imperialism is somehow more virtuous. One modern author, Philip Wayne Powell, in his book Tree of Hate, refers to Hispanophobia. The Black Legend of Spain has many sources, some even from within Spain as criticism of certain policies.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to Dorchester Abbey

This has nothing to do with the English Reformation, but I cannot resist posting this picture of another grave nearby the Archdeacon's: Mrs. Sarah Fletcher, "whose artless beauty, innocence of mind and gentle manner once obtained her the Love and Esteem of all who knew her. But when Nerves were too delicately spun to bear the rude Shakes and Jostlings which we meet with in this Transitory World, Nature gave way. She sunk and died a Martyr to Excessive Sensibility. . . . May her soul meet that Peace in Heaven which this Earth denied her."

As an Anonymous reader reported, however, there is more to the story than that epitaph. According to this site,

On 7 June 1799, twenty nine year old Mrs Sarah Fletcher committed suicide at Courtiers. She hung herself from the curtain rails of her four-poster bed using a handkerchief and a piece of cord. It is said that she was driven to take her own life after she discovered her husband, who was a Captain in the Royal Navy was arranging a bigamous marriage to a wealthy heiress. This, after she had received word that he had died at sea. She went to the church and actually stopped the wedding from taking place. Following this, Captain Fletcher returned to sea, but the betrayal and neglect was too much for Sarah to bear.

The reason for her death was recorded as lunacy. Jacksons Oxford Journal for Saturday 15th June 1799 states: ‘the derangement of her mind appearing very evident, as well as from many other circumstances, the jury, without hesitation, found the verdict – Lunacy’.
I presume that verdict removed any obstacles from her being buried in the abbey church.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The French Revolution and English Catholics

Yesterday, July 16, was the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; today is the memorial of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne, victims of the Committee for Public Safety and French Revolution who were executed in Paris in 1794.

The exiled French priests and nuns who fled the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the dangers of the Terror provoked feelings of sympathy in England. The fact that they were allowed to practice their faith while English Catholics were not contributed to the Catholic Relief movement in Parliament. I saw a sign of that sympathy last summer when my Oxford Movement class visited Dorchester Abbey, which had been a Tractarian church in the 19th century, and had been saved from destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by a local gentleman paying Henry VIII off.

There was a memorial to Monsignor Michael Thoumin Desvalpons, an archdeacon and the Vicar-General of Dol in Normandy, who is buried in the south-west aisle of the Abbey church. He had lived in the household of William Davey at Overy, near Dorchester after fleeing France. The Davey family was the Catholic family that contributed much not only to the Catholics in the area, but the entire Dorchester-on-Thames community.

The memorial, carved in the floor, reads:

To the Memory of the Rev.
Michael Thoumin DesValpons
Aged 62
DD & CL Arch Deacon and Vicar-
General of Dol in Brittany
A man conspicuous for his Deep
Knowledge and his Moral Virtues.
Exiled since 1792 for his Religion
and his King, favorably Received
by the English Nation.
Deceased at Overy, March 2, 1798
greatly indebted to the Family of
Mr. Davey and Interred in this
Church at the Request and Expence (sic)
of the Revd. Dr. Guantelett, Warden
of New College, Oxon.

Dorchester Abbey hosts a small Church of England community; St. Birinius, the Catholic Church across the street, evidently sometimes uses the C of E parish church for special events, like a funeral Mass, in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, for Mary Berry, Gregorian chant specialist.
One irony of the pattern of exile of the religious who fled France--some of them came from houses that had been established on the Continent for English religious after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anne of Cleves, July 16, 1557

You know the old verse describing Henry VIII's six wives:

Divorced, beheaded, she died;
Divorced, beheaded, she survived.

Of course, like any generalization or simplification, it has its limits: Katherine of Aragon's marriage was annulled, and so was Anne Boleyn's before she was beheaded; Henry and Anne of Cleves' marriage was also annulled, and Catherine Parr just barely survived Henry, while Anne of Cleves survived her by nine years. Without a doubt, Jane Seymour died.

Thus, I believe Anne was the real survivor--she remained in England became a friend of Henry's, mentor to his children, and a Catholic; she was materially comfortable and she had the pleasure of seeing Mary, the Princess crowned as Queen of England.
Anne materially benefitted from the fall of her predecessor of that name after the annulment on July 9, 1540 when Henry gave her the Boleyn home at Hever Castle. He also gave her Richmond Castle; Anne was wealthy and independent. After Catherine Howard was executed, there was brief talk of Henry and Anne marrying again.
She died on this day in 1557 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Father Ian Ker on John Henry Newman

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play Gerontius--and I updated my post with my notes after hearing the play.

UK's The Catholic Herald published an article lauding Fr. Ian Ker's booklet ("Newman: His Life, His Legacy") from the Catholic Truth Society that addresses, inter alia, the Victorian idea of friendship--and notes that the booklet answers the negative connotations the BBC play presented:

However, what I wanted to single out in Fr Ker’s little essay was the common sense and clarity he brings to bear on the question of Newman and his male friends. He writes that since it became current knowledge that Newman’s wish was to be buried with his fellow Oratorian, Ambrose St John, “there was widespread speculation in the international media that there might have been some kind of homosexual relationship between the two friends. In an age that has almost lost the concept of affectionate friendship untouched by sexual attraction, such speculation was no doubt inevitable.” Fr Ker briefly discusses the Victorians, friendship, joint burials and Newman’s recognition of the sacrifice celibacy would entail. It is well worth reading.

It is also a necessary rebuttal. Last week I chanced to listen to a play about Newman on BBC Radio 4 called Gerontius in which the role of Newman was played by Derek Jacobi. . . . Halfway through this breathless, melodramatic dialogue between Newman and his guardian angel, a young male voice declares: “The Roman Catholic Church is homophobic!” It is further inferred that Newman’s motto, “From shadows into the truth”, could be a disguised code for his wanting to come out of the closet. Jacobi himself, brilliant actor though he is, tends to convey a slightly fey quality in the timbre of his voice. Inevitably Newman came across as highly emotional, self-absorbed, querulous and remorseful. He expostulates: “I am an Englishman. I buried my feelings!” All the more reason to read Ker.

All the more reason to read Ker indeed. His biography and shorter studies of Newman are essential to understanding Newman the man and his influence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Matter of Dates: Commemorating the Battle of the Boyne

At the time of the Glorious Revolution, England was still on the Julian Calendar. The Catholic world had made the transition to the Gregorian Calendar after Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed it on February 24, 1582. It was a scientific adjustment with a religious purpose: the correct celebration of the date of Easter according to the First Council of Nicaea. Protestant Europe refused to accept the reform of the calendar. Elizabeth I was on the throne in England and distribution of the Papal Bull ordering adoption of the new calendar was indeed illegal at that time. So the religious divisions in Europe affected not only what date it was but what date Easter was each year.

Thus, according to the Julian Calendar, the Battle of the Boyne occurred on July 1, 1690, while according to the Gregorian Calendar, it occurred on July 12, 1690. England did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752, at which time the people of England seemed to "lose" eleven days, going to bed on September 2, 1752 and waking up the next morning on September 13, 1752. The Gregorian Calendar is now the internationally accepted calendar dating system, although it still requires adjustment.

Celebrating the date of the Battle of the Boyne in Northern Ireland as the Orange Order does on July 12 is an example of proleptic adjustment to the international standard. Remember that I'm on the air early tomorrow morning (6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern) on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss the Stuarts and Catholics in England during their reign.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Battle of the Boyne and the Son Rise Morning Show

On Monday, July 12, I'll talk with Anna Mitchell on the Son Rise Morning Show. We are going to use the occasion of James II's defeat by William of Orange in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 to talk about the English Catholics' fortunes and misfortunes under the Stuart monarchs. Covering the period from 1603 to 1714 means it's a very quick survey in the time we have allotted, so we'll just hit the highlights:

James I: The Gunpowder Plot and strict penal laws against Catholics
Charles I: A Catholic Queen and Civil War
[The Interregnum and Cromwell]
Charles II: The Merry Monarch and the Popish Plot
James II: The Last Catholic King
William and Mary; Anne: Never No More a Catholic Monarch or Consort

Although the Tudor era certainly dominates any discussion of the history of Catholicism in England after the break from Rome, the Stuarts have their own fascinating impact on Catholics for more than a century. I look forward to our discussion at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central.

Update (7/12/2010): Anna and I flew through a century of history this morning! Obviously, I'd recommend you read Supremacy and Survival if you want to know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Journey to the Throne

Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen is tracing the path of Edward VI and the Duke of Northumberland's plot to place Lady Jane Dudley (nee Grey) on the throne. Check back for more developments in the conspiracy: Will Mary escape Northumberland's clutches? Will England rally behind her? Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Fourth of July

To commemorate the Fourth of July this year, let's recall Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.

My publisher, Scepter, includes this book in their catalog: Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary--

Meet Charles Carroll of Carrollton: "A Roman Catholic but an ardent patriot." So said John Adams about the great Founding Father who originated the Electoral College, signed the Declaration of Independence, and fought tirelessly for religious liberty for Catholics in America. Charles Carroll is little-known today, but author Scott McDermott is determined to change that. In this illuminating biography, he paints a vivid picture of Carroll's tumultuous life that shows why this forgotten Founder is a heroic Catholic example needed now more than ever. McDermott uses Carroll's letters and other personal papers to bring you a well-rounded portrait of this complex and fascinating man. He also details the political and social currents that Carroll confronted during his long career. This book is a gripping introduction to a forgotten hero and a key contribution to the ongoing debate about the place of religion in public life.

Author Scott McDermott also provides an excellent introduction and analysis of the founding of Maryland by the Lords Baltimore as an English colony that demonstrated religious tolerance. Charles Carroll the Settler, Charles Carroll of Carrollton's grandfather, came to Maryland as Attorney General two weeks before the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the Church of England becoming the established church in Maryland. The new government imposed penal laws on Catholics, including fines for celebrating the Mass in public.

I highly recommend this book.

For background on the founders of Maryland, George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore and his son Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, I recommend English and Catholic: The Lord Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century by John D. Krugler. The story George Calvert's reversion to his childhood faith, especially the detail about government interference in his parents' raising of their children and their education because they were Catholic, is fascinating.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

BBC Radio Play on Venerable John Henry Newman

BBC Radio 4 will present an Afternoon Play titled Gerontius at 14:15 (2:15 p.m.) Thursday, July 8.

Derek Jacobi stars as Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th Century Catholic priest who will be beatified when the Pope visits the UK later this year. Newman shared a house with Father Ambrose St. John and, upon his death, insisted that he be buried in the same grave as his longtime friend. Stephen Wyatt’s play examines their relationship, and draws upon the themes in Newman’s poem The Dream of Gerontius which went on to inspire Elgar’s oratorio of the same name.

It does not appear that the Afternoon Play is included among Radio 4's podcasts. London's 2:15 p.m. is 8:15 a.m. Central Time, so I suppose I could try to listen on the internet on the BBC's iPlayer. I presume the radio play will hint that Newman was a homosexual and try to make him as unattractive as possible, but I could be wrong!
Update (7/11/2010): I did listen to the play on a link that will expire soon. It was not very sympathetic to Venerable John Henry Newman or to the whole notion of sainthood. The author depicted Newman in the afterlife seeing his grave dug up and hearing Elgar's Gerontius music. With a demon and his guardian angel on either side, Newman protested at the disturbance of his grave and his beatification. The playlet ended with Newman proclaiming that he loved Ambrose St. John. If this was one's first impression of Venerable Newman, it was pretty bad.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not Enough Time!

Al Kresta and I were barely able to skim the surface discussing Supremacy and Survival yesterday on his radio show!

He and his producer promised that I'll be back on the air with them later this year--I look forward to it because it was a fun conversation.

Kresta in the Afternoon posted the podcast of the second hour here. My portion starts about 20 minutes before the hour.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Last Priest Executed at Tyburn Tree

Today is the memorial of St. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, victim of Stuart injustice during the Anti-Catholic madness of the so-called Popish Plot.

The Whigs in Parliament, opposed most of all to the succession of Charles II's Catholic brother, James the Duke of York, jumped at the opportunity to attack Catholics--and James--when Titus Oates fabricated the story of a great conspiracy. Charles II did not believe most of the elements of the plot Oates "revealed", especially when the perjuror implicated his own queen, Catherine of Braganza and his brother.

St. Oliver Plunkett was in Ireland but was brought to London and accused of conspiring to bring French soldiers and recruit members of his diocese to mount a rebellion against the King and Parliament. There was, of course, no evidence of these accusations and Plunkett could bring no witnesses to testify for him.

The prelate was found guilty and sentenced to death, dying by being hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn Tree, the last Catholic priest to suffer there.

Titus Oates was finally found out and punished for his perjury. When the Duke of York came to the throne as James II, he strictly carried out the sentence of the court against Oates, with annual pillory and imprisonment. After the Glorious Revolution, Oates received a pension from William and Mary, thus being rewarded for lying and causing the deaths of many innocent men, including St. Oliver Plunkett, who was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

(Don't forget that I'll be Kresta in the Afternoon today at 4:35 p.m. Central/5;35 p.m. Eastern!)