Monday, February 28, 2011

The National Covenant of Scotland

On February 28, 1638, the National Covenant was signed in opposition to King Charles I and Archbishop Laud's attempts to impose the Book of Common Prayer, including the episcopacy on the Kirk of Scotland.

According to this site,

The document contained an intriguing mixture of citations from the law and allusions to the Bible. It concluded by calling "...the LIVING GOD, THE SEARCHER OF OUR HEARTS" to be a witness..." God, they said, knew their sincere desire and that they weren't faking their determination. They knew they had to give an account to Jesus Christ in the judgment day, and said so. To break the covenant would be to come under God's everlasting wrath, and to lose the respect of the world. Therefore, they humbly pleaded with the Lord to strengthen them by his Holy Spirit, "and to bless our desires and proceedings with a happy success; that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of GOD, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all."

It was read and signed at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh. The subsequent Covenants in Scotland continued to protest and unite in opposition against Charles I's drive for unity in the Church of England and Scotland.

Greyfriars Church, obviously named after previous Franciscan friars, is also famous for "Greyfriars Bobby" the faithful Skye Terrier who remained at his master's grave in the churchyard for many years.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Back on the Air

I'll discuss the first Ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, under the guidance and protection of Blessed John Henry Newman with Al Kresta on Kresta in the Afternoon in the context of Reformation History on Monday, February 28 from 4:35 to 4:55 p.m. Eastern/3:35 to 3:55 p.m. Central. You can listen live here and view the show's blog here.

I talked to Al Kresta last July to discuss my book in general--we barely made it past Henry VIII! The interview is the last half/third of this podcast. I hope to focus on later centuries Monday as we look at the historic events in September last year and January this year.

Then early Tuesday morning, March 1, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show, talking about the great 19th Century Gothic architect and Catholic convert, Augustus Welby Pugin, at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central. Sacred Heart Radio provides a Listen Live! link here.

FYI: Casting Nets has posted the podcast of my discussion on their radio show here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Executed

The latter years of Elizabeth I's reign were the scene of a great conflict between her last favourite, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex and her principal secretary William Cecil, Baron Burghley, ending in the former's execution on February 25, 1601.

Essex rose quickly at Court after the death of Elizabeth's long-time favourite, his step-father, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leceister. He was about 21; she was in her early 50s. She granted him many honors and he disobeyed her direct orders many times, but it was his unfortunate performance in Ireland that got him in such trouble that he dared plot against his mentor.

He went to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant, charged with putting down the revolt of the Catholic Lords of Ulster in 1599. Essex did not lead his 16,000 forces very well, and seemed more bent on developing his personal popularity by knighting many soliders. He negotiated a truce with Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone with unfavorable terms for England. Hearing that the Queen was displeased with him Essex left his post and returned to England to make sure she heard his side of the story. He ended up in house arrest for a time and was stripped of his Court offices.

Once he was released, he hoped to be back in her good graces. Because he could not regain one of the lucrative monopolies he had formerly held, Essex panicked and led a poorly designed rebellion against Elizabeth. At his treason trial on February 19, 1601 one of the charges laid against him was that he tolerated religious dissent (i.e. Catholics) but he said that Catholics were making up evidence against him! He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Two operas, Donizetti's Roberto Devereux and Britten's Gloriana tell the story, the former rather romantically ending with Elizabeth's abdication. Bette Davis twitches and snaps as Queen Elizabeth and Errol Flynn is very handsome while Olivia de Havilland, as Lady Penelope Grey, intercepts his letters to the Queen out of jealousy in the 1939 movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, based on Maxwell Anderson's play and Lytton Strachey's dual biography.

The commander who succeeded him in Ireland, Lord Mountjoy, defeated the Ulster Lords as Queen Elizabeth was dying in England. They fled Ireland for the Continent and James I proceeded with the development of the Ulster Plantation.

This site relates this conflict with Essex to the decline of Elizabeth I's reign--and reminds us of the Earl of Essex' use of Shakespeare's Richard II, describing the deposition of a King of England, as inspiration:

Now mark me, how I will undo myself;
I give this heavy weight from off my head
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand,
The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duty's rites:
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forego;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking'd Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!

And Elizabeth got the point--"Know you not, I am Richard?" she asked/told her counsellors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evangelical Ladies of the Sixteenth Century

Via Once I Was a Clever Boy comes this analysis of a group of Evangelical noblewomen in sixteenth century England, including Queen Catherine Parr (portrait on the right), the Grey family: mother Frances and daughters Jane, Catherine, and Mary, Anne the Duchess of Somerset (wife of Edward VI's first Protector), and Anne the Countess of Sussex, implicated in the heresy of Anne Askew toward the end of Henry VIII's reign.

To quote:

One other thing, apart from good birth and controversial religious opinions, which links them as a group is that most of them managed, despite their noble, or at least good, birth to contact marriages with second or subsequent husbands well below their own station. This, which was so often a worry for families with daughters of marriageable age, was something they discarded. Not for them the traditional life of the pious widow or vowess. Some of the marriages seem surprising given the background of the ladies and their husbands, who were not in a position to aid their wives as Lord Stanley had been able to support Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Katherine Parr's fourth marriage as Queen Dowager to Lord Seymour raised eyebrows, and, although not without parallel (Adeliza of Louvain and Katherine of Valois come to mind), appears hasty and unusual. In the case of the Grey sisters their position as heirs or potential heirs made their marriages ones of immediate concern to the monarch at the time.

Determination to achieve what they wanted, be it in religious, political or personal terms seems to be the distinguishing mark of these women. the cost might be high, indeed fatal on occasion, but they were not to be deterred.

Mr. Whitehead recommends Leanda de Lisle's book on the Grey sisters which I have highlighted before.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eric Gill, born February 22, 1882

(Specimen of the typeface Gill Sans by Jim Hood)

The controversial Eric Gill was born on February 22, 1882. He was a sculpter, type-face designer and printer maker--an artist-craftsman like William Morris. He designed the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral. Raised in a cult, he became an Anglican and then joined the Catholic Church in 1913. He was also a Distributist, like Chesterton, Belloc and other Catholics about that time. The Eric Gill Society publishes this biography, but revelations of his personal behavior, based on his diaries, in Fiona MacCarthy's 1981 biography were shocking. The British Museum is currently presenting an exhibition of some of his works and the description mentions that controversy:

The exhibition features work by Gill intended for both public use and private delight, including stamp designs for the Post Office, coin designs for the Royal Mint, drawings for the Stations of the Cross, and his own engravings and publications on religion, politics and art. The centrepiece of the display is his famous sculpture Divine Lovers, on loan from Ditchling Museum in East Sussex. The display also examines Gill’s work on the British Museum building itself, including the war memorial at the main entrance.

The display concentrates attention on Gill’s art and ideas, rather than focusing on the sensational aspects of his private life which have become dominant in recent years. The showcasing of both Gill’s private work and his little-known public commissions deals with the entwining complexities of his art, life and ideals, and the contradictions that often emerged.

The revelations of his personal behavior (which I am not going to name here; you can see what Fiona MacCarthy found linked above) have given rise to attacks on his art, on his being a Catholic and the Church sponsoring his art, and even on Distributism--as though his personal sins make that economic theory untenable. When his behavior was revealed, some called for the removal of the Stations of the Cross at Westminster. Such a debate resembles that over Wagner's music--perhaps symphony orchestras can perform his music in Israel now--and identifications with the Nazi regime. Or the case of Elia Kazan and the Communist scare in Hollywood: the art tainted by personal associations. I saw one blogger comment that we know Eric Gill never had remorse or a purpose of amendment, but I don't think we CAN know that!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Casting Nets Local Radio "Gig"

I'll be on the radio for an hour long talk and call-in show airing on the El Dorado/Wichita Kansas affiliate of EWTN Radio (KAHS 1360 AM) this Wednesday, February 23rd, from 5:00-6:00 p.m. (Central Time). The hosts, Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt, and I will discuss current events in England regarding the Ordinariate, evangelization in England, and of course, the historical context. The Casting Nets website includes links for listening live. You can call into the show at (316) 320-1360 with questions or comments.

This article provides some background to the discussion.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Birthday to Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon

[Having posted so much on Mary I lately I will just say Happy Birthday to her today in passing (February 18, 1516), although I will talk about her on the Son Rise Morning Show, broadcasting on the EWTN Radio network this morning.]

Instead, let us consider Edward Hyde, the 1st Earl of Clarendon, born February 18, 1609. He was the father of Anne Hyde, whom the exiled James, the Duke of York married in less than favorable circumstances and thus the grandfather of James II's "ungrateful daughters" Mary (of William and Mary fame) and Anne.

A member of both the Short and Long Parliaments before the Civil War, he became a royalist serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer during the conflict and as guardian of the Prince of Wales. He began to write his History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars while Charles II was in Scotland defending his throne there, but rejoined the royal court in exile when Charles returned to France. He was named Lord Chancellor in 1658 and he served as King Charles II's Lord Chancellor after the Restoration of 1660.

While the Court was in exile, however, James seduced Clarendon's daughter Anne who was serving as Maid of Honour to Mary, the Princess Royal, so Charles forced his brother to marry her. Their first child, a boy, died soon after being born seven months after their wedding. James had not wanted to marry a commoner; Edward Hyde was named the Earl of Clarendon and Anne became the Duchess of York.

The Clarendon Code passed by the Restoration Parliament restored the Church of England. It included the Corporation Act, the Act of Uniformity, the Conventicle Act, and the Five Mile Act. This Parliament was not in the reconciling mood, as Winston Churchill commented in his history of the era: Puritans were out and Anglicans were in. Clarendon was opposed to Charles' policy of indulgence toward Roman Catholics.

Clarendon was impeached by the House of Commons in 1667 and went back to France in exile. There he continued to work on his history of the Civil War and died in December 1674--he is buried in Westminster Abbey. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica his great work, the History of the Rebellion and the Civil Wars

"is composed in the grand style. A characteristic feature is the wonderful series of well-known portraits, drawn with great skill and liveliness and especially praised by Evelyn and by Macaulay. The long digressions, the lengthy sentences, and the numerous parentheses do not accord with modern taste and usage, but it may be observed that these often follow more closely the natural involutions of the thought, and express the argument more clearly, than the short disconnected sentences, now generally employed, while in rhythm and dignity Clarendon's style is immeasurably superior. The composition, however, of the work as a whole is totally wanting in proportion, and the book is overloaded with state papers, misplaced and tedious in the narrative. . . . In general, Clarendon, like many of his contemporaries, failed signally to comprehend the real issues and principles at stake in the great struggle, laying far too much stress on personalities and never understanding the real aims and motives of the Presbyterian party."

His eldest son Henry succeeded him as the 2nd Earl of Clarendon while his younger son Laurence was the lst Earl of Rochester. The former refused to support William and Mary as king and queen in 1689 and was imprisoned as a Jacobite; the latter was at first opposed to their rule but swore the Oaths of Allegiance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Henry VIII's Burial

Henry VIII was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on February 16, 1547. The Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner presided at his funeral Mass. Henry had planned a magnificent memorial to himself and Jane Seymour which was never built. There is actually a call now for his body to be exhumed for medical tests. The authors of that request have published a website. I doubt Queen Elizabeth II would want to allow such a project.

Edward and Mary on the Son Rise Morning Show

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this Friday, February 18 at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central (etc) to discuss the birth of Mary I and the coronation of Edward VI, especially focusing on the conflict between the half-siblings over religion. You can listen to the broadcast live here and barring any technical problems the show posts podcasts later here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy by Leanda de Lisle

As a follow-up to my comments on the execution of Lady Jane Grey, here is a link to my review of the Leanda de Lisle book I referenced. I wrote this B.B. (before blog) and Elena-Maria Vidal kindly shared it as a guest post on her great blog, Tea at Trianon, in November of 2009.

The auther herself signed in and commented on the review and the comments!

And here is a discussion of the book by the author from an Economist imprint titled More Intelligent Life:

"Lady Jane Grey is mythologised, even festishised, as an innocent girl sacrificed on the altar of her mother's ambition. But behind the popular biographies of the Tudor Queen lies a different story of misogyny and masochism. It seems the much-maligned mother is in fact the victim.

"When I began researching for "The Sisters Who Would be Queen", my triple biography of Lady Jane and her sisters, Katherine and Mary Grey, I hoped the well-known life of the iconic teenage Queen, would lend some insight to the younger sisters, the forgotten heirs to Elizabeth Tudor. I assumed there would be little new to day about Jane herself. But as I began my research it became clear that nothing written about Jane could be trusted. The first woman to wield the power of a Tudor monarch had been reduced, over time, to an eroticised image of female helplessness. Meanwhile, her conventional mother became the embodiment of the belief that powerful women are monstrous and mannish."

. . .

Friday, February 11, 2011

Erastianism Rears its Ugly Head

But that's a good thing, really . . .

William Oddie recently pointed out in the Catholic Herald that Parliament is asserting its right to control the Church of England and force the church--meaning not just the hierarchy but the members--to accept women priests and bishops in the name of sexual equality and to end the CofE's exemption from British equality laws on gender discrimination. A Mr. Frank Field has introduced such language.

As Oddie was once an Anglo-Catholic he notes this came as a strange shock:

I think most people supposed that the Church of England alone would decide this matter, that it was more or less self-governing in these enlightened times – that it had, in other words, moved on from the days when Newman could write (in a note in the French edition of his Apologia pro Vita Sua, explaining Anglicanism) that: “This remarkable Church has always been in the closest dependence on the civil power and has always gloried in this.” Newman went on to explain that “it has ever regarded the papal power with fear, with resentment and with aversion, and it has never won the heart of the people”. It has, said Newman “either had no opinions, or has constantly changed them… The great principle of the Anglican Church [is] its confidence in the protection of the civil power and its docility in serving it, which its enemies call its Erastianism.” . . .

The point is that the C of E’s “docility” before the civil power has always been quietly taken for granted by its hierarchy. If Parliament insists that the legislation be passed in the Synod (and don’t forget that whatever legislation Synod passes has to be rubber-stamped by the civil Parliament over the road, normally a formality), then it will knuckle under, with only a few perfunctory protests here and there.

Since he has brought up Newman, it's appropriate to remember that the founding event of the Oxford Movement was Parliament's action to determine which parishes and dioceses would remain open in Ireland--and one of the last straws for Newman before he joined the Catholic Church in 1845 was the Church of England's effort to found a shared bishopric in Jerusalem, with an Anglican bishop trading places with a Lutheran Bishop, as though/because doctrinal differences didn't matter a bit.

So, Oddie can sum it up:

At least we know where we all stand. The state has the power to insist on “women bishops” in the Church of England, should it care to exercise it. It has no such power over the Church of Rome, and it knows it – and so does Mr Field. Those Anglicans of a Catholic mind who hope they can maintain intact the illusion that the Church of England is still the ancient Catholic Church of this land, that they can carry on somehow pretending that things are not as they have now once more unmistakeably been shown to be, should take careful note of these things. And then they should act accordingly.

As Newman would certainly counsel, then, they must explore the positive reasons for becoming Catholic, especially to discern the basis of authority in the office of St. Peter and the Magisterium!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Music for the Sarum Rite

Thanks to Father Zuhldorf, here is a link to a concert of music for Sarum Rite. According to the Trinity Church website:

The Trinity Choir, along with Guest Conductor George Steel, General Manager and Artistic Director of New York City Opera, perform Music from the Sarum Rite. These gorgeous compositions – taken from the elaborate and theatrical liturgy of pre-Reformation England – feature soaring soprano lines and rich choral textures by masters such as Robert Wylkinson, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, and John Sheppard. Although rarely performed today, the Sarum Rite includes some of the most exquisite music of any age.

Here is a link to the program.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

English Catholic Heritage for Sale?

Ushaw College in the north of England is to close, according to this Catholic Herald article, and a committee needs to figure out what to do with its buildings, lands, and the treasures the College contains:

"The college owns more than 40,000 books, medieval manuscripts, papers, the archive of the English College at Lisbon from 1628 to 1971 and an extensive collection of books on and by Blessed John Henry Newman."

The College will close in June this year:

"Ushaw was originally established as Douai College in the Spanish Netherlands, now France, in 1568 to train English priests and educate laymen during the reign of Elizabeth I.

"It relocated to County Durham just over 200 years ago, in 1808, after staff and students were imprisoned during the Napoleonic wars.

"The college trained hundreds of seminarians decades ago but now has only 26 students in formation."

Those 26 students will continue their studies at one of the other seminaries in England. The first chapel dedicated to St. Cuthbert was designed by A.W. Pugin and his descendants continued to work at the College. More here and here, from the College's website. Alumni include Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Cardinal Merry del Val, and the poet Francis Thompson. Sad. I certainly hope something will be done to save these buildings from destruction and desecration.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Charles II RIP

Apologizing that it was taking him so long, Charles II died on February 6, 1685. He had suffered a fit of apoplexy on February 2 (O.S.) and had asked his brother James the Duke of York to take care of his mistresses (no word about his wife?) and certainly "let not poor Nelly starve."

Before he died Charles' brother and his wife Catherine of Braganza arranged to have the priest Father John Huddleston who had saved him in England after the defeat at Worcester come into the Royal Sickroom. The Bishop of Bath, Thomas Ken (future nonjuror) and all the other Anglicans left the room. The line attributed to James was that the priest who had saved his body was there to help save his soul--and Charles II was received into the Catholic Church and received Holy Communion as Viaticum.

Then when the Bishop and other clergy and nobility came back into the room, Charles did not received Anglican communion. When he was buried at Westminster Abbey on February 14, his funeral ceremonies were rather restrained, possibly by the knowledge that he had "Poped" before he died.

Charles had ruled alone after dissolving Parliament in 1681, the conflict with Parliament, caused at partially (as it had been for his father) by religious matters. After the furor of the Popish Plot he had restored his brother to the position of High Admiral in violation of Parliament's Test Act and he had begun again to rely on France for funds. He might have been heading for another Civil War, but what some have called his love of ease, his laziness, might have pulled him back so he would avoid exile once again. He was not so dedicated to Catholic faith as James, and would have been more politic, just as waiting until at the point of death to convert he delayed his promised conversion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Another Review and a Review Article

I reviewed Judith Richard's biography of Mary I in 2009 on

As part of the Routledge Historical Biographies series, it is more academic in style with longer chapters and consideration of historiography:

At the beginning of this biography, Judith Richards describes the incredulity of friends and colleagues when told she was writing a new biography of Mary I, first Queen Regnant of England. She deals with the sources of that incredulity, that Mary was a bloody tyrant or that Mary was a boring monarch. Richards gives more attention to the latter than the former.

She covers Mary's birth and happy childhood, emphasizing the humanist education she received with the encouragement of both her mother and her father, Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII. Then she recounts the suffering Mary endured as Henry dissolved his marriage to Catherine, sent her into exile, and married Anne Boleyn. Mary endured separation from her mother and bullying from her father's agents to force her to accept her own status as a royal bastard and deny any allegiance to the pope.

Richards creates sympathy for Mary in these situations, exploring not the emotions Mary "might" have felt in the style of so many biographers, but the documented evidence of her struggles to remain true to her mother and to her faith, especially when her half-brother Edward tried to force her to give up the Mass.

The nobles and the people of England rallied behind Mary when Edward died and Mary foiled Northumberland's plot to change the succession. Mary at first refused to have Lady Jane Gray executed--extraordinary clemency for a monarch, to let your usurper live (under arrest in the Tower, of course).

Richards dedicates six of the 12 chapters to Mary's five year reign, exploring how Mary handled working with councillors who had previously bullied her about the Mass or supported Northumberland; the pomp and majesty of her coronation patterned after the crowning and anointing of all the male monarchs who had gone before her, and analyzing the issues of her marriage and rule as sole monarch.

Richards does not dwell on the burnings at Smithfield and Oxford. She points out that we do not have a contemporary volume like Foxe's "Acts and Monuments" to describe the deaths of almost 200 Catholic priests and laity under Elizabeth I, and also hints that the campaign of burnings was having the desired effect.

She concludes this even-handed biography with the war with France, Mary's death, and a reassessment of her personality. B&W illustrations; good documentation. A model biography.

I also submitted a review essay to First Things, which appeared in their on-line blog November of 2009: "There's Something about Bloody Mary"--at that time I had perused the UK editions of both Porter's and Whitelock's biographies while at Blackwell's in Oxford. (You might notice the more tame title of Whitelock's book in the first edition--the U.S. version is much more dramatic!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen

by Anna Whitelock. Random House: 2010 (purchased by reviewer partially with a gift card).

From Random House's promotional material: She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

I agree with the publisher's statement in the last sentence: Anne Whitelock does much to address some of the commonplace characterizations of Mary and her reign. The biography comprehensively covers Mary's life beginning with the circumstances of her conception and birth, the marriages arranged for her while still a little child, her education, and all the trauma of separation from her parents, the years of tension over "The King's Great Matter", culminating in Katherine of Aragon's death and later the oaths Mary was forced to swear, her conflict with Anne Boleyn and relations with other stepmothers up to Henry VIII's death (Part One: A King's Daughter). In Part Two, A King's Sister, Whitelock focuses on Mary's determination to practice her Catholic faith freely in spite of pressure from her much-loved half-brother and his council--and then covers her tremendous victory over Northumberland, demonstrating her determination and her ability to rally supporters to her cause.

In Part Three, A Queen, Whitelock even more dramatically depicts Mary's achievement in becoming the first Queen Regnant of England, dealing with a council of men who doubted her ability as a female to rule, who had supported Northumberland's coup against her or who even had bullied her to give up the Catholic Mass. Mary's courage and rousing rhetoric to persuade Londoners in support against the rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt are clearly a high point in this section, as she wins her people over again to defend her. She clearly states that her first loyalty is to her people and that she would not marry if she thought such a relationship would endanger England. They rally round her and support her, based on her expressed care and concern for them. After Wyatt's rebellion is defeated, Mary cannot afford the mercy she had shown Jane Dudley and her spouse, especially when Jane's father had taken part in the attempted coup.

In Part Four, A King's Wife, Whitelock covers the most delicate territory: the heresy trials and subsequent burnings at the stake of bishops, preachers, lay evangelicals, those who committed sacrilege in their opposition to Catholicism, heretics (by any Christian standard), and Thomas Cranmer, Mary's bete noire. She also addresses one of the saddest episodes of Mary's life when she believed, in error, that she was pregnant, preparing to deliver a child, having prayers said, anticipating that she would have an heir to succeed her. Chapter 58 is a remarkable chapter, describing Mary's wholehearted participation in bathing the feet of 12 poor women and touching the ill. Otherwise, Whitelock effectively presents details about Mary's relationships with Reginald Pole, her cousin and Archbishop of Canterbury--whom she protects from the Pope; Elizabeth, her half-sister--whom she does not completely trust and yet, preserving orderly succession, must acknowledge as her heir; and Philip, her husband--to whom she would not submit as Sole Queen of England, even though he wanted to reign equally with her.

Perhaps this is a trend: both Tremlett and Whitelock construct their narrative with short chapters dedicated to a single event, issue, or theme. While this makes for a nice pace, sometimes I missed the breadth and depth of a more tradition biographical structure. I empathize with Anna Whitelock's feeling that she has written the book she always wanted to write about Mary I, first queen regnant of England, who really proved her father wrong--a female could rule England, administer the realm, defeat rebellions, and deal with war and peace. As other recent biographers like Judith Richards and Linda Porter have noted, her short reign made Elizabeth's reign possible.

After this long visit with the Tudors (Meyer's book, Hoskins', Tremlett's and now Whitelock's), I think I'll explore another era.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Parallels Between Pole and Beaufort

John Whitehead at Once I Was a Clever Boy has this interesting post comparing the lives of Margaret Beaufort and Blessed Margaret Pole. He include this photo of the vault in the chantry chapel the Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury built for herself in Christchurch Priory in Hampshire (the priory's website includes an excellent virtual tour) in 1529. She was actually buried in St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London after her brutal execution. (Photo: Margaret Beaufort is buried in Westminster Abbey.