Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day, 1604: John Whitgift, RIP

John Whitgift, Elizabeth I's third Archbishop of Canterbury, died on February 29, 1604 (although the stained glass window at right says 1603--unless it is referring to the year of Elizabeth I's death); thus his death anniversary technically roles around every four years.

According to this website, Whitgift was Elizabeth's agent against the Puritans, succeeding Edmund Grindal, whom she had placed under house arrest and deprived of his jurisdiction as Archbishop of Canterbury (fine exercise of Supremacy, there):

John Whitgift was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1583 by Elizabeth I. She knew that Whitgift was anti-Puritans and that he would spearhead a royal desire for religious conformity in England and Wales. In this task, John Whitgift was not to disappoint.

Whitgift was born around 1530. He was the son of a wealthy merchant. His father could afford to educate Whitgift and he attended St. Anthony’s School in London. After this, he went to study at Cambridge University. In 1555, Whitgift was elected Fellow of Peterhouse. During the attacks on Protestants during the reign of Mary, he stayed in England.

Over the next few years, Whitgift acquired a number of posts – Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity (1563), Master of Pembroke (1567) and Master of Trinity (1563). Professionally in the academic world, he got just about as far as he could when he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University.

Whitgift became Elizabeth’s chaplain in 1563. Such a position was very prestigious but it also meant that Whitgift had access to the Queen. Over the years it became clear to her that Whitgift shared her views on conformity, though for the Queen it was as much a political issue as religious. It is likely that Whitgift only took his stand from a religious viewpoint. When Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to condemn prophesying he was replaced by Whitgift (1583). He was the obvious man to support Elizabeth and to place him in the most important religious position in the country gave Elizabeth many advantages. In 1586, Whitgift was given a position on the Privy Council.

Whitgift pursued non-conformists with a vengeance. However, the actual policing of them in a city the size of London was very difficult. Despite his best efforts, groups such as the ‘Barrowists’ grew in Islington. Whitgift produced his ‘Three Articles’, which were designed to effectively trap those he labelled non-conformists. If someone swore to uphold the ‘Three Articles’ they had to leave any non-conformist group they were in. Those who refused to swear to uphold them were, in the case of practicing ministers, deprived of their ministry. Those who held no church positions simply identified themselves as non-conformists to Whitgift. The ‘Three Articles’ were considered by the likes of the highly influential Lord Burghley to be too draconian and he asked for them to be watered down. By degrees they were, but the impact of the ‘reformed’ articles was still as marked.

Whitgift insisted that all clergy uphold Royal Supremacy and the Book of Common Prayer. The Court of High Commission gave what he did the legal clout it needed. The head of the High Commission was Whitgift.

Non-conformist leaders could pay a very heavy price for their beliefs. Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, both leaders in the Congregationalists (though followers of Barrow tended to be known as ‘Barrowists’) were executed for sedition.

However, Whitgift did make one mistake. He concentrated all his resources on enforcing conformity and eradicating non-conformity. As a result, he failed to fully tackle issues within the Church itself and few doubted that problems still existed. As a result, when James I came to the throne in 1603, the remaining Puritans gained new hope and renewed energy. It was Whitgift who crowned James king.

I've been reading a book about Christianity in England by David L. Edwards (Christian England: From the Reformation to the 18th Century) in which the author comments that Elizabeth, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, chose her bishops to do her will but that she "did not really get on with clergymen. She could not flirt with them, she seldom trouble to charm them, and even the bishops who owed their positions to her favour were probably not much attached to her person while she plundered their estates and handed down brutal instructions." (pp. 159-160) Yet, Edwards also points out that she "died gripping Archbishop Whitgift's hand". (p. 83)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Some Great Info on the Medieval Franciscans at Oxford

From Once I Was a Clever Boy comes this great post on the Franciscans at the University of Oxford during the middle ages:

An early morning meeting at Christ Church last Friday took me on a slightly different route into the centre of Oxford and through the site of the medieval Oxford Greyfriars.

The buildings had been largely demolished by the time Ralph Agas drew his pictorial map of the city in 1578, but excavations in 1971 and 1972 revealed the plan of the church and some of the conventual buildings - the foundations had been largely robbed out. The church had a very unusual extended north transept to accommodate more altars, and was cut into the city wall. Part of the site of the choir is still visible as a grass plot in Old Greyfriars Street, whilst the multi-storey car to the south covers the site of the domestic ranges.

The founding Prior, Bl. Agnellus of Pisa, is buried there. The house, along with the whole Franciscan mission in England, attracted the support of the diocesan bishop, Robert Grosseteste, who held the see of Lincoln from 1235 until his death in 1253. The Oxford friary had his library and relics such as his sanctuary slippers until the dissolution. I strongly suspect that "my bishop" Richard Fleming used the library in his own time as a student and Regent Master in Oxford. Grosseteste's close friend Adam Marsh was trained and lectured at the friary.

Of course, all those great foundations, including the library, were destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. More here from the Greyfriars Centre for Franciscan Studies in Oxford:

The old Greyfriars began as a Hall of the University of Oxford. It may not have been among the grandest and most well-known, but it was one of its kind, a true gem, with a meaningful story and a lesson to impart, a place the ethos of which was precisely what Oxford has always stood for. The Hall was first founded in 1230 and its first Principal Lecturer, Robert Grosseteste, became Chancellor of the University. Among its former fellows and students were Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, William of Occam and Pope Alexander V.

Not many people know that, at the beginning of the 13th century, with Grosseteste’s collection bequeathed to the Franciscans in Oxford, Greyfriars was one of the first libraries in the University. In 1290 the college acquired another substantial collection, that of commentaries on the Bible. The bulk of Grosseteste's books are documented to have been still in place in 1317. By that time, the Franciscans had two libraries at Oxford, one for the friars, the other specifically for the students, the latter considered the finest in the University at that time. Tragically, these unique libraries are now lost. In 1538, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the Hall was disbanded and with it, all the priceless books and manuscripts were scattered. Nobody knows where. Small chance of ever finding any of them again.

Many centuries later, the Franciscans came back to Oxofrd, establishing Greyfrirars friary which, in 1957, was granted a licence to become a Permanent Private Hall. This was possible due the relentless energy of amazing scholarly friars. They and the help conferred by very generous and important bequests put Greyfriars back on the map of Oxford University where it belonged. The status of Permanent Private Hall conferred upon Greyfriars by the University in 1957 was surrendered in 2008.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blessed John Henry Newman on Lent

From the Parochial and Plain Sermons, "The Duty of Self Denial":

Self-denial, then, is a subject never out of place in Christian teaching; still more appropriate is it at a time like this, when we have entered upon the forty days of Lent, the season of the year set apart for fasting and humiliation. {87}

This indeed is not all that is meant by self-denial; but before proceeding with the subject, I would ask whether the generality of mankind go as far as this: it is plain that they do not. They do not go so far as to realize to themselves that religious obedience involves a thwarting of those wishes and inclinations which are natural to them. They do not like to be convinced, much less will they act upon the notion, that religion is difficult. You may hear men of the world say plainly, and as if in the way of argument, "that God will not punish us for indulging the passions with which we are born; that it is no praise to be unnatural; and no crime to be a man." This, however, may seem an extreme case; yet are there not a great many decent and respectable men, as far as outward character goes, who at least fix their thoughts on worldly comfort, as the greatest of goods, and who labour to place themselves in easy circumstances, under the notion that, when they can retire from the business of their temporal calling, then they may (in a quiet, unexceptionable way of course) consult their own tastes and likings, take their pleasure, and indulge themselves in self-importance and self-satisfaction, in the enjoyment of wealth, power, distinction, popularity, and credit? I am not at this moment asking whether such indulgences are in themselves allowable or not, but whether the life which centres in them does not imply the absence of any very deep views of sanctification as a process, a change, a painful toil, of {88} working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, of preparing to meet our God, and waiting for the judgment? You may go into mixed society; you will hear men conversing on their friend's prospects, openings in trade, or realized wealth, on his advantageous situation, the pleasant connexions he has formed, the land he has purchased, the house he has built; then they amuse themselves with conjecturing what this or that man's property may be, where he lost, where he gained, his shrewdness, or his rashness, or his good fortune in this or that speculation. Observe, I do not say that such conversation is wrong; I do not say that we must always have on our lips the very thoughts which are deepest in our hearts, or that it is safe to judge of individuals by such speeches; but when this sort of conversation is the customary standard conversation of the world, and when a line of conduct answering to it is the prevalent conduct of the world (and this is the case), is it not a grave question for each of us, as living in the world, to ask himself what abiding notion we have of the necessity of self-denial, and how far we are clear of the danger of resembling that evil generation which "ate and drank, which married wives, and were given in marriage, which bought and sold, planted, and builded, till it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all?" [Luke xvii. 27-29.]

It is strange, indeed, how far this same forgetfulness {89} and transgression of the duty of self-denial at present spreads. Take another class of persons, very different from those just mentioned, men who profess much love for religion—I mean such as maintain, that if a man has faith he will have works without his trouble, so that he need be at no pains about performing them. Such persons at best seem to say, that religious obedience is to follow as a matter of course, an easy work, or rather a necessary consequence, from having some strong urgent motive, or from some bright vision of the Truth acting on the mind; and thus they dismiss from their religion the notion of self-denial, or the effort and warfare of faith against our corrupt natural will, whether they actually own that they dismiss it or not. I say that they do this at best; for it often happens, as I just now intimated, that they actually avow their belief that faith is all-sufficient, and do not let their minds dwell at all on the necessity of works of righteousness. All this being considered, surely I am not wrong in saying that the notion of self-denial as a distinct religious duty, and, much more (as it may well be called), the essence of religious obedience, is not admitted into the minds of the generality of men.

Read the rest here.

Blessed Robert Drury and the Oath of Allegiance

Blessed Robert Drury was born in Buckinghamshire in about 1567. He studied at the English College, Rheims, France in 1588, and the English College, Valladolid, Spain in 1590. Ordained at Valladolid in 1593. Returned to England in 1593 to minister to covert Catholics around London, England. One of the signers of the loyal address of 31 January 1603 which acknowledged the queen as lawful sovereign on earth, but maintained their loyalty in religious matters to the Pope. When James I came to the throne, the king required them to sign a new oath which acknowledged his authority over spiritual matters. Robert refused, and was arrested in 1606 for the crime of being a priest. He was offered his freedom if he would sign the oath; he declined. Martyred by being hanged, drawn, and quartered on 26 February 1607 at Tyburn, London England. He is one of the Eighty-five Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987.

The old Catholic Encyclopedia provides much more detail here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

As Promised, a Tea at Trianon Review of "The Crown"

Elena Maria Vidal comes through with this review:

Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel The Crown takes readers on an odyssey through the England of Henry VIII during the bloody period of the dissolution of the monasteries as seen from the point of view of a young Dominican novice. There are many aspects of this extraordinary novel that contemporary Catholics will find that they can relate to, namely the confusion in the Church and the compromises of many of her members to political persecution and social expediency, as well as the heroic stand taken by those with the courage to speak truth to power. In Tudor England, speaking truth to power, or even silently trying to follow one's conscience, often meant dying a hideous death. Young Joanna Stafford finds that in those intense times there is no such thing as spiritual mediocrity; either she must take the high road or face perdition. Joanna is not one to settle for less than heroism anyway, having entered a strict Dominican monastery where she looked forward to an austere life of poverty, chastity and obedience. When she leaves the monastery without permission to help a relative who is condemned to death for championing the Catholic faith, she sets off a chain of events which lead her on a spiritual journey into the heart of the mysteries of faith, of sacrifice, and of royal power.

Read the rest at Tea at Trianon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Birth of Charles of Burgundy, future Holy Roman Emperor

The future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (HRE) was born on February 24, 1500. He is an important figure in the history of the Protestant Reformation on the Continent and in the history of the English Reformation. Of course, I am more interested in the latter.

He was heir of three great lineages--the Hapsburg (thus the jaw); Valois-Burgundy, and Trastamara (Aragon and Castile). His full title was:

Charles, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.

Obviously, he was multi-lingual: "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse," he said, according to the Wikipedia article on-line(!).

His mother was Katherine of Aragon's sister Joanna (pictured with him above) who married Philip the Handsome, son of Maximilian I, HRE. Thus, he was Katharine of Aragon's nephew and her daughter Mary's cousin. When Henry VIII and Charles V were allies against France, the cousins were to be married. Since the balance of power shifted when Francois I was captured at the Battle of Pavia, Charles didn't need alliance with Henry and those plans fell through. When Henry VIII planned to have his marriage to Katherine annulled, Charles supported her particularly in her appeals to the Holy See; and when Edward VI tried to force Mary to give up the Catholic Mass and conform to the new Book of Common Prayer services, Charles supported her, too--although he had counseled her to take the oaths Henry VIII demanded before she could be reunited with her father. That event seems to have shaken Mary to her core and she certainly redicated herself to being true to her mother's Church if not to her mother. It was Charles's suggestion that she marry his son Philip.

Many years ago (2000), I visited Mechelen, home of Charles V's regent and guardian, Margaret of Austria. I toured a great exhibition of allegorical tapestries called "Los Honores", presented during the celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth.

While in Mechelen, of course, I also honored Charles V by imbibing a Gouden Carolus, Mechelen's favorite son's eponymous beer, seated at a cafe in view of St. Rumboud's Cathedral and the statue of Margaret of Austria in the town square.

After years of wars and travel, gout caught up with Charles and he abdicated on October 25, 1555, retiring to the monastery of Yuste. At the end of Verdi's Don Carlos, based on Schiller's play, he appears outside his tomb at Yuste as a ghostly Monk to save his grandson from the Inquisitor! Years after his death there in 1558 he was buried in the Pantheon of the Kings in the Monastery at El Escorial.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Summer School, 2012

Going to this summer school would certainly be no punishment:

Why not join us and students of Thomas More College this summer in a two-week course, based in Oxford and the West country, on the question of Catholic identity and the vocation of the Catholic writer? We also touch on the deeper question of what it means to be human, how a vision of humanity was imperilled by the English Reformation which helped to create the modern world, and how the Literary Revival (from Newman to Tolkien) tried to recover and reclaim it. . . .

After a week at Downside, where we will have the opportunity to participate in daily Mass and the Divine Office, we will proceed to Oxford, where we will stay at St Benet’s, a Private Hall of the University and also a Benedictine house. There we will learn about the pivotal role of Oxford in the history of British Christianity, from its time as a recusant centre to the revival of Catholic culture in the 19th century with the Oxford Movement, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and 20th century writers such as Chesterton, Greene, and Waugh. We will also look at the influence of the Inklings, particularly C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and visit sites associated with them as well as with Newman. Finally we will visit the capital, paying our respects near the remains of St Thomas More in the Tower of London and visiting Westminster Abbey and the newly reconstructed Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s plays were once performed.

More about the schedule this August here.

National History Day Project

In early December last year a student from the High School of Economics and Finance in New York City contacted me to ask me some questions about Henry VIII and the English Reformation. I responded and he just sent me a link to the result of his research: "Henry VIII Ignites The English Reformation," a website. He also contacted Charles H. Parker from Saint Louis University. I hope the student, Bartosz Chrobak, will contact me about the results of the competition, coming up on March 11. More about the National History Day here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Ashless Ash Wednesday of 1548

Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars is so indepensible! If I had to be on a desert island and couldn't follow up on G.K. Chesterson's advice to have a book about building ships, I would want to have Duffy's book with me. I still look forward to his forthcoming book, but this has been tremendously influential. It definitely changed our view of the English Reformation.

Anyway, in the chapter on Edward VI, ("The Attack on Traditional Religion III: The Reign of Edward VI") he recounts the Ashless Ash Wednesday of 1548, which followed the Candle-less Candlemas of the Feast of the Purification. Palm Sunday was palm-less that year, of course, and no processions--no Creeping to the Cross on Good Friday. The entire edifice of Catholic culture and liturgy was being dismantled in England.

Blessed John Henry Newman moved his listeners to tears at the first Catholic synod held in the Diocese of Westminster on July 13, 1852 when he preached his sermon on the Second Spring:

Three centuries ago, and the Catholic Church, that great creation of God's power, stood in this land in pride of place. It had the honours of near a thousand years upon it; it was enthroned in some twenty sees up and down the broad country; it was based in the will of a faithful people; it energized through ten thousand instruments of power and influence; and it was ennobled by a host of Saints and Martyrs. The churches, one by one, recounted and rejoiced in the line of glorified intercessors, who were the respective objects of their grateful homage. Canterbury alone numbered perhaps some sixteen, from St. Augustine to St. Dunstan and St. Elphege, from St. Anselm and St. Thomas down to St. Edmund. York had its St. Paulinus, St. John, St. Wilfrid, and St. William; London, its St. Erconwald; Durham, its St. Cuthbert; Winton, its St. Swithun. Then there were St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, and St. Hugh of Lincoln, and St. Chad of Lichfield, and St. Thomas of Hereford, and St. Oswald and St. Wulstan of Worcester, and St. Osmund of Salisbury, and St. Birinus of Dorchester, and St. Richard of Chichester. And then, too its religious orders, its monastic establishments, its universities, its wide relations all over Europe, its high prerogatives in the temporal state, its wealth, its dependencies, its popular honours,--where was there in the whole of Christendom a more glorious hierarchy? Mixed up with the civil institutions, with king and nobles, with the people, found in every village an in every town,--it seemed destined to stand, so long as England stood, and to outlast, it might be, England's greatness.

But it was the high decree of heaven, that the majesty of that presence should be blotted out. It is a long story, my Fathers and Brothers--you know it well. I need not go through it. The vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of St. Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it. That old Church in its day became a corpse (a marvellous, an awful change!); and then it did but corrupt the air which once it refreshed, and cumber the ground which once it beautified. So all seemed to be lost; and there was a struggle for a time, and then its priests were cast out or martyred. There were sacrileges innumerable. Its temples were profaned or destroyed; its revenues seized by covetous nobles, or squandered upon the ministers of a new faith. The presence of Catholicism was at length simply removed,--its grace disowned,--its power despised,--its name, except as a matter of history, at length almost unknown. It took a long time to do this thoroughly; much time, much thought, much labour, much expense; but at last it was done. Oh, that miserable day, centuries before we were born! What a martyrdom to live in it and see the fair form of Truth, moral and material, hacked piecemeal, and every limb and organ carried off, and burned in the fire, or cast into the deep! But at last the work was done. Truth was disposed of, and shovelled away, and there was a calm, a silence, a sort of peace;--and such was about the state of things when we were born into this weary world.

My emphasis added.

Blessed John Henry Newman in a Novel

According to Ignatius Press:

This is the story of a Protestant young woman and her journey to the Roman Catholic Church. The fascinating novel is set in nineteenth-century England-a time when Catholicism was regarded with suspicion and prejudice against Catholics was commonplace. Leaving her sheltered life in the countryside, young Clem becomes acquainted with the fascinating ideas and people of Oxford-including a brilliant young clergyman, John Henry Newman. But when her relationship to a Roman Catholic man with a colorful reputation leads to an Italian elopement that is more innocent than it appears, the scandal drives a wedge between Clem and the upright Anglican circle of friends and family she left behind. Woven into the story of Clem and Augustine, their courtship and marriage, and Clem's conversion, is the vital, influential, and holy Newman, as seen through the eyes of friends.

Meriol Trevor's engaging plot charts the ongoing friendship between Newman and the couple as it spans many years during which pivotal historical influences, such as the Industrial Revolution and the Oxford Movement, are shaping Victorian England.

Many important events, personages, and ideas in the life of Newman appear in the story-his reasons for becoming a Roman Catholic, his differences with Cardinal Manning, his work in the Birmingham Oratory, and his being made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. The author, a renowned biographer of Newman, used Newman's actual correspondence as the basis for his parts in the dialogue.

"The love between Clem and Augustine Firle provides a nuptial counterpart to the love-affair between Newman and his God, which like their love came into focus and bore fruit over a great many years. It is the portrait of changing views and perspectives which form a slow organic development, marked out, to use a Newmanian term, by true ‘chronic vigour'." -Leonie Caldecott, from the Foreword

Meriol Trevor (1919-2000) was educated at St. Hugh's College, Oxford. One of the most prolific Catholic writers of the twentieth century, she wrote more than thirty novels, for both adults and children, and several major biographies. She is best known for her comprehensive biography of Cardinal John Henry Newman published in the early sixties. In 1967, she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature in England.

Looks like another interesting selection for the book wish list!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Robert Southwell's Martyrdom

St. Robert Southwell was 33 years old when he was executed at Tyburn on February 21, 1595. When he cited his age during his trial, his torturer Richard Topcliffe mocked him for claiming equality with Jesus Christ. Southwell answered that he was but a worm.

It is hard to be temperate when writing about his arrest, torture and execution--it is obviously a horrendous blot against the Elizabethan "regime". He was betrayed by a woman that Elizabeth's pursuivant Richard Topcliffe had raped and blackmailed--he promised to find her a husband since she was pregnant with his child if she would turn Southwell in; he was tortured--illegally and excruciatingly--numerous times, starting with a visit to Topcliffe's personal torture chamber, while Elizabeth's officials looked on; then he was held in fetid conditions until his father visited him in Westminster's gatehouse and petitioned the queen to put him to death rather than leave him there, in his own filth.

Moved to the Tower of London he was held in greater but solitary comfort, but Queen Elizabeth allowed the sadistic Topcliffe to continue torturing Southwell, who had readily admitted his priesthood. Prior to his trial on February 20 he was moved into a hole called Limbo; the government did not even try to implicate him in any plot against the Queen; he was executed just because he was a Catholic priest. When he was executed on February 21st, the crowds made sure he was dead before the butchery began--and no one cheered when his severed head was displayed to the crowd. Indeed, Elizabeth's government recognized that they had gone too far--there was lull in executions of Catholic priests in London. Lord Cecil even ignored Topcliffe's desires to get started on new victims.

Robert Southwell was canonized by Pope Paul VI among the group called The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. In addition to be a great saint and steadfast martyr, he is regarded as one of the great poets of the Elizabethan Age. Much of his poetry was written while he was held in solitary confinement in the Tower of London and was published posthumously.

Upon the Image of Death
by St. Robert Southwell, SJ

Before my face the picture hangs
That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
That shortly I am like to find;
But yet, alas, full little I
Do think hereon that I must die.
I often look upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
I often view the hollow place
Where eyes and nose had sometimes been;
I see the bones across that lie,
Yet little think that I must die.
I read the label underneath,
That telleth me whereto I must;
I see the sentence eke that saith
Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet , alas, but seldom I
Do think indeed that I must die.
Continually at my bed's head
A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
Though now I feel myself full well;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
Have little mind that I must die.
The gown which I do use to wear,
The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
Which is my only usual seat, --
All those do tell me I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.
Not Solomon for all his wit,
Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
Could 'scape but death laid him along;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.
Though all the East did quake to hear
Of Alexander's dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
To hear of Julius Cæsar's fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie;
Who then can 'scape but he must die?
If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart,
If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
Then I to 'scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
My life may mend, sith I must die.

Brian Patrick and I will discuss this great saint--and make some points about "Shrove Tuesday" traditions (including the great International Pancake Day Shrove Tuesday Race competition between Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England)--this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central. Please listen live here.

Birthday of John Henry Newman

Blessed John Henry Newman was born on Saturday, February 21, 1801 in London. His parents, John Newman and Jemima Foudrinier, had married in 1799; he was their first child, baptized on the 9th of April that year in St. Benet's Fink (a church built by Christopher Wren which was destroyed in the mid 1840s). They were living at 80 Old Broad Street in London; if Google maps depicts the same 80 Old Broad Street today, there is an "EAT" restaurant and a T-Mobile store there now, across the street from the Liverpool Street underground! They were living in The City of London because John Newman was a banker.

When he was born, Europe was in the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars and Thomas Jefferson had just been elected the third President of the United States of America. One of Newman's earliest memories was the celebration of Admiral Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in the autumn of 1805--he recalled the candles in the window of his parent's second home.

More here.

Last month at the Birmingham Oratory founded by Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the priests of the Oratory died (on January 18): the Oratory honored Father Gregory Winterton for his many years of service, highlighting two particular contributions he made:

There are two areas of his life at the Oratory for which Fr Gregory will be long remembered: Firstly, for his work as Parish Priest. For many years Fr Gregory was a familiar figure riding his old bicycle through the streets of Ladywood and Edgbaston. When poor eyesight meant he could no longer use his bicycle, his fast, military style of walking became equally familiar. He was assiduous in visiting the sick and housebound; spent long hours in his confessional; prepared engaged countless couples for marriage and converts for reception into the Church. He loved (like St Philip) the youth, and was a keen supporter and Chaplain of the Legion of Mary. Until well into old age he was a regular pilgrim to Lourdes and attended Oratorian reunions in Rome, Spain and Mexico. His acts of kindness and generosity (often of a financial nature!) were both legion and legendary.

The second great area of his work concerned the Cause for Cardinal Newman’s canonisation. Opened in 1958, the Cause had not made much progess apart from the publication, at regular intervals, of Newman’s vast ‘Letters and Diaries’.

In 1973, Pope Paul VI enquired whether it would be possible to beatify Newman during the course of the 1975 Holy Year. Of course things were nowhere near ready but, galvanised by Papal interest, Fr Gregory devoted increasing amounts of time to furthering the matter. Founding ‘The Friends of Cardinal Newman’ in 1976, giving talks and lectures to deepen knowledge and love of the Cardinal, producing pamphlets and prayerbooks, his work proved successful and interest grew year by year. Combined with the work of Fr Vincent Blehl as Postulator, significant developments occurred, a particular milestone being the Declaration by Pope John Paul II of Newman’s heroic virtues in 1991. After that another eighteen years elapsed before Cardinal Newman’s beatification at the unforgettable Mass at Cofton Park on September 19th 2010. The moment when Fr Gregory was presented to Pope Benedict XVI and, later that same day, when they met at the Oratory House, provided unforgettable pictures: two men in their eighties—one (the Pope) a devoted student of Newman, the other (Fr Gregory) the tireless advocate of Newman’s holiness. It was the culmination of half a life-time’s hard work for Fr Gregory.

At the end of his long life, dedicated to God as a faithful priest and son of St Philip, we pray for Fr Gregory in the words of the Church’s liturgy: “Lord, you gave Gregory, Your servant and priest, the privilege of a holy ministry in this world. May he rejoice for ever in the glory of Your Kingdom, through Christ Our Lord. Amen”

Please note the correspondence between their lives and Oratorian careers: both men died when they were 89 years old; both were ordained Anglican clergy; both became Catholics and Catholic priests (Father Winterton when a little younger than Blessed Newman); Newman spent the last 42 years of his life as an Oratorian; Father Winterton the last 49! May Father Winterton rest in peace, soon to meet his order's English founder!

Happy birthday, John Henry Newman--and pray for us!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blessed Thomas Pormort, the Pole Family, John Whitgift, and Richard Topcliffe

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

English martyr, b. at Hull about 1559; d. at St. Paul's Churchyard, 20 Feb., 1592. He was probably related to the family of Pormort of Great Grimsby and Saltfletby, Lincoln shire. George Pormort, Mayor of Grimsby in 1565, had a second son Thomas baptized, 7 February, 1566, but this can hardly be the martyr. After receiving some education at Cambridge, he went to Rheims, 15 January, 1581, and thence, 20 March following, to Rome, where he was ordained priest in 1587. He entered the household of Owen Lewis, Bishop of Cassano, 6 March, 1587. On 25 April, 1590, Pormort became prefect of studies in the Swiss college at Milan. He was relieved of this office, and started for England, 15 September, without waiting for his faculties. Crossing the St. Gotthard Pass, he reached Brussels before 29 November. There he became man servant to Mrs. Geoffrey Pole, under the name of Whitgift, the Protestant archbishop being his godfather. With her he went to Antwerp, intending to proceed to Flushing, and thence to England. He was arrested in London on St. James's Day (25 July), 1591, but he managed to escape. In August or September, 1591, he was again taken, and committed to Bridewell, whence he was removed to Topcliffe's house. He was repeatedly racked and sustained a rupture in consequence. On 8 February following he was convicted of high treason for being a seminary priest, and for reconciling John Barwys, or Burrows, haberdasher. He pleaded that he had no faculties; but he was found guilty. At the bar he accused Topcliffe of having boasted to him of indecent familiarities with the queen. Hence Topcliffe obtained a mandamus to the sheriff to proceed with the execution, though Archbishop Whitgift endeavoured to delay it and make his godson conform, and though (it is said) Pormort would have admitted conference with Protestant ministers. The gibbet was erected over against the haberdasher's shop, and the martyr was kept standing two hours in his shirt upon the ladder on a very cold day, while Topcliffe vainly urged him to withdraw his accusation.

There are several interesting names in this account: Mrs. Geoffrey Pole might be Catherine Pole, the daughter-in-law of Sir Geoffrey Pole, Blessed Margaret Pole's youngest son. He died in 1558 before his brother, Reginald Cardinal Pole, and "He left five sons and six daughters, two of whom were married, and one a nun of Sion." One of his sons was Geoffrey Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (1546-before 9 March 1590/1591), who was educated at Winchester College, Winchester, Hampshire, married Catherine Dutton sometime before 1573, who died after 1608. Geoffrey and Catherine had three sons:
Henry Pole (bef. 1570-aft. 1570), Arthur Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (c. 1575-murdered, Rome, 23 June 1605), who was educated at the Palazzo Farnese, in Rome, Italy, along with the son of Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, and became Lord of the Manor of Walderton, Sussex, and a Member of the Household of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, unmarried and without issue, and Geoffrey Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (c. 1577-assassinated, Rome, bef. 7 January 1619), who was educated at the seminaries, in Douai, France, and at the English College, in Rome, Italy, unmarried and without issue. Now why Arthur was murdered in Rome on 23 June 1605 and Geoffrey assasinated in Rome sometime before 7 January 1619, I have not been able to ascertain.

The Whitgift mentioned is John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, nominated by Elizabeth I in 1583, after the death of William Grindal, her second Archbishop of Canterbury.

Richard Topcliffe, is, of course, Queen Elizabeth's servant, with the duties of finding and torturing priests. The History of Parliament website provides some detail of his career, with definite hints of unpopularity:

The time and manner of Topcliffe’s entry into public service are alike uncertain. The earliest reference to him as ‘her Majesty’s servant’ dates only from March 1573; but his own claim, made in June 1601, to have done 44 years’ service places its beginning much earlier, and indeed hints at a possible entry into Elizabeth’s retinue before her accession. . . .

Before the third and final session of this Parliament, in 1581, Topcliffe had begun his career as an interrogator of suspects. It is likely that he was drawn into this business both through his continuing interest in the northern rebels and by his attachment to the Earl of Shrewsbury, the custodian of Mary Stuart. It was at Shrewsbury’s instance that in 1578 Topcliffe helped to investigate the activities of some of the ex-rebels, and it was to the Earl that he reported on these and other matters. But it may well have been the anti-Catholic legislation of the parliamentary session of 1581 which determined that Catholic-hunting should become Topcliffe’s life-work. Although we know next to nothing of his part in that session (he was on one minor legal committee, 20 Feb.) his mounting activity in investigation from early in 1582 seems to reflect an accession of zeal as well as an expansion of opportunity. By the time the next Parliament met in the autumn of 1584 Topcliffe could be ranked with the notorious Richard Young as an acknowledged master of this ugly craft.

In that Parliament, and its successor, Topcliffe sat for Old Sarum, a borough whose patron, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, was son-in-law to Topcliffe’s protector Shrewsbury. In 1584-5 we hear little of him, although he was, interestingly enough, one of four Members appointed to examine a skinner found sitting in the House without authority at the end of November. His membership of a committee to confer with the Lords, 18 Feb. 1585, on the bill against Jesuits and Catholic priests must also have been to his liking. He sat on one other recorded committee, 17 Mar., on the preservation of game. But in 1587 he came to the fore. On 24 Feb. he told the Commons of the Romish ‘trumpery’ discovered in a house near where they were sitting, and he was one of the Members named the same day to search suspected houses in Westminster. A few days later he endorsed Edward Donne Lee’s denunciation of the state of the church and called upon all Members to report ‘disorders’ in their counties, as he offered to do. Topcliffe was on the committee of a bill for East Retford (10 Mar.) and on the subsidy committee (11 Mar.).

The next 15 years of Topcliffe’s life were to make his name synonymous with the worst rigours of the Elizabethan struggle against Catholicism. It is clear that in much of what he did Topcliffe was acting under orders—whether under a commission such as that of March 1593 against Jesuits or under one of the numerous Council warrants to him to use torture—and that those who gave him these orders must share the odium of their consequences. Moreover, his superiors made only spasmodic efforts to restrain him. His brutal treatment of Southwell in 1592 cost him a spell in prison; in 1595, following the disclosure of Thomas Fitzherbert’s attempt to bribe him into doing two of the Fitzherberts to death, Topcliffe was again committed for a few weeks for maligning Privy Councillors; and early in 1596 he had to answer to the Council for his arbitrary behaviour towards prisoners in the Gatehouse. But every check was followed by a fresh outburst of activity, and only in his last few years did the moderating of official policy, and the failing of his own vigour, bring it to an end.

The gravamen of the indictment of Topcliffe is that he displayed an unmistakable and nauseating relish in the performance of his duties. On this the verdict of contemporaries is amply borne out by the evidence of his many letters and by the marginalia preserved in one of his books. It was, and is, easy to believe any evil of such a man; and to reflect that some of the worst accusations—among them that he reserved his most hideous tortures for infliction in his own house—rest upon fragile evidence is not to excuse him. Nor is there much profit in speculating on the influences which went to his making, although his early loss of both parents, the impact of rebellion upon his infant awareness, and perhaps some marital misfortunes might enter into the reckoning.

Of the general aversion which Topcliffe aroused his disappearance from the House of Commons after 1587 may be a reflection. In commending himself, in December 1590, to the newly succeeded 7th Earl of Shrewsbury he referred both to his emancipation from dependence upon Leicester and to his ‘unkind’ treatment by the 6th Earl, which perhaps included, or involved, the withdrawal of the nomination at Old Sarum. The new Earl’s quarrelsomeness was likely to make him an unsatisfactory patron, and Topcliffe’s own reputation may have stood in his way as a candidate for another seat. But his exclusion from the House did not deter him from meddling in its proceedings: in April 1593 he made ‘much stir’ in the Commons by spreading it abroad that the sheriff of Derbyshire, William Bassett II, was a harbourer of Papists. Since the House was then at the climax of its handling of a bill against religious dissidents Topcliffe perhaps hoped to influence that bill’s fate. . . .

Topcliffe’s domestic life was not without its difficulties. His marriage was clouded at least for a time by his alleged failure to pay his wife adequate maintenance. In his later years the criminal escapades of his eldest son, Charles, gave him much anxiety, and in January 1602 Sir Robert Cecil chided him for not having this wayward son ‘cleansed’. He also had the humiliation of seeing his nephew Edmund Topcliffe fall under suspicion on his return in May 1600 from a voyage abroad, during which he had assumed another name because of the ill-repute of his own.

Topcliffe had a house in Westminster from at least the end of 1571, when we know that it was burgled, clothes worth over £50 being stolen from the owner, besides other goods probably belonging to Topcliffe’s servants: the articles stolen from Topcliffe suggest that he maintained a good wardrobe. It was in this house, or an adjacent successor, that he was accused of torturing prisoners: but its nearness to the Gatehouse prison may have led to confusion between them.

The Boy King Crowned

Henry VIII was buried in the chapel at Windsor Castle in the same tomb as his son's mother, Jane Seymour, on February 16, 1547. On February 20, 1547, his son was crowned King Edward VI of England and Ireland at Westminster Abbey.

Because of his youth, the coronation ceremony was shortened. Also many of the traditions of the coronation ceremony were related to Catholicism, and this reign was to be dedicated to the continued Reformation of the Church of England. Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer called on the young king to be a second Josiah and to make sure that "the tyranny of the Bishops of Rome [be] banished from your subjects, and images removed". Josiah was a King of Judah who came to the throne as a young boy like Edward. The high priest Hilkiah found the Torah and Josiah returned Judah to the worship of YHWH, destroying the idols in the Temple. Josiah reigned for 31 years, so Cranmer hoped for a long reign.

Biographies of Edward VI and studies of his brief, minority reign are usually more about Lord Protector Somerset, Edward's uncle Edward Seymour; the plots of his other uncle, the Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour; the Prayer Book revolt and Kett's rebellion; the conflict between Edward and his half-sister Mary over her dedication to the Catholic Mass; Edward's last, horrible illness, and the plan to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, with the efforts of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland leading the cause.

The most recent biography Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore notes that although this young boy's new reign--like Henry VIII's after his father's death--was to be a new beginning, freedom from tyranny, freshness of ideas, instead it became a "time of intrigue, deceit, plotting and treason, very nearly plunging the country into civil war." After reading that introduction, in which Skidmore hints at greater revelations of how Edward's personality and precociousness are reflected in his voluminous writings, I was rather disappointed in the rest of the book. Because, of course, it is the adults who take all the actions; Edward might reflect, take notes, and make comments, but he did not have the opportunity to rule. He was on the cusp of maturity when he died, just as he was starting to sign documents and review matters with greater maturity. Trying to predict what a great King Regnant he might have made is still next to impossible.

I really appreciated Diarmaid McCullough's study of Edward VI's reign: The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation. I think it is a more secure study of the Calvinist theology and worship developing during Edward's reign and his interest in it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yet Another Historical Novel: "The Spanish Match"

Sophia Institute Press announces a new historical novel, The Spanish Match, telling the story of the proposed marriage between Charles, James I's son and heir, and the Infanta of Spain:

Murder, mayhem, and religion fustrate the royal courtship that, through love, seeks to make peace between warring enemies England and Spain:
A novel based on actual events.

In 1623 Charles, heir to the throne of England, dons a disguise, crosses the Channel, rides horseback across France, and sneaks into Madrid, capital of England’s proud Catholic enemy, Spain.

His mission? To woo the lovely María, sister of the King of Spain, and accomplish by marriage what decades of war have failed to do: reconcile the two embittered nations.

Once Charles and María meet, neither palace intrigues nor bloody murders cool their growing attraction. One thing alone prevents their union: María’s Catholic Faith . . . which she will not abandon and England cannot abide.

Yes, Charles’s marriage to Catholic María would briefy unite the kingdoms, but could soon destroy the monarchy. Outraged at the prospect of a Catholic queen, Charles’s Puritan subjects are sure to rise up and take from him not only his throne, but even his life . . . and María’s . . . plunging Europe into warfare greater than any seen before.

From detailed records of this actual love’s gambit author Brennan Pursell has crafted a moving novel of faith, courage, danger, and hope, a tale in which the fate of nations hangs on the love of two young people: Prince Charles of England and Princess María of Spain.

Here is an interview with the author and here is an excerpt from novel.

There is a connection for the Sunday Shrine series--the Queen's Chapel at the Palace/Court of St. James, originally built for the use of the Infanta, but then used by Henrietta Maria, Charles I's French Queen. It was designed by Inigo Jones, but Henrietta Maria supervised some Baroque decoration. Diane Purkiss discusses the Catholic Reformation motives behind these improvements in her book, The English Civil War: Papists, Gentlewomen, Soldiers, and Witchfinders in the Birth of Modern Britain starting on page 30 in this preview from Google Books.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

St. Edmund Campion, Blessed William Harrington, and Henry Donne

Blessed William Harrington was born in 1566. When he was 15 years old, the hunted priest, Edmund Campion visited his family home, Mount St. John. Impressed by the future martyr and saint, William left England and studied for the priesthood and prepared for the Jesuit order in 1582. He had to return to England however, because he became ill. In February, 1591, however, he was able to return once more to Reims, and, having been ordained, returned at midsummer 1592. The next May he fell into the hands of the English authorities, and nine months later was executed at Tyburn on 18 February 1594.

One of those who had assisted the young priest (he was about 28 years old when he suffered), was Henry Donne, John Donne's brother. Henry was arrested, implicated William Harrington under torture, and died of the plague in Newgate Prison. John and Henry's mother, Elizabeth Heywood was the great niece of St. Thomas More, and their family was a devoutly Catholic recusant family. John Donne would eventually leave the Catholic Church and take orders in the Church of England, serving as Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral during the reigns of James I and Charles I.

Blessed John Pibush

Blessed John Pibush was born at Thirsk, Yorkshire, England, the son of Thomas and Jane Pibush. Educated at Rheims, France beginning 4 August 1580. Deacon in 1586. Ordained on 14 March 1587. Returned to England as missioner on 14 January 1588. Arrested at Morton-in-Marsh, Gloucester in the northern Cotswolds in 1593 for the crime of priesthood. Spent a year in Gatehouse prison, Westminster. Returned to Gloucester, he escaped on 19 February 1594; he was captured the next day at Matson. Sent back to Westminster, he was convicted on 1 July 1595 for the treason of Catholic priesthood. He spent over five years in Queen's Bench prison awaiting execution, ministering to fellow prisoners whenever he could. He was finally hung, drawn, and quartered on 18 February 1601 at Saint Thomas's Waterings, Camberwell, England, and was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

St. Thomas's Waterings or St. Thomas-a-Watering was an execution site on the Old Kent Road, and Chaucer's pilgrims passed it on the way to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Last Catholic Priest Executed under Elizabeth I

On February 17, 1603, Blessed William Richardson became the last Catholic priest executed during the reign of Elizabeth I:

BLESSED William RICHARDSON was born in Wales and grew up near Sheffield in the county of Yorkshire. He was admitted as pupil at the English College, VALLADOLID, and afterwards to the College of St. Gregory in Seville. He was ordained a priest in 1594 and was betrayed to English authorities soon after arriving in England in 1603. Arrested at Gray's Inn, he was quickly tried and condemned to death for being a priest. When he was stripped, hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn (London) on the 17th of February 1603, he offered a prayer for Elizabeth I.

Blessed William Richardson is thus among the "Six saints, sixteen men beatified and one acknowledged as Venerable" from the English College at Valladolid, Spain. The seminarians and students still honor La Vulnerata, wounded by English soldiers under the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh. Pope Pius XI beatified this martyr on the 15th of December in 1929.

Ronald Knox, February 17, 1888

Ronald Knox's conversion to Catholicism shocked the Anglican community. After all, his father was the Bishop of Manchester, an evangelical Anglican! He was born on this day in 1888. He became a Catholic in 1917, a Catholic priest in 1919 and died on August 24, 1957.

David Rooney, author of a recent biography, The Wine of Certitude: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox, places Knox in the context of other defections from the Church of England:

The English Catholic literary revival had already been thriving for almost three-quarters of a century when Ronald Knox, fourth son of the Anglican Bishop of Manchester, was received into the Roman communion on September 22, 1917. It had begun with the conversions of the clergymen John Henry Newman and Henry Edward Manning, both later to become cardinals, and the layman William George Ward, whose son and granddaughter would carry on the apostolate of the pen, the former through books and essays, and the latter primarily as cofounder with her husband of the most famous Catholic publishing house of the twentieth century.

In the early 1900s, that world of letters was the domain of Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton (though Chesterton's formal entry into the Church wouldn't come until 1922), and of the prolific but short-lived novelist Robert Hugh Benson, himself the convert son of an Archbishop of Canterbury. It was a world in which many well-educated men and women had come to see the Church of England as insufficiently countercultural in the face of materialism, agnosticism, and alternating moods of self-pride and despair, and who then saw in Rome a constancy and a consistency betokening a sure guide to the meaning of the Gospel message. There were converts among scientists, among historians, among novelists, even among actors, and the impression they produced, especially during the decades of Knox's prominence (the 1910s through the 1950s) was fortifying to those already in the Church, encouraging to those thinking about conversion, and vaguely alarming to those who retained the prejudice against Rome so thoroughly inbred in the nominally tolerant, vestigially Protestant culture that dominated the printed and spoken media.

Knox completed Blessed John Henry Newman's planned translation of the Jerome Vulgate into English in 1945 (New Testament) and 1950 (Old Testament). Serving as a chaplain to Catholic students at the University of Cambridge, Knox wrote apologetic and catechetical works such as The Hidden Stream and The Belief of Catholics. My favorite is his collection of homilies about saints, including several English martyrs, Captive Flames.

Ignatius Insight has a page dedicated to his life and works. There is a Ronald Knox Society of North America. I enjoyed both Evelyn Waugh's biography and Penelope Fitzgerald's study of her father and three uncles in The Knox Brothers. She was the daughter of Edmund Knox, the editor of Punch and the niece of cryptographer Alfred Knox, Bible scholar and Anglican monk Wilfred Knox, as well as Ronald Knox.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meme Too, Meme Too!

My THREE favorite books? Webmaster Gareth left me a comment and gave me the challenge, referring to his own favorites, cited here.

If they are my favorites, I've read them often, thought about them often, recommended them often. So here goes:

1. By What Authority? by Robert Hugh Benson: I read it as an undergraduate when Dr. Lewis Dralle recommended it and I have read it several times since--it is a beautifully vivid historical novel set in Elizabeth's reign, featuring two neighboring families, one Catholic and one Protestant, and the effects of recusancy and conversion between them.

2. Civilisation by Lord Kenneth Clark: I read it while in college when the series was repeated on PBS. I was impressed by Clark's insights into art and culture and have gone back to it often ever since.

3. Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language by Richard Lederer: I have laughed at the grammatical errors and other verbal infelicities documented in this book over and over again. (Examples: "Stock Up and Save: Limit One."; "For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs."; and, from the chapter on history: "Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was very large.")

Elena Maria Vidal Interviews the Author of "The Crown"

She also promises a review of this historical novel soon on her blog, Tea at Trianon. An excerpt:

An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .

EMV: Nancy, welcome to Tea at Trianon! Congratulations on your magnificent novel, The Crown, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was especially impressed by the research that went into making it one of the most authentic novels of the Tudor era that I have ever read. You bring to life the beauty and peace of the cloister even as it is about to be destroyed. Can you tell us a little about how you began your journey into the past, and where you found the best sources on such a turbulent, controversial epoch?

NB: I’ve been interested in English history since I was 11 years old and saw a re-broadcast of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on television with my parents. Ever since that time, the Tudor period was my particular passion, and I read the major books about the time. I pored through the major biographies, from J.J. Scarisbricke’s Henry VIII to Garrett Mattingly’s Catherine of Aragon. Every time a new biography on Anne Boleyn was published, I bought it. I do think I have all of them. When I began the research for The Crown, I dove into all books and sources on the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace, which was the 1536-1537 rebellion in the North against the Protestant reforms. I found some of the most helpful books written almost a century ago: F.A. Gasquet’s English Monastic Life (1906) and Cranage’s The Home of the Monk: An Account of English Monastic Life and Buildings in the Middle Ages (1926). On the other end of the spectrum, British History Online is an amazing Internet source of contemporary and secondary source documents. . . .

I look forward to the review and to reading the book myself. I trust Elena Maria's judgment (after all, she liked Supremacy and Survival) and know she is great historical novelist herself (Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade) so when speaks so highly of an author's research, you know it will be good reading and good history. I certainly echo Nancy Bilyeau's comment about British History Online: it is a great source for little details about the last days of the monastic houses, etc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

St. Claude at the Court of St. James

St. Claude de la Colombiere, SJ died on February 15, 1682. In a way, he is a victim of the Popish Plot, according to this biography published on the Vatican website:

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York - a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: "I could write a book about the mercy of God I've seen Him exercise since I arrived here!"

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates "papist plot". After two days he was transferred to the severe King's Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude's health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.

During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life.

On the 16th of June 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude La Colombière, whose charism, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, was that of bringing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us.

Blessed John Paul II canonized St. Claude in 1992.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Tudors and Stuarts on Film: Historical Perspectives

This book is edited by Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman. From the publisher: Film can be an invaluable teaching resource. Tudors and Stuarts on Film provides analyses of films about the Tudor and Stuart period from leading historians. The accuracy of each film is assessed, and they are also placed within the context of the period in which they were made, and the influence they have had on popular conceptions of early modern England.


List of Illustrations (14)
Notes on the Contributors

1. Introduction: It's Only a Movie--T.Freeman & S.Doran
2. A Tyrant for All Seasons: Henry VIII on Film--T.Freeman
3. Saints and Cinemas: A Man for All Seasons--P.Marshall
4. Anne of a Thousand Days--G. Richardson
5. Lady Jane Grey on Film--C.Levin
6. From Hatfield to Hollywood: Elizabeth I on Film--S.Doran
7. Ladies in Waiting: Young Elizabeth Tudor on Film--J.Richards
8. Kapur's Elizabeth--C.Haigh
9. Mary Queen of Scots (1971)--J.Guy
10. The Armada, War and Propaganda in the Cinema--W.Coster
11. Elizabeth: The Golden Age: A Sign of the Times?--V. Westbrook
12. Shakespeare in Love: Elizabeth I as dea ex machina--B.Usher
13. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and the Romanticization of Eliabethan Politics--P.Hammer
14. Oliver Cromwell and the Civil Wars--J.Morrill
15. The Unfilmed Oliver Cromwell--D.Smith
16. Winstanley--C.Durston
17. Why Don't the Stuarts Get Filmed?--R.Hutton


You might notice immediately that Mary, the First Queen Regnant of England isn't even mentioned in a chapter title, although she does show up on the chapters on the Tudors; only one of Henry's wives has merited a chapter. Of course, this because of Hollywood's (standing for all film production) choices of whose story works on film. Perhaps it's a good thing Mary I has not been portrayed extensively on film--those fires of Smithfield! Elizabeth I dominates: eight of the chapters, including the chapter on her cousin Mary, Queen of Scotland and her 1971 movie, discuss the presentation of the last Tudor monarch on screen.

What these distinguished authors have done is not only analyze the historical accuracy of the films (and they all take certain liberties with the facts) but explore the reasons for the film makers' choices. Perhaps the best two chapters for this analysis are the two on the Shekar Kapur Elizabeth films. The anti-Catholic, really misogynist views the director and his screenwriter have taken of her reign are really disturbing, totally anti-feminine, twisting facts, playing with the timeline and creating plots and events that really don't fit with the history we know. Now, there's that disclaimer in the introduction, "it's only a movie" but the film makers, including the actors, are presenting their film as "a" truth, a plausible, dramatic, and effective presentation to move the audience: move them to think or feel something about events in the past. From these two movies the audience will certainly think that all Catholics in sixteenth century England were treasonous villains, ready to murder, but not really ready to suffer (Westbrook comments that "the torture sequences were hardly shocking. Apparently, Catholics were prepared to give it all up for a few pokes with a torch and the loss of body hair"!) We certainly know that's not true--at least the Catholic priests like St. Edmund Campion, St. Alexander Briant, St. Robert Southwell, and St. Henry Walpole, to name just a few, suffered the most excruciating and unrelenting torture Topcliffe and Elizabeth's other torturers could devise and deliver!

The last chapter, on the Stuarts, is really a gem in the book. Ronald Hutton immediately admits that his chapter title is completely misleading, because the Stuarts have been filmed, of course. He says the real title should be two questions, "Why don't the Stuarts get filmed as often as the Tudors?" and "Why don't the Stuarts get filmed memorably?" In answering those questions, he introduced me to a film I've never heard of but would love to see, The Exile, with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Hutton also mentioned Forever Amber with Linda Darnell (I remember finding my mother's copy of that "scandalous" novel, printed in double columns to save paper during WWII, hidden in the front closet and reading all about the plague!) TCM has the fun note that The Exile was released in sepia tone and came out at the same time as Forever Amber so that it was nicknamed "Forever Dark Brown"!

I read this book primarily because I am preparing a presentation series for the Eighth Day Institute here in Wichita, Kansas. I want to examine the changes in how the history of the English Reformation has been presented, from the Whig interpretations to the revisionist views I summarize in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation. I plan to use a historical novel, By What Authority? by Robert Hugh Benson to represent a Catholic interpretation and a movie, Fire Over England by Alexander Korda to represent a nationalistic, Whig view--both focused on the reign of Elizabeth I.

Beyond that purpose, for which the chapter on "The Armada, War and Propaganda in the Cinema" was most useful to me, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It satisfies my love of history, truth, and great movies, especially movies from the great days of Hollywood. The other book (perhaps a guilty pleasure?) that satisfies those interests is George MacDonald Fraser's The Hollywood History of the World From One Million Years B.C. to Apocalypse Now! Fraser was a real fan of Charlton Heston, I recall. He also highlighted one movie in particular which I've seen at least once on TCM: Saraband for Dead Lovers, with Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood, who must have had the most distinctive voice of any actress in her era. I can never decide which performance of hers I enjoy more: in Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Importance of Being Earnest.

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Morning on the Son Rise Morning Show

As I mentioned on Saturday, I will be on the Son Rise Morning Show today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central, talking to either Matt or Anna about the parallels commentators have been seeing between the English Reformation religious mandates of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and the HHS Contraception mandates.

You may listen live here and I will post the podcast as soon as it is available. UPDATE: Here is the podcast; my interview starts after the 1:45 mark.

As a reminder, here and here and here are the posts from last week in which I first addressed this issue, based on other commentators making the connection. I look forward to our discussion this morning very much.

The Massacre of Glencoe--February 13, 1692

The massacre of the MacDonald clan by the Campbell clan, and the subsequent horror of women and children freezing to death in the west highland glen was the scandal of William and Mary's reign--what did William III know and when? Finally it was determined that he did not know the intent of the Earl of Argyll's foray into Glencoe, and an underling received the blame.

According to this site:

The massacre commenced about five o'clock in the morning at three different places at once. Glenlyon, with a barbarity which fortunately for society has few parallels, undertook to butcher his own hospitable landlord and the other inhabitants of Inverriggen, where he and a party of his men were quartered, and despatched Lieutenant Lindsay with another party of soldiers to Glencoe's house to cut off the unsuspecting chief. Under the pretence of a friendly visit, he and his party obtained admission into the house. Glencoe was in bed, and while in the act of rising to receive his cruel visitors, was basely shot at by two of the soldiers, and fell lifeless into the arms of his wife. The lady in the extremity of her anguish leaped out of bed and put on her clothes, but the ruffians stripped her naked, pulled the rings off her fingers with their teeth, and treated her so cruelly that she died the following day. The party also killed two men whom they found in the house, and wounded a third named Duncan Don, who came occasionally to Glencoe with letters from Braemar.

While the butchery was going on in Glencoe's house, Glenlyon was busily doing his bloody work at Inverriggen, where his own host was shot by his order. Here the party seized nine men, whom they first bound hand and foot, after which they shot them one by one. Glenlyon was desirous of saving the life of a young man about twenty years of age, but one Captain Drummond shot him dead. The same officer, impelled by a thirst for blood, ran his dagger through the body of a boy who has grasped Campbell by the legs and was supplicating for mercy.

A third party under the command of one Sergeant Barker, which was quartered in the village of Auchnaion, fired upon a body of nine men whom they observed in a house in the village sitting before a fire. Among these was the laird of Auchintriaten, who was killed on the spot, along with four more of the party. This gentleman had at the time a protection in his pocket from Colonel Hill, which he had received three months before. The remainder of the party in the house, two or three of whom were wounded, escaped by the back of the house, with the exception of a brother of Auchintriaten, who having been seized by Barker, requested him as a favour not to despatch him in the house but to kill him without. The sergeant consented, on account of having shared his generous hospitality; but when brought out he threw his plaid, which he had kept loose, over the faces of the soldiers who were appointed to shoot him, and thus escaped.

and then:

After the destruction of the houses, a heart-rending scene ensued. Ejected from their dwellings by the devouring element, aged matrons, women with child, and mothers, with infants at their breasts and followed by children on foot, clinging to them with all the solicitude and anxiety of helplessness, were to be seen wending their way, almost in a state of nudity, towards the mountains in a quest of some friendly hovel, beneath whose roof they might seek shelter from the pitiless tempest and deplore their unhappy fate. But as there were no houses within the distance of several miles, and as these could only be reached by crossing mountains deeply covered with snow, a great number of these unhappy human beings, overcome by fatigue , cold, and hunger, dropt down and perished miserably among the snow.

Jim MacLean's ballad depicts the horror of the attack:

They came in a blizzard, we offered them heat
A roof for their heads, dry shoes for their feet
We wined them and dined them, they ate of our meat
And they slept in the house of MacDonald.

Chorus: O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o'Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald.

They came from Fort William with murder in mind
The Campbell had orders King William had signed
"Put all to the sword" these words underlined"
And leave none alive called MacDonald".

Chorus: O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o'Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald.

They came in the night when the men were asleep
This band of Argyles, through snow soft and deep
Like murdering foxes amongst helpless sheep
They slaughtered the house of MacDonald.

Chorus: O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o'Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald.

Some died in their beds at the hand of the foe
Some fled in the night and were lost in the snow
Some lived to accuse him who struck the first blow
But gone was the house of MacDonald.

Chorus: O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o'Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald.

Image Source: wikipedia.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Executions of Guilford and Jane Dudley

All three recent biographies of Mary I highlighted the singular mercy the first Queen Regnant showed to the young woman who had temporarily displaced her and to her family immediately after coming to the throne. Guilford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey could have been summarily executed, but Mary knew that John Dudley, Lord Northumberland bore the greater share of blame for the plot to change Henry VIII's will and divert the succession. They were tried in November of 1553 and found guilty (they actually pleaded guilty), but were held in some comfort at the Tower of London. Their brief rule had also been spent in the Tower, but Jane had refused kingship for Guilford; whatever reluctance she might have felt, once she became Queen, she intended to hold the power as Queen Regnant exclusively and she intended to reign for "God's Glory" which meant of course that she would continue Edward VI's Reformed reforms. Guilford certainly wanted to reign and he presided over the Council meetings held between Edward VI's death and Mary's overthrow of Northumberland's plot.

It was only after the Wyatt rebellion that Jane's continued existence as a focal point for overthrowing Mary became too great a liability, especially with Philip of Spain on the way. Jane had little to do with Wyatt's plans--in fact, Elizabeth was probably more guilty of collusion with Wyatt's plot than Jane had willingly been with her father-in-law (at first, at least). Unfortunately for her, however, her father had taken part in Wyatt's attempt to depose Mary to place Elizabeth and Courtenay, an erstwhile Catholic candidate as husband for Mary, on the throne and even though Mary regretted it, She ordered Jane's execution. Jane watched her husband be taken to Tower Hill for execution and his headless body brought back the morning of February 12, 1554 while she was scheduled for a private execution at Tower Green. He had asked to meet the night before but she refused, saying it would be too painful and certain they would meet again soon in heaven.

At her execution, she acknowledged her guilt in the one case and declared her innocence in the other: "Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day."

The Delaroche painting romantically depicts her moment of panic when she could not find the block after being blindfolded as her ladies swoon behind her. John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster accompanied her on the scaffold, sent by Mary before to help Jane prepare for death. As I've noted before, although they strictly disagreed on religious matters, Jane and Father Feckenham at least respected each other.

I have not read Eric Ive's recent study of Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne, but I agree with Leanda de Lisle in The Sisters Who Would be Queen: Mary, Catherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy that "The sixteenth-century Jane was a much more interesting and ambivalent figure than the traditional stories allow." Since Guilford's brother Robert had become Elizabeth's great favorite, the story of their brief reign and their executions were soon part of Elizabethan propaganda. Her seeming innocence and evangelical fervor also made her a likely target of Foxe's myth-building.