Saturday, December 29, 2018

Christina Rossetti, RIP

The Anglo-Catholic, Tractarian, Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti died on December 29, 1894. The Poetry Foundation describes her religious and poetic inspirations:

Caught up in the Tractarian or Oxford Movement when it reached London in the 1840s, the Rossettis shifted from an Evangelical to an Anglo-Catholic orientation, and this outlook influenced virtually all of Christina Rossetti’s poetry. She was also influenced by the poetics of the Oxford Movement, as is documented in the annotations and illustrations she added to her copy of John Keble’s The Christian Year (1827) and in her reading of poetry by Isaac Williams and John Henry Newman. For more than twenty years, beginning in 1843, she worshiped at Christ Church, Albany Street, where services were influenced by the innovations emanating from Oxford. The Reverend William Dodsworth, the priest there until his conversion to Catholicism in 1850, assumed a leading role as the Oxford Movement spread to London. In addition to coming under the religious influence of prominent Tractarians such as Dodsworth, W. J. E. Bennett, Henry W. Burrows, and E. B. Pusey, Rossetti had close personal ties with Burrows and Richard Frederick Littledale, a High Church theologian who became her spiritual adviser. The importance of Rossetti’s faith for her life and art can hardly be overstated. More than half of her poetic output is devotional, and the works of her later years in both poetry and prose are almost exclusively so. The inconstancy of human love, the vanity of earthly pleasures, renunciation, individual unworthiness, and the perfection of divine love are recurring themes in her poetry.

As this site shows, she wrote several poems for Advent and Christmastide, through to Candlemas, the traditional end of the 40 days of Christmas. One of the most familiar is called "A Christmas Carol" but we know it as "In the Bleak Midwinter":

In the bleak mid-winter
  Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
  Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
  Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
  When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
  A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
  Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
  Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
  And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
  Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
  Which adore.

  May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
  Throng'd the air,
But only His mother
  In her maiden bliss
Worshipped her Beloved
  With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
  Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
  I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
  I would do my part,--
Yet what I can I give Him,
  Give my heart.

Remember that today is also the feast of St. Thomas a Becket, and of Blessed William Howard, martyrs.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Henry VIII and Sanctuary

If you've seen the Charles Laughton-Maureen O'Hara movie version of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you surely remember the moment that Quasimodo carries Esmeralda into Notre Dame Cathedral and raises her in his arms to proclaim "Sanctuary, Sanctuary!" And the crowd below goes wild!

As this blog dedicated to English Legal History notes, criminals in England had the right of Sanctuary too, claiming protection from the Catholic Church:

In medieval England, a criminal could go to a church and claim protection from the law. The authorities and the processes of criminal justice could not reach him. This was based on the idea that no force could be used on the consecrated and holy ground of the churches.

This privilege, called sanctuary, could be taken up by any criminals, ranging from murderers, rapists and thieves to the simple debtor who owed a sum of money.

The common law of the time stated that the privilege of sanctuary could only be used for up to 40 days. However, there were in existence some large sanctuaries (such as Westminster Abbey) that could house hundreds of criminals and had the facilities for them to stay indefinitely. When the criminals attempted to continue their criminal activities from the Abbey, the practice of these large sanctuaries was heavily frowned upon by the authorities and the public.

One of the most famous claimers of Sanctuary was not a criminal, however, but the wife and then widow of King Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville. She remained with her children and household in Westminster Abbey's Sanctuary during two periods of the Wars of the Roses.

Of course, Henry VIII, since Church and State become one under his Supreme rule, eventually eliminated the rights of Sanctuary:

There was a significant case between 1516 and 1520 regarding a large sanctuary at St John’s Priory. This led to calls for reform and Henry VIII declared that the ancient kings and old popes never had the intention of letting the sanctuaries be used to such a gross extent.

Henry proceeded to abolish almost all sanctuaries and removed the possibility of using the privilege for almost all crimes. The practice did not breathe its last until a statute of 1624 which stated ‘no sanctuary or privilege of sanctuary to be hereafter admitted or allowed in any case’.

The reason I bring this up is because there's a fascinating post on the Oxford University Press blog by an author of a recent book about the practice of Sanctuary in England and her reactions to another famous author on the subject. Shannon McSheffrey, Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal writes:

For the last fifteen years I have been having an intense dialogue in my head with a long-dead historian, Isobel D. Thornley (1893-1941). Isobel is my best frenemy. Two pieces she wrote in 1924 and 1932 remain standard citations for one of my favourite subjects, medieval sanctuary; this is a feat of scholarly longevity that few of her contemporaries can boast. Having dug through the same documents—and benefitted enormously from following in her footsteps—I admire Isobel’s archival diligence and the boldness of her arguments. I also disagree with almost everything she says.

Isobel’s place in the interwar historical community in London is mostly forgotten: she does not appear in any directories of important historians of the past—neither the Institute of Historical Research’s London’s Women Historians, for instance, nor another of the IHR’s pantheons, Making History. Her name does live on in the form of the Thornley Bequest Fund, established when she left her estate to the University of London. Over the decades Isobel’s legacy has benefited hundreds of historians, both students and academic researchers, many of whom probably have no idea who she was. . . .

The continuing influence of her work on sanctuary is not due to a precocious modernity; her sententious writing style probably seemed old-fashioned in the 1920s. It is, I think, the clarity and the no-nonsense tone that continues to convince many readers, even though her interpretations are unquestionably Whiggish, congruent with the views of her mentor Pollard. Sanctuary was a “great evil,” for it allowed criminals to escape punishment. In her account, “bold” and forward-thinking civic leaders allied with the judiciary to destroy the “hoary” popish institution of sanctuary and bring England into Protestant modernity.

I disagree with Thornley’s interpretation of English sanctuary on many fronts, too many to rehearse here (quick version: it was much more complicated). . . .

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Another Jesuit Martyr's Christmas Hymn

Saint Robert Southwell (1561 to February 21, 1595) is the famous Jesuit martyr who wrote a great Christmas poem, "The Burning Babe", but Saint Jean de Brébeuf (March 25, 1593 to March 16, 1649), one of the North American Jesuit martyrs, also wrote a poem for Christmas, set to a French tune (Une Jeune Pucelle). He wrote the poem in Wendat, the Huron's language. This version includes the hymn in Wendat, French, and English. The most commonly used translation is by Jesse Edgar Middleton:

'Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunter heard the hymn:

"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp'd His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high. Refrain

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy. Refrain

This website discusses some controversy about the hymn, but the controversy really centers not on the original, but on the Middleton translation:

The first claim is that the song uses broad generalizations that depict a Western idealized image of native cultures. Some see this as Western culture appropriating native images and slotting them into a Western religious story. Others argue the images are not of native cultures at all, but just Western interpretations of what native culture should look like. In particular, people point out the images of "broken bark" and "ragged robe of rabbit skin", and phrases like "people of the forest free".

The second issue is that the song confuses different native cultures. For example, "Gitchi Manitou" is an Algonquian word for "Great Spirit", which is a different language group from Huron/Iroquoian language.

Thirdly, some critics say the Huron Carol is a tool to convert people from one set of beliefs to another. The very act of trying to change someone's religion is seen as disrespectful to that person's beliefs. Meanwhile, the use of traditional beliefs to convey a different religious meaning can be seen as deceptive.

The author then notes that a more exact translation reveals Brebeuf's knowledge of the Huron culture and his efforts to convey his love for Jesus, sharing instead of imposing. 

Like St. Robert Southwell, St. Jean de Brebeuf suffered greatly during his martyrdom, as summarized by Bert Ghezzi:

In 1649, the Iroquois attacked the Huron village where John was living. They brutally martyred him, Gabriel Lalement, his companion, and their converts. Their suffering is indescribable: bludgeoned, burned with red-hot hatchets, baptized with boiling water, mutilated, flesh stripped off and eaten, hearts plucked out and devoured. 

St. Robert Southwell, pray for us!
St. Jean de Brebeuf, pray for us!

Best wishes for a happy, holy, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

"O Mercy Divine" on Christmas Eve

This hymn by Charles Wesley is the commissioned carol for the annual--in the 100th anniversary years--of the Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Chapel, Cambridge (music composed by Judith Weir):

O mercy divine, O couldst Thou incline,
My God, to become such an infant as mine?
What wonder of grace: The Ancient of Days
Is found in the likeness of Adam’s frail race!

He comes from on high, who fashioned the sky,
And meekly vouchsafes in a manger to lie;
Our God ever blest, with oxen doth rest,
Is nursed by His creature and hangs at the breast.

So heavenly-mild, His innocence smiled,
No wonder the mother would worship the Child,
The angels she knew had worshipped Him, too,
And still they confess adoration His due.

On Jesus’ face, with eager amaze,
And pleasure ecstatic the cherubim gaze;
Their newly born King, transported they sing,
And Heaven and earth with the triumph doth ring.

The shepherds behold Him, the promised of old,
By angels attended, by prophets foretold;
The wise men adore now, and bring Him their store,
The rich are permitted to follow the poor.

To the inn they repair, to see the young Heir;
The inn is a palace, for Jesus is there!
Who now would be great, and not rather wait
On Jesus their Lord in His humble estate?

Like Him would I be, my Master I see
In a stable; a manger shall satisfy me;
And here will I lie, till raised up on high,
With Him on the cross I recover the sky.

It's from Wesley's Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord published in 1745.

Image credit:The Nativity depicted in an English liturgical manuscript, c.1310-1320 (NB: This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Bishop Christopherson, RIP

A great supporter of Queen Mary I and a committed Catholic, John Christopherson, the former Bishop of Chichester, died on December 22, 1558. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

Being conscientiously attached to the Roman catholic church (sic) he retired to the continent during the reign of Edward VI, but was supported by Trinity College. As an indication of his gratitude he dedicated to that society in February 1553 his translation of 'Philo Judæus.' He was then residing at Louvain.

Philo Judæus refers to Philo of Alexandria.

On the accession of Queen Mary he returned to England, and was appointed master of Trinity College in 1553, Dr. William Bill, a decided protestant, who had filled that office in the latter part of King Edward's reign, being ejected by two of his own fellows, who removed him from his stall in the chapel in a rude and insolent manner, in order to make room for Christopherson (Baker, Hist. of St, John's, i. 127). He was also nominated chaplain and confessor to Queen Mary, to whom he dedicated his 'Exhortation to all Menne,' written immediately after the suppression of Wyatt's rebellion in 1554. He tells the queen that his duty obliged him to write the book, because her majesty's bountiful goodness, when he was destitute of all aid or succour, so liberally provided for him that now he might without care serve God, go to his book, and do his duty in that vocation to which God had called him.  . . .

He ran into trouble under Elizabeth I, of course, since he was "conscientiously attached to the Roman catholic church (sic)":

On 27 Nov. 1558, being the second Sunday after Queen Elizabeth's accession, Christopherson, preaching at St. Paul's Cross, with great vehemence and freedom answered a sermon preached by Dr. Bill at that place on the preceding Sunday declaring that the new doctrine set forth by Dr. Bill was not the gospel but the invention of heretical men. 'or this sermon he was summoned before the queen, who ordered him to be sent to prison, where he died about a month afterwards (Zurich Letters, i. 4). He was buried on 28 Dec. 1558 at Christ Church, London, with heraldic state, five bishops offering at the mass, and there being banners of his own arms, and the arms of his see, and four banners of saints (Machyn, Diary, 184). By his will dated 6 Oct. 1556, but not proved till 9 Feb. 1562–3, wherein he desired to be buried in the chapel of Trinity College, near the south side of the high altar, he gave to that college many books, both printed and manuscript, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and directed that certain copies of his translation of 'Philo Judæus' should from time to time be given to poor scholars. He also gave to his successors in the mastership of Trinity certain hangings and other goods in his study chambers and gallery, and requested the college to celebrate yearly on the anniversary of his death a dirge and mass of requiem wherein mention was to be made of his father and mother, and of his special good master and bringer up, John Redman, D.D. Independent of his own benefactions to Trinity College, he procured considerable donations to that society from Queen Mary.

He wrote a tragedy in Greek about Jephthah , one of the judges of Israel, who swore an oath: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:30-31) After winning the victory over the Ammonites Jephthah returned home and his daughter, his only child met him so he had to fulfill his vow to the Lord.

Image creditThe Return of Jephtha, by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

English Reformation Heroes

The Catholic Herald posts a review of a book by Jonathan Dean, an ordained Methodist minister and Methodist Tutor at The Queens Foundation, in which Dean describes his favorite heroes of the English Reformation era, starting with St. Thomas More:

The book’s adoring tone is set by the opening chapter on Thomas More. Utopia is “one of the finest books ever written”, and More was apparently “the greatest Englishman of his age” with “a strong claim to be the greatest of any age”. That’s something of a stretch, but Dean makes a decent fist of reconciling the seemingly contradictory aspects of More’s character. He was the “teller of merry tales” and someone who mocked the “follies and extravagances of some elements of Catholic devotion”, but also a man who held heretics in the deepest contempt.

Dean sees no obvious conflict. Whatever flaws the papacy may have had, it remained “the guarantor of connection to the Church in every other place and time”. Its enemies were to be obliterated.

Dean also admires Thomas Cranmer:

Dean likes Cranmer a lot. He argues against the idea that Cranmer’s early career was defined by vacillation or timidity and demonstrates that his contribution to the Henrician and Edwardine Reformations was valuable. Having begun as a Cambridge scholar, perfectly happy with his lot, Cranmer was dragged into public life as much through “political shenanigans” as “his own talents”, but those gifts helped to forge a brand new Church.

According to the publisher:

To Gain at Harvest celebrates the courage, intellect, humility and passion displayed by figures of all shades of opinion and belief during the English Reformation.

Offering insights into the turbulent period of the English Reformation and its ideas, Jonathan Dean demonstrates the qualities of mind and heart, and the gifts of faith and character, which some of its leading proponents possessed.

The book will provide a vital resource for students and general readers seeking to understand a crucial moment in church history.


1. The Ground of Charity: Thomas More

2. Ambition and Fidelity: Thomas Cranmer

3. A Tudor Woman’s Passion: Anne Askew

4. Manifold Passions: Katherine Parr

5. ‘Nourished with Hope’: Nicholas Harpsfield

6. The Virtue of Moderation: Matthew Parker

7. Governing with Subtlety: Queen Elizabeth I

8. The Piety of Prayer and the Fluency of Speech: Lancelot Andrewes

9. ‘Make me Thine’: George Herbert

10. Felicity and Desire: Thomas Traherne

I would be very interested in what Dean thinks of Nicholas Harpsfield, More's biographer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chesterton on Mary, Queen of Scots and Don John of Austria

I have updated my Other Publications page to note that Gilbert!, the magazine published by the American Chesterton Society, has published the second part of my essay on G.K. Chesterton's great counter-factual exploration of how history would been different in Don John of Austria, the Hero of Lepanto, had followed through on his notion to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots and marry her!

In 1911, G.K. Chesterton published his narrative poem Lepanto. Don John of Austria, an illegitimate son of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, leads the fleet of the Holy League of Catholic countries against the invading Ottoman fleet. . . .

Twenty years later, Chesterton returned to his great hero and wrote an article offering a fascinating proposal of marriage: the world would be different today if Don John of Austria had rescued Mary, Queen of Scots and married her. Chesterton argues that it would have been a good match for both of them. Most counterfactuals about English Reformation history—The Alteration by Kingsley Amis for example—assume that a Catholic England would be a medieval, backward country (betraying great ignorance of the Middle Ages of course). Chesterton proposes that something great could have happened in Scotland and England—in Christendom, in Europe, and the whole world— “if Don John of Austria had married Mary Queen of Scots”.

It takes some imagination to follow his argument and some knowledge of English and Scottish history to understand his examples, but it’s a rewarding exercise nonetheless. As “an earnest and plodding student of the dry scientific details of history”, (104) Chesterton uses many historical examples, and the purpose of this article is to explain some of the more obscure.

Please note that a subscription to Gilbert! is included in membership to the American Chesterton Society.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Brexit and the English Reformation

Brexit is in the news again as the government of Great Britain and the European Union try to reach an agreement about how the U.K. leaves the E.U., so once again comparisons between Brexit and the English Reformation are being posted. Like this one, which has an interesting twist on the reason for Henry VIII to break away from the Papacy and the Catholic Church. It seems to almost suggest an anti-Catholic argument amongst Brexiteers--the E.U. is as bad as the R.C.C.:

Most of the arguments in favor of Brexit assume a traditional conception of sovereignty, and are grounded in English – rather than British – history. Brexiteers look back fondly at King John’s defiance of Pope Innocent III in the thirteenth century. And they are even more smitten with the Tudor era, when Henry VIII wrested the Church of England from the yoke of papal authority. To this day, the Tudors enjoy a near-ubiquitous presence in British textbooks, media, films, and the popular imagination.

The defining moment of the Henrician Reformation came in April 1533, when the Parliament of England passed the Ecclesiastical Appeals Act, giving Henry the final word on all legal and religious questions. The point of the law was to free England from the authority of a papacy that answered to Charles I of Spain – that is, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. As long as Charles called the shots in Rome, Henry would not be able to divorce Charles’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon.

Contained in the Appeals Act is the first clear legislative definition of sovereignty. “This realm of England,” the law states, “is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King…” But as is always the case, the measures that launched the revolution were incomplete. The laws that Parliament adopted in the 1530s did not replace Catholicism with Protestantism. But they did pave the way for religious reformers to carry the revolution into its next phase.

The use of the word divorce is so ridiculous. The Catholic Church has never issued divorces. Henry VIII was seeking a decree of nullity to say that no marriage had ever occurred. Divorce is a civil matter; nullity can be too, but in that period marriage was more a religious, sacramental state than a civil one. And the religious legislation of the 1530's went a long way to undoing traditional Catholicism in England, if not establishing a thoroughly Protestant church.

Please read the rest there

Image Credit: Henry VIII with Charles V (right) and Pope Leo X (centre), c. 1520

Friday, November 30, 2018

Preparing for Christmas with Blessed John Henry Newman

Hard on the heels of the announcement that the second miracle has been approved for the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman, the National Catholic Register has published my review of a new book of devotions for Advent and Christmas, Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas:

Believing that it is “better for Newman to be read in part than not at all,” Christopher Blum of the Augustine Institute has excerpted passages primarily from Blessed John Henry Newman’s Anglican Parochial and Plain Sermons for daily readings during the Advent and Christmas seasons, from Nov. 30 through Jan. 6. To remove any obstacles for readers concerned about Newman’s Victorian eloquence, Blum has also shortened some sentences by replacing semicolons with periods; he has also updated spelling and replaced scriptural quotations from the King James Bible with the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.

Readers unfamiliar with Newman’s sermons will discover his spiritual depth, devotion to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and firm belief in the providence of God. Catholics preparing during Advent to celebrate Christmas will benefit from his consistent concern that his flocks, Anglican and Catholic, took their faith seriously, knew and understood what they believe, and lived according to those beliefs. These same goals can provide a framework for our four-week spiritual journey to Bethlehem. In the selection for Dec. 11 from “Unreal Words,” for example, Newman exhorts us:
“Aim at seeing things as God sees them. Aim at forming judgments about persons, events, ranks, fortunes, changes, objects, such as God forms. Aim at looking at this life as God looks at it. Aim at looking at the life to come, and the world unseen, as God does. Aim at ‘seeing the King in his beauty.’ All things that we see are but shadows to us and delusions, unless we enter into what they really mean.”
The closing sentences of “Watching” (Dec. 13) combine in a powerful reminder to prepare for the coming of Christ:
“Life is short. Death is certain. The world to come is everlasting.”
Speak those words aloud — for Newman read these sermons to his congregation — and you will feel the impact.

Please read the rest there and more about the second miracle here.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered in York

Blessed Edward BurdenAfter studying at Oxford University’s Trinity College, Edward Burden, of County Durham, England, journeyed to the continent to prepare for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained at Douai, France in 1584 and set out for England two years later. But after spending the following two years serving Catholics in Yorkshire, Father Burden was arrested by the Protestant Elizabethan authorities. While awaiting his fate in a York prison, he saw a fellow Catholic priest incarcerated with him, (Blessed) Robert Dalby, led away to be put on trial. Envious of the latter’s prospects of imminent martyrdom, Father Burden complained, “Shall I always lie here like a beast while my brother hastens to his reward? Truly, I am unworthy of such glory as to suffer for Christ.” But it was not long before Father Burden was himself tried and condemned to death for his priesthood. On November 29, 1588, he was executed by drawing and quartering at York.

Note: Father (Blessed) Robert Dalby was held in York Castle and not executed until after Blessed Edward Burden, on March 16, 1589, with Blessed John Amias. So Father Dalby's martyrdom was not as imminent as Father Burden thought!

Usually, the lay men and women who suffered execution for their faith during Elizabeth's reign were hanged until dead, found guilty of the felony of aiding and abetting a Jesuit or other priest, under the 1585 penal laws. These three lay martyrs, however, were sentenced to the same punishment as any other traitor, because they dared share their Catholic faith and attempt to persuade another Englishman to become a Catholic! This was not just a felony: this was treason!

On November 29, 1596, also in York, Blesseds George Errington, William Gibson, and William Knight (another layman, Blessed Henry Abbot had been condemned under the same charge, but his execution was delayed until March the following year) were hanged, drawn and quartered. They were victims of entrapment, according to Bishop Challoner:

A certain Protestant minister, for some misdemeanour put into York Castle, to reinstate himself in the favour of his superiors, insinuated himself into the good opinion of the Catholic prisoners, by pretending a deep sense of repentance, and a great desire of embracing the Catholic truth . . . So they directed him, after he was enlarged [released], to Mr. Henry Abbot, a zealous convert who lived in Holden in the same country, to procure a priest to reconcile him . . . Mr. Abbot carried him to Carlton to the house of Esquire Stapleton, but did not succeed in finding a priest. Soon after, the traitor having got enough to put them all in danger of the law, accused them to the magistrates . . . They confessed that they had explained to him the Catholic Faith, and upon this they were all found guilty and sentenced to die.

Blessed George Errington could also have been found guilty of the felony of aiding a Catholic priest (so might the others if they knew where to find a priest) because we know he was with St. John Boste at one time, who had suffered martyrdom in 1594. I presume they were in prison because of recusancy and not paying their fines.

The three who suffered on November 29, 1596 were all beatified by Pope John Paul II among the Eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales. Abbot was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Father Burden was also included among the Eighty-Five Martyrs of England and Wales. As Pope St. John Paul II said of the priests and laity among that 85 he beatified on the 22nd of November in 1987:

The priests among them wished only to feed their people with the Bread of Life and with the Word of the Gospel. To do so meant risking their lives. But for them this price was small compared to the riches they could bring to their people in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The twenty-two laymen in this group of martyrs shared to the full the same love of the Eucharist. They, too, repeatedly risked their lives, working together with their priests, assisting, protecting and sheltering them. Laymen and priests worked together; together they stood on the scaffold and together welcomed death. Many women, too, not included today in this group of martyrs, suffered for their faith and died in prison. They have earned our undying admiration and remembrance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One of the Last White Roses Decollated

Tower Hill execution site. Image credit.

Edward, the 17th Earl of Warwick, son of George, the Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, and brother of Margaret, later Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was beheaded on Tower Hill, six days after Perkin Warbeck, the Pretender, was hanged at Tyburn in 1499. This blog considers the question of why (or even whether) Edward, who had been held in detention since the fall of Richard III in 1485, was a threat to the new Tudor Dynasty:

Edward was executed in 1499 because he had allegedly conspired with Perkin Warbeck to escape the Tower. It is not farfetched to believe that Henry VII set the pair up by providing them with guards who were amiable to their goals and gave them false hope. Whether they really did plot or Henry wanted everyone to believe they did, both were put to death in order to clear the way for the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon.

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Katherine’s parents, clearly saw Edward as a threat based upon their insistence on his removal. Henry was undoubtedly reluctant to execute his wife’s cousin when she had already lost so many to the Wars of the Roses, but, in the end, he decided that the favorable match was worth the loss of one more Plantagenet son. Maybe Edward did present a greater threat than we often give him credit for.

Edward is often referred to as the son of George of Clarence, but let us not forget that his maternal ancestry is no less impressive. Isabel Neville was the daughter of the infamous Kingmaker, and the house of Neville had been powerful enough to sway the Wars of the Roses in whichever direction they chose to place themselves upon. Should Edward have determined to make a claim for himself, he had deep roots of family ties to call upon that Tudor would have been challenged to compete with.

After his decollation, Henry VII paid to have his body interred in the church at Bisham Priory/Abbey, a house of Augustinian Canons (and briefly Benedictine monks), in Berkshire, where many Nevilles and Montagus were buried. Margaret Pole's second son Arthur, who died in 1532 was also buried there. The priory was founded by William Montagu, or de Montacute, the 1st Earl of Salisbury in 1337 on the grounds on his estate.

Of course, all these graves are lost, because after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the abbey was suppressed and:

The whole of the monastic buildings of the house of Austin Canons founded by William de Montacute Earl of Salisbury in 1337 have been demolished. The abbey hall and church had been destroyed before the site and manor were granted to Sir Philip Hoby in 1553.' (fn. 7) From the surveyors' report made at the same time it would appear that the priory was entirely independent of the buildings occupied by the Templars, which were used as a mansion-house of Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury at the time of her attainder in 1539, (fn. 8) and had probably been utilized as a residence by the Earls of Salisbury soon after the suppression of the order. (fn. 9) The buildings at the east end of the hall, which consist of the council chamber with the cellars and cloisters under, were erected in the 14th century, and form one side of a fair-sized quadrangle, the other three sides of which were demolished by the Hobys at the time of their alterations and rebuilding, though they had apparently always been parts of a private residence. (fn. 10)

The tombs of the earls who were buried at Bisham (including that of Warwick the Kingmaker) are said to have been removed to the present hall when the abbey church was destroyed. There is, however, no evidence of this in the existing building or any record of their having been removed. In the latter part of the 15th century the screens with the gallery above were erected at the west end of the hall, and about the same time a floor was inserted in the solar and a passage made along its east side against the west wall of the hall.

The suppression of the Augustinian priory in 1537, however, was followed by the brief establishment of a Benedictine house on Henry VIII's orders, after Thomas Cromwell had first made his own arrangements for the management of the house:

Cromwell, in his scheming for his friends and tools, desired to secure the appointment of prior of Bisham for William Barlow, who was at that time prior of Haverfordwest. He ordered the then prior to resign, and sent his instructions to Thomas Benet, LL.D., vicar-general of Sarum, to repair to the priory for the election, doubtless to see that his nominee was appointed. Benet, however, wrote to Cromwell on 16 April, 1535, stating that he would have executed his commands before, only the promised resignation of the incumbent had not been received; nevertheless he would proceed to Bisham on 23 April. A letter of Sir William Carew of 27 April stated that he had heard that the prior, by the persuasion of my Lady of Salisbury and other people, refused to resign, though these very people thought him very unmeet to continue, until they saw that Cromwell meant to prefer one contrary to their minds. (fn. 11)

So Margaret, the Countess of Salisbury, thought it best not to interfere in Cromwell's project--even though the priory was on her property!

Cromwell succeeded in forcing Barlow on Bisham Priory, but it is doubtful if he ever visited his new preferment, for he was speedily dispatched on an embassy to Scotland. Whilst absent in Scotland in January, 1536, Barlow was appointed bishop of St. Asaph, the first of the many sees that he held; in April he was translated to St. David's, but was allowed as a court favourite to hold the priory of Bisham in commendam.

The summary of the Valor of 1536 gives the income of this priory as £185 11s. 0½d., which would have brought it within the suppression of the lesser houses; but the full Valor for Berkshire is missing, and the abstract among the first fruits documents is obviously incorrect in some particulars. The ministers' accounts of the Augmentation Office give the total income as £327 4s. 6d.

The obsequious Barlow was ready, however, at once to comply with the desire of Henry and Cromwell, and on 5 July, 1536, he surrendered Bisham to the king. But now came about a singular state of things. Bisham alone among all the monasteries of England was selected by the fickle Henry VIII to be re-established on a much more imposing and wealthy scale, the priory being converted into an abbey.

On 6 July, 1537, John Cordrey, abbot of Chertsey, Surrey, with William the prior and thirteen monks, surrendered, on condition of being re-established as an abbey about to be founded by the king at the late priory of Bisham. On 18 December, 1537, the king granted a charter of portentous length to the new foundation of the order of St. Benedict 'out of sincere devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin His Mother.' It was to consist of an abbot and thirteen monks, and was founded by Henry to secure prayers for his good estate during life, and for the soul of Jane his late queen, also for the souls of his posterity and progenitors, and for the souls of all the faithful departed. This new abbey of the Holy Trinity was to be endowed with the house, lands, and all the appurtenances of the late priory of Bisham, and also with the lands of the late abbey of Chertsey, and of the priories of Cardigan, Beddgelert, Ankerwyke, Little Marlow, Medmenham, &c., to the annual value of £661 14s. 9d. Moreover, to give greater dignity to this new abbey, Henry granted his beloved John Cordrey licence to wear an episcopal mitre. (fn. 12)

Abbot Cordrey did not remain at Bisham long, because "the king's sorrow over the death of Jane Seymour soon evaporated, and with it seems to have gone his short-lived desire for prayers either for the living or for the dead. The abbey of Bisham lasted for exactly six months, and then John the abbot, William the prior, and the convent of monks were called upon to execute a second farcical 'surrender' of all their possessions, which they duly executed on 19 June, 1538, in favour of Richard Layton and Edward Carne, doctors of law, the king's visitors. (fn. 14)"

Margaret Pole would eventually follow her brother to the block, although she was beheaded inside the Tower precincts, on May 27, 1541. Her son Henry Pole, Baron Montagu was beheaded on Tower Hill like his uncle on January 9, 1539.

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Sarum Mass" at Hampton Court Palace's Chapel Royal

According to this Facebook post, yesterday might have been a historic day:

This Sunday 25 November, a unique and historic event is taking place at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace - for the first time since the 16th century, the sublime music of Thomas Tallis will accompany the liturgy for which it was originally written. Tallis was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in the 1500s, who would have sung for the monarch at Hampton Court. His music Missa Puer natus est nobis will be played on Sunday, accompanying the Eucharist.

After the service, the Gentlemens’ new recording of Tallis Latin music for lower voices (which includes the Missa Puer natus est) will be officially launched. The disk, on the Resonus label, will be released for sale on December 3.

It's not clear to me whether this was a Catholic Mass, celebrated by a priest with faculties of the local ordinary, or a Church of England service performed according to the Sarum Use. I think it's more likely the latter. As of this posting, the Catholic Herald did not have a story about it, nor did the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel & Brighton have any notice of it. Perhaps more information will be forthcoming soon.

As I understand it, a "Sarum Mass" would be a pre-Tridentine Roman Rite Mass according to the Sarum Use (from the Cathedral at Salisbury).

More information about the CD release here:

The Gentlemen of HM Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace and their director Carl Jackson make their Resonus Classics debut with this album of works for lower voices by Thomas Tallis – himself a Gentleman of the Tudor Chapel Royal serving under four monarchs.

Recorded in the impressive surroundings of the Chapel Royal where the choir is resident, this first disc with The Gentlemen presents works for four and seven voices including the Missa Puer natus est nobis based on chant for Christmas Day, and the sumptuous Suscipe quaeso Domine.

You might remember that 2016 Catholic Vespers were prayed in the Chapel Royal.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Green Dolphin Street": Novel or Movie?

Hendrickson Publishers has re-issued a nice uniform set of several of Elizabeth Goudge's novels. One "uniform" aspect of these re-printings is that the publishers have seen fit to highlight some possibly controversial aspect of Goudge's works to warn sensitive readers. In The White Witch they warned me that I might not like how Goudge depicts Romany people; in Green Dolphin Street they warned me that I might not like how Goudge depicts the Maori people in New Zealand and that colonial attitudes may not be enlightened enough for 21st century readers! The publishers even suggest that they considered bowdlerizing Goudge's work but decided that readers can handle it after all.

I wonder what trigger warnings Hendrickson adds to their different editions of the Holy Bible!

Nevertheless, it's good to have these books in print. Green Dolphin Street or Green Dolphin Country, as it was published in the U.K., was the basis of the 1947 MGM movie with Lana Turner as Marianne, Donna Reed as Marguerite, and Richard Hart as the man in the middle of the two sisters, William Ozanne.

I've watched the movie several times--and wrote about it for The St. Austin Review (subscriber access required)--and now I've read the novel, so the most common question is: which is better, the novel or the movie?

The answer in this case is: both.

The movie is excellent as a film; it maintains the outline of the plot, condenses the action in time, and heightens some of the dramatic tension.

The novel is excellent as a work of fiction: Goudge signals early on the crucial issue of the plot (that William Ozanne gets names, including Marianne's and Marguerite's, mixed up all the time); she creates an interior life for each of her characters, and she spreads the action of these three lives, and the other people around them, over a longer period of time--about forty years. The three main characters are in their sixties when they reunite. The final resolution of the plot, for example, comes not just before Marguerite makes her final vows (as in the movie) but years after she has become the Mother Superior at the convent in their hometown (after several years in a French convent).

The movie leaves out one set of supporting characters, Samuel and Susanna, Christian missionaries to New Zealand who befriend William and Marianne Ozanne. Nat, Captain O'Hara's first mate, isn't featured in the movie either.

Although the novel's omniscient narration is divided almost equally among the three main characters, it is Marianne who faces the greatest crisis and must develop more as a person. William and Marguerite have genuinely loving and open personalities; Marianne is a controlling and manipulative person who needs to learn that she is not in control. Her attempted manipulation of people and events almost led to her daughter making a terrible marital mistake, for example. Goudge notes Marianne's progress in humility by noting that she finally accepts that she really can't make her parents' home totally her own. She accepts that some things should be left to reflect the influence of the past.

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Evelyn Waugh and Blessed Miguel Pro

On the memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro the Jesuit priest executed on November 23, 1927 in Mexico, it seems appropriate to remember how Evelyn Waugh, in the introduction to the second edition of his biography of then Blessed Edmund Campion, mentioned that the "Martyrdom of Father Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion's in faithful detail" and that the "haunted, trapped, murdered priest is our contemporary."

Waugh visited Mexico after he wrote Campion's biography and wrote a book criticizing the Mexican revolution and its effects, particularly the persecution of the Catholic Church and her priests. He spent two months in Mexico:

I went to Mexico in order to write a book about it ; in order to verify and reconsider impressions formed at a distance. To have travelled a lot, to have spent, as I had done, the first twelve years of adult life intermittently on the move, is to this extent a disadvantage that one’s mind falls into the habit of recognizing similarities rather than differences. At the age of thirty-five one needs to go to the moon, or some such place, to recapture the excitement with which one first landed at Calais. For many people Mexico has, in the past, had this lunar character. Lunar it still remains, but in no poetic sense. It is waste land, part of a dead or, at any rate, a dying planet. Politics, everywhere destructive, have here dried up the place, frozen it, cracked it and powdered it to dust. Is civilization, like a leper, beginning to rot at its extremities? In the sixteenth century human life was disordered and talent stultified by the obsession of theology; today we are plague- stricken by politics. It is a fact; distressing for us, dull for our descendants, but inescapable. This is a political book; its aim, roughly, is to examine a single problem; why it was that last summer a small and almost friendless republic jubilantly recalled its Minister from London, and, more important, why people in England thought about this event as they did; why, for instance, patriotic feeling burst into indignation whenever a freight ship — British only in name, trading in defiance of official advice — was sunk in Spanish waters, and remained indifferent when a rich and essential British industry was openly stolen in time of peace. If one could understand that problem one would come very near to understanding all the problems that vex us today, for it has at its origin the universal, deliberately fostered anarchy of public relations and private opinions that is rapidly making the world uninhabitable. 

The succeeding pages are notes on anarchy. 

Waugh was very critical of the Wilson administration's response to the persecution of Catholics under the new Mexican government and Constitution:

President Wilson was reluctant to admit the crimes of his proteges; it was only after the facts had again and again been set before him and Catholic opinion in America was becoming seriously inflamed, that he sent a protest. He asked for three things: freedom for foreigners to pursue their businesses in peace; an amnesty for political opponents; a remission of the persecution of religion. ‘Nothing will shock the civilized world more,’ he wrote, ‘than punitive and vindictive action towards priests or ministers of any Church, whether Catholic or Protestant; and the Government of the United States ventures most respectfully but most earnestly to caution the leaders of the Mexican people on this delicate and vital matter. The treatment already said to have been accorded priests has had a most unfortunate effect on opinion outside of Mexico.’ Carranza accordingly went before the Congress in December 1918 to propose a modification of the ‘Constitution of Queretaro’ in favour of the Church. But Obregon had now entered into an alliance with the CROM; the price for their support was the continued persecution of the Church. Obregon’s supporters in Congress were therefore instructed to reject the amendments. Carranza was driven out and murdered. Once again American intervention had proved disastrous.

Chapter Seven of Robbery Under Law, "The Straight Fight", offers his interpretation of anti-Catholicism in Mexico, its sources and propaganda. Of Blessed Miguel Pro, he writes, noting how President Calles had photographs of his execution published, that he was the hero of Catholics in the late 1930's:

There were hundreds of others done to death at the same time. Mexico had been infertile of religious heroes for some generations; now she suddenly burst into flower; but popular imagination always seeks to personify its ideals, and it is on Pro, very worthily, that it has fastened as the embodiment of the spirit Calles provoked. Within a few hours of his death he was already canonized in the hearts of the people; with typical ineptitude Calles had photographers on the scene of the execution and issued pictures of it to the press; within a day or two it was a criminal offence to possess one; they circulated nevertheless from hand to hand and were reproduced in secret all over the country. Today you can buy cards of Pro outside the churches and even government apologists have stopped trying to justify his death. It was a mistake, they admit; it was indeed; one of those resounding mistakes which make history. While Dwight Morrow and his clown and Calles were off on a trip together in the Presidential train talking of debt settlements, Pro was being shot in a back yard. Dwight Morrow is already forgotten. Pro is the inspiration of thousands through whom the Mexican Church is still alive.

Waugh writes about the Cristeros:

The present situation of the Church in Mexico is the result of the truce effected with the mediation of Dwight Morrow. Mexican Catholics profess small gratitude to him for his intervention. The promises then made by the government have not been kept. The Cristeros were induced to surrender their arms under an amnesty which has been broken by a series of retributive murders. The hierarchy believed that their spiritual work was to be allowed to continue without persecution; they have been bitterly disappointed. For Catholics the unhappy character of the compromise has been emphasized by the grave warning of the late Pope in the encyclical Firmissimam Constantiam of Easter 1937.

Browsing that chapter, with Waugh's description of Our Lady of Guadalupe, demonstrated to me what a thoughtful Catholic Evelyn Waugh truly was. He understands--as a convert--both the outsider and the insider view of the Catholic Church, our doctrine, worship, and devotion.

Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tallis for Thanksgiving

My late parents--especially my mother--often lamented that Thanksgiving was passed over so quickly in the Christmas rush. When I found this CD I bought them a copy and one for us as well, since it featured music for Thanksgiving!

The CD combines works from the British Colonies, Tudor England, and the Continent in the Middle Ages. Thus there are compositions by Thomas Tallis and Peter Abelard mixed among hymns from the American shape-note tradition and psalmody. The theme of all the hymns and songs is thanks and praise of Almighty God.

The image on the cardboard cover of the CD (no jewel box) is Currier & Ives' 1867 lithograph titled "Home to Thanksgiving." Please note that it's not "Home for Thanksgiving"! It's not so much an event to be celebrated as an activity to be observed.

This Thanksgiving would have been what my brother once called an "Annigiving", because it is also our late parents' wedding anniversary.

May they rest in peace and may we all be reunited at the heavenly banquet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

St. Thomas More's Poor Souls on the Son Rise Morning Show

Annie Mitchell asked me to talk about St. Thomas More and the Poor Souls in Purgatory tomorrow (Monday, November 19) on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on at the end of their 7:00 a.m. Eastern time hour, at about 7:50 (6:50 a.m. Central time). Listen live on the Sacred Heart Radio website.

St. Thomas More is honored as a saint because he was martyred for the Faith in 1535, but he had been working to defending the Catholic faith and Church teaching for several years before he was imprisoned in 1534. He wrote dialogues, point-by-point refutations of certain publications, and other works of apologetics against errors about the Catholic faith.

The most creative of these works, in my opinion, is his 1529 work on purgatory, The Supplication of Souls.

I wrote about More's efforts to defend the Church's teaching on Purgatory and the practice of praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory for the National Catholic Register, and that's why Annie wanted to discuss this with me tomorrow:

As the Protestant Reformation was developing on the Continent and coming to England through books and certain followers of Lutheran ideas, Thomas More saw the danger in the attacks on Purgatory. In his book “The Supplication of Souls” More was answering a pamphlet, “A Supplication for the Beggars” by Simon Fish.

Fish charged that Masses and prayers for the dead diverted alms from the poor and he urged Henry VIII to destroy the priesthood, force priests to get married and get jobs, and thus eradicate Masses for the dead, for which priests received stipends.

More knew how dangerous this suggestion was: not only would prayer for the dead, the great bond between the living and the dead, be destroyed, but also the ministerial priesthood, and the Sacrifice of the Mass. The whole economy of salvation and the communion of saints were at stake, so he answered Fish’s pamphlet as creatively and persuasively as he could. More hoped, through his apologetics, to preserve Hope in Heavenly happiness in England before it could be destroyed by false teaching.

While the commercial world is already celebrating Christmas, we Catholics are still praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory during the month of November, dedicated to their memory and their purification.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two Deaths and One Burial

Queen Mary I, England's first and only Catholic Queen Regnant, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Cardinal Pole, both died on November 17, 1558.

Also on that date Hugh Aston, the composer and chorister, was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Leicester. According to HOASM, Aston or Ashton or Assheton is

the most important of the less famous composers represented in the Forrest-Heyther and Peterhouse partbooks. He graduated Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1510. It was fitting therefore that the choirmaster's post at Cardinal College, Oxford which Taverner was persuaded to take was first offered to him. Aston may have been in London and associated with the royal court from 1510 to 1525.Aston was master of the choristers at St Mary Newarke College, Leicester in 1525, and remained there until the College was dissolved in 1548. Drew a pension in Newarke granted in 1544 until Nov. 17, 1558. He was not the eponymous Archdeacon of York (d. 1522) or Canon of St. Stephen's, Westminster (d. 1523).

He has 'A Hornepype' for keyboard in a MS in the British Museum; he may also have composed My lady Careys dompe and The short mesure off my lady Wynkfyld's rownde.

Much of Aston's music is in fact very vigorous and forceful, sometimes rather in the manner of Taverner, but with a fondness for tiny florid touches which sometimes produce rather rough unessential dissonances. Some of the imitative writing for full choir in the Mass Videte manus meas (cantus firmus an antiphon from Vespers of Easter Tuesday) is similar in its energetic quality to parts of Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas, especially at 'rex coelestis' or 'descendit de coelis'; but in general there is a far more mechanical handling of less interesting shapes.

The best of Aston is probably to be found in the antiphons Gaude virgo mater Christi and Ave Maria divae matris Annae. The melodic style here occasionally points ahead quite strikingly to that of later composers in the new boldness of outline of some important melodic phrases; in particular one notes in several places a new kind of melodic expansion in which an important interval is enlarged when imitated to help create a sense of growth and climax.

The Blue Heron vocal ensemble has recorded three of Aston's Marian Antiphons on their first of five CDs devoted to the music of the Peterhouse Partbook. Stile Antico also included Gaude Virgo Mater Christi on their Music for Compline CD.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Duke Who Was a Butler, A Late Jacobite, RIP

Or, if you prefer, the Butler who was a Duke: James FitzJames Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, an Irish Protestant statesman, at first served King James II, then switched sides to William and Mary, switching back again after Anne died and George I of Hanover succeeded during the '15. According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica he was born in Dublin on April 29, 1665 and educated in France and then at Christ Church, Oxford. Then:

He obtained command of a cavalry regiment in Ireland in 1684, and having received an appointment at court on the accession of James II., he served against the duke of Monmouth. Having succeeded his grandfather as duke of Ormonde in 1688, he joined William of Orange, by whom he was made colonel of a regiment of horse-guards, which he commanded at the battle of the Boyne. In 1691 he served on the continent under William, and after the accession of Anne he was placed in command of the land forces co-operating with Sir George Rooke in Spain. Having been made a privy councillor, Ormonde succeeded Rochester as viceroy of Ireland in 1703, a post which he held till 1707. On the dismissal of the duke of Marlborough in 1711, Ormonde was appointed captain general in his place, and allowed himself to be made the tool of the Tory ministry, whose policy was to carry on the war in the Netherlands while giving secret orders to Ormonde to take no active part in supporting their allies under Prince Eugene. Ormonde's position as captain-general made him a personage of much importance in the crisis brought about by the death of Queen Anne. Though he had supported the revolution of 1688, he was traditionally a Tory, and Lord Bolingbroke was his political leader. During the last years of Queen Anne he almost certainly had Jacobite leanings, and corresponded with the duke of Berwick. He joined Bolingbroke and Oxford, however, in signing the proclamation of King George I., by whom he was nevertheless deprived of the captain-generalship. In June 1715 he was impeached, and fled to France, where he for some time resided with Bolingbroke, and in 1716 his immense estates were confiscated to the crown by act of parliament, though by a subsequent act his brother, Charles Butler, earl of Arran, was enabled to repurchase them. After taking part in the Jacobite invasion in 1715, Ormonde settled in Spain, where he was in favour at court and enjoyed a pension from the crown. Towards the end of his life he resided much at Avignon, where he was seen in 1733 by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ormonde died on the 16th of November 1745, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

With little of his grandfather's ability, and inferior to him in elevation of character, Ormonde was nevertheless one of the great figures of his time. Handsome, dignified, magnanimous and open-handed, and free from the meanness, treachery and venality of many of his leading contemporaries, he enjoyed a popularity which, with greater stability of purpose, might have enabled him to exercise commanding influence over events.

According to the Westminster Abbey website, James Butler was interred in the family

vault on 22nd May 1746. His first wife was Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Two young children by her were buried in the vault (Elisabeth and Mary). His second wife was Mary Somerset, daughter of Henry, Duke of Beaufort. She is said never to have seen her husband during his exile and she was buried on 25th November 1733. Their son Thomas was buried 1689, daughter Henrietta in 1701 and Elizabeth(who died unmarried) in 1750.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Ides of November, 1539

The last Abbots of Reading and Glastonbury suffered martyrdom on November 15, 1539. Hugh Cook Faringdon and Richard Whiting had both sworn fealty to Henry VIII as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England, but had resisted the required surrender of their monasteries.

The Reading Museum has a painting of Abbot Faringdon's execution:

Faringdon was accused of denying the king’s title to be head of the Church in England and was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by being drawn, hanged, disembowelled and beheaded.

The Abbot was dragged on a hurdle by a horse around the streets of Reading. The painting shows him tied to the hurdle beside the gallows by the west front of the Abbey church in the Forbury. At Faringdon’s feet stand two priests, John Eynon, priest of St Giles, and John Rugg, who were also executed. The Mayor of Reading, Thomas Mirth, is robed in a black gown; next to him are the two burgesses of Parliament, Thomas Vachell and John Raymond, with a sergeant at law representing the State.

This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.

More about Reading Abbey and its Royal connections:

Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 after his son and heir died in the White Ship. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial. It was one of the principal religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The first monks who arrived on 18 June 1121 were Benedictines from the Cluniac order and came from Cluny in France and Lewes in Sussex. The first abbot, Abbot Hugh of Amiens, was appointed in 1123.

The presence of the Abbey had a considerable effect on the development of Reading and its influence can still be seen on the street pattern today. Reading's current Abbey Quarter includes the whole of the Abbey precinct.

Monks John Thorne and Roger James also suffered with Abbot Whiting on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury was one of the richest abbeys in the kingdom, and one of the best run and most observant of the Rule of St. Benedict: it was a ripe target for Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and the Court of Augmentations. Reading Abbey was a Benedictine house established during the reign of King Henry I and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist. It was initially part of the Cluniac branch of the Benedictine order. Cromwell had to trump up some charges against the elderly abbot at Glastonbury, because his Visitor first reported that everything was managed very well there; the monks were observant of the Benedictine Rule. Cromwell told Richard Layton to look further: hisjob was not to find excellence but detect failure as the the excuse for suppression.

More about the martyrs at Glastonbury here and about those at Reading. Perhaps their martyrdoms expiated their guilt for denying the authority of Christ's Vicar on earth: These six martyrs of the Dissolution of the Monasteries on November 15, 1539 (three each at Reading and Glastonbury) represent in some ways the remorse of the abbots and abbey leadership, who had accepted Henry VIII's oaths that proclaimed his authority over the Church of England as Supreme Head and Governor. Somehow they did not realize or imagine what he could and would do with that power and authority.

Pope Leo XIII beatified these six monastic martyrs in 1895.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Richard Topcliffe, Pursuivant and Torturer

Richard Topcliffe was born on November 14, 1531. He was the eldest son of Robert Topcliffe of Somerby, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Margaret, who was the the daughter of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh of Gainsborough, former chamberlain of the household to queen Anne Boleyn. His parents died when he was 12 years old and he became the ward of Sir Anthony Neville who had married his aunt Anne, Margaret's sister.

Richard Topcliffe, was, 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. . . .

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. . . .

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.

Portrait of Elizabeth I around 1595 by Marcus Gheeraerts.

Among those we know Topcliffe tortured are St. Robert Southwell, St. Eustace White, and Blessed Thomas Pormort. He was present at the executions of St. Edmund Gennings, St. Polydore Plasden, and St. Swithun Wells on December 10, 1591. St. Swithun Wells hoped that Topcliffe would repent and convert: "I pray God make you a Paul of a Saul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children."