Nevertheless, he was born when the Catholic religion was effectively in retreat and indeed under accelerating persecution, under forbidding injunctions intending that ‘there remain no memory of the same’. . . .
The official hope was that Catholic belief and practice would abate with the dying out of priests, places of worship and the forms of prayer and devotion that legislation now banned. . . .
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints,
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little, little grave … (Act 3, scene 2)
Let there be sung Non Nobis and Te Deum,
The dead with charity enclosed with clay:
And then to Callice, and to England then
Where ne’er from France arrived more happy men.’ (Act 4, scene 8)
O, not today, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown.
I Richard’s body have interrèd new
And on it have bestowed more contrite tears
Than from it issued forcèd drops of blood.
Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay
Who twice a day their withered hands hold up
Toward heaven to pardon blood. And I have built
Two chantries where the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do—
Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon. (Act 4, scene 1)
How did the works of this possible crypto-Catholic (certainly one steeped in its imagery), spread throughout the whole world carrying this rich, resonant and sacramental imagery? At the core of all this is the “echo chamber of remembrance “ that is, in effect, the English language itself.
This continued to appear and inform the language and the culture throughout the 270 years of Catholic suppression, emerging to inform Newman’s ‘Second Spring’ that inspired the foundation of our Guild. This language not only underpins our country and its culture, but is still evident – and potent – in the most unlikely places today.