Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Rescuing a piece of memorabilia for St Thomas' in Oxford

Today at an auction here in Oxford I managed to purchase an illuminated address on vellum to the Rev. Francis Underhill when he left his curacy at St Thomas the Martyr here in 1911. I was buying on behalf of the church, where I used to be Churchwarden and have a continuing residual role as Archivist.

[Image: illustration 1 of 1 for lot 74]

Image: Mallams

Francis Underhill musy have had an Exeter Collehe connection -as that is the coat of arms in the bottom right corner. At its upper left is asmall figure of a Boy Scout, so I assume he must have run the parish scout troup. The church itself is shown in the capital O of Oxford, and the parish emblem of a mitre pierecved by a sword can be seen in the T of the patron ssint's name.

I think that the scroll was probably the work of one of the Sisters of the parish sisterhood  - the Community of St Thomas the Martyr - who did similar work for the church.

I am grateful to the Rev David Johnson for pointing out to me the fact thqt this piece was coming up for auction, and enabling us to bring it back to St Thomas'


An eagle from Londinium

Several of today's newspapers have reports about the discovery and display at the Museum of London of a superb piece of Romano-British sculpture found by archaeologists in the City. It is of an eagle, gripping or devouring a serpent in its beak, and emblematic of Jupiter. Experts think that it probably comes from a tomb.


Two views of the eagle


There are articles from the Daily Mail, with a quote from my friend Prof Martin Henig at  Roman sculpture of eagle devouring serpent unearthed in London and from the Daily Telegraph there is both the article Exceptionally rare Roman statue unearthed in City of London and with a video at Video: 'Fantastic' Roman eagle sculpture found in London

Tuesday 29 October 2013

York Foundation

Yesterday Fr Richard, accompanied for the first month by Fr Nicholas, set off to take on the care of St Wilfrid's church in York, and with the eventual hope of establishing an Oratory there.

The Oxford Oratory now has three related posts about this: Please pray for our foundation in York, Fr Richard leaves for York and the link for the remodelled St Wilfrid's Website

Please join me in keeping this important initiative in your prayers.

The death of Conradin

On this date in 1268, 645 years ago, the 16 year old boy- king Conradin was beheaded in Naples with his best friend Frederick of Baden and a number of his supporters, an event which schocked many contemporaries. I wrote about the events anterior to this in my post The Battle of Tagliacozzo in August.

 File:Enthauptung Konradins.jpg

A fourteenth century depiction of the death of Conradin and his companions 
from Giovanni Villani's Nuovo Cronica

There is an online life of Conradin here.

Conradin from the early fourteenth century Codex Manesse,
a collection of German lyrics, preserved at Heidelburg, and in which
there appear two songs written by Conradin


Conradin, the last direct Hohenstaufen, was the son of the German King Conrad IV, and grandson of the Emperor Frederick II, inherited his claim to the thrones of Germany, Sicily and Jerusalem at the age of 26 months when his father died in 1254.

Although regarded as King Conrad V by some Germans the monarchy of the King of the Romans was elective, and with papal pressure not to elect another Hohenstaufen, not to mention the fact that Conradin was only a child Germany entered upon the interregnum that included the double election of Richard of Cornwall in 1257 and of Alfonso X of Castile that did not end until the election of Rudolf of Habsburg in 1273.

Conradin’s uncle and “regent” Manfred usurped him in Sicily, possibly beleiving or claiming to have heard of the boy's death. King Manfred, an illegitimate son of the Emperor Frederick II was eventually killed at the battle of Benevento in 1266 fighting against Charles of Anjou, brother of St Louis IX and brother-in-law of King Henry III, upon whom the Papacy, as suzerain had bestowed the kingdom.

At this point Conradin decided to assert his Sicilian claim, at an age not dissimilar to his grandfather's seizure of poer in Germany half a century or so beforehand as a teenager. By the standards of medieval Europe, he was old enough to press his rights in battle. So Conradin, Corradino to the Italians, as I outlined in August led his troops into Italy, but his international army was defeated at Tagliacozzo on August 23 1268.

King Charles of Anjou. 
Reale d'oro, Barletta. 
Half length portrait between lily and cross, with on the reverse his. coat of arms. 


Escaping from the field of battle, Conradin reached Rome, but acting on advice to leave the city he proceeded to Astura in an attempt to sail for Sicily: but here he was betrayed by the Frangipani family, arrested and handed over on September 8th to Charles, who imprisoned him in the Castel dell'Ovo in Naples, together with his inseparable friend Frederick of Baden. The actual nature of their friendship may historically be unclear, but these days it has attracted predictable interest from certain quarters.

His captor’s attitude was summed up in the sentiment Vita Corradini, mors Caroli - Mors Corradini, vita Caroli. “Conrad’s life is Charles’s death, the death of Conrad is the life of Charles” somewhat doubtfully ascribed to the counsel of Pope Clement IV.The Pope, who was living at Viterbo, was to attract blame for not apparently interceding for Conradin's life,  and indeed in the opinion of some was held to be responsib;e. This point was to be made by Luther during the German reformation with a propaganda print showing the Pope personally decapitating Conradin. However there is good evidence that the Pope did try to save Conradin - whom he had described as alamb led to the slaughter as his army advanced through Italy - and also sought the intervention of Charles' brother the King of France to save the young man. In any event the pope was to die a month later at the end of November.

Charles of Anjou
Statue in the Vatican collections


Charles hesitated between life imprisonment or death as a punishment. Prisoners from Tagliocozzo, such as the Infante Enrique of Castile were to be imprisoned for upwards of twenty three years, whilst there was also the precedent of King Enzo of Sardinia, illegitimate son of the Emperor Frederick lived out the rest of his life in prison in Bologna from his capture in 1249 until 1272.

Charles decided on death for his rival and called together a  tribunal composed of two representitives of each of the towns of the region.  Conradin was arraigned before this court with having revolted aganst his legitimate sovereign, of having shown contempt for his excommunication by the Church, of having allied himself with the Saracens - i.e. his grandfather's settlement of themn at Lucera  - and of pillaging the convents and churches of Rome. Only one of the judges, Guido de Lucaria, found in favour of Conradin, in a case whose verdict was certain from the beginning.

Conradin was not present at his condemnation, news of which was brought to him in prison by an elderly French knight according to some sources. At the time he was playing chess with Frederick, and, without rising having heard their fatepronounced, resumed their game.

Accounts vary as to whether the sentence was fixed for thenext day or that they were given three days to prepare. Early on the morning of October 29th Conradin,accompagnied by Frederick, the Ghibelline Counts Gualferano and Bartolomeo Lancia, Gerard and Gavano Donoratico of Pisa and seven others went to the scaffold erected in the new Market Place of Naples. The one grace Charles afforded his rival was that Conradin was executed first.

Charles did not help his subsequent public image by turning up to witness the executions, and the events as recorded, accurately or not, by later writers enhance the already dramatic nature of what happened. Villani in the next century ha s the story of Robert Count of Flanders, son in law of Charles of Anjou,outraged at the sentence striking and killing Robert of Bari who pronounced it at the execution, with the words  "Tiens, voici pour t'apprendre à oser condamner à mort un aussi noble et si gentil seigneur." Confidently mounting the scaffold Conradin is said to have declared his innocence, announced his certainty that his German subjects would avenge him  and threw one of his gloves to the watching crowd where it was retrieved by Henri d'Apifero , who found within it the young King;s signet and carried the glove to Constance, the daughter of King Manfred, and this Conradin's cousin, who was married to King Peter III of Aragon. This was no sentimental gesture but rather an action of bestowing the Hohenstaufen claim on the Aragonese. It seems similar to the symbolism of gloves as in the English coronation rite where one is given to the hand which holds the royal sceptre.


Conradin throws his glove to the crowd
Engraving by William Zimmermann in A Popular History of Germany c.1890



Conradin glove in hand on the scaffold - note the approaching eagle

Nineteenth century engraving by J.Plueddemann


His last words are said to have been "O Mother ! What griefs I cause you."

Immediately after Conradin's decapitation Frederick is said to have kissed the severed head before suffering a like fate, and that an eagle swooped down and dipped its right wing tip in the blood of Conradin.

There is more about the trial and execution in the extract from Giuseppe Quatriglio's  A Thousand Years in Sicily: From the Arabs to the Bourbons (1991) here

The significance of the story of Conradin's death is in part that thereby Charles of Anjou set a dangerous precedent for  many other executions over succeeding centuries of dynastic and political rivals across Europe - hitherto the fate of political rivals had not been determined by public show trials resulting in a journey to the scaffold.

Runciman in The Sicilian Vespers says that Conradin's erstwhile subjects never forgot him, and he remained for centuries a figure of legend and romantic speculation. By the fourteenth century the story of the eagle dipping its wing in his blood was known, and in the late 1320s the Emperor Louis IV when ion italy deliberately razed to the ground a fortress where, mistakenly, it was thought Conradin had suffered. In the sixteenth century in Germany he was presented by Luther as a victim of the abuse of Papal power, and I have been told that in 1870 Germans spoke of the Franco-Prussian war as revenge for Tagliacozzo.

His story inspired a whole series of dramatic works and poems in German, French and English in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An example of its popular appeal to nineteenth century English poets with an interest in the Italian middle ages, can be seen in this extract from Conradin by William John Rous, published in 1884:
He turns to clasp with longing arms his friend,
And turning, sees the fatal blow descend,
Then presses with his lips the severed head,
Last greeting of the dying to the dead.
One quivering flash, a shock that is not pain,
And those he parted death unites again.
So perished Conradin, but legends tell
That as the trenchant blade descending fell,
An eagle, that, unseen by human eyes,
Had poised aloft, down swooping from the skies,
For one short instant hovered o’er the slain,
And dyed his pinions with a crimson stain,
Then wildly shrieked, and upward soaring sped
To witness for the blood unjustly shed.

For artists the story of the teenage Conradin was rather like the English ones of the Princes in the Tower  or Lady Jane Grey, as in Paul Delaroche's well-known painting of her execution. In the case of Conradin and Frederick the topic appealed to the Romantic imagination of the latre eighteenth century, as with this somewhat sentimental piece:

Conradin of Swabia and Frederick of Baden Being Informed of Their Execution in Prison in Naples

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein 1785 


and some are frankly awful:


Painting by Pauline Soltau (1833-1902) of 1860


Others are fine examples of ineteenth century historical painting. This one shows Conradin wearing a cap like that he is depicted wearing in the Villani illustrations:



and this one better still I think:


Robert of Bari reads the death sentence to Conradin and Frederick

Anton Werner 

Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

Image: Flickriver.com

The execution itself inspired a number of dramatic, if not overly accurate, indeed fanciful depictions over the centuries. Although these suggest the executioner used a sword or an axe one website I saw suggests Conradin and his companions died by the use of a mannaia (literally "the knife"), a very primitive forerunner of the guillotine, which was operated by driving the blade - essentially a meat cleaver, hence the name mountd in a block of wood - down through the victim's neck using a heavy mallet. Mannias eventually evolved into larger devices with weighted blades that more closely resemble the Halifax Gibbet, but the short drop required a very heavy blade to insure decapitation, and the axes would likely crush through the spinal column rather than slice through it.

Frederick of Baden receives the head of Conradin - detail from an early print


The execution of Conradin in Naples
A seventeenth century copper engraving


File:Der junge Konradin.jpg

Frederick kisses the severed head of Conradin
Print by Bernhard Rode, 1781

Image: Wikipedia



With Conradin's death at 16, the legitimate Hohenstaufen line became extinct. He was buried at first as an excommunicate on the beach at Naples but hisis remains, with those of Frederick of Baden, were removed to the church of the monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Naples founded by his mother for the good of his soul, and situated near the site of his death.There in 1847 the Crown Prince of Bavaria, later  King Maximilian II(1848-64) erected a marble statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen to his memory.


The statue of Conradin by Thorvaldson in the Carmelite church in Naples

Image: Wikipedia

Ccnradin' s posthumous career from  thirteenth century teenage  claimant and victim to fourteenth century figure of legend and then sixteenth century anti- Papal icon to the Romantic hero-victim which appealled to the a sensibilities of that era to nineteenth century proto-nationalist and twenty first century gay icon is a remarkable cultural journey - and no mean achievement for a teenager who died before he was seventeen.

Monday 28 October 2013

Celebrating Bl.Salvio Huix-Miralpeix

Yesterday at the Oxford Oratory the 11am Solemn Mass was a celebration of the Beatification of Bishop Salvio Huix-Miralpeix a fortnight ago in Tarragona. The Oratory website's illustrated report on those  ceremonies in Catalonia can be read at Beatification of our First Martyr. I wrote about the subject in my recent post The Spanish Martyrs.


Bl. Salvio Huix-Miralpeix C.O.

Image:Oxford Oratory

It was highly appropriate that the impressive red vestments worn by the sacred ministers were Spanish - the dalmatic and tunicle have the distinctive feature of the collarette, which I assume originates in an apparel for an amice - and the music was by Spanish composers, the Mass setting itself being by Tomas Luis de Victoria.

In his sermon Fr Dominic, who has long had an interest in the story of Bl. Salvio, told the congregation of the life and martyrdom of the Oratorian who became Provost of the Oratory at Vic and then Bishop successively of  Ibiza and Llerida, and put it in the wider context of both the other martyrs of Spain and St Philip's attitude to sanctity and martyrdom amongst his sons.

The Mass concluded with the singing of the Te Deum in honour of the Beatification.



At Mass we were given prayer cards with the Collect for Bl. Salvio, whose feast day is November 6th:

Almighty and eternal God, who

in your goodmess bestowed on the
bishop and martyr Salvio Huix the
gift of pastoral charity even to the
point of shedding of his blood for
Christ and his Church; bestow on us
also the grace to work faithfully in
your vineyard and to experience his
intercession in this life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Roger Scruton on Language and Liturgy

Last night I went to a meeting of the Prayer Book Society at Pusey House to hear Prof. Roger Scruton speak on the topic of Liturgy and Language.

The Ursell Room was packed out to hear what Prof Scruton had to say and his talk was followed by questions and discussion.

In effect describing himself as someone who had come to find in the settled phrases and rhythms of the Bookof Common Prayer a spiritual path the Professor, not surprisingly given his well known and robust defence of traditional values and ideas, as well as his audience, stressed the importance of that high register language deliberately chosen by Cranmer, consolidated by its reissue in 1662 and hallowed by constant use which characterises the BCP. Such language aquires an aura, and conveys meaning by more than literalism. That depth of meaning was in one sense beyond the power of words and acquired alife and being of its own. It is noble language used in a noble aim, the worship of Almighty God.To that end he quoted Philip Larkin writing of religion as a "serious thing on serious ground." Such language can and should convey meaning beyond the conscious to the depths of the soul.

The retention of such serious, charged language was important to convey fundamental and unchanging truths to present and subsequent generations, that the words carried meaning beyond their linguistic and academic ones, opening up the mind and spirit to the Infinite. Prof. Scruton clearly implied that  his view could be broadened to include the concept that the same principle could be applied to the Roman Missal of 1570 and its successive reissues down to 1962.

Amongst the many questions and commends I was particularly struck by one from an academic who was raised as a Catholic and who, when he had worked in Japan had found modern Catholic worship offered by western chaplains dull and uninspiring. Together with those same chaplains he had visited Buddhist shrines, with their elaborate and beautiful worship amidst clouds on incense, at which they had all been entranced. Nonetheless on return to the chaplaincy the to him uninspired liturgy of modern Catholicism had resumed Sunday by Sunday. The importance and need for the beautiful in the externals of holiness failed to make an impact. The result - the academic who told us this had, in consequence, given up on Catholicism and become a High Anglican, because they did the liturgy better.

This was talk which was about a much debated issue, but still a valuable set of thoughts from an intellectual, on a topic of concern to Anglicans and Catholics in respect of their liturgical books, and what they are saying.

Friday 25 October 2013

Four generations and a baptism

The baptism of Prince George of Cambridge on Wednesday received more attention from much of the media than has been usual for royal christenings, even those of children in the direct line of succession to the throne.

Part of the reason is that for the first time since 1894 has there been the opportunity to photograph the Monarch with three direct male heirs, spanning four generations. That is the historic image from the occasion, and a very good and positive one too.


 Image: newsbbcimg.co.uk

The baptism of a royal infant here is not as public as in some monarchies, such as the Netherlands or Sweden, and represents the tradition of it being a private family occasion first and foremost, with public photographs released afterwards, as were the official pictures today.

Much speculation and significance has been assigne dto the choice of godparents. It is somewhat different from previous generations - friends of the parents rather than royal or public figures, but it is not that different. Traditionally a godparent was not a close relative, and the idea was to establish a new spiritual family for the child. In this case it may mean the godparents will have more time to discharge their responsibilities than if they are high profile members of royal families or highly place public figures.

Certainly the choice of older godparents, such as the Duke of Connaught in 1926 for the present Queen, when he was the last surviving son of Queen Victoria, and born in 1850, with the great Duke of Wellington as his own godfather, was aa way of linking Princess Elizabeth to her forebears. Similarly the choice of King Haakon VII in 1948 as a godfather to the Prince of Wales linked him to King Edward VII's son-in-law and to the Danish-Norwegian Glucksburg house. That and the photographs of the Prince on his mother's lap between two of his great-grandmothers, Queen Mary and the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven ( born a Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt and by the Rhine, and sister to the Empress Alexandra of Russia ) all helped to stress continuity and contact. So there is a lot to be said for such things. The image of four generations is very much in that tradition.

Who was or, more significantly, it is suggested was not invited has caused some, indeed quite alot of comment. Ity may signify something, and it may not - practical considerations nmay well lie at the root of that. 

The choice of the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace rather than the Music Room of Buckingham Palace is in many ways more suitable. First of all, it is a proper place of worship, and an historic one. It  dates from the sixteenth century, has the heart of Queen Mary I buried within it, was where King Charles I received communion on the day he was martyred, witnesses the annual Royal Epiphany service, was the scene of the wedding of Queen Victoria and King George V, of the vigil by the Princess of Wales' coffin in 1997 and of the Duchess of Cambridge's confirmation. So a lot of Royal ghosts were hovering in the shadows this last Wednesday.

Let us pray for every blessing upon Prince George both as a child of God and as a child of the Royal Family.

"Warrior King" - Keith Dockray's view of King Henry V

Today being the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt it seems an appropriate one on which to comment on a fairly recent biography of the victor, King Henry V. Recently I have been looking again at "Warrior King" by Keith Dockray, which is published by Tempus.


It is useful, indeed valuable, contribution to studies of the reign, and well worth looking at, although it is pity the publshers did not use better quality illustrations to accompany the text. 

The author sets out at the beginning specifically to be conciously more critical of the King's achievements than have been historians such as say K.B.Macfarlane or Christopher Allmand. There is nothing necessarily wrong in that, although it would not necessarily be my opinion. He certainly raises the question - ultimately unaswerable  - as to whether the King could ever have succeeded in his French plans.  They may well have been unattainable, but King Henry V did show a remarkable ability to make things happen and to happen as he wanted them to. 

Occasionally however this approach does seem to lead Dockray to what becomes a rather selective use of language. Thus, writing about the King's non-appearance at his Queen's coronation at Westminster in 1421 the author suggests that Henry was not interested in such "junketings". That, to my mind, misses the point about Kings usually being absent from such a seperate coronation of their consorts, so as to leave the Queen centre stage - as with Margaret of Anjou in 1445, Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, Elizabeth of York in 1487 and Anne Boleyn in 1533. The King might well be there, but hidden away in a royal pew,so as not to divert attention from her.Furthermore as King his sense of the importance of ceremony appears clear. Queen catherine's coronation indeed appears to have been an impressive occasion, and demonstration of the unuin of the dynasties and crowns.

The book is divided into three parts - the historiography, life, and the author's assessment of his subject. I was struck by the way in which the historiography is surprisingly consistent whether contemporary English or French writers or later historians using those same sources - a consistent portrait emerges. The difference lies more in the attitude of the different writers to the King they are describing, and thus reveals more about them rather than modify the image of King. Individual historians may or may not like or admire King Henry V, but he himself emerges true to the record - a disciplined, austere, intelligent man, gifted in the art of governance, well able to assert his authority and command men, a man able to lead. Whether what he sought to do was practicable, possible or desirable may be open to discussion, but that he stamped his presence on his contemporaries and the enduring national conciousness (not least thanks to Shakespeare) is unquestionable.

Thursday 24 October 2013

How to convert the nation

Last night I went to a talk at the Oxford Oratory given by Fr Jerome Bertram to the members of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, who had been holding a Colloquium at the Oratory and which was open to the public about strategies for the conversion of the country. This is a topic upon which I know Fr Jerome has spoken before, but this was the first opportunity I had had to actually hear him on the subject.

He made the point that converting the nation is not anew thing to do, not so much a Second Spring but a Fifth. Previously there have been the conversion under the Roman Empire, the missions of St Augustine and of the Hiberno-Scottish monks to the Anglo-Saxons, the tenth century re-establishment of the Church after the Danish invasions, and then, after the playing out of the events of the Reformation and Catholic Emancipation, the "Second Spring" as outlined by Newman. Now we need a new process to approach the situation the Church and country face.

For this he thought that much that had been done before was still applicable - though it is no longer a case of converting Anglo-Saxon pagan chieftains - but the tried and tested methods used appropriately still offered much. These included a disciplined clergy, prayerful and exemplary, the beauty of liturgical celebration and churches, the distinct roles of secular and regular clergy and the active proper participation of the laity - the types or organisations which flourished in the earlier twentieth century and which, despite strong Conciliar endorsement, have withered since Vatican II.

There is a report on the colloquium from the Oratory website which can be read at The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

St Paul in Sussex

Last night Fr Jerome entertained the Brothers of the Oratory with a talk based upon a wonderful mixture of archaeological finds, Biblical references, possible hypotheses and a lot of wishful thinking. this was his retelling of the theories and interpretations in Edwin Wilmshurst's St Paul and Britain;notes on the dedication stone of the temple of Neptune and Minerva, at Chichester, which connects the Roman senator Pudens, the British princess Claudia, and St Paul, with the city of Chichester .This pamphlet was published in Chichester in 1910.

In it the author blends together facts and suppositions to talk of the connections berween St Paul, Caractacus, Old King Coel, Young King Coel, St Helena and a Palestinian-Roman-British dynasty based in what is now Sussex. Heady stuffy, and thought provoking in the bemused scratchings of heads kind of way.

Apart from its entertainment value Fr Jerome was making a serious point. Here, once again, was an attempt to create a British Church anterior to that of Rome - thus the British Christian Llyr becomes Linus successor of Paul, not Peter, as Bishop of Rome...

As Fr Jerome pointed out, and as a historian I quite agree, the "Celtic Church" and analagous institutions are modern - very modern - notions. When St Augustine met the native British episcopate, and tried, not perhaps too tactfully, to get them to co-opertate with him in evangelising the pagan Anglo-Saxons, he recognised them as being, like himself, bishops who derived their authority from the Universal Church, not from some autonomous independent origin. Similarly the Synod of Whitby recognised a common episcopate, and sought to resolve procedural and practical difficulties, not fundamental differences in origin. One cannot create an independent paleo-British Christianity just because it satisfies an emotional or national need centuries later.

Which does not deny the theoretical possibility of St Paul coming to Britannia after preaching in Hispania, or indeed the teenage Jesus coming with Joseph of Arimathea, who, as of course we all know was in the tin-trade, to Glastonbury...


DNA and King Henri's head

Like that of King Charles the head of King Henri IV of France keeps cropping up. My previous posts about it can be seen at King Henri's head and Uneasy lies the head.

The identification of the head as that of the first Bourbon King of France and its potential reburial at St Denis, whence it was disinterred, along with the other royal remains in 1793, is of genuine if slightly macabre interest. Such a return to St Denis would be one way of the French atoning for the sacrilege of the revolution, and King Henri remains one of their most popular monarchs 

However having been the victim of assassination, disinterment and separation from its body and turnedinto a museum object the royal head is now at the mercy of experts in DNA, as is reported in this article from the Spanish newspaper El Tempo, which a friend has kindly forwarded to me, and which can be seen here. I must warn readers that it has, rather like the royal head, suffered in the process of transmission, having been put through the Yahoo automatic translation system and coming out in particularly bad Spanglish - which is probably worse to read than battling through the original with little or no knowledge of Spanish.

Nonetheless the article is interesting. It points out how the Bourbon-Orleanist claimant to the throne of France, the Count of paris  -the de jure  King Henri VII has remained somewhat aloof from the controveries around the head, other than wishing for its honourable reburial at St Denis.  DNA tests from members of the Bourbon family, including the Queen of Romania, have established genetic identity between the head and known descendents of King Henri IV.

The article gets very confusing for the unwary when it moves on to the other claimannt to the French throne, the Duke of Anjou-Segovia, who claims as the de jure King Louis XX. When the article writes of "Queen Elizabeth II" and her husband it does not mean those whom you might think, but is a literal Anglicisation of the name of Queen Isabella II, born in 1830 and who died in 1904, having reigned as Queen of Spain from 1833 until 1868/70.

The point here is that the Anjou claim to the throne of France come sthrough that Queen's marriage to her cousin and consort King Francis, whose father was her father's younger brother. Both their parents were siblings, which affects the DNA count, but it is widely believed that none of the children borne by Queen Isabella were actually fathered by her husband (who is thought not to have been able or willing to do that sort of thing if you understand my coyness in such delicate matters), although he recognised them as his progeny.

If the Duke of Anjou-Segovia is not descended from from King Francis d'Asis and the uninterrupted male line of the Bourbons  then he would have no claim to the French throne as King Louis XX - and never mind the treaty of Utrecht's provisions about not conjoining the thrones of France and Spain. 
Hence the article's query as to whether of not the Duke would undergo DNA matching himself.

However, to complicate matters further DNA testing is not quite that simple, as is conveniently explained in the biographical article about King Francis here.

Monday 21 October 2013

Bl. Emperor Charles of Austria

Today is the feast day appointed for Bl. Charles of Austria - the date was chosen because it is the anniversary of his  wedding in 1911 to  Zita of Bourbon-Parma, and his exemplary married and family life was recognised as one of the justifiable causes for his Beatification in 2004. A second miracle was recognised by the Vatican in 2008. This was the cure in Florida of a Baptist, who subsequently converted to Catholicism. There is an account of this here.

File:Kaiser Karl of Austria-Hungría.jpg

Bl. Charles of Austria
A portrait from 1915


The Emperor-King was clearly, transparently, a good man, a decent man, one who sought peace. His great uncle the Emperor Francis Joseph had expressed the wish to find a negotiated settlement in his last months, and the young future Emperor 's words at the time of the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 record his horror at the enthusiasm for war on the part of some, whilst firmly believing in the the justice of the Austrian cause. His attempts in 1917 to achieve a negotiated peace on the lines advocated by Pope Benedict XVwon him no thanks from the Western allies or from his own in Germany.

Whether he would have been able to reconcile the different communities of his inheritance had he come to the throne in peacetime or even under the terms of the October Patent is unknowable, but he clearly enjoyed popular esteem from the ordinary people and his commitment to their welfare, both before and after November 1918, and that could well have worked in his favour had he been spared.

What is clear is that the peoples of the realms over which he reigned have had a far from happy time for much of the period since November 1918 - dissolving the Habsburg Empire was a disaster.

Usually I say the Novena for his canonisation in the days leading up to today, but having been busy it has not happened this year - mea culpa, so that is something else to start in the coming days. The Novena can be found, along with information about the life of the Emperor and pictures of him on the website of the Emperor Charles League of Prayer. In addition there is the website of the Empress Zita cause. There is a handsomely illustrated online life of the Empress together with that of her husband here


The Emperor Charles I

Image: info-regebnten.de

There is a short biography of the Emperor by James and Joanna Bogle entitled A Heart for Europe and there is a much fuller account by Gordon Brook-Shepherd in The Last Habsburg, which includes many of the reminiscences of the Empress Zita who cooperated with the author when he was writing the biography.

The Emperor's Standard
This form of the standard was adopted in 1915

Image: The Habsburg Monarchist


At the Beatification of Emperor Charles in 2004 his son and successor Otto of Austria receives communion from Pope John Paul II

Image:New Liturgical Movement

File:Imperial Monogram of Emperor Charles I of Austria.svg

The Emperor's monogram

Image: Wikipedia

May Bl.Charles of Austria pray for the peoples of his dominions, for peace and for us all

Oxford LMS Pilgrimage

Saturday was the day of the annual Latin Mass Society's Pilgrimage to Oxfordand once again Mass was offered in the traditional Dominican Rite at Blackfriars by Fr Richard Conrad. The Deacon was Fr John Saward, the priest of SS Gregory and Augustine, but who is also a Dominican tertiary, as well as a tutor at Blackfriars so very much at home in the priory.

The Dominican form of the Mass has many similarities to the Sarum Use, and, apart from a few post-Tridentine additions, very much what  a medieval Dominican in Oxford or throughout the breadth of Christendom would have celebrated and known.  It is very beautiful and it is a delight to see it being made available again to the faithful.

After Mass I went off for lunch with an old friend from the Birmingham Ortatory who had come for the Pilgrimage, and after catching up on news and ideas, we rejoined the other pilgrims by the tower of St Michael at the Northgate, and on the site of the Bocardo prison over the city's north gate, for the Procession. Here my friend was commandeered to act as crucifer as we set off towards the site of the martyrdom in July 1589 of Bl. George Nichols, Bl.Richard Yaxley, Bl.Thomas Belson and Bl.Humphrey Pritchard. This took us past the site of their arrest, the Catherine Wheel inn - now covered by an eighteenth century extension of Balliol - and along Broad Street.
Now not only was this a Saturday but it was also Matriculation Day, so there were many fresher students around in sub fusc, gown and mortar board, and the tourist and general public just took us all in their stride as part of the Oxford scene -  which of course we are. 

As is our custom on this occasion, awaiting us at the end of Holywell Street was a gallows with four nooses dangling from it - a temporary but striking feature which is set up on these occasions near the site of the martyrdoms in 1589. Looking at a friend who had been assigned the task of looking after this another mutual friend pointed out that the other was, after all, a Daily Mail reader...

We returned along Holywell to Broad Street and Blackfriars, where we concluded with Benediction in the priory church, the incense rising through the afternoon sunbeams in the sanctuary, and sang the Salve Regina in the Dominican Tone.

There are a series of pictures, both of the liturgy and of the procession, together with a report on the Pilgrimage, and a link to more photographs, on the LMS Chairman's blog at Oxford Pilgrimage: Procession and Benediction.

Afterwards my friend from Birmingham and I revisited one of our old haunts on St Giles - the Eagle and Child - aka the Bird and Baby - to see if the local ale was still up to standard before he caught his train home.

A fine occasion, pious and beautiful, but also gregarious and cheering.

To gaze on Thee in the Sanctuary - the Forty Hours Devotion at the Oxford Oratory

This past weekend we have had the celebration of the Forty Hours Devotion at the Oxford Oratory, which is always one of the highlights of the parish year.

We began at 6 on Friday evening with the Solemn Mass of Exposition. I stayed for the beginning of the watch, and then left to go to eat some supper, and returned in good time to resume the watch and for  Compline and Benediction with the Dominicans, who joined the Oratorians for this, at Midnight.

We then moved into the longest part of the Vigil, interspersed with the saying of the Rosary and with the opportunity to go out to the parish centre for refreshments to sustain us through the night hours.  I have always managed to observe this Vigil, partly on the basis that I can make the time available when other may not be free to do so.

There was a profound silence for most of the time, and it was possible to begin to lose oneself in quiet contemplation. Whilst I cannot claim any great insights during this time I did feel relaxed in the Presence - like the story of the peasant at Ars telling St Jean-Marie Vianney how at Exposition "I looks at Him and He looks at me." There was a tranquilityfrom not trying to force prayer as I have perhaps fallen into on similar occasions in the past; my intentions, along with many of those of the congregation had been already placed beneath the Monstrance. So I could attempt to rest in contemplation and look to where He reigned in Glory in time and space as well as in Eternity.

Just before 4.30 one of the Oratory Fathers asked me to serve his private EF Mass in the Lady Chapel, which I did. This we had to do in almost total silence so as to preserve the spirit of adoration in the church. This brought forcefully to my mind the points I cited about the Silent Canon the other day in my post The Silent Canon.

At 5 we had Mattins and Lauds, sung by the Sisters of the Work and the Oratorians and at 6 Mass in the Extrordinary Form for the feast of St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford and the University, whom we have otherwise rather lost from the calendar this year with the clash with the Forty Hours.

After a bit more time at the Oratory I wet off home to freshen up and change before returning to the city centre attend the Latin Mass Society's Pilgrimage - but  more of that in a seperate post.

Here are some expandable images of the first evening taken by a friend:

There are more pictures from the Oxford Oratory website at Forty Hours in the Year of Faith

I called in again at the church on Saturday afternoon for another brief spell of Adoration.

On Sunday the 11am Solemn Mass was that of the Sacred Heart, as specified in the rubrics for the Devotion, and in the afternoon I returned for the last half hour or so of silent contemplation. At 5 pm we had Sung Solemn Vespers with a Procession and concluded with Benediction. All of that was deeply impressive, as was the whole weekend, and all who contributed to the preparations, setting up and refreshments as well as those serving are to be congratulated on making it all come together so successfully.

Whilst on the theme of this devotion the Birmingham Oratory recently held their Forty Hours Devotion and there are pictures of it on this post from New Liturgical Movement which can be seen at The Forty Hours at the Birmingham Oratory.

Sunday 20 October 2013

On being a Fashion Icon

I have, I think, enough common sense, personal awareness and humility not to aim to be a fashion-setter. However today that has been called into question by three comments from random strangers here in Oxford.

Late in the afternoon a graduate student in sub fusc - today has been Matriculation Day - congratulated m eon my choice of tie. Now it is one of which I am fond - and has been commented upon by others - and originated in Australia. It depicts, upon a dark blue background, various ruined buildings in one of the now abandoned first settlement towns on the coast of either New South Wales or Victoria. I found it second-hand here in Oxford and liked the design.

Nothing remarkable so far, but then in the late evening as I was walking with some friends an undergraduate stopped and said how much he liked my hat - a battered fedora, which can be seen on my head in the photograph at the head of this blog - and offered me £500 for it (It was Saturday night and I suspect he may have a drink or two). I declined the offer.

So my tie and my hat are noteworthy. However as I approached my home a passer-by said how much he admired my red trousers - they are rather the shade once worn by the French army.

Thus I returned home, affirmed in my sartorial choices for the day, when I had merely put on what came to hand and was suitable. Not merely am I a fashion icon, but an instinctive one.

Saturday 19 October 2013

More about understanding the Pope

Further to my recent post about attitudes to the Pope from the media and bloggers I see there is another post on Rorate Caeli which looks at aspects of this question. 

Now it is only fair to say that Rorate Caeli does not appear to be very keen on Pope Francis - that became clear from their coverage of his time as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires with regard to the application of Summorum Pontificum on the night of his election. This latest post is a digest of a number of opinion pieces by established European commentators on the Church, and makes for interesting reflection. We do, of course, need to remember that we are dealing with the work of writers who need to say something provocative or controversial to catch their readers' eye, but Press summary: The dangerous dilemma of the two living popes  is an interesting account of what is being written on the continent at the moment. 

As I said previoulsy I am not taking sides in these matters, but there is clearly an interesting debate going on, and one of which Catholics, and others, should be aware.


Friday 18 October 2013

The Spanish Martyrs

The Oxford Oratory pilgrims to the beatification of Bl. Salvio Huix-Miralpeix in Tarragona at the weekend have returned from what was clearly an enjoyable visit to the ceremony and to other Catalan cities and religious sites. There is an illustrated report from the Oratory website at  Oxford Oratory Pilgrimage to Catalonia and it also has  The Holy Father's Message for the Beatification of the Spanish Martyrs of the Twentieth Century.

Stephanie Mann on her blog Supremacy and Survival has a post Martyrs are Controversial: The 522 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War about the beatification of these 522 martyrs. She also has quotations  about the controversy this has caused in the minds of those who consider this is either opening old wounds, or from those who are critical of the Spanish Church per se or because the Church supported the Nationalists in the Civil War. Given the persecution to which the Church had been subjected after 1931 that was hardly surprising. It was, of course, the Nationalist rising in July 1936 that gave the excuse for the vicious attacks on the Church, particularly in Catalonia, and led to many of the worst Republican atrocities against those considered in any way likely to be supporters of the Nationalist cause. These dreadful events, as chronicled in Luis Bolin's Spain:the Vital Years or in C.E Lucas Phillips' The Spanish Pimpernel , are only too easily and conveniently ignored by those who go weak at the knees at Orwell's Homage to Catalonia - I recall my amazement when I looked at it to find that the wicked "right wingers" were not the Nationalist forces but the hardline orthodox party Communists...

Whatever convicted Republicans may have suffered after 1939 under the Caudillo's rule, it really is unreasonable to moan about the events after 1939 to distract from the appalling crimes committed by the Republicans, whether officially or by spontaneous acts of hatred and revenge in the summer of 1936. Basically the Leftist have always been bad losers over the Spanish Civil War - for once they were defeated. As afriend and I were reflecting yesterday, what would have been the situation for Europe have been had Spain been ruled by a Stalinist regime in the world after 1945.

Here, for the record, from the blog Mundabor, is Pope Pius XII’s Message After the Victory In Spain.

Understanding the Pope

The Catholic part of the blogosphere has been more than usually busy following the publication of the two recent interviews the Pope has given, with vigorous comments both for and against what the Pope has said or, perhaps more importantly, is thought to have said.

I have good friends who not happy at all with what they read and see, others who are cautious or positive in their reactions. I know those who might well be described as traditionalist, or indeed as Traditionalist (there is a difference) who are very positive about things the Pope has done or said. Others are dismayed and fear the worst. On occasion one person can express both sets of attitudes in the same or following conversations.

The publication of the Vatican decree about the use of the 1962 Missal by the Franciscans of the Immaculate and its implication for the application of Summorum Pontificum was seen by some as the thin edge of a very large wedge. Others saw it as a fairly technical regulation of one specific religious community, and who pointed out that permission for use of the 1962 liturgy had already been readily forthcoming.

For many I know, and thus not just for those who work in the media, the Pope's direct homely style has great appeal, although his daily Mass homilies are, I suspect, often not such as to appeal to Tabletistas who would otherwise enthuse about a South Americal Supreme Pontiff.

Some of the blogs I see, such as Rorate Caeli have posts which are definitely hostile or critical, whilst others seek to see a Hermeneutic of Continuity with Pope Benedict XVI - as for example in this piece by the head of the Knights of Columbus which a friend forwarded to me, and which can be read here.

Now we have Bishop Fellay from SSPX  making his views clear as reported by Rorate Caeli in For the record - Bishop Fellay: "we thank God, we have been preserved from any kind of Agreement"

All this fuels debate, but also confusion. The always insightful blogger Fr Blake has been led to ruminating in his series of recent posts Disconcerted by Francis? , Disconcerted by Francis #2, Disconcerted by Francis #3  and Disconcerted by Francis #4 and also returning to the theme in his post Joseph Shaw on Pope Francis, with its links to Dr Shaw's blog and his recent set of posts on Traditionalism and the present pontificate on his LMS Chairman blog. This too seeks to see common ground between Traditionalists and the Pope, as opposed to those whom Dr Shaw describes as Neo-Conservatives.

On a slightly different, but related, tack Fr Blake has another good post at 'Clericalism' which refers to what the Pope has said about some clergy attitudes. 
I am sure we are going to see a lot more electrons temporarily inconvenienced as the speculation and interpretation continues, as this is an important debate both for the Church as an institution, indeed as the Body of Christ, and for communities and individuals.

Personally I simply watch the situation and wait - as the saying goes "Them's as lives the longest will see the most."