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.

Monday 29 September 2014

A curious notion

A friend who regularly sends me links to interesting posts on blogs or in the press has sent me this curious little piece from Andrew Cusack's blog in which an Edwardian architect attempts to envisage a scheme to Gothicise St Paul's Cathedral in London. I assume it is an exercise in architectural humour rather than a serious proposal, but is intersting to reflect upon. It can be seen here.

Although what is often termed Wren's masterpiece leaves me cold I think this was not a scheme anyone should have tried to implement - any more really than Classicising Old St Pauls as was attempted in the seventeenth century.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Inauguration of St Walburge Preston as an ICKSP church

There is post from the New Liturgical Movement about the inauguration today of the very impressive church of St Walburge Preston as a shrine for Eucharistic devotion under the care of ICKSP at the invitation of the Bishop of Lancaster. The NLM post can be seen at Inaugural Mass of New ICKSP Apostolate in Preston, England - Saturday, Sept. 27

I posted about this initiative earlier this year in Good news from Preston.

Thursday 25 September 2014

The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire RIP

The announcement of the death yesterday of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at the age of 94 has attracted considerable attention in the media, with both the Daily Telegraph and the Times having a classic photograph of her on their front pages.

The obituary from the Daily Telegraph can be read here.

The death of the last of the Mitford sisters does certainly mark a point in social and national history, and in the case of the Cavendish family a marker in their own long and distinguished history.

On my only visit to Chatsworth I undertood that I had just missed seeing Her Grace serving in the gift shop. It is clear that it was very much to her that the restoration and preservation of Chatsworth was due.

I did on a couple of occasions here in Oxford at church meet a first cousin once removed of the Mitford sisters - the family home was at Swinbrook near Burford - and the lady had their distinctive striking looks and manner, combined with great charm.

I recall reading an interview in the Daily Telegraph with Duchess Deborah in which she, as a woman who was always busy doing things, concluede by saying that what worried her about death was the phrase "Rest eternal grant unto them." That was not her way. Rest was not her thing. May she find the appropriate way of life eternal.

Friday addendum: Charles Moore has a tribute in the Daily Telegraph to the Duchess at The 'Last Duchess' who was at home in the modern world

There is an article telated to that one in the same edition by Judith Woods about the Mitfords and their possible modern equivalents in The Mitfords and the Kardashians: class vs trash  and  Brian Masters' tribute to her in the Telegraph can be read at The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire I knew

Extracts from some of Duchess Deborah's pieces for the Sunday Telegraph can be read at The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire: a Mitford writes

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Our Lady of Haddington

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, which seems, given that things Scottish have been so much in the news and one's thoughts recently, a suitable day on which to write about what might be called the goddaughter of the restored shrine in Norfolk, the restored shrine of Our Lady of Haddington in East Lothian.


Our Lady of Haddington


The restoration was the achievement of the late Earl of Lauderdale, a Guardian of the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. There is a life of the Earl here. His account of the background to the re-creation of the Haddington shrine can be read at Restoring Haddington.

There are two accounts of the Shrine from blogs; the first from The Anglo-Catholic is a history, and can be read at Our Lady of Haddington  and the second is a more personal account of involvement with the restoration of the Shrine and is from the Saintclementsblog, and can be viewed at Our Lady of Haddington
CIMG2606 1024x768 Our Lady of Haddington

Altar of the Blessed Virgin and the Three Kings, Lauderdale Aisle of Collegiate Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Haddington,
 The Shrine of Our Lady of Haddington

It was only in the early 1970s that the restoration of the choir after more than four centuries of ruin, a result of the English invasion of 1548, was undertaken. There are articles about the church and its history from Wikipedia at St Mary's Collegiate Church, Haddington and from the Scottish Churches Trust at St Mary's Parish Church, Haddington

There are articles on the parish website about the History of St Mary'sand about the Lauderdale Aisle, which houses the shrine. 

Haddington Collegiate Church from the north-east


The original home of the medieval shrine was at Whitekirk. A place of Christian worship from the earliest times and known in Old English as Hwīt Cirice, it had a holy well, which is now lost, having dried up in the nineteenth century following agricultural drainage, but is thought to be located not far from the church building. The Holy Well was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, and there was a famous statue, likewise dedicated and known as Our Lady of Haddington. It was on the pilgrim's route from St Andrews to Santiago de Compostela and described as a stopping point in the Iter pro peregrinis ad Compostellam., Book V of the Codex Calixtinus.

The shrine of Our Lady at Whitekirk was desecrated by the armies of King Edward III of England in 1356, a period that would become known as the Burnt Candlemas. Later in the fourteenth century, the shrine of Our Lady was reconsecrated at the newly built Church of St Mary the Virgin in Haddington. However Whitekirk continued to be a place of pilgrimage, however, receiving visits from the future Pope Pius II and from King James IV and King James V.

In early 1435, Aeneas Sylvanus Piccolomini (the future Pope Pius II) was travelling to Scotland on a diplomatic mission as Papal Legate , when his ship was beset by storms. After praying to Our Lady, the ship and its crew made port safely at Dunbar, and having promised to walk barefoot to the nearest shrine of the Virgin, Piccolomini set out for Whitekirk. The eight miles through the frozen countryside left him with rheumatism that he would complain about for the rest of his life. Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope contains his lively memories of his adventures and misadventures in the Scotland and England of 1435.

The church at Whitekirk dates from twelfth century, the original building being reconstructed during the fifteenth century starting with the vaulted stone choir, built in 1439 by Adam Hepburn of Hailes.

The church at Whitekirk in 1893

Image: Wikipedia

The church was set on fire in 1914, supposedly by suffragettes, although this has not been proven. It was restored by the office of Sir Robert Lorimer, an architect noted for his work on medieval Scottish buildings and in their style for new composition. The church was last restored in 2005-6.

St Mary's Parish Church, Whitekirk

St Mary's Parish Church, Whitekirk

St Mary's Parish Church, Whitekirk, interior

Whitekirk Church

Images: scotlandschurchestrust.co.uk

You stupid boy

I think some of my friends did not agree with my describing the Prime Minister as an idiot in my post The Scottish Crisis about the risk of the break-up of the United Kingdom if Scotland voted to secede, and about his part in creating the situation as it was at that point.

Happily that possibility has not materialised, but now as if to prove my point, we have the almighty gaffe from Mr Cameron of telling an American - a rebel colonial indeed - and, moreover, being picked by a microphone in so doing, what he claimed The Queen had said to him over the telephone. This is after the care shown by Her Majesty to avoid being drawn into the political debate, as I commented upon in The Queen's message to Scotland. The Daily Telegraph has a report on the story at David Cameron: Queen 'purred' down line over Scottish Independence vote and their cartoonist Matt has his own take on the incident:

'It's Prince Philip for you, Prime Minister. He's not purring...'

Image:Matt in the Daily Telegraph

As Captain Mainwaring would have said to Private Pike, "You stupid boy."

Saturday 20 September 2014

News from the Oxford Oratory

Readers who do not follow on a regular basis the website of the Oxford Oratory may be interested in these four recent posts from that site.

The first, entitled Patching up the Relic Chapel deals with the restoration of the fabric - in this case putting right water damage to the painted ceiling in the chapel.

The second is  Monsignor Marcus Stock to be Bishop of Leeds, and concerns the appointment of  Mgr Stock to that position, and includes the text of his sermon at the Oratory for St Philip's day in 2012, and his retelling of the story of his part in recovering a relic of St Philip at the church in anticipation of the arrival of the Oratorians from Birmingham in 1990 - all of which rather suggests that St Philip arrived here before his sons.

The third, Blessed Joseph Vaz of the Oratory to be Canonised, is about Bl. Joseph Vaz, the seventeenth century Oratorian evangelist of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) who is to be canonised by the Pope on his forthcoming visit to the island.

Finally there is information about a new DVD on Bl.John Henry Newman which is being released. It is the work of Fr Nicholas Schofield and Fr Marcus Holden. The piece about it can be read at New film about Blessed John Henry Newman.


Friday 19 September 2014

The Queen's message to Scotland

The Honours of Scotland
© Crown copyright Reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland/bestofedinburgh.com
The Queen has issued a statement following the Scottish referendum in which voters rejected independence by 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989 on Thursday.
In the statement Her Majesty says: 
"After many months of discussion, debate, and careful thought, we now know the outcome of the referendum, and it is a result that all of us throughout the United Kingdom will respect.

"For many in Scotland and elsewhere today, there will be strong feelings and contrasting emotions - among family, friends and neighbours.

 "That, of course, is the nature of the robust democratic tradition we enjoy in this country. But I have no doubt that these emotions will be tempered by an understanding of the feelings of others."

"Now, as we move forward, we should remember that despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all.

"Knowing the people of Scotland as I do, I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support, to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country.

"My family and I will do all we can to help and support you in this important task."
Last week, after various press reports claimed the Queen was growing increasingly concerned about Scotland breaking away, and some MPs -  doubtless unwisely - urged her to intervene publicly, Buckingham Palace issued a clear statement maintaining that she was above politics:

"Any suggestion that the Queen would wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. Her Majesty is simply of the view this is a matter for the people of Scotland," the Palace said. Commentators noted this statement as particularly emphatic.
 Last Sunday on leaving Crathie Kirk near Balmoral the Queen did however comment to the extent of saying that she hoped voters would think very carefully about the issues involved. Dressed in the shade of green often associoated wirth royal ceremonial in Scotland that was was all Her Majesty said - politically neutral but pointing to the importance of the decision. As was pointed out on the BBC Radio 4 coverage of the referendum in the small hours of this morning the comment at Crathie was carefully orchestrated, with the press allowed close to the group of well wishers outside the church and hence the opportunity to get the Royal message heard. Skillful and understated - the essence of the Queen's exercise of her office.

Scotland decides

I stayed awake listening to the radio in bed until 5am this morning as the results came in of the Scottish referendum.

The result at 55% -45% in favour of the Union, and with victoroes for Better Together in  28 out of the 32 council districts is sufficiently emphatic to give stability and set a new frame of reference for debate about "Devo-Max", and how to resolve the "West Lothian question."

Vote share of winning result across council areas

Image:BBC News

The article from which this map is taken, which has other maps illustrating Scottish voting patters in the EU election and other aspects of political demography can be seen here.

Looking back over the campaign, and especially over the last fortnight, there are serious questions to be asked - though some may well be avoided given the result. Despite attempts by some journalists and  spin-doctors to contextualise the point, the Prime Minister pretty clearly made amistake in insisting on a Yes/No referendum rather than allowing for a third option of increased powers for the Edinburgh parliament and government - what has now been achieved in effect - and indeed in agreeing so readily to the holding of a referendum. Other countries, both in Europe and further afield appear amazed that the UK allowed this situation to come about. Further there is the fact that the question was framed in such a way as to give the Yes choice to that of breaking the Union.
The panic last week by all three pro-Union parties at Westminster indicates the extent to which they were caught off-guard, and had dismissed the issue as a minor one until almost too late. The Better Together campaign may have won, but they failed to offer, in the view of several observers writing in the papers, avery positive or enlivening vision. That such a thing could be offered by the Yes Scotland people should have been obvious - think of the depth of the Scottish sense of identity and loyalty that the Scots are happy to call upon, and that could be mobilised for the Papal visit in 2010, never mind historical travesties such as Braveheart....

For the Labour party there is the fact of having been complacent over voters loyalty - the four areas that went to a Yes majority should be solid Labour territory, even if they have SNP MPs and MSPs, such as Dundee.

Those on the Yes campaign who appear to have fallen into bullying and threatening tactics did no credit to their cause, and indeed I suspect did it real harm as stories on intimidation were publicised. This does of course point to the commitment of enthusiasts, and suggests, as commentators pointed out over the night, an anti-establishment politics that fuels UKIP and other non-traditional parties. 

The high turn-out has been commented upon, but I think the unique nature of the question at issue may account for that. It does suggest that the electorate can be energised, against the trend of boredom with established politics.

The legitimate concerns of the Scots can, hopefully, be met Devo Max - but could not that have been achieved without the stresses of recent weeks and the very real risks, in some cases short-lived, but others which potentially threatened if there had been a Yes victory. We have come close - how close may well be a point of debate - but still close enough, to a break up of the United Kingdom - and the worrying thing is taht our politicians did not see the danger until almost too late, and the English media and public paid it scant regard for much of the time and for many people.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

How King Richard III died

The continuing story of the analysis of King Richard III's skeleton has now produced this report on the BBC website today about how he appears to have died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. It can be read at Richard III death injuries revealed.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

King Louis XVIII

Today is the 190th anniversary of the death in 1824 of King Louis XVIII.

There is an online biography of him here.

JPEG - 11.6 ko

King Louis XVIII 
Detail from the portrait below


As effective King of France from 1814-15 he was successful in re-establishing the traditional monarchy within a model of contemporary understandings of constitutionalism. That might well have been a basis for alonger-term settlement than it turne dout to be. He himself expressed his doubts as to whether his brother and heir, Charles Count of Artois, was going to be able to maintain that settlement. The fact that he did not prove able to do so has always invited comparison with King Charles II and King James II in England.

Cynical and calculating, a wary man, he was successful as a monarch, less attractive as an individual. Unlike the jibe about his dynasty he certainly had learned from the events of 1789 and thereafter, as indeed had King Charles X, even if they were different lessons. When it came to forgetting King Louis remained hostile to the House of Orleans in a way his supposedly more reactionary brother was not.

In some respects, including his appearance, he remained in many ways an eighteenth century figure, unlike King Charles X, who, although only two years younger, had embraced ideas and concepts of the times in which he found himself. King Louis XVIII had late eighteenth century cynicism, suited to the politics of any age, King Charles X possessed early nineteenth century romantic idealism, which is a less sure source of political strength in troubled times.


King Louis XVIII at his desk


When King Charles X died in 1836 King Leopold I of the Belgians wrote to his neice Princess Victoria in England  "Poor Charles X is dead. history will state that Louis XVIII was a most liberal monarch, reigning with great mildness and justice to his end, but taht his brother, from his despotic and harsh disposition, upset all the other had done and lost the throne. Louis XVIII was a clever, hard-hearted man, shackled by no principle, very proud and false. Charles X an honest man, a kind friend, an honourable master, sincerein his opinions and inclined to do everything that is right." 

King Louis XVIII and the French Royal Family

Charles, Count of Artois, later King Charles X, King Louis XVIII, Marie Caroline, Duchesse of Berry, Marie Thérèse, Duchesse of Angoulême, Madme Royale, and her husband  Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême , later King Louis XIX, and Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry,father of King Henri V.
The bust of King Henri IV looks down on the family gathering 

A print by Gautier before 1820

Image Wikipedia 

King Louis XVIII was the last monarch in France to die in actual possession of his throne. 

Monday 15 September 2014

Don't the English care?

As we arrive at the week of the Scottish referendum  I remain surprised, despite all the belated coverage last week, at the low level of interest here in England.  Judging from what one sees or rather, what one does not see here in Oxford this is not a matter of great concern, It should be, but it does not seem to be. I get the impression German friends are more interested than fellow Britons.

I might have expected a display of Union flags to appear to stress the idea of unity. Why do not all public buildings and colleges fly the flag to show support for the Union, for who we are as a nation. Mind you there is little awareness of Scotland here if the emphasis in the History faculty is to be taken as a guide, and few Scots come to study in Oxford. That however is not the point - for over 300 years we have been one realm, one polity, and that could be ending, yet interest seems minimal

No one seems to be organising special services of prayer to pray for unity, or for guidance for the Scottish electorate in their momentous decision, which will affect us all.

There appears to be little discussion, other than amongst oddities like myself and my friends.

So I ask, amazed - Don't the English care?

Sunday 14 September 2014

Holy Cross Day

Today has been Holy Cross Day, and follows from my previous post about the Dream of the Rood. At the Oxford Oratory today Mass was celebrated in the presence of a relic of the True Cross, and after Mass there was the opportunity to receive a blessing with the reliquary. The introit at the 11am Mass was J.M.Neale's translation  "The royal banners forward go" of Venantius' great hymn, which we sang in Latin at Solemn Vespers also.


The Oratory Reliquary of the True Cross

Image:Oxford Oratory

Here, from the Office of Readings, is the appointed second reading,  which is from a discourse of the late seventh, early eighth St Andrew of Crete, who is always an elegant and eloquent voice, about whom there is an introduction here.

I have taken this version from the  Universalis website, although in practice I prefer the translations printed in The Divine Office.

The cross is Christ's glory and triumph
We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

The Dream of the Rood

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - known also as the Triumph of the Holy Cross in the modern Missal.

There is a history of the feast day and its different expressions by different communities here.

There are interesting articles about the feast in Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which looks at early Christian devotion to the Cross and their understanding of it, and is from the Project Canterbury site, in Exaltation of the Holy Cross from a specifically Catholic standpoint, and  Elevation of the Holy Cross from an Orthodox one.
Recently I was reading an anthology of Anglo-Saxon texts, which included the celebrated and important  text The Dream of the Rood, a meditation upon the Crucifixion spoken by the Cross itself.
There is an online introduction to the poem at Dream of the Rood

An impressive electronic edition by Mary Rambaran-Olm, which includes the original Old English text, a modern English parallel translation, textual notes, glossary and manuscript images can be viewed at Enter Dream of the Rood.

Translations by Richard Hamer can be found at The Dream of the Rood: ,by Elaine Treharne at The Dream of the Rood, Modern English Version and by Charles W. Kennedy at The Dream of the Rood.

Two online artickes about the poem and its historical and cultural context can be found at
Dream of the Rood and the Image of Christ in the Early Middle Ages, an article by Jeannette C. Brock shows how the image of Christ in the poem reflects the heroic ideals of the period rather than the original biblical accounts, and from Julia Bolton Holloway's Umilta site at Hilda and Caedmon: The Dream of the Rood.

The fact that part of the text of the poem is inscribed in rune son the Rthwell Cross in Dumfrieshire is well known as an important indicator of culture in the Northumbrian artistic tradition. The cross and its history and decoration ate considered in the article Ruthwell Cross which also outlines the debate about whether the runic inscription is original to the cross or added at a later date in the Anglo-Saxion era.

Crown ©, courtesy of Historic Scotland

The Ruthwell Cross 
Reconstructed and reassembled in the nineteenth century it is now inside the church at Ruthwell


Crosses such as that at Ruthwell and Bewcastle and the many other less well known ones which survive in part or as fragments in churches across much of northern England would have been painted. A copy of the Ruthwell cross was recently recoloured to indicate what they would have looked like.


Reconstruction of the north face of the Ruthwell Cross by John Prag, 
formerly in Manchester Museum

 Image © John Prag/oucs.ox.ac.uk

There is more about this colour reconstruction here.


Friday 12 September 2014

The Scottish Crisis - a friend writes

A friend sent his comments to me in an e-mail about my recent post The Scottish Crisis, and, as he makes a number of excellent points I am, with his permission, reproducing it:

"I have just finished reading your blog piece about the Scottish Crisis and find myself largely in agreement. I don’t think Cameron should be criticised too much for allowing the thing to go ahead; what else could he do when the SNP had just won a majority in the Holyrood Parliament with a manifesto commitment to seek to hold an independence referendum. Where he went wrong, I think, was in amending the Scotland Act to give the Holyrood Parliament the power to hold a referendum and thus allow the madness of giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote whilst denying the same to those Scots (in particular Scottish military personnel) not living in Scotland. It’s a travesty that foreigners can vote in the referendum but Scotsmen who fight and bleed for their country have no such say. He would have done better to have kept control of the situation by legislating for the referendum through the UK Parliament (none of the other parties would have opposed it) and denied the SNP the power to choose the question and the electorate.

As the day of the referendum approaches I find myself in a tightening grip of anxiety. Perhaps I should stop worrying and not take it so personally but, whilst I identify as Welsh (and proudly so) in the cultural sense, I have always considered the United Kingdom to be my country. In fact, as a Welshman, I think I have more reason than most to want the Union to be preserved when you consider that the Welsh are, after all, the true Britons and almost 60% (I was surprised too) of the population of these Islands is still racially a Briton. I can’t imagine what sadness the Queen must feel.

If we are going to assign blame then I think, as with most things, it must rest with the Blair creature and the 1997 Labour Government. Devolution was a terrible idea and was always going to lead to this. Before devolution the SNP and the nationalist movement in Scotland (though always stronger than in Wales) were still a bit of an eccentric sideshow. Now they are in government at Holyrood and potentially about to destroy the greatest, most stable country on Earth. Like every act of constitutional vandalism committed by that ignominious administration it was a cynical, badly thought out move taken purely for self-interest.

Even if the Scots vote “No” on 18th September there is the now inevitable and perilous prospect of the ‘federalisation’ of Britain. Home rule for Scotland and (eventually) Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst England will be dismembered into banal ‘regions’ without any real historical, cultural or emotional foundation. This is what the European Union has always wanted: a Europe of the Regions and so it is no wonder that Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are its biggest cheerleaders.

Your last sentence about the need to for hope and prayer reminded me of the words of a man who had to fight to keep his nation together. Abraham Lincoln once remarked that he had often been driven to prayer by, “... the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” I may no longer be a religious man but lately even I have found myself struggling to resist a tremendous urge to fall to my knees and plead with some higher power for the future of my country."

I remain very critical of the Westminster government for allowing the current situation to have developed, to have allowed the No campaign to have been pretty lacklustre, let alone for what might happen on Thursday. The "dev-max" option does not worry me too much. If the UK retained control; of foreign policy, defence, the currency and trade policy, then some sort of British ausgleich between England and Scotland might allow for legitimate Scotland's aspirations and recognise its historic identity. What is being offered now by the UK parties may take us towards that, but it may,but only may, be too little. too late.

Let us continue to hope, and let us continue to pray.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Scotland and Catalonia

In my post The Scottish Crisis I referred to the analgous situation in Catalonia. I found a useful survey of the situation there in a n article by Tom Burridge, the BBC's man in Madrid on the BBC website, and which can be seen at Battle of Barcelona

Frankly it looks as if these issues are being better handled in Spain in so far as three questionsare being considered in the on-going discussion - the status quo, greater autonomy or independence. In Scotland the enhanced Home-Rule option has, in effect, only recently, and seeingly in a panic, been raised.




Commenting on the Scottish Crisis

Amongst the welter of comment on the Scottish referendum and its potential to cause chaos for Scots and English alike here are two good articles from the Daily Telegraph

The first, published yesterday is by the well-respected commentator Ruth Dudley-Edwards, who I think would term herself Irish-British, and can be read at Scotland should heed a harsh lesson from across the Irish Sea

The second, from today, is by Peter Oborne, and emphasises the seriousness of the situation, and indeed who is, or are, in his view, to blame. It can be read at Our worst constitutional crisis in 300 years.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Demonizing the Kaiser

In my continuing conversations with a friend about the outbreak of the First World War and about the settlement that ended it one of my contributions is to stress how the possibilities of any negotiated settlement rapidly disappeared as all the Great Powers, and the allies they recruited, settled into seeking all out victory and the utter destruction of their opponants.

In Britain one aspect of this was the demonization of the Kaiser. For all his blood ties to the British Royal family he had an uncertain relationship with political and popular opinion here from about 1887 onwards . It was not difficult for some, if not many, to be doubtful or wary, and to be critical of a monarch who had an unfortunate tendency to produce verbose public pronouncements (which his staff then got the press to tone down) and appeared at times outlandish in his uniforms and with his up-swept moustache.

That said, such a picture of him is a caricature, and we can now see that it was in so many ways very unfair to him. Verbose he was, but after sounding forth his ideas he was likely to be reflective and cautious.

However, with the beginning of the war in 1914, such ideas and perceptions helped reinforce collective opposition to Germany - and one of the Kaiser's problems was to be that by appearing to be the voice and spirit of Germany, and with no obvious political figure to shoulder the odium, he was rapidly to become the hate figure. The reality of his actual power and influence was very different, but that did not affect the image he gained. That process was already starting in August 1914 as can be seen from a piece reprinted in The Times. They are giving daily extracts from their editions of a hundred years ago. I noticed from their edition of August 22nd 1914 an account of the German occupation of Brussels.

The correspondent laments the absence of the coloured Prussian uniforms of the past instead of the field grey of the contemporary era and wrote of how there "came the legions of the man who has broken the peace of Europe to gratify belated ambition....truly it was a sight to gladden the eyes of Kaiser Wilhelm."

Note that it is not Germany, nor the German government or the German army that he blames, but the Kaiser personally.

This process gathered pace througout the war, fuelled by cartoonists such as the Dutch Louis Raemaekers, and doubtless impeded the possibility of a negotiated settlement and stability in 1918 - it was seemingly easier to deal with a republic than the man and his dynasty which had been personally accounted responsible for the war - not the politicians, not the military and not the failed diplomacy. Someone must be to blame, and that must be the Kaiser. Hence the cries of "Hang the Kaiser" in 1918-19. To this day in the popular media for some at least it is still a case of  "the Kaiser's war" and such like.


Kaiser Wilhelm II - a portrait from the time of the First World War


Those who thought that getting rid of the Hohenzollerns and the other German dynasties and bringing in the age of the common man were, of course, to be in for a very nasty shock when they saw what the common man could, and indeed did, turn out to be like. The settled order of German society was swpt away by internal revolution and external pressure, by hyper-inflation and by social upheaval. The nasty and vicious, evil things a traditional order kept under control and at bay were to be given free roam.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

The Scottish Crisis

So the bawbee has finally dropped with the Westminster political establishment and the London based media about the situation facing us about Scotland and the threat posed by the referendum. Never mind the next General Election, possible EU referendum or the international situation in Ukraine or the Middle East we are now facing potentially the worst constitutional crisis in over 350 years. I have made this point to friends who, indeed, agree with me for months, but the media coverage in England has been patchy, and the issue seen as a minor distraction.

Now, in the wake of the latest opinion polls the media have woken up and now are full of prospective eventualities that few alas would have thought credible until recently. Depending on what happens next week we are potentially in uncharted waters. Even a No vote victory will engender major questions as to transferring new powers to the Holyrood parliament. A Yes vote would be almost still beyond our comprehension. It may well turn out to be like living through the break up of Austria-Hungary in 1918-19.

As to ascribing blame, well let us begin with our idiot Prime Minister for agreeing to the holding of the referendum at all rather than maintaining that it was beyond the powers of the Holyrood parliament to call such a thing in the first place. This has been the line taken by the Spanish government in regard to the regional government of Catalonia. Furthermore there is the matter not having a third choice of granting more powers, let alone allowing the positive answer to the question posed being for secession. I suppose that comes with having a PPE-ist fron Brasenose running the country.

It is utterly ludicrous that a miniscule number of the four million Scots electorate in a closely fought campaign can decide the fate of 63 million British subjects. 

The Daily Telegraph reports an opinion poll of likely voting intentions with a map illustrating the distribution of opinion. Looking at it I see historical fault lines that stretch back a thousand and more years. Here are the Highland-Lowland divide, the Scots of Argyll and the Picts of the east, the emergence of a Scotland  unified by its Kings , joining Scot and Pict, Galloway and English Lothian into one realm, evidence of Norman patterns along the eastern lowlands as opposed to Celtic Scotland(forgive the over-simplifications of terminology), the development along Anglo-French lines of the Borders in the twelfth century under King David I and King Malcolnm IV, the splits of the Reformation and the mid-seventeenth centuries. All of which, inter alia, is a good argument for not doing anything to unsettle the Union. An independent Scotland by 50.1% would be a deeply divided nation.

Scottish Independence

Image: Daily Telegraph

In this situation we need to hope, and we need to pray.

English Iconoclasm V

If buildings could be destroyed so thoroughly as I indicated in my previous post on this thread then furnishings stood even less chance, although being portable they were carried off and individual examples do survive. However given that English iconoclasm was so often directed against the images and paraphanalia of Catholic worship the survivals are a miniscule percentage.

The examples I give of survivals are one which my mind or a bit of research turned up - this is in no way an attempt to include all examples, or to assess survival rates. What hopefully this will indicate are the sometimes extraordinary lengths people went to to save what they considered inportant, and also just how much has been lost.

If many medieval paintings were on the walls of churches then they disappeared under whitewash or went down as the building was destroyed.

The Doom painting in the church of St Thomas Salisbury

The painting is dated to about 1475 and is the largest to survive in England.
The figures at either side are thought to be St James, patron of pilgrims and St Osmund, the first bishop of Salisbury. The painting was rediscoverd and restored in the nineteenth century
Image: martinstown.co.uk

The two greatest surviving British devotional panel paintings of the late middle ages may well have survived because they included royal portraits. Thus in addition to the great Westminster portrait of King Richard II we still have the wonderous Wilton Diptych - but before it was engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar in the 1630s its history is unknown.