Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20, Part Four: Blesseds Watkinson and Page and Venerable Tichborne

Blessed Francis Page, SJ was born in Antwerp of English Protestant parents. He went to England and fell in love with Catholic girl who would not marry him because he was Protestant, so he studied to become a Catholic, with unforeseen results, according to the Jesuit Curia in Rome:

The more he studied religion, the more he felt drawn to the priesthood, much to the young woman's chagrin. The young student went to a Jesuit, Father John Gerard, for religious instruction. When Gerard was arrested and incarcerated in the Tower of London, Francis Page stood outside the prison day after day. His suspicious actions led to a brief arrest, but he decided to follow the call and crossed the Channel to Rheims, France, where he entered the English College.

When he returned to London after being ordained in 1600, he was able to do ministry for over a year. He narrowly escaped arrest one time just as he was about to begin celebrating Mass. He barely had time to remove his vestments and then sit in the congregation as though waiting for the priest to appear. The woman who was hosting the Mass in her home, Anne Line, helped him escape but she herself was arrested and later executed for harboring a priest. She was canonized in 1970.

Fourteen months later Page was not so fortunate when he was recognized by a woman who made it her business to turn priests in so she could collect the reward. He took refuge in an inn but she raised such an outcry that the innkeeper kept Page until authorities arrived to seize him. Page's trial on April 19, 1602 led to a predictable condemnation to die for high treason. He had applied to become a Jesuit but was not able to go back to the Continent to enter the novitiate. The night before he was killed he was allowed to join a Jesuit imprisoned in the adjoining cell; the young priest took vows as a Jesuit, a fact he proudly proclaimed the next day as he stood at the gallows, just before he was hung and then dismembered.

Venerable Thomas Tichborne is one of two brothers in the recusant Catholic family (which included Chidiock Tichborne of the Babington Plot, their cousin) who suffered martyrdom:

From the Catholic EncyclopediaVenerable Thomas Tichborne:

Born at Hartley, Hampshire, 1567; martyred at Tyburn, London, 20 April, 1602. He was educated at Rheims (1584-87) and Rome, where he was ordained on Ascension Day, 17 May, 1592. Returning to England on 10 March, 1594, he laboured in his native county, where he escaped apprehension till the early part of 1597. He was sent a prisoner to the Gatehouse in London, but in the autumn of 1598 was helped to escape by his brother, Ven. Nicholas Tichborne, and Ven. Thomas Hackshot, who were both martyred shortly afterwards. Betrayed by Atkinson, an apostate priest, he was re-arrested and on 17 April, 1602, was brought to trial with Ven. Robert Watkinson (a young Yorkshire man who had been educated at Rome and ordained priest at Douai a month before) and Ven. James Duckett, a London bookseller. On 20 April he was executed with Ven. Robert Watkinson and Ven. Francis Page, S.J. The last named was a convert, of a Middlesex family though born in Antwerp. He had been ordained at Douai in 1600 and received into the Society of Jesus while a prisoner in Newgate. Ven. Thomas Tichborne was in the last stages of consumption when he was martyred.

This blog recounts the story of Blessed Robert Watkinson, as "related by Fr Bowden, C.O. in his Mementoes of the Martyrs of England and Wales":

He was born at Hemingborough, Yorkshire, educated at Douay and Rome, and ordained priest at Arras. In 1602 he crossed to England, and, being in ill health, put himself under the care of a physician in London. A few days later, while he was walking in the street, he met a stranger, in appearance a venerable old man, who saluted him with these words, “Jesus bless you, sir, you seem to be sick and troubled with many infirmities; but be of good cheer, for within these four days you shall be cured of all.” And so it happened, for the next day, Saturday, April 17, through the treachery of an apostate priest, he was apprehended, tried and condemned, and was executed at Tyburn on the Tuesday following, April 20, and so found rest. On the morning of execution he found means to celebrate Mass in prison; those who were present, and especially Mr Henry Owen, his server and prisoner for conscience' sake, saw about his head while he was celebrating a bright light like a ray of glory, which from the consecration to the communion rested directly over his head and then disappeared. This martyr was only twenty-three years old.

Blessed James Bell, pray for us.
Blessed John Finch, pray for us.
Blessed Richard Sargeant, pray for us.
Blessed William Thomson, pray for us.
Blessed Robert Watkinson, pray for us.
Blessed Francis Page, pray for us.
Venerable Thomas Tichborne, pray for us.
Holy martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us.
Holy confessors of England and Wales, pray for us.

April 20, Part Three: Blesseds Richard Sergeant and William Thomson

The second set of beatified martyrs today have connections with Anne and Roger Line, two Catholic converts who married and were both disinherited by their fathers because they had become Catholics. Father William Thomson was were arrested at the Line's house: as a result of that arrest, they would be hanged, drawn, and quartered while Roger Line and Anne's brother William Heigham would be exiled. Roger sent Anne funds from the Continent until he died and then she found employment with Father John Gerard, SJ as the manager of his safe house for Jesuits in London.

Blessed Richard SargeantEnglish martyr, executed at Tyburn, 20 April, 1586. He was probably a younger son of Thomas Sergeant of Stone, Gloucestershire, by Katherine, daughter of John Tyre of Hardwick. He took his degree at Oxford (20 Feb., 1570-1), and arrived at the English College, Reims, on 25 July, 1581. He was ordained subdeacon at Reims (4 April, 1582), deacon at Soissons (9 June, 1582), and priest at Laon (7 April, 1583). He said his first Mass on 21 April, and left for England on 10 September. He was indicted at the Old Bailey (17 April, 1586) as Richard lea alias Longe. With him was condemned and suffered Blessed William Thomson, a native of Blackburn, Lancashire, who arrived at the English College, Reims, on 28 May, 1583, and was ordained priest in the Reims cathedral (31 March, 1583-4). Thomson was arrested in the house of Roger Line, husband of the martyr St. Anne Line in Bishopsgate St. Without, while saying Mass. Both were executed merely for being priests and coming into the realm. 

Blessed William ThomsonWilliam Thomson was born in Blackburn and educated at the local grammar school before going to Rheims where he was ordained in 1584. For the next two precarious years he worked in the London area where he lived secretly in a house in Bishopsgate St. Without owned by Roger and Anne Line (who was herself later martyred and subsequently canonised as one of the forty martyrs). Here he was arrested and was executed at Tyburn for being a Catholic priest on April 20th 1586.

These two martyrs are among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Next up: three more martyrs, including one with another connection to St. Anne Line and the safe house she managed in Longon: Blessed Francis Page, SJ.

April 20, Part Two: Blesseds James Bell and John Finch

These two beatified martyrs had been born in Catholic England but had conformed to the Elizabethan Church of England. After reverting, they suffered for their faith:

Blessed James Bell: Priest and martyr, b. at Warrington in Lancashire, England, probably about 1520; d. 20 April, 1584. For the little known of him we depend on the account published four years after his death by Bridgewater in his "Concertatio" (1588), and derived from a manuscript which was kept at Douay when Challoner wrote his "Missionary Priests" in 1741, and is now in the Westminster Diocesan Archives. A few further details were collected by Challoner, and others are supplied by the State Papers. Having studied at Oxford he was ordained priest in Mary's reign, but unfortunately conformed to the established Church under Elizabeth, and according to the Douay manuscript "ministered their bare few sacraments about 20 years in diverse places of England". Finally deterred by conscience from the cure of souls and reduced to destitution, he sought a small readership as a bare subsistence. To obtain this he approached the patron's wife, a Catholic lady, who induced him to be reconciled to the Church. After some time he was allowed to resume priestly functions, and for two years devoted himself to arduous missionary labours. He was at length apprehended (17 January 1583-84) and, having confessed his priesthood, was arraigned at Manchester Quarter-Sessions held during the same month, and sent for trial at Lancaster Assizes in March. When condemned and sentenced he said to the Judge: "I beg your Lordship would add to the sentence that my lips and the tops of my fingers may be cut off, for having sworn and subscribed to the articles of heretics contrary both to my conscience and to God's Truth". He spent that night in prayer and on the following day was hanged and quartered together with Blessed John Finch, a layman, 20 April, 1584.

St. Mary's, Warrington, a parish run by the FSSP, remembers Blessed James Bell on his feast day and honors him with stained-glass window--in fact, the three churches in the vicinity will merge into one parish with Blessed James Bell as their patron saint! while the bas-relief statue above is in the Lady Chapel of St. Werburgh's Church, Birkenhead.

Blessed John Finch: A martyr, b. about 1548; d. 20 April, 1584. He was a yeoman of Eccleston, Lancashire, and a member of a well-known old Catholic family, but he appears to have been brought up in schism. When he was twenty years old he went to London where he spent nearly a year with some cousins at Inner Temple. While there he was forcibly struck by the contrast between Protestantism and Catholicism in practice and determined to lead a Catholic life. Failing to find advancement in London he returned to Lancashire where he was reconciled to Catholic Church. He then married and settled down, his house becoming a centre of missionary work, he himself harbouring priests and aiding them in every way, besides acting as catechist. His zeal drew on him the hostility of the authorities, and at Christmas, 1581, he was entrapped into bringing a priest, George Ostliffe, to a place where both were apprehended. It was given out that Finch, having betrayed the priest and other Catholics, had taken refuge with the Earl of Derby, but in fact, he was kept in the earl's house as a prisoner, sometimes tortured and sometimes bribed in order to pervert him and induce him to give information. This failing, he was removed to the Fleet prison at Manchester and afterwards to the House of Correction. When he refused to go to the Protestant church he was dragged there by the feet, his head beating on the stones. For many months he lay in a damp dungeon, ill-fed and ill-treated, desiring always that he might be brought to trial and martyrdom. After three years' imprisonment, he was sent to be tried at Lancaster. There he was brought to trial with three priests on 18 April, 1584. He was found guilty and, 20 April, having spent the night in converting some condemned felons, he suffered with Blessed James Bell at Lancaster. 

They were both beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Next: Blesseds Richard Sergeant and William Thomson.

April 20, Part One: The Nun of Kent

April 20 is quite a day for executions during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Every thirty minutes this morning, I will have a new post on those executed that day in different years. Elizabeth Barton and her companions have not been canonized or beatified, but their deaths began the bloodletting of the English Reformation.

On April 20, 1534, Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, was executed at Tyburn, London, along with monks and priests named as her co-conspirators. According to Wikipedia Commons, this illustration of Elizabeth Barton and three of her counselors is "probably by Thomas Holloway based on a painting by Henry Tresham, and comes from David Hume's History of England (1793–1806)" and that would explain the emphasis on her hysteria and their subterfuge. As he tells her story:

But several monks were detected in a conspiracy, which, as it might have proved more dangerous to the king, was on its discovery attended with more fatal consequences to themselves. Elizabeth Barton of Aldington in Kent, commonly called the holy Maid of Kent, had been subject to hysterical fits, which threw her body into unusual convulsions; and having produced an equal disorder in her mind, made her utter strange sayings, which, as she was scarcely conscious of them during the time, had soon after entirely escaped her memory. The silly people in the neighbourhood were struck with these appearances, which they imagined to be supernatural; and Richard Masters, vicar of the parish, a designing fellow, founded on them a project, from which he hoped to acquire both profit and consideration. He went to Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, then alive; and having given him an account of Elizabeth’s revelations, he so far wrought on that prudent, but superstitious prelate, as to receive orders from him to watch her in her trances, and carefully to note down all her future sayings. The regard, paid her by a person of so high a rank, soon rendered her still more the object of attention to the neighbourhood; and it was easy for Masters to persuade them, as well as the maid herself, that her ravings were inspirations of the Holy Ghost. Knavery, as is usual, soon after succeeding to delusion, she learned to counterfeit trances; and she then uttered, in an extraordinary tone, such speeches as were dictated to her by her spiritual director. Masters associated with him Dr. Bocking, a canon of Canterbury; and their design was to raise the credit of an image of the virgin, which stood in a chapel belonging to Masters, and to draw to it such pilgrimages as usually frequented the more famous images and reliques.

Born in 1506, Elizabeth Barton had been regarded as a visionary; as a Benedictine in Canterbury, she had been visited by both Henry VIII and his Chancellor, Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York. Before Henry VIII broke away from Rome and arranged the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Barton's visions and prophecies had pleased him and he thought her Godly.

Barton's visions changed, however, and she even said that Henry would "no longer be king of this realm . . . and should die a villian's death" if he proceeded along his chosen path. Those are dangerous words, even if you say they are inspired by God. As Henry and Thomas Cromwell proceeded against Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, they investigated how much credence Fisher and More placed in the Nun of Kent's words. Those who were opposed to Henry's "Reformation" believed in Barton's prophesies, and she was still very popular--delaying Henry's actions against her.

In 1553, Barton, her parish priest, Richard Masters and monks from the Benedictine Abbey at Canterbury including Edward Bocking were arrested and brought before the Star Chamber. Henry's new Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer examined Barton and she confessed that she had fabricated the visions and prophecies. John Fisher was also charged in connection with this conspiracy against the King of England's religious and marital policies. Thomas More was not implicated. Without any trial, Elizabeth Barton, her parish priest and the monks were attainted traitors by Parliament and sentenced to death (including Richard Risby, warden of the Observant friary at Canterbury, Edward Bocking, Benedictine of Christ Church, Canterbury, Hugh Rich, warden of the Observant friary at Richmond, John Dering, B.D. (Oxon.), Benedictine of Christ Church, Canterbury, Henry Gold, M.A. (Oxon.), parson of St. Mary; Aldermanbury, London, and vicar of Hayes, Middlesex).

In his A Popular History of the Reformation, Father Hughes refers to the execution of Barton and her companions as "the deed of blood" that was a turning point in the history of the English Reformation: 

The deed of blood was the condemnation by attainder (i.e., by an act of Parliament, without any trial) and the execution at Tyburn of "the Nun of Kent" and four priests condemned as her accomplices. "We now enter on a period which is happily unique in the annals of England, a period of terror. It lasts from [1534 to 1540]. --quoting H.A.L. Fisher's History of England from the Accession of Henry VII to the Death of Henry VIII (1918). 

Even Hume has misgivings about Henry VIII's actions:

The detection of this imposture, attended with so many odious circumstances, both hurt the credit of the ecclesiastics, particularly the monks, and instigated the king to take vengeance on them. He suppressed three monasteries of the Observantine friars; and finding that little clamour was excited by this act of power, he was the more encouraged to lay his rapacious hands on the remainder. Meanwhile, he exercised punishment on individuals, who were obnoxious to him. The parliament had made it treason to endeavour depriving the king of his dignity or titles: They had lately added to his other titles, that of supreme head of the church: It was inferred, that to deny his supremacy was treason; and many priors and ecclesiastics lost their lives for this new species of guilt. It was certainly a high instance of tyranny to punish the mere delivery of a political opinion, especially one that nowise affected the king’s temporal right, as a capital offence, though attended with no overt act; and the parliament, in passing this law, had overlooked all the principles, by which a civilized, much more a free people, should be governed: But the violence of changing so suddenly the whole system of government, and making it treason to deny what, during many ages, it had been heresy to assert, is an event which may appear somewhat extraordinary. Even the stern unrelenting mind of Henry was, at first, shocked with these sanguinary measures; and he went so far as to change his garb and dress; pretending sorrow for the necessity by which he was pushed to such extremities. Still impelled, however, by his violent temper, and desirous of striking a terror into the whole nation, he proceeded, by making examples of Fisher and More, to consummate his lawless tyranny.

Next: Blesseds James Bell and John Finch.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Meeting King Henry IX on the Grand Tour

So if you were an English lord on the Grand Tour, and you've already heard the Sistine Chapel choir sing Palestrina and Victoria, and you wanted to hear the latest and greatest music being performed in churches in and around Rome, you might run into the Cardinal Pretender himself, Henry Benedict Stuart, James II's grandson and Bonnie Prince Charlie's younger brother. At least, that's what Peter Leech says:

“Mainstream academic music texts will often tell you that anything interesting, as far as sacred music in eighteenth-century Rome is concerned, more or less came to an end with the death of Alessandro Scarlatti in 1725. They also tend to make claims about many of his colleagues and successors being slavish imitators of the Palestrina style who did nothing to advance sacred music in a city apparently dominated by Papal conservatism.

“Whilst it is undoubtedly true that in the Sistine Chapel the
stile antico prevailed until the end of the 1700s (and indeed in Rome’s four Papal basilicas), outside the immediate boundaries of the Vatican, in many important parish churches, sacred music was anything but conservative and, in the hands of leading composers, reached new heights of expressive power with distinctly modern and, in the wider European sense, ‘classical’ flavours.

“One such church was San Lorenzo in Damaso, attached to the Cancelleria, the palace of the Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church. In the early eighteenth century the Cardinal-Priest of San Lorenzo was Pietro Ottoboni, famous patron of Arcangelo Corelli. From 1763 this church came under the protection of Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart (1725-1807), who had been elevated to the sacred purple in 1747. [when he was 22 years old!]

“Henry, the brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie and grandson of King James II of England, was devout, sincere and musically trained. He spent lavishly on sacred music at San Lorenzo, where composers such as Giovanni Battista Costanzi and Sebastiano Bolis enjoyed particular favour."

On the website for Toccata Classics, which has released a CD of music by composers employed by Cardinal Stuart, Leech provides more background into his process of discovery:

My interest in Roman sacred music of the eighteenth century had for many years been confined to composers active before 1760, such as Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Pietro Paolo Bencini and Giuseppe Pitoni. The second half of the century had never been a major concern until 2011, when I started looking at music manuscripts in the vast Santini collection in M√ľnster. I was intrigued to come across the dedication page of a Mass setting with its composer, Sebastiano Bolis, described as maestro di cappella, at San Lorenzo in Damaso, to Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart, the grandson of King James II of England, brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie and last in the direct line of Jacobite succession.

Cardinal Henry, whose artistic patronage has been documented in books on eighteenth-century painting, sculpture and poetry, was well known to me through my work on the cultural life of the British Catholic community at home and abroad, but I was hitherto unaware of his musical patronage after he was made a Cardinal in 1747 by Pope Benedict XIV. It was a subject entirely untouched by modern scholarship.

One thing naturally led to another. I found several Bolis works in the Santini collection carrying the same dedicatory descriptions, and further searches revealed works by Bolis in the catalogues of various Roman parish church archives, and, significantly, in at least one British source.


Peter Leech's interest in this era of sacred music is also reflected on an earlier release with another choral group he founded, Harmonia Sacra.

If you were an English Catholic gentleman completing your education abroad, you might be a little careful about meeting the Cardinal Pretender, but once the Old Pretender, Henry's father James Francis Edward Stuart--James III to Jacobite supporters--died on January 1, 1766, the Holy See recognized the Hanoverian dynasty as the rightful kings of England, the danger may have lessened. Henry Cardinal Stuart never pressed his claim to the throne after his clerical career and his devotion to his religious duties developed, anyway.

Monday, April 16, 2018

English Artists and Catholic Art in the Eighteenth Century

William Hogarth's commission for St. Mary's Redcliffe in Bristol in the mid-eighteenth century was indeed unusual. As Clare Haynes wrote in her 2006 study, Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion in England, 1660-1760, English artists faced a dilemma. Their ideal and example of great art came from Catholic artists, sponsored by the Catholic Church: Raphael and Michelangelo were their heroes, but Raphael and Michelangelo had created such great works of art for the Vatican! It was all Papist and smacked of Popery--yet many English artists yearned to create magnificent public art, religious and/or historical. As Haynes notes, there's a mixture of straightforward aesthetic appreciation mixed with distaste of the subject matter and its source.

She offers the example of "The Last Communion of St. Jerome" by Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), the Italian Baroque painter. It was considered to be one of the greatest works of art in the world, but it presented the "exaltation of that vile shriveling passion of beggarly modern devotion" and superstition, according to Lord Shaftesbury. He admired it and hated it at the same time.

Charles I (as Prince of Wales) had obtained Raphael's Cartoons for the series of tapestries commissioned by Pope Leo X--who had declared Henry VIII the "Defender of the Faith" in 1521--for the Sistine Chapel. The seven cartoons of the full set of ten were among those artworks NOT offered for sale after Charles I was beheaded. The purpose of the tapestries was to tell the life stories of St. Peter and St. Paul and to emphasize St. Peter as the Pope and head of the Catholic Church. They were popular and on public display until King George III moved them to Buckingham Palace in 1763; Queen Victoria lent to them to the Victoria and Albert Museum where they are today.

But English artists wanted to show that they were capable of this scale of work and the compositional technique. They wanted English patrons to support them rather than importing copies of works they'd seen when on the Grand Tour of Catholic Europe. An English Gentleman needed to visit the St. Peter's and other Catholic churches in Rome on the Grand Tour to see the great art of the Renaissance and the Baroque. Like John Henry Newman in the 19th century, they were often perplexed about how to respond to what they were seeing--the relics of the Roman Republic and Empire AND the greatness of the Roman Papacy in the order of the city's public works, the grandeur of the architecture, mosaics, sculptures and paintings--especially when they were witnessing the Catholic Mass, Catholic devotions, and seeing priests, bishops, cardinals, friars, etc., all around them!

Imagine what they were hearing in those churches: Palestrina, Scarlatti, etc! More about that tomorrow . . .

Sunday, April 15, 2018

William Hogarth and The Resurrection


William Hogarth is not the first artist I'd think of painting a religious painting. I associate him almost exclusively with "The Rake's Progress" and "Marriage ala Mode" not to mention "Gin Lane". But he did paint several Biblical scenes, including "The Pool of Bethesda" and "The Good Samaritan". His one commission for a Church of England parish was painting for the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. In 1755-1756 he created triptych of large panels (22 by 19 feet in the center; 13 by 12 feet on the two sides) depicting the Sealing of the Tomb, The Ascension (or Resurrection) and the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus.

Hogarth's triptych was too big for the church! and the side panels had to be displayed at right angles to the center painting, pictured above (available through this license). During Queen Victoria's reign the "The Sealing of the Tomb" was considered inappropriate for a parish church and the St. Mary's wanted to sell the painting but ended up giving it to a museum in Bristol. It was too big for display there too and for a time the paintings were all rolled up in storage. Finally they found a home in another church building, St. Nicholas in Bristol, which had been closed as a parish church after damage in WWII and re-purposed in the 1950's as a museum of religious art and history.

According to the museum website, the painting is in storage again, but here is hope: the Church of England is going to reopen St. Nicholas as a parish church later this year and the paintings will be placed back in the church. Here's a presentation from the Tate about the painting and Hogarth's efforts to be known as a great historical scene and religious painter. The presenter, Michael Liversidge, apologizes because the sun in shining in Bristol that day in October--an unusual event--and the slides are hard to see in the glare (no curtains or shades to close?)!

Thanks for the inspiration for this post go to a facebook friend's post.

Remember that this painting was commissioned and executed in the eighteenth century, which England was still officially Protestant and anti-Catholic and the Church of England officially opposed to religious imagery.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reluctantly, George IV Assents to Catholic Emancipation

Parliament passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 on March 24, but King George IV waited until April 13 to give his Royal Assent. Like his father, King George III, the former Prince Regent, was concerned that his Royal Assent was a violation of his Coronation Oath to support and defend the Church of England.

While he was Prince of Wales, however, George had been married to a Catholic, Maria Fitzherbert. He had to leave her and make his dynastic marriage to Caroline of Brunswick, whom he would later also repudiate. As this website explains, Fitzherbert was twice a widow when she and George met:

Born Maria Smythe, she was the eldest daughter of Mary Ann and Walter Smythe, the son of a knight. Maria was raised as a Roman Catholic, and received an adequate education at a convent in France. When she was 18, Maria was married for the first time, to Edward Weld, a wealthy landowner. The marriage lasted barely three months, before Edward was thrown of his horse and died from the injuries sustained by the fall. His sudden death meant that he didn’t even have time to update his will to include Maria in it, and upon his death all his lands passed to his younger brother, leaving Maria widowed and penniless. Now in a desperate situation, Maria married for a second time, to Thomas Fitzherbert. Within three years, he too was dead – killed in the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780. Fortunately for Maria, the provisions of his will left her with a town house in Park Street, and an annual income of £1,000.

He begged her to become his mistress, but she (like Anne Boleyn?) held out to become his wife. Their marriage was illegal, since it violated both the 1701 Act of Settlement and the 1772 Royal Marriage Act. It was kept a secret and as king George denied it every occurred, but Maria had the documentation and used that fact often to defend her reputation and the truth. She and the Prince lived as husband and wife in Brighton for about ten years, then his mounting debts led him to renounce her and marry his cousin. After he and Caroline of Brunswick separated and she travelled in Europe, George III finally died after a reign of 60 years (interrupted by madness), she returned to claim her role as queen. From the same blog:

When King George III died in 1820, George IV became King. Technically, this made Caroline Queen of the United Kingdom, and in June 1820, she arrived on the English shore, demanding to be recognised as Queen. She gathered a large number of supporters, who launched riots in London in her favour, much to the displeasure of the new King George. On his advice, Parliament tried to persuade Caroline to leave England forever, offering her an increased annuity of £50,000, which she reluctantly accepted.

But Caroline was determined that she at least be crowned Queen, and on the day of King George’s coronation in 1821, she arrived at Westminster Abbey. “The Queen…Open,” she shouted, demanding to be let in. “I am the Queen of England.” But all doors were slammed in Caroline’s face that day, and she stormed away in humiliation, without being allowed to enter the Abbey. That evening, she complained that she was feeling unwell, and three weeks later, she died, aged 53. In her will, she expressed her desire to be buried in her native Brunswick, in a tomb bearing the inscription “Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England”.

It's rather confusing that a man who violated his marriage oaths (twice) would be so concerned about his coronation oath! A bigamist with scruples!

Perhaps the greatest influence on him and his reluctance to assent to Catholic Emancipation was George's younger brother, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland and later King of Hanover. As the Wikipedia biography of the Duke explains his efforts to thwart the passage and approval of Catholic Emancipation, he failed:

In 1828, Ernest was staying with the King at Windsor Castle when severe disturbances broke out in Ireland among Catholics. The Duke was an ardent supporter of the Protestant cause in Ireland and returned to Berlin in August, believing that the Government, led by the Duke of Wellington, would deal firmly with the Irish.[54] In January 1829, the Wellington Government announced that it would introduce a Catholic emancipation bill to conciliate the Irish. Disregarding a request from Wellington that he remain abroad, Ernest returned to London and was one of the leading opponents to the Catholic Relief Act 1829, influencing King George IV against the bill.[55] Within days of his arrival, the King instructed the officers of his Household to vote against the bill. Hearing of this, Wellington told the King that he must resign as Prime Minister unless the King could assure him of complete support. The King initially accepted Wellington's resignation and Ernest attempted to put together a government united against Catholic emancipation. Though such a government would have had considerable support in the House of Lords, it would have had little support in the Commons and Ernest abandoned his attempt. The King recalled Wellington. The bill passed the Lords and became law.[56]

He had also gathered signatures from Protestants in Ireland protesting against the passage of Catholic Emancipation and presented that petition to Parliament.

If you read through just a few of the speeches given by the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords (which included the Anglican Bishops) to encourage the reading and the passage of this bill, you can certainly see how contentious this issue was in Parliament--the crux of the issue being that since Catholic attorney Daniel O'Connell had won a seat in Parliament, the King's Government in England feared an uprising in Ireland if he was not allowed to take his seat, since he was Catholic--for fear that Emancipation, removing all the penal laws, would in fact encourage the growth and spread of Popery and weaken the Church of England. Robert Peel worked on passing the Emancipation Bill in the House of Commons. Since both Wellington and Peel were Tories and were previously opposed to Catholic Emancipation, they were regarded as traitors.

Of course, this being a matter of politics, someone had to lose in the deal. The poorer landowners were disenfranchised as only a male with property worth 10 pounds per year could vote (the minimum had been 2 pounds per year) and the Irish still had to pay taxes to support the Church of Ireland (which led to the Tithe Wars). Most of the burden for electing O'Connell and forcing the government to acknowledge the danger of not letting him take his seat had been borne by the peasants of Ireland. The middle class Catholics of England truly benefited from the removal of restrictions on their livelihood and political representation, although they still could not attend at Oxford or Cambridge because an oath to uphold the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England was a graduation requirement.

The act also sought to limit the growth of monasteries and the presence of Jesuits in England--but at last, Catholics were relatively free to practice their faith and be full citizens of their country.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pearce on Belloc and Tolkien (and Chesterton?)

From The National Catholic Register:

Although Belloc and Tolkien had much in common, not least of which was their shared and impassioned Catholicism, it is intriguing that they should differ so profoundly on the importance of the Anglo-Saxons.

Belloc’s view of history, for the most part astute and penetrative, was always skewed by a less-than-balanced Francophilia and an almost shrill Germanophobia. This was evident in his dismissive disregard of the contribution to Christian culture of the Germanic tribes of England prior to the Norman Conquest and his lauding of the Conquest itself as having brought England into the fullness of Christendom which was always, for Belloc, synonymous with the influence of France.

In contrast, Tolkien considered Anglo-Saxon England to have been idyllically Christian. Had he had his “whole case very carefully prepared” to counter Belloc’s attack on the Anglo-Saxons, he might have shown that Anglo-Saxon England was profoundly Catholic, to such a degree that the saintly Englishman, Boniface, had helped to evangelize Pagan Europe, while his contemporary, the truly venerable Bede, had exhibited the high culture that Saxon England enjoyed in abundance.

Whilst the former converted the Germans to Christ, the latter excelled in Latin and Greek, and classical and patristic literature, as well as Hebrew, medicine and astronomy. Bede also wrote homilies, lives of saints, hymns, epigrams, works on chronology and grammar, commentaries on the Old and New Testament, and, most famously, his seminal Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum which was translated into Anglo-Saxon by King Alfred the Great. At the time of his death in 735 Bede had just finished translating the Gospel of St. John into Anglo-Saxon. Almost six hundred years later, Dante expressed his own admiration for Bede’s achievement by placing him in the Paradiso of his Divina Commedia.

Pearce doesn't mention it, but Chesterton must have been influenced by Belloc, in spite of his admiration for Alfred the Great. As Chesterton writes in his A Short History of England (from Chapter 5. "St. Edward and the Norman Kings") he presents a mixed view of the Anglo-Saxons, although he does praise them for "christening" England:

As I have indicated, there is some unreality in talking about the Anglo-Saxon at all. The Anglo-Saxon is a mythical and straddling giant, who has presumably left one footprint in England and the other in Saxony. But there was a community, or rather group of communities, living in Britain before the Conquest under what we call Saxon names, and of a blood probably more Germanic and certainly less French than the same communities after the Conquest. And they have a modern reputation which is exactly the reverse of their real one. The value of the Anglo-Saxon is exaggerated, and yet his virtues are ignored. Our Anglo-Saxon blood is supposed to be the practical part of us; but as a fact the Anglo-Saxons were more hopelessly unpractical than any Celt. Their racial influence is supposed to be healthy, or, what many think the same thing, heathen. But as a fact these "Teutons" were the mystics. The Anglo-Saxons did one thing, and one thing only, thoroughly well, as they were fitted to do it thoroughly well. They christened England. Indeed, they christened it before it was born. The one thing the Angles obviously and certainly could not manage to do was to become English. But they did become Christians, and indeed showed a particular disposition to become monks. Moderns who talk vaguely of them as our hardy ancestors never do justice to the real good they did us, by thus opening our history, as it were, with the fable of an age of innocence, and beginning all our chronicles, as so many chronicles began, with the golden initial of a saint. By becoming monks they served us in many very valuable and special capacities, but not notably, perhaps, in the capacity of ancestors.

Chesterton does admire Alfred the Great, of course, having written his great poem The Ballad of the White Horse about this Anglo-Saxon hero (from Chapter 4. "The Defeat of the Barbarians"):

There is, from the first, something humble and even accidental about Alfred. He was a great understudy. The interest of his early life lies in this: that he combined an almost commonplace coolness, and readiness for the ceaseless small bargains and shifting combinations of all that period, with the flaming patience of saints in times of persecution. While he would dare anything for the faith, he would bargain in anything except the faith. He was a conqueror, with no ambition; an author only too glad to be a translator; a simple, concentrated, wary man, watching the fortunes of one thing, which he piloted both boldly and cautiously, and which he saved at last.
He had disappeared after what appeared to be the final heathen triumph and settlement, and is supposed to have lurked like an outlaw in a lonely islet in the impenetrable marshlands of the Parret; towards those wild western lands to which aboriginal races are held to have been driven by fate itself. But Alfred, as he himself wrote in words that are his challenge to the period, held that a Christian man was unconcerned with fate. He began once more to draw to him the bows and spears of the broken levies of the western shires, especially the men of Somerset; and in the spring of 878 he flung them at the lines before the fenced camp of the victorious Danes at Ethandune. His sudden assault was as successful as that at Ashdown, and it was followed by a siege which was successful in a different and very definite sense. Guthrum, the conqueror of England, and all his important supports, were here penned behind their palisades, and when at last they surrendered the Danish conquest had come to an end. Guthrum was baptized, and the Treaty of Wedmore secured the clearance of Wessex. The modern reader will smile at the baptism, and turn with greater interest to the terms of the treaty. In this acute attitude the modern reader will be vitally and hopelessly wrong. He must support the tedium of frequent references to the religious element in this part of English history, for without it there would never have been any English history at all. And nothing could clinch this truth more than the case of the Danes. In all the facts that followed, the baptism of Guthrum is really much more important than the Treaty of Wedmore. The treaty itself was a compromise, and even as such did not endure; a century afterwards a Danish king like Canute was really ruling in England. But though the Dane got the crown, he did not get rid of the cross. It was precisely Alfred's religious exaction that remained unalterable. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blessed George Gervase, Benedictine Recusant Martyr


Blessed George Gervase was one of the nine Benedictine monks beatified as martyrs by Pope Pius XI in 1929. The others: Blessed Mark Barkworth, Blessed William Scott, Blessed John Roberts, Blessed Ambrose Barlow, Blessed Alban Roe, Blessed Philip Powell, Blessed Thomas Tunstall, and Blessed Thomas Pickering. Three of these nine were later canonized (Roberts, Roe, and Barlow) by Pope Paul VI in 1970. There was some controversy about whether Blessed George Gervase was a Benedictine martyr or a secular priest martyr, as discussed on the Durham University website.

George Gervase was born in Bosham on the coast of Chichester in Suffolk in 1571. Orphaned as boy, he was captured by pirates and carried far from home. In despair, he lost all faith in God as he was held in captivity for twelve years.

At last he escaped and went home to England. Then he found out that his brother Henry had left England for Flanders to practice the Catholic faith freely. Reunited with his brother on the Continent, George returned to the Church. Then he discerned a vocation to the priesthood and studied at Douai from 1595 until he was ordained in 1603. He returned to England as a missionary priest and was arrested in June 1606 and was exiled during one of James I's more diplomatically lenient periods.

Father George went to Rome on pilgrimage and sought to become a Jesuit; being turned down, he went back to Douai and became a Benedictine. His brother Henry had found him a position in Lille, France, hoping to keep him safe from the persecutions in England.

But George returned to serve the hidden Catholics there and was arrested again soon thereafter. Presented with James I's newfangled Oath of Allegiance, George Gervase, OSB refused to take the Oath and was convicted of being a Catholic priest in England under the Elizabethan statute. The same website linked above emphasizes Gervase's rejection of the Oath of Allegiance:

All the reports of Gervase’s trial show that he strongly rejected the Oath of Allegiance - an Oath, brought in by King James I following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which rejected papal temporal power and could also be interpreted as undermining the Pope’s spiritual authority.

The Oath made martyrdom a point of contention between the English Catholic community, as different sections rushed to claim martyrs who rejected the Oath, such as Gervase, as their own to win support from the Pope and others across Europe.

In the case of Gervase, the Benedictines stressed his unfailing support for the Pope’s authority, to give their English venture international prestige and justify their mission. Meanwhile Worthington sought to claim Gervase as a martyr against the Oath to secure support for his college and win the favour of European Catholics.

The stand that the Benedictines took against the Oath came to characterise their movement as one which supported the papalist vision of English Catholicism.



He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on April 11, 1608 at Tyburn. John Hungerford Pollen includes the detail that Blessed George Gervase grasped the knife of the executioner before the disemboweling began; he was completely conscious as the torture commenced, having been hanged only briefly.

He was only 37 years old when he died, but what a life of adventure, loss and gain, suffering and consolation, exile and homecoming, and achievement he had lived! And then to end it with brave and holy martyrdom! 

In addition to the nine Benedictine martyrs beatified in 1929, there are several other martyrs from that order beginning with Henry VIII's reign with the Dissolution of the Monasteries and ending in Charles II's during the Popish Plot. According to my categorization of the different causes of martyrdom during and after the Long English Reformation, Benedictines suffered as Supremacy Martyrs during the reign of Henry VIII, as Recusant Martyrs during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, and one as a Popish Plot martyr during the reign of Charles II.

The Benedictine Supremacy martyrs are:
Blessed John Beche, Abbot of Colchester, 1 December 1539
Blessed Hugh Faringdon, Abbot of Reading, 15 November 1539 
Blessed Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury, 15 November 1539
Blessed John Rugg, 15 November 1539
Blessed John Thorne, 15 November 1539 
(All beatified on 13 May 1895 by Pope Leo XIII)


The Benedictine Recusant martyrs are:
St. Ambrose Barlow, 10 September 1641
St. John Roberts, 10 December 1610
St. Alban Bartholomew Roe, 21 January 1642
Blessed Mark Barkworth, 27 February 1601
Blessed George Gervase, 11 April 1608
Blessed Maurus Scott, 30 May 1612

Blessed Thomas Tunstall, 13 July 1616
Blessed Philip Powell (sometimes spelled Philip Powel), 30 June 1646


The Benedictine Popish Plot martyr is:
Blessed Thomas Pickering, 9 May 1679 (Benedictine lay brother) 

Blessed George Gervase, pray for us!
St. Benedict, pray for us!
Blessed and Holy Benedictine Martyrs of England, pray for us!