Monday, April 23, 2018

St. Thomas More, the Devil, and the Law

I happened to see Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Emeritus and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus of Harvard Law School, known as “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights,” among other epithets, cite Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons during a television interview. He referenced the lines in the play when St. Thomas More explains to William Roper that he would give the benefit of law to the Devil when Roper, Margaret, and Alice all want him to arrest and charge Richard Rich with something, even though he hasn't broken any law. They are frustrated that More lets Rich leave:

MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you--where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast--man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down--and you're just the man to do it--d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes. I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.


I know that in some speeches More makes in the play, Bolt used actual words and phrases from More's letters and other documents, but I'm not sure that More ever used those words, although they could be an adaptation of More's statement that “If the parties will at my hands call for justice, then, all were it my father stood on the one side, and the devil on the other, his cause being good, the devil should have right.” 

Dershowitz cited this speech along with Martin Niemoller's famous quotation"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me" in support of his contention that lawyers and law makers should always be concerned when anyone's legal rights and due process are in danger—even if they don't like the person or his or her views.


Other lawyers have been impressed by that speech from A Man for All Seasons. For example, I found this review of a production at Harvard in the Harvard Crimson (July 15, 1966). The anonymous reviewer begins his or her commentary with that scene and adds this anecdote:

Sir Howard Beale, the Australian ambassador to this country, took the late Mr. Justice Frankfurter to see Bolt's play in New York in 1962. Beale recounts that the Justice could scarcely contain his excitement during the scene just set out, and as it ended Frankfurter whispered in the dark. "That's the point, that's it, that's it!"

After this lengthy excursus, I can ask: is it the point? The point about the historic figure, More? The point about Bolt's More, as he is portrayed for us by Mr. Daniel Seltzer?

The reviewer answers his or her own question based on Bolt's text and the performance:

Bolt's answer, as I find it in his text and the reading of it by the Summer School Repertory Theater, is two-fold. First, More believes, almost to the last, that his lawyerly skill will preserve his neck. We find him replying to Roper's fears of an adversary. "He's not the Devil, son Roper, he's a lawyer! And my case is watertight!" Faced with the possibility of a test oath. More, good lawyer that he is, wants to see the statute--"But what is the wording?...It will mean what the words lay!...It may be possible to take it. Or avoid it. Have we a copy of the Bill?" Enough laws are still planted in England. More thinks, for him to stand whatever winds may blow. The sources that tell us of More's life--his books, his letters, the life by son-in-law Roper, those by the mysterious "Ro: Ba:" and by Nicholas Harpsfield, the records of his trial, stray accounts of his execution--these sources show the truth of this view. A point it is, but not the point (nor did Mr. Justice Frankfurter think it was--his words were a comment on law, not on literature or history. [sic]

I presume the parenthesis ended with the sentence. The second part of the answer is More and his conscience and I agree with the reviewer's response to Bolt's interpretation of More's conscience:

The second point that Bolt puts forward is More's insistence on the inviolacy of his conscience--he would not say that which he did not believe. And here is where I think Bolt goes wrong. More was a man of conscience and the motive Bolt ascribes to him was a strong one, but Bolt interprets this concept of conscience in an oddly modern way. We find Mr. Seltzer speaking often of "self" and endeavoring to explain his action. He speaks too of God, but I come away from text and performance feeling that this More's God is one Sir Thomas would not have recognized. Bolt gives us almost a Tillichian "ground of being," not the deity of A.D. 1535. When More on the scaffold protested that he "died the King's good servant, but God's first," he, I think, had a simpler more direct faith than Bolt has been able to find words for, a belief whose awful (in its original sense, if you please) intensity we can scarcely comprehend and which Mr. Seltzer, for all the wit and warmth and beauty of his artistry, has not captured.

Another famous lawyer, Robert H. Bork, also commented on that passage in a presentation to the Thomas More Society of America in 1985 (the 450th anniversary year of More's execution), reflecting on Bolt's depiction of More:

In this, Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons got the man remarkably right. (I was somewhat surprised to discover this since I had assumed that Bolt, like many writers of historical dramas, had taken liberties to make his subject more interesting or appealing.) In one scene, More, then the Lord Chancellor, argues with his family who are urging him to arrest Richard Rich. His daughter, Margaret, says, "Father, that man's bad." More answers, "There is no law against that." His son-in-law, Roper: "There is! God's law!" More: "Then God can arrest him .... The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal . . . . I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester." Why, then, this obedience to constituted authority and to law, even when he regarded them as immoral? It was, in part, fear of the alternative to law. An Elizabethan play, that may have been written by Shakespeare, has More quell rioters against aliens in London with this speech:

MORE: Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise 
Hath chid down all the majesty of England. 
Imagine ... 
That you sit as kings in our desires 
Authority quite silenced by your brawl 
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed, 
What had you got? I'll tell you. You had taught 
How insolence and strong hand should prevail, 
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern 
Not one of you should live an aged man; 
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought 
With self same hand, self reasons and self right 
Would shark on you; and men like ravenous fishes 
Would feed on one another. 

Bork continued to think about Thomas More and the law: in 1999, First Things published his further reflections on More's respect for authority and veneration for the law with insights from Peter Ackroyd's recently-published biography. He adapted sections from the earlier article:

To understand More, then, it is equally important to realize his absolute commitment to law and his recognition of the fallibility of human moral reasoning. To be ruled by each individual’s moral beliefs is to invite, indeed to guarantee, social tumult and disorder. The law alone is uniform, a composite or compromise of varying moral assessments, to be applied to all alike, regardless of personal attitudes about the persons involved: father or devil, it makes no difference. If an acceptable mix of freedom and order are to be maintained, obedience to law must be accepted as a primary moral duty.

The veneration More gave to law, he also gave, and for the same reason, to constituted authority. More served Henry VIII, a sovereign whose policies he often believed to be immoral or profoundly unwise. He was under no illusions about his king, even as we should be under no illusions about our governors or even the democratic will. When Roper rejoiced at how friendly Henry was to More, he replied, “I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head could win him a castle in France it should not fail to go.” Yet he did not disobey; he might give contrary advice, but, the policy or the law once decided upon, he complied. He disapproved of Henry’s ruinous war with France, but, as Speaker, he asked Parliament for extraordinary and unpopular taxes to support that war. Later, when More was Lord Chancellor, and it was proposed to put Parliament in control of the Church, Richard Marius tells us “More was sick at heart at the prospect . . . [but] he could not control events. Worse, he was a respectable figurehead, kept by the government to lend it whatever authority his reputation gave him, serving by his very presence in the post of Lord Chancellor a cause which was to him abominable.” He wanted to resign. “Yet he could not resign, for to do so would have been to run the risk of making his opposition to the king public.”

Henry commanded More to speak in the House of Lords to say that the king was pursuing his divorce from Catherine as a matter of religious scruple and not for love of any other woman. In doing so, More pointed out that various universities agreed the first marriage had been unlawful. Someone asked More’s opinion and he replied that he had given it to the king and said no more. As Chambers put it, “Respect for authority . . . was the foundation of [More’s] political thinking.” He presented the king’s case, but would not go an inch further.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Henry VIII's Great Bible

In a list of ten important dates during the Tudor Era for History Extra, the BBC History Magazine blog, historian Lauren Mackay includes this date and event:

1539: creation of the Great Bible

Henry and his ministers, notably Thomas Cromwell, implemented dramatic changes within the English church, following the break with Rome. Henry had already declared himself to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and in 1538 work began in earnest to produce the first printed English-language Bible, which was published by Myles Coverdale.

It was a turning point in English history. For the first time ordinary men and women would be able to read and listen to the Bible in English, and without the need for the clergy’s interpretation. More than 2,000 copies of the Bible were printed in Paris, and it was distributed in churches throughout England. Coverdale had used, and expanded upon, the work of William Tyndale, an English scholar and passionate religious reformer, who had been executed for heresy in 1536.

But Henry VIII did not intend for "ordinary men and women" to interpret the Holy Bible on their own, "without the need for the clergy's interpretation". As this entry for what might be Henry VIII's own copy of the Great Bible at the British Library explains the frontispiece, Henry himself would decide how they should interpret the Holy Bible:

The woodcut title page was therefore an unmissable opportunity to communicate a visual message about the new Royal Supremacy to every English parishioner. By tracking the repeating motif of the Verbum Dei (the Word of God), every English man or woman could witness the flow of authority from God to Henry, descending thence to the clergy and to the local parish congregation via Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury, on the left, and to the nobility through Thomas Cromwell on the right.

The King took this hierarchical transmission of the Word of God seriously, as he told both the bishops and the nobility in his last speech to Parliament on December 24, 1545, just six years after the Great Bible was printed and distributed. He was upset about the failures of the clergy and the nobility to practice charity:

so that few preach truly the Word of God. Amend those crimes, and set forth God's word by true preaching and good example, "or else I, whom God has appointed his Vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct." But you of the temporalty are not clean from malice and envy, for you rail on bishops and preachers, whereas if you know anyone to preach perverse doctrine you should inform our Council or us, whose office it is to reform such behaviour. They are permitted to have the Word of God in their mother tongue, but only to inform themselves and instruct their children, not that they may make Scripture a taunting stock against priests and preachers. I am sorry to hear "how unreverently that most precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung and jangled in every alehouse and tavern," and that the readers of it follow it so faintly and coldly. I am sure there never was less virtuous or godly living, nor God himself ever, amongst Christians, less reverenced.

In the kind of list Mackay produced, of course, she did not have space to qualify or explain all the aspects of this important date.

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 arrested at the Line's house: as a result of that arrest, he 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 London: 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.