2cornucopias

Posts Tagged ‘Henry VIII’

More on the Tudors

In 13 History on 2016/06/10 at 12:00 AM

• When Elizabeth I was crowned as Queen of England in 1558, the very first thing she did was to reverse the reestablishment of Catholicism as the official religion of the realm, a decision made by her half-sister and predecessor, Queen Mary.

• You’ll remember that their father, King Henry VIII, had broken from the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church in 1534 and formed the Church of England in response to the pope’s refusal to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

• Henry’s immediate successor, Edward VI, brought on the formal adoption of Protestantism during his reign from 1547 to 1553, but that was brought to a halt under the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary, who ruled from 1553 until 1558.

• Queen Mary was convinced that she was to bring the true faith back to England, but she died before her mission was fully accomplished, and her half-sister, ironically known as “Good Queen Bess” very quickly moved to suppress Catholicism upon ascending to the throne.

• Thus, from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Moreover, not only were Catholics not allowed to practice their faith, but many were imprisoned and eventually martyred for the Faith, especially many priests.

• While ultimately this period of English anti-Catholicism is a sad episode in Church history, many saints were borne out of the Church’s suffering, including martyrs such as St. Edmund Campion, who was hung, drawn and quartered by “Good Queen Bess” simply for being a Catholic priest and for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

Excerpted for Fr. Timothy Reid’s  sermon on the Epiphany re the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Advertisements

A Man for This Season, and All Seasons

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2015/02/20 at 12:00 AM

 by  Charles J. Chaput

within Religion and the Public Square

December 19th, 2012 http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7440/

There is only one Thomas More: A man of tender nobility, subtle intellect, and forceful conviction, all rooted in profound fidelity to the larger commonwealth of Christendom outside and above Tudor England.

A day after the 2012 Summer Olympics closed in London, Joseph Pearce wrote that he felt like his “body had been covered in slime. I also felt a great sense of gratitude that I had shaken the smut and dirt from my sandals and had left the sordid culture of which I was once a part.”

Given the grand sweep of British history, those are harsh words from a former Londoner. An English Catholic convert and author, Pearce is now a resident Fellow at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. But he merely said what many people thought: that the Olympic closing ceremony they watched on global television was one long liturgy of overripe vulgarity, a jamboree of cheesy and offensive pop culture. In effect, it showcased a nation grasping to reinvent itself by escaping back to adolescence while ignoring its own real past.

This shouldn’t surprise us. Europe’s work of reinvention, or self-delusion, has been going on for decades, not only in Britain but across the continent. One of the key obstacles to the process is the depth of Europe’s Christian roots. As recent popes and many others have pointed out, there really is no “Europe” without its historic Christian grounding. Anyone wanting a new Britain, or a new Europe, needs to get rid of the old one first. So diminishing Christianity and its influence becomes a priority. And that includes rewriting the narrative on many of Christianity’s achievements and heroes.

By way of evidence: Consider the case of Thomas More, lawyer, humanist, statesman and saint; martyred by England’s King Henry VIII in 1535; canonized in 1935; celebrated in Robert Bolt’s brilliant 1960 play A Man for All Seasons; and more recently trashed as proud, intolerant, and devious in Hilary Mantel’s best-selling 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, now set for release as a 2013 BBC2 miniseries.

Critics of More are not new. His detractors had a voice well before his beheading. As Henry VIII’s chancellor, he earned a reputation as a hammer of heretics and a fierce opponent of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. Yet Erasmus of Rotterdam revered More as a scholar and friend. Jonathan Swift, the great Anglo-Irish writer, described him as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom [of England] ever produced.” When Pope John Paul II named Thomas More as patron saint of statesmen in 2000, he cited More’s witness to the “primacy of truth over power” at the cost of his life. He noted  that even outside the Church, More “is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”

Ten years later, speaking to leaders of British society in Westminster Hall, Pope Benedict XVI returned to the same theme. Benedict noted that More “is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.”

So which is it: More the saint or More the sinner? Was he the ruthless, sexually repressed rage addict suggested by historians like G.R. Elton, fearful of change and driven by helpless fury? Or was he the humble and generous “man for all seasons” praised by his friend Robert Whittinton and so many others among his contemporaries? Were there really twoThomas Mores: the young, open-minded humanist, and the older royal courtier, gripped by religious fanaticism?

The moral integrity of More’s life has been argued with persuasive skill in the various works of Gerard Wegemer, among many others. And Peter Ackroyd’s fine biography, The Life of Thomas More, vividly captures the whole extraordinary man–his virtues, his flaws, and the decisive nature of his moment in history. Travis Curtright has now added to the luster of the real More’s legacy with his excellent new book The One Thomas More

As the title suggests,Curtright sees Thomas More’s life as a consistent, organic record of Christian witness, start to finish; a thoroughly logical integration of humanism, piety, politics and polemical theology. There is only “one” Thomas More–a man of tender nobility, subtle intellect, and forceful conviction, all rooted in profound fidelity to the larger commonwealth of Christendom outside and above Tudor England. For Curtright, More embodied “the Erasmian ideal of wedding learning with virtue,” lived through a vigorous engagement with temporal affairs. He treats More’s scholarly critics with proper respect while methodically dismantling their arguments; and he does it by carefully unpacking and applying three of More’s most important written works: The Life of Pico Mirandola, The History of Richard III, and Utopia.

Curtright correctly sees that More’s real source of annoyance for many modern revisionist critics is his faith. If revisionists like Elton implicitly define “humanism” as excluding religious faith, then a man like Thomas More and the whole vast Christian tradition of integrating faith and reason become serious irritants. As Curtright observes:

The entire structures of the two Mores and real More theories congeal around [critics’] notions of a “true” humanism that excludes the possibility of faith and reason working together, a position transparently stated by [G.R.] Elton and one that influences contemporary condemnations of More as a “fanatic.”

Bickering over the “real” Thomas More has importance beyond the scholarly community. Why? Because just as the nutty premises of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code confused millions by reinventing the backstory of Christian belief, so too the novel Wolf Hall offers a revisionist Thomas More wrapped in popular melodrama. The author, Hilary Mantel, a lapsed Catholic whose disgust for the Church is a matter of public record, drew her portrait of More in part from the work of Elton. The “hero” of her novel is Thomas Cromwell–More’s tormentor, and in reality, a man widely loathed by his contemporaries as an administratively gifted but scheming and vindictive bully. Unlike the widespread European shock that greeted More’s judicial murder, few wept for Cromwell when he finally followed More to the scaffold.

The One Thomas More is not a book for beachside browsing. While it’s well-written, modest in size and rich in content, it is a scholarly effort. Some casual readers may find it heavier than they bargained for. But as a resource on Thomas More, it’s invaluable. Curtright’s final chapter, “Iconic Mores on Trial,” has special importance. It directly challenges Mantel’s loose treatment of facts, for which it deserves wide circulation.

Having said all this, Thomas More has been dead nearly 500 years. Why should his legacy matter today?

Barring relief from the courts, Christian entities, employers, and ministers in the coming year will face a range of unhappy choices. As the Affordable Care Act takes force and the HHS contraceptive mandate imposes itself on Christian life, Catholic and other Christian leaders can refuse to comply, either declining to pay the consequent fines in outright civil disobedience, or trying to pay them; they can divest themselves of their impacted Christian institutions; they can seek some unexplored compromise or way of circumventing the law; or they can simply give in and comply with the government coercion under protest.

Good people can obviously disagree on the strategy to deal with such serious matters. But the cost of choosing the last course–simply cooperating with the HHS mandate and its evil effects under protest–would be bitterly high and heavily damaging to the witness of the Church in the United States. Having fought loudly and hard for religious liberty over the past year, in part because of the HHS mandate, America’s Catholic bishops cannot simply grumble and shrug, and go along with the mandate now, without implicating themselves in cowardice. Their current resolve risks unraveling unless they reaffirm their opposition to the mandate forcefully and as a united body.  The past can be a useful teacher. One of its lessons is this: The passage of time can invite confusion and doubt–and both work against courage.

Again: Why does Thomas More still matter? Why does he matter right now? 

More’s final work, scribbled in the Tower of London and smuggled out before his death, was The Sadness of Christ. In it, he contrasts the focus and energy of Judas with the sleepiness of the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane. He then applies the parable to his own day and the abject surrender of England’s bishops to the will of Henry VIII: “Does not this contrast between the traitors and the Apostles present to us a clear and sharp mirror image . . . a sad and terrible view of what has happened through the ages from those times to our own? Why do not bishops contemplate in this scene their own somnolence?”

More urges the bishops not to fall asleep “while virtue and the faith are placed in jeopardy.” In the face of Tudor bullying, he begs them, “Do not be afraid”–this from a layman on the brink of his own execution.

Of course, that was then. This is now. America 2012 is a very long way, in so many different ways, from England 1535.

But readers might nonetheless profit in the coming months from some reflection on the life of Sir Thomas. We might also take a moment to remember More’s friend and fellow martyr, John Fisher, the only bishop who refused to bend to the king’s will; the man who shortly before his own arrest told his brother bishops: “. . . the fort has been betrayed even [by] them that should have defended it.”

Charles J. Chaput, a Capuchin Franciscan, is the archbishop of Philadelphia and the author of Render Unto Caesar.

Receive Public Discourse by email, become a fan of Public Discourse on Facebook, follow Public Discourse on Twitter, and sign up for the Public Discourse RSS feed. 

Copyright 2012 the Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.

Sing a Song of Six-pence

In 13 History on 2011/04/19 at 5:48 PM

Many nursery rhymes have secret or hidden meanings that allude to people and events in history.  Since Tudor Henry VIII developed a habit of executing those who opposed him, it is not surprising that in the e-mail of their times, messages got sent in rhyming code.

  • Sing a song of sixpence,
  • A pocket full of rye;
  • four and twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie.
  • When the pie was opened,
  • They all began to sing.
  • Now, wasn’t that a dainty dish
  • To set before the King?

We owe: “Sing a Song of Sixpence” to the rhythmic comment on his confiscation of the monasteries and his marital woes.  Sixpence refers to monetary coin. Henry needed money, and so he began confiscating the property of the Catholic Church.   The Church was often given land and goods by generous nobles who wished to see the poor and indigent cared for.  It was to the monasteries that the needy went for help.  The monastery roofs were made of lead and Henry needed the lead for ammunition. The twenty Blackbirds refers to the bishops and abbots of monasteries he had executed.  The song of the blackbirds were the martyr’s affirmation of their trust in God and hymn of praise to God.  With the burning of the monasteries, the poor were left to shift for themselves, and often ended in prisons until deported to Australia.  The State did not replace the monasteries in the proper care for the poor.

  • Sing a song of sixpence,
  • A pocket full of rye;
  • four and twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie.
  • When the pie was opened,
  • They all began to sing.
  • Now, wasn’t that a dainty dish
  • To set before the King?

Henry VIII was in his treasury counting the financial gains from his confiscations.  The Queen, his wife, was Catherine of Aragon, whose dowry was the greatest in history because her parents were Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, whose galleons came filled with gold from the New World.  Bread and honey symbolized her wealth.

  • The King was in his countinghouse,
  • Counting out his money;
  • The Queen was in the parlor
  • Eating bread and honey.
  • The maid was in the garden,
  • Hanging out the clothes.
  • Along there came a big black bird
  • And snipped off her nose!

The maid in the garden was Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting, whose beauty had caught the king’s lustful eye.  However, when he divorced Catherine and married Anne, she bore him Elizabeth rather than the male child he wanted,  so he had Anne beheaded.  The big black bird was the name for the royal executioner.

  •  The King was in his countinghouse,
  • Counting out his money;
  • The Queen was in the parlor
  • Eating bread and honey.
  • The maid was in the garden,
  • Hanging out the clothes.
  • Along there came a big black bird
  • And snipped off her nose!

Some interesting sidelines:

Henry’s father, Henry Tudor, was a commoner, who had no claim to the throne except that he married a woman who was 28th in line for the throne.  After the chaos of the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years ‘ War, England wanted peace, and Henry Tudor assumed power and promised not only peace but also, no taxes.

Henry Tudor had three children: The oldest, Arthur (named for the legendary King Arthur), was betrothed as a child to Catherine of Aragon who was a few years older.  The second, Henry, was sent to a monastery, where he received a thorough education and was an outstanding scholar.  If Lorenzo de magnificent of Florence could have a son a pope (Pope Leo X), Henry Tudor decided his Henry would be a pope also.  The third child was a beautiful girl, Margaret, whom he married off to James of Scotland in order to make an ally of the King of Scotland and not the powerful nuisance the Scots had been to England.

The fly in the ointment was that little Arthur upped and died.  Henry Tudor removed his son, Henry, from the monastery and sought the Pope’s permission to have little Henry marry his brother’s widow, since the marriage had not been consummated.  The Pope said there was no problem because it was not a matter of consanguinity.

When Henry came out of the monastery, he discovered the female world and immediately fathered the first of many out-of-wedlock sons.  His first was the famous Duke of Monmouth.  By the time Henry married Catherine, he had already contracted syphilis.  He was the first famous syphilitic in history.  Syphilis was a “gift of the new world” in exchange for the “old world’s” smallpox.  Neither world had the necessary immunity and both diseases were catastrophic.  Catherine bore him numerous children who were either still-born or died shortly after birth.  The one exception was Mary Tudor.

When Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope could not grant him a divorce because the 17 year marriage with Catherine was valid, Henry objected on the grounds that it was not lawful to marry his brother’s widow and that he had no living children as a punishment by God.  As to the consanguinity matter, this hypocrisy was known to all since he had a real issue of consanguinity with Anne Boleyn having seduced her sister and left her with child.  That is why Anne Boleyn would not consent to be his mistress but demanded marriage.

Henry begged Catherine of Aragon on her deathbed to forgive him, telling her he had always loved her.  She had already forgiven him and had loved him despite his tragic flaw.

Anne Boleyn was hated by the common people of England, due to her haughty manner and the common folk’s strong allegiance to Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Open criticism of Anne was approved and encouraged by Henry after he had Anne beheaded.

Later, after the reign of  Edward VI and Mary Tudor, when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne all such approval and criticism stopped because the new Queen was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Another ditty: Six wives did Henry have: 2 divorced, 2 beheaded, 1 died & 1 survived.…

Elizabeth had been presented to all her father’s new wives.  To the last one she said: ”Oh, my lady, I do hope you will last longer than the last one!” That Queen did survive by bending over to kiss the dying king and removing from his hand the order for her execution, which she tucked into her voluminous sleeve. She strutted out of the royal chamber whistling a saucy tune, taking the courtiers’ attention away from Henry and focusing it on her scandalous behavior.