A sunny day, as I strolled down the High, past the University Church, past what is perhaps the oldest statue of our Blessed Lady, crowned as Queen, to have been erected in public in England since the Reformation. Nobody ought to pass that without an Ave. Or without a murmured beate Carole, ora pro nobis. Because it was in the reign of King Charles I that the statue was erected, at the instigation of his Archbishop, William Laud, who lost his head to a puritan indictment citing this very statue. You might almost be strolling past a church in Rome, given the great, baroque, 'salomonic' pillars, like those in S Peter's, above which the Deipara stands. (Lovely word, Deipara; it is used of her in a window put up during this same decade in Magdalen College Chapel.)
And it's no good you writing to complain that, since the cult of blessed Charles has never been sanctioned by a Vatican decree of beatification, I am being Inappropriate. You will notice that I carefully use a lower case b. A neat ecumenical compromise, yes? And ferocious Anglicans can put their pens down, too: in the forms of service used for some three centuries in the Church of England, he is never once called 'Saint'; always 'blessed'. So there was no precedent for the Victorian romantics (such as the Bateman in Blessed John Henry Newman's Loss and Gain) who took it upon themselves to canonise him. In the seventeenth century, in any case, the practice of local Western churches, simply by a decree establishing liturgical texts, beatifying their own for a local cult, was not quite extinct. So it is an ecclesiological question that we have here, rather like that concerning Orthodox Saints canonised since the schism. One may, surely, hope for an ecumenical and ecclesiological climate in which King Charles may achieve the style Blessed Charles; in which he will be regarded as the Ordinariate's Gift to the whole Catholic World; in which the King's weakness in giving his assent to Acts of Parliament under which Catholic priests were cruelly martyred ... to an Act of Attainder under which a loyal servant of the Crown was executed ... will be seen as moments in his growth into holiness and the eventual strength of Martyrdom. If it had not been for blessed Charles, would there now be an Ordinariate?
But blessed Charles should be seen in a broader context than he so often is. In one his purplest passages, Gregory Dix wrote of the Eucharist as "inextricably woven into the public history of the Western world. The thought of it is inseparable from its great turning points also. Pope Leo doing this in the morning before he went out to daunt Atilla, on the day that saw the continuity of Europe saved; and another Leo doing this three and a half centuries later when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor, on the day that saw that continuity fulfilled. Or again, Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while medieval England struggled to be born; and Charles I also, on that morning of his execution when medieval England came to its final end." We set King Charles beside other monarchs ... S Charlemagne (last Tuesday was the 800th anniversary of his death, as my copy of the splendid Papa Stronsay Calendar reminded me); Louis XVI, who died (his obit only a few days ago) in the revolutionary holocaust of 1793 ... the Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria ... who evoke for us Christian Europe; the Europe which the preamble of some European treaty of union wished (as in Orwell's 1984) to expunge from the record and the memory; the real Europe; the Europe of the Christian Social Realm in which men struggled, not always successfully but not always unsuccessfully, to maintain the principle of the Kingship of Christ - that Lordship emphasised by popes such as Pius XI in his Quas primas. This is Magisterial teaching which Vatican II, in its preamble to Dignitatis humanae, maintained when it decreed that it integram relinquit traditionalem doctrinam Catholicam, "leaves entire traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ".
By a chance, tomorrow is the memorial, optionally, in Naples, of one of blessed Charles' descendants who was beatified only last Saturday in the Basilica of S Clare in Naples by Crescenzio Sepe, Cardinal Archbishop of Naples. Blessed Queen Maria Christina of Savoy was the daughter of Victor Emmanuel (de jure King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, 1819-1824) and sister of Maria Beatrice (de jure Queen Mary III and II of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, 1824-1840). Blessed Maria Christina was married to Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies, and mother of Francis, last King of the Two Sicilies before the Piedmontese usurpation. Her Eulogy describes her as 'a prudent counsellor of the King and a true Mother of the poor and needy'. She was also a woman of great modesty. She died in childbed when she was only twenty four. Here is her Collect, discovered on the internet by Fr Andrew Starkie, a learned priest ... needless to say ... of the Ordinariate.
Deus, qui in figura huius mundi beatam Mariam Christinam prudenti ardentique caritate decorasti et artificem in augmento Regni tui effecisti: tribue nobis, eius exemplo et intercessione; ut de vero amoris tui thesauro benefacientes accipere valeamus. Per.
(O God, which in the figure of this passing world [I Cor 7:31] didst adorn [Isa 61:10] Blessed Maria Christina with a wise and burning charity, and didst make her a worker in the increase of thy Kingdom: grant to us, by her example and intercession; that by doing right [I Pet 2:15] we may be able to receive of the very treasure of thy love. Through. This rendering takes account of the Italian version, which is not exactly the same as the Latin, and of the Italian Commentary which accompanied the texts.)
The banquet which followed the Beatification, hosted by the de jure King of the Two Sicilies, was, by all accounts, a very ancien regime occasion ... Golden Fleeces wall to wall ... I bet the Holy Father would have loved to have been invited ... I wonder how many of the descendants of blessed King Charles, through his prayers, are within the Church's catalogus Sanctorum et Beatorum.
A reader wisely suggests the good sense of considering today the Eikon Basilike of blessed Charles. If you do this on Wikipedia, it might help you (since the translation given there of the Latin is erroneous gibberish) to have a transcription and rendering of the main sentence about the Three Crowns, which is divided up into different places on the eikon. The word coronam/crown is not expressed in the Latin because it was thought to be sufficiently indicated by the iconography. For ease, I have inserted it in square brackets.
Beatam et Aeternam Caeli [coronam] Specto; Asperam et Levem Christi [coronam] Tracto; Splendidam et Gravem Mundi [coronam] Calco.
I behold the blessed and eternal [crown] of Heaven; I handle the rough and light [crown] of Christ; I trample the splendid and heavy [crown] of the World. The three crowns are respectively labelled Gloria; Gratia; Vanitas.
The iconography and ideology of the eikon are in the spirit of a Jesuit work published in Antwerp in 1627 and reproduced in English as the Emblemes of Francis Quarles in 1635: which became very popular, and about aspects of which I published a paper in 1993. For just one happy decade or so, under this monarch, England and Scotland, especially their Recusant Gentry and Nobility, were part of the mainstream of Continental, Baroque, Counter-Reformation piety.