19 November 2015

Ah, the young ...

 ... they are (or, I suppose, a quite tiny percentage of them is) busily demonstrating to pull down the statue of one Cecil Rhodes, one of our great empire-builders (I don't know who would be the North American equivalent). A little more than a century ago, he gave a quite vast sum of money to Oriel College to rebuild that side (Northern) of one of its quadrangles which faces onto the High Street; and, surprise surprise, the loftiest and centralist statue on this North frontage is of Rhodes ipse (immodestly enclosed in salomonic columns and towering immodestly well above Edward VII and George V). Actually, that quadrangle was originally S Mary's Hall; it had only been finally merged into Oriel a few years before its dowdy but venerable buildings were demolished to be replaced by Rhodes's own apotheosis of Rhodes-and-the-Imperium-Brittannicum. At the time, I would have resolutely opposed this vandalism. After all, Rhodes was a figure not particularly high on the Wholesomeness Scale. But you may feel that he was probably not a lot worse than some of the dubious benefactors whose names are currently being put up all over Oxford.

I can understand why people recently removed the Rhodes statue in Capetown, and, rather longer ago, all the Lenins in Russia, and all the Queen Victorias in Ireland and India (I rather like the solution adopted at University College Cork, where they simply buried the Queen Empress under the emerald turf of that superb quadrangle which could hold its head high anywhere in Oxford). But I doubt whether many inhabitants of this city know whose statue it is, or what his significance is, or feel offence at its presence there. I wonder how many even of those protesting knew  how offended they were by the statue until somebody else explained to them how upset they are. I can't quite see Removing Rhodes as being a popular mass movement engaging and uniting the divided enthusiasms of all those disparate newly-settled communities on the East of this City (it has been said that Oxford is now but the Quartier Latin of Cowley).

But the good news is that Youff have no known wish to see the removal of the eastern-most of the statues on the Rhodes Building; it is of Dr (later Cardinal) Allen, once Principal of S Mary's Hall, who faces across the road to the exuberant baroque porch of the University Church (with its niched statue of our Lady Crowned, an item which featured in the indictment upon which Archbishop Laud was executed).

Had the Armada happily succeeded, His dear Eminence, who devoted so much energy to organising it, would have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, and Popery would have again been triumphant. It says much for the breadth of vision and the solid historical sense of the young that they are so happy to see such a praiseworthy man continuing to be honoured.

If the campaign to remove Rhodes is successful, who should occupy his empty niche? (Blessed John Henry Newman and John Keble are already featured on the South face of the building.) Good men and true will support the nomination of another Principal of S Mary's Hall, Dr William King, for many years the exuberant, admired, and hated leader of the Jacobite Party, not only in Oxford but in England. Redeat Magnus ille Genius Brittanniae, as he rather naughtily put it. I wonder what his reward would have been, had the '45 happily succeeded.

What's that you say? Yes!!! Why not put our late Sovereign liege Lord King James III in the Rhodes niche; and his sons Kings Charles III and Henry IX in the  places of Edward VII and George V! You are inspired! 

8 comments:

Nicolas Bellord said...

To be consistent surely all that money that Rhodes gave to Oxford should be sent back to his family.

Zephyrinus said...

"If the campaign to remove Rhodes is successful, who should occupy his empty niche?"

Indubitably, those enlightened "Youff", with the hearty encouragement of "Aunty Beeb", will scream hysterically for Nelson Mandela.

You heard it here, first.

Highland Cathedral said...

Had the Armada happily succeeded what would have happened to the Anglican patrimony? Would there be any such thing as the Anglican patrimony other than what people could read about in history books?

John H. Graney said...

Woodrow Wilson is the North American equivalent, and there have been a number of campaigns to remove statues/portraits of him too. The reason given for this is that he was a racist, which he was, among other things.

Stephen said...

And a progressive.

Zephyrinus said...

I believe David Beckham is a possible candidate for the niche.

Peregrinus Toronto said...

May I submit Robert Baldwin and Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine as the equivalent nation-builders in Canada. They were the first co-premiers of the united provinces of Upper and Lower Canada and of a first elected "responsible" government. Baldwin was a reformer of the judiciary, founder of the University of Toronto and the Ontario Law School, and architect of Canadian public education amongst many other accomplishments. With Lafontaine he steered Canada away from revolutionary to evolutionary change i.e. Canadian Parliamentary democracy, loyal to the Crown in Canada but responsible to the electorate.

A statue of the two stands on Parliament Hill but many Canadians (and others) are unaware of their vast contributions all achieved without bloodshed, remarkable in any era but particularly so in the mid-nineteenth century when the European tribes were spilling revolutionary good and the US engaged in a fratricidal civil war.

The Royal Bank commented some years ago that had they lived in the republic to the south they would now be celebrated as Washington and Jefferson are. I suppose this is yet another case of Canadian humility run amok.

Peregrinus Toronto said...

Oh, yes. I was carried away. I meant to add that the High Church Baldwin insisted that his children be educated in Quebec, the home town of his friend Louis Lafontaine, and by French Catholics. One daughter entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church and cared for her father until his death. I believe that had the Ordinariate arrived a century and a half earlier, Robert Baldwin would have happily entered into full communion with his Catholic friend, colleague and compatriot, Louis . . . and with his daughter.