25 October 2023

Pole at Lambeth

They've got an Exhibition at Lambeth Palace about Reginald Cardinal Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury There is one particular, immensely eloquent volume, which has set me wondering if it is in this Exhibition. (The state of my health means that I have no possibility of going to see.)

Let me explain.

Some years ago, I was in Bodley leisurely following one of my heroes, the magnificent John Grandisson, Bishop (1328-1369) of Exeter. I had in my hands a Vita by him about S Thomas Becket, which I found quite a revelation. King Henry, I discovered, imposed the most horrific penalties ... deaths, blindings and maimings ... upon anybody doing such a thing as conveying a papal bull into this kingdom. King Henry (I mean, Henry II) was set upon sundering the Unity of Christendom by dealing with imperially-nominated antipopes.

Not being a historian, I had had some vague idea that Becket stood up to Henry II in defense of the principles surrounding investiture ... and such stuff. That half hour in Bodley deciphering (I am not a historian!!) C14 script helped me to understand still better the degree to which I and my generation were fed a diet of The History of England Rendered Gentlemanly. But another surprise lay before me.

For no particular reason, before strolling off for a leisurely break, I turned to the beginning of the book. In doing so, I found I had moved from the Mediaeval world, its crabbed script and its distant preoccupations, into the purest Renaissance. A previous owner had written his name, in an elegant Italian script:

Reginaldus Pole

Click click click ... you can imagine the connections which instantly formed in my mind. The parallels between the two iniquitous Kings Henry. Pole's own martyred Mother, Blessed Margaret. The courage of the Cornish and Devonish peasantry in 1549, demanding that the Lord Cardinal Pole be brought back to England and made the First in the Council of little Edward VI "because he is of the King's Blood" ... how the 'Uncles', the seedy and murderous 'Lords of the Council', must have trembled at that idea! (I wonder if a copy of the demands of the 1549 'rebels' is in the Exhibition.)

In the months after the erection of the Ordinariate, I recall a dear friend, Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, saying to me how privileged we were going to be to enter into the inheritance of the Martyres Duacenses. How right he was; and his words were among the very few uttered in my hearing during that period which I consider worth remembering. The names of the English Martyrs are of the essence of the English Catholic Church ... their names as English as their blood.

S John Henry Newman saw this truth: in his great encomium on the English Martyrs (in The Second Spring) he even concluded by wondering if Martyrdom might still await the English Catholic clergy. " ... calmly, gracefully, sweetly, joyously, you would mount up and ride forth to the battle, as on the rush of Angels' wings, as your fathers did before you, and gained the prize. You, who day by day offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, you who hold in your hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, you who again and again drain the chalice of the Great Victim; who is to make you fear?"

I do not quite see how poor Welby, in whose veins flows the purest liquor of the Zeitgeist, is an appropriate man to commemorate either S Thomas Becket or Reginald Cardinal Pole.



Nicholas Rogers said...

I am sorry to hear that the state of your health prevents you from travelling to see this fascinating exhibition. You (and others) may be interested to learn that there is an on-line version of the exhibition:
There is also a well-illustrated and inexpensive catalogue published by New College.

Nicholas Rogers

Arthur Gallagher said...

Thank you, Father. I too had no idea of the extent of the dispute between Becket and Henry.
I actually studied this in college, and all that I can remember is the unfortunate cleric who got himself prosecuted in the King's courts, and that there were some other disputes regarding the rights of the Church and of the Holy See. That Henry was somehow mixed up with Anti-Popes is a revelation to me.
This has set my mind to thinking about Laudabiliter, and Henry II.

Banshee said...

I have never run across that papal bull thing either, and I have read a fair amount of histories about Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, et al.

I hadn't heard about John hanging the boy Welsh hostages until last year, though, so a good deal seems to be left out of such histories.