Could it be, is it possible, that alterius orbis Papissa, Ms Greta Thunsberg, has placed this University under an Interdict? I only ask because at last Wednesday's Encaenia, postponed propter pestem from June, two of the eight Honorandae failed to turn up, and they both appear to have been ecologically predisposed.
The good news is that Linda Colley, currently a Professor at Princeton, to my mind the most distinguished name upon the list, was present to receive her Doctorate in Litteris honoris causa.
Colley is an expert in the history of the seventeen hundreds. It is her view that the Tory Party was still a significant force throughout that century, busily Defying the Whig Oligarchy. I was a little miffed that Mr Orator missed the opportunity to point out that the building in which these degrees were being conferred, the Sheldonian Theatre, was the site of the last great ebullition of aggressive Toryism (and Jacobitism), Dr William King's 1749 Oration to celebrate the opening of the Radcliffe Camera. In this, only three years after the flight of the Prince Regent (later King Charles III), King declaimed, five times, "REDEAT ..." to a noisy gathering.
Mr Orator did mention Colley's demonstrations that British Imperial History is largely a dodgy fabrication of the Victorians, who expunged from the record a fair number of calamitous defeats of British armies by more sophisticated Moslems. In particular, he alluded to her demonstration that in the early years of the eighteenth century, there were some 20,000 British slaves held in the Barbary sultanates of North Africa (a fact which this blog has several times divulged). We have been taught to chant that "Britons never never never shall be slaves", indeed, but "quod interdum incommodum videatur auditu, [Colley] patefecit Britannos nonnunquam antehac id ipsum iugum acceptum ferre coactos esse". And Mrs Vice-Chancellor remarked that "nos sicut captivi acri animo legimus" Professor Colley's works.
Is there an irony in the fact that we are currently often advised to grovel on account of our History ... a History which we ourselves largely invented in order to aggrandise ourselves?!?
Yes; the Honorandae were all female, and Mrs Vice-Chancellor presided, in honour of the centenary of the admission of women to degrees in this University. Again, I felt that Mr Orator missed an opportunity: he very appropriately spoke about the 700 years since the death of Dante; he quoted him (cum permissu Vice-Cancellariae) in Italian, and appended Dorothy Leigh Sayers' English translation of Dante's lines.
He could also have mentioned that Sayers was one of the very first batch of women to receive degrees in 1921, in that same Sheldonian Theatre.