Thursday 24 June 2010

The Coronation of Katherine of Aragon

Stephanie A. Mann, author of the book Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, has an account of the coronation of the 17 year-old Henry VIII and his 23 year-old queen, Katherine of Aragon, in 1509. This year is the 501st anniversary of that coronation. With the exception of Anne Boleyn, none of Henry's other wives were crowned and, as such, Katherine and Anne were the last women to undergo the full panoply of the medieval Catholic Queen's Coronation in England. By the time the next Queen-consort, Anne of Denmark, was crowned in 1603, England was a Protestant nation and the ancient rite of the Coronation rite was much-altered.

Stephanie's account can be read here.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Early Christian icons uncovered

Firstly, a word of condolence to the Northern Irish blogger, "Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland," whose posts on the history of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ulster and their surviving (or vanished) homes are both invaluable and fascinating. He sadly lost his mother, whom he affectionately nicknamed "the Dowager," when she passed away peacefully at 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 19th. Sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers to him and his family at this sad time.

Secondly, and on an unrelated note, excavations in Rome have uncovered some of the earliest surviving Christian icons of Saint Peter, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Andrew (above; the patron saint of Scotland), as well as the evangelical Saint Paul, author of much of the latter-half of the New Testament. They were discovered in Santa Tecla catacombs beneath the Eternal City.

MSNBC has more on the story, including accounts of how lasers were used to help uncover these artifacts, the happy partnership between religion and science which helped unearth them and a little on their historical significance.

Saturday 19 June 2010

The Burning of the Fair Gospeller

Claire at The Anne Boleyn Files gives a fantastic, if grotesque, account of the horrible and hideous death of Anne Askew, a young Protestant convert savagely tortured and then executed for her beliefs during the last years of the already-bloody reign of King Henry VIII. Whatever one might think of Anne Askew's beliefs, there can be no real doubting her incredible bravery.

To quote Claire: -

"There is no doubt that Anne Askew was a martyr and an incredible woman. She was just 25 years old when she died but what an amazing life she had led. In an age where women were supposed to be submissive, and have no voice or opinions of their own, she was an outspoken preacher and died for her faith, remaining true to her friends and beliefs, whatever the cost. I admire her."

Read the full article here.

Friday 18 June 2010

Summer Reading

So, I have arrived in Connecticut to spend two weeks with my friend, Alexa. I'm off to D.C. for two days to catch-up with some old friends from school and the delightful Courtney Pannell.

With the 7 hour flight from London and a two hour train ride from Grand Central to New Haven, I wanted to bring along some summer reading. Of course, I should probably be spending this time working on my sequel to "Popular," but working on an aeroplane or on the Metro North railroad is pretty difficult! I think I'm going to wait until I reach Alexa's beautiful family home in New Canaan, to start writing by the pool-side, and, of course, to catch-up with her wonderful family, who I had such a happy summer with last year.

In my carrier bag is a copy of Mary Lovell's utterly fantastic, sympathetic and pithy book "The Mitford Girls," a chronicle of the lives of six upper-class English sisters born in the first part of the 20th century. All of them fascinating, many of them controversial. I also brought along Alison Weir's "The Children of England," a great account of the period 1547 - 1558, focusing on the lives of Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey. I've read it before and I particularly enjoy her account of the "quiet years" for Mary and Elizabeth (if such a thing was possible) during their brother's reign, when they spent their days as great chatelaines and ladies, as well as being powerful landed magnates with immense wealth and vast properties throughout the kingdom.

Upon arrival at Alexa's however, I was even more delighted to discover that two more books were waiting to be added to my summer reading list - "Trianon: A Novel of Royal France" by Elena Maria Vidal and "Eat, Drink & Succeed: Climb Your Way to the Top Using the Networking Power of Social Events" by Laura Schwartz. Two very different books, both gifts from the authors and both wonderfully and very kindly inscribed. I cannot wait to get reading on them both and to post reviews here as soon as possible!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Royal Snub in Ulster?

The news that His Royal Highness Prince Edward, youngest son of our Sovereign, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were not able to eat in a manor house restaurant during a recent visit to Northern Ireland, has not gone down well in many circles.

From what I can tell, it does sound as if the Northern Ireland Office bungled the arrangements and the restaurant's response doesn't seem like a republican snub. However, I can't help but feel that the excuses offered by the proprietor of the property in question, Mr. Damien McFaul, sound a little weak. The Earl and Countess are members of the Royal Family, who were making visits to a beautiful part of Northern Ireland - the concerns of the "privacy" of Mr. McFaul's other guests seems like a silly, indeed dubious, excuse for refusing to cater the Royal party on their visit.

More coverage in The Belfast Telegraph.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

More on the fox attacks in London

The Daily Mail is carrying more information on the terrible attack by an urban fox on the two infant daughters of high street fashion designer, Pauline Koupparis.

And the Mail columnist, Rory Knight Bruce, reflects on the problem of the urban foxes and their romanticisation in the wake of the fox hunting ban: -

"Too many urban dwellers adopt a soft-hearted attitude to these predators, who are foolishly seen as cute, cuddly and clever. It is an outlook that can be seen in whimsical films such as the recent smash hit The Fantastic Mr Fox, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Similarly, Labour’s ban on fox-hunting encouraged a mawkish eagerness to romanticise this aggressive creature – a pathetic instinct that was symbolised when Labour MP Mike Foster held up a furry toy fox outside Parliament to celebrate the passing of the legislation.

I wonder if all those animal rights champions feel quite so pleased with themselves after the tragic news that an urban fox in North-East London has appallingly mutilated two young twin girls. This incident exposes the claims from the so-called animal rights brigade that urban foxes don’t pose a danger to humans or pets

... So, given all the problems that the urban fox causes, what can be done to counter this menace? By law they cannot be gassed, poisoned or killed in lethal traps. The only effective methods of control are either shooting or the use of humane traps, but these have to be done by professionals. It is an offence, for example, to use a firearm near a highway or inhabited property.

One thing is certain – we cannot allow the situation to continue. Previous generations never sentimentalised the fox, instead holding him to be an enemy of mankind. One 16th century chronicler wrote that ‘his nature is deceitful, malicious, crafty, covetous, rapacious, perfect in all villainy’. We should learn from this. In reality, there is nothing fantastic about Mr Fox."

Monday 7 June 2010

Terrible fox attack on private home in London

Two nine month-old twins, Isabella and Lola Kouparris, were mauled in their nursery whilst their parents were watching the finale of Britain's Got Talent. The windows had been left open on the ground floor (the house is in a urban development and in a good neighbourhood), due to the heat wave and an urban fox snuck in and attacked the couple's two youngest children. Luckily, the girls' elder brother was left unharmed.

My thoughts and prayers go out to their parents, Nick and Pauline Kouparris, after this awful incident. And it's a relief to hear that the girls are in a "serious but stable" condition at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

MSN UK carries an account of the story here. Whilst Times columnist, Janice Turner, reflects on the problem and the unfortunate but possibly necessary solution.

Ten Facts About Queen Mary Tudor

The blog Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen has ten and fascinating random facts about the life and personality of Queen Mary Tudor (above), eldest surviving daughter of King Henry VIII and ruler of our fair islands from 1553 to 1558. I particularly enjoyed the anecdote about King Henri II of France refusing to hear England's declaration of war, because it was unthinkable that His Majesty could have war declared upon him by a woman!

Sunday 6 June 2010

Sandra Bullock's Acceptance Speech

Sandra Bullock, who this year won an Oscar for her performance in The Blind Side and became the adoptive mother of baby Louis Bardo, has had an otherwise difficult year with the break-up of her marriage amidst the tabloids' revelation of the repeated adultery of her husband, Jesse James.

Sandra is also well-known for her work in the Miss Congeniality series of movies and has worked on more "serious" movies like The Prince of Egypt, Infamous and Crash. In the above video she is making her first public appearance since the sad news about her marriage to receive the "Troops Choice Award for Entertainer of the Year" at the Spike TV's Guy Choice Awards ceremony.

As ever, she is gracious, funny and she gives a very moving, modest and thoughtful speech. That's how real class is done.

Saint Peter's College Alumni Dinner

Tonight I attended a lovely supper at the Royal Belfast Golf Club for the alumni of Saint Peter's College, Oxford, in Northern Ireland. The evening was hosted by Sir Kenneth Percy Bloomfield, former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and his wife, Lady Bloomfield. Sir Kenneth, whose County Down home was the victim of a savage I.R.A. terrorist bomb attack in 1988, attended Saint Peter's, where he read Modern History from 1949 to 1952. I read the same subject at the same college in Oxford, but from 2004 to 2007.

My "Plus One" for the evening was the lovely Aisleagh Morgan, an old school-friend, who attended Queen's University in Belfast and the Oxford Law Institute. The Golf Club, one of the oldest on the island of Ireland, was a beautiful setting and the food was fantastic. Conversation ranged from the inevitable eulogisation of Oxford to the swapping of stories of pranks at St. Peter's (for decency's sake I left out many of those I had either been involved in or cackled at like a demented harpy); the history of Northern Ireland in recent times, life in the diplomatic corps, life in America, service to the Ethiopian Imperial Family, memories of visits to the U.S.S.R., Aisleagh's impending nuptials and the trials and tribulations of being a lawyer were also discussed.

To those of you interested, our old alma mater stands on the site of two medieval hostels built in Oxford in the 13th century. During the Civil War, it served as the location of the Royal Mint, as established by the monarchist government-in-exile, which centred in Oxford after London was hijacked by Parliament. The hall, which is today the students' dining hall and the location of the Senior Common Room, was known as New Inn Hall, but it became known as Saint Peter's Hall in 1929, when it was established as Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford by His Grace the Bishop of Liverpool, Francis John Chavasse, an Anglican priest deeply committed to widening access to the hallowed halls of Oxford. The college, dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles, was granted full collegiate status in 1961, although most of its buildings date from the medieval or Georgian period. It is located in the very centre of Oxford and today it has an excellent reputation for extra-curricular drama and sports, in particular.

Famous ex-alumni include, apart from Sir Kenneth, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, Heir-Presumptive to the Throne of Bhutan, who was in my year and history class at St. Peter's; Carl Albert, the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Edward Akufo-Addo, who was President of Ghana from 1970 to 1972, the Reverend W.V. Audry, author of the famous Thomas the Tank Engine children's book stories, Sir Paul Condon - former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Reeves, who was both the Archbishop and Governor-General of New Zealand, painter Kurt Jackson, left-wing film director Ken Loach (Cathy Come Home, The Wind that shakes the Barley), actor Hugh Dancy (David Copperfield, Black Hawk Down, King Arthur, Elizabeth I, Basic Instinct 2, Savage Grace, The Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Oscar-winning screen-writer Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the scripts for The Full Monty, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day and Slumdog Millionaire.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Basic Manners

Elena Maria Vidal offers a fantastic reflection on basic manners and I'm glad to say that my late grandfather always taught me that giving up your seat for a lady on a packed bus or train was practically mandatory. The idea of not doing so would have appalled or infuriated him and he was one of the most decent and honourable men I ever met.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

An Inconvenient Truth?: The Crimes of Communism and why people prefer to forget they ever happened

Via Tea at Trianon comes a fascinating article about why so many people in the West today seem to prefer to ignore the horrors revealed by the archives of the Soviet Union

To quote from Claire Berlinski's article: -

"In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the F├╝hrer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history."
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