Friday 5 November 2021

Please to remember the 5th of November and English hatred of Catholicism

Thirty years ago in the summer of 1991 I went into the Jesuit Church in Farm St and talked to a priest on duty. He turned out to be a lovely elderly Jesuit called Father Francis Edwards and he told me as we parted that he had written a book arguing that the Gunpowder Plot was what conspiracy theorists these days call a false flag operation. The details are here.

The burning of Cranmer and other Protestants - and Fox's Book of Martyrs detailing the deaths - strengthened Protestant feeling, even though far, far more Catholics who took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace had been killed by Henry VIII. 

Churchill said that the grass grows on the battlefield but never on the scaffold. 

Still, Shakespeare and the men of his generation were either Catholics or well disposed to the old religion. 

Somebody said that hatred of Catholicism is the only genuinely religious emotion that the English ever experience. The gunpowder plot was the moment when the English came to hate the Catholic Church.

I was reared on The Royal Picture Gallery, a book about the kings and queens of England published before Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, bought second-hand by my grandfather and given to my father and my him to me. I memorised it before I could read. As a Catholic boy Queen Mary I was my favourite monarch, at least after King Edward V. As he was murdered while still a boy I naturally felt a lot of sympathy with him. The other boy king, Edward VI, the king who imposed real Protestantism on the country, I obviously detested.

It seems I was right to admire Mary I, as I discovered from this very good lecture, on why the English learned to hate Catholicism, which I heard a couple of days ago.  I do recommend it if you have any interest in her fascinating reign.

The reformation, the Danish invasion, the Norman conquest and the current mass immigration are the four existential changes that England has undergone since our forefathers, the men in skins, first landed in Kent in the fifth century. 

English Protestants in the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I were a small group of fanatics like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 and the Woke people now. Remarkably small numbers of very committed people so often conquer the tolerant majority.

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