England and Always: When the King Enjoys His Own Again

England and Always”
The British, the Empire, and the Faith
Part II: When the King Enjoys His Own Again

Though for a time we see Whitehall
With cobwebs hanging on the wall
Instead of gold and silver brave
Which formerly was wont to have
With rich perfume
In every room,
Delightful to that princely train
Yet the old again shall be
When the time you see
That the King enjoys his own again
Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

The history of these United States does not begin with 1776 or 1783; sadly it does not begin in a cultural and institutional sense with either the founding of St. Augustine or Quebec, but rather with Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. As the hereditary organisations and governmental bodies earlier referred to would remind us, the period between that date and independence saw the creation of the American identity. As recounted in Albions Seed, four distinct streams of British immigrants brought their respective cultures here, alongside Germans, Dutch, French Huguenots, Swedes, and Scots Highlanders. But that period also saw a series of conflicts in the Mother Country — which had already been through the shocks of the so-called Reformation, and its accompanying Pilgrimage of Grace and Risings in West and North. The Catholic England of Henry VII (victor over Richard III and champion of the beatification of Henry VI) who initially sent explorer John Cabot to these shores had been transformed by Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I (despite the best efforts of Mary I) into something new and strange. Unlike that earlier England, as Catholic as Spain, France, or Portugal, the new one was intensely divided in both religion and politics. These divisions would come with the English to the New World. As Kenneth Woods has explored in detail in his The CousinsWars, the stage was set for a series of struggles that would turn the Anglosphere from a small Catholic realm to a world-wide and secularizing empire.

When Elizabeth I died — having had her nearest relative, the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots judicially murdered — the latter’s son, King James VI, became James I of England. During his reign, the Calvinists (Puritans and Pilgrims) grew in strength; they began the settlement of the New England colonies which would bear their stamp even into our own time. Despite their claim in the Mayflower Compact to be “the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.,” they would have little qualms in following their co-religionists at home into rebellion against their King’s son and successor, Charles I.

In the meantime Catholics in England, Scotland, and Ireland, (whom, as we have noticed, had produced many martyrs) — the Recusants, as they were called — had developed a network of schools, monasteries and other institutions in exile in Catholic Europe; from one of these would come the Douay Bible. Despite James’ Queen being Catholic, they suffered a short but severe persecution after the unsuccessful attempt of a group of Catholics to blow up King and Parliament in 1605. This occurrence produced both Guy Fawkes Night — avidly celebrated in the colonies until the American Revolution and shortly after — and a heroic figure for the film V for Vendetta (which never mentions Fawkes’ Catholicism — a feat akin to producing a film referencing Martin Luther King without mentioning race).

Charles I also had a Catholic Queen, the French Princess Henrietta Maria; not surprisingly, he favoured Catholics — bestowing on the Lords Baltimore both territory in Newfoundland and the colony of Maryland. This latter became a refuge for English Catholics, although Protestants were to have equal rights — a tragic, if understandable, blunder, given what the future held.

Indeed, much to the annoyance of his Puritan and Scots Presbyterian subjects, Charles I kept up a close correspondence with the Holy See. In a letter of April 20, 1623, he wrote to Pope Gregory XV:

Never did they [his ancestors] carry the standard of Christ’s Cross against his most violent enemies with a more cheerful spirit than I will use and endeavour, that the peace and unity of the Christian Commonwealth, which hath been so long banished, may be brought back, returning, as it were, from captivity or the grave; for, since the subtlety and malice of the father of discords hath sown the seeds of such unhappy differences among those who profess the Christian religion this measure I deem most necessary… Wherefore by your Holiness be persuaded that I am and ever shall be of such moderation as to keep aloof, as far as possible, from every undertaking, which may testify any hatred towards the Roman Catholic religion; nay, rather I will seize all opportunities by a gentle and generous mode of conduct, to remove all sinister suspicions entirely; so that, as we all confess one undivided Trinity, and one Christ Crucified, we may be banded together unanimously into one faith. That I may accomplish this, I will reckon as trifling all my labours and vigilance, and even the hazards of kingdom and life itself.

Numerous witnesses and later authors attest to the King’s use of images and veneration of relics, saints, and the Virgin Mary. But despite negotiations with Rome throughout his reign, three considerations kept him from reunion: A) the belief in the power of the Pope to depose Sovereigns (not a matter of Faith, to be sure); B) the intriguing of Cardinal Richelieu with his Puritan enemies (an experience shared with Holy Roman Emperors Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III); and C) the probable reaction of a large part of his people. In this last, of course, he was not mistaken. But, as Robin Davies observes: “It is significant that the King, in his last speech on the scaffold, did not make use of the word ‘Protestant,’ but described himself as ‘a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father.’ It must also be remembered that the word ‘Protestant,’ even in the 18th century, meant primarily, ‘pertaining to the Church of England,’ and that the sectarians, here [England] and abroad, were usually described by names indicative of their tenets — Anabaptists, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.” What may be regarded as certain is that the King believed himself to be Catholic, and believed himself to be of the same Faith as the Pope.

Regardless of what we may think of the King’s belief, it is certain that it affected his religious policy, and not just toward Lord Baltimore. He appointed William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury, for the express purpose of “Catholicising” the belief and practise of the Church of England. Although far less pro-Papal than his Monarch, Laud was held in sufficiently high esteem by the Holy See to be offered the Red Hat by Urban VIII, which he rather caustically turned down. Nevertheless, Laud ordered the revival of many Catholic practises (especially as regards the Real Presence), for which the Puritans would execute him in 1644. This was the time of the “Caroline Divines,” who followed more or less in Laud’s footsteps.

All of this activity, and the attempt to extend it to Scotland, would lead to the series of Civil Wars called to-day the “Wars of the Three Kingdoms,” which would bathe the British Isles in blood. Despite the gallantry of such Royalist commanders as Montrose, and the unanimous support of the Catholics such as John Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, the Royal cause was defeated by Oliver Cromwell. The captured King, having written while imprisoned a book of meditations — the Eikon Basilike — refused to accept the abolition of bishops in the Church of England, and was executed. Two decades later, when Charles’ Queen died in Parisian exile, Bishop Bossuet gave her funeral oration. As my friend, the late Fr. Jean Charles-Roux put it, Bossuet “spoke at length of Charles I, and presented him in glowing terms as the model of Christian sovereigns; because he had shown, in imitation of Christ, how a Prince could add to his grandeurs by dying for his Faith. Going further, Bossuet did not refrain from suggesting that, by offering himself up, on the gruesome Whitehall platform, the King had made of himself the reparatory holocaust for all the harm done and atrocities committed by the heavy and sadistic matrimonial head-chopper who had, in a previous dynasty, preceded him on the English throne.” It is interesting to note that on the eve of his own judicial murder, the only books Louis XVI asked for were his book of hours as a Knight of the Holy Ghost, and a life of Charles I.

While all these events were transpiring in the Motherland, Puritan New England, Anglican Virginia , and Dutch New Netherland were pursuing their own paths of growth. So, too, was Maryland. To this day, colonial-era Catholic parishes exist at Newtowne, Chapel Point, Newport, Waldorf, Pomfret, Leonardtown, Medleys Neck, Bushwood, Morganza, Hollywood, Warwick, and Cordova; the Faith even spilled over into Anglican Virginia. The private chapel at Doughoregan Manor, last remaining estate of the Carroll family is a witness to this time when the leading Catholic families of Maryland played roles similar to that of the Recusant nobility and gentry in England, funding churches and preserving the Faith. Meanwhile, the English Jesuits looked after the settlers’ spiritual needs.

When the storm from over the seas fell upon the English colonies, they reacted in different ways. Predictably, New England rejoiced at Cromwell’s victory, and happily swore allegiance to the new regime. Royalist Virginia — called “the Old Dominion” ever since — declared for Charles II, while Lord Baltimore attempted unsuccessfully to convince Cromwell to leave his colony alone. In 1652, a fleet arrived from England to subdue the two colonies — which finally succeeded with the Battle of the Severn; arguably the last battle of the wars, and fought in Maryland. Nevertheless, oppression caused many Cavaliers to emigrate to Virginia and establish plantations; so began the “First Families of Virginia,” who have played such an enormous role in the history of State and Nation since then. The Ark and Dove Society comprises the similar folk in Maryland. Cromwell’s hand lay heavily also over the Royalist English West Indies; there he shipped numerous Scots and Irish as slaves, who became the progenitors of the “Redlegs” of Barbados and elsewhere, and the first settlers of the Irishinfluenced island of Montserrat.

Fortunately, a year after Cromwell’s death, his regime crumbled, and Charles II regained the throne. Virginia was restored to its former Royal Governor, Lord Berkeley (who, however, proved to be quite a handful), and Maryland was returned to Lord Baltimore. But this Restoration was in some ways more apparent than real; Cromwell was gone and the Puritans out of power; but the Oligarchy that had backed him and them were also the ones responsible for the King’s return, and he must needs tread carefully around them. He took as his Queen another Catholic, Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese Princess who brought as her dowry Tangier in Morocco, and the city of Bombay. The British would not hold the former possession long; but the latter was the foundation of their empire in India. She also had for a while a chaplain, St. Claude de la Colombiere, who would become famous as a promoter of the new devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Charles’ brother, James, Duke of York, commanded the Royal Navy quite skilfully. In 1664, during a war with the Dutch, his fleet conquered New Netherland; the colony’s capital of New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and to the Duke was given control of what are now the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The latter two would be given to William Penn to pay a debt owed his father: that Quaker declared his possessions refuges for all religions — including Catholics. The Duke gave New Jersey to two friends, but he kept his namesake colony for himself, appointing the Catholic Thomas Dongan as its governor, and giving it a liberal legal system — the “Dukes Laws.” He also ordered the delineation of the first counties, which included Kings, named after his brother; Queens, commemorating his sister-in-law; Dutchess, for his first wife, the Protestant Anne Hyde (mother of his daughters Mary and Anne); and Dukes, after himself. The great Dutch landholders, the “Patroons,” he transformed into English-style manor lords, similar to those in Maryland and elsewhere in the colonies.

Meanwhile, in 1672, Charles II granted extensive lands south of Virginia to a group of noblemen who had been supporters of his father; this was the new colony of Carolina, named, like its capital Charleston, after the murdered King. This town and its environs attracted both Huguenots and Cavaliers from Barbados, giving it a certain elegant tone — not unlike Virginia. The Northern part of the colony attracted small farmers, many of whom — especially Germans and Ulster Scots — went out to the frontier. The very differing lifestyles of the two regions eventually led to their split in the early 18th century into North and South Carolina; ever since, the denizens of the former place have referred to themselves as “an island of humility between two mountains of conceit.”

The Duke’s wife died, and in time he converted to Catholicism and married a Catholic princess, Mary of Modena. But in 1678, the “Popish Plot” hysteria, wherein one Titus Oates claimed that Catholics intended to murder Charles II and other leading Anglicans, caused an appalling amount of anti-Catholic pressure on the King (including his having to expel St. Claude de la Colombiere from the country) and the martyrdom of St. Oliver Plunkett. By 1681 the affair was over; but some of the dirt had stuck to the Catholic reputation. Nevertheless, Charles II converted to Catholicism on his deathbed four years later.

His brother then inherited the Crown as James II. At first, given that both his heiresses (Mary and Anne) were Protestant, even his enemies left him alone — allowing him, among other things, to concentrate on colonial and naval policy. In order to consolidate the northern colonies against the French, he ordered their charters returned, and united New York, New Jersey, and the New England provinces into a single Dominion of New England, under Sir Edmund Andros. The Puritans resented this tremendously, but fortunately for them, their Catholic King would be overthrown in 1688 by a band of Oligarchs controlling Parliament and acting in concert with James’ son-in-law Prince William of Orange, who pulled off the first successful invasion of England since 1066. Thus occurred the so-called “Glorious Revolution.” The catalyst was the birth of a male heir to the Royal couple — a Catholic prince who supplanted his Protestant sisters in the line of succession.

In the Dominion of New England, news of the overthrow in 1689 provided several additional tales such as Leislers rebellion and Androsarrest to go with the Charter Oak story as part of the national mythos. The Dominion broke back into its several colonial parts, but Duke’s County was given by King William to Massachusetts, who lopped off Nantucket as a separate county, but left Marthas Vineyard with the original name (thus New Yorkers have William to thank that Teddy Kennedy’s exploits at Chappaquiddick occurred in the Bay State and not their turf). The same news precipitated a revolution in Maryland, and local Protestants seized control: in England the new King made Maryland into a Royal colony, and 25 years would pass until the then Lord Baltimore apostasised to regain his colony — which was duly granted him. In that time the penal laws were gradually applied, and only Queen Anne’s direct intervention prevented the holders of the Faith from being outlaws entirely. William Penn had to do quite a dance to hold on to Pennsylvania, but he managed to do so. The planters in Virginia and Carolina accepted the change of government without much protest. Shortly after, however, the latter colony began a series of border wars against the Spanish at St. Augustine that would ruin the Catholic missions in what are now Georgia and northern Florida.

In England, where the Duke of Marlborough had defected with his army to the invader, Parliament would now be sovereign over the King in law as well as fact; William and Mary accepted this as the price of the throne. The Oligarchs would decide not only to impose further and stricter penal laws against Catholics; moreover, not only could a Catholic not sit upon the Throne, no King would be allowed to marry one either. In Scotland, Bonnie Dundee defeated the usurper’s troops at Killecrankie, but died doing so; with him went the Royal cause in Scotland. James, having fled to France, returned to Ireland, convened the Irish Parliament, and fought again, being defeated by William at the Boyne; the remainder of the Williamite war saw the King and many more Irish flee to the continent. Thus ended the third of the great transformative civil wars that rent the Anglosphere.

James II, and in time his son James III, presided over a Jacobite court in exile in various European cities (St. GermainenLaye, BarleDuc, Avignon, Urbino, and finally Rome) , depending primarily upon the ever-shifting relationship between their French allies and the new regime. The “Wild Geese” — Irish who followed their King into exile — formed regiments for the Monarchs of France, Spain, and Naples, and served as individuals in the armies of Austria and other countries. As the Pope continued to recognise James III as King — ending up as host to his exiled entourage — the Catholic and Jacobite causes were intertwined, although “NonjuringEnglish and Scots Anglicans continued to look to the Stuarts as their rightful rulers. These later included young Samuel Johnson. Ireland loved her banished rulers, but was too prostrate to do anything. Above all, the Pope sought King James’ advice and approval for appointments to Irish dioceses and Scots and English vicariates apostolic; among the latter was the “London District,” which had jurisdiction over Catholics in the colonies. Jacobites there were scattered, however; for them it was an attitude rather than a cause. Nevertheless, in a pattern that would become familiar in later years to American Loyalists, French Royalist Émigrés, and White Russians, the network of pre-existing English, Scots, and Irish Catholic institutions — educational and monastic — on the Continent joined the new Jacobite ones in a sort of homeland in exile. In Saint Germain, Avignon, Rome, or wherever he happened to be, the Stuart heir would “touch for the Kings Evil” as his ancestors had done back to the time of St. Edward the Confessor. William would send sufferers from the disease that came to him to James, and a number of Jacobite converts were made in that fashion.

Meanwhile, Queen Mary predeceased William. Together, apart from dispossessing James, they had been somewhat disappointing as sovereigns. During the Salem witch trials, their advice to Massachusetts Royal Governor Sir William Phips’ anguished request for advice was to assure him that they had complete confidence in him. William did show resolve in a number of areas, involving the colonies in the first of that series of World Wars that would occur at intervals until 1945 — the War of the Grand Alliance (called in the colonies “King Williams War”), turning over control of the country’s finances to the Bank of England, and ordering the Massacre of Glencoe. Apart from Virginia’s College of William and Mary, he gave a charter and his name to Annapolis’ King Williams School, the new capital of Virginia, and forts in the harbours of Boston and Portsmouth, NH. Jacobites rejoiced when William’s horse — confiscated from a Jacobite owner — stepped into a mole hole and threw his new master, resulting in William’s death. From then on they would toast the mole — “to the wee gentleman in black velvet.”

His death brought his sister-in-law, Anne, to the throne. She too touched for the King’s Evil, and felt herself very much a Stuart. Each of her children died young, however, for all that she gave her name to Marylands capital (and to Queen Annes County in Maryland — as well as to a plant, an architectural style, and Blackbeard’s pirate ship, none of which she can have had any connexion with), and her husband, Prince George of Denmark, his name to counties in Maryland and Virginia. She felt at times that this was a punishment for her part in the deposition of her father and despoiling of her half brother of his inheritance, and this might be why, as noticed earlier, she came to his co-religionists’ aid in Maryland. Her ministers led her countries into the War of Spanish Succession (called “Queen Annes War” over here). She was the last reigning Queen of Scots; in 1707, the Union of Parliaments made her the first Queen of Great Britain. The Jacobites did not accept the union, however, which was resented in Scotland; the following year James III arrived at the Firth of Forth ready to invade; so too, however, did the Royal Navy, and the French Admiral decided to retreat rather than fight, despite the young King’s tearful entreaties. But this setback would dampen neither his resolve nor that of his loyal subjects in the Three Kingdoms, in the colonies, or in exile.

  • The Tory

    Excellent article!

  • Garret Kade Dupré

    So pope’s can’t depose sovereigns? How is that reconciled with the dogma of a sovereign’s personal submission to the pontiff?