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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There are loads of things....

I've been meaning to write about on here, but have yet to get the chance to do so: The 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the difference between American and Scottish Independence, the battle for and against the Confederate flag in Virginia, the Seal of Confession Controversy in Louisiana, The Anglican Church allowing female bishops, my own recent adventures involving my SAR state level win, an antique arms show, a friend's graduation party, and a birthday luncheon at The Olive Garden, etc.

    Plus, over at "Behind the Silver Screen", I have been eager to review some films I watched in the last few months (Tangled, Master and Commander, Gettysburg, Last Chance Harvey, The Phantom of the Opera, Brave, The Original Star Wars Trilogy, Prince of Thieves, Princess of Thieves, Excalibur, etc.), and with regards to "Union Jack Chat", I have about six unfinished interviews with British Unionists (who are being real peaches to help out with this project, since I am pretty much an unknown and a foreigner to boot!) and the time crunch is evident with the referendum set for this September 18.

    But unfortunately life has just gotten in the way of my writing endeavors, and I've been especially busy with a private online magazine for Catholic homeschoolers and homeschool graduates, soon to be released to the public for the first time (updates to come)! Also, on an even larger scale, my dad and I will be driving to South Carolina so I can compete in The Sons of the American Revolution National Orations Contest, as the Representative of my native State of Maryland. It's a real privilege....not to mention pressure!

    But anyway, if my loyal readers don't hear much from me from here on out, it's because I'm heading to Dixie this Thursday or Friday (we're thinking about breaking up the 10 hour drive in half) and will be there until Monday or Tuesday. Afterwards, I may just need a little breathing time to relax and rewind, but more than likely I'll also be crazily eager to gush about everyone, so you'll probably hear from me sooner than later! Thanks for always humoring my gushes! ;-)

    I would be especially appreciative for your prayers at this time, as it is all getting a tad stressful. Also, please pray for my dad who is currently going for daily radiation for his returned prostate cancer. So far so good, but he is quite exhausted from it all, and this contest really lands at very bad timing. But as my coach, he and I have both put in too much time into the whole project to back down now. Plus, the SARs would probably tar and feather us! Anyway, we could definitely use my prayers.

    So until my return (when I hope to catch up on my would-be posting)....Chair-ho and God bless!



"South Carolina, here I come...."



Sunday, July 6, 2014

A rare, royal, Catholic book.....

is being reprinted for a new generation by St. Gabriel Communications International. The title and author may surprise you. It is nothing less than "Defense of the Seven Sacraments" by Henry VIII, King of England, the apologetic masterpiece that earned him the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X. Yes, all this is simply full of those little ironies that pound home the ultimate tragedy of the division of Christendom, not least that the current Anglican Queen still holds the above-given title.

    In the cases of Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Knox, I believe misguided zeal and conviction had quite a bit to do with their rebellion against the Church. But I highly doubt anyone can claim (with a straight face at least....unless it's part of a dry British comedy) that Henry VIII was motivated by any deeper sentiments than lust and self-interest when he broke ties with the Holy See. As for those who helped facilitate his usurpation of Church titles and property, most just as drunk with power and didn't care who or what they hurt in their plow to the top. This condemnation falls the strongest of all on the apostate Catholic bishops who bent to king's will or made a point to take control of a diluted state-run church for themselves.

    I do not wish to generalize here. There were certainly very devout Reformation-era Protestants in England, many who wound up burnt at the stake rather than ditching their convictions. While I still believe they were on the wrong track, their evident honesty and courage does them credit. But they were not the ones who split England away from Rome and set the groundwork for The Church of England. No, instead it was a king who beheaded Catholics and burned Protestants for his own selfish ends, a wife-murderer and sex-mongrel who destroyed almost everything he could not dominate.

    His daughter Elizabeth may have been less overtly monstrous, but she was equally self-interested and a vixen when it came to church politics. Basically, she saw the opportunity for consolidating more power for herself through what her father had done and took full advantage of it. Her promised not to "look into the windows of men's souls" was one of the most dishonest stump speeches ever given. Yes, she promised Catholics could "quietly" hold their beliefs -- but without priests. And she knew full well Catholicism couldn't continue without priests, and intended to humor and disarm until the Catholic Church in England was dead.

    And where did Anglicanism take her realm? What became of the state-run religious experiment? To put it bluntly, it ran amuck, and modern Britain is living proof of it. While traditionally Catholic countries have sunk into the swamp of indifference, they at least retain some visual vestiges of a very visual faith. The very things that makes Catholicism hard to kill are her outward signs, the things drummed into us as children that are bound to resurface in later lives. It is, by its very nature, a robust and colorful expression of the human interaction with the divine. Anglicanism, by contrast, was something of a compromise from the start, a little too tame, a little too muted, a little too watered-down. And being a form of rebellion itself, other rebellions against her were sure to ferment and weaken her.

    There are so many different elements of this reality, but a very poignant one is that Britain did become a virtually self-worshiping country when her sturdy religious faith became inextricably linked with the state as opposed to being an independent entity. Hence the rise of jingoism, and the arrogance of imperialism, in a nation in which self-achievement became a god and xenophobia was the norm. Religion literary faded from the front-lines and became, for many, nothing more than a feel-good farce. Again, I don't mean to generalize, and I am more than happy to give praise to fervent Anglicans (and Christians of every stripe) from the past and the present. But even they often admitted they were fighting upstream in a luke-warm bathtub, and I heartily believe they were deceiving themselves by clinging to the old justification that Catholicism as the root of all evil and refusing to embrace the solutions she readily provided.

    Anyway, all these things paved the way for the atheism and agnosticism that has swamped Britain today. It was easy to drift from a luke-warm state-run Church to religious nothingness. And that is the greatest tragedy of Henry VIII's betrayal. But all this, melancholy as it may be, makes me more fascinated by the reprinting of "Defense of the Seven Sacraments", and the bold fact that it is dedicated to our current queen. The pamphlet calls it "a daring contribution to the cause of authentic Christian re-unification in this new millennium marked by rising de-Christianization." The project has been put into motion:

Under the Aegis of the Medieval Patroness of "Merry England" (Mary's Dowry): Our Lady of Walsingham

 Authored by a King:  Henry VIII

Assisted by a Saint:  Sir Thomas More

Acclaimed by a Pope:  Leo X

Dedicated to a Queen:  Elizabeth II

In Memoriam of the Crusader of the 20th Century:  Plinio Correa de Oliveira

To quote the introduction by James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, from the 1907 edition:

"It is rare, inasmuch as it has probably been printed but twice in nearly 200 years. It is a royal book, by reason of its kingly author. It is Catholic, because no Catholic could write a more orthodox treatise on the subjects explained by King Henry VIII. 

    "He expounds such crucial dogmas as the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, indulgences, the mystery of the Real Presence and the Mass, the Sacrament of Confession, divorce, etc. And all this he has unfolded in as Catholic a manner as St. Thomas or St. Francis de Sales, or St. Alphonsus Liguori could have done. 

   "I hope, therefore, that the work may be widely and carefully read, especially in this country, but indeed also in England, the land of its birth."

    While ruminating on all these things, and watching that classic of classics, A Man for All Seasons, I was inspired to write words in tribute to St. Thomas More and all the Catholic Recusants to match the powerful Tudor-era theme. The following is the result:


A Man for All Seasons


Foolish men have prattling tongues
Yet the wisest use no words
Purest songs go unsung
Though the din, though the din
Is heard

Foolish men seek out a name
Yet the wisest hold their own
Set aside without shame
Standing strong, standing strong
Alone

What’s the price, what’s the price
Of God’s truth?
What’s the sum, what’s the sum
Of Man’s worth?

Wild winds are blowing, strange seeds are growing here
Long time refusing, harsh voices causing fear

Foolish men cling to their lives
Yet the wisest lay them down
Truth’s the daughter of time
Not the court, not the court
Nor crown

Foolish men will fade away
Yet the wisest never die
Seasons pass, yet they stay
Ever more, ever more
Alive



Sir Thomas More bids farewell to his daughter as he is led to his execution



    


Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Poems.....

from our Poet Laureate from Cattle Country, Cow-Punchin' Mack! The first is humorous, the second more melancholy, but both typically thought-provoking.



The Theory and Practice of Summer

In theory, Summer is capitalized
As a sovereign kingdom of happiness
An unfallen world of sunlight and bare feet
Both dancing lightly across a new-mown lawn
In practice, summer is when the mower won’t start
While weeds grow high in a season so dry
That heat and allergens veto all joy
The damp crushes deodorants and hopes
In theory, summer is idle hours
Saved in a magic piggie from long ago:
Comic books and plastic water blasters
And lying in the night-grass, counting the stars
In practice, summer means driving to work
In a wheezy old car that runs on notes
And gasoline more precious than rubies
While the boss sets an ambush at the time clock
But see:
In theory and practice, a little boy
Slow-pedals his bicycle to the creek
His fishing rod in hand, his dog behind,
And he will live for us our summers past



I Must be Buried in my Suit

“I must be buried in my suit,” he said,
“For soon I will be called to meet the King.

No, no, I do not scorn my workday clothes,
My ragged, oil-stained jeans and chambray shirt
The beatup hat I wore against the sun
For God was with me in the heat of the day
And the cold of the night when duty called –

I’ve torqued machine bolts through hard double shifts
Dug post holes, strung bob wire the summer long
And hammered, fenced, plowed, built, dug, cussed, and bled
Not for bragging, but to keep the children fed

I’ve ciphered accounts and counted the coins
And watched the boss’s child promoted up
For she had graduated college, you see,
And there she learned to send my job away
To some place on a map I saw in school,
Before somebody changed all of the names

And then the lady at the Social Security office
Told me that my life was privileged
But said that I’d get something anyway.
So my old clothes are fine for sitting on the porch
And lifting up a cup of Seaport to the dawn.

But you make sure I’m buried in my suit
Because I want to wear my Sunday best
When I am called away to meet the King.”


"A little boy.....his fishing rod in hand....."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi......

also known as the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, was celebrated throughout the the Universal Church last evening and today. This highlights the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, stating that the bread and wine are transformed into the true body and blood of Christ at mass, and when we consume them, we receive Our Lord in a very intimate and mystical way into our bodies and souls.

    I know, it may sound weird and creepy to many non-Catholics, rather like cannibalism. But it is an instruction given to us by Christ himself, and the earliest Fathers of the Church took Him at His literal word. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that cannibalism is the eating of the dead, while we believe this to be the living body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Much like The Holy Trinity and the Glories of Heaven, it is a mystical reality that defies mortal understanding. But perhaps not all mysteries are meant to be solved, but rather to leave us in awe and veneration.

    As Christians, we believe what Christ had to tell us. He could only have been a lunatic, a charlatan, or the Savior of the World,  and we believe that amid all the wandering minds and false prophets in history, He was the one and only "real thing." Hence, we take seriously his injunction to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood", and the priest at mass keeps faith with his instruction at The Last Supper to "do this is remembrance of me." Through this, we believe that He is always present to us through perishable food that He uses as imperishable food for the soul.

    Interestingly, the Vigil of Corpus Christi coincided this year with the Pagan Summer Solstice, complete with roof-top shin-digs bedecked with lawn chairs and multi-colored balloons. I cannot help but note the contrasts and similarities here, in a post-Christian culture fast reverting to pre-Christian traditions. The Solstice celebrates the sun's longevity in the sky for summer, while Corpus Christi celebrates the Son's longevity on earth through the Holy Eucharist.

   But while the sun may supply warmth and light, it is still a comparatively cold, unfeeling, disconnected to us spiritually. It is subject to the same forces as we are, created just like us. It is merely a shadow next to the Son, the Creator, the Being that embodies brightness, truth, and love, and one that is very much involved with the Human Story, to the point of laying down His life, pouring Himself out, and giving us His Body and Blood to eat.

    This is why I am so grateful to be a Catholic. I do deeply feel the love that He has for me, and for everyone. I believe He is the pinnacle of all goodness at the world strives after, and so rarely finds. In praying before the tabernacle yesterday, and having the honor of carrying up the chalice of hosts to altar, I felt His presence more strongly than I have in a long time. He is there, He is the answer. He does have a right to claims and he made about Himself, and the claims of love He lays on us. He loves us, and will take us back, no matter how many fall and get back up again. The tragedy is that so few find their way to Him.

   Taking a cue from His Holiness in Rome, I am posting the venerable Divine Praises for all those who are searching for the truth, that they may be drawn to Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar:


Blessed be God
Blessed be His Holy Name
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man
Blessed be the Name of Jesus
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete
Blessed be the Great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy
Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception
Blessed be her Glorious Assumption
Blessed be the Name of Mary, Virgin and Mother
Blessed be Saint Joseph, Her Most Chaste Spouse
Blessed be God in His Angels and His Saints

May the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament
Be praised, adored, and love with grateful affection
At every moment in all the tabernacles of the world
Even to the end of time.
Amen.


"Blessed be God....."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Three-in-One"......

is a poem I wrote for this Flag Day/Father's Day/Trinity Sunday! Since all these things happened in one weekend this year, I figure I would try to tie together the "three-in-one" aspects of each. And the connection with all this? Well, my father is the one who inculcated with a deep reverence for our national flag and puts "Old Glory" out on our front porch every flag day. Also, my parents were married on Trinity Sunday many moons ago! So all my best wishes and blessings to all the fathers (especially and particularly my own, "Mr. B., the Entertainer's Entertainer!"), and flag wavers, and Christians seeking to grow in a deeper appreciation of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.



Three-in-One


Red, White, and Blue,
The three-in-one
With stars and stripes
Together spun

Old stars seem new
And gleam as bright
As at Baltimore
On that long night

The stripes seem fresh
As wounds just cut
Who can claim her
Who’ll scorn that hurt?

***

Father, Son, and Guide,
The three-in-one
Three golden keys
Together strung

The stars They made
Like burning coals
And man they shaped
With a living soul

The stripes They bore
On the back of Christ
So the stars might stand
On the longest night

***

Father, Mother, Child,
The three-in-one
Through joys and trials
Together clung

Foundations built
On sturdy roots
Through love given
That bore fruit

On Father’s Day
The Flag flies free
And the colors match
The Trinity


"The Stripes They Bore on the Back of Christ....."





Friday, June 13, 2014

St. Anthony of Padua....

is a very special saint to me. More times than I can count, I’ve been in sticky situations involving lost stuff, a sweater, a bracelet, a book, a Microsoft document seemingly swallowed into the cyber abyss…..you name it! And each time, I have instinctively pleaded, “St. Anthony….HELP!!!!!”

    Most of the time, I’ve recovered “what once was mine”. But that’s really beside the point. The main gift that St. Anthony gives to us scatter-brained earthlings is peace in the midst of panic. For that, he has become one of the favorite “go-to” saints of the Catholic World. But there is so much more to the man and the saint than this.

    Born in 1195 A.D. and baptized Fernando, the future Anthony was a native of Lisbon, Portugal and his parents were pillars of the community. At age 15, he entered an Augustinian religious community but found it far too busy and worldly for his tastes. Instead of political debates with his old chums who clustered around the priory, Fernando sought deeper solitude to pray and study.

     He was eventually sent to Coimbra and immersed himself in nine years of intense theological study and was probably ordained a priest during that time. But then a passionate inspiration took hold of the young man that would change his life forever. The bodies of five martyred Franciscan monks who had been martyred for preaching to Christian Faith to Muslims in Morocco were brought to his monastery.

    On fire for the faith and hoping to follow their example, Fernando abandoned his studies as an Augustine, tromped over to a small Franciscan Friary, and announced, “Brother, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.”

    After some initial struggles with his Augustinian superiors, Fernando was allowed to don the habit of the Franciscans and take a new name: Anthony. True to their word, the Franciscans agreed to send the eager-beaver young priest on a mission to Morocco. But God would have other plans for him. He fell ill on the ocean, and was forced to begin the long voyage home. However, a terrific storm blew his ship to Italy instead of his native Portugal. Landing in Sicily, he was taken in by a local Franciscan community who nursed him back to health.  

    Although rather depressed about the outcome of his missionary endeavors, Anthony got his wish for solitude in the monastery of Montepaelo in Northern Italy. He may have remained unknown to the world there if not for a random happening that exposed his gift as a preacher. One evening, after an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans, once of the provincials asked for a friar to volunteer to give an impromptu sermon. Everyone, including Anthony, tried to get out of the assignment, until he was “drafted” to do so.

    Brilliantly yet without any airs, Anthony stunned the assembly with his wisdom, passion, and oratorical abilities. They had all known he was pious and excelled in his spiritual exercises, but this was something new and different. Such a light could not be kept under a bushel. Soon enough, St. Francis heard about the Portuguese friar with the gold tongue and assigned him to preach to the people of Northern Italy. His days of privacy were at an end.

    Anthony was determined to put his missionary zeal into practice by living the Gospel example of poverty and humility. In contrast to many of his contemporaries who held themselves above the common people, Anthony determined to reach out to the men and women on the street, showing genuine love and piety to those who were used to encountering snobbish religiosity.

  He also made it a point to travel through city in both Italy and France that were under the sway of heresies to try to win the people back to the faith. Nevertheless, he always used a positive approach instead of small-minded bickering, realizing it was often better to simply present the beauty of Christ and His Church as opposed to trying to disparage someone else’s argument directly.

    Although St. Francis initially watched Anthony with a cautious eye, concerned that he might let his knowledge go to his head, he eventually commissioned him to teach the friars theology. His first “post” was the friary at Bologna. Although none of the records his theological conferences survive, two volumes of his sermons do, and they clearly reveal his imaginative method of preaching, using allegory and symbolism to explain the Scriptures.

    Over the years, Anthony excelled in the ranks, becoming provincial superior of the Franciscans in Northern Italy and preaching in front of St. Francis’s dear friend, Pope Gregory IX. Still, he never let this prestige go to his head and always remained very much a preacher of the people. His headquarters was Padua, not far from Venice, earning him the title “Anthony of Padua.”

    Legends about St. Anthony abound. One of them has to do with how he became patron of lost articles. So the story goes, Anthony had a Book of Psalms that was one of his prized possessions, filled with notes he used to teach his fellow friars. One young novice, growing sick of the rigors of religious life, decided to go AWOL….and took Anthony’s Psalter with him! Desperate, Anthony fell on his knees and begged God to have the book returned to him, and that the robber would find his way back home. Sure enough, the novice was overcome with guilt, returning the book and returning to religious life.

    Another story tells of a woman whose child drowned. Begging the intercession of the now deceased Anthony, she promised that if her child were restored to life, she would give as much corn as the child’s weight to the poor. The child was indeed brought back to life. This concept of corn began the tradition of “St. Anthony Bread”, special bread blessed on the saint’s feast on July 13 and kept to bless the home with bounty.

    Once, when people refused to listen to Anthony preaching because they wanted nothing more to do with religion, he made a point to go out to the seashore and preach to the fish. Inspired, they leapt out of the water, and this definitively got the people’s attention. Anthony seemed to always have an affinity with the sea, and later on was made patron of seamen and travelers of every sort. Multiple miracles involve him calming storms, and he is also acknowledged as the saint who will help guide letters to their destinations. These combined tales brought about the tradition of drawing a fish on the back of envelopes and writing “S.A.G.” within it, standing for “Saint Anthony Guide.”

   It is also said St. Anthony had visions of the Christ Child and holding the small, vulnerable toddler in his arms. It was during one of these late night visitations that the Lord of Chatenaneuf entered the chapel unexpectedly. Amazed by the building bathed in light and the child in Anthony’s arms, he had to be calmed down and held to secrecy until after Anthony’s death. His death came in 1231, when he was only 36 years old. He spent his final day singing praises to the Lord and receiving the Last Sacraments of the Church. Towards the end, one of his followers asked him why he was staring upwards so intently. “I see my Lord!” Anthony responded, and his spirit left him. He is now a Doctor of the Church, and his tongue and vocal chords remain incorrupt to this day.

    Saint Anthony is so many things for so many people. He was a fiery young man, sometimes impulsive and definitely a romanticist. But he balanced this side of his personality with a deep thirst for learning and preaching, willing to alter his own intentions as providence altered his plans. Nevertheless, he always remained true to his calling as a missionary who used to voice to call the whole world to a deeper relationship with God and to sing his praises. In addition to calling on his help when we lose the car keys (which I’m sure he accepts with indulgence and mild amusement), we should also pray to him as we pursue our studies, discern our callings, and present the faith as missionaries to all those we encounter.    



St. Anthony, pray for us! And about those keys.....;-)

   
    

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A disoriented whale......

made a visit to London on June 3, 1658. It had driven into the Thames River by an unusually severe storm, and gleeful Londoners were quick to take advantage of the stranded sea creature’s misfortune and harpoon it for valuable oil and blubber. It was only afterwards that they began to wonder if the horrendous weather, accompanied by wintery temperatures, pelting hail, and the visit of a gargantuan wale, might be omens of some major upheaval to come. Not long after, Oliver Cromwell fell grievously ill and died three months later.
    
    He had been both a visionary and a tyrant, a hero for democracy turned into a champion for despotism. 
He had created a Model Army to preserve the supremacy of parliament, and then gone on to dissolve parliament and make himself military dictator. He had beheaded a king for suspending the law of the land while at the same time depriving the same king of a lawful trial. He outlawed moral depravity at the same time as he forbade the celebration of Christmas. He made England respected on a world-scale, but made many Englishmen lose respect for themselves. He had provided religious liberty for Protestant sects and Jews, but wiped out or sold into slavery half the population of Catholic Ireland.

    But though his leadership style had been paradoxical and he had dealt hard blows with an iron fist, he had at least managed to keep England from descending into a complete state of anarchy. Now that he was gone, his mild-mannered but incompetent son, Richard Cromwell, had taken over as Lord Protector. Before long, Richard escaped from the pressure of command by retiring to his country estate. The government was left in the hands of squabbling factions and the country once again tottered on the brink of total chaos.

    For the first time, high-ranking members of the Commonwealth government began to seriously consider a restoration of the monarchy. A member of this party was Edward Montague. An affable country squire with broad interests and moderate viewpoints, he was a distant relative of Oliver Cromwell who had served as an officer for Parliament during the English Civil War. However, he had distanced himself from the proceedings that lead to condemnation and execution of King Charles and began to feel that the revolution he had helped inaugurate might have gone too far.

    After Cromwell’s death, Montague joined the movement to bring back the dead king’s eldest son, Charles, and crown him as the rightful ruler. When the time had come to escort the exiled royal home to his native land, Montague volunteered his personal ship to ferry him across the channel. He even went so far as to change its name from “The Naseby”, which had been in honor of the Parliamentarian victory against King Charles I, to the “The Royal Charles”, in honor of the beheaded monarch’s son and heir. The year was 1660.
    After this unexpected change of fortunes, the newly crowned King Charles II made it his priority not to go on his travels again and to all in his power to keep the Stuarts on the throne. One of his first acts as king was to have Oliver Cromwell’s body exhumed and decapitated, sticking his skull on a spike atop the roof of the ceremonial hall where Charles I had been condemned to death in 1649.

    His head remained there for some twenty years, enduring heat, cold, wind, and rain indiscriminately until it finally could withstand no more and blew. It was picked up by a wayfaring soldier who turned it in at a pawn shop. From then on, it was a traveling specimen, installed in various cupboards and cubbyholes, public and private, until it finally reached Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge, where the young Cromwell had once been a fellow. There if found a place to rest in peace, away from memories of its former infamy.

   After the long years of enforced Puritanical morality, the royal court degenerated into a state of total immorality as King Charles II led by example, picking up and discarded mistress after mistress and populating his kingdom with illegitimate royal children. He came to be styled “The Merry Monarch” or “Old Rowley”, the name of a stallion who had famously sired a large prodigy.

    “A king is supposed to be the father of his people,” commented George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham, “and Charles certainly was the father to a good many of them.” He was usually happy to acknowledge the children as his own and provide for them handsomely. One of his favorite illegitimate children was James, eventually titled The Duke of Monmouth. He was the son of Charles by Lucy Walter, his Welsh mistress he had acquired as a young prince in exile. After they split up, Charles had been determined to rescue his small son from Lucy, who he considered to be an unfit mother.

    Daniel O’Neale, one of Charles’ servants sent out to spy on Lucy, recounted that “he (James) cannot be safe from his mother’s intrigues wheresoever he is. It is a great pity so pretty a child should be in such hands as hiterto have neglected to teach him to read or to tell twenty, though he hath a great deal of wit and a great desire to learn.”

    Eventually, Charles did manage to attain custody of young James who was promptly sent to be raised and properly educated by Queen Henrietta Maria in Paris. When Charles became king of England, his young son eventually came back with him, and his father lavished favors on him while at the same time pursuing his womanizing career with verve. 

   Charles not only enjoyed women as lovers, but also as conversationalists, dinner companions, and a form of entertainment. He really couldn’t get along without several on the line at once. Jokes at the scandalous court were constantly being made about the king’s less than upstanding way with women. And the king played right along. Once, when a maid at court was heard singing a bawdy ballad about him, he knocked on her door. “Who’s there?” she inquired. “Old Rowley himself, madam, at your service,” he replied, cheerfully popping his head in. 

    All these supposedly merry improprieties were extremely painful for the king’s Portuguese Catholic wife, Queen Catherine of Braganza, who had fallen deeply in love with Charles when they wed. When she was first presented to him in England, he scoffed that she often melancholy (quite understandable considering the circumstances!) and commented that she resembled a bat because of her plain face and banana curls. But when push came to shove, Charles seemed to have developed an almost filial devotion to her, refusing to divorce her late in his reign to please Protestant Parliamentarians. Nevertheless, he continued to break her heart by spending more quality time and money on extramarital affairs.

    One of his most famous mistresses was the red-headed, hazel-eyed Nell Gwyn, a cockney comic actress who caught the king’s fancy while selling oranges, lemons, and sweetmeats in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She became the king’s favorite new sexual toy to fondle and, perversely, an instant folk heroine. Hard-swearing and uneducated, she scandalized the upper-classes with her no-nonsense attitude towards her own role as a glorified harlot.

    But in addition to her voluptuous figure and lusty voice, Nell did have an attractive personality, which may have been how she managed to keep her position as one of the king’s top mistress until his death. She was honest, humorous, street-smart, and generally good-natured. After a maimed soldier approached her coach and begged her for alms, she took it upon herself to encourage the king to establish a hospital in London for disabled and aged soldiers, bringing about the creation of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, designed by none other than Sir Christopher Wren.

    Charles was accepted by the most of the common people of England as an affable rogue, sometimes called “The King of Curs” because of his fondness for his spaniels and his generally naughty ways. He would often walk his dogs in St. James Park (at long last open to the public), feed the ducks in the nearby ponds, and chat with any of his subjects that happened to pass by. He enjoyed playing the French croquet-like game of paille-maille ( today known as Pall Mall) and spend leisurely hours with Nell Gwynn at the house he had given her conveniently set along the route of his favorite strolling place.

     On February 4, 1685, Charles lay dying of apoplexy. The good-intentioned Thomas Ken, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, tried to administer Anglican Communion to him. But the king put him off, saying “There is time enough,” and “I will think of it.”

    The Duke of York sensed his brother’s inner turmoil and sent away the crowd of visitors, except for the Earls of Bath and Feversham. Then he asked Charles if he would like him to send for a Catholic priest. “For God’s sake, do,” the dying man replied.

    Promptly James ushered in Fr. John Huddleston, the Benedictine monk who had saved Charles’s life so many years ago when he was a young prince on the run in England. He had since become a chaplain at Somerset House under the Queen Dowager, Henrietta Maria, and Catherine of Braganza, and he had been patiently waiting in the queen’s room that whole evening in case the king might desire to see him. Now he prepared play his part in this final act of the long royal drama. “Sire, this good man once saved your body,” James asserted. “He comes now to save your soul.”   

    Everything having been prepared, the door was double-locked. After answering the questions that the priest put to him, King Charles II was at long last received into the Catholic Church. Last Rites were administered the Eucharist was laid on his tongue. He had trouble swallowing it, and a glass of water had to be called for. But even now the king’s final thoughts drifting to another subject close to heart, and some his last words were said to have been: “Let not poor Nelly starve.” He then apologized for being “such an unconscionable time a-dying” and asked an attendant to draw the curtains so he could see the sun rise from his window. Close to noon on February 6, 1685, Charles breathed his last.

    King Charles had loved Nell Gwyn more than any of his other mistresses in his life because she had not been greedy or jealous, but now that he was gone, Nell found herself financially and emotionally depleted. The Duke of York, now King James II, did pay off most of her debts grant her a pension in honor of the king’s dying request. Less than three years afterwards, Nell herself suffered a debilitating stroke which confined her to her bed.

    She died soon after at age 37, still leaving behind numerous debts but also a legacy to aid the Newgate prisoners in London. She was buried in the Church of St. Martin-in-the Fields in London. To fulfill one of her final requests, Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a sermon on the text from Luke 15:7 at her funeral:  “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”     

    None can be sure whether the most cynical of Stuart kings and his hard-swearing mistress were sincere or not in their deathbed religious conversions, but history seems to have given them the benefit of the doubt.   


King Charles II, "The Merry Monarch", "Old Rowley", and "The King of Curs"