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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cavalier Songs.......

often hark back to the days of the English Civil War, when Royalists fought Roundheads in defense of the monarchy and an old way of life. Like the Jacobites and Recusants, they have captured the popular imagination because of their color and dash, as well as the fact that their cause was ultimately a lost one. Yet they seem to hover like ghosts in historical mythology, ever-riding into danger with a daring grin to challenge the power of fate on a romantic mission. They stand out as both ruffled dandies and rugged individualists, willing to go down swinging and getting the last laugh in the end. The two following poems, the first being written by Robert Browning and the second by Louise Imogen Guiney, commemorate their spirit.

Boot and Saddle

Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!
Rescue my Castle, before the hot day
Brightens the blue from its silvery grey,

(Chorus) "Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"

Ride past the suburbs, asleep as you'd say;
Many's the friend there, will listen and pray
"God's luck to gallants that strike up the lay,

(Chorus) "Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"

Forty miles off, like a roebuck at bay,
Flouts Castle Brancepeth the Roundheads array:
Who laughs, Good fellows ere this, by my fay,

(Chorus) "Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"

Who? My wife Gertrude; that, honest and gay,
Laughs when you talk of surrendering, "Nay!
I've better counsellors; what counsel they?"

(Chorus) "Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"

The Wild Ride

I hear in my heart, I hear in its ominous pulses,
All day, on the road, the hoofs of invisible horses,
All night, from their stalls, the importunate pawing and neighing.

Let cowards and laggards fall back! But alert to the saddle
Weatherworn and abreast, go men of our galloping legion,
With a stirrup-cup each to the lily of women that loves him.

The trail is through dolor and dread, over crags and morasses;
There are shapes by the way, there are things that appal or entice us:
What odds? We are Knights of the Grail, we are vowed to the riding.

Thought's self is a vanishing wing, and joy is a cobweb,
And friendship a flower in the dust, and glory a sunbeam:
Not here is our prize, nor, alas! after these our pursuing.

A dipping of plumes, a tear, a shake of the bridle,
A passing salute to this world and her pitiful beauty;
We hurry with never a word in the track of our fathers.

I hear in my heart, I hear in its ominous pulses,
All day, on the road, the hoofs of invisible horses,
All night, from their stalls, the importunate pawing and neighing.

We spur to a land of no name, outracing the storm-wind;
We leap to the infinite dark like sparks from the anvil.
Thou leadest, O God! All's well with Thy troopers that follow.

"Boot, Saddle, to Horse and Away!"

"All's Well with Thy Troopers That Follow......"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

St. Alban......

was the first of many British Christian martyrs, and today is his feast (as well as the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher...stunningly appropriate!). You can read more about St. Alban by clicking on the link below which will take you to my latest article for OU:

   St. Alban, give us strength in time of trial. Ora pro nobis!

The Execution of St. Alban

Monday, June 17, 2013

For the Glory of the Marines: The Life and Legacy of Major John Pitcairn

    Major John Pitcairn of the British Marines is an historical personage that many of my friends have been acquainted with through my novel-in-the-making, The Third Charge of Crimson, which features him as a main character. Even before reading my scribblings, many of them probably already read his name in American History texts covering the American Revolution and that fateful day at Lexington Green when "the shot heard round the world" was fired. My fascination with the man has been long in gestation, as there has always been something so colorful and daring about, so inescapably paradoxical and yet also unflinchingly heroic, and also slightly tragic as he became an early casualty of a war that would tear apart two peoples and change history forever…   

    John Pitcairn was born in 1722 in the bustling port town of Dysart, Fife in the Lowlands of Scotland. His parents, Rev. David Pitcairn and Katherine Hamilton, were both members of the gentry, and through them, he could claim blood relations with Robert de Bruce of Scotland, Edward III of England, Viscount Stair, "The Father of Scottish Law", and various other prestigious personages. His father had served as a military chaplain for the Scottish Cameronian Regiment under Colonels Lord Stair and Ferguson during the War of Spanish Succession. 

    The regiment had a prestigious history and distinctly religious origin, dating back to when Presbyterians were finally readmitted into the military under King William III after an era of persecution against anyone who refused to acknowledge the reigning sovereign as the Head of the Church, in the Episcopal tradition . Proud of the 17th century Scottish Covenanters who signed a “Covenant” in defiance of King Charles I at Greyfriars when he attempted to meddle in affairs of the Kirk, the regiment continued to hand out Bibles to its members as a matter of time-honored tradition. 

    After his term of service expired, Rev. Pitcairn had settled down in Dysart where he raised his large family and served as Presbyterian minister of St. Serf's Church for some fifty years. John was the youngest surviving member of the family. The Pitcairns lived in the manse (minister's house) near the old harbor on the Firth of Forth. Not far from that were the historic caves where St. Serf himself was said to have spent time in prayer and meditation, and at one point wrestled the devil himself! 

    The medieval church building and adjoining tower were historic monuments, and the latter had often been used to ward of English pirates making their way up the Firth of Forth. But living in the old manse was not easy for Rev. Pitcairn, who often complained of its dilapidated condition which did little to keep out the bitter seaside weather. But the old veteran was of sturdy stock, and held his post with firm resolve. 

    The combination of Rev. Pitcairn’s past military service and being reared on the doorstep of the sea seemed to have had an effect on his youngest son, and in his early 20's John Pitcairn joined 7th Marines of Cornwall. This was a rather unusual move, as he had breeding and money to purchase a commission in any one of the most affluent army regiments. But the young man seems to have been repelled by the idea of a desk job and determined to be in the heat of the action, even if that meant slow promotions and the possibility of being disbanded as the Marines often were. Pitcairn became an enthusiastic advocate of making the Marines a permanent feature of the British military, saying that he had “a great desire to convince everybody of the utility of keeping a large body of Marines, who are capable of acting either by sea or land as the public service requires.” 

    In 1746, the British Marines were called to action by the government to confront the threat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobites who had marched through Scotland and into England the previous year, winning unexpected victories as they went. For John Pitcairn, as a staunch supporter of the Hanoverian government, it must have been rather unnerving to know that the rebels had managed to capture Edinburgh – not a far cry from his home-town and family by any means. But the scare was ended when the Jacobites met with brutal defeat at the hands of government troops on Culloden Moor outside of Inverness. While the Highland rebels dealt with bloody reprisals by the Duke of Cumberland and his troops, the marines were disbanded to save the Admiralty "unnecessary" expense. We can easily surmise Pitcairn was not thrilled. 

    But life moved on, and he soon married Elizabeth Dalrymple, a well-to-do relative of Lord Stair, his father's old superior. It was a good match, certainly in light of upper-class breeding and financial security. And it seems likely that the marriage was not loveless either, as John and "Betty" went on to have a total of ten children together, six sons (David, Thomas, William, Robert, Clerke, and Alexander) and four daughters (Annie, Katherine, Joanna and Janet). The eldest son, David, eventually became a physician for the Prince of Wales, the future King George IV. Thomas joined the Royal Artillery. William followed his father into the Marines. Robert joined the Navy and was the first to site Pitcairn Island in the Pacific before he and his ship were lost at sea. Clerk died in childhood, and Alexander went on to become a barrister in London. All the girls married into high-born military families.

    When the Marines were finally reestablished permanently in 1755, Pitcairn had his rank of lieutenant reconfirmed. A year later, he was promoted to a captain. During the Seven Years' War, Pitcairn served in the New World theatre on board the warship H.M.S. Lancaster which took part in the capture of the French fortress of Louisburg in 1758. Back in Britain, the Pitcairn Family moved about quite a bit -- Dysart, Edinburgh, and Kent were all home bases at different points, and it seems as though Mrs. Pitcairn returned to Dysart to give birth to several of her children. Due to the slow-moving process of promotion in the Marines, it took until 1771 for Pitcairn to be made a major. Ironically, the date of his promotion was April 19, a date which would be forever connected with him for another event yet to take place. 

    In 1773, the unrest in Boston over the direct taxes levied on the American Colonies by British Parliament resulted in the destructive demonstration known to history as the Boston Tea Party. The British government responded by closing Boston Harbor until the citizens paid for the ruined tea. To ensure the submission of the Bostonians, British troops were sent to the port city, including 600 Marines under the command of Major John Pitcairn. He initially found himself caught in a standoff between General Thomas Gage of the British Army and Admiral Graves of the Royal Navy with regards to who held rank over the Marines. This caused multiple delays in scheduling, and prevented the Marines from landing until Pitcairn’s insistence persuaded the commanders to disembark them in small groups and quarter them in private residences via the hated Quartering Act.

    As a staunch Scots Tory, Pitcairn’s personal attitude towards the colonists' plight was markedly unsympathetic, and he advocated taking a firm hand with the rabble-rousers. Infamously, he wrote in a letter that he believed that a decisive action and "burning two or three towns" would be the only way of putting the situation to rest. He also boasted that such an ill-organized rabble would never be able to sustain any meaningful resistance against the King’s Arms, and that would run “before I can pull my sword from the scabbard.” But in spite of being brusque in many instances, there was another side to his rather complex character. 

    After being billeted in the home of Francis Shaw, a Patriot merchant in the residential area of North Square in Boston, Pitcairn managed to win them over on a personal level through his courtesy and genial charm. Later on, the Shaws would have another very important reason to like Pitcairn. When the major’s aide, Lieutenant Wragg, insulted the Patriot cause, their teenaged son, Sam, threw wine in his face and a duel almost broke out between them. Another British officer might have had the young man arrested for technically attacking the lieutenant, or otherwise just let Wragg take care of him in his own way. But Pitcairn, a father of many sons himself, intervened to defuse the situation and let the boy go with a tacit warning. 

    As representative of martial law on North Square, Pitcairn helped settle disputes between soldiers and civilians, organize street-sweeping committees, assemble a fire brigade (sweet irony, considering his threats of fire and sword!), and other necessary duties that prevented a break-down of civic order during the British occupation. Through it all, he endeared himself to the people with whom he dealt because of his integrity and good-humor in spite of the often strained circumstances. One citizen of Boston called him “an amazingly gentle man”, and insisted that that “he was perhaps the only British officer in Boston who commanded the trust and liking of the inhabitants.” Even the Patriot propagandist, Rev. Ezra Stiles, said that he considered him to be “a good man in a bad cause.” The major also seems to have one over his next-door neighbor Paul Revere, who is said to have painted a portrait of him on horseback. 

    Pitcairn held social gatherings at the Shaw House, where he broke tradition by inviting an assortment of military friends, family members (including his sons, William and Thomas, and son-in-law Charles Cochrane, the youngest son of the Earl of Dundonald, all of whom were in military units stationed in Boston), and opposition locals to the same event, presenting them with the opportunity to discuss their differences in a civilized manner. In essence, he turned a private salon into a rough equivalent of a modern-day block party! It seems more than likely that Pitcairn’s own sarcastic humor and wry wit thrived in this atmosphere of initial tension and unusual comradery. 

    In an official capacity, Pitcairn made an impression on his marines through his hands-on leadership style. He was a strict disciplinarian and demanded excellence, but led by example and maintained the same high standards in his own comportment. Ever active, he received daily reports from his battalion commanders, personally oversaw drilling, struggled to ascertain needed supplies from the high command, accompanied the marines on long marches into the hostile countryside, and at one point even lived with his men in the barracks (a drastic step for an 18th century gentleman officer) in order to assure regularities were observed and to prevent the practice of selling their kit to buy "cheap Yankee rum", which not only made them drunk, but poisoned several of them. “Depend on it, my lord, it will kill more of us than the Yankees”, he wrote in a letter to the Earl of Sandwich. 

    Pitcairn was certainly not a person to cross, although he was generally humane in his treatment of those under his command, using the punishment of flogging only as a last resort, and even then with some distaste. He was also occasionally willing to spare the life of deserters. This, of course, did not stop him from verbally disparaging them for their lack of discipline (he promptly dubbed them “the animals”!) and over the problem of their height (for some strange reason, the marines recruited really short men, earning them the mocking French nickname “le petite grenadiers”, and Pitcairn found it difficult to fit them with proper uniforms!). Nevertheless, he showed himself to be a conscientious leader who was concerned for their individual welfare and would make gestures on their behalf, such as writing a letter to the Earl of Sandwich seeking monetary assistance for the “worthy but unfortunate under my command”. They earned respect for their tough, tenacious commander and come to view him as something of a surrogate father and embodiment of their fighting spirit. In time, he did turn them into an effective fighting force.

    Being the son of a preacher evidently had some lasting effects on his character, for he attended church services every Sunday out of a strong sense of moral obligation, and rented a pew for himself and the rest of the Pitcairn Family Clique at the Anglican Old North Church. Although he may have shown signs of piety on the Sabbath, he was infamous around town and in his regiment for swearing like a marine (go figure...) during the rest of the week! Needless to say, he was quite convinced that Divine Justice was on the British side of the political tension, and referring to the rebels, commented: “Poor deluded people! God open their eyes.” In a twist of history, Old North Church, would go down in history as the church that had two lanterns hung in the bell-tower to signal Paul Revere to begin his Midnight Ride. 

     Pitcairn officially secured him place in the pages of history when he volunteered to go on a secret expedition as second-in-command to Colonel Francis Smith. The mission statement from General Thomas Gage was to arrest the rebel ring-leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock and then to proceed to Concord and capture or destroy a cache of ammunition the rebels were said to have hidden there. It was an odd mission for Pitcairn to go on, since there were no other marines present. However, it seems as if he was craving some action and this presented a juicy opportunity to have some. His eager-beaver attitude the day before the mission probably alerted his Patriot hosts that something was amiss from the start. Beyond that, the Patriot spy network had other sources of information, almost certainly including General Gage’s American wife, Margaret. Thanks to Paul Revere and his fellow riders of warning, by the time the British reached Lexington Green on the morning of April 19, 1775, the Patriot militia had already turned out with guns in hand to confront them.

     This is where history gets a bit hazy. I won't go into every "who-dunn-it" theory in the books, but basically it seems that Pitcairn, commanding the advance guard, road up to the rebel militiamen and demanded that they lay down their arms, famously shouting, "Disperse, ye rebels! Disperse! Why do ye not lay down your arms? Disperse or ye are all deadmen!" Some took the hint and started to disband, but Pitcairn had orders to capture their weapons and ordered his men to surround and disarm the militia. Then an anonymous shot (or shots) were fired, and the British soldiers opened fire without orders from their superiors. Pitcairn and his fellow officers claimed that they did all in their power to stop the firing but could only put an end to the melee when a drummer was located to beat recall and Colonel Smith arrived at the scene. Whoever fired “the shot heard ‘round the world”, the beginning of the American Revolution was underway, and Pitcairn would be branded as the first villain of American mythology.

    After the skirmish at Lexington, the British moved on to Concord to hunt for the ammunition cache. In the course of the search, a townsperson slapped Pitcairn across the face, and he in turn wound up knocking down a tavern owner who refused to be cooperative in the searching process. Then the major proceeded to order breakfast and a brandy at the same tavern, and was unexpectedly conscientious about paying for everything. However, apocryphal legend insists that while stirring his brandy with his finger, he growled “I hope to stir the Yankee blood like this by night fall!” 

    The epic house-by-house search came to naught because the Patriots had been forewarned and hid most of their cache in the woods. Only a few barrels of gunpowder could be found, which the British burned in a bonfire in the center of the square for dramatic effect. The blaze accidentally caught fire to the courthouse, and the British soldiers and townspeople alike temporarily joined forces to put out the blaze.  But the militia, which had snow-balled in numbered since Lexington, saw the smoke rising from the town and the British were burning it. Upon this currently incorrect although not implausible notion, they charged the bridge at Concord and another skirmish broke out.  

    By now, the British were severely outnumbered and virtually surrounded. Pitcairn, realizing the trouble brewing, sent a messenger back to Boston for reinforcements. However, confusion ensued when General Gage, who seems to have been unaware that Pitcairn had volunteered for the mission, sent a message to the Shaw House ordering him to take his marines and relive Colonel Smith! It took about an hour of searching Boston before everyone realized that Pitcairn had gone to Concord, and Sir Hugh Percy was put in his place at the head of the reinforcements to rescue them. 

    Meanwhile, rebel snipers were harassing Colonel Smith’s columns from behind trees, walls, and hedges as they attempted to get back to Boston. Eventually, the colonel himself was wounded, and the command devolved to Pitcairn, who rallied his wavering ranks and ordered a counter-attack on the rebels in the woods. But a volley grazed his arm and wounded his horse, which threw him to the ground and bolting into the American lines, taking with it his prized pistols in the saddle bag. They would be presented to American General Israel Putnam, who carried them for the remainder of the war. 

    When Pitcairn fell, his men assumed he was dead and order completely collapsed. It was every man for himself in a pell-mell route to escape the range of the rebel marksmen, and their semi-conscious leader was left to shift for himself. Even after coming to, he had to play dead so as not to attract the attention of nearby Patriots who were quite gleeful at the idea of having killed him. When they finally left, he staggered off in search of his scattered ranks, and was relieved to discover that Sir Hugh Percy had finally showed up with reinforcements - including his “animal” Marines – and cannons. 

     After the subsequent street fighting in towns along the route back to Boston (which tragically including some of the first atrocities of the war as independent bands of soldiers gunned down civilians, looted valuables, and torched homes), the British troops managed to limp back to Boston and cross back over the River Charles from whence they came. In keeping with his character, Pitcairn was the last man to get in the boats ferrying them across. But if the British thought the skirmishes could be easily forgotten, they were wrong, and they soon found themselves bottled up in the city by Patriots who took possession of the high ground overlooking Boston. For two months the opposing sides watched each other warily, knowing that a full-scale battle was inevitable. 

     On June 17, 1775, the British launched three assaults on the Patriot positions on Breed's Hill (later mistaken by historians for nearby Bunker Hill). The first two were repulsed with horrendous casualties, faced down by the same General Putnam who now was armed with Pitcairn’s pistols and had given his soldiers the famous order “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes!” The third British charge saw Major John Pitcairn leading his marines up hill, brandishing his sword, and urging them on, “Hurrah, the day is ours!” Then their lines almost got entangled with another British regiment being driven back by heavy fire from the American redoubt. “Break and let the Marines through!” Pitcairn bellowed, and threatened to “bayonet the buggers” if they would not give the Marines right of way! 

    The summer heat was beating down mercilessly, but when one of his captains complained of it, the major reprimanded him, saying "Soldiers should enure themselves to any hardship. They shouldn’t even recognize heat and cold." Pitcairn was wounded twice by stray shot, but still he refused to quite the field. For his whole life, he had championed the necessity of his service branch, and he knew that this was their moment to shine. He shouted over the din of battle in his distinctive Scottish burr, "Now, for the glory of the Marines!" Then four more musket bullets smashed into his chest (multiple persons were credited fired one of the shots, including Peter Salem, a freed slave fighting with the rebels, and a certain British deserter who Pitcairn had previously spared from execution). He collapsed into the arms of his horrified son, William, who carried his father off the field, as his men looked on in shock. Laying him in a boat to ferry him over to Boston, he kissed his father for the last time before returning to the battle. The Marines took the hill as Pitcairn lay bleeding to death in a house in Boston. 

     General Gage, not wanting to lose such a valuable officer, sent his personal physician, the loyalist Dr. Thomas Kast, to attend to him. He was still in his 20’s, around the same as Pitcairn’s own doctor son, David. Still conscious, the major told him that he appreciated the gesture but he should not to bother with him since he was bleeding internally and was beyond help. Kast asked him where he the wound was. Pitcairn put his hand to his chest. The doctor suggested the wound might not be mortal and tried to turn down the sheet, but Pitcairn kept his hand firmly over the wound. Only after expressing the personal concerns on his mind - and swearing his innocence with regards to the Lexington incident - did he allow the doctor to try and dress the wound. 

    But when he removed Pitcairn's waistcoat, it tore open the wound and his blood flowed freely, staining the floorboards. Within a couple of hours, in spite of Kast's efforts, John Pitcairn was dead at age 53. His son William was seen wandering through a street after the battle, covered in blood. When someone approached to help him, he haltingly explained that it was not his blood but rather his father's. "I have lost my father," he murmured, close to tears. Some Marines nearby added, "We have all lost a father." His regiment wore black bands on their arms for six weeks after his death. One marine officer wrote: “The loss of our Major Commandant was not only a loss to his Family as one of the best Husbands and Fathers, but a great loss to the Marines and the Army in general as a brave soldier and an excellent officer.” 

    General Gage said he counted Pitcairn among those officers under his command who “exerted themselves remarkably.” King George III, when informed of the story, wrote of him, “That officer’s conduct seems highly praiseworthy.” General John Burgoyne said he thought the story of Pitcairn’s death at the height of the battle would make a wonderful painting. In fact, it later did, in the form of John Trumball’s epic historical painting, The Battle of Bunker Hill, in which Pitcairn’s son David posed as his father, since was said to have the most resemblance. His brother Thomas posed as his brother William, who had since died of a fever during the war. Pitcairn’s son-in-law Charles Cochrane also would become a casualty of the war when he was beheaded by a cannonball at Yorktown. His wife Catherine, traumatized by the both the death of her father and husband, also lost two her infant children while waiting for Cochrane’s return in New York. 

    Major Pitcairn’s body was interred at Old North Church, his parish in Boston, not far from where Paul Revere would later be buried, assuring that the two would be neighbors in life and death. One of the fatal bullets and his uniform buttons were sent back to his wife Betty and their two youngest children, Janet, aged 14, and Alexander, aged 7. Ironically, one of his grandsons would eventually immigrate to the newly founded United States and exert the Pitcairn charm to woo and win the hand of young lady whose own grandfather had been one of the minute men who had fought the British at Lexington and Concord! In 2002, a memorial plaque was raised in Dysart, Scotland in honor of Major Pitcairn, recognizing him as a heroic native son who fell in battle far away from home.


     Major John Pitcairn was a man of many facets and paradoxes. In my exploration of his character over the course of my novel-writing, I have come to deeply respect his courage in battle, competence in his responsibilities, and humanity towards those under his command and even those who were opposed to him. He was tough as nails and willing to use force to achieve the desired result, but he also managed to win the personal respect of friend and foe alike. He swore profanely, but also charmed proficiently. He seems to have had a close bond with his family and a sense of duty that made him both devoted his king and country and a practicing Christian. He also left a proud legacy of honor for those who served and continue to serve in the Royal Marines, now a standing force in the British military. 

    In the process of hunting for information on Major Pitcairn, I have come into contact with a variety of fascinating and helpful people from both sides of the Atlantic. I am especially grateful to have befriended  Carol McNeill of the Dysart Trust, author and local historian, who, with her Scottish wit and charm that gives me a glimmer of the real Pitcairn, continues to supply me with a wealth of information on “Our John’s” native town. I am also pleased to have corresponded with the late Jim Swan, also of the DysartTrust, the late Anne Watters of the Kirkcaldy Civic Society, Les Soper, Pitcairn reenactor, Matthew Little of The Royal Marines Museum, and Dr. Marianne Gilchrist of Glasgow, a prolific Pitcairn enthusiast and creator of the online historical site, "Whistle World". I've also had the pleasure of speaking with Sheila Pitcairn, who has confirmed that one of Major Pitcairn's direct descendents, her grandson Ryan Pitcairn, is currently serving in the Royal Marines. Hence, the tradition really does live on.   

R.I.P., Major John Pitcairn.......

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Royal Reflections.......

have been on my mind today, as the 2011 Royal Wedding between Prince William and Katherine Middleton, now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has finally been preserved in my local library on a special commemorative DVD. I just finished watching it yesterday. Yes, I know, I'm over two years late, and Kate is about to give birth to her first baby! But sometimes it's better to look at these things with the perspective of time instead carried along in the hype. After all, it took me until last year to watch The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia Series, and I just started reading Brian Jacques' Redwall Series, which I was urged to read since I was bunny-nosed slip of a thing in pig-tails! The moral of the story: I get around to things eventually, even if it takes me a little longer than the average cheese-doodle cheetah.

    Anyway, getting to the point, here are a few of my thoughts on the monarchy in general. Unfortunately, too many Americans snicker at how "archaic" the monarchy is or act patronizing and denote it all as "cute". In truth, it is simply different than we are used to, and we're not quite sure whether to love it or hate it. Just as the British Constitution is not written, so their head-of-state is not elected. Their ways of doing things generally have more gray areas than our black-and-white diagrams. But they have also managed to preserve a timeless subtlety and quiet efficiency that we have lost. The concept of having a single person representing the nation, somewhat distanced from politics yet conversely at the ceremonial center of them, has a magical quality that cannot be pinned down. As much as I deeply appreciate the American system and how it works fo us, I also deeply appreciate the British system and how it works for them.

     Interestingly, as much as the royal family features in the tabloids, they still manage to be remembered in a fonder light than some high-ranking elected politicians in Britain. Margaret Thatcher who was called "The Iron Lady" and others called "The Golden-Haired Assassin", is a perfect example. As Britain's first female prime minister, she led the country through economic crisis and the Falklands War, gaining much love and hate from her people along the way for her hard-held convictions. She stood for a united and strong Britain, grounded in major conservative values and rightly proud of her ancient history and heritage. She worked alongside President Reagan and Pope John Paul II in giving support to the Communist dominated nations of Eastern Europe, encouraging them to claim their freedom and bring the Cold War to a close. Although she was far from perfect on issues like abortion and many had legitimate disagreements with her policies, she still proved herself to be a true patriot and lady of character, and therefore should be respected by all. But the point is her name was bombarded by all sorts of vile insinuations upon her recent death this past April. The Queen, on the other hand, manages to retain general respect because she both represents the country but also remains somewhat aloof from clear-cut political conflicts. I'm not sure if I could remain neatral if I were Queen, but she basically manages to do so.

     Royal events are always full of fascination and splendor. It's like a little piece of the old world preserved for us, full of symbolic meaning and bound by an intimate personal connection. The soaring Westminster Abbey, the beautiful old carriages, and the colorful costumes (complete with wigs!) really make it a treat to observe. The inately Christian nature of the ceremony and the choral music was deeply inspiring. Also, the finale RAF flying display, using planes from the Battle of Britain, was stirring in it's demonstration of British tenacity. Plus, the bride and groom really were an attractive couple, William in his scarlet uniform and Kate in her swooshy white dress. Yes, I know Kate has dressed in some atrociously revealing attire in the past. Yes, I know she and William lived together prior to their marriage. Yes, I know she has recently been photographed "topless". But I do believe, in spite of their various imperfections and gaffs, that they come off as having rather attractive personalities. Trained to "play the part" as they are, they do seem to be genuinenly in love with each other and caring towards other people. An English duchess who can dress like a cowgirl has to have a good side ;-) I just hope that they stay together and avoid rerunning the reel  of royal divorces.

     All this brings up the question......who will be the next King of England: Charles or William? It seems likely that it will be Prince Charles, as he has been reared for the job and is Prince of Wales. However, his personal scandals involving Princess Diana and Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall, are bound to haunt him for the rest of his days. I do feel just a little sorry for him, as he loved Camilla to begin with but was pressured to give her up in favor of Diana. He tried to go for "duty" as opposed to "love", but then tried to have both, breaking his wife's heart and sending her into a self-imposed exile that ended in her tragic death. In the end, he got the woman of his dreams, but his infidelity to the beloved Princess Di is still a stain on his reputation. As for Prince William, he may not completely know what he is doing, but he hasn't done anything too crazy as of yet, and if he remains true to his wife and his duty, he has a chance of carrying the monarchy forward in a positive direction. The key for Will and Kate is to avoid the pit-falls of celebrity status and not let their popularity go to their heads. I would  probably support Charles being skipped in William's favor, as unlikely as that move may be.

    As a finally sprangling of royal news that I've wanted to discuss for some time, back in March the Queen signed a pledge to oppose the "discrimination" against homosexuals and support the "empowerment" of women. Of course, the wording of the pledge was reasonably vague, but against the backdrop of David Cameron's campaign to enforce same-sex marriage in Britain, it has a very ominous ring to it. And now just last week Parliament passed measure to legalize same-sex marriage. For those Brits and Commonwealthers dedicated to traditional marriage, it was all a bitter pill to swallow. I join them with my sympathies, as I do heartily believe that marriage is ordained by God through nature to be between one man and one woman. Anything else cannot properly be considered a marriage, as even basic anatomy is in conflict with homosexuality. I am concerned about what will happen to those opposed to the political measure. Will they be accused of "hate crimes"? And what about clergymen who refuse to marry same-sex couples? Will the law take action against them? It's all a rather hairy mess. I can't help but wonder exactly what the Queen thinks of all this. Is she for it, or against it? Was the pledge really something she wanted to sign in the first place?

    Not to sound harsh, but sometimes I wonder if the protective element of distancing herself  from all forms of political debate is always the right course to take. After all, she has the Constitutional right and duty to "Council, Encourage, and Warn", and there is no doubt that she has done so in the past. I remember how proud I was of her when I watched an old rerun of a speech she made supporting the unity of the country, saying "I came to the throne of a United Kingdom." The cheers were inspiring. I just hope she'll make a similar speech before the Scottish Independence Referendum takes place. I honestly don't think the Queen, as a devout Christian lady, can be thrilled about the course her country is taking in the area of morals. I don't think she is necessarily in favor of things like the legalization of same-sex marriage, much less the legalization of abortion. But she dare not speak out against these things, as the decisions were made in the Parliament, and she doesn't want to risk overstepping her boundaries. I wonder what would happen if a monarch ever dared to try.......

     To wrap up this article, I've made up a little list of things I'd do if I woke up in the morning and found myself to be Queen Pearl I of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth:

* I would make a public speech against abortion as a matter of human rights, not random policy.

* I would make a public speech denouncing Same-Sex "Marriage" as unnecessary and harmful to society.

* I would make a public speech with regards to the dangers of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the importance of maintaining national unity.

* I would introduce the concept of making the Archbishop of Canterbury the Head of the Anglican Church, thus leaving the Royal Family free to be Catholic, as I would certianly be!

* I would keep the title of "Fidea Defensor" and serve as a sort of  "second-in-command" guardian of Christianity within realms, under the jurisdiction of the Holy Father.

* I would introduce the concept of sharing the great cathedrals in my realm equally between Anglicans and Catholics, since the latter was in possession of them first.

* I would fly to Northern Ireland and announce that there will be weekly Orange/Green massive ecumenical church yardsales (great for togetherness.....I know from experience!), and if there are anymore riots from either side, those responsible will be locked in the Tower for life.

* I would encourage a closer bond among the Commonwealth countries, possibly even suggesting a common currency and citizenship to replace the UN membership.

* I would support reassembling some of the defunct Highland regiments in return for downscaling some of the monarchy costs to make things less burdensome for my subjects.

* I would support of the manditory teaching of native Celtic languages in schools, such as Welsh in Wales, Scots-Gaelic in Scotland, Irish-Gaelic in Northern Ireland, Manx on the Isle of Man, Cornish in Cornwall (if anyone even knows how to teach it anymore!), etc.

* I would champion a more engaging, more thorough teaching of history in schools and beyond, as well as making it easier for those parents who would like to homeschool within my realms.

* I would stock the royal kitchens with pepperoni pizza, pistachio muffins, cookie-dough ice-cream. Plus lots of salad, or else my mother would have my head!

* I'd knight that dedicated public servant who unplugged the aged Bruce Springstein and Paul McCartney at the park.

* I'd appoint Wyndysascha to be my legal advisor, GWright my royal engineer, Rae-Rae my naval archivist, Byrnwiga my personal piper, Mack my poet laureate, Meredith my royal memorabilia keeper, Cameron my royal arms keeper, Emerald my grammar guru, Mary D. my royal magazine editor, Lena D. my bearer of the royal rings, Katherine Anne my leading librarian, Ellen Virginia my royal dog trainer, Carolyn my royal dance instructor, Rebecca my American relations ambassador, Henry, Paul, and Effie my Unionist advisors, Kat my royal research wiz, Ian K. my travel expert, and Rev. Yates.......well, he can be the Archbishop of Canterbury, as long as he takes Wandering Pilgrim along for his second and promises to calm down any angry Anglicans who might seek to overthrow me. I don't want the Jacobite rebellions to have a replay!

* For all those hearty souls who I accidentilly forgot to appoint, comfort yourself with the knowlege that family and friends of the royal "us" get a free pass to "our" palaces and golf courses!

Until then.......;-)

The Crown Jewels of England