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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie".......

was on the run through the Highlands and Islands of Scotland after being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, with the whopping sum of 30,000 pounds offered by the government for his capture, dead or alive. But over the course of the five month long man-hunt, there were always those who were willing to risk everything to help Charles evade his pursuers.

    A fair-haired young Highlander named Roderick MacKenzie allowed his redcoat captures to believe that he was Prince Charlie. He was subsequently murdered and his head was brought to Fort Augustus. Alexander MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a prisoner at the fort, was asked if he would recognize the head of the Young Pretender. “I would know the head very well, provided it were upon the body.” “What if the head were not upon the body?” the interrogator pressed. “In that case, Sir, I will not pretend to know anything about it.”
    There were also those who helped the prince without knowing who he was. On the small island of Scalpay, the prince and his companion, John William O’Sullivan, pretended to be shipwrecked merchants, a father-and-son team by the name of Sinclair. They stayed at the home of the Campbell Family, friends of Donald McLeod, the old sea salt who had ferried the prince through many treacherous waters. The Campbells were unaware of the royal fugitive’s identity, but Mrs. Campbell (whose maiden name had actually been MacDonald!) took the young man under her wing like a surrogate mother.  
    As usual, Charles would wake earlier than his companions, rouse Mrs. Campbell, and ask her what was for breakfast. Failing that, he’d just take the initiative and rummage through the family cupboard himself. One morning he located a few eggs, alerted the mistress of the house, and pleaded with her to cook them for him, which she indulgently did. Charles also befriended the Campbells’ young son Kenneth. The two of them would go off on fishing excursions together, chatting excitedly like little boys as they waited for a bite. When they hooked a cod, they proudly took it home and watched eagerly as it was prepared and cooked.
    One day the pair came upon on of the family cows caught in a bog, and the prince promptly stripped off his coat and got mud up to his breeches helping to free it. Occasionally, Kenneth would inquire about Charles’s identity, but he always managed to evade the questions and live in a state of cozy domesticity over the course of his stay with the Campbells. This interlude, more than anything, demonstrates how in the end, Bonnie Prince Charles was just a young man like any other, even though his royal position was slowly draining the youthful innocence out of him.
     Moving on from place to place, the prince spent 22 days in a hide-away hut in Corodale on the Isle of South Uist, a place so inaccessible it could only be reached by an overland hike through the remote glen between Hecla and Ben More, a pair of mountains roughly 2000 ft. high. Still, it was close enough to the coast to spy Royal Navy ships patrolling the Minch. Though Charles suffered both from dysentery and severe mood swings, his faithful traveling companions and Clanranald friends did everything possible to cheer him up and preserve some of his royal dignity. A make-shift throne was made out of a moss-covered, earthen seat with a plaid laid over it, and there the prince held court for the clansmen of the vicinity who came to visit him and his own small entourage including O’Sullivan, MacEachain, Felix O’Neil, a group of MacDonalds, and about a dozen others who served as guards and ran errands.
     Among the prince’s guests at Corodale was MacDonald of Boisdale. Although he had refused to join the rising, he now gave much assistance to Charles in his flight. Also, several militia officers who were supposed to be hunting down the Jacobite claimant came to visit him as secret sympathizers, including “One-Eyed Hugh” MacDonald of Armsdale and his son Angus MacDonald of Milton in South Uist. They were the step-father and step-brother of Flora MacDonald, the prince’s dancing partner in Edinburgh. These visitors and loyal friends kept Charles’s spirit up by engaging in light-hearted antics and good-humored drinking contests. Charles always drank his brandy from a prized silver cup while the others drank from clean shells.
    On one such occasion, the prince managed to drink them all under the table, including Boisdale, known to be one of the hardest drinkers in Scotland! When all the others were “slain by the spirits” and lying prostate in an alcoholically induced stupor, Charles, also drunk beyond reasoning but still on his feet, reverently covered the fallen heroes with plaid whilst singing “De Profundis”! This bit of fun had a painfully ironic twist when considering all the Jacobite dead who were being laid to rest without half the ceremony.
    Meanwhile, while the men indulged in impromptu drinking parties, the ladies did their bit to cheer up the prince. Lady Clanranald and Lady Boisdale sent him fresh food and clean clothing, and even Lady Margaret MacDonald of Sleat, whose husband was fighting under Cumberland, smuggled 50 guineas, newspapers, and more clothing to Charles at his hide-out. In spite of the strained circumstances, Charlie also seized the chance to indulge in his favorite sports of fishing and hunting, sometimes bringing down a dozen fowl per hunt thanks to his excellent shooting skills and his ability to mimic bird calls, attracting the prey right to him so he could take aim. Some of the Highlanders thought it had to do with royal magic or witchcraft!
   One day while his loyal companion Ned Burke was gutting a deer the prince had shot, a small boy in ragged attire tried to steal some of the venison. Burk started to hit him, but the prince intervened with royal clemency. “You aught rather to give him meat than a stripe!” Then he insisted that the vagrant not only be fed but be given better clothing. Apparently no good deed goes unpunished, since the boy promptly took off and betrayed Charles to the militia under government pay. But the militiamen only scoffed at what they assumed was nothing more than a fanciful tale.

     After making it over from South Uist to Skye with the help of the crafty "One-Eyed Hugh" and the lovely Flora MacDonald, the prince slept nine or ten hours straight at the home of Alexander MacDonald of Kingsburgh. When he finally woke up, his host's wife, Mrs. MacDonald, grabbed the reluctant Flora by the hand and dragged her into the prince’s chamber. “Sir,” she addressed him. “I am importuning Miss Flora to come in and get a lock of your hair to me, and she refuses to do it.” “Pray desire Miss MacDonald to come in,” he responded gently. “What should make her afraid to come where I am?” Flora tip-toed inside and was swiftly ushered into a chair at his bedside. He proceeded to affectionately lay his head on her lap and put his arms around her waist. In that position, he insisted that she should cut a lock of his hair as a token of future, more substantial favors. Half of the lock she dutifully gave to Mrs. MacDonald as requested, but half she kept as a treasure for herself.

    The next morning, Kingsburgh accompanied Charles and his companions as far as the nearby wood. There the prince changed out of his Betty Burke costume and into a kilt with a broadsword. Turning to say goodbye to this loyal host, he came d own with a nose-bleed, now emblematic of Stuart pathos. Charles dismissed it as something that only occurred when he parted from dear friends. The Betty Burke costume was hidden in a bush and later brought back to the Kingsburgh house. Mrs. MacDonald had Charles’s bed-sheets folded away unwashed and converted the Betty Burke dress into a bedspread to replace them. She also romantically asked her daughter to bury her in one of the sheets. Flora, in turn, perhaps feeling a bit of rivalry with the aggressive older woman, asked that the second sheet be used to make her own shroud. She also took possession of the apron and blue velvet French garters used by Betty Burke.

    Charles was later sheltered by the famous Men of Glenmoristan, a seven man band of Robin Hood-like Jacobite outlaws who ambushed and robbed government troops, gave aid to fellow Jacobites in distress, and gave the prince shelter in a cave in Glenmoristan. The members of the band, John MacDonald, Alexander MacDonald, Alexander Chisholm, Donald Chisholm, Hugh Chisholm, Patrick Grant, and Gregor MacGregor, all took an oath of loyalty and secrecy, vowing to protect the prince to no matter what. But they refused to allow Charles to make a pledge to compensate them should he become king. They tartly reminded him that his predecessor Charles II had forgotten those who helped him during his years as a fugitive prince after he was made king, and having Charles make promises to them in the cave would only make things more painful in the end. But the fact that his followers "put not their faith in princes" did not mean that their fierce loyalty to him and the Jacobite cause he represented was any less.

Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald

Friday, July 12, 2013

The eternally controversial Battle of the Boyne.......

in which the Protestant William III defeated the Catholic King James II, took place on July 12, 1690. Today is its 323rd anniversary. In Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK, members of the Orange Order make the most of the event by hosting parades and other celebrations. The result is often, sadly, confrontation with their Catholic neighbors!

    The main characters in the historical conflict are all too often vilified or canonized based on who’s telling the tale. But there are many subtle complexities and paradoxes surrounding the battle that are often left unmentioned in the interest of building sectarian hatred, and balance in depicting the royal rivals is often sorely needed.
King James II and the Coup d’├ętat

    King James II of was a Catholic in name and practice, and refused to compromise his religious convictions for political gain. He was an honest man by nature and always assumed that others would be equally frank with him. But he was also politically clumsy and provocative in his methods of suspending laws in order to grant Catholics and Dissenters freedom of worship. He also put too much faith in his own position as King by divine right, assuming this same supposed invincibility would be passed onto to his heirs by the same token.

    But the Protestant members of Parliament had no intention of allowing James’ newborn Catholic son to inherit the throne and continue his father’s work, so they secretly opened communications with his son-in-law, William of Orange, inviting him to come over to England and overthrow James. With defection rampant amongst the King’s ranks, including the self-centered General John Churchill, future Duke of Marlborough, William and his Anglo-Dutch army marched on London and set into motion what was to become known (although not universally accepted) as “The Glorious Revolution”.

    King James, suffering from severe nose-bleeds and stunned silly by the betrayal of his own family and high-ranking officers, hesitated in his response until there was nothing left for him to do but flee the country along with his wife and infant son. In 1689 Parliament triumphantly declared that Prince William of Orange and his wife, James’ eldest daughter Princess Mary Stuart, would rule over the kingdom as joint sovereigns, providing they agreed to sign a Bill of Rights guaranteeing the powers of Parliament and some basic personal rights of their subjects.

    These, unfortunately, did not extend to Catholics, but rather hampered the Recusants further. Still they were an important step forward in the history of democracy and the beginning of religious toleration for some if not all.

King William and His Catholic Allies

    William of Orange was personally frail, feeble, and slender in frame, with a beakish nose and bright, keen eyes. He suffered from severe asthma throughout his life, making the rigors of campaigning difficult for him. Still, he never complained and insisted on leading from the front. He was noted for being gruff and withdrawn, granting favors only reluctantly and denying them rudely.

    But he could also be generous to the tenants on his royal estates and offered assistance to thousands of Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution throughout Europe. He was a strict Calvinist, but was not eager to persecute others because of their religious differences. However, his actions in favor of the Reformed Faith in the British Isles and Ireland in particular have forever associated with militant Protestantism.

    Ironically, the Catholic Hapsburgs of Spain supported his military endeavors, for William was a fierce opponent of King Louis XVI of France and had decided to act in British Isles mainly because he wanted England to join him in the Alliance against French aggression in Europe. The Spanish ambassadors at The Hague even had masses said for William’s successful voyage to England, in spite of the fact that wind which brought his ships over has gone down in history as “The Protestant Wind” (and may in fact have been dubbed with equal accuracy “The Catholic Wind”)!
  Even the Pope backed William when push came to shove because of his opposition towards France, ordering the bells in Rome to be rung in celebration of William’s victory at the Boyne, even though the Penal Laws against British and Irish Catholics were forthcoming. The pontiff also refused to consider King James for canonization after his death, ignoring the reports from several Irish Jesuits that miracles had taken place at his tomb.

The Campaign in Ireland

    In 1689 the undeterred King James made a last-ditch attempt to regain territory for himself in parts of Ireland, gathering a Catholic Irish army under the competent Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell. Determined to strike back at the Protestant infringement on their rights, they besieged the city of Londonderry in Ulster. The Protestant defenders resolutely refused to surrender until they were reduced to starvation, and just in the nick of time, William and his army rode to their rescue and relieved the city, making himself the ultimate hero in the folk imagination of the Ulster Plantation Protestants and creating the legend that would one day give a name to the Orange Order.

    After liberating Londonderry, William and his troops rode south towards Dublin, roughing it as they went, sleeping on beds of hay in draughty barns. Naturally none of this helped William’s asthma, and the dust kicked up from the horses was enough to send him into wheezing and sneezing fits. But all was not unpleasant. It was noted that during the march south he and his men made camp in an orchard and feasted on the abundance of cherries in the vicinity, brightening even William’s dour mood and making him more affable with his men.

    When the two opposing armies finally came together at the Boyne River, King William led from the front, as always. King James, on the other hand, lagged in the background. Apparently age and repeated disappointments had taken its toll on the once charismatic naval hero, and he now preferred to watch from a safer place.

    One of James’s snipers managed to set his sights on William just prior to the battle and shot him from his horse. William’s troops were terrified by the prospect that their leader had been killed, but William just got to his feet and demonstrated that it was only a shoulder wound. He was bandaged accordingly and helped back onto his horse. Still remaining in the front, William was cheered on by his soldiers.
Aftermath of the Battle

    In the end, the Dutch prince carried the day and James was forced to seek refuge in France again, this time permanently. For the Catholic Irish this was a total disaster, brought about mainly because the English James – whom they had fixed their hopes on – refused to listen to the advice of the Irish General Patrick Sarsfield and then blamed the debacle on lack of discipline in the Irish ranks.

    William was not a persecutor by nature, but he knew full well that the Protestants in Ireland and England were thirsting for revenge. Rather than upset them, he played devious dealings with the Irish, signing the Treaty of Limerick (which promised the Catholics free practice of their religion) whilst knowing full well it would never be approved by Parliament. Instead of a relief bill, the Penal Laws were enacted, making the lot of Catholics more difficult than ever before. As for the soldiers of James, they were classified as rebels and traitors under the law.

    But William was also mindful that he was allied with Catholic powers in his fight against France and didn’t want to upset them. He even carried a letter from the Pope on his person during the Battle of the Boyne. Hence, he agreed to allow the Irish soldiers of James’s army to peacefully leave the country in a massive exodus known to history as “The Flight of the Wild Geese.” Many of these soldiers went on to form Irish brigades in the armies of Catholic European powers, some of which fought against England in future wars. William also offered the Irish soldiers the opportunity to join his own army, which had a fair number of Catholics in it already, lent to him by Catholic allied countries.
William’s Death and Legacy

    King William’s demise had a darkly humorous twist similar to the old parable of a soldier who returns from battle only to slip on a bar on a bar of soap in the shower! On a day when his barometer told him he could finally emerge outside without fearing an asthmatic reaction, the King decided to go hunting in Richmond Park, taking time to admire his flower gardens along the way. His horse stumbled over a mole hill, throwing the royal rider to the ground. William’s collarbone was broken and soon fever set in. He died two days later in Kensington Palace on March 8, 1702. A locket with the lock of his wife’s hair was found around his neck.

    Unsympathetic dinner table Jacobites took up the toast: “To the little gentleman in black velvet”, in honor of the mole who dug the infamous hole. They were also quick to spread the rumour that the horse from which William had tumbled had once belonged to a Jacobite nobleman, Sir John Fenwick, who had been executed after being implicated in an assassination plot against the King.

    While many people had disliked William’s cold, aloof, and taciturn approach to life, he made an interesting comparison to his arch-enemy, King Louis XIV of France. It was said that while Louis made war with great splendor and panache in the style of a true king, William made war like a true soldier: simple, straightforward, and with steely determination. He may not have been a brilliant general and never rivaled the glory of “The Sun King”, but he was a great leader whose courage inspired the best in his men and whose dedication to his beloved homeland, the Netherlands, made him willing to make any personal sacrifice to put a halt to Louis’s land-grabbing.

    His personality type and fighting style were similar to his stiff yet effective ancestor, William the Silent, who led the Dutch in rebellion against their Spanish overlords. He can also be closely compared with the Duke of Wellington, whose greatness was found in quiet strength, dogged pursuit, and a refusal to submit to tyrants.

    On both sides of the Atlantic, no matter what our religion may be, we are all heirs to the legacy of  “The Glorious Revolution” and the emphasis that it put on the rule of Parliament over the rule of the Monarchy. In fact, Michael Barone in his book Our First Revolution makes a sound case for his belief that the American Revolution was built on the foundation that was laid in "The Glorious Revolution".

    So just as Catholics should remember to appreciate the good aspects of King William and his bid for the throne, so should Protestants recognize the global Catholics that helped put him there. The ability of Catholic mercenaries and the power of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should never be underestimated.

    Please keep the people in the UK, especially the more heated sections of Northern Ireland, in your prayers. This is “marching season”, and tempers tend to flare on both sides, so lets pray everyone will keep they’re heads and stay safe.

(A variation of this article was posted on "Open Unionism":   

King James II

King William III

The weeks leading up to the 4th of July........

were memorable ones for me, filled with summer fun and unexpected happenings. Living so close to historic Gettysburg, PA, and this being the 150th anniversary of the battle as mentioned in my last post, we went down there twice in the course of two week. We weren’t there for the grand-slam reenactment or the 4th itself, since the town was absolutely mobbed with visitors. However, we did make for the Antique Arms Show and the Mass said by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

    To cover our first excursion, I went to the Show and met up with Mr. H., a friend of mine who is in the antique arms business. He had his booth set up, stocked with an assortment of amazing articles from days of yore, including a blade from the 1630’s that had apparently been passed down from one generation to the next, since the hilt was from a later date. There was also a Turkish trident and an unusual Italian-made object used to latch hold of a horse’s reins, ornately decorated with Greek and Roman gods.

    Mr. H. is an amazing gentleman himself. He served in the diplomatic service during the Cold War and has traveled the world over. He also worked at the College of Washington and Lee in Virginia and is full of stories relating to history and his own career. In addition to all this, he collects an array of amazing artwork, weaponry, and other rarities of antiquity at his he home. While we were seated behind the booth, he pulled up some of the photos of his collections on his iPad for my perusal. Soon we got to talking about some of our “mutual friends” like General James Wolfe, General Simon Frazer, Major Francis Pierson, John Hampden, and the like. We also analyzed the current political situation briefly, and mused about how the art of manhood seems to have declined since the days of long ago.

    “Riding shotgun” behind the booth, I enjoyed observing the pitter-patter exchange between salesman and customers, good-natured and clever, aiming for a sale yet not discouraged if a sale wasn’t made. More fish would come for the bait. Finally, a bite from an “old friend” and reluctant buyer, and the Turkish Trident was history! I suggested the lucky buyer might like to dress up as Neptune sometime and take a photo to hang up in his living room for effect! I wonder if he’s taken my advice to heart……???

    After parting with the world of antiques, we headed off to mass in Emmitsburg where we were thoroughly surprised to find Archbishop William E. Lori presiding! Apparently it was something of a “sneak attack” visit on the parish, since there was only a small gathering at the mass, and it wasn’t even advertised in the bulletin. We managed to get a photo shoot with him at the end of the mass, and then headed over to the nearby pavilion where a country/folk band was playing and hotdogs were grilling to raise funds and garner support for the Fortnight for Freedom. The scene emanated with the spirit of Catholica Americana at its best.

    We promptly headed off on our next stop, and that was a meeting with a dear nun friend who belongs to the order of The Daughters of Charity. She is now in her early 80’s, but still full of youthful joy and a terrific sense of holy humor. We picked her up from the historic National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and spirited her away to the nearby Pizza Hut where we indulged in the very-cheesy, tangy-sauced, soft-crusted delicacy. At the same time, we strategically seated ourselves at a table by a window so we could have a good view of the 4th of July parade heading down the Emmitsburg streets.

    At first, we thought the parade would be something of a small-town blow out, as there was a long interval that passed after the initial fire trucks and police cars came by. But sooner or later the baton twirlers came forward “giving us hope” for further surprises, as the good sister said. There was a “Miss-somewhere-or-other” girl, riding atop a car and throwing candy. There was also a cute little boy dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Many cars bearing campaigning local politicians, lots more tossed candy, another set of marchers breaking into gymnastic displays. It was quite enjoyable all around. What was even more amusing was observing the way those around us seemed intrigued by the fact we were going “out on the town” with a nun, seemingly under the impression that ladies with habits aren’t allowed to have a good time!

    As twilight descended we headed back to the Seton Shrine for a reenactment involving “ghosts” – or more specifically, locals pretending to be historical personages in the old cemetery! When we first approached the gate to the graveyard, we were confronted by a young man dressed in 19th century attire, chewing on a piece of hay. We inquired if that was where we were supposed to enter for the event. He strutted about awkwardly for a moment, seeming to feel it was his duty to stay in character no matter what, and we had to repeat the question. He finally confusedly blurted out we were supposed to wait till the lantern-toting tour guide showed up!!! Whoops.

    At long last we joined up with “our party” and managed to breach the gates with them. We then walked the gauntlet of hometown would-be Hollywood-ers, dressed as Daughters of Charity in “Flying Nun” habits, Civil War soldiers, school-girls, and a black-robed priest, all telling us snippets about the truly heroic activity of the Daughters of Charity, who cared for the wounded of both North and South during the American Civil War. Although the acting was a little el cheesmo (okay, veeeery!), they obviously put a lot of effort into the little production in order to honor the sisterly heroines of the 19th century. And the whole this was made more poignant by the fact that we were taking the tour with a real live Daughter of Charity of our very own!

    To be continued…….

The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, MD

Thursday, July 4, 2013


is a poem written by Edgar Lee Masters dealing the many elements that cause different types of silence. It features love, hate, ecstasy, suffering, tattered hopes, and tortured dreams. A keystone is the Battle of Gettysburg, and all the horrors and endured there for the cost of Liberty and Union. Living not far from Gettysburg itself, I am currently listening to the distant sounds of the fireworks being shot off for the 150th anniversary of the battle. I doubt the soldiers who fought there could have imagined to celebrations, the picnics and pagents and sausages and sparklers, in the midst of dark blood and deep death. But here we are, and we can thank them and all those who fought for the freedoms of The United States of America. God bless and protect them. God bless this country of ours, confused and contrary as she may be right now. May she find her way on the right path.

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths,
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities --
We cannot speak.

A curious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
"How did you lose your leg?"
And the old soldier is struck with silence,
Or his mind flies away
Because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg.
It comes back jocosely
And he says, "A bear bit it off."
And the boy wonders, while the old soldier
Dumbly, feebly lives over
The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,
The shrieks of the slain,
And himself lying on the ground,
And the hospital surgeons, the knives,
And the long days in bed.
But if he could describe it all
He would be an artist.
But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds
Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,
And the silence of a great love,
And the silence of an embittered friendship.
There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,
Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,
Comes with visions not to be uttered
Into a realm of higher life.
There is the silence of defeat.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished;
And the silence of the dying whose hand
Suddenly grips yours.
There is the silence between father and son,
When the father cannot explain his life,
Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of those who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d'Arc
Saying amid the flames, "Blessed Jesus" --
Revealing in two words all sorrows, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
Their silence shall be interpreted
As we approach them.
"The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon....."