Gunpowder. Treason and Plot
What happened in the middle of the 16th century was that to satisfy his 'beastly lust' (William Cobbett) Henry VIII imported a foreign religion and nationalised the Church. His bastard daughter Elizabeth continued this work, persecuting the old religion - the religion that had been England's for a thousand years - and turning what until then had been known (by me at any rate) as Mary's Dowry into a land of thieves, pirates and bankers.
What a pity the Armada failed.
Psst: want some more of that Cobbet? Here you go:
"..... the "REFORMATION," as it is called, was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of innocent English and Irish blood; and that, as to its more remote consequences, they are, some of them, now before as in that misery, that beggary, that nakedness, that hunger, that everlasting wrangling and spite, which now stare us in the face and stun our ears at every turn, and which the "Reformation" has given us in exchange for the ease and happiness and harmony and Christian charity, enjoyed so abundantly, and for so many ages, by our Catholic forefathers.'
‘What a pity the Armada failed’?! Cranmer accords with the following riposte:
A Spanish England would be as corrupt and authoritarian as Spain itself. In the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries who were the authoritarian states of Europe and who were the free ones? Catholic Spain and France contrasted with Protestant England and Holland. The Inquisition and expulsion of the Jews, compared to the cosmopolitan and (relatively) tolerant streets of London and Amsterdam. No Protestant England, what would have been with America and Canada? Replicas no doubt of tyrannical, despotic Latin America. Surely the Protestant Reformation, the fact that people stood up to authority and said ‘I will decide for myself!’ on how to read the scriptures and how to worship their God, surely that has some connection to the modern Democracy we enjoy today? None of this is to say Protestantism is ‘right’, but surely its establishment on British soil has something to do with making Britain the freest country in Europe. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN! (That includes BOTH Elizabeths),
Quite. If a Protestant were to dare to write in the terms of Mr Reid, there would doubtless be cries of bigotry. Thankfully, The Telegraph has a much more balanced view:
I would just like to say: it’s only a film! It’s not meant to be true to life. It’s meant to be entertaining… Some of the most successful – if not necessarily the best - historical films are packed full of fantastical inventions and anachronisms to make the plot more palatable – Ben Hur, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Gladiator, Bridge On the River Kwai, Anthony and Cleopatra, Brave Heart, Amadeus, Marie Antoinette, Shakespeare in Love… but they all put bums on cinema seats and, for the most part, kept their audience entertained for a couple of hours.
Everybody knows that a good villain, someone who you can boo and hiss at, often makes the movie. And in this case, the Catholics happened to be the most convenient candidates for the role.
But Dan Hannan MEP has the most insightful post on the enduring significance of today’s commemoration:
People were in no doubt that a way of life had been preserved: our monarchy, our representative government, the things that made us different from Continental despotisms. King James told relieved MPs that, had the plot been successful, “it should never have been spoken or written in ages succeeding that I had died ingloriously in an Ale-house, a Stews or such vile place, but that mine end should have been with the most honourable and best company, and in the most honourable and best place, for a king to be, doing the terms most proper to his office”.
The parliamentarians, delighted to find their sovereign and themselves in one piece, didn’t stop to wonder what His Majesty might have been doing in a tavern of a brothel. They cheered him lustily and voted him a generous subsidy.
What would they say, those brave, drunk, patriotic, quarrelsome MPs, if they could see their successor Parliament surrendering its prerogatives, not as the result of a successful terrorist attack nor a bloody insurrection, not following defeat in war or foreign occupation, but by its own votes? How reduced we are as a people.
And he concludes that today we should be burning the Treaty of Rome rather than its Bishop.
Cranmer is inclined to agree. He just wishes the Church of England would reconsider its via media fixation on this issue, and rediscover the significance of its own history.