The wedding that will take place in Rome later this year between Lord Nicholas Windsor and his Anglo-Croatian bride, Paola Frankopan, marks yet another significant forward step in relations between the monarchy and the Catholic Church.
The first British royal wedding to be conducted in the Vatican for perhaps four centuries was announced from Buckingham Palace with, it seems, the Queen's blessing.
Lord Nicholas, 36, is the very quiet second son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent: his father, the Duke of Kent, is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth (and would be twentieth in line to the throne). His great-grandfather was King George V. Lord Nicholas, like his mother, the Duchess of Kent (who prefers to be addressed, simply, as "Kate"), is a Roman Catholic convert. His elder brother, the Earl of St Andrews, having married a Catholic, has likewise dropped out of the line of succession to the throne.
Some Catholic commentators feel that this 300-year rule that no Catholic may accede to the throne, and all members of the royal family who marry a Catholic must renounce their claim is now well out of date; but with institutions like monarchies (as with papacies), change is best embraced slowly and gradually.
And there has been considerable change. When Elizabeth Il first came to the throne in 1953 she swore a Coronation oath not only to defend the Protestant faith, but to defend it most specifically against Roman Catholicism. Catholicism had only recently ceased to be anathematised as "the fount of all superstition".
In Queen Victoria's reign in which my own father was born the monarch swore not only to preserve the "true Protestant religion", but to read a royal declaration against transubstantiation, the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Invocation and Adoration of Saints, pronouncing all sach devotions "superstitious and idolatrous".
When Prince Albert, Victoria's husband, visited the Pope Pius VIII he was roundly castigated by the Times, and quickly had to explain that he had corrected some of the Pope's erroneous views. Instis tutionalised anti-Catholicism was preserved through the reign of Edward VII, although Edward himself was tolerant on religion and his best friend, Edward Cassel, actually became a Catholic. George V, mindful of the Troubles in Ireland, introduced a modification of the Oaths against the Roman Church. And with every reign since, these antipathies grow less.
Earlier this year, in a littlereported event of some historical significance, the Queen I gave permission for a Mass toi
he celebrated in the Chapel Royal for the English Jesuit martyrs of the early 17th century, who were put to death at the time of Guy Fawkes.
Queen Victoria who was a woman of some contradictions was a firm Protestant who became gradually more liberal towards Catholics because of "my dear, warm-hearted Irish subjects", as she put it. Queen Elizabeth is due to pay a state visit to the Irish Republic in the spring of 2008 the first to that part of Ireland since 1911 and this will probably presage a further softening of the barriers that have stigmatised Catholics from proximity to the throne.
Calais is hardly the most pulsatingly glamorous part of France and many people who pass through it or nip over for a "booze cruise" might even consider it a bit of a dump.
But Calais is greatly improving and restoration work is bringing much charm back to the old town.
Calais has a distinctive Cathedral of Notre Dame which was, for many decades in the 17th century, part of the Diocese of Canterbury. (Its other claim to fame is that General de Gaulle was married there in 1921.) It too is under restoration and will be splendid once this is completed.
Meantime, Sunday Mass is held at the modernistic church at Bleriot Beach: I have seldom seen an uglier building. Yet it seems to be attracting many young families, with full Masses and a busy devotional agenda more important in the end than bad architecture.
Bleriot Beach, incidentally, is just about where you surface if you undertake to swim the Channel.
Twill not allude further to Pope Benedict's words about Islam, a subject more than adequately dealt with elsewhere, except to say this: a civilisation which does not stand up for its own values perishes; a faith which has no confidence in itself dissolves.
There must be affirmation of Christianity, and it must be defended peacefully but firmly, and even robustly. The Holy Father is doing a grand job.