AS BRYAN LITTLE so aptly put it recently in these pages, a visit to Arundel Castle "for anyone conscious of our history and of our Catholic heritage, is enthralling and moving."
I was lucky enough to make such a visit last week at the kind invitation of Miles Norfolk on the sort of English summer day which indeed turns this sumptuous site into a medieval dream come true.
A fellow lunch guest was Dr John Martin Robinson, the Duke's Librarian, as well as being Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary.
A Pursuivant — though here I am the fool rushing into terrain out of bounds for angels — is a member of the College of Arms ranking immediately below a herald. A Pursuivant "Extraordinary" wears the Queen's Tabard at the annual Garter ceremony at Windsor and the opening of Parliament but has no seat on the College's chapter.
The Duke of Norfolk, as Earl Marshal, is automatically Head of the College of Arms, but, in typically English fashion, there are some quaintly traditional technicalities attached to such headship.
It corresponds in fact somewhat to the position of an Anglican Bishop vis d vis his Cathedral, of which he is head but may only, technically speaking, enter on the invitation of the Dean.
So must the Earl Marshal be "invited" to the College of Arms by the man who presides over it in practice, namely Garter Principal King of Arms, whose heraldic colleagues have been described as holding some of the "fairest and rarest" titles in England, such as Clarenceaux, Norroy and Ulster, Portcullis, Rouge Dragon, Rouge Croix and Bluemantle.
Paradoxically, though the Earl Marshal must be "invited" to the College to participate in its internal affairs, he may, as Head of the Queen's Household, at any time summon "Garter" in order to convey some request or command, and it is the Earl Marshal who makes all recommendations for membership to the College.
How the present Duke manages to remain so relaxed and always the perfect host when often having to be in three different and distant places on the same day is his closely guarded secret. Perhaps it is bilocation.
THE IMMEDIATE past holder of the title of Garter, the delightful and distinguished Sir Anthony Wagner, once told me that he and his wife were extremely nervous when waiting to receive their guests at their first ever party at the College of Arms. The first guest, turning up dead on time, was none other than Bernard, the late Duke of Norfolk. He was accompanied by the Duke of Wellington, both of whom had sensed that the new Garter and his charming wife might be somewhat unnerved by the occasion.
"Punctuality," as Anthony subsequently observed, "is not only the prerogative of Princes, but also, as on this occasion, an act of never forgotten kindness."
Anthony Wagner and Bernard Norfolk became lifelong friends and collaborators, and a short life of Bernard, the 16th Duke, is being written by Dr Robinson whose brilliant quincentennial history of the Dukes of Norfolk was published three years ago.
He is also working on the First ever biography of that extraordinary figure Cardinal Consalvi, Secretary of State to Pope Pius VII, who successfully argued at the 1815 Congress of Vienna for the restoration to the Pope of the Papal States.
Dr Robinson, I gather, will be at pains to question the verdict of James Gollin, in Worldly Goods, that "Morally, Consalvi's bargain was degrading. It allied the popes with all the ruling opponents of human freedom and betterment on the continent, and this 'alliance between throne and altar' made the Catholic church part of the official machinery of oppression."
RATHER than speak further of the great Castle, in view of Bryan Little's admirable account, perhaps 1 should mention that other, very different house which — as distinct from Arundel which is vested in a special charitable trust to ensure its permanent preservation — belongs to Miles Norfolk, in his own right, and is a favourite retreat of his whenever he gets the chance to "bilocate" himself in the general direction of Goole, North Yorkshire.
I refer to Carlton Towers which I have often visited with great pleasure. It is an immense Victorian Gothic house but its origins are Jacobean. The earliest portions were built in 1614, while the stable and chapel were added in the 1770's. Then came "Gothicization" by the eighth Lord Beaumont in the 1840's.
But the house owes its present massively medival features mostly to Edward Welby Pugin (son of the better known Augustus) and to John Bentley who later designed Westminster Cathedral.
Pugin added three castellated towers and innumerable turrets while Bentley redecorated the interior. I have heard Carlton described as England's "most aggressively Gothic Victorian house." To anyone brought up in the Betjeman school, there could be no higher praise.
Miles's mother, the redoubtable Baioness Beaumont, was full of kindness and humour as well as being commendably uncompromising on all matters of principle and propriety. She too loved Carlton but also spent some time in the family's London house in Lennox Gardens from whose upper rear windows could be seen the higher reaches of an hotel being built 20 years ago or so on the corner of Sloane Street and Cadogan Place.
Lady Beaumont's dudgeon was daunting when she discovered that this "monstrosity" was to be called Carlton Towers. The name was eventually changed but alas Lady Beaumont did not live long enough to know of the merciful reprieve.
Last Sunday, I should finally add, there was a tremendous gathering of the Fitzalan Howard clans at Carlton Towers to celebrate the Duke of Norfolk's seventieth birthday. Bishop Gordon Wheeler of Leeds said Mass in the parish church before more than 200 clansmen sat down to a celebratory lunch.
Carlton Towers at its best; ideal for such a happy occasion.
Singing . . .
WRAPt attention greeted last Monday's performance in St Mary's Church, Cadogan Street, Chelsea, by the Schola Cantorum of Ampleforth Abbey. Proceeds went to the Ampleforth Lourdes Handicapped Pilgrimage, many of whose regular participants meet at Cadogan Street for
evening Muss on the First Friday of each month.
The Schola was founded in 1970 by Ampleforth's present Director of Music, the dynamic David Bowman, whose style of, conducting is tense, dramatic and highly effective. In Bowman's sabbatical absence this year, however, the Schola is being directed by Jonathan Leonard.
The Schola's chief function is to lead the singing at Sunday High Mass and weekday choral Masses at Ampleforth. But it also tours fairly extensively,, providing the choir for works of church music with the Ampleforth Chamber Orchestra and professional soloists. They have been heard in most of England's important cathedrals as well as in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Spain and Holland. ,
. . . together
WHEN Abbot Hume became Archbishop of Westminster, his former subjects joined Anglican monks to sing solemn vespers at Westminster Abbey. This was in 1976 and many present were reminded of the great antiquity of the Ampleforth community which, on that historic occasion, had, in a sense, come home.
For the community started life at Westminster Abbey and has never, strictly speaking, lost a thread of continuity therewith. The last survivor of the original community, after the dissolution, was Dom Siegbert Buckley who, in 1607, professed a group of monks who, in 1615, took up residence in exile in Dieulouard in France.
There they remained until the French Revolutionaries dissolved their monastery in 1793. The monks escaped to England and eventually found
favour with Lady Anne Fairfax of Gilling Castle, north of York.
They settled at what was then called Ampleforth Lodge, a late eighteenth century house built by Lady Anne for her Benedictine chaplain, Fr Anselm Bolton. The present College was then founded and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Of its many golden years, few have been more so than the last 30, during many of which Fr Partiek Barry was one of the most outstanding headmasters of the school's history. Eternally youthful, he is now Abbot of' this venerable community, known officially as the Abbey of St Lawrence.
THERE HAS been no fighting in England for three hundred years. Historically speaking this boast can be verified. The last battle fought on English soil, in fact, took place in Somerset exactly three centuries ago this month, But in the British Isles as a whole, the same boast cannot be made, and it may even be said that not only is fighting, as fierce as any of the past, still raging in Northern Ireland, but that the basic feud — Catholic against Protestant — is still depressingly the same.
Charles II had 14 children, all illegitimate. One of his lady friends, the Welsh charmer Lucy Walter, bore hint a son called James, in 1649, nine weeks after Charles 1 was executed. Lucy Walter maintained until her death in 1658 that she had a "black box" containing documentary proof that she was in fact married to the Merry Monarch.
The story was taken up with more enthusiasm than scrupulosity in the last years of Charles II's reign by those who would stop at almost nothing to prevent Charles's being succeeded by his Catholic brother James.
The other, illegitimate, James, who had been created Duke of Monmouth, thus became a "claimant" to the throne, even after his father's death. With no proof for any of his assertions, Monmouth, with 80 men at his back, landed at Lyme Regis declaring that he was legitimate and therefore the rightful King, adding for good measure that his father had been poisoned by James II.
The West country rose to him with alacrity and soon Dorset and Somerset were resounding with a cry "A Monmouth! A Monmouth! A Protestant Religion!" On June 20, in fact, he was actually proclaimed King at Taunton, a town with strong Protestant ties and solidly Parliamentarian almost through the whole of the Civil War.
He managed to muster 4,000 troops to fight the 3,0(10 royal soldiers in the area. The rival armies met at Sedgcmoor but soon 1,000 rebels lay dead while the royal troops, whose notorious "tastes" were assuaged by the local populace, feasted and drank much wine among the corpses.
MONMOUTH was hunted down and brought before the Catholic King, even offering to become a Catholic himself in return for his life. But lames refused his pleas, and Monmouth soon repented of them as unworthy in any event.
He was taken to the Tower for execution but handed six guineas to Jack Ketch the executioner asking not to be "hacked" and that his servant would hand over more gold if the job was done well.
Ketch, in a famous passage from Macaulay's History of England, "addressed himself to his office. But he had been disconcerted by what the Duke had said.
"The first blow inflicted only a slight wound. The Duke struggled, rose from the block, and looked reproachfully at the executioner. The head sank down once more. The stroke was repeated again and again; but still the neck was not severed."
When, the executioner having given up, Monmouth's head was finally prised from his body with a knife, the crowd "was wrought up to such an ecstasy of rage that the executioner was in danger of being torn in pieces, and was conveyed away under a strong guard."
The West Contry was subsequently visited on Assize by the notorious Judge Jeffreys who had 150 rebels executed and 800 transported to the West Indies. These "Bloody Assizes" earned the description because of such comments made by Jeffreys as "Oh how hard the truth is to come out of a lying Presbyterian knave!"