Page 10, 9th July 1982

9th July 1982
Page 10
Page 10, 9th July 1982 — ,Charterhouse, Chronicle

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Locations: York, Moscow, Rome, London


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,Charterhouse, Chronicle

AT MY school most of us obtained a good deal of pleasure from the religious instruction given by the saintly, but endearingly irascible, Fr Tryers, SJ. We enjoyed his illustrative method. On the sacrament of Baptism, for instance, he used to say: "If a fellow comes up to me, with his hair parted in the middle," (for him, this long-outmoded style was the hallmark of the yahoo) "and asks me to baptise his child Bolton Wanderers, I call it John, a Christian name, a saint's name; and he can call it what he likes."

I remembered this forthright old man just after — but unhappily not during — all the press and radio fuss about what the Prince and Princess of Wales might name their son.

Programme producers were calling on everyone they could think of who had ever been concerned with the affairs of the Royal Family to speculate about this in interviews. No-one I heard guessed the right name, and I didn't myself. even though we all dredged up all manner of historical. dynastic, political and even purely sentimental reasons for the names we did consider.

I wish that during my interview I had recalled Fr Tryer's firm insistence that Christian children must be given saints' names, so that I could have suggested a few suitable candidates among the canonized.

Nevertheless, I must admit that I don't think this would have brought me the correct answer.

When it was announced that the child was to be William, I remembered with dismay William of Orange, and then. with pleasure, William IV, for whom I have always had a soft spot, partly because he used to walk about Brighton's old Chain Pier distributing sweets to the children, but mainly because of the proper regard he gave to Maria Fitzherbert. the true. and Catholic. wife of his late brother. George IV, requesting her, when he succeeded him on the throne, to carry the royal arms on her carriage. I was sure there were several saints called William, but I seemed to know nothing about any of them. Looking them up, I have found one who seems to fit the job description quite remarkably; for he is British, properly canonized, and even royal.

Furthermore — Debrett would have to confirm this — it seems to me that he is probably connected by blood with young William of Wales.

The candidate I have in mind is the St William who was an Archbishop of York in the 12th Century and, according to tradition, a nephew of King Stephen. His career was as turbulent as Stephen's reign, his election to the Archbishopric, with Stephen's approval. being opposed by St Bernard and the Cistercians.

Controversy about it continued, involving four popes, over 11 years, before William was peaceably settled in 1153.

Although all sorts of horrid things were said about him by those who wanted someone else to have his place, and nearly succeeded in this, it seems clear that he was a holy and kindly man. and he was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1227.

Interestingly. his name was William Fitzherbert. His feast day is June 8, in the same month as the birth of the new prince.

The other Rome explosive force

THE STORY of this St William, pushed unwillingly up to his saintly ears into a most unholy mess of political intrigue and violence, involving popes and other religious leaders as well as warring dynasties, will not astonish those who revelled in television's recent Renaissance romp about the Borgias, and may have come to regard popes and cardinals as being more concerned with soldiers than souls.

However, I was mildly amused myself to discover recently serendipity again — that more than 300 years after the ghastly Pope Alexander VI, the British Government started to show an interest in the Vatican as a potential armaments supplier!

I was consulting a book that a Catholic diplomat, Sir Alec Randall, wrote in 1957, Vatican Assignment. for information about past British relations with the Holy See, and I found this charming note from the records:

"Between the Reformation and 1914 there had been, from Great Britain, only certain unofficial missions," writes Sir Alec. "One, strongly advocated by Burke, was sent in 1792, but as one of its objects was to obtain gunpowder manufactured in the Papal States it could fairly be argued that it was only to the Pope as a temporal sovereign".

I think we may feel sure that Her Majesty's representation at the Vatican nowadays is unlikely ever to be concerned with such matters and that they will not trouble Archbishop Bruno Heim. who represents the Pope at the Court of St James. He is certainly one of the world's leading authorities on arms. but only the kind that interest heralds.

There are so many little gems in Vatican Assignment that I cannot resist offering another — about the last British Minister at the Vatican before England's break with the Papacy, in the reign of Elizabeth I.

He was Sir Edward Came, who, as Sir Alec delicately puts it, "thought it best not to return to London". It seems that when he died in 1752, he was buried in Rome, appropriately in the church of San Gregorio, near the Palatine Hill, the spot from which Pope Gregory the Great sent out St Augustine to convert the AngloSaxons.

Another line from Moscow

TOUCHINESS in our international relations these days seems always to be mainly concerned with Moscow. I noted during the week that the Soviet Authorities have decided to reduce their telephone links with Britain, and not to restore them until 1984 — a year which readers of George Orwell will so readily associate with the Soviet Union. Moscow says that this is being done so that repairs and maintenance work can be carried out, but diplomatic sources suggest that the real purpose is to reduce calls between Soviet citizens and foreigners or Soviet emigres.

Curiously. my journalistic career has been touched at two stages by concern about telephone links between Britain and the Soviet Union.

When they were restored not long after the war, an editor for whom I was writing articles decided to try them out exhaustively. He noted from a piece of agency tape that it was Stalin's birthday and that the great man had been given an astonishing variety of birthday presents by admirers all over the world.

I remember that these included a bicycle. and I wondered if its donors were conveying a gentle hint that it might be a good idea if he got on it and pedalled away from us all at high speed.

When I suggested this to the editor, he said: "That's it. Ring up the Kremlin. The telephone lines are back. and you can ask them what he's going to do with all this stuff." Well, I did; and believe it or not, in the end I actually got through and talked to someone.

It took hours, and I believe cost the paper a small fortune, because I kept on getting cut off. But eventually I did put my question to someone who assured me — in French — that he was. indeed a Kremlin official. His answer was a bit dull. He said all the presents, including the bicycle, would be sent to various museums. In fact. it was the story of difficulty surmounted in simply getting that telephone call through that made the article interesting.

When many years afterwards I went to Moscow as a correspondent, I enquired in various museums to see if any of them actually held the Stalin birthday gifts, especially the bicycle.

None of those I spoke with ado-lifted to knowing anything about them. Of course, at that time. officials felt shy about speaking of anything to do with Stalin. who had been removed from the special tomb that had once put him on a par with Lenin and placed in a less exalted place. a grave beneath the Kremlin wall, possibly spinning like a top as his country became (partly) deStalinised.

I still had difficulties with communications. There was no censorship as such, although every word one sent to London was carefully recorded, and I once picked up my telephone and. as the result, no doubt. of some strange technical slip-up, I heard myself being played back.

Occasionally, too. when I sent a longer piece to London — on a specially-booked, high-quality line from a studio — I would be kept waiting for hours before finally being told that "for technical reasons" London could not be raised. This usually happened after London, on an ordinary line, had asked me for an analysis of some feature of Soviet life which the authorities in Moscow might have found embarrassing.

When they wanted to do so, the Kremlin could make its telephones work superbly. It was a revelation to move round in the entourage of some visiting statesman fur whom the Soviet Government wanted to put on a good show.

I managed to do this several times. When the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau, paid a visit with his wife. I got myself attached to the Canadian press corps.

Everywhere we went, journalists were given telephonic priority, and army lines were plugged in to give better quality and prevent delays.

I found that I could get through to London instantly from places within the Arctic circle, and hear and be heard with a clarity that was normally unobtainable when talking in Moscow to another Moscow number.

The other thing that I remember about the Moscow telephone system is that in my day there was no telephone directory. Two Moscow journalists compiled one for the use of correspondents and the diplomatic corps containing essential numbers; but to talk to someone not in the official world you needed gradually to build up your own private list.

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