Saturday, January 15, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 10

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 10


Let us move on to the next branch of the Tudor family, the Stuarts. They were descended from Henry VIII’s sister Margaret who had been married off to James IV, King of Scotland. (Family name: Stuart). Her granddaughter was Mary, the same “Mary, Queen of Scots, whom, you will remember, Queen Elizabeth Tudor, her cousin, had beheaded in our last episode. Pretty much everyone else in the family had been beheaded by now, so cousin James Stuart (1566-1625), already King of Scotland, was invited to be King of England.

The weather and the food may be bad in England, but have you ever been to Scotland? They eat haggis! So of course, James was glad to take the job and moved to London in 1603. He had been King of Scotland since 1567 when he was only thirteen months old. 1567 had been a rough year for the little fellow. His father, Lord Darnley, also a member of the Tudor clan, and the Stuarts, was blown to bits by a “mysterious” explosion. (I know all the names of these incestuous axe murderers are hard to keep track of, but try to pay attention.) Little James’ mother (Mary, Queen of Scots) was a very unpopular queen, being Catholic in a country that had gone Calvinist. She married again and that was the straw that broke the Presbyterian camel’s back. Protestants arrested Mary and she never saw her son again. He was made king, and was never quite right for some reason. Very nervous child. All that marrying cousins, beheading and exploding. It’s tough to be working full time at the age of one. And work he did. His life from that time on was controlled by tutors who beat him and by some very disagreeable politicians. Not a lot of down time in his young life. No wonder he had issues.

Most of the men in this very odd family had the reputation of being, well, friendly. Remember all those ladies in waiting? Not so James. He developed a reputation unusual for a king of the era. In his youth he had a reputation for chastity. In fact, he seemed uninterested in women. Who can blame him. They seemed to lose their heads so regularly. He was known for a series of really good male friends all his life whom he let run the country and spend his money. Scholarly opinion holds that they were just good friends, so don’t even go there. Being a monarch, marry he must, and a Protestant princess was required for the job. His handlers chose Anne of Denmark. He dutifully sailed to Norway, where she had been stranded in 1589 and brought her home. He really seemed to care for her and he had three surviving children with her and quite a few who didn’t survive. She was something he had never before seen: a royal woman with a functioning head.

At this time he visited Denmark, where witch hunts were all the rage. This may have piqued his interest in the study of witchcraft, in as much as he considered it a branch of theology. (Perhaps he had a point). Upon his return to Scotland, he attended a few witch trials. James worried much over the threat posed by witchcraft to him as monarch and, and actually wrote “Daemonologie”, a small book about witchcraft that seems to have provided material for Shakespeare's “Macbeth.” James personally supervised the torture of women accused of being witches. At least none of them were his wives. Quite a family. Well, enough with the gossip.

James was actually something of a scholar. Start learning Latin, Greek and Hebrew before you’re five, and you’re bound to learn something. James took a lively interest in literary endeavors and issued an authorized version of the Bible. We know it as the King James Bible, though it has undergone revisions since James first authorized it. It is thought that he himself may have worked on some parts of the translation. He wanted an authorized church, just like his predecessor Elizabeth and this meant an authorized bible.

At this point, we Catholics made a huge public relations blunder. On November 5, 1605, a Catholic named Guy Fawkes was found with 36 barrels of gunpowder preparing to blow up the parliament building where, on the next day the entire government including king, queen, royal family, parliament and all would be present. Thus started Guy Fawkes Day and thus ended any remaining sympathy for Catholicism in England until sometime a couple months ago when Pope Benedict went to visit England. The whole effect of the gunpowder plot was to make James more anxious than ever to enforce religious conformity, whether the non-conformists were Catholic or Protestant.

James faced growing financial pressures, partly due to inflation but still more to his financial incompetence. All that upper class male bonding isn’t cheap. James’ lavish court and life style caused him to argue constantly with parliament, who alone could authorize new taxes, and there were more and more Puritans in parliament who didn’t know why they should pay for the party, so James disbanded parliament and tried to go it alone. And then James made a truly stupid move. He thought that if he could marry his son Charles off to a Spanish princess, there would be a huge dowry. That meant, however, that the next queen of England would be Catholic, and that was not going to happen as far as the Protestant Parliament was concerned. James told them to mind their own business. In 1623 the match fell through and James died in 1625 leaving his son Charles to cope.

Charles, it turned out, couldn’t cope. He believed that a king could do anything he wanted, so he married a French princess, Henrietta Maria, who raised their children pretty much as Catholics. He continued to let his father’s last best buddy, the Duke of Buckingham run the country. Buckingham lost a war with Spain, and got himself assassinated, and then Charles ran things on his own, fighting a running battle with parliament over money and religion. Civil war broke out and parliament decided who needs a king? And, you guessed it, they cut King Charles head off. These people are nothing if not consistent. What has this, you may be asking, to do with the Hootenanny Mass? These events are directly responsible for the founding of Calvinist America by the Puritans, and no Calvinist America, no Hootenanny Mass.


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