Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The mother country: conflicted

A public-relations dream come true for the royals. Prince William's got his mother's looks. Love match with a beautiful commoner wife (no inbreeding with cousins anymore) and a cute baby, and bye bye, Aussie republicanism. Too bad British countries are more liberal and less religious than here. I know: I was there. But in 1776 I would have been a Loyalist.

George III was wrongly blamed. His being Anglican wasn't a problem for us. We weren't under English religious law as colonies, and besides, because the Anglicans' structure - king and bishops - obviously still resembled the church's, more than the "Enlightenment" worldview, some Catholics hoped they'd come back. But Calvinism and the "Enlightenment" rotted Anglicanism from within. The rebels didn't have a leg to stand on. God save the King.

Why I'm happy for Canada's armed forces getting their "Royal" identities back. Bring back the Red Ensign.

But would British America have been a Burkean high-Anglican (yet, not being Britain, hospitable to Catholics?) quasi-utopia or just have been Canada? In other words, would it have "evolved," its opportunistic, Erastian Protestantism gutted by the "Enlightenment," just like Britain did?

By the way, we would have sounded the same as now. Our common starting point was when English settlers came here, in the 1600s, the reconstructed, rhotic Shakespearean Original Pronunciation; we sound different because English was different then. The colonies that sound Britishy were settled about 200 years or more later. We would have used British spelling (as Canada does, modified: tire centre) because Noah Webster created American spelling after independence, out of spite; the conservative South kept colour, centre, etc. until losing the Civil War.
Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London town.
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
Bull's eyes and targets,
Say the bells of St. Margaret's.
Brickbats and tiles,
Say the bells of St. Giles'.
Halfpence and farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
Pancakes and fritters,
Say the bells of St. Peter's.
Two sticks and an apple,
Say the bells of Whitechapel.
Pokers and tongs,
Say the bells of St. John's.
Kettles and pans,
Say the bells of St. Ann's.
Old Father Baldpate,
Say the slow bells of Aldgate.
You owe me ten shillings,
Say the bells of St. Helen's.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
Pray when will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
Chop chop chop chop
The last man's dead!
Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (c. 1744). Thanks, Christian Campbell.

’Ello. (Not his real accent by the way, which, never strong, he lost early on. He auditioned to play Hogan!)

Anyway, it would have made sense for the mother country, so steeped in folk tradition, to remain close to the church: maybe at heart the cheeky chappie, Andy Capp at his pub, was still a villager and it wouldn't be hard for him to find his way home. The common folk were driven out of the church by force (orate pro nobis: been to St. John Southworth's tomb and St. Margaret Clitherow's house), but many really remained Catholic through the 1580s. (Recusancy was an option only for the rich: they could pay the fines, pay off the cops, etc.) By 1600, says Christopher Haigh, most were "parish anglicans," accepting the new church (surplice, scarf, weekly Matins, and quarterly Communion) because they had no choice (ironically, since religious liberty is a liberal idea) but treating it with the same reverence they did the real one 100 years earlier. The Puritans, "Reformation" zealots, true-believing Protestants, were outliers. (And they weren't very puritanical: they wore colorful clothes, drank beer like other English people, which made sense since the water wasn't clean, and loved married sex.) The English Civil War, the "Enlightenment," and the Industrial Revolution (literally forcing people into the cities and the dark satanic mills) put paid to all that. A friend has observed that underneath their wry humor there's something sad in the English character, coming from this loss. (Loss: we love the royals more than they do.)

Snob anglophilia's a different animal from this Catholic nostalgia. Paul Fussell explained it: it's trying to say, and sometimes it's true, "My family's been powerful since back when Britain was, which is how we picked up this culture."

The upper class, Prince William and his beautiful family notwithstanding, are creepy in a couple of ways. Anti-Catholic to the core. (Andy Capp's "no popery" is probably ignorance.) With their top educations, they know what the names of their old colleges mean (Corpus Christi, etc.) and say to it all, "I will not serve." Creepily self-aware that way. I understand Prince Philip is the country's ranking Freemason. (Trouble is here, as there, essentially the Masons won, long ago.)

Interesting blog post: The first Protestants were the Taliban of their day and place.

P.S. The church ≠ the Irish cause.


  1. Anonymous6:00 pm

    Prince Philip is not a Freemason, though the Duke of Kent is. Lord Mountbatten was anti-Freemasonry and influenced both his nephew and his grandnephew Prince Charles against it.

  2. I have to say I'd like to know where the notion that Webster's spelling simplifications were made out of spite. As far as southerners retaining the old spelling, the SC secession declaration prefers "labor" over "labour", even though it is quoting the constitution, which prefers the latter spelling. There is significant documentation of Americanisms, testifying to a considerable drift at least by the 1850s. One of the more conspicuous examples is the near total lack of common terminology between the North Americans and the Brits in railroading, most likely because of the corresponding lack of shared expertise.


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