A few weeks ago, Queen Elizabeth II reached her ninetieth birthday. BBC News commemorated the milestone with a lovely series of photographs of the Queen—one for each year of her life: “In pictures: Queen Elizabeth II at 90 in 90 images.” Charming—and somewhat sad. For I am sorry to report that the kingdom was in much better moral and spiritual shape at the Queen’s birth than it is now, nearing the end of her reign. Moreover, the empire pretty much disappeared during her time on the throne. Not many questioned Britain’s survival in A.D. 1926; that worry came shortly after. The British peoples heroically withstood the Nazis, but they have succumbed to inner rot, as it so often befalls the once mighty. The White Man’s Burden has become the White Man’s Nightmare, as dusk begins to settle throughout the West.
Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη αὐτῶν
My sister recently told me about the British memorial for Armistice Day on the centennial of the Great War: “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” which you may explore further at The Tower of London Remembers. Artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper have created a memorial at the Tower of London consisting of 888,246 ceramic poppies placed around the tower moat. Each flower represents a British or Commonwealth soldier who died during the war. The installation is sobering but beautiful:
The Daily Mail has an article that features some remarkable photographs of the memorial: “A kingdom united in Remembrance.”
It surprises me to think that the catastrophe of the First World War only began a century ago. What horrors did it unleash upon our civilization—what lives it destroyed—what a loss! Such a loss . . .
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
It is my brother Adam’s birthday, and I wish him the best.
To commemorate his day, I present The Open Road by Claude Friese-Greene. Greene filmed The Open Road as a travelogue of a road trip in A.D. 1924 from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’ Groats in Caithness and then finally to London. Adam and I made our very own road trip to see these British extremities, though I suspect that we took a slightly different course.
The movie is charming—another testament to what Britain has lost since the war. What commercial liberal man has exchanged for mammon!
Anyway, happy birthday, Adam! I remember well those little towns, Welsh castles, and Scottish Highlands.
The United Kingdom is in a ruinous state. You may have read that hooligans have rioted in Britain’s cities over an increase in student fees. “Youth” even attacked the car of Prince Charles and Camilla while they were on their way to the theater. I doubt that the perpetrators will be charged with treason; the men of the sceptered isle no longer believe in their crown or their law. Dysfunction reigns supreme in Albion, and I fear that it may be even worse there than here. At least, there is a vocal minority in the States who occasionally refuse to cower to the barbarians. Where is Arthur when he is needed?
It seems as if the madness has even reached dear Glastonbury, which I have visited twice to pay homage to my patron saint, Joseph of Arimathea. Evidently, someone vandalized one of the Glastonbury Thorns yesterday. Of course, the sacrilege is not as bad as when filthy pig Cromwell’s men destroyed the ancient hallowed tree, of which the current trees are cuttings. What possesses people? Well, I suppose that we know the answer.
John Derbyshire recently mused that A.D. 1963 was the apex of the good life in Western civilization. His nostalgia of good times gone by reminded him of a charming short film made for the London Transport: All That Mighty Heart (click on the link to watch it on the film page of the London Transport Museum). It is a day in the life of London from A.D. 1962, with its depictions of city streets, jolly workers, feminine women, and a London that was still English.
Derbyshire laments the loss of old England. It is strange that every generation of Englishmen mourns the loss of old England. If there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there must be a lot of loss in one, too.
Happy (old calendar) feast of Saint Joseph!
I have twice visited Glastonbury, where, according to legend, Saint Joseph settled to preach the gospel in Britannia. To celebrate the day, I offer you Torimages’ lovely photographs of Glastonbury on Flickr.
When I travel, I typically spend a good deal of my touring time in religious edifices. There are several reason for this . . .
1) Religious buildings are usually free, and therefore they are good places for someone on a budget.
2) Religious buildings generally have the most beautiful, most impressive architecture in a town. Before the heathen age, men thought it proper to dedicate their finest artistic and civic achievements to God. In our land of mammon, architectural genius is more often dedicated to banking, commerce, funeral arrangements, and sporting events. Sigh . . .
3) You can learn much of a people and a period by examining their temples. I suppose that I subscribe to a generalized form of lex orandi, lex credendi, where the cultic life of a people demonstrates, and perhaps determines, their general way of life. The link between cult and culture is not only etymological.
4) I am keenly interested in religion, and I suppose that such interest leads to my enjoyment of religious buildings.
5) Churches, at least, function for me as sanctuaries. Of course, thieving gypsies might wait outside in ambush, but locals typically treat you well in their churches as long as you are respectful. If you need a rest, stop in a church and just sit. Observe, pray, and collect yourself before continuing on your journey.
My favorite churches, in general, are English Gothic cathedrals. The Anglicans do not deserve their beautiful hallowed halls anymore, but they are lovely. I appreciate the English practices of altar choirs, entombed notable figures around a cathedral, cathedral gardens and cloisters, and the Lady chapels in the apse. Each town’s cathedral is unique and beautiful in its own way. The windows, the sculptures, the vaults, the colorful ceilings, and the side chapels all delight the wide-eyed visitor. Durham, Winchester, Peterborough, Wells, Salisbury, Saint Alban’s, Canterbury, Exeter, Lincoln, Worcester, and others show how the English once had good taste and appropriate priorities. Now, the well fed peasants on the dole act like barbarians at soccer games. Sic transit gloria mundi.
It is hard to choose a favorite, but I think that Ely Cathedral captured my heart more than the rest. I have never seen its octagonal turret like tower anywhere else, and the interior and adjacent Lady Chapel are breathtaking. The town of Ely’s visitor center has this page for the cathedral, too.
The vistors’ center page mentions that Cromwell (hot coals be upon him) had the cathedral closed during his tyrannical reign, during which he used the cathedral as horse stables. Calvin and his minions were perhaps the most disgusting and worthless creatures to carry the name Christian before the French revolution.
Anyway, let the celebrants of ugliness rot—the beautiful cathedrals that embellish the English countryside remain. You ought to visit them before they undergo the same fate as the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople and become mosques or museums.