Sunday, December 02, 2018

Thoughts from Cologne, Germany: 2.12.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web pagehere. Garish but informative.

Matters German
  • A final comment . . . I had my credit card declined again last night, in a restaurant in Cologne. As I've said if you're travelling in either Holland or Germany, don't rely on what you're used to in Anglo countries. Have plenty of cash to hand.
Spain
  • Gibraltar: These have to be very good developments.
  • I detest the dubbing of films. In Spain – but not Portugal - it's universal and highly profitable, especially for the 2-3 people who appear to me to dub every single foreign actor. But I might be wrong on that.
  • Spain's marvellous trains.
  • Another opportunity to buy an entire village.
  • Spain's underperforming wines.
  • Reader Sierra has advised that the salacious brothel billboard(marquee) next to the football pitch has been removed.
  • Probably correct: Only 4 regions (Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Galicia and Murcia) have prohibited the use of animals in circuses. It's time for other Spanish regions to follow them
The USA
  • Here's a thought . . . Of all the people who'd like to get shot of Fart, maybe it's the Russians who have the greatest motivation to do so. He might just be a bigger potential embarrassment to them than he already is to most of his fellow countrymen.
Brexit
  • In the article below, British historian, David Starkey, makes a fascinating comparison between Brexit 1 of a while ago and the one currently going through. I have the impression he admired Brexit 1 and is pro Brexit 2.
Social Media
  • These days, you read on the internet about something and immediately co-opt it into your political armoury, whether you are on the left or the right. It becomes part of your lexicon, deployed against people who disagree with your own dimbo ideology. The truth evaporates along with the point and any proportion. In this social media howl-round, you use everything you can to discredit the opposing point of view, whether it is true or not. You grasp at whatever you find floating in the noisome cesspit of fake news.
© [David] Colin Davies

THE ARTICLE

The dishonest and duplicitous Mrs May is the Cardinal Wolsey of our time: David Starkey

Henry VIII’s Brexit-Reformation began almost as messily as ours

Like Henry VIII's schism with Rome, Brexit is going horribly wrong


History, according to Marx (Karl not Groucho), happens twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

Anti-Marxist that I am, I’ve never taken the dictum very seriously. But the events of the last two years since the Referendum of June 23, 2016 have made me think again.

For the Second Brexit is proving to be a parody – and a painful, humiliating one – of the first. In the First Brexit, Henry VIII – ‘the majestic lord that broke the bonds of Rome’ – severed England’s thousand-year-old ties to the Papacy; remade England and Englishness and set England on a new course that has lasted to the present day and provides much of the emotional underpinning to the Second Brexit. The First Brexit also explains why the Second Brexit is a specifically English, rather than British, phenomenon.

The Second Brexit (at its loftiest) aimed to do something very similar: to break Britain’s forty-odd year membership of another supranational organisation, the EU; to abolish the jurisdiction of another foreign court; to cut off the payment of taxes to another foreign entity and to embrace once more the extra-European destiny prefigured by Henry VIII’s imperial project.

But, as becomes clearer by the hour, it is all going horribly – and, if we continue on our present course, irretrievably –wrong.

What follows is not a post-mortem. There will be too many of those. Instead it is a call to pause, to rethink and to learn the lessons of a past that for once offers some clear and specific guidance.

Especially, as it happens, from Henry VIII’s mistakes. For, despite its eventual outcome, Henry VIII’s Brexit-Reformation began almost as messily as ours. Henry’s Referendum-moment came on or shortly after 1 January 1527 when Anne Boleyn accepted his hand and the King decided marry her and divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon: ‘aut illic, aut nullibi’ (‘either there [marriage] or nowhere’), Henry vowed on the word of a King.

But it proved easier said than done. For determinations of divorce, like whole other swathes of law, including wills, education and the control of public opinion, were vested in the international tribunals of the Roman Catholic Church. Henry, it is clear, anticipated no great difficulty in getting what he wanted from Rome, So, like us, he embarked on a wild-goose chase.

Like us, Henry started by dealing with Rome on Rome’s terms. And like us, he used a minister, Cardinal Wolsey, whose heart was not in it. Wolsey indeed, like Theresa May, was a ‘Remainer’. He disapproved of Anne as a person and the Divorce as a matter of principle and pleaded with Henry ‘on his knees’, as he tells us, to refrain. But, when he failed, he put himself in charge of the King’s ‘Great Matter’, as the Divorce campaign became known, and clung on to it like grim death.

Why? Loyalty and patriotism? Or ambition and a determination to maintain his hold on power? Wolsey’s behaviour, like May’s, can be read in either way. But, what swings the verdict in favour of selfish and unprincipled ambition is his sustained dishonesty and duplicity, in which, again like May, the Cardinal placed his own survival in power above the achievement of the Great Matter.

Like May, he scotched the alternative policies of true believers, not because they risked failure, but because they challenged his own hold on power. And again like May, he used deceit as a deliberate instrument of policy: he misrepresented the state of opinion in Rome; he even tried to censor reports from Henry’s ambassadors if they came near to telling the truth.

The result was that Henry, like us, spent two bitter, frustrating years as Rome stonewalled and obfuscated before administering the final, shattering blow in the summer of 1529.

Which brought Henry to where we are (almost) now.

But at this point the divergence between Tragedy and Farce – or between Brexit Achieved and Brexit Ballsed-up –begins.

For, having failed – publicly and humiliatingly and having involved his King in his own shame –Wolsey, unlike Theresa May, fell. Henry, out of residual affection and consideration for his past services, made sure that his fall, in the nice phrase of the Milanese ambassador, was onto a feather bed. But fall he did.

And Wolsey’s fall was the precondition – just as May’s defenestration is the necessary precondition – for a fresh and ultimately successful start. Let us call it, for the sake of argument, Plan B. Henry found a new adviser, Thomas Cranmer who – unlike Wolsey then and unlike May today – actually believed in what Henry was doing.

But the King was, Cranmer insisted, going about it the wrong way. Pettifogging legalistic arguments only played into the hands of Rome; instead Henry must adopt a radically new approach which went back to fundamentals.

And Henry did, with startling results. Over the next two years a think-tank, which recruited the best brains of Cambridge, was set up. The Royal Library was reformed to supply it with materials. New, research-based policy objectives were formulated and the new technology of printing used to launch a carefully calibrated propaganda campaign to persuade opinion at home and abroad.

The campaign enjoyed significant successes, most notably when the University in the Pope’s own city of Bologna endorsed Henry’s arguments about his marriage. But what if the Pope ignored – as the Pope showed every sign of doing – Henry’s arguments, however persuasive?

It was to cope with this eventuality that the Great Matter morphed into the Royal Supremacy. The Church in England, the researchers in Henry’s think-tank discovered, to their own satisfaction and to Henry’s, was properly the Church of England; its Supreme Head was rightfully the King and not the Pope and the King, as Supreme Head, had the right to order the Divorce, like all other questions, to be tried and settled in England and not in Rome.

A true doctrine of national sovereignty was born.

All this was in place by 1531 at the latest. But Henry did not remarry and divorce (for he did it in that order) till 1533. And it was not until a year later still that Parliament acknowledged his title as ‘the only Supreme Head in earth of the Church of England’. Why the delay?

It was because Henry and his advisers, who by this time included the formidable tactician and brutal enforcer Thomas Cromwell, recognised the forces of opposition lined up against them at home and abroad.

Henry tackled the latter first. In theory, the two leading Continental powers, Francis I of France, who was formally styled ‘the most Christian King’, and Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and ‘Most Catholic’ King of Spain, were united with the Pope against the schismatic and heretical Henry.

But Henry played on their differences and in a personal meeting with Francis I in October 1532 persuaded the French King to support his marriage with Anne Boleyn, who danced with Francis at the celebratory ball, and protect England’s back against a possible attack from Charles V, who as the nephew of Henry’s first, rejected wife Catherine of Aragon, had skin in the game.

With Europe divided, it was safe for Henry and Anne to marry.

But resistance in Parliament, then as now, was even stronger and it took Henry and Cromwell, who was his Parliamentary manager, until 1534 before they felt confident to submit the Royal Supremacy, with its gigantic political and constitutional implications, for statutory enactment. And this with means of persuasion at their disposal which today’s whips at their most sadistic can only dream of.

The act passed however and one of its first victims was Henry’s erstwhile friend, Sir Thomas More. In 1535, after a celebrated trial, More was condemned for denying Henry’s title of Supreme Head. After the verdict was delivered More was allowed to argue why the sentence of death should not be passed.

The Act of Supremacy was illegal, More explained to the bemused Bench, because the English Parliament had acted ultra vires ‘(beyond its powers’).

England, he argued, was ‘but one member and small part of... the Church’ and its Parliament could not make ‘a particular law disagreeable with the general law of Christ’s Universal Catholic Church’, any more than the City of London, ‘being but one poor member in respect of the whole realm, might make a law against Parliament to bind the whole realm.’

Replace ‘Universal Church’ with ‘European Union’ and you have – almost five hundred years before the Second Brexit was heard of – the Remainer or anti-national argument, with all its prattle about European citizenship, in a a nutshell. It was answered by the Lord Chief Justice with a simple piece of legal positivism: ‘My lords, … if the act of Parliament be not unlawful, then is not the indictment in my conscience insufficient’.

This, again in a nutshell, is the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. But parliamentary sovereignty, Remainers need reminding, was created by, and only exists to serve, national sovereignty. It was also created when the Sovereign, the King, was in Parliament. Now the Sovereign, the People, is outside Parliament. It has expressed its will outside Parliament too, by the Referendum.

What is this Parliament of Pigmies to stand against the will of its Sovereign?

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