Thursday 23 September 2010

Bringing Everything Together

How did I miss this? It comes from the Pope's address to the Queen on the first day of his visit, in response to her welcoming speech:

"The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the 'Holy Cross' and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike."

I hadn't read this when I wrote my last two posts, and it's nice to know someone remembers what Holyrood means!

The Queen is descended from Margaret of Scotland through - let me get this right - Margaret's daughter Matilda (also known as Edith), who married Henry I. Margaret was, of course, Edward the Confessor's great-niece, so he's some distant relation too; and I know it's the filthy royalist in me, but I think that's pretty cool.

This seems as a good a place as any to tell a rather sweet story about Matilda/Edith, which I read this summer in a Life of Anselm of Canterbury. There was some controversy at the time around the marriage of Henry and Matilda, because she had been brought up in her aunt's convent, and some people said she had been consecrated as a nun. Nonetheless, Henry saw her and wanted to marry her. So, according to the Life of Anselm, Matilda sought Anselm’s advice about the legitimacy of this. She told him she never chose to wear the veil and only did so because she was afraid of her aunt Christina, the abbess. Christina (Margaret's sister) was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, so I could well believe she might be a bit scary!

Matilda claimed her aunt made her wear a veil as a young girl only to protect her from the lust of the Normans “which was rampant and at that time ready to assault any woman’s honour”, and when she would throw the veil off Christina would slap and scold her. (!) So she only wore it in her aunt’s presence and when she was alone she would throw it off and stamp on it to vent her anger and hatred of it. She also says that when her father, Malcolm III of Scotland, saw his daughter wearing the veil, he tore it off her head and ripped it up, invoking the hatred of God on the person who had made her wear it!

And so Anselm concluded she had never really been a nun and should be free to marry Henry. Anselm married them himself, and his biographer and biggest fan, Eadmer, concludes that "as Anselm used to say, he had not at that time either the knowledge or the ability to enable him to act more rightly or more justly than he in fact did." In other words, he did his best. It's always been rather tough being Archbishop of Canterbury.

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