The real difference between Cameron and Clegg – separation of church and state

This week’s comments by David Cameron and Nick Clegg on whether Britain can be considered a ‘Christian country’, and Clegg’s call for the ‘eventual’ separation of church and state, are a reminder of a fundamental ideological difference between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats that has not been effaced by the coalition deal. David Cameron was not, admittedly, explicitly defending the establishment of the Church of England, but Nick Clegg was certainly attacking it. He also made the point that there are now as many Catholics in England as Anglicans. It seems unlikely that disestablishment will become an issue of political controversy in the near future, but Nick Clegg’s comment in particular have given me reason to reflect on the significance of the establishment of the Church of England for Jacobites. There are two legitimate Jacobite viewpoints on the issue: on the one hand, Jacobitism is the lineal continuation of the High Tory ideology of the 1680s, which was itself a continuation of Civil War Royalism, and therefore fundamentally wedded to the idea of the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. On the other hand, the Non-Juroring Anglicans became the enemies of the established church after 1688 and were forced, like the Catholics, to go their own way. On that reading of establishment, it is part of the apparatus that discriminates against Catholics within the heart of the British constitution.

I incline to the former view, that a belief in the establishment of the Church of England is fundamental to what it means to be a Jacobite. This creates the apparent paradox that many Jacobites are Catholics supporting the establishment of the Church of England, but I would argue that the co-existence of Catholics and Anglicans (and indeed dissenting denominations) in a shared spiritual economy is a fundamental part of the Jacobite vision of religious toleration. Jacobite religious toleration is not the same as a secular state in which all religions enjoy equal rights. The Catholic Church is privileged because it is the religion of the monarch, and the Church of England is privileged because the monarch is its Supreme Governor. The extent to which English Catholics were involved in the established church should not be underestimated. Catholic landowners held the right to present incumbents to churches under their influence, and used the opportunity to appoint Catholic-friendly clergy. Many  served as churchwardens of their parish church and were heavily involved with their local vestry committees (the predecessor of today’s Parochial Church Councils). Catholics cared deeply about the fabric of their local parish churches, paying for bells and repairs, as well as erecting funeral monuments since the parish church was the only place where they could be buried. During James II’s reign, the King appointed Catholics to a number of positions within the Church of England. This was possible because Canon Law distinguishes between ecclesiastical offices (such as bishop, incumbent and so on) and ecclesiastical honours (dean, canon, prebend etc.). Offices such as bishop and incumbent carry with them, ipso facto, spiritual responsibilities and a cure of souls. Honours do not. Thus, James created the Catholic John Massey Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford in 1688. James was rumoured to be contemplating making his Jesuit chaplain Edward Petre Archbishop of York but this was unfounded; legally, Petre could never have been an Archbishop.

Protestant commentators at the time were convinced that James was trying to undermine the Church of England by these Catholic appointments. In reality, he was simply using his royal patronage. The church was one area in which he had the power to distribute patronage, to Catholics as well as Protestants, and so he used it within the scope of the law as it stood at the time. The Jacobite model of religious toleration does not seek to determine a ‘lowest common denominator’ of beliefs, like the models of toleration that emerged from the Enlightenment; it recognises the essential role of the Church of England to the stability and welfare of the nation, as well as its uniquely privileged status in law. James II allowed himself to be crowned in an Anglican ceremony (albeit the ceremony was organised by the Catholic Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk) by the Archbishop of Canterbury because he knew that he had to continue as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, in spite of his Catholic faith. For James II, the two titles ‘Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Supreme Governor’ referred to the two faiths he was pledged to defend; the Catholic faith and the faith of the majority of the population, Anglicanism. Unfortunately the Jacobite experiment in England was so brief that we have no way of knowing how it might have developed, but I believe that a state of peaceful co-existence of Christian denominations might have been maintained indefinitely.

James II’s approach was a truly English solution to religious toleration. In arguing for the separation of church and state, the Liberal Democrats reveal their true colours as the children of the guillotine.

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Osborne’s own-goal


George Osborne’s suggestion, echoed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, that an independent Scotland could not be part of a ‘Sterling Zone’ and share the pound, seems a spectacular own-goal for the ‘No’ campaign. It is astonishing that Unionist politicians think that they can still get away with threatening the people of Scotland, when the reality is that the post-independence arrangements of an independent Scotland would have to be reached in a treaty with England whose text has not yet been written. It seems highly likely that, in such an eventuality, England would not want to distance itself any more than it needs to from an independent Scotland; one obvious way to retain ties between the two states, and thus preserve Britain’s international reputation, would be to retain a single currency. The current approach of the ‘No’ campaign is to tell Scots what they cannot have in case of independence; a more alienating strategy it would be hard to invent. Perhaps the SNP has infiltrated the ‘No’ campaign and is directing policy?! Unless the ‘No’ campaign adopts a positive message soon, I am not sure that the result of the referendum will be as clear-cut as they should like.

However, the SNP must surely share some of the blame for the current strategy of the ‘No’ campaign, which is likely to frighten some would-be pro-independence voters, because the SNP’s vision of independence does make it a frightening prospect. The idea that Scotland will be able to erect institutions of state such as an army and a civil service overnight is absurd and, as I have already outlined, a pro-independence strategy with a far higher chance of success would emphasise the ways in which an independent Scotland remains part of the country of Great Britain. If the SNP Government were to adopt such an approach, it would disarm the ‘No’ campaign completely. Admittedly, such a u-turn in policy would be damaging to the SNP so close to the referendum, but that does not mean that different models for an independent Scotland cannot emerge from the ‘Yes’ campaign. I am troubled by the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign is primarily a party-political issue in Scotland; whilst there are pro-independence members of the Scottish Labour Party, it seems that the SNP alone is setting the agenda for independence. But an independent Scotland is not about the SNP; it is about the future of a multiparty Scotland.

The Daily Telegraph, a paper that I used to read devoutly but had to give up on because I found its smug Unionism unbearable, has recently suggested that an independent Scotland might not be permitted to retain the Queen as Head of State. The suggestion is that the Prime Minister might advise the Queen not to become Head of State of an independent Scotland. This seems unlikely, given that the Queen is the Head of State of the other Commonwealth Realms, and it would be odd for David Cameron to advise the Queen not to become Head of State of, for instance, an independent Quebec that had seceded from Canada. The article in question goes on to suggest that Scotland might be forced to restore the House of Stuart in the form of the Duke of Bavaria or, indeed, the Duchess of Alba. The latter would, of course, be excluded from the succession as the descendent of an illegitimate son of James II (the Duke of Berwick), although the Duchess could well be recognised as a native peer in an independent Scotland, as indeed could all inheritors of Jacobite peerages (in the Peerage of Scotland anyway). The really interesting question, which The Telegraph fails to raise, is whether the Parliament of an independent Scotland would have to pass legislation on the royal succession before it could have a Head of State at all. The pre-1707 Scottish Parliament never passed its own version of England’s 1701 Act of Settlement, which made the House of Hanover the heirs of Queen Anne. Thus, if the Parliament of an independent Scotland were regarded as a direct continuation of the pre-1707 Parliament, it would need to pass an Act declaring Elizabeth II Queen of Scots. Otherwise, the Scottish Crown would automatically revert to the Duke of Bavaria. However, on another interpretation, English common law requires that the monarch should be born on English territory, suggesting that James III and VIII was the last Jacobite monarch, and was succeeded in 1766 by George III as de jure King. But it is far from clear whether this principle of ‘English common law’ applies to Scotland.

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Independent Scotland: An Alternative Vision

After much consideration, I have concluded that the best way I can respond to the Scottish Government’s white paper Scotland’s Future is to produce a brief paper of my own setting out an alternative vision for an independent Scotland, entitled One Country Two Kingdoms. I am uploading it here in PDF as well as in the body of this post.

Flag ScotlandFlag England

1. The Scottish Government’s model of independence

The approach to independence adopted by the current Scottish Government, in its white paper Scotland’s Future (November 2013), envisages an independent Scotland as a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. On this model of independence, Scotland would leave a rump ‘United Kingdom’ behind, establishing sovereignty on a novel basis (the sovereignty of the people of Scotland rather than the sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament). An independent Scotland would have its own institutions: a Scottish armed forces, a Scottish civil service, a Scottish intelligence service, a Scottish broadcasting service to replace the BBC, and so on. Whilst the Scottish Government proposes retaining the monarchy, the status of a post-independence Scotland would be akin to a Commonwealth Realm, like Canada or Australia, where the Queen is head of state but has no actual role in the legislative process.

2. The basis of independence

The Scottish Parliament that voted itself out of existence in 1707 was unrepresentative of the Scottish people and dominated by Whigs sympathetic to the idea of full constitutional unity with England. The fact that the Act of Union did not represent the collective will of the people of Scotland was borne out by the subsequent Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745, which were not simply attempts to restore the Stuart dynasty but also attempts by the Scottish people to assert Scotland’s independence in arms. The Act of Union was an injustice to Scotland, and the importance of the 2014 Independence Referendum is that it gives Scotland an opportunity to redress that injustice. An independent Scotland would not be a new state, but an ancient one. Independence for Scotland is not a financial, fiscal or economic solution, but rather the basic right of a nation state whose destiny was cut short by England in 1707.

3. One country, two kingdoms

The Jacobite Intelligencer’s proposal for an alternative model for an independent Scotland is based on the constitutional situation that developed in Great Britain between 1603 and 1707. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King of England (as well as King of Ireland), thereby bringing the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland into personal union. Each of these kingdoms retained its own parliament and laws. The three kingdoms were each sovereign, insofar as the sovereignty of each one was vested in its monarch, but since the monarch happened to be the same man in all three kingdoms, a situation of shared sovereignty was created.

Furthermore, from 1603 onwards the term ‘Great Britain’ began to be used to refer collectively to the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, in other words the territories on the island of Britain under the rule of King James I and VI. From 1606 a single flag (the original ‘Union Flag’) designated the united kingdoms of England and Scotland. English and Scottish soldiers fought together under the same flag, for the same monarch.

International law recognises nation states as its subjects, but the state is not necessarily coextensive with the ‘the nation’ and ‘the country’. This is already the case in the UK, where Scotland and Wales are referred to as ‘nations’, but ‘the country’ is taken to refer to the UK as a whole (a similar position arises in Ireland, where ‘the country of Ireland’ consists of the territory of two separate states). In the case of Great Britain, ‘the country’ arguably refers to more territory than the state (the UK) actually consists of under international law. Most inhabitants of the UK would regard the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as part of ‘the country’ of Great Britain, even though under international law, and according to the UK’s constitution, neither the Isle of Man nor the Channel Islands are part of the UK. However, these territories share a monarch with the UK and, under agreements with their governments, the UK government provides them with defence, policing and many other services.

The Jacobite Intelligencer proposes that, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence, the usage of ‘the country of Great Britain’ would be extended to cover an independent Scotland, just as today it covers a legally (if not practically) independent Isle of Man and the Channel Island Bailiwicks. After Scottish independence a single country, Great Britain, would continue to exist, made up of a number of sovereign entities including an independent Scotland. This would be more than a ‘federal UK’, but less divisive than the separatist model currently proposed by the Scottish Government, and it would preserve as far as possible the constitutional situation in these islands as it existed before 1707.

4. The name of the country

The Scottish Government currently proposes the creation of a new nation state, to be regarded as a distinct country as well as a distinct nation, called ‘Scotland’. Scotland would be distinct from the United Kingdom of England (including Wales) and Northern Ireland. It is likely, therefore, that the ‘rump state’ of the UK would alter its own name in the event of Scottish independence and the implementation of the Scottish Government’s model of sovereignty. However, such a situation would be inconsistent with the constitutional situation that existed before 1707, and if Scottish independence is to be regarded as a reversion to the constitutional situation of 1707, a more appropriate approach would be to re-name the country that consists of the sovereign states of England and Scotland.

The simplest way to do this would be to alter one letter of the current name of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A name change to the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would preserve the personal union between England and Scotland (‘united’) and the sovereignty of each of the nation states (England and Scotland) composing the new country.

5. Institutions of unity

The primary institution of unity in a Great Britain defined as ‘one country, two kingdoms’ would be the monarchy. The person of the monarch held Great Britain together as one country in personal union between 1603 and 1707 and would continue to do so after Scottish independence. On a practical level, the monarch’s role as the country’s centre of unity could be exercised primarily through the institution of the Privy Council. At present, the Privy Council consists primarily of ministers of the Crown, and this would continue after a Scottish independence vote, with the difference that the ministers would be members of two separate governments: the English Government and the Scottish Government. Rather than holding its meetings almost exclusively in England, the Privy Council would convene alternately in London and Edinburgh.

In addition to a single monarch and a single Privy Council, the two kingdoms of Great Britain would share a single armed forces, a single intelligence service, a single BBC, a single NHS, a single currency and a single civil service; indeed, Scotland would share everything with England apart from its Parliament, its ministers, and its judicial system (the Supreme Court could no longer have jurisdiction over an independent Scotland). Unless Scottish sovereignty and independence requires as a matter of constitutional necessity the creation of a separate institution, all current UK institutions should remain institutions of the country of Great Britain.

6. A solution for Scotland and England

The model of independence proposed above represents a solution to resolving the constitutional status of Scotland that is neither the separatism of the SNP nor the scaremongering of the British Government over the ‘dissolution’ of the United Kingdom. Under these proposals, the Act of Union would be repealed, but the personal union between England and Scotland would remain and would have meaningful constitutional implications for both states. The SNP’s view that an independent Scotland would go its own way is only ever destined to appeal to a minority of Scots, and for that reason the Scottish Government is unlikely to win a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Referendum with its current plans. Furthermore, the SNP’s approach to independence, and its desire to sever virtually all institutional ties with the rest of the UK, is frightening to many people in England and creates the anxiety that Great Britain would lose status on the international stage as a result of Scottish independence. The plan here proposed would keep the disruption caused by independence to a minimum, retaining the significance of ‘Great Britain’ whilst returning Scotland’s rightful independence and sovereignty.

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Scottish sovereignty

It came out on 26th November, but it is not until now that I have had a chance to read the Scottish Government’s white paper for independence, Scotland’s Future. What struck me most forcefully was the SNP’s determination to introduce a novel concept of sovereignty; a helpful diagram contrasts the UK’s ‘Constitution based on sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament’ with a future ‘Constitution based on sovereignty of the people of Scotland’. The idea that it is Scotland’s people that is sovereign, rather than the Scottish monarch, is an old one that can be traced back to George Buchanan and the Scottish Reformation, although there are those who maintain that the idea is found also in the Declaration of Arbroath (1320). The crucial section is this:

  • Him, too [Robert the Bruce], divine providence, the succession to his right according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our prince and king. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by his right and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

It is clear from the Declaration that Robert’s right to rule is conceived of primarily as hereditary, in a mixed constitutional economy in which a hereditary right to rule is necessary but not sufficient; it must also be matched by military prowess. The Declaration’s claim that the Scottish people would depose the king if he were to make Scotland subject to England should be read primarily as a declaration of hatred of the English – that the authors hated the English so much that they would depose Robert if he were to do this. To interpret this passage as a claim of the people’s legal right to depose the king at any time seems perverse and unjustified by the context.

The SNP Government is proposing the adoption of a controverted concept of sovereignty, based on their reading of history, in a future independent Scotland. I find this disturbing, not just because I disagree with the SNP’s interpretation of Scottish constitutional history, but also because I am not sure that the foundations of the sovereignty of a country should be pre-judged before it is independent and before it has a constitution, written or otherwise. At the very least, the SNP ought to have proposed a constitutional convention in the aftermath of independence that would decide the matter of the basis of Scotland’s sovereignty. The strongest basis for the SNP’s position is the Claim of Right Act 1689, by which the Scottish Parliament claimed the right to evaluate the claims of James VII and William of Orange to rule Scotland. The constitutional absurdity of this procedure is evident, given that James VII was and remained the King of Scots in 1689, and the members of the Scottish Parliament had sworn allegiance to him. James had done nothing to justify his deposition as King, even if the Scottish Parliament really had possessed such a power. Furthermore, even if the Scottish Parliament really did possess sovereignty, this does not mean that the Scottish people was considered sovereign. Even after 1689 the text of Acts of the Scottish Parliament continued to use the phrase, ‘Our Sovereign Lord/Lady with advice and consent of the Estates of Parliament…’ This is a form of words that clearly implies some form of sovereignty of the monarch in Parliament.

I am deeply concerned that Scotland’s ‘Yes’ campaign needs to bring in more shades of political and constitutional opinion. The SNP alone cannot be allowed to set the agenda. A further issue, as the President of the Law Society of Scotland rightly pointed out, is that the SNP does not envisage changing the composition or structure of the current Scottish Parliament in any way. Scotland would be a unicameral legislature, with no House of Lords or elected senate. In my mind it is questionable whether the current Scottish Parliament, established under UK legislation, would even continue to exist in legal terms if Scotland became independent, because it is an institution of the United Kingdom. An independent Scotland would either need to constitute new parliamentary structures from scratch or, as I would prefer, reconstitute the ancient pre-1707 Scottish Parliament.

September’s referendum needs to be about independence, not Scotland’s future constitutional arrangements, because only an independent country, after independence, can decide its constitutional arrangements. The ‘Yes’ campaign needs to stay focussed on the one simple question, ‘Do you want to remain under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom governed from London?’ Exactly what the basis of Scottish sovereignty should be cannot and should not be pre-judged.

I have much more to say about Scotland’s Future but I will leave that for future posts.


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Why I fear a ‘No’ vote

I am feeling pessimistic about the chances of Scots voting ‘Yes’ on 18th September 2014. A number of fateful decisions have been taken by the SNP government, the most notable of which are the proposal to set up a ‘Scottish Defence Force’ and the proposal to set up a Scottish broadcasting service. The contribution of Scots to the British Army is so great, and their loyalty to the traditions of the British Army so entrenched, that the proposal for separate Scottish defence arrangements hands the initiative to the ‘No’ campaign to whip up British patriotism in Scotland. A far better and more realistic strategy for the SNP would have been to accept that an independent Scotland would have no armed forces of its own (initially, at least); Scots would continue to serve in the British army, just as citizens of Ireland may do now. However, because Scottish territory after independence would be sovereign, the Scottish government would be able to require the UK to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland, and would have discretion on whether the British armed forces could base themselves in Scotland.

The proposal for a Scottish broadcasting service runs into the same problems as the idea of a Scottish Defence Force. People love the BBC, and the thought of losing it is handing a victory to the ‘No’ campaign. The SNP’s proposal to set up an enormously expensive Scottish civil service is also a fatal one at a time of financial turmoil when bureaucracy is hardly a popular ticket. Why does it matter, in the 21st century, that Scottish matters are administered by Scottish civil servants in Scotland? Scottish ministers could still make decisions in Edinburgh that are administered by British civil servants in London. The ‘Yes’ campaign is failing to educate people about the consequences of an independent Scotland – just consider the BBC’s finding that many people wonder what will happen to the Union Flag if Scotland becomes independent, and have even started redesigning it. This sort of nonsense underscores the reality that there is not yet a sufficiently mature attitude to issues of sovereignty in Britain; perhaps there never will be in my lifetime. We are still wedded to a post-Enlightenment conception of the nation state as coextensive with the national identity of the people, which is increasingly outdated and not fit for purpose. At some future time, perhaps an independent Scotland would be able to exist as a constituent part of a Great Britain united by common institutions, most notably the monarchy. Rather than looking to Canada as a model for the relationship between an independent Scotland and England, the SNP should be looking to Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The basic problem here is that the ‘No’ campaign is presenting itself as having history on its side – the ‘Yes’ campaign, by contrast, represents novelty and danger. If the ‘Yes’ campaign is to have any chance of success it must change the terms of the debate; we have heard enough about Alex Salmond’s brave new Scotland, but not enough about the historic injustice of the Act of Union and the abolition of Scotland’s ancient institutions. We have heard enough about the break-up of the United Kingdom, but not enough about the restoration of the Union of Crowns and the kingdoms of Great Britain. It may seem unfashionable to harp on about the past when people supposedly want to hear about the future – but the ‘No’ campaign will appeal to nostalgia, emotion and patriotism and the ‘Yes’ campaign needs to learn how to do the same. Independence is about the restoration of constitutional harmony and the dissolution of an unnatural and distorting ‘union’.


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St Edmund’s Day

Today, 20th November, is the Feast of St Edmund, King and Martyr. St Edmund was King of East Anglia from c.865 until his martyrdom by the Danes on 20th November 869 or 870 at a much disputed location, named as Haeglisdun in the ancient sources. St Edmund was supposedly shot with arrows before being beheaded, although according to the earliest accounts he was actually killed in battle, fighting the Danes at Thetford. Whatever the details, St Edmund certainly existed as there are coins minted in his name, and Bishop Theodred of London visited his incorrupt body in the mid-10th century. By the end of the 10th century his body had been removed to Beodericesworth, the town now known as Bury St Edmunds, where King Canute established a community of Benedictine monks in 1020. The Abbey became one of the largest, wealthiest and most powerful in England; the Barons swore on the high altar to make King John sign Magna Carta, and the Abbey hosted several Parliaments. Henry VI and Henry VIII were noted for their devotion to St Edmund, and an illuminated Life of St Edmund by John Lydgate made for Henry VI is one of our major sources for the appearance of St Edmund’s shrine.

St Edmund was also treated as England’s principal patron saint between 1020 and Edward III’s adoption of the cult of St George, and as late as the reign of Richard II St Edmund appears as a patron of England on the Wilton Diptych. After the destruction of St Edmund’s shrine at Bury St Edmunds, the royal martyr became, along with St Thomas of Canterbury, an emblem of Catholic resistance to Protestantism. He appears alongside St Thomas in the ‘Martyrs’ Picture’ at the Venerable English College in Rome, which trained Catholic missionary priests for England from the late 16th century onwards. However, St Edmund also had an important role in Jacobite symbolism. A priory of English Benedictine monks dedicated to St Edmund was founded in Paris in 1615, and after James II was exiled to St German-en-Laye in 1688, St Edmund’s became a sort of ‘royal monastery’ of the House of Stuart, a much smaller version of St Denis, the royal monastery of the Kings of France. When he died, James’s catafalque was placed in a chapel behind the high altar of St Edmund’s, and like the royal martyr himself, James’s body remained incorrupt and miracles were attributed to his intercession. James II, King and Confessor, began to take on the characteristics of his saintly predecessors St Edmund and St Edward the Confessor.

The current location of St Edmund’s body is a matter of much dispute. For a number of reasons, it seems highly unlikely that it was destroyed in 1539. It may have been re-buried somewhere else in the monastic precincts, but an old and persistent tradition states that St Edmund’s body was already in France, at the Basilica of St Sernin in Toulouse, by the time of the dissolution. I visited St Sernin in April in search of the Chapel of St Edmund (in the Carolingian crypt under the Basilica) and a representation of St Edmund as one of the protectors of the city of Toulouse on one of the great pillars of the sanctuary. St Edmund’s intercession saved Toulouse from the plague in 1631, as a result of which he became a popular saint in the city. In 1901, however, Cardinal Vaughan asked the Pope to translate the relics of St Edmund from Toulouse to Arundel Castle, from whence Vaughan hoped that they would be moved to the high altar of Westminster Cathedral. However, M. R. James and others raised concerns about the authenticity of the relics, and Vaughan was forced to revise his plans. The relics remained at Arundel Castle, where they are to this day. An examination in 1998 revealed that the bones at Arundel consist of an assemblage of bones belonging to both men and women, some of which have been buried in the ground for long periods. However, some maintain that the Archbishop of Toulouse sent the Pope a group of spare relics rather than the real relics of St Edmund, which remain at Toulouse. Others are convinced that St Edmund is buried in his home town, and on balance I incline to the latter view.

Sancte Eadmunde ora pro Anglia

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Review: David Lindsay, ‘Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory’ (2008)

This book appeared some years ago, but it has only just come to my attention as one of the very few expositions of Jacobitism and paternalistic traditionalism to be written in England in modern times. It is always encouraging to encounter another Jacobite voice, even if I do not agree with everything in David Lindsay’s book. Lindsay is absolutely right to locate the original ideals of the Labour Party of Keir Hardie within the old High Tory tradition, and this is surely the book’s major insight – that the old Labour Party of the 19th and early 20th centuries was never intended as a Trojan Horse for Marxism, but rather enjoyed the allegiance of the working class combined with eccentric members of the aristocracy. In other words, just as the Tory government of Queen Anne (the last true Tory government) was founded on an alliance of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the loyalty of the lower orders (to the exclusion of the mercantile class), so the old Labour Party attempted something similar. Not to mention the fact that the social paternalism of old-fashioned Toryism is far closer in spirit to left-wing socialism than anything espoused by self-styled Tories after 1832, or even after 1714. The Labour Party was an attempt at an alliance between the aristocracy and the working class (even if its rhetoric attacked the aristocracy), as opposed to the alliance of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie that had characterised both the Whig and Tory parties in the 19th century.

‘Old Labour High Tory’ is thus not a contradiction at all, and Lindsay bolsters the coherence of his political position by linking the old High Tory tradition of social paternalism to the Catholic social teaching of Pope Leo XIII. Where I part company with Lindsay is on his ultramontanism. He insists that the rise of princely absolutism retarded the ‘social reign of Christ’, which could only be enabled by the policies of the ultramontane 19th century Popes. The problem with Lindsay’s ultramontanism is that it undermines his Jacobite credentials. There is a chapter in his book that argues that the American Revolution was an echo of a residual Jacobite dissatisfaction with the Whig and Hanoverian settlement, but I am not confident that Lindsay really understands what Jacobites believed. Like many English Catholics, his interest in Jacobitism would appear to be stimulated by a belief that it represents a Catholic political ideology – but without a critical consideration of whether the ‘Catholicism’ defended by Jacobites was the Catholicism of Pio Nono and Benedict XVI. To be fair to Lindsay, he is happy to acknowledge the contribution of nonconformists and Scottish Episcopalians to the Jacobite tradition (he makes little or no mention of English Non-Jurors), but he does not seem to have given thought to the fact that Catholic Jacobites were not ultramontane in their views of the Papacy. Or if he has considered this (he mentions that Innocent XI illuminated the Lateran Palace after the Battle of the Boyne) then he is putting forward what is, in effect, an anti-Jacobite view. Lindsay appears to be in favour of England’s close ties with America, and uses his argument that the American republic was inspired by Jacobitism to justify this, but at the same time he appears to reject the ideal of monarchical absolutism and the legitimacy of James II’s campaign in Ireland. Lindsay may be right that the Founding Fathers of the USA were inspired by an earlier British tradition of political dissent, but he does not seem to take Jacobitism seriously.

The most serious failing of Lindsay’s book, in my view, is his approach to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Lindsay is an unabashed unionist, and he argues that because the Catholic church consistently adopted a unionist position in the 19th century, the only consistent position for a Catholic is unionism. He characterises the heroes of 1916 as a self-interested lunatic fringe and even attempts to argue that the Act of Union of 1801 benefitted Ireland, dismissing the potato famine as a natural disaster that would have happened anyway, and which the British government worked hard to alleviate. Were I an Irishman, I would find Lindsay’s argument offensive. I am astonished that anyone could still argue that the English crown’s claim to Ireland was founded on Hadrian IV’s grant of the Lordship of Ireland to Henry II – this presupposes an ultramontane understanding of the Pope’s temporal power that was long since repudiated even by the Papacy itself. Furthermore, Lindsay seems to ignore that fact that it was the less-than-ultramontane Henry VIII who assumed the title ‘King of Ireland’, in defiance of Papal claims that Ireland was a fief of the Holy See. Ireland already had quite a few kings of its own in 1171 (and indeed still had them in 1541). By disregarding the legitimate claims of those kings, Lindsay makes a nonsense of the legitimism he champions elsewhere in the book – legitimism, it would seem, only applies to a fully developed nation-state.

Lindsay’s lack of understanding of Ireland continues into his claim that Irish republicanism was a foreign import inspired by the French Revolution, without any consideration of how native traditions of dissent, such as the Catholic Confederation and Whiteboyism, might have contributed to the rising of the United Irishmen. Irish republicanism arose from a dissatisfaction with British rule, but also resentment at the imposition of an English concept of the nation-state on what remained an essentially pre-modern clan-based society – and thus the republican tradition is as much an assertion of ancient Irish ideas of sovereignty than it is an anti-monarchical or French innovation. Sovereignty over Ireland lies with the men and women in whose veins runs the blood of the ancient Irish kings who were deprived of their birthright by an occupying power, making a republic the only ‘legitimist’ form of government appropriate to Ireland.

Lindsay’s claim that Irish republicans are anti-Catholic is a distortion of the facts. Anti-clericalism is indeed a strand within Irish republican polemic, which often regarded the clergy (and the bishops in particular) as apologists for the British occupation, but this did not mean that Irish republicans had any desire to exclude the Catholic church from Irish life or impose a kind of secularism. It is true that the early Irish republican movement included both Catholics and Protestants, but this did not diminish their commitment to a Catholic Ireland. In contemporary Ireland, the best way for the state to save the church from itself is to break many of the bonds forged by De Valera – and Enda Kenny is making a heroic effort to give the Catholic church in Ireland breathing space to re-establish its moral authority, as opposed to its state-sanctioned position of privilege. When it comes to Scotland and Wales, Lindsay is even more dismissive – principally because he sees the Scottish and Welsh nationalists as complicit in an attempt to draw Britain ever more closely into the European Union. Whilst I respect Lindsay’s scepticism of Europe (even if I do not entirely share it), I believe that his book needed to deal a little more seriously with the Scottish question.

Overall, Lindsay’s book is strong as a commentary on the history of the British Labour Party (and indeed British politics in general), but weak on historical understanding of Jacobitism and a real appreciation of Irish politics and history. His narrative is vitiated throughout by an uncritical ultramontanism that imposes a narrow 19th century version of Catholicism on earlier eras and on contemporary events. I suggest a second edition with the adulation of the Papacy excised – that would be a magnificent book.

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