Thursday, June 30, 2011

It Is A Sign, I Tell You....

.... I am not quite sure what it is a sign of, but it is definately a sign. The bouquet of white roses I bought to celebrate White Rose Day are still blooming. I do not remember the last time I had cut flowers last so long as this. Oh, I will grant you that over the last couple days they have gotten wee bit past their prime, but only the least, tiny bit. They are still remarkably fine looking. Three weeks.... not bad at all.... It bears repeating: It is a sign, I tell you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's Tae the King, Sir....

Today is White Rose Day, a holiday I had never heard of before yesterday. I owe the discovery of its existence to a small, pencilled notation in an antique Lives of the Saints, that I recently acquired in Scotland, and have been using daily as part of morning prayers. Beside the names of various saints for June 10th - St. Landry, St. Maurinus, St. Gertulius & Co. and, most fittingly, St. Margaret of Scotland - is the neat little addition: White Rose Day. I was intrigued, and the moment I had finished my prayers, I rushed to my handy computer to look it up.

To my delight, I discovered that it a Jacobite holiday. It commemorates the birth of James Francis Edward Stewart, born on this day in 1688. He was the legitimate, staunchly Catholic heir the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland and his birth is generally regarded as the beginning of the Jacobite cause. His father, James II and VII, had converted to Catholicism, and as a result had been forced to abdicate in favour of his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. It was not an ideal situation, so when James II and VII died, his son was offered the throne by the bitterly Protestant leaders of the country, on condition that he renounce his Faith, but he responded, "Nothing would induce me to abandon my religion, for it is the true one." He did, however, insist upon his right to the kingship, and his supporters raised an army to help him secure it. James in Latin is Jacobus, so his supporters were knows as Jacobites.

They put up a tremendous fight, the Jacobites! Two major uprising they had, one in 1715, led by James himself, and the better known one, in 1746, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. In between, there were all sorts of intrigues and smaller battles. If a man had a blue cap upon his head, you could be pretty sure that he was a supporter of "the king over the water", that is to say, James Stewart, for he had been forced to flee to France after the Jacobites were put down in 1715. Ladies wore white roses to show their own support. People met in secret to plan for the next move in the battle for their rightful king. The Jacobite cause was finally crushed once and for all, on April 16th, at Culloden in Scotland. Bonnie Prince Charlie and his gallant Scots were defeated, more by treachery and bad judgement, than by any force of arms.

However, the Jacobite tradition carried on. Those who were loyal to the Stewarts continued to drink toasts to the King over the Water, still continued to hope for the restoration of the true kings to the throne. Gradually, a whole, rich tradition of Jacobite songs, poetry and toasts grew up. They continued to wear the white rose - or the white cockade - which had long been the symbol of the Stewarts. And one of their traditions, was the celebration White Rose Day.

So, in commemoration of the day, of the Stewarts, and their Catholic faith, and of their brave supporters the Jacobites, here is a poem, written by Andrew Lang:


'Twas a day of faith and flowers,
Of honour that could not die,
Of Hope that counted the hours,
Of sorrowing Loyalty:
And the Blackbird sang in the closes,
The Blackbird piped in the spring,
For the day of the dawn of the Roses,
The dawn of the day of the King!

White roses over the heather,
And down by the Lowland lea,
And far in the faint blue weather,
A white sail guessed on the sea!
But the deep night gathers and closes,
Shall ever a morning bring
The lord of the leal white roses,
The face of the rightful King?

Incidentally, since I like to fancy myself a bit of a Jacobite, I intend to celebrate today by wearing a tartan skirt (luckily made of light-weight fabric, since spring has come upon us) pinning a white rose into my hair, (artificial - a concession to practicality) putting white roses on my table (real ones, of course) and cooking salmon, neeps and tatties for dinner (It being Friday, salmon is as Scottish as it gets). I also intend to have a bit of Scotch whisky, with which I shall offer the standard toast, "Here's tae the King, sir. Ye ken wha I mean, sir. And every honest man wha will dae it again!" and pass my whisky glass over my water glass, lest there be any doubt that I mean the King over the Water.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5, 1944

Today is the anniversary of the Liberation of Rome by the Allied Troops. Here is a video of Pope Pius XII addressing the troops:

Incidentally, Rome during the War was an exciting place. All sorts of things were going on under the noses of the Germans. The tomb of St. Peter was discovered, for example. It had to be kept a secret, since the Nazis had a very odd fascination for religious artifacts (the Holy Grail, the spear of St. Longinus, etc) so the Vatican Gardens were completely remodeled, so that the volume of dirt being dug out from underneath St. Peter's Basilica could be disposed of without comment. Pope Pius XII and Monsignor O'Flaherty were hiding Jews everywhere: in the Vatican, in the Catacombs, with various families throughout the city. British soldier, Sam Derry, with the help of the good Monsignor, had created the Rome Escape Line which hid Allied soldiers who had been cut off from the Allied troops during the Italian Campaign, and helped them to return to their units. Someday, I would like to write a neat little history book that focused just on Rome during the war. It would make from some fascinating reading!