Recent Posts

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Fr. Z Translates And Helps

Flamingo Flockiiiiiiing

If you are driving in the wilds of Iowa and come across a house or farm with up to twenty or so plastic flamingos on the front yard, do not automatically think "Oh my goodness, what horrible taste those people have..." and so on.

The odd custom of plastic "flamingo flocking" is a way to raise money in some churches. At this time of year, churches choose a charity or cause for money raising. Now, in those councils which choose "flamingo flocking", one is encouraged to buy "flocking insurance" to make sure plastic flamingos do not end up in one's  front yard.

I imagine this is similar to mafia protection money, but as a joke and for a good cause.

So, if the parishoner pays the $20 insurance fee, his or her yard does not see the invasion of pink, plastic flamingos. This is inexpensive compared to some churches in the western part of the country which ask $35 for flock insurance.

If one forgets, ah, well. everyone knows that one did not pay for the insurance, and one has to pay to get the flamingos off the lawn. All in good fun...

I first heard about this ten years ago from a friend of mine who is a real estate agent. She had to warn people in certain areas about "flamingo insurance".  Can one imagine having one's house up for sale, and forgetting the charity drive, with prospective buyers out front in a car looking at one's front yard full of plastic flamingos?

Not exactly "curb-side appeal".

More from SPUC

3 Whitacre Mews, Stannary Street
London, SE11 4AB, United Kingdom
Telephone: (020) 7091 7091
Government abortion guidance weak and fails to uphold law


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Government abortion guidance weak and fails to uphold law

The Department of Health last week issued guidance on various aspects of abortion law and practice, such as sex-selective abortion, pre-signing of abortion authorisation forms and doctors’ assessment of abortion cases.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media:
"The government’s new abortion guidance is weak and fails to uphold the law – it endorses weak restrictions on some practices but promotes an underlying agenda of abortion-on-demand.

We welcome the government’s messages that abortion on the grounds of sex alone is wrong; that doctors must not pre-sign abortion authorisation forms; and that doctors cannot form a proper opinion of a woman’s condition without ever seeing her. These messages, however, are neither ground-breaking nor robust.

The Department of Health and the abortion industry have a close and ugly relationship. The Department contracts out millions of pounds’ worth of abortions to the private sector, which is keen to provide abortions (NHS-funded) to all comers. The Department also acts in Parliament as the defender of the pro-abortion lobby, briefing ministers and promoting policies that undermine the law."
 See below an in-depth commentary by Paul Tully:
In-depth commentary on government abortion guidance and the Sexual Health Team (SHT) of the Department of Health
The guidance published today shows the grip that the pro-abortion Sexual Health Team (SHT) has on abortion policy.  It arrogantly presumes to assert that abortion on grounds of the baby's sex is illegal while allowing the abortion industry to carry on aborting other 'unwanted' babies – despite the evidence of harm to women resulting from such abortions.

Aborting babies because they are girls is the only bad reason according to the feminist thinking which dominates the SHT's agenda.  Aborting so-called unwanted babies in general – in particular those of the poor, racial minorities, and un-wed mothers – should carry on uninterrupted according to the SHT.  Those with financial or other ulterior interests in promoting abortion industry – including medical bodies like the RCOG and the wealthy private abortion clinics - will not have their activities significantly curtailed.

The SHT shows contempt for the wishes of Parliament, which clearly requires that mental or physical health risks of continuing a pregnancy outweigh the risks entailed in abortion.  We have always maintained that abortion is bad medicine and is neither necessary to avoid risks to physical health nor helpful in reducing harm to mental health.  Abortion on physical health grounds is now hardly ever proposed.  Nearly all abortions, apart from those on disabled babies, are performed because two doctors claim (supposedly independently) that there is a risk to mental health.

The SHT guidance is wrong in law where it states (paragraph 13) that the threshhold of risk to mental health for legal abortion is simply a matter of the doctor's opinion.  The law states that the threshhold of risk is the comparison between continuing the pregnancy and aborting the baby.  The doctor must form an opinion as to which risk is greater.  He is not free to decide that a minor or minimal risk to mental health justifies an abortion if he knows the damage to mental health of undergoing an abortion would be the same or greater.

Yet every week, hundreds of doctors sign statutory forms certifying medical grounds for abortion which the department of health's own evidence review has shown to be false.  Today's documents indicate that the Secretary of State will continue to use his discretion to grant licences to abortion clinics where doctors do not bother even to see or talk to mothers - often in desperate straits - before signing away the lives of unborn children."
Comments on this blog? Email them to 

After A Long Discussion with A Friend

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
Eleanor Roosevelt

I do not know if this is true, but I grew up in an idea family. We never discussed people, and we rarely, if ever, discussed event. That was true on both sides, maternal and paternal.

A good friend of mine who works with people who discuss people was trying to explain to me how difficult it is to work and avoid gossip.

Another person I know told me that all people talk about at the coffee shop are things which are happening, like baseball games or catastrophes. She cannot bring up religion at all to her friends who are fallen away Catholics. (I am not talking about necessary conversations at work, which mostly should be idea conversations relating to meetings or such. All jobs need to discuss the ideas of work.)

The one category which Ms. Roosevelt neglected to mention is the discussion I cannot enter and most likely hate the most and that is discussion about things. It is so low that Ms. Roosevelt does not even have it on her list. 

One time, a long time ago, in 1990, I remember my best friend of years ago, telling me that in marriage it is sometimes so hard to maintain good discussions with one's spouse, as one has to be careful not to fall into constant discussions on what food the kids eat, the gastrointestinal habits of the baby, and buying nappies. We had a good laugh and decided to go back to talking about ideas.

Even my dear multimillionaire friend in California does not discuss, ever, things. She does not discuss her houses, gardens, china, glassware, land, sports-cars, and so on. She does not discuss her investments. She discusses ideas, mostly religion and politics. I love meeting up with her once a year for talk and lunches.

I am not sure why the discussion of things has taken over American conversation. Americans have slid into sharing and comparing the accumulation or addition of things to the point where I feel, truly, in a foreign land. 

Perhaps this is why I feel more at home in Europe. People there discuss ideas, philosophies, religion, political trends. 

What has happened here may be a sign of gross insecurity. Or, it may be a sign of people merely not learning how to have interesting conversations. Or a sign that people do not care about ideas. I am not sure of the causes.

In order to evangelize, one must get people to discuss the idea of religion. How hard that is here, when more and more people are refusing to engage in real discussions about things that matter, and fall into gossip, consumerism and, therefore, defensiveness.

Maybe this is one reason why so many of my friends have been religious or priests or doctors. As professionals, of course, they do not talk about people. As busy, they do not talk about events. As people of God, they talk about the higher ideas of our beautiful faith.

One must pray about one's conversation. Some people say to meet people where they are, which is fine as long as they do not stay there. One can only talk about cars for so long and in so many conversations.

It is hard to break through the crusted shell of consumerism. 

One of the great values of being in Tyburn was the silence. If one is always talking, how can one hear God?

One does not have to talk about things, people or events. Just pray about these things. Prayer is more important that talk.

Pray, reflect, and then, talk about God, Who is The Most Wonderful Topic of any conversation.

Mission Hearts
Although Blessed Margaret Pole was murdered on this day, her feast is actually tomorrow, because today is the great feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury.

I remember clearly the day I first saw the ruins of the ancient Benedictine Abbey of St. Augustine in Canterbury-a numinous moment. It was in August of 1980. I felt the presence of a great heart there.

Today, I beg St. Augustine to let me return to England. He was afraid to go, hearing horror stories of fierce kings and warlike men.

I have fears, and if I do, turn away from these, like brushing gnats away from my face in June.

St. Augustine and his companions brought Christianity again to England at the order of Pope St. Gregory, who saw the beautiful Angle-Saxons slaves in Rome and called them "Angels, not Angles."

May God in His Mercy let me be a missionary in that land.

I remember a hot day in Canterbury with one of my best friends not so long ago. We walked in the late Spring along the small river in the city gardens.

The ruins of the old abbey fascinate me, calling me from the ancient times to the present, as England desperately needs mission hearts.

God, make my heart like Yours. Let Catholicism rise from ruin into glory again in England.

A Fictive Monologue of Margaret Pole

I sit and wait for the last call, being told by the jailer that I have one hour of life.

What does one think of in one's last hour? I think briefly of my own sins, forgiven, awaiting punishment.

I think of my brave children, alive, dead, all witnessing for Christ and His Church in their own manner.

I think of younger days, but that is a waste of time, as all eternity faces me.

I should think of my Christ, my God, for Whom I shall die, and for this strange country, one I love, but one which I know longer recognize.

My own queen, removed, gone from me, as I shall be gone from all others soon.

My own godchild, this spoiled man, who thinks he rules a country when he cannot even rule himself.

My own heritage, the Plantagenets, good, bad, never mediocre.

Some already call me The Last, as the blood of the ancient Eleanors flows in my veins.

That blood will darken a small place in a few moments, the blood of the Plantagents stopped by the Tudors.

But, this is no time for thoughts of pride.

I face the greatest test of my life, not the block, not the blade, but the time I stand before pure Innocence, pure, absolute Goodness and plea for mercy.

There has been no mercy here, none, nor love.

So, my thoughts must be on Another's Blood, the Blood of Him Who died for me. I shall die for Him.

Long has it been since I have tasted His Body, been to the Sacrament of Sacraments. Now, all sacred times and places are ending for me.

This hour is my short Agony, how I can muse on the sins of those who I thought cherished me, like Christ in the Garden, seeing the entire sins of the world, especially of those who said they loved him, played out, like a drama before His Holy Eyes.

Shall I think of those sins against me while I am facing the debt of my own? Nay, I need only see my own failings.

I pray my dearest son remembers me at Mass, so far away, safe from the monster's hands.

I pray that the Plantagenets forgive me for being the Last, one so weak, so worn out with fighting.

Yet, I shall inscribe my true innocence against this king while I can write, as after a few minutes voice, pen, thoughts will end, or rather turn into something else.

I pray, Dear God, my feeble soul fills the sky with praise to Your Holy Will.

And, Dearest Lady Mary, help me to be brave and stand with me in the courtyard as you stood by Your Son at the end. The block is not my real end. I shall fight the falsity of their cries of "traitor". One last stand against the Lies of the Age.

Only those who love God truly love this England.

Ah, I hear people coming. I shall write quickly:

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me

Margaret Pole and Perfection

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Perfection Series II: xxxvi

I think of Blessed Margaret Pole, one of my patrons I have adopted when thinking of confidence. She had to face the fact that she was being persecuted by her godson.

Such hard times.

Garrigou-Lagrange again:

While fulfilling our daily duties, then, we must abandon ourselves to almighty God in a spirit of deep faith, which must also be accompanied by an absolutely childlike confidence in His fatherly kindness. Confidence (fiducia or confidentia), says St. Thomas, [72] is a steadfast or intensified hope arising from a deep faith in the goodness of God, who, according to His promises, is ever at hand to help us—Deus auxilians. [73]
As the psalms declare: "Blessed are they that trust in the Lord" (2: 12) ; "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Sion: he shall not be moved forever that dwelleth in Jerusalem" (124: 1) ; "Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in Thee" (15: 1) ; "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me not be confounded" (30: 1).
St. Paul (Rom. 4: 18) reminds us how Abraham, in spite of his advanced years, believed in the divine promise that he would be the father of many nations, and adds: "Against hope, he believed in hope.... In the promise also of God he staggered not by distrust: but was strengthened in faith,, giving glory to God: most fully knowing that whatsoever He has promised, He is able to perform."

Garrigou-Lagrange also writes about Providence providing us with “sustained moral energy”. This phrase deserves thought and reflection. Sustained moral energy seems to me to be the ability to persevere in times of trial and even harsh persecution. 

The great Dominican also notes that persistence in prayer is a sign of faith and the correspondence of prayer and believing in Providence.

If one is in sanctifying grace, one is moving towards and in the will of God.

Prayer, indeed, is a supernatural energy with an efficacy coming from God and the infinite merits of Christ, and from actual grace that leads us on to pray. It is a spiritual energy more potent than all the forces of nature together. It can obtain for us what God alone can bestow, the grace of contrition and of perfect charity, the grace also of eternal life, the very end and purpose of the divine governance, the final manifestation of its goodness.
He also states:

At a time when so many perils threaten the whole world, we need more to reflect on the necessity and sublimity of true prayer, especially when it is united with the prayer of our Lord and of our Lady. The present widespread disorder must by contrast stimulate us constantly to reflect that we are subject not only to the often unreasoning, imprudent government of men, but also to God's infinitely wise governance. God never permits evil except in view of some greater good. He wills that we co-operate in this good by a prayer that becomes daily more sincere, more humble, more profound, more confident, more persevering, by a prayer united with action, in order that each succeeding day shall see more perfectly realized in us and in those about us that petition of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." At a time when Bolshevism is putting forth every effort against God, it behooves us to repeat it again and again with ever deepening sincerity, in action as well as in word, so that as time goes on God's reign may supersede the reign of greed and pride. Thus in a concrete, practical way we shall at once see that God permits these present evils only because He has some higher purpose in view, which it will be granted us to see, if not in this world. at any rate after our death

Naming Children and Margaret Pole

Talking with some friends about names, I have discovered that few parents actually pray about the names they give their children.

My son's dad and I prayed for months before choosing a name. And, the obvious, such as grandfathers or uncles, were not the ones chosen.

We felt that God had chosen our son's names.

Do you pray for your child in the womb daily? Do you pray for particular gifts and characteristics which would lead to sainthood?

The naming of a child is a sacred act. A child grows up identifying with the patron saints of the names chosen.

Merely to name a child after an aunt or uncle is not good enough. One must pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Pray and then name. One of my favorite blesseds is Margaret Pole, whose feast day is coming up.

Here are other posts on her.

Consider Margaret Pole for a patron. Ask her today for a big favor for me please. I am praying for the healing of a good friend of mine.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Treasure Which Is Montacute and Blessed Margaret Pole

I have been visiting a friend I have known since 1991, which is a treat, as she is a very spiritual person and we can talk about God and the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

On Saturday, we went to Montacute, as we both have National Trust Memberships. This is, I think, the fourth time I have been there. Montacute is one of my favorite houses and set of gardens in England. I love this period of history. Out of all the treasures, the real beauty, for me, is the National Portrait Gallery's show of paintings. I love the Long Gallery, the longest in England, and have my "must sees" there. The must sees today included Blessed Margaret Pole, so my week began with her and ended with her. How is that for synchronicity? How blessed was I to start the week in Sussex where Blessed Margaret's Mass was celebrated in the Arundel and Brighton Diocese, and then to see her fantastic painting at Montacute? I did not even know her portrait was there until I visited this time. I wanted to see St. Thomas More's famous portrait, which I did , and I wanted to see Sir Walter Raleigh's and Bess Throckmorton's. I saw the two famous men, but Bess's portrait was not there. However, to see the Last Plantagenet was not an accident. I shall claim her, now, as a personal patron.

I have seen the gardens in several seasons, including winter. Today, the yellow irises were glorious and the famous hedge cut to strange Tudor and Jacobean shapes. Some houses are more peaceful and pleasing than others. Montacute leads my list of peaceful houses and restful gardens, and I highly recommend going soon, as the roses, except for the White Rugosas, have not yet bloomed. My only sligh t disappointment was that there were no sheep in the wilderness area, a first for me there. I wonder, are there no more sheep at Montacute?

Another highlight was the millefleurs tapestry of the 15th century. I cannot help but re-print here an entire article on this outstanding example of the thousand flowers genre of tapestries. I think Blessed Margaret is happy knowing her portrait is in such good company, even though she was definitely not appreciated by the reigning Monarch when she was alive.

The Montacute Tapestry
History, heraldry and horticulture
Apollo, June 1993
One of the rarest treasures of the National Trust is a millefleurs tapestry of a French knight on horseback at Montacute House in Somerset. The tapestry has nothing to do with Montacute, having arrived there recently and by chance, but the knight was involved in a turning point of European history, and the tapestry made at the end of his life in 1481 celebrates his triumphs in fifteenth century war and politics.
The knight has been identified as Jean de Daillon, Seigneur du Lude and Governor of the Dauphine, by the coat of arms in the top left hand of the tapestry - 'Quarterly, in the first and last azure, a cross engrailed argent; in the second and third, gules fretty or, a canton argent charged with a crescent sable; and as an inshield, gules, six escutcheons or.' Jean de Daillon's parents were of noble extraction, the crosses of Daillon he inherited from his father and quartered them with the crescents of his mother's family, but they were not eminent and no text explains why, as a child, Jean came to be a playmate of the dauphin - the future Louis XI. They understood one another well. If Jean of necessity outdid Louis in charm, and Louis was the master of intrigue, they shared the same self-interest. In his letters to Daillon the King repeated what must have been a childhood catchphrase, part affectionate, part cynical, 'Take care of Maitre Jean and I'll take care of Maitre Louis'.
Both men spent their youth as knights at arms. In the 1440's they were in the south suppressing the rebellions of Jean IV d'Armagnac and the Swiss. Daillon's first lordship, however, was gained not by war but by his marriage in 1434 to Renee de Fontaines, which made him Seigneur de Fontaines. In 1445 he became Chamberlain to the dauphin and Captain of Roussillon in the Dauphine. At this point Louis began to feel that his father Charles VII did not appreciate him sufficiently and he grew impatient to be king. Daillon joined his intrigues and was banished from court in 1446. It was around this time that he appropriated the lands and insignia of an ancient Angevin family called Mathefelon. Although the family was not extinct, La Cropte (including Melsay and Leval) fell into Daillon's hands and their arms - six gold escutcheons on a red ground - were added as an inshield to Jean de Daillon's arms. Their first appearance in this form was on the seal of a document dated 1451, and this is how they appear in the Montecute tapestry. In 1457 Daillon, who already had a part of the lands of Lude on the upper Loire, seized the rest from Guy de Carne and became Seigneur du Lude, his chief title from then on. Two years later he married Marie de Laval (the date of his first wife's death is not known) with whom he had two sons, Jacques, who inherited Lude, and Francois who inherited La Cropte, and three daughters Jeanne, Louis and Fran├žoise. Daillon was back at the court of CharlesVII at this time, having left the dauphin in 1452 and made his peace with the king. He was made Captain of a hundred lances and took part in the battle of Castillon which finally drove the English from France and put an end to Henry VI's lingering claims to the French throne. With the restoration of peace Daillon was reorganising the army.
Meanwhile Louis was living in Flanders under the protection of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, both men waiting for Charles VII to die. When he finally did so in 1461, Louis XI was crowned at Rheims and entered Paris in triumph with Philip of Burgundy at his side. But Jean de Daillon took no part in these festivities and had to wait until 1466 before he and Louis XI were reconciled. He then returned to his natural position as Louis' confidant, and earned from him the nickname 'Maitre Jean des habilites.' He managed to achieve a happy balance between the king's interests and his own aggrandisement. Comines described him as 'Monseigneur du Lude who got on so well with the king on all occasions and who so loved doing well for himself.' He was Baillif of Cotentin from 1470-3, Governor of Perche and Alencon, and then Governor of the Dauphine from 1474. That year he also acted as Louis' ambassador to negotiate the Treaty of Perpignan with the king of Aragon (which re-stored Rousillon to neutral status after its occupation by French and Spanish armies). The following year at the opposite end of France he served as ambassador to the Flemish Count of St. Pol, to try and fix this powerful noble's vacillating loyalties away from Burgundy and onto the French side.
Louis XI's aim was to restore his war-battered kingdom and to outwit his rivals by intrigue whenever possible rather than force. The degree of his success can be measured by the term 'universal spider' always applied to him by the Burgundian chroniclers. The turning point for Burgandy and France was the 1475 Settlement of Puligny. Charles the Bold remained embroiled on his eastern frontiers and was killed fighting the Swiss at Nancy in January 1477, leaving his vast possessions in the hands of his young daughter Mary. Comines has described in vivid terms the delirious joy with which Louis XI received the news, and the messengers who brought it were led by none other than Jean Daillon himself, 'who knew the king could be generous to those who brought good tidings.'
Jean de Daillon did benefit from this turn of events, both personally when the confiscated lands of the Duke of Nemours (Conde, La Ferte-Milon, Luzarches and Domfront) came into his hands, and as a lieutenant of the king as he pursued his campaign against the Flemish border towns. Arras, after much privation, fell in May 1477 and Jean de Daillon Became Lieutenant du Roi for the city and made out of it '20,000 crowns and 2 martens skins.' In nearby Tournai, which had been the independent fief of its archbishop, another intimate of Louis XI led in the troops and Cardinal Archbishop Clugny fled to Bruges. Daillon confided to Comines that he hoped to become Governor of Flanders 'and be made of gold.' This did not happen. Although France annexed Picardy and Artois, Flanders and the Low Countries remained fiercely loyal to the Burgundian connection, and when the Duchess Mary married Archduke Maximillian of Austria in August 1477 their freedom from France was guaranteed.
It was at this point that the tapestry was commissioned as a gift from the city of Tounai to Jean de Daillon in repayment for 'certain kindnesses' (one hopes this was not a euphemism for extortion). The first official entry in the archives of Tournai is dated 1 April 1481:
To William Desreumaulx, tapestry weaver, who had agreed with Monsieur du Lude, Governor of the Dauphine, to make a tapestry of verdure for a room, the said tapestry being a gift and present made to the said gentleman by the city, in recognition of divers past favours and acts of friendship he has made to the aforesaid city…. on the price of which agreement, it has been ordered to be paid to the said William to advance and expedite the work of the said tapestry the sum of 70 livres.
It is likely that the original commission for the tapestry was made some years before the date of this entry in the archives. In 1479 Jean de Daillon left Artois to become Governor of Tours and the work may have slowed down considerably with his departure. But certainly the tapestry was sufficiently advanced in February 1480 to be taken as a model by the magistrates and merchants of Tournai, who then wished to offer to Monseigner du Baudricourt 'a verdure tapestry with silk as good and valuable as that which Monseigneur du Lude has had made in this town.'
A further payment to William Desreumaulx refers to the tapestry given to the Lord of Lude 'which he has had made in several and divers pieces measuring no less than 457 square ells', and Jerome de Callonnne was sent as inspector for the magistrates to 'the workers who made the tapestry in several different workshops, where he had to ensure that the materials used I in its making were of the right quality, and received payment for his great pains.' All of which indicates that the Montacute tapestry was originally one of a series. Jean de Daillon never received the tapestry which sanctified his fierce and acquisitive life in art form. He died in Roussillon in 1481, and in December 1482 the Tournai archives recorded receipt of letters from his widow, asking that the tapestry be handed over to Pasquier Grenier on behalf of herself and her children. Delivery was finally made in April 1483 when the Bishop of Sens, brother of the widow, made a visit to Tournai which proved rather expensive for the magistrates, and took possession of the tapestry for his sister.
What of the other dramatis personae involved in its making? William Desreumaulx was one of the leading master craftsmen of Tournai, but Pasquier Grenier was a great merchant entrepreneur who first flourished when Philip the Good was Duke of Burgundy. He was based in Tournai and probably contributed greatly to its rise to pre-eminence among the Flemish tapestry towns in the second half of the fifteenth century. Commissions for tapestries from the court and other wealthy patrons were entrusted to him. He could employ the artist designers and distribute the work among ateliers specialising in the style required and offering the best terms. In 1459 he delivered a series of the Life of Alexander the Great, and in 1461 the Passion of Christ. The story of Esther and Le Chevalier de Cygne both followed in 1462. In 1472 he was responsible for the Trojan War series bought by the by the city of Bruges for Duke Charles the Bold. Pasquier Grenier was also a wine merchant, well acquainted with the trade routes of northern Europe and the workings of the great ports of Bruges and Antwerp. He could organise the necessary supplies of wool, silk, gold and silver and could wait - because of his own capital and banking credit - for deferred payment. This procedure had already been established in the golden days of Arras under Duke Philip the Bold (d. 1404) when Hughes Walois and Jean Cosset joined the commerce in wine and tapestry. Each year for twenty years Cosset provided one or several tapestries which he contracted from different workshops. He even set up an atelier at the Duke's fairy-tale palace of Hesdin in Picardy to make a series, 'Douze pairs de France', in situ. The Italian connection was at Bruges in the hands of patron/entrepreneurs such as Giovanni Arnolfini and Tommaso Portinari. As for the English connection, since 1393 when Richard II and his uncles of York, Lancaster and Gloucester all received tapestries from Philip the Bold, the Dukes of Burgundy had wooed the English with tapestries. When the ducal line died out and the French wars were over, Henry VII decided to buy his own tapestries. In September 1486 he gave his protection to 'Paschal and Jean Grenier merchants of Tournai in France' and allowed them to import into England 'cloths of Aras, tapysserie werk and carpets'. In March 1488 he told the Bishop of Exeter, Guardian of the Privy Seal, that he had bought from Jean Grenier '2 alter clothes and 11 pieces of cloth of Arras of the history of Troy', expected at the port of Sandwich, and asked the Bishop to ensure that Grenier had to pay no customs duties.
Henry VII's Trojan War tapestries were a copy of those commissioned in 1472 by the city of Bruges for Charles the Bold, which were also organised by Pasquier Grenier and woven in Tounai. The surviving examples show interesting stylistic links with the Montacute tapestry. The richly decorated caparison of Jean de Daillon's horse is very like those of the Greek and Trojan warriors, including the unusual leather cabochon behind the rider on the horse's back. The standard which Daillon carries with it's appropriate ravening wolf and long fluttering pennants corresponds in style to the standards of the Greek warriors - their favoured animal was a lion. Even the monogrammed pennants also appeared in the tapestry of the Fall of Troy, now lost.
Fifteenth-century tapestries often contained a monogram, and very few can be easily identified as the initials of the patron. In the Montacute tapestry the 'J' which appears on the pennants and the horse's caparison could well stand for Jean but the 'E' is unlikely to be simply the second letter of his name, any more than it would be in modern initials. Nor does it correspond with either of his wives' initials. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Philip the Good adopted the mysterious monogram EE, which was variously explained as the initials of a lady love, of which he had many, or a secret motto. Possibly it stands for Eques Ecclesiae, in reference to his unfulfilled longing to be a crusader - and by the same token the Montacute initials could be Jean Eques, enhancing the whole atmosphere of the tapestry which, did one not know otherwise, is that of 'a verray parfit gentil knight'.
No similar tapestries of a knight on horseback survive, and it is impossible to estimate how many there may once have been. In the inventory of Henry VIII's possessions at Hampton Court is listed 'One odde pece of Tapistrie having on it a man pictured in harneys (armour) on horseback'. And his other collections included two pieces 'having a man armed on horseback with a border of bells at the top' (bells feature in other early sixteenth-century tapestries attributed to Tournai and in the Montacute tapestry they adorn the horse). Pierre de Rohan, Marechal de Gie, had a series of tapestries in his chateau at Verger in one of which he appeared like Daillon, in armour on a superbly decorated horse. The inexplicable initials on the standard and the horse are two 'F's facing one another. The background is not a millefleurs, but is decorated with his insignia - a pilgrim's staff and cockle shell.
Armorial tapestries had been in vogue since the beginning of the fifteenth century. The early ones were sometimes simply saddlebags or bedcovers. In Brussels so many knights had ordered armorial tapestries and then proved unable to pay for them that the ateliers were selling them off, until in 1411 an injunction forbade them to do so without the consent of the owners. When the great chancellor of the Dukes of Burgundy, Nicholas Rolin (d. 1462), had his armorial tapestry made the background was covered with the keys of Rolin and the castles of his wife Guigone de Salins, while the centre contained the Lamb of God with the symbols of the Crucifixion. The first known armorial tapestry to feature a millefleurs background was commissioned by Philip the Good from Jehan le Haze of Brussels (an important tapissier like William Desreumaulx of Tournai) and paid for in 1466: 'For 8 pieces of verdure tapestry worked in gold, silver and silk and fine woollen thread; and in the centre of each of the said pieces are the arms and crested helm with wreath and lambrequins of the said seigneur, and in the corner of each the device of monseigneur and four pairs of EE coupled'. Another superb armorial millefleurs that still survives contained the arms of John Dynham (who contrived to serve every English king from Henry VI to Henry VII). It has the order of the garter surrounding his arms and since he received this in 1487 or '88 the tapestry may have been made mark the honour.
Although it has its precursors, the tapestry of Jean de Daillon is now unique in combining a millefleurs background with a knight on horseback complete with arms, monogram and insignia. Millefleurs or verdue tapestries were very popular and many survive. They are distinguished by the flower-scattered back-ground which obviates normal perspective and proportions. The style continued into the early sixteenth century and survived alongside more apparently sophisticated tapestries where people move realistically through landscapes and buildings.
Millefleurs tapestries vary greatly, from highly stylised flowers repeated in strips to exquisitely individual and botanically identifiable plants. In Brussels in 1476 a dispute between weavers and artists resulted in a transaction whereby weavers established their right to design 'trees, boats, animals and grasses for their verdures', but were obliged to employ professional artists for the rest of the design. No doubt similar rules applied in the other tapestry weaving centres, and rendered possible a degree of mass production in popular lines such as armorial millefleurs. Philip the Good's millefleurs at Berne has the pattern repeated twice, but the flowers are finely observed and recognizable. There is no repetition of the pattern in Jean de Daillon's tapestry, and all but a few of the flowers identifiable. The background teems with heavy-headed poppies and trumpetty daffodils, scillas, wallflowers and thistles, while a few plants appear only once or twice, such as the honeysuckle under the horse's reins, and the fritillary behind its tail.
Jean de Daillon as he appears in the chronicles of France was a man of some charm and great greed, but in such a tapestry he can be nothing less than a figure of high romance.

Thank you to

Monday, 28 May 2012

Blessed Margaret Pole

Today, as I am in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, this is the memorial day of Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She was the last Plantagenet and is a martyr for the faith. She is one of my personal patrons. She was executed in 1541. Blessed Margaret, pray for us today and especially for my English friends and family.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

"The Last Plantagenet"

I posted something about this great saint last year. Margaret Pole remains one of the most interesting saints of the horrible purge of Henry VIII, and one of his most famous victims. She was obviously a saint before her martyrdom. One of her sons, Reginald, became Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.

I share these links with you this morning. May she intercede for all of us.

And, if anyone wants to read her life, here is a link to a book on her, which I have not read, but would love to do so. I am praying and putting out feelers for the Tyburn-Walsingham connection-Adoration in the fields of the martyrs. Please continue to pray for that cause-the house of prayer in Walsingham.