SEVENTY FIVE years ago this year a beautiful blonde English girl married the King of Spain and the Prince of Wales was present. The former was Princess Etta of Battenberg, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The latter was the future George V. The venue was Madrid.
This week the Prince of Wales married a beautiful blonde English girl, and his cousin, the King of Spain, should have been present. But unfortunately he wasn't, for reasons now well known.
Spanish sensitivity over Gibraltar, whence the royal couple are about to embark for their honeymoon, was a matter on which the Foreign Office was consulted. ( Fatal!) It was presumed that they would be competent to assess Spanish feeling if Gibraltar were used for this purpose since they have been negotiating for a considerable time now to bring about closer ties between Britain and Spain. Such efforts have now been set back indefinitely.
The Foreign Office, in other words, has immense power — for good or for ill. One of the late Tony Crosland's favourite stories concerned a train journey he once took in wartime Britain in the company of a fellow paratrooper, also in uniform. They had brought a bottle of gin with them and fell to swapping tall stories about the excitement of war for those actually doing the fighting.
This they did for the benefit of the only other occupant of the carriage, a dull-looking fellow in black jacket and pinstriped trousers. After all, why wasn't he in the thick of things as well? (They didn't even offer him any gin.) At the end of the journey the pin-striped chap turned to the boisterous paratroopers and said: "It might interest you gentlemen to know that I'm in the Foreign Office. And if it hadn't been for us you wouldn't have had your beastly war in the first place."
The princess and the priest
CAN YOU meanwhile remember a time when Lady (sorry Princess) Diana was not engaged to the Prince of Wales? If so, you may also remember a tit-bit in this column about the Father Spencer in the Princes of Wales's family tree.
The CTS have produced an interesting pamphlet on the subject with excellent descriptions of Father Spencer's enormous zeal and apostolic energy. He was convinced that England would be "converted" within a generation of his time, namely the early nineteenth century. And according to the sort of Catholic prayers said in those days, England had much to be converted from.
Our recusant forefathers were brought up on such prayers as "Hasten the conversion of our miserable country ..." and "Deliver England from the spirit of pride. rebellion and apostasy".
"Not lines one could include in any prayer service these days," comments the pamphlet's industrious and most competent author, Brendan Walsh. And yet the parish priest in a fashionable part of London was asked not long ago what had happened to a familiar parishioner whom no one now ever saw. Was he dead? "In a sense, yes," was the reply. "He has apostasised."
Among the press gang
EDITORS come and editors go but the Catholic Herald goes on for ever.
During the distinguished editorship of Frances Gumley another eventful and successful chapter in its nearly hundred year old story will have been completed. The race to step into Frances's shoes has already begun. Why do so many people want to edit the Catholic Herald?
They all say it's fun. apart from sometimes leading to bigger and better things (if possible) elsewhere. Being neither too populist nor too elitist, moreover, the Catholic Herald has no serious rival as Britain's most worthwhile weekly periodical.
Let applicants not be put off by having so much to live up to. Just think of the fame that can go with the job. One editor was praying in his Middlesex parish church when a Margaret Rutherfordish lady sidled down the pew to tell him in a stentorian hiss: "I do like your paper these days my dear. It's so much better than the Catholic Herald."
What more could anyone ask for? Urbanus