Tag Archives: Catholicism

June 6th

On this day in 1654 Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism.

Queen Christina liked to have some sort of bird on her horse's bum when she was riding

While she’s known as Queen Christina, she was more properly a king. She took her oath as a king and she was brought up as a prince by the order of her father. Apparently when she was born she was so hairy that at first everyone thought she was a boy, which sounds odd to me. Surely if she was that hairy they’d have thought she was a monkey or a werewolf or something, but no, clearly they thought it was normal for a baby boy to be born covered in hair. Anyway, they noticed she didn’t have a winky and realised she was a boy. Her dad, Gustav II didn’t care, he was just overjoyed that she was bonny and healthy because four children had died before her and he wanted an heir. Her mother didn’t like her so much and spent the first six years of Christina’s life giving her a hard time for being a girl and causing her mother pain when she was born.  Then Gustav II was killed in battle and suddenly Maria, Christina’s mother, was all over her like a rash, clinging to her like a limpet and basically being a huge pain in the arse. Christina didn’t want to hurt her mother, but she did want her to eff the eff off. In fact she was such a pain that eventually she was sent off to live in another castle and Christina was brought up for a few years by her aunt Catherine, as per her father’s wishes.

Apart from having the mother from hell and losing her beloved father so young, Christina had a fairly good childhood and was an intelligent and capable young woman. She spoke many languages fluently, rode well, was well-versed in history and politics and was much admired throughout Europe. She remained in the background politically until she was 18 and then became Queen regnant proper. It’s fair to say that she wasn’t the best of queens, but that was as much due to circumstances as any shortcomings on her behalf. She steered clear of marriage, saying privately that she found the whole thing distasteful and while she enjoyed the company of men, her closest relationships and truest affections were directed toward the women in her life. Was she a lesbian? It’s hard to say for sure, but given her distaste for the institution of marriage and all it entailed, it’s fair to say that if she ever did have sex it was far more likely to have been with a woman than a man. She reigned as queen proper for a decade, but she never really enjoyed it. She had wanted to abdicate long before 1654 but kept agreeing to stay on because parliament begged her. She felt a bit of a hypocrite, ruling over a Protestant country when she was secretly a Catholic, but it also made her a very tolerant woman. She did not discriminate against anyone based on religious distinctions and believed that everyone should be allowed to worship as they saw fit. These were very liberal views for the time.

But la! She had a nice abdication ceremony and then buggered off through Denmark and down to Rome, where they were well happy to

She wasn't much of a looker

see her what with her being all famous and a Catholic convert. They didn’t even seem to mind too much that she’d made most of her journey dressed as a man. That was another thing about her: she did like men’s clothes. She made quite the impact among the gentle ladies of Italy who were astonished by her manners and the ease with which she comported herself. She got invited to loads of parties and everyone was keen to have her in their home because she was such a big celebrity. The rest of her life was spent between Paris and Rome with short trips back to Sweden and elsewhere before she eventually died in Rome and was buried in St Peter’s Basilica, which is well posh.

The thing that makes her stand out in history is that she wasn’t like others around her. She dressed how she pleased, she did what she wanted and she wasn’t at all bothered by the constraints of class and gender. That she managed to do this whilst still being accepted by the establishment of Europe and the Roman Catholic church, which was even more Conservative with a capital C and a “don’t you be  poof or a Jew or one of those funny laydeez around us, you fucking weirdos!” then than it is now. So much was her masculine demeanour and her deep voice noted at the time, that in the 60s her body was exhumed so that scientists could figure out if she was intersex and/or had a winky and a lala. They weren’t able to discern from her bones whether or not this was the case, but as there are diary entries along the lines of “Fuxace!!!!1 On the rag. Again!!!!111!1”, we do know that she menstruated, so she did have a lala even though she looked a bit like a man.

 

Today was the Birthday of the novelist, Virginia Andrews.

She may mean nothing at all to a lot of the men out there. To be fair a lot of women may also be going “Who?” But there are a lot of us who remember reading Flowers in the Attic and then if were obsessed nutters, the whole series of Dollganger novels. It’s fair to say that her books were the crack cocaine of trashy literature and we were her desperate little junkies all wanting just a little more of her sick and twisted little world.

Like Village of the Damned with added incest

If you’ve never read these books, here’s the story. In Flowers in the Attic we first come across the Dollganger children, Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie. Their parents are Christopher and Corrine. Christopher dies in a car accident and Corrine who is afraid of being destitute asks her mother, Olivia, if the children can live with her while she tries to get work, etc. Olivia is all “yeah, that’s fine, but your father cannot know about them, so we must hide them in the attic.” The kids are all “Do we have to?” and Corrine is all “Yeah, your grandfather didn’t like it when I married my half-uncle and he’d have a fit if he knew we had children, but he’s going to die soon, so I’ll be nice to him, he’ll leave me lots of money and then we can all live together.” and so the kids have to live in the attic. It’s horrible up there, Grandma’s a bitch, Mum pretty much reneges on her word, there’s arsenic, drinking blood out of hunger,one of the twins dies and Chris and Cathy end up doing sex. They escape when they realise that their mother is trying to murder them and head out to an unknown future.

Petals on the Wind, is even more batshit mental. The other twin dies, Cathy gets to be a ballet dancer and Chris a doctor. She tries to stay away from him, but he still loves her. She wants revenge on her mother. There’s death, love,madness, a fire, more death and then Chris and Cathy give in and pretend to be husband and wife. Onto If There Be Thorns which again ups the mentalism. Cathy and Chris are together with “their” children, except they’re not, they’re Cathy’s with her first husband and her mother’s husband. She’s nothing if not prolific when it comes to inappropriate relationships. They adopt a little girl. Everyone’s happy then Bart starts visiting the old lady next door who is … oh come on, she’s Corrine the evil mother with her evil butler and Bart gets made all mental by the pair of them and there’s another fire and more death and at the end, Cathy and Chris are safe and Bart’s a bit less mental.

Seeds of Yesterday concentrates on the children, Bart, Jory and Cindy. Bart is still mental, Cindy’s a bit of  a strumpet and Jory, a ballet

This is the woman who came up with this crazy web of incestuous madness

dancer, has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair. Much mentalism ensues. Chris is killed in a car crash just like his dad and Cathy goes up to the attic and dies. As you do. This is the end of the series, but then – oh joy (really, I wish I was being sarcastic, but I’m not) – there’s Garden of Shadows,  a prequel wherein the madness begins to make some sort of sense. Not in a real “oh well that’s all right then!” way, but more “Well bugger me with witch’s broomstick, the whole damn lot of them are a bunch of incestuous mentals!”

By this time, Virginia Andrews had died of breast cancer. The last book was partly written by her and partly by a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, who was hired by her estate. He is still writing books as Virginia Andrews, which brings a nice touch of real-life mentalism to her literary heritage. Not as crazy as the plots of the books she actually wrote, but pretty strange all the same.

Anyway! I’m sorry, I have introduced you to a strange world of wrong, or maybe reminded you of it, if like me you wallowed in this filth. I should have chosen a more worthy subject, but if it’s any consolation, going back through the plot summaries of these awful, trashy, outrageously schlocky books has made me want to read them again. Surely that is penance enough?

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April 13th

On this day in 1829 Royal assent was given to  an Act that had been passed by Parliament on 24th March. The Roman Catholic Relief Act came into being and from that day forward all left-footers were allowed to be proper auld Papists and they wouldn’t get funny looks for it or suffer in terms of their career or financial prospects. Excuse me while I sew my sides back together. Oh the hilarity!

That'll learn the bog-trotters.

I’m going to give you a bit of background to this, but it will be very much an overview. There is a very good reason for this. Most of the background involves 17th and 18th century Irish politics and believe me, you do not want to go there. I studied this shit in detail and only just came out of it alive. It’s all Penal Laws this and Test Act that and all manner of shenanigans based on being Catholic and therefore not being able to work here, do this thing, vote here, do that thing and oh sweet mother of god and all the saints in heaven! It probably wouldn’t be half as bad, but just about everyone who’s chosen to write scholarly articles on it has decided that in order to show how clever they are they must swallow a dictionary and regurgitate it randomly and with extreme prejudice. So, my readers, that is why we will not be doing anything in-depth about that particular period.

But, unfortunately,you do need a bit of background. As you may or may not know, the British were not overly keen on those of the Catholic persuasion from the time of Elizabeth I onwards. I mean they put up with them, but the whole thing got worse and worse and then they were all over Ireland like a huge fucking rash and they really did not like the Irish Catholics one little bit and before you know it there are all sorts of laws in place that make life slightly more difficult for a Catholic than it really needed to be. First, there are the Penal Laws, these weren’t a new thing in the 17th Century, but after the Irish Catholics supported James II over William and Mary – i.e. the losing side – they were amended a bit more. To be fair, the laws had been at their harshest during the commonwealth of Cromwell, when clergy were expelled and could be executed and at no point throughout most of the century could Catholics take high office, etc. But! From 1691 Catholics had to swear allegiance to W&M if they wanted to be treated right. Most of the RCs did not want to swear that oath. But, to make things more complicated some RC gentry didn’t have to take the oath because they’d surrendered earlier when the whole war thing was going on. Confused? I told you.

The Test Act is more straightforward. If you weren’t a member of the Church of England, you were screwed. It affected non-conformists as well as Catholics, but given the oath from 1673 onwards was this: “I, [Catholic McMinty], do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.” In short, RCs (Roman Catholics, I’m tired of typing out Catholic over and over again!) were to renounce one of the central tenets of their faith and if they did not, they could not enter the military or hold office anywhere, including the Houses of Commons and Lords. [Quick faith thing: transubstantiation is the belief that the bread and wine used during communion turns into the body and blood of Christ. RCs believe this, Anglicans believe that communion is symbolic and no change really happens. Yes, it’s all a bit loop-the-loop, but that’s religion for you].

That’s how it all was at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It got worse. There was a ban on inter-faith marriage (repealed 1778), non-conformist weddings were not recognised by the state, Catholics weren’t allowed firearms (rescinded 1793), disenfranchisement (repealed 1793), exclusion from the legal profession (until 1793) and the judiciary (1829), Catholics could not inherit Protestant property, Catholic property owners had to subdivide their property on death, this  had the effect of breaking up land and property. This could be circumvented if one of the kids converted to the CofI. And more. You couldn’t own a horse worth more than a fiver, you couldn’t buy land with a lease of more than 31 years, you couldn’t gain custody of an orphan unless you paid £500 to a protestant hospital in Dublin. And so on and so on.

I know, this is long-winded, but believe me, this is the shortened version! In very short, if you were a Catholic, you were fuckered

Hardly mentioned here, but he played a major role in telling the UK parliament to think on

every which way unless you converted or pretended to convert. Quite a few took the latter route. And then came the glorious day in 1829 that the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed. You’ll have noticed that the nonconformists didn’t get off lightly either, but worry not, they got emancipated a whole year before the Catholics. There was a small price to pay. Prior to the Act, anyone who owned or rented land worth 40 shillings (two quid) could vote. After emancipation, the amount was raised to a tenner, which meant that many who had the vote (which they’d got in 1793, you’ll notice there was a bit of emancipation going on then) now lost it.

It could have been worse. Jewish MPs were barred until 1858 and atheists until 1886.(Disraeli? You ask. He converted to Christianity).

Now, I’d be very bad if I didn’t point out that despite the harshness of the Penal laws, many Catholics and nonconformists didn’t suffer too much. However, it did create a heinous inequality in a country where the majority were legally sidelined from having a say in the running and future of their own country. The whole period was known as the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, and it pretty much was.

At this point I could tell you the story of how for a while the nonconformist Presbyterians and Catholics found common cause before the British woke up to divide and rule, but that’s another five million words worth, and I’ve put you through enough already. Let’s just say that emancipation was a long time coming and when it arrived, it was  little too full of compromise to taste like anything approaching victory. Nice thought though. I have it on good authority that the Jewish and atheist recipients felt much the same way later in the century.

Oh and fuckity, fuck, fuck! Before I forget, there was a whole tithe madness thing that went on for a lot longer and led to a bit of a war (or civil disobedience), from 183-1836. When people started getting duffed up and killed by the police for not paying a few shillings of tithes to the Church of Ireland (the one that they weren’t members of), the British government realised that they might have fucked it up a lot little. But that is it for now. I promise.

Today’s birthday is going to be short and sweet, given what you’ve all had to endure, but none the less heartfelt for that.  So, today raise your glasses to the greatest director of musicals who ever lived, Mr Stanley Donen. If you don’t know his name, shame on you. This man gave us Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Funny Face. Granted

Stan the man dances cheek to cheek with his Oscar

I’m  not a fan of the multiple weddings of the country dancing set film, but the others. Oh my. And he directed films without music and dancing too, including Indiscreet, which is just delicious. And he never won an oscar as a director which is an utter fucking travesty. They gave him one of those “Oh you’re old now and we forgot to give you one before” awards, but he has outfoxed them by living for 13 years and counting since they gave it to him.

I love this man, he’s made films that have made me happy and he never once told me I couldn’t vote unless I had 40 shillings worth of land and had to marry my own kind and own a flea-bitten nag. These are fine qualities in a man. Happy birthday, sir, you are a shining example to us all and by golly you choreographed some mighty fine dancing in your time!

He Choreographed this. Worship him!


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