Thursday 25 April 2024

Cherubim and Golden Mice

Yesterday was the Eve of Saint Mark, so the rampaging horses start to make, if not sense, then at least something.

Today, therefore, is Saint Mark's Day, and one should never miss an opportunity to defend the canonical text of his Gospel. That Saint Mark might intentionally have ended at 16:8 is ridiculous on the face of it. Any lost ending is purely speculative. It is a circular argument that manuscripts without Mark 16:9–20 are older; for presupposed theological reasons, they are assumed to be older because those verses are missing. A Gospel without the Resurrection would obviously be no Gospel at all, and its composition would have been a pointless exercise. The Church would have had no reason to make liturgical or catechetical use of such a text, and indeed every reason not to.

To see the condition of the British politics today is to recall Wordsworth's On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, "Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade/Of that which once was great is passed away." The Most Serene Republic of Venice lasted exactly 1100 years, from the proclamation of Paolo Lucio Anafesto in 697, to the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797. There were 120 Doges until Napoleon forced the abdication of Ludovico Manin. One hundred and twenty. Eleven hundred years. That is pretty good going.

The people who called Elizabeth II "Elizabeth the Last" are calling Charles III "Charles the Last". Being older than William the Last, I am unlikely to see the reign of George the Last. But assuming that this King lasted 15 to 20 years, and in the unlikely event that they got their way, then that would place me between 60 and 65 at my Cincinnatus moment, when I would be called from my plough, not to be Consul of Rome, but to be the founding Doge of the Most Serene Republic of Great Britain. I am not joking. Apart from Britain's most successful politician in living memory, who this year presided alone at the Royal Maundy, I have known far too many politicians to want one as Head of State. But if someone had to do it, then I would seek to contest that election. I know of no one else who says that.

I would be more than willing and able to find myself a corno ducale, and a Benedictine nunnery to present me with a new camauro every Easter Monday. As well as a plot on which the Order of Preachers might erect a basilica for my interment and for that of my successors, if I were to be granted a dream of a flock of white doves flying over the auspicious site. The school where I slogged for eight years on the Buildings Committee stands in a swamp, so perhaps it will be there?

Nor was Venice's the only Doge. The King of England had to pay an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for the protection that was afforded to English ships in the Mediterranean by the flying of Saint George's Cross, which was the ensign of the Republic of Genoa from perhaps as early as the tenth century. There is an opera, Simon Boccanegra, about the first Doge of Genoa, so there would be an opera, David Lindsay, about the first Doge of Great Britain. But the Genoese Dogate was for only a two-year term rather than, as the Venetian, for life. That would be of no use to me. Or to anyone.

Being held at Santi Giovanni e Paolo, were the Venetian Doges' Requiem Masses celebrated according to the Dominican Rite? Or were the Doges only buried there, after the Patriarch had done the business at San Marco? But the business according to the Roman Rite, or according to the Aquileian Rite? Ah, yes, the Patriarchate. I could hardly be a Doge without a Patriarch, an office that was for centuries filled in a manner quite singular. I should have so much to consider. Not least, I need to give thought to the form of my and my successors' Fèsta de ƚa Sènsa.

The Patriarchal Throne would not be difficult to fill. Economically left-wing social conservatism will have well and truly come into its own by then, which would be no small part of why I would want the Presidency. The core of its core has always been male Catholics, at least 50 per cent unmarried, and thus eligible to be raised to the Episcopate in the manner of the laymen who were usually ordained only in order to assume the Patriarchate of Venice. They were drawn from among the patricians, and we shall be the patricians then.

That said, I also have priests on whom I could call, and one in particular. Either way, the red biretta topped by a tuft beckons for someone, and we may dare to hope also for the privileges of the Patriarch of Lisbon, such as the right to wear the fanon, the subcinctorium, the falda, and a mitre similar to the Papal Tiara, as well as to be processed on the sedia gestatoria with two flabella, and to be created a Cardinal at the next consistory after appointment. Having been admitted to Candidacy and thus taken the collar, my Confirmation sponsor must be kept in the style to which he is accustomed. But I would be far more likely to offer it to my heavyweight intellectual of a godson. Him, my sponsor, and my special friend among the priests. What a terna. I may even have to ask the Pope to make the choice, as he ought to be sound enough by then. But what if he were one of those three?

In any event, though, to be the Patriarch of where, exactly? However regretfully, he would probably have to be seated at London, and in 2021, the title of the Primate of the Chaldean Catholic Church was changed from Patriarch of Babylon, to Patriarch of Baghdad. Seated at London, let the Patriarch of Babylon accompany the Doge of the Most Serene Republic of Great Britain. And let the Doge join the President of the French Republic as an Honorary Canon of the Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran. Perhaps yesterday's running of the horses was indeed a sign of that?


  1. More practising Catholics than Protestants in England, Scotland and Wales, could that be the end of the Protestant monarchy?

    1. The growth is largely from the Commonwealth and from places that bear no ill will to the British monarchy, indeed know five things about Britain: football, pop music, period drama, James Bond, and the monarchy.

      If there is a threat to the Protestant monarchy, then it is Royal Assent to Bills against which the DUP has voted in both Houses while being joined in the same Lords lobby by the bishops. For example, the Rwanda Bill. That the King has no choice is an argument for someone who did.

      But if Catholicisation were to imperil the House of Oldenburg on this among its many Thrones, then it should be replaced, not with a Jacobin or Jeffersonian republic, but with a Catholic one. Those go back a very long way. I would be available to be the founding Doge of this one.

  2. David Lindsay: The Opera, I love it.

    1. Boccanegra never lived to see his. That would never do for me.