No toxic sentimentalism here, we are British

Here is a brilliant letter by Rev. Fr. Julian Large, the provost of the London Oratory, on the death of Prince Philip the consort of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Posted here for the edification of the Catholic readership of GTV and to gain wider admiration for the work of a wordsmith at the height of his craft.

April 30, 2021

It has been asked whether the Oratory is visited regularly by a team of elves who appear during the night to prepare the church for feasts and ceremonies. The truth is that, in addition to our faithful sacristans, we are blessed with the assistance of a certain Mr Cross, a resident of Oratory House and long-standing Brother of the Little Oratory, whose talent for restoration work and creative ingenuity are invaluable beyond words. Many of you will be familiar with Mr Cross's discreet but commanding presence directing ceremonies in the sanctuary, where he brings to the Oratory's liturgical functions a sensibility for romanità not even seen in St Peter's Basilica itself since the great ceremonieri of the Venerable Pope Pius XII. In addition to coordinating the assembling of the decorations for our famous annual Forty Hours devotions, it is Mr Cross who climbs a high ladder to change the robes and crowns of the statue of the Virgin and Child at the altar of Our Lady, so that they are always in line with feasts and seasons. We also have Mr Cross to thank for our magnificently hand-painted Paschal Candles.
Belying the suspicion that seems to linger among some of our fellow countrymen that the patriotism of "papists" is not to be trusted, Mr Cross is a monarchist to the marrow of his bones. As a consequence of this, the decorations of the Oratory's Paschal Candle always include some symbolic allusion to the Royal Family, as well as the requisite Cross, Alpha and Omega, etc. The unveiling of this year's candle just before the Easter Vigil on the night of Saturday 3rd April revealed the arms the Duke of Edinburgh, which had been lovingly and painstakingly painted with heraldic precision to mark the year in which His Royal Highness was to have celebrated his hundredth birthday. Since the sad news of the Duke's death just six days later, this year's Paschal Candle will serve as an enduring mark of our respect and affection for a man who has served this realm and the Commonwealth with an heroic sense of duty ever since his gallant service as an officer in the Royal Navy in the Second World War, and who has been a rock of stability to our beloved Monarch.
Many Masses have been offered at the Oratory for the repose of the Duke during the last weeks, and various of the Fathers have also celebrated Holy Mass for Her Majesty the Queen, whose solitary figure at her husband's funeral in St George's Chapel will have touched the heart of every decent human being who witnessed it. It was reported that the Duke had planned his own funeral meticulously, and as Anglican services go it was solemn and beautiful, and one of the most refreshingly unwoke public events of recent times (or semi-public, as it was in fact technically private but broadcast). There were no cheesy poems, pop songs or preening celebrities, no sermon or eulogy, and most surprisingly of all no representative of the nowadays ubiquitous female clergy. Instead, there were just psalms, prayers (in old-style English), Holy Scripture (from Ecclesiasticus, which Catholics include in the canon of the inspired word of God, but which the Church of England counts as apocryphal) and good old-fashioned hymns. The Duke proved himself to be as elegant in death as he always was in life.
No doubt a devout Catholic could have taken issue with the Duke on subjects such as freemasonry and population control. Most of us will be united, however, in our gratitude for the immeasurable contribution he made to the good of this country throughout his life, and for making us laugh. Po-faced goody-goodies among the commentariat might have disapproved at his "gaffes" when he made comments that were politically incorrect. The rest of us knew that it was just his brilliant and irreverent sense of humour, which he used with masterful dexterity to prick pomposity, dispel boredom and dissolve stuffiness on public occasions. Unlike many of his generation, the Duke remained untainted by the bizarre fashions and ideas of the 1970s, and utterly uncontaminated by the toxic sentimentalism of "Cool Britannia". Incapable of virtue-signalling, he did not jump to attention to hashtags, and never subjected us to the embarrassing spectacle of an elderly man taking the knee in deference to the latest manifestation of coordinated outrage. For this he is to be all the more loved and respected.
When next you look at the Paschal Candle in the Oratory Church, be grateful to Mr Cross who painted it, as well as to the bees who provided the wax. And please say a prayer for the repose of the soul of the late Duke of Edinburgh, and one for our Sovereign the Queen. May God save her and keep her.
Cuthbert Mayne
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