The Wilton diptych is the picture which is currently the header for my blog.
Its a rather interesting piece of medieval art, its liturgical and propaganda value are obvious. King Richard II was in non so subtle terms depicting his divine right to rule England as supported by John the Baptist, Edward the confessor and Edmund martyr and agreed upon by none other than 11 angels, the virgin Mary and the infant Jesus.
It is interesting that Richard is depicted as quite effeminate and young, seemingly wearing a rather small crown and more blusher than you can shake a stick at. His Father had been a great military man responsible for great victories over the French, very much the macho medieval man, yet here we are with the beardless effeminate Richard and seemingly he was quite happy with that image since it is likely he commissioned the piece.
The Diptych was commissioned at around the same time the term England as Mary’s dowry was coming into common parlance, this again was a combined propaganda and religious move. The people of England should accept Richards rule because England was devoted to Mary and so was he.
Now for the Catholic bit, isn’t it good to see Kings kneeling before Jesus and Mary. I’ve never been a big fan of monarchy, artificially raising someone up above those around them merely because of the position of their birth, inevitably by being related, distantly or not, to someone who had climbed his way to the top on a mountain of his victims.
Having said that I think I’d be more in favour of the idea of kings or queens if those kings and queens were Catholic, had the appreciation to know that they were only granted their position in life as a gift from God, and should only keep it if they ruled justly, defended the weak and protected the Church.
This is the real basis of the divine right of kings, one that has unfortunately been forgotten. Well not so much forgotten as ruthlessly suppressed by nobles and kings during the reformation so they could loot the Church for all they could get their hands on.
Monarchy when properly carried out was actually a barrier to tyranny rather than the root of it. The monarch was the only one who had the right and duty to check the power of his great vassals, the great landowners, the ones who had the true power over the every day lives of his subjects. What is more the monarchy was expected to be the greatest defender and patron of the Church.
It always amuses me that the queen still goes by the title defender of the faith. This title was bestowed by the Pope on a young Henry VIII before he went power mad, caught syphilis and recieved a bump to the head or whatever caused him to go completely off the rails. That this title is still used by a protestant queen, who rules over a fractious protestant Church within an increasingly secular country seems to me rather ridiculous.
And alas there is worse to come, when Liz II goes to meet her maker, we’ll be left with Prince Charles, a man who clearly believes in not very much (unless you count organic food and an admirable loathing of modern architecture) a man who wants to change that title to ‘defender of the faiths’. Oh deary me.
In regard to the Diptych I feel like saying, look at what you could have won King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, attending the inaugural Mass of Benedict the 16th. Incidentally only Catholic Queens given the Privilège du blanc may wear white in the presence of the Pope… no Cherie Blair that does not include you.