By Charles A. Coulombe

Such an identification of issues which affect us to-day and of the specific historical figures who, for better or worse, exemplified them, is far from irrelevant. Nor is Anderson's particular identification in this case historically incorrect, as the evidence from that period shows clearly. Consider, for example, Bishop Richard Corbet's work; although he died in 1635, several years before the outbreak of the Civil War, he understood well the psychological and cultural issues involved (as opposed to the political and economic ones), as we may see from his Fairies' Farewell. Therein he laments the growth of Puritanism in England in terms which Anderson's Oberon would well have understood:

Lament, lament, old Abbeys,

The Fairies' lost comman!

They did but change Priests' babies,

But some have changed your land.

And all your children, sprung from thence,

Are now grown Puritans,

Who live as Charlemagne ever since

For love of your demains.

He then goes on to define the religious and political struggles which had agitated England for the previous centuries in terms of the competing factions' attitudes toward Faerie ( and that realms supposed attitudes toward them):
Witness those rings and roundelays

Of theirs which yet remain,

Where footed in Queen Mary's days

On many a grassy plain;

But since of late, Elizabeth,

And later, James came in,

They never danced on any heath

As when the time hath been.

By which we know the Fairies

Were of the old Profession.

Their songs were "Ave Marys,"

Their dances were Procession.

But alas, they all are dead;

Or gone beyond the seas;

Or farther for Religion fled;

Or else they take their ease.

The Puritans loathed the old folk-lore of England, and all its tales and Romances; in this they echoed Geneva, where Calvin had outlawed the Romances of Chivalry, particularly Amadis. At Glastonbury they cut down the Glastonbury Thorn which, so we are told, was St. Joseph of Arimathea's staff taken to root (though fortunately cuttings were preserved and its descendants grow there yet---blooming at Christmas, the first bloom of which is still taken to the Queen). Without doubt, had they been able to, they would have dug up the Holy Grail (if indeed it is buried there with St. Joseph beneath the Chalice Well, which well's red-tinctured waters are supposed to indicate), and smashed it as they did St. Edward's Crown. At least they were able to outlaw the making and eating of mince-pies, for fear that Christmas might be celebrated with them!

In response, the Stuarts determinedly embraced the old beliefs of their three kingdoms. Touching for the King's Evil they turned into an art form (for as in Middle Earth, it was believed that "The hands of a king are the hands of a healer"). Charles I apparently healed several diseases without even using the forms provided for curing scrofula; bits of his shirt dipped into his blood were held to have similar effects after his execution. His successors kept up the practise even in exile, and many a scrofula sufferer turned Jacobite after losing his disease at the hands of the "King Over the Water" in St. Germain or in Rome. James II travelled in state to the shrine of Holywell in North Wales. But above all, they consciously identified themselves with the heroic traditions of both England, Scotland, and Ireland:

Subsequently, it was to be "those who supported the Divine Right of Kings" who "upheld the historicity of Arthur;" whereas those who did not turned instead "to the laws and customs of the Anglo-Saxons." Arthur remained a figure central to Stuart propaganda. Stuart iconography celebrated the habits and beliefs of the ancient Britons. In particular, the Royal Oak, still a central symbol of the dynasty, was closely related to ideas about Celtic fertility ritual, and the King's power as an agent of renewal: "The oak, the largest and strongest tree in the North, was venerated by the Celts as a symbol of the supreme power." It was thus fitting that an oak should protect Charles II from the Cromwellian troops who wished to strip the sacred new Arthur of his status. The story confirmed the King's mystical authority, and also his close friendship with nature. Long after 1688, the Stuart dynasty was to be closely linked with images of fertility. In literature, Arthurian images of the Stuarts persisted into the nineteenth century. This "Welsh messiah, the warrior who will come to overthrow the Saxons and Normans," was an icon of the Stuarts' claim to be Kings of all Britain, both "Political Hero" and "National Messiah," in Arthurian mould. Arthur's status as a legendary huntsman ("the figure of the Wild Huntsman is sometimes identified with Arthur") was also significant. The Stuarts made much of hunting: it helped to confirm their heroic status as stewards of nature and the land. In doing this, they identified themselves not only with Arthur, but with Fionn, the legendary Gaelic warlord who was in the eighteenth century to be the subject of James Macpherson's pro-Stuart Ossian poems. Fionn, legends of whom abound in Scotland, was also, like Arthur, scheduled to wake and deliver the nation when danger threatened. In identifying with both figures, the Stuarts were able to simultaneously present themselves as Gaelic and British monarchs. This symbolism was used with peculiar adroitness in Ireland, where the Stuarts were almost never identified with Arthur, but rather with Fionn and heroes from Fionn's own time. Charles Edward was compared to Fergus, Conall, Conroy, and Angus Oge, while his grandfather became for some a symbol of Ireland herself, a Fenian hero in the making, a foreshadower of the sacrificial politics of such as Pearse: "Righ Shemus, King James, represented the faith of Erin, and so became her comrade in martyrdom." In famous eighteenth century songs like "the Blackbird," Ireland was presented as an abandoned woman, waiting for the return of her hero-King. The same symbolism was used in Scotland. "The Gaelic messianic tradition" of Fionn suggested that the Stuart King would one day return to bring light and fecundity to the land. In the Highlands of Scotland, the events of Jacobitism themselves passed into folklore, like the older stories to which they were related. More educated Jacobite sympathisers compared the Stuarts to the heroes of the Roman Republic, to Aeneas, or to the saints. But the view of them as sacred monarchs of folkloric tradition and power was one which endured among all ranks (Murray G.H. Pittock, The Invention of Scotland, pp. 4-5).

We are reminded here of Eomer's question to Aragorn, "Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?" and Aragorn's reply, "A man may do both, for not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!" As we know, however, Oberon did not come to the aid of the Stuarts; neither did Arthur or Fionn rise to succour them. Yet Jacobitism, after its practical defeat, revived in the 19th century among artists and writers, dreamers and romantics. Bound up with the most ancient traditions of your islands as it has become, it has turned, like them, into a fertile source of fantasy literature, such as in Joan Aiken's series depicting a world in which they won, or the Anderson book earlier referred to. Even those non-fiction writers who dislike the Jacobite cause at least realise that directly espousing the opposite side will not attract readers. As my friend Captain James Bogle remarked with some heat after divining the anti-Stuart point of view of the author of On the Trail of the Jacobites, "If he were honest, he'd have called it Whig Victories in North Britain!" No doubt, but no one would have read it.

The same issues are with us to-day, or at least with you. Regardless of one's opinions of the activities or views of the present Prince of Wales, it will be admitted that the opposition by professionals to his views on architecture, the environment, literature, and so on centre on being "realistic;" in the resulting controversies one can smell a whiff of Jacobite, and just catch a an echo of the "the horns of Elfland faintly blowing." This appears from a revealing 21 January 1993 letter he wrote to Tom Shebbeare, director of the Prince's Trust (and quoted on pp. 493-494 of Dimbleby's new book):

For the past 15 years I have been entirely motivated by a desperate desire to put the "Great" back into Great Britain. Everything I have tried to do---all the projects, speeches, schemes, etc.---have been with this end in mind. And none of it has worked, as you can see too obviously! In order to put the "Great" back I have always felt it was vital to bring people together, and I began to realise that the one advantage my position has over anyone else's is that I can act as a catalyst to help produce a better and more balanced response to various problems. I have no "political" agenda---only a desire to see people achieve their potential; to be decently housed in a decent, civilised environment that respects the cultural and vernacular character of the nation; to see this country's real talents (especially inventiveness and engineering skills) put to best use in the best interests of the country and the world (at present they are being disgracefully wasted through lack of co-ordination and strategic thinking); to retain and value the infrastructure and cultural integrity of rural communities (where they still exist) because of the vital role they play in the very framework of the nation and the care and management of the countryside; to value and nurture the highest standards of military integrity and professionalism, as displayed by our armed forces, because of the role they play as an insurance scheme in case of disaster; and to value and retain our uniquely special broadcasting standards which are renowned throughout the world. The final point is that I want to role back some of the more ludicrous frontiers of the 60s in terms of education, architecture, art, music, and literature, not to mention agriculture! Having read this through, no wonder they want to destroy me, or get rid of me...!
Like his Stuart ancestors, he would attempt to play the role of steward of the land; his interest in hunting for example, is very reminiscent of his predecessors': "Despite protests by anti-hunting groups, the Prince of Wales takes a close interest in the sport at all levels and has defended it as an effective form of sporting conservation of wildlife and its habitat in the British countryside," as we read in the Royal Encyclopaedia. So too with what the same source tells us about the Prince's farm at Highgrove:
A particular concern on the Home Farm is environmental conservation: straw is never burned; chemical fertilisers are being reduced as much as possible; and in keeping with the Cotswolds landscape, 548 metres of dry-stone walls have been rebuilt around the land. In 1985 the decision was taken to go organic on three blocks of land as part of a general move to what has been called biologically sustainable farming linked to conservation. The step to full organic status on the whole estate is said to be on line for 1996.
Whether or not one agrees with specific things His Royal Highness has advocated, one can easily see and applaud his overall motivation; that it is rooted in the same place in the psyche from whence the Stuarts sought support; and that it receives the predictable charges from the political and economic powers-that-be of impracticability and, of course, "escapism" from the rigours of modern life. One is reminded of King Frederick William IV of Prussia (1795-1861). Called the "Romantic upon the throne," he filled his country with architectural masterpieces (and incidentally arranged for the completion of Cologne cathedral). Unlike many Prussian kings, he was extremely pacific; he opposed the rise of Bismarck and any German unity which would leave out Austria and the Habsburgs. Above all, he maintained a great dislike of politicians and industrialists, the men who created the new Germany which followed him. Predictably, our trusty 1911 encyclopaedia dismissed him with the caustic comment: "In general it may be said that Frederick William, in spite of his talents and his wide knowledge, lived in a dream-land of his own, out of touch with reality." Ah, indeed? Judging by his accomplishments, the love his people bore him, and the monuments (like Potsdam's sublime Friedenskirche) he left behind him, it is a pity that neither his great-great-nephew Kaiser Wilhelm, nor some of Germany's subsequent leaders, nor for that matter many of the rest of the world's leaders, did not also live in that dream-land; moreover, it is a crime that their peoples and ourselves have had to live in what Dr. Williams considered reality! In any case, fear not; should the Prince of Wales become Charles III, and should the same sort of folk that run the world now do so when historians write of his reign, they no doubt will declare much the same thing.

We have dwelt at length with politics, as an area eminently practical; but the "ethics of escape" which undergird our reading and enjoyment of fantasy literature (as well as the two sister genres) have application to all of life. They constitute, in essence, an entire philosophy. Arthur Machen's work has been described as comprising three major themes: a) "the old ways were better, and the world to-day lacks mystery and colour. London has lost its magic, and the nation has forgotten its traditions. Old farmhouses, old taverns, old country churches---all are relics of a more natural way of life"; b) "there is a world of dark, pagan terror behind the glittering beauties of nature, and untold depths of evil locked within the human heart"; and c) "science and rationality are limited in the truths they can reveal. In fact, they are virtually blind; they explain nothing. And all around us lies a great unseen mystery."

Most fantasists would agree with all or much of this credo, metaphorically if not literally. But what it amounts to is not simply a justification for fantasising, but a restating in other ways of the Neoplatonic world view: that this reality of ours at once conceals and symbolises a higher and greater one. What appears to the masters of this world, the gaolers in Tolkien's words, to be mere escape is in reality a quest, a quest which Machen describes thusly in the opening words of his 1923 essay, "With the Gods in Spring": "We shall go on seeking it to the end, so long as thereare men on the earth. We shall seek it in all manner of strange ways; some of them wise, and some of them unutterably foolish. But the search will never end." For what, does Machen opine, do we search? "The secret of things; the real truth that is everywhere hidden under outward appearances." It is, however dimly we may think of it, that real truth that was the Grail, the New Jerusalem, the Isles of the Blest; and all of the writers of our fantastic, horrific, or scientifictive canon have looked for it: Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, Machen, Blackwood, Yeats, and all the rest of that goodly company. And we with them.

If with this comes realisation that what appears to be an escape is really a quest, then let it also be remembered that the same magic transforms the boredom or agitation with which we struggle into something greater than itself: into the very adversity against which all heroes and heroines must struggle. In a word, it is that "wilderness of Wirral" which Sir Gawain had to win through, ere he could find the Green Chapel, and therewith his destiny and his honour. As did he, we must war at whiles with worms, "and with wolves also, at whiles with wood-trolls that wander in the crags..."

Should we manage to persevere in this glorious quest, we shall find truth, and with it that freedom which we are told truth will bestow. It is that same freedom of which a taste here in this world of types and shadows was given to Richard Lovelace, as he sat imprisoned in the Tower by the Puritans for his loyalty to King Charles I:

When love with unconfine'd wings

Hovers within my gates,

And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair

And fetter'd to her eye,

The birds that wanton in the air

Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round

With no allaying Thames,

Our careless heads with roses bound,

Our hearts with loyal flames;

When thirsty grief in wine we steep,

When healths and draughts go free---

Fishes that tipple in the deep

Know no such liberty.

When, like committed linnets,

I With shriller throat shall sing

The sweetness, mercy, majesty,

And glories of my King;

When I shall voice aloud how good

He is, how great should be,

Enlarge'd winds that curl the flood,

Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron walls a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love

And in my heart am free,

Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.

And so, my very good Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, I pray that we all of us find that truth, that beauty, and that freedom which reigns, in the words of Tolkien, "in Elvish lands beyond the Lune, green and quiet." May we all escape the gaol, and may this banquet we have enjoyed be a foreshadowing of our mutual attendance at the one spoken of by Aquinas in his sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem : "Thou, the wisest and the mightiest, Who us here with food delightest, Seat us at Thy banquet brightest, With the blessed Thou invitest, An eternal feast to spend." The escape must be made, the quest undertaken, along the "hidden paths which run, towards the Moon or to the Sun." Do not fear the jibes of those who do not understand; search for that Grail, look for that El Dorado: as Master Elrond told the Fellowship of the Ring ere they set out, "You will meet many foes, some open, and some disguised; and you may find friends upon your way when you least look for it." Good luck on the journey, and God bless you all.

Part I

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