A tale of two Normans

Editorial note: (1) If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our posts in context. (2) Not all the views expressed in this blog necessarily have the imprimatur of Antigone1984. Sometimes, for completeness or, more generally, “pour épater les bourgeois”, we may include propositions which do not automatically command our unqualified assent. However, long-term readers, particularly those who have taken on board our mission statement, will normally have an idea of where we stand.

 12 July 2012

Episode one: Murder in the Cathedral

St Thomas à Becket, son of a Norman landowner, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He angered England’s  King Henry II by refusing to sign the 1164 Constitutions of Clarendon, which strengthened the king’s hand vis-à-vis the church by providing for the trial of clerical criminals in lay courts instead of, as heretofore, in the church’s own ecclesiastical courts. The rift between the two men never healed and by the end of the year 1170 the king had had enough. “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” he asked his courtiers. Four of the king’s knights took him at his word: Sir Reginald FitzUrse, Sir Hugh de Morville, Sir William de Tracy and Sir Richard le Breton. On 29 December they hightailed it to Canterbury and hacked the rebel Archbishop to pieces in front of the cathedral choir while the monks were chanting vespers. Becket’s martyrdom, unpleasant though it must have been at the time, enabled him to be fast-tracked to sainthood and a mere two years after this death he was canonised by Pope Alexander III.

Episode two: Flashman handbags a Norman in the Palace of Westminster

We move on 850 years to 10 July 2012.  Jesse Norman, Old Etonian and Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for Hereford, has just headed a rebellion of 91 Tory MPs, who have voted against a bill tabled in the House of Commons on behalf of Her Majesty’s First Minister, Old Etonian Dave “Flashman” Cameron, that would have expelled hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Flashman is incandescent with rage at the lese-majesty of this lowly back-bencher who has had the brass neck to rise up in revolt against the party’s fiat. Collaring the rebel ring-leader outside the Chamber, Flashman reads the Riot Act to him, “pointing and prodding in a very aggressive manner,” according to one report.  Our Norman seeks sanctuary in the Commons’ Strangers’ Bar. But alas! Even there he could not escape.  The mutiny and Flashman’s wrath had gotten to the ears of the Tory Whips, a posse of party zealots charged with tarring and feathering any MP who has the temerity to vote according to his conscience instead of obeying the party diktat. Four Whips – Stephen Crabb, Philip Dunne, Bill Wiggin and James Duddridge – marched into the Strangers’ Bar and unceremoniously ordered Norman out of the parliamentary estate. He had committed the cardinal sin of disobedience – he must be ejected from Parliament forthwith! No time even to finish his whisky-and-soda! Lucifer had rebelled against God and God’s Archangels were telling him to go to Hell. So out slunk Norman, a sad and now solitary figure, into the dark and stormy Westminster night, his tail between his legs, his reputation in tatters, his hopes of preferment for ever dashed by his insolent act of rebellion. Pope Benedict XVI has not yet revealed his hand on the question of canonisation.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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