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Posts Tagged "Highclere Castle":

The Dowager Countess of Grantham Invites the Primate to Tea


The No Anglican Covenant Brigade, in an attempt to halt the Covenant juggernaut, has tried reasoned analysis, expostulation, satire and mockery.  This blog alone has invoked, inter alia, Cassandra, Elizabeth I, Trollope and inter-galactic law. Though some members have been tempted, the group has not yet resorted to sabotage or blackmail. Although the time may yet come for the dreadful final option of the Charge of the NAC Brigade, there remains another possibility.


It is time to send in a Great British Battleaxe. Surely even Archbishop Rowan would quake in his shoes if faced with one of these in full sail? Margaret Thatcher in her prime perhaps? But no real woman can truly match the great battleaxes of fiction: Mrs Proudie, Lady Bracknell, Lady Catherine de Bourgh or, her latest triumphant incarnation, Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, the real star of Julian Fellowes’ latest entertainment, Downton Abbey.


From this impressive list, let us choose the Dowager Countess for this important role. She is so clearly a woman of unshakeable self-confidence, at her prime in the Edwardian era when her class was at its most supremely confident.  After many years of practice in  bending the local clergy to her will, (as is apparent from this scene requiring her to persuade the vicar to perform what he regards a dubious marriage), she is surely as ready as anyone to take on the Archbishop.

[Spoiler warning for American viewers – this clip is ahead of you]


Let us imagine the meeting. Holding court at Highclere Castle, Lady Grantham invites the Archbishop to break his journey to the ancient diocese of Winchester, where he is visiting the new bishop. While perched on an uncomfortably spindly French antique chair, the Archbishop is obliged to balance his teacup, saucer, teaspoon, side plate, cucumber sandwich and starched organdie table napkin. (Gamesmanship was not the invention of Stephen Potter, he merely named an ancient social ruse for discomfiting one’s opponent).

Lady G: So do explain to me, Archbishop, what is this Covenant that one hears so much about in Church circles?

Archbishop: [embarks on long-winded explanation]

Lady G: [interrupting] So in future, we shall have to find our vicars from amongst those of whom you personally approve, not just those who have been ordained?

Archbishop: Well no, it won’t really work quite like that,…

Lady G: But you don’t know how it’s going to work out, do you? You produce pages and pages of small print, which you expect us all to sign up to, and you throw in everything but the kitchen sink without explaining how you can put two mutually exclusive provisions in the same document. Did you think we wouldn’t notice, just because the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral comes at the beginning and this unspeakably unChristian section four comes at the end? The Highclere Women’s Institute discussed the whole thing at our meeting here last week, and we are all agreed that it is the most appalling document. For goodness sake, Archbishop, you really must do something to extricate us from this quagmire you have dragged us all into!

Archbishop: [chastened] Well I don’t see how we can get out of it now. I keep asking ‘what is the alternative’!

Lady G: Really Archbishop! Yes, we hear you asking, but why aren’t you listening to the replies? There are plenty of alternatives. Gracious me, I can’t think why you don’t simply say God has told you to go back to the first principles of Hooker and the Quadrilateral. Everyone is free to interpret Anglicanism for their own time and place, using scripture, reason and tradition. What’s wrong with that? Nice, simple and clear.

Archbishop: Yes, but you see many of the Provinces will simply not accept the way other Provinces interpret Anglicanism.

Lady G: So?

Archbishop: So they are threatening to leave.

Lady G: Well, let them do so. What a fuss, all because you seem so determined to let the tail wag the dog. Extraordinary!

Archbishop: But the Anglican Communion will break up! And while I am the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Lady G: If they leave, they leave. At least what remains will still be a communion of Anglicans. And most will rejoin in time, you’ll see. For goodness sake, man, pull yourself together!


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