Yesterday while I was spreading my thick cut marmalade on a piece of toast Daphne snorted behind her Daily Telegraph and said, “About time too.” It seems from the piece she was reading that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh is to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. All of this was part of a piece saying the Queen herself is ‘appalled’ by the direction of the Church of England and is ‘sympathetic’ to the so called Pope in Rome.

Well, lads, you know me. I’m not one to be intolerant. I believe any sort of religion is a good thing as long as it is not taken to extremes, but I must say I was a bit taken aback by the behavior of our royals on this one. One can excuse a few hi jinks among the younger royals, after all boys will be boys, and when Prince Charles’ marriage came unstuck you could hardly blame the poor fella. You have to admit he found himself married to a pretty skittish young filly, and when she came a cropper in that tunnel in Paris who was surprised? What was one to expect when a fine English girl gets mixed up with a sand darkie and the French? When the Prince found happiness with a good solid English woman, I say it was a happy ending to a sad fairy tale.
But now the Queen herself is planning to welcome the Pope? The Duke of Edinburgh is going to visit a popish shrine where they worship Mary? My word, It takes pretty much to shock me, but bless my cotton socks, I can tell you I was shocked. You see, lads, it undermines the whole of the Church of England. We stand as the church of the English people. For five hundred years we’ve stood proudly against foreign powers and the interference of the Pope with all his ideas of grandeur and world domination, and now the Queen, of all people, is going to welcome him to Buck House and the Duke of Edinburgh is going to worship Mary! I don’t much like the talk of Anti Christ and so forth from Pastor Paisley down at the Primitive Baptist Chapel, but it’s beginning to make sense.
Don’t get me wrong. A bit of catholic this and that is fine now and again. I don’t mind if Giles, over at St Barnabas wants to light a few extra candles, wear a lacy cotta and use a spot of incense. My own feeling is that it’s not very manly, but there’s no real harm in it, but to actually kiss the Pope’s toe! No thank you very much. We’re fine as we are.
Then I must say, when Mrs Vicar seemed to approve of the goings on I came rather unstuck. I know she likes talking religion with Mrs Doyle over a cup of tea after Mrs Doyle has done scrubbing the vicarage floor, but I never thought Daphne would take this whole Roman business seriously. So I brought it up at the Clergy Fellowship Gathering with Lavinia, the lady curate over at St Etheldreda’s and she was incensed as well. She pointed out that this was not the only thing. I’d overlooked the fact that the Roman Catholics have also been parading the bones of a dead French gal all over Britain. Lavinia was disgusted, “Kissing relics and selling indulgences! I thought we’d got rid of all that medieval superstition at the Reformation!” she said. When I told her that the Duke of Edinburgh was going to Walsingham she said, “Typical! That’s just what I’d expect from that old male chauvinist pig! I’m not surprised to find that he’d fall for the Mary worship thing.”
Father Giles said, “But Lavinia darling, I thought you were all in favor of women being honored. What’s wrong with honoring the greatest woman of all time–the Virgin Mary?” Well, you could have popped her with a pin! Poor old Lavinia was apoplectic. “You don’t get it do you Giles? The Romans don’t honor real women! They have set up women as virgin, mother or whore. They give you Mary the virgin mother and Mary Magdalen the whore. That’s it. All they have done is perpetrate male chauvinist stereotypes. I wish Walsingham were done away with for good. Then we could start the real Reformation in this land.”
When I related it all to Daphne she said, “What a load of nonsense! Whores, mothers and virgins indeed! We know which that girl is. It isn’t a mother and it certainly isn’t a virgin. By the way Humph, I just thought you’d like to know that you’ll have to get your own lunch tomorrow. Maureen Doyle and I are off to Portsmouth to see the relics of St Therese. I’ll leave a salad with a bit of old mousetrap in the fridge.”