St James’s Day – a potpourri….

St James Day 25th June 2014

St James is not only the patron of Spain the St James in question is the Great. He was martyred in 44 AD by Herod Antipas as described in the Acts of the Apostles. His body taken to Santiago de Compostela where it still lies in a magnificent shrine. It was the focus of the greatest and most popular pilgrim way for the greater part of middle ages. My sister and I hope to walk it some day soon. 

The cockleshell which pilgrims who reach the cathedral may wear remains St James’s symbol. It is also the symbol referred to in the nursery rhyme – ” Mary Mary quite contrary….where does your garden grow; with silver bells (“sanctus” bells) and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row.” Some historians attribute the contrary Mary in question to the Stewart Queen of Scots. On the contrary the Queen in question was Mary Tudor who kept a court full of fun young things which is quite unlike its reputation as painted by a largely unsympathetic male Victorian Protestant historical profession much enamoured of Elizabeth I’s gaudy.

St James the Great was the brother of John (Evangelist and Beloved) both the sons of Zebedee – Christ called them sons of thunder. Zebedee in question is no relation to the bouncy figure at centre of goings on in the Magic Roundabout. This one is thought to have been a priest in the Temple. James was with John and Peter one of the three leading apostles and was a witness to the Transfiguration according to the gospels. James was also witness to the passion and death and is again prominent in the Resurrection accounts and early part of Acts.
Why the pictures below – well Mary I (Tudor) married King Philip (Hapsburg) of Naples & Jerusalem (later Philip II of Spain when his father Charles V abdicated in 1556) in Winchester Cathedral on St James Day 1554. Mary’s mother was also “Spanish” – Katherine of Aragon, youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. Katherine of Aragon’s elder sister Joanna married Philip the Fair son of HRE Emperor Maximilian II and who himself was briefly King of Castile (Philip I). As son of Mary of burgundy Philip the Fair brought the Netherlands into the Hapsburg patrimony. By his wife Joanna (the Mad) he had several children including Charles who became both HRE Charles V in succession to his grandfather Maximilian II and the first monarch to unite the Spanish kingdoms under the single title – King of Spain.
Charles V ‘s son, Philip II, named for Philip the Fair,  in his time would be in addition to all the other agglomeration of lands and titles amassed under the Hapsburg dynasty, both King of Portugal and King of England.
 His marriage to his cousin Mary I (Tudor) was one of the great ceremonial occasions in England of Tudor age – the king’s personal retinue doubled the size of the Royal household. Philip’s wardrobe arrived in Southampton it its own ship – together with enough South American silver and gold to pay hundreds of English pensions. The king was not at all the dour prince of the Escorial famoulsy sleeping with huis coffin in his bedchamber- but in these young days was a bit of a dandy and dancer and had an eye for pretty women. At the wedding he wore silver cloth and cloth of gold and buckskin sewed with ruby pomegranate seeds. The queen wore tissue of cloth of gold sewn with pearls and cockleshells and the famous pearl which was her favourite jewel and a gift from Charles V. This jewel was returned to Philip by a very reluctant Elizabeth who was never one easily parted from other’s jewelry. viz, Mary Stuart’s pearls. The pearl later fell into the hands of Liz Taylor.
Mary I  -"Bloody Mary" -  still history's bad witch

Mary I -“Bloody Mary” – still history’s bad witch

Today there will be a big ceremony in St James Spanish Place here in London which was the site of the Spanish Ambassador’s chapel and has I believe two thrones for the king and queen as part of its patronal possessions. The music will be by Spanish composer Victoria – a master of late polyphony – a sound we often associate with Palestrina and the Counter Reformation.

Philip & Mary shortly after their marriage in Winchester Cathedral by Bishop Stephen Gardiner on St James's Day, 1554

Philip & Mary shortly after their marriage in Winchester Cathedral by Bishop Stephen Gardiner on St James’s Day, 1554

This St James’s Day also brought political tribute to the feast –
The government crows about growth figures which show GDP larger than in 2008 – therefore never bigger – but the income dsitribution over the last 6 years means the richerest are richer and the poorest poorer and the middle on a diet of worms. The conservative cock crows nonetheless.  Meanwwhile, in Ed Miliband’s real world we have a real election result to ponder:
Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun on Doncaster (Lab Defence)
Result: UKIP 1,203 (41%), Labour 1,109 (38% unchanged), Conservatives 479 (16% +2%), Greens 160 (5%)
UKIP GAIN from Labour with a majority of 94 (3%) on a swing of 20.5% from Labour to UKIP since 2012
Turnout: 28%.
I heard Ed Miliband  talk about image in politics today at the Institute of Architects – it could be Doncaster North may have something to add to the image problem if Ed isn’t careful.  whether this all adds up to more than a basket of cockleshells on a hot July day only time will tell……
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