A British Royal Comes to America to Tell the Catholic Story

h

Next week Washington DC will be treated to the arrival of a pro-life Catholic who is also a member of the British royal family.

How is that possible?

Nicholas Windsor gave up his place in line to the British throne when he converted to the Catholic Church in 2001. He became “the first male blood Royal to convert to Catholicism since Charles II on his deathbed in 1685.”

Lord Nicholas—now 43—was married to his wife Paola Frankopan, who is descended from the noble line in Croatia, and became the first British royal ever married in the Vatican. His godfather is Prince Charles. His first cousin once removed is Queen Elizabeth. He is, to say the least, connected.

Lord Nicholas is coming to Washington DC in the company of Lord David Alton, a life peer, that is, his title cannot be inherited, who is one of the great pro-life heroes in Great Britain and beyond.

The two Lords are coming to present their joint project for a Museum of Christian Heritage to be located at the Jesuit estate Stonyhurst, the home of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England.

The story of this project begins in 1593 when English Catholics established a boy’s school at a place called St. Omers not far from Calais then subject to the Spanish crown. Catholic education was not legal at the time in England and so English boys were sent there for education and protection.

Besides protecting English boys, the school became a protector of precious Catholic items like vestments, manuscripts, and relics that were endangered on English soil. Thus began what is now called the “oldest surviving museum collection in the English-speaking world.”

The first acquisition in the collection came in 1609 when they took possession of Henry VII’s cope and chasuble. The Jesuits have religiously added to this collection as they have traveled the world from that time.

Some of the other remarkable items include a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, the rope that bound St. Edmund Campion at the time of his execution, and personal items belonging to St. Thomas More, Elizabeth of York, Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, James II and the Stuart Family including items belong to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Jesuits left France and set up shop at Stonyhurst where the first museum was begun in 1796. The Arundell Library was opened there in 1855 and housed such amazing artifacts as the Book of Hours that is said to have been handed by Mary, Queen of Scotts, to her chaplain on the scaffold just before her execution.

In the 1970s—don’t you just know it was the 70s—all this was dismantled and the collection went into storage. Nicholas Windsor, David Alton and others mean to rectify this. They aim to restore and rebuild and present to the world this remarkable collection.

They are in the United States raising awareness and money for several phases of building. They have already restored St. Peter’s Church. The immediate phase includes the restoration of various existing buildings including the Arundell Library. All told this library and others will house the 40,000 volumes belonging to the college. Further phases including building a retreat and study center and eventually a full-blown museum to showcase all the unique Catholic treasures collected over the centuries at Stonyhurst.

While in Washington Windsor and Alton will meet with Catholic donors, politicians, Catholic prelates, and other luminaries including Justice Antonin Scalia who boasts a bust and a portrait of Thomas More in his chambers and who enthusiastically supports the Windsor/Alton project.

When I recently heard of this project for the first time, I must admit I thought it was a kind of surrender. Here is a museum for a faith that is under attack and no longer really practiced except by a benighted few, so let’s create a museum where we can at least look at all the great stuff we used to have. I think of the Rock and Roll Museum and how it signals rock’s decline.

We have enough religious museums in Europe already. They’re called churches, many of which are given over to maybe one mass a week and then for paying tourists the rest of the time. It’s nice that so many tourists want to visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris but sad that religious observances are reserved only for the tiny part in the middle of the Church. The tourist swirl by just outside the lattice while the holy sacrifice goes on inside.

But, there is a story to be told at Stonyhurst, one that most Catholics may not know. There is the story of English Catholicism gutted but not destroyed by the English Reformation. Even now the Reformation is coming unraveled. There is the story of relics and books brought to Stonyhurst from the four corners by brave Jesuits. There is the story of how we move forward through dangerous times because that is the story Stonyhurst tells. So in many ways this museum is a game plan and a sign of hope.

History will tell our descendants whether the rafters being shaken lose by the Jesuit at Casa Santa Marta will one day be shown in the Catholic Heritage Center at Stonyhurst. History will tell us if the Reformation will come tumbling far enough down that a Catholic like Nicholas Windsor could one day occupy the British throne. One wonders, given historical trends, where that throne might be occupied one day by an atheist or stranger still a Muslim.

In the meantime, two of England’s and Rome’s best are coming to America to tell a story that all faithful Catholics need to hear and support.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, UK.

Austin Ruse

By

Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute focusing on international legal and social policy. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of C-FAM.

  • Todd Volker

    Read the Biography of a Hunted Priest. This is a fascinating look at one Jesuit priest’s activities during the reign of Elizabeth. Fascinating testimony to the strength of faith and the courage of convictions! The book mentions Stonyhurst. I wish this project much good luck and much financial support.

  • KyPerson

    As the younger son of a peer, the correct title is Lord Nicholas. His nephew Andrew Windsor, Lord Downpatrick will eventually become the Duke of Kent and, as he is a Catholic convert, will make the Kent title a Catholic one.

    I would love to see Lord David Alton and Lord Nicholas, since I have been moved to tears when I read of the bravery and fortitude of the English Catholics. I count many of them as my personal heroes.

    • John200

      The English Catholics’ stories have not been widely told. That, I think is the key; tell the truth, and … you know the rest. They are heroes indeed.

  • disqus_TvoTw0wy2j

    Please try not to generalize about “Europe’s” empty churches. Portugal is in Europe; Malta is in Europe; Poland is in Europe… I’m in Europe and have a choice of three daily Masses in my parish (ten minutes’ walk away) or four daily Masses in two different parishes 25 minutes’ walk away. Then there are the 5-10 Sunday Masses in any one of a hundred churches in this city, all well-attended. And the churches are open all day with many drop-in visitors between Masses (for prayers, not tourism). And there’s Eucharistic adoration possible all day in many of them. And confession before and during every Mass – and lines for confession, especially on Fridays.

    Notre Dame de Paris can indeed be depressing (though last time I was there – more than ten years ago – they were keeping tourists out during Masses, at least, an improvement over ten years before that). But the cities for ‘European vacations’ and the major tourist churches are not the only churches in Europe. Duck down a side street, go into a residential neighborhood, and you’re likely to find the Mass alive and well-attended and not a tourist in sight.

  • thinkingcatholic

    How can the Prince of Wales, a Protestant, be Godfather to a Catholic?

    • Stephanie

      Because (I think) Protestants – & Anglicans in particular – have baptisms with godmothers and godfathers. So when Nicholas Windsor was baptised, Charles was his godfather. You only get one valid baptism per lifetime, and an Anglican baptism is a valid one.
      At least, this is how I understand the answer to your question! :)

    • Bill Russell

      Blessed Pope Pius IX was godfather to the Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon III. And with his permission, the Protestant Queen Victoria was his godmother.

    • zcastaux

      No, you are not serious. You are not ‘thinking’. The Lord is a Catholic convert and the date is given as 2001. At his baptism (Infant Baptism in the Anglican Church, as the Royal families all tend to do in England), he had Prince Charles as his godfather. The Lord is not 12 years old now. Is this difficult?

      • AquinasRevival73

        zcastaux, did you really find it necessary to point out that obvious oversight with such snarky condescension? Missing the simple answer does not making thinkingcatholic intellectually inferior, any more than pointing out a simple answer makes you an intellectual giant. Blessed are the merciful…

        • zcastaux

          If ‘thinking catholic’ were genuine, it might be different. How does a ‘thinking catholic’ not think that infant baptism is the norm?
          Since when does any Catholic ‘think’ that all ‘normal baptisms’ are adult, full-immersion? Etc. Alternatively, what does the word ‘CONVERT’ mean? The subject converted from WHICH Church? Does ‘thinking catholic’ not realize, even on reading this article on a British ‘royal’, who the ‘head’ of the Church of England is? (It’s the ruling British monarch, at present, and has been for about 5 centuries.) Has ‘thinking catholic’ actually heard of the Protestant Reformation? No, I am NOT being sarcastic. ‘Unthinking blogger’ would be an ok pseudonym for this contributor.

          • robert chacon

            Do you think that “thinking catholic” could have meant he is considering Catholicism or that this person may not be Catholic but does think like a Catholic. This may not be true, but I have to agree, the posters comments did not seem to warrant your tone. I too am confused by your need to be quite so snarky. What are we missing from this posters comments that warrants your “wrath” other than a possible mental lapse? Just curious.

  • Jim

    Maybe they might like to come to my parish here in Massachusetts and meet the archduke for a solemn pontifical high Mass this October.

  • Micha_Elyi

    We are close to being but three years before the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s launch of the Protestant heresies on Halloween of 1517.

    In advance of that, Catholics should be prepared to give an answer for our faith to the descendants of the Reformulators who distorted the faith, redacted the Bible, and gravely wounded Christendom. This museum is one small step to help make that answer.

  • eddiestardust

    Reformation or not we are all Christians , right?

    • slainte

      The answer has not changed since the Reformation….there is only one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the Roman Catholic Church.
      It possess the fullness of Truth and He who is Logos is its head. His Vicar on earth is the Pope. All are welcome to come home.

      • Tony

        What beautiful, succinct truth! First time I’ve ever gotten chills just from reading a comment on an Internet posting. Thank you friend, and thank God for our Holy Mother Church!

MENU