Friday 15 May 2015

Prince Charles' Letters

This week the British monarchy was hit by a devastating scandal. Republicans rejoiced as the Royal Family hung their heads in shame. The whole country, irrespective of class, creed and colour, reeled from the revelation that the Prince of Wales, the future King of the United Kingdom, had written to the Prime Minister... And expressed concerns that the military didn't have the equipment they needed to do their jobs. That's not all, of course. His Royal Highness also had the temerity to campaign for better rights for British farmers being underpaid by major supermarket chains and lobbied to protect wild albatrosses by conserving the Patagonian Toothfish, a key food species. It is, of course, utterly unacceptable for the future head of state to have views on such things.

Of course, I'm being sarcastic here. No one is more enthusiastic about the Royal Family taking the initiative to actively advise the Government and contribute to policy decisions, especially on issues where they have some degree of expertise. Prince Charles is well-qualified, after his long years of campaigning, to pass comments on matters such as architecture, building preservation, environmental affairs and conservation. Of course, no one will agree with His Royal Highness on absolutely everything. I for one was disappointed that the Prince took a position in support of badger culling- probably the most controversial issue he involved himself in- and lack his enthusiasm for "alternative" medicine. Even so, I have no objection to the future king expressing his views in private to ministers. Indeed, it is the right of any British citizen to write to the Government. Most would consider it utterly inappropriate for any such letter from a private individual to the Government to be openly published without the person's consent. And yet, the Supreme Court has ruled that the same right to privacy does not belong to members of the Royal Family.

The letters, all from ten years ago when the UK was under the Labour Government of Tony Blair, were published after a decade-long campaign by the notably Left-wing newspaper The Guardian, which is known for its strong views on "free speech" (which in the past has extended to leaking information sensitive to national security) as well as its flirtations with republicanism. If journalists were hoping for a sensational headline, they were disappointed- besides the Prince's comments on badger culling, the matters discussed in the letters were mundane and the Prince's positions largely uncontroversial. Clarence House issued a statement that "the publication of private letters can only inhibit [Prince Charles'] ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings." Despite this, prior to the letters' publication the Prince and his staff were said to be "sanguine" over the decision, perhaps realising that nothing in the letters cast the Prince in a seriously bad light.

Indeed, many of Charles' positions seem eminently sensible; he lobbied for the British Government to help conserve the Antarctic huts built by explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton during their polar expeditions as part of our cultural heritage (in Charles' own words, "I just wanted to emphasize the iconic importance of these huts in those great Antarctic journeys which will surely resonate strongly in the public imagination"), requested that historic buildings be listed by English Heritage thus protecting them from redevelopment, campaigned for the retention of the Hill Farming Allowance for upland farmers, claiming hill regions are "the most beautiful areas of the country which tourists flock to see, and yet they are the most difficult areas to farm and are the most disadvantaged in every way for those who live there," and expressed concern over reports that the army's Lynx helicopters performed poorly in high temperatures, telling Tony Blair that "I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources." 

Despite the overwhelming response of the British public being "so what?", republicans have attempted to spin this nontroversy into a major scandal. Traitorous Labour MP Paul Flynn called for a referendum on whether Charles should succeed his mother as monarch, stating that "Charles has proved himself to be the mouthpiece of sensible views, eccentric views, and barmy views." He went on to say that "as we are not living in a medieval state, the public should have a say into who should be the head of state: should it be Charles, or should it be William, who has the gift of his mother in remaining politically silent and inert." The Hon. Gentleman is apparently unaware of how hereditary monarchies work. Unsurprisingly, fringe anti-monarchist group Republic wasted no time in pursuing the headlines, their miserable leader Graham Smith declaring that "the government must now act to end royal secrecy. Any risk to the monarchy from disclosure must pale against a risk to democracy from having an activist prince acting in secret." Some of the criticisms from the press are simply inexplicable- the Mirror Online seemed to think it was significant that then-education secretary Charles Clarke ended one letter to the Prince with the phrase "I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Royal Highness's most humble and obedient servant". Apparently no one in the Mirror's offices knew that this is the customary way to close a letter to a member of the Royal Family.

Ultimately the response to the letters' publication has been muted, much to the disappointment of those who wish to undermine the monarchy. After ten years and around £400,000 of taxpayers' money being wasted, these letters have only confirmed what we all already know about Prince Charles; that he is a passionate campaigner with strong views on a range of topics which, without his tireless lobbying, would probably never get the recognition they deserve. The Prince has reportedly been writing to ministers since he was sixteen years old, and he's not going to stop now. I hope he never does. 

Saturday 9 May 2015

Thoughts on the General Election

A map showing the outcome of the 2015 UK general election.
Thursday 7th May 2015 was a significant day for the United Kingdom. After five years of government by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the British people had the opportunity to decide who would govern the nation for the next five years. It was a tense campaign; the major parties, the Conservatives and Labour, were neck and neck right up to the last minute, and all involved predicted that we would once again end up with a hung parliament- meaning another coalition government. The Conservatives sternly warned of the dangers of a Labour government propped up by the left-wing separatist Scottish National Party, whilst on the other side of the fence the Left flagged up the possibility of a Conservative-led government backed by the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, both well to the right of the UK's political spectrum. So everyone was shocked when exit polls predicted that the Conservatives would do much better than previously expected. What completely blew commentators out of the water was that the Conservatives actually did even better than the exit polls suggested, winning, against all odds, a majority of the Commons- albeit a small one.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
resigned after his party's annihilation
at the polls on Thursday
And so the next day, David Cameron was able to walk into Buckingham Palace with a swagger in his step, and inform Her Majesty the Queen he was ready to form a new government. Labour's leader, Ed Miliband, soon announced his resignation, Labour HQ having admitted during the night that everyone had already accepted that he had no other choice. The real losers, however, were the Liberal Democrats- having alienated their core voters by allying with the Tories and abandoning their core pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees, they were reduced to a measly 8 seats, with a lower proportion of the overall vote than UKIP. Despite holding his own seat, LibDem leader Nick Clegg also resigned. Despite massive gains for his party, UKIP's Nigel Farage, too, resigned as party leader, as he promised he would should he fail to win the South Thanet constituency where he was running against Conservative Craig Mackinlay, ironically a former UKIP member himself. Farage did, however, suggest he might "throw his hat in" for re-election as UKIP's leader, showing he's not prepared to give up the reigns of power just yet. At any rate, despite receiving 12.6% of the vote- coming third after the Tories and Labour- UKIP ended up with only one seat as a consequence of the UK's first past the post electoral system.

Nicola Sturgeon replaced
Alex Salmond as SNP leader
 after the nationalists
lost the 2014 referendum
on independence.
Scotland, meanwhile, was swept by the SNP. Despite receiving only 4.7% of the national (UK-wide) vote, they won 58 seats, taking virtually the whole of Scotland. For unionists hoping that they had cut the head off the beast in the 2014 referendum, the result is depressing. On Friday morning, former SNP leader Alex Salmond was quoted as saying that "the Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country." With England and much of Wales a sea of Tory blue with a handful of islands of Labour red, and Scotland turned the SNP's bright yellow, it's easy to fear for the future of the United Kingdom; the political divide north and south of the border seems greater than ever. Today Salmond declared he would see Scottish independence in his lifetime, despite the 2014 referendum being trumpeted as a "once in a generation opportunity." But Salmond may be talking too soon. The SNP may have swept Scotland's seats, but they won only around 50% of Scotland's vote; a spectacular triumph, true, but hardly overwhelming evidence that Scots have changed their mind on independence. Nicola Sturgeon remains tight-lipped on the possibility of another referendum. One more referendum may be around the corner, however- one on the UK's continued membership of the European Union, one of the Tories' flagship promises in their manifesto, and a commitment reiterated by David Cameron in his victory speech yesterday.

Ultimately, it is clear this election will be remembered as a significant event in British political history; the best ever result for a separatist party in British politics, a totally unexpected majority for the Conservatives, and quite possibly the beginning of the run-up to the UK's first referendum on our role in Europe since 1975. The latter is all the more significant because euroscepticism is so much weaker north of the border. There are fears that, if the UK as a whole voted in favour of leaving the EU, the stridently pro-European SNP would seek to take Scotland out of Europe in order to remain an EU member state. But if we look at the actual results from this last general election, it becomes clear the SNP's gains aren't so significant as they appear. There remains hope for unionists that our United Kingdom can be saved, and it now falls to David Cameron to keep the promises made to the Scottish people after the 2014 referendum. If Cameron fails to keep his word, it may spell the end of Great Britain as a nation. But if Westminster fulfills its promises, there might yet be a chance that the nationalist hydra can be slain for once and for all.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The First Scottish Prime Minister

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute
Today is the 10th March, and the 223rd anniversary of the death of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain to have been born in Scotland. He was a prominent Tory, a favourite of His Majesty King George III, and has been called the last important royal favourite in British history. "Important" might be stretching it, as while he served as Prime Minister of His Britannic Majesty's Government, Lord Bute's premiership was not especially successful. His principal achievement was negotiating an end to the Seven Years' War that had raged between the great powers of Europe since 1754. Most of Europe's great powers- including Great Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Russia- were involved in the war, as were the native American tribes caught in the clash between the British and French colonial empires, many of the smaller states of the Holy Roman Empire, and even the Indian Muslim Mughal Empire which allied with the French against Great Britain in the Indian subcontinent. The principal players, however, were the old rivals Britain and France, and the peace settlement Bute oversaw was highly favourable to the nascent British Empire.

His Majesty King George III
of Great Britain, Bute's  monarch
and patron
Unfortunately for Bute, this won him little popularity with the public. His was a time when monarchs appointed Prime Ministers based on their personal prerogative rather than who could command a parliamentary majority, and Bute rose to power thanks to his close connections to King George III, whom he had tutored prior to George's accession to the throne. He had also been close to George's father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, whose death in 1751 made George the new heir apparent. Bute's closeness to Frederick's wife Augusta, the Dowager Princess of Wales, following the prince's death invited scandal and rumours of an affair, although contemporary sources report that Bute was happily married to his wife Mary and had strong religious objections to adultery. Nonetheless, these rumours, coupled with the fact that Bute was a Scotsman and an extremely unpopular attempt to tax the production of cider to help pay off the debt from the Seven Years' War, meant that Bute faced stiff opposition from the English population.

Augusta of
Dowager Princess of Wales
Bute finally resigned from office in April 1763. He was nonetheless suspected of retaining some influence over the King, to the point that in May 1765 his successor George Grenville made the King promise not to appoint Bute to office or seek his advice in the future. The 3rd Earl of Bute spent the rest of his life pursuing a lifelong interest in botany and patronising the arts. A genus of flower, Stuartia, is named after him. Although he spent his last days in England, he never forgot the country of his birth, giving generously to Scottish universities and being buried at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, from whence his title was derived. His son John succeeded him as the 4th Earl of Bute before being created the 1st Marquess of Bute in 1794. Although Bute's Scottish origins may have contributed to his unpopularity in England at a time when Scotland was still seen very much as a foreign country, his unpopular term as Prime Minister nonetheless illustrates that Scots held high office in the Kingdom of Great Britain after the union and played a significant role in the birth of the British Empire. Far from being seen as colonial subjects of England, the Scottish were treated as partners in the union, if not quite equal partners, or popular ones, for that matter.

Friday 30 January 2015

Anniversary of Regicide

Today is the 30th January. On this day in 1649, His Majesty Charles I, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, was executed on the orders of a kangaroo court. The previous day, he had seen the two of his children who remained in England (Princess Elizabeth and Prince Henry) for the final time, bidding them a tearful farewell; he reminded his son, Henry, that his elder brothers the future kings Charles II and James II and VII were ahead of him in the line of succession, and so he must not allow the parliamentarians to set him up as a puppet king in his brothers' place. The Princess Elizabeth later recorded the exchange; Charles said, "Heed, my child, what I say: they will cut off my head and perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say. Thou must not be a king as long as thy brothers Charles and James do live; for they will cut off your brothers' heads when they can catch them, and cut off thy head too at the last, and therefore I charge you, do not be made a king by them." The young prince replied, "I will be torn in pieces first!"

Famously, the condemned king wore two shirts on the day of his execution so as to not feel the cold, saying that he did not want to shiver and give the spectators the false impression that he was afraid of death. The king gave one last speech from the scaffold before his death, professing his innocence of the crimes he was accused of; "indeed, I could hold my peace very well, if I did not think that holding my peace would make some men think that I did submit to the guilt as well as to the punishment.  But I think it is my duty to God first and to my country for to clear myself both as an honest man and a good King, and a good Christian." The king insisted that he was not responsible for beginning the civil war. He told the onlookers, "all the world knows that I never did begin a war with the two Houses of Parliament. And I call God to witness, to whom I must shortly make an account, that I never did intend for to encroach upon their privileges. They began upon me, it is the Militia they began upon, they confest that the Militia was mine, but they thought it fit for to have it from me.  And, to be short, if any body will look to the dates of Commissions, of their commissions and mine, and likewise to the Declarations, will see clearly that they began these unhappy troubles, not I." At the same time, he exonerated Parliament of the blame; "God forbid that I should lay it upon the two Houses of Parliament; there is no necessity of either, I hope that they are free of this guilt.   For I do believe that ill instruments between them and me has been the chief cause of all this bloodshed."

The king went on to attribute the unjust sentence he had been dealt to an unjust sentence dealt to one of his loyal servants, the Earl of Strafford, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who had been sentenced to death by Parliament and whom the king had failed to save, saying "an unjust sentence that I suffered for to take effect, is punished now by an unjust sentence upon me." He also dismissed the accusations that he was a tyrant who had threatened the traditional liberties of the English people. "And truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever. But I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having of government; those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves.

"Sirs. It was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the power of the sword I needed not to have come here. And, therefore, I tell you, and I pray God it be not laid to your charge, that I am the martyr of the people." 

The Bishop of London, Dr. William Juxon, whom Charles had requested administer him his last rites upon the scaffold, then reminded the king to say something about his Christian faith; "Will your Majesty, though it may be very well known, your Majesties affections to religion, yet it may be expected that you should say somewhat for the world's satisfaction?" The king replied by thanking Juxon and firmly repudiating accusations that he possessed Catholic sympathies by declaring his Christian faith and loyalty to the Church of England, "as I found it left me by my father."

The king concluded with the immortal words, "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world." Dr. Juxon agreed, saying, "You are exchanged from a temporal to an eternal crown, a good exchange." The king asked his executioner to wait for a sign from the king before delivering the blow. His final words, thinking the executioner was about to bring down the ax before the signal, were "stay for the sign." The executioner replied, "Yes, I will, an it please your Majesty." After a pause, the king stretched out his hands, and he was decapitated with a single clean blow. A clergyman named Philip Henry who was among the onlookers later said of the day, "at the instant when the blow was given, there was such a dismal universal groan among the thousands of people that were in sight of it, as it were with one consent."

The king's death was to be followed by the eleven-year Interregnum, most of which was spent under the Cromwellian military dictatorship. Following the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 after Oliver Cromwell's death and the overthrow of his son Richard, Charles I was recognised as a martyr by the Church of England, and is still commemorated today by high church Anglicans. The Royal Stuart Society lays a wreath at the statue of King Charles I in Trafalgar Square every year on the 30th January to commemorate his death. Charles was not a great king; one contemporary, Archbishop William Laud, described him as "a mild and gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great." Nonetheless, the historical picture we have of the king is one of a well-meaning sovereign who genuinely believed he was in the right. The House of Lords and the bulk of the House of Commons opposed putting the king on trial, but an effective military coup by Cromwell and other army leaders on the 6th and 7th December 1648 saw those Members of Parliament who opposed the army and favoured coming to a settlement with the king arrested. The remaining rump House of Commons voted in favour of putting the king on trial, the first time a monarch had been put on trial by his own people. In the end, neither King Charles nor Parliament won.

The king's trial and execution was a travesty of justice. It would set a terrible precedent for future revolutionaries, by establishing that a lawful king- or indeed any lawful government- could be removed by violent force and that power did not derive from the laws of God or the State but, as Chairman Mao put it,  grows out of the barrel of a gun. Today, as we remember his death, it should serve as a warning from history of the consequences when force of might overrules lawful authority. RIP Your Majesty; if you are looking down upon us all from your incorruptible crown, spare a thought for those of us left behind who remember you.

The King is dead; long live the Queen.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Burns' Night

Engraving of Robert Burns
 Today is the 25th January, the 256th birthday of one of Scotland's most famous sons, poet Rabbie Burns. As such, Scots and members of the Scottish diaspora throughout the world will be celebrating Burns' Night with haggis aplenty. The tradition of the Burns supper originates with Burns' personal friends and acquaintances in Ayrshire in the late 18th century, and they were originally held on the anniversary of his death, the 21st July. Later, in 1801, the first Burns Club was founded by Greenock merchants to celebrate Burns' life and works every year on his birthday, or what they believed to be his birthday, the 29th January; later records came to light showing that Burns was actually born on the 25th, and so Burns suppers have been held on the 25th ever since.

Burns himself was a fascinating character. Politically liberal and a patriotic Scotsman, Burns was opposed to the Act of Union and is reported to have supported the French Revolution; however, he was critical of the Jacobite risings, the Catholic absolutism of the House of Stuart being inimical to Burns' liberal tastes, and in 1795 he helped organise the Dumfries Volunteers, a militia formed to help protect the nation in the event of a French invasion. At the same time he wrote his poem, "Should Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat," in which he proclaims: "Be Britain still to Britain true, / Amang ourselves united; /  For never but by British hands /  Maun British wrangs be righted!" Burns' precise political views have long been debated and will likely continue to be a subject of debate; was he a closeted liberal republican, whose later apparent British nationalism was an act to avoid the attention of the authorities? Was he a firm supporter of the constitution, supportive of the French Revolution at first only to later balk at its descent into bloody tyranny?

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet;
painted by Sir William Allan
Whatever the case, although I might not have agreed with the Bard's politics, I am an avid fan of his poetry. It's also clear that Burns and his work have become a celebrated fixture of Scottish culture. He was the pivotal figure of Scottish Romanticism before it had even really got started, and played a role in ensuring the continuation of a unique Scottish identity within Great Britain and later the United Kingdom. Even that other great staple of the Scottish Romantic movement, Sir Walter Scott, who himself was more my political cup of tea being a staunch Scottish Tory  and unionist at a time when Toryism was still about loyalty to King and Country and less about privatisation, made it clear he considered Burns to be the far superior writer when asked how he thought he compared to his antecessor, declaring that “there is no comparison whatever: we ought not to be named in the same day.” Scott, incidentally, played an important role in promoting Burns' works after his death as part of the romanticised Scottish identity Scott promoted. The two met only once, at a literary salon in the winter of 1786. Burns asked who had authored a certain poem, and Scott was the only one present who could answer him; Burns thanked him. Oh, to be a fly on the wall that day.

Alas, Scotland's great poet was to be taken from the world too soon; he died at just 37 years of age, in 1796. His legacy lives on in his poetry. To celebrate his life and contributions to poetry, it seems only fitting I should conclude this post with a poem by Burns (I would try to compose a tribute myself, but alas I am hopelessly inept at writing anything but prose). After much indecision, I chose this one, probably my favourite Burns poem: Lament Of Mary, Queen Of Scots, On The Approach Of Spring.

"Now Nature hangs her mantle green 
On every blooming tree, 
And spreads her sheets o' daisies white 
Out o'er the grassy lea ; 
Now Phoebus cheers the crystal streams, 
And glads the azure skies; 
But nought can glad the weary wight 
That fast in durance lies. 

"Now laverocks wake the merry morn 
Mary, Queen of Scots, at age 13; during
her time in France
Aloft on dewy wing; 
The merle , in his noontide bow'r, 
Makes woodland echoes ring; 
The mavis wild wi' mony a note, 
Sings drowsy day to rest: 
In love and freedom they rejoice, 
Wi' care nor thrall opprest. 

"Now blooms the lily by the bank, 
The primrose down the brae ; 
The hawthorn's budding in the glen, 
And milk-white is the slae : 
The meanest hind in fair Scotland 
May rove their sweets amang ; 
But I, the Queen of a' Scotland, 
Maun lie in prison strang . 

"I was the Queen o' bonie France, 
Where happy I hae been; 
Fu' lightly raise I in the morn, 
As blythe lay down at e'en : 
And I'm the sov'reign of Scotland, 
And mony a traitor there; 
Yet here I lie in foreign bands, 
And never-ending care. 

"But as for thee, thou false woman, 
My sister and my fae , 
Grim Vengeance yet shall whet a sword 
That thro' thy soul shall gae ; 
The weeping blood in woman's breast 
Was never known to thee; 
Nor th' balm that draps on wounds of woe 
Frae woman's pitying e'e . 

"My son! my son! may kinder stars 
Mary portrayed next to her son,
King James VI and I 

Upon thy fortune shine; 
And may those pleasures gild thy reign, 
That ne'er wad blink on mine! 
God keep thee frae thy mother's faes , 
Or turn their hearts to thee: 
And where thou meet'st thy mother's friend, 
Remember him for me! 

"O! soon, to me, may Summer suns 
Nae mair light up the morn! 
Nae mair to me the Autumn winds 
Wave o'er the yellow corn? 
And, in the narrow house of death, 
Let Winter round me rave; 
And the next flow'rs that deck the Spring , 

Bloom on my peaceful grave!"

Thursday 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert gather around their
Christmas tree with their children, from the
Illustrated London News, 1848

Sunday 30 November 2014

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

Today is the 30th of November, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of Scotland. This is a particularly significant St. Andrew's Day because it is the first since Scotland voted in September to remain a member of the United Kingdom, rather than risking separation under Alex Salmond.

St. Andrew was not a Scot himself, of course. Indeed, among the patron saints of the British Isles only Wales' and Ireland's patron saints, St. Patrick and St. David, ever lay foot in the nations they are now indelibly linked with, and only St. David was born in the country now under his patronage. England's St. George was a Roman soldier, whilst St. Andrew himself was a Judean, the brother of St. Peter and one of Christ's apostles. The story of how Andrew became associated with the Scottish nation is a long and curious one. For the most part, the saint is associated more with the East than with the windswept western European country of Scotland; it is alleged that after Jesus' death and resurrection, Andrew preached in the lands of Scythia to the north-east, travelling through today's Ukraine and Russia and reaching as far north as Novgorod, according to the Chronicle of Nestor, a history of the Kievan Rus' written by the Orthodox monk Nestor the Chronicler. He was also said to have founded the See of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople) in 38 AD. Today he is revered as the patron saint of Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In c. 70 AD, Andrew was martyred by crucifixion in the city of Patras, Archaia, Greece. Early sources say he was bound to a cross like the one on which Jesus died, but later the story grew up that he had requested that he be crucified on an Crux decussata, or an x-shaped cross, feeling unworthy of being martyred in the same way as his Lord. The request was granted, and today this sort of cross is known as St. Andrew's Cross. According to legend, St. Andrew's relics were initially kept at the city where he was martyred, Patras, before the famed Roman Emperor Constantine I conquered the city and had them transferred to Constantinople. However, the monk St. Regulus was warned of Constantine's invasion by an angel in a dream, and so on the angel's instructions, Regulus took some of the relics to the "ends of the Earth" for safety. He was to build a shrine for the relics wherever he was first shipwrecked; and, as fortune (or God's will) would have it, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Fife in Scotland, where he met the Pictish King Óengus I. Today, the relics are said to be housed in St. Regulus' Church in the town of St Andrews, Scotland.

In 832 AD, it is said that King Óengus II of the Picts led a joint army of Scots and Picts into battle against the Angles under the leadership of King Æthelstan. Before the battle, the Pictish King prayed for divine intercession to aid the Picts against their numerically superior English foes, and promised that if he was victorious he would name St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. On the day of the battle, the clouds above the battlefield formed the shape of St. Andrew's cross; emboldened by the apparent favour of the divine, the Picts and the Scots took to the battlefield full of religious zeal and defeated the much larger army of the Angles. Óengus kept his promise, proclaiming St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland, and adopted the white cross against the sky's blue background as the new national flag of Scotland.

Like much of Scotland's national myth, this story casts the English in the role of villains; I confess to finding this both sad and amusing at the same time. It is, however, all the more amusing and touching that today, over a millennium after that legendary victory is said to have taken place, St. Andrew's saltire and St. George's cross now coexist as part of the flag of the United Kingdom. Britain's national story is one of former foes laying down arms and uniting for the greater good, and shows that the most Christian of messages- that love and cooperation between neighbours can achieve more than war, hatred and distrust ever could- really is gospel truth. God bless Scotland and the United Kingdom.