Category Archives: British History

Today in Catholic History – The Act of Union

On 1 August 1800, the Parliament of Ireland approved the Act of Union which, in conjunction with the earlier approval of union by the Parliament of Great Britain on 2 July 1800, united Ireland with Great Britain and established the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801.

While Ireland and Great Britain had been united in a personal union under the monarch of Great Britain and Ireland since 1603, political union would come much later.

The Parliament of Great Britain sought closer union with Ireland after the French Revolution of 1789 and the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It was fearful that the majority Roman Catholic population obtained the right to elect Catholics into the Irish Parliament that such a Catholic Parliament would attempt to break away from Britain and turn toward France. A united kingdom would prevent any attempt by Ireland to abandon its connection to England and Scotland.

Indeed, in order to get Irish Catholic support for Union which would abolish the separate Irish Parliament for a united Parliament in Britain, the Catholics were promised Emancipation which would allow Roman Catholic members of Parliament. However, after the passing of Union King George III refused to permit Catholic Emancipation on the grounds that it would be a violation of his oath to defend the Church of England. So, Irish Catholics could elect members of Parliament but no Irish Catholic could take a seat in the Parliament.

Catholic Emancipation would not be achieved until 1829.


Today in Catholic History – The Battle of Bouvines

On 27 July 1214, the forces of Otto IV of the Holy Roman Empire, King John I of of England, and Count Ferrand of Flanders were defeated by the forces of Philip II Augustus of France at the Battle of Bouvines.

Otto IV had come into conflict with Pope Innocent III over whether the right of conferring the crown of the Holy Roman Empire belonged to the pope alone. Innocent III claimed that the pope had the authority to decide whether a candidate chosen by the German princes to become Emperor was worthy of that dignity. While Innocent had initially supported Otto, they became opponents in 1210 after Otto decided to restore Imperial power in Italy. Innocent was greatly upset at this, believing that a Holy Roman Empire with the addition of Italian territories would be a threat to the Papal States. Innocent would excommunicate Otto and give his support to Frederick II Hohenstaufen as a rival claimant to the title of Holy Roman Emperor.

While the forces of John I and Otto IV [25,000] outnumbered those of Philip II [15,000], the French forces were more experienced – having fought in the Crusades. the three hour battle saw around 2,000 casualties and about 9,000 captured. Philip II was nearly killed in the battle after being de-horsed several times.

After the Battle of Bouvines, Otto IV would be forced to resign and Frederick II would become the new emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. John I would also be forced to sign the Magna Carta by his nobles.

Today in Catholic History – Charles I Answers the Nineteen Propositions

On 21 June 1642, Charles I presented his response to the Nineteen Propositions which had been submitted to him by the English Parliament. While the Propositions are mostly known for their demands for limitations upon the power of the King, they also contain demands regarding the treatment of Catholics in England.

The Propositions demanded that the present laws against Jesuits, Catholic priests, and those who refused to attend Anglican services. They also demanded that the votes of Catholics in the House of Lords be removed and that the children of Catholic receive a Protestant education. Moreover they demanded that King Charles I formalize an alliance with the Dutch “in order to defend them from the Pope and his followers”.

While Charles I, in his Answer to the Nineteen Propositions, will reject those proposals which he believed illegitimately limited his power, he will not reject those propositions directed against Catholics. Indeed he will support them and offer to strengthen their enforcement.

The conflict between Charles I and the English Parliament as demonstrated in the Nineteen Propositions and Charles I’s response will eventually lead to the English Civil War.

The Nineteen Propositions and Charles I’ Answer to the Nineteen Propositions

#237 – Peter’s Pence

Every year the the Catholic Church asks Catholics to aid those in need through Peter’s Pence. This collection has changed somewhat since its 8th century beginnings but still seeks to help the poor.

Vatican website on Peter’s Pence with information on contributing on-line
In the United States, you can also send contributions to:

Peter’s Pence Collection
The Apostolic Nunciature
3339 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008

The USCCB’s website with more information on this year’s Peter’s Pence collection

Sources for this episode –

Rupert Klieber. “Efforts and Difficulties in Financing the Holy See by Means of Peter’s Pence. Can Ultramontanism be quantified?” in The Papacy and the New World Order. Vatican Diplomacy, Catholic Opinion and International Politics at the Time of Leo XIII. ed. Vincent Viane. Leuven University Press. 2005. pp. 287-302

John F. Pollard. Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy. Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950. Cambridge University Press Cambridge 2005

SQPN’s Catholic New Media Celebration

Be sure to check out the CUTH blog for more on the history of the Catholic Church

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podcasticon#237 – Peter’s Pence

Catholic History in Other Podcasts

The most recent episode of the Renaissance English History podcast discusses the Pilgrimage of Grace during the reign of Henry VIII.

Today in Catholic History – Viking raid on Lindisfarne

On 8 June 793, the Viking Age began with a raid upon the Benedictine monastery at Lindisfarne in northern England. The monastery was an important center of learning in Europe. Sources at the time described the raid in dramatic terms:

In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of Northumbria. There were excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and on June 8th the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.


Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. . . .The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.

During the raid, the monks were killed in the monastery, drowned in the sea or carried off into slavery. The reported savagery of the attack would help establish the traditional image of Vikings as bloodthirsty warriors in the minds of Europeans.

The Vikings would assault Lindisfarne several times seeking wealth and eventually the monks would be forced to flee the monastery in 875. Benedictine monasteries were not designed to withstand severe attacks, which also made them preferable targets by the Vikings. The monks would return in 1093 and remain until the monastery was suppressed in 1536 under Henry VIII.


Today in Catholic History – Thomas Becket consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury

On 3 June 1162, Thomas Becket became the Archbishop of Canterbury. The English king Henry II had pressured him to become the Archbishop believing that Becket who had previously shown great support for the powers of the king would continue to do so as archbishop. Becket did not want to become archbishop because he feared it would cause grave difficulties between him and the king. He wrote, “our friendship will turn to hate.”

Indeed, once he became archbishop Becket instead became a strong defender of the independence of the Catholic Church from secular control in the many conflicts between Thomas Becket and Henry over the attempts to place clergy under the jurisdiction of secular rather than religious courts. Eventually, Henry’s frustration over Becket’s opposition would lead him to reportedly utter the infamous phrase, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Which will be understood as a command by Henry’s men to arrest Becket and when Becket refused to accompany Henry’s soldiers – they would murder him in the Cathedral of Canterbury.

Thomas Becket

Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II goes to Canterbury

On 29 May 1982, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit the Canterbury Cathedral.

The pope described the visit as one “which centuries and generations have awaited”.

While there was some controversy because of the decision for the Pope to enter the Cathedral from a back door, because of “security and tiredness”, rather than the more ceremonial entrance – the Great West door – at the front of the cathedral; Peter Jennings described the visit to the Cathedral as “a hugely important step because here was the successor of St Peter coming to Britain really bridging a gap since the 400 years or more of the Reformation.”

While at Canterbury, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, renewed their baptismal vows together, lit candles for Christian martyrs and knelt in prayer before the spot where St Thomas-à-Becket was murdered in 1170. They also issued a common declaration thanking God for progress in the work of reconciliation between the Anglican and Catholic communities.

Homily of Pope John Paul II at the Canterbury Cathedral

Today in Catholic History – England passes Act of Toleration

On 24 May 1689 the English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration or “An Act for Exempting their Majestyes Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the Penalties of certaine Lawes”.

This Act granted religious freedom to non-Anglican Christians but deliberately excluded Catholics, which referred to Catholics as “Popish Recusants” and non-trinitarians. Catholics continued to be viewed as a threat to the English government both due to memories of the Gunpowder Plot under James I and hostility to the pro-Catholic policies of the recently overthrown James II.

All English citizens were required to take an oath which promised not only obedience to King William and Queen Mary but also to “renounce, as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever.” They were also to reject the belief that any foreign person might have spiritual or secular authority over England. Both of these statements were directed against the pope.

Act of Toleration

Today in Catholic History – Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancelor of England

On 16 May 1532, Thomas More resigned from the office of Lord Chancellor due to his refusal to acknowledge Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the English Church “as far as the Law of God allows.” Thomas did this by sending to Henry a pouch containing the great seal of England. More had served as Lord Chancellor for less than three years.

Since this was the day after the English Clergy gave up their authority to formulate laws without the king’s assent, More’s resignation was seen as a criticism of Henry’s move to separate the Church of England from Rome. So, while More was hoping for a quiet life in retirement, Henry wanted More’s support for his actions.

Thomas More would be executed for treason on 6 July 1535.
He would be canonized by Pius XI in 1935.

Thomas More