Monday, January 23, 2017

The Crown (2016)

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II
Matt Smith as Prince Philip, with his bride
The Queen: "Let's not overcomplicate matters unnecessarily. My name is Elizabeth." ~from The Crown, Season 1 (2016)
At the beginning of watching The Crown, I was not certain I would persevere. I have been looking at pictures of the British royal family since childhood and had trouble replacing their well-known faces with those of actors and actresses. But by the time Princess Elizabeth was walking down the aisle of Westminster Abbey on her wedding day, I was hooked. In fact, I watched all of Season 1 in only three or four sittings. Well-acted and authentic, with a mostly riveting script, the Netflix production starring Claire Foy as Elizabeth II provides a close look at the burdens carried by the world's most famous contemporary Queen. The costumes and jewels in themselves make the watch worthwhile, as well as the palaces, cars, gardens, horses, dogs and tea sets, all that anyone could wish or hope for from an English royal setting. Starting in 1947 with Elizabeth's betrothal to her cousin Prince Philip, the series is a poignant observation of the personal sacrifices required even of a constitutional monarch. Learning how to reign from her father George VI, her grandmother Queen Mary, and her prime minister Winston Churchill, the young Elizabeth, in spite of a dazzling public image, privately grows painfully into her role.

The drama is peppered with scenes from Elizabeth's delightfully carefree and happy childhood, delightful because her parents were truly devoted to each other and to their two girls; the family functioned as a unit through the hell of war and the glory of victory. Their father George VI was the Duke of York and not supposed to inherit the crown, which came to him after the trauma of Edward VIII's abdication. Edward or "David" as he was called, left his country to marry his beloved Wallis Simpson. The strain King George experienced in leading his country through the Blitz cut short his life, according to his wife Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I think that the loving and secure home life gave Elizabeth strength while her sister Margaret never quite recovered from the loss of it. Meanwhile, Uncle David occasionally returns from Paris, to mixed reactions, and is hardly able to conceal his disdain for his stuffy relatives, who faithfully try to fulfill their royal duties.

What struck me most of all are the personal sacrifices repeatedly demanded of Elizabeth and Philip, while others in  the family follow their hearts' desires. A young married couple in the process of building a quiet family life when Elizabeth is called to the throne, they and their children are suddenly thrust into the limelight. Philip is required to give up his naval career; they both must leave their newly furnished and remodeled home and move into Buckingham Palace, where there are rats in the kitchen, as well as courtiers and stiff etiquette. Philip finds it increasingly difficult to be publicly subservient to his wife. Season 1 ends with Elizabeth sending Philip away on tour, hoping that the temporary separation from herself and her state duties will help him to become more settled into the life of royalty from which there is no escape.

Throughout Season 1, Elizabeth learns that the duty of guarding England's ancient monarchical heritage is one which comes with a high personal cost. The Queen must risk alienating those closest to her, her husband and her sister, in order to protect the crown. For the crown does not belong to her alone, it belongs to her people, who for more than a thousand years have looked to the sovereign as the sign of unity and strength. One of the most powerful scenes is the young Elizabeth upon her accession, dressed in black, receiving her grandmother Queen Mary, who is swathed in mourning from head to toe. Elizabeth, who has always curtsied to her grandmother, is transfixed as she watches the stately old queen sink slowly into a deep obeisance. It is as if at that moment the realization of the weight of her inheritance crashes upon Elizabeth, as Queen Mary, in her act of humble fealty, shows her granddaughter what it is to be a sovereign.

Jared Harris as King George IV
Victoria Hamilton as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Alex Jennings as Edward VIII and Lia Williams as the Duchess of Windsor
Ben Miles as Peter Townsend and Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill


A Critical Moment

From the Monsignor Charles Pope:

Second, in 1917, Our Lady appeared in the region of Fatima, Portugal to three young children: Jacinta, Francesco, and Lucia. Mary indicated that the horrific First World War was soon to end, a war that featured the use of chemical weapons so devastating that an international agreement was developed banning their use. However, she warned that an even more terrible war would ensue if people did not repent and pray. Our Lady went on to say that in the aftermath of the war, Russia would spread the errors of atheism and materialism, leading to grievous suffering for the Church and many of the faithful. She also prophesied that there would be a final warning of light in the sky just prior to the onslaught of this new war.

In order to provide veracity to her message, Our Lady promised a miracle at her final apparition. On Oct. 13, 1917, the “Miracle of the Sun” took place, and as many as 70,000 people witnessed the sun dancing about in the sky and moving toward the earth.

In January 1938, a display of the aurora borealis vividly lit the skies far south of its normal reach; newspapers throughout the world reported the event. Later that same year, Germany entered Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, Poland was invaded; the Second World War was under way, a consequence of our failure to repent.

More than 60 million people were killed in World War II. At the end of the war, Russia dropped the Iron Curtain and atheistic communism held sway in the Eastern Bloc. Churches were closed, clergy and religious were killed, and great suffering came to all who would not acquiesce. The prophesies of 1917 proved to be sadly and vividly true. (Read more.)

Chore Culture

From Intellectual Takeout:
The other day, NPR wrote a feature article about a unique program at John Bowne High School in New York City. Despite being in the heart of one of the biggest metropolises in the United States, John Bowne runs an agricultural program for upwards of 500 students. Known as “Aggies,” these students “grow crops, care for livestock and learn the rudiments of floriculture, viticulture, aquaculture, biotechnology and entrepreneurship.”

According to NPR, such a program is an excellent addition to the high school curriculum because agriculture is a booming industry. The students who participate in the program will accumulate a wide variety of hands-on experience with which they can land a job in the agriculture sector, a job which may even pull their families out of poverty. But while this is a great reason to encourage such a program, I think there’s a deeper reason why more schools – both urban and rural – should consider a similar one. In a nutshell, such a program promotes what one might call a “chore culture,” a culture which instills hard work, responsibility, and the knowledge of basic skills which today’s society has lost. (Read more.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Princess Pauline von Metternich

Portrait of Princess Pauline von Metternich, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Granddaughter and daughter-in-law of the famous statesman Prince Clemens von Metternich, she was the close personal friend of Empress Eugénie. More about Princess Pauline, HERE. Share

"Unspeakable Tragedy"

From Life News:
On the night of January 22, 1973, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite led off his newscast with a report on Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that had been issued earlier that day. (You can see the YouTube clip by visiting .)

The report included a comment from Monsignor James McHugh, who was identified as a representative of the U.S. Catholic Conference. Msgr. McHugh stated, “In this instance the Supreme Court has withdrawn protection for the human rights of unborn children and it is teaching people that abortion is a rather innocuous procedure, provided that there are proper legal safeguards. I think that the judgment of the court will do a great deal to tear down the respect previously accorded human life in our culture.”

An estimated 59 million aborted children later, how right he was. Prescience.

In the same CBS broadcast, Cronkite said that Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia termed Roe “an unspeakable tragedy.” In the past 44 years, millions of mothers have been left to grieve children lost to abortion–often silently, as the abortion industry fails to recognize the pain and suffering of its dissatisfied customers. Research has shown that in as many as 60 percent of cases, women are coerced into abortion–meaning that a boyfriend, husband, parent, grandparent, or someone else is pressuring them to patronize an abortion facility. Fathers often wordlessly grapple with their role in the decision to end the lives of their offspring. (Read more.)

The Art of Conversation

From Inc:
Most of us have heard before that one of the most important facets of good conversation is being a good listener, but it's more than just listening to the other person talk. You need to know how to listen and respond in a way that demonstrates you're contributing to the conversation. One way to improve is with the technique of active listening. Ask questions based on what you hear. Really listen and be interested in what the others are saying. Make relating statements. Make comments that show you're paying attention, repeat back key sections, and ask questions that move the discussion forward. Pretend there's going to be a quiz. (Read more.)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A New Day is Come

Here are some pictures of the Inauguration for those who missed it. Let us join in prayer for our new President and his family. And for America.


Who is Racist?

From Thomas Sowell:
Perhaps most disturbing of all, just 29 percent of Americans as a whole think race relations are getting better, while 32 percent think race relations are getting worse. The difference is too close to call, but the fact that it is so close is itself painful — and perhaps a warning sign for where we are heading. Is this what so many Americans, both black and white, struggled for over the decades and generations? To try to put the curse of racism behind us — only to reach a point where retrogression in race relations now seems at least equally likely as progress? What went wrong? Perhaps no single factor can be blamed for all the things that went wrong. Insurgent movements of all sorts, in countries around the world, have for centuries soured in the aftermath of their own success. “The revolution betrayed” is a theme that goes back at least as far as 18th-century France. The civil-rights movement in 20th-century America attracted many people who put everything on the line for the sake of fighting against racial oppression. But the eventual success of that movement attracted opportunists and even turned some idealists into opportunists. (Read more.)