Thursday, 23 September 2010

Compensation

The French Revolution nationalized and sold French Church property—this is commonly known. But it did the same to English property in France, most notably the various emigré institutions that had been founded on the continent to serve the English Catholics who could not live religious life at home because of the penal laws. All the properties in Douai, for instance, were confiscated, and though the Benedictines returned for a while, the seminary did not, but established itself in England, eventually at Ushaw and Old Hall Green, near Ware.
After the Battle of Waterloo and the Treaty of Vienna, the new restored Bourbon French government paid handsome compensation to Britain for the properties which were not restored.
And here comes the greatest scandal. The British government refused to pass on the money to the Catholic Church, giving as the excuse that to do so would be to further superstition! It was only an unexpected legacy that enabled the London District to build adequate accommodation at Ware for the seminarians to live alongside the schoolboys. In other words, the government profited substantially from the French Revolution at the expense, not of the revolutionaries, but of the Church.
Maybe unease about this theft accounts for the readiness of the government later on to build the great seminary at Maynooth at the public charge, 'Rome on the rates' as it was dubbed.
And, as another footnote, in 1863 the domestic plate of the college at Douai was uncovered from the place it had been hidden from the revolutionaries—forks, spoons, cruets, that sort of thing—and divided between Ware and Ushaw.

7 comments:

Gregory the Eremite said...

You don't happen to know how much compensation was involved, do you Father? A tidy sum, no doubt, on compound interest for quite a long time, compared with the costs of the recent visit of the Holy Father...hm, maybe we're still owed a bob or two...

Et Expecto said...

I am more inclined to think that the motive for the British government paying for Maynooth was an attempt to placate the rebellious Irish, who had a legitimate greivances.

Simon Cotton said...

That is a bit of history of which I was unaware, Father, which does the Government of the day no credit. It is only fair to note that at the time of the Revolution, when a large number of priests and bishops left France, they were to find hospitality and a welcome in England from many clergy in the Church of England.

Pastor in Valle said...

Indeed that is true, and from all sorts of people.

df said...

Yes, a remarkable insight into the persistence of practical anti-Catholicism in England right through to the modern period.
Evelyn Waugh notes in his lives of Campion and Knox (and I've heard it from a former Abbot of Ampleforth too) that this money was used to build Marble Arch, which now stands so near Tyburn.

Joseph said...

Speaking of the French C18th...
Over the last few months a few of non-Catholic friends of mine have been posting links to Stephen Fry's speech at the Intelligence Squared Debate (in which he argued that the Church is not a force for good in the world). I didn't watch it, for blood pressure reasons, but one (non-Catholic) friend particularly wants to discuss it with me. I found a transcript of the speech online, and have been trying to dig into it. However, I'm not an historian or a philosopher, and I find myself stumped (even after google searches!) at: "I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the Enlightenment, a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world, and there is nothing, sadly, that the Catholic Church and its hierarchs likes to do more than to attack the Enlightenment."
Do they? Can anyone help me out with a reasoned response to this? Even directions for further reading on the Church's attitude to the Enlightenment would be much appreciated.
Thanks

pelerin said...

I too was unaware of this piece of history.

Those who travel on the Eurostar out of St Pancras may be interested to know that many of the Priests and Bishops who fled to Britain during the Revolution were buried in the cemetery which had to be excavated to make way for the new long platform there. The bodies were removed and I understand they now rest in a cemetery in North London.

One of those buried there was the Bishop of Evreux in Normandy. He made the news when his coffin was dug up as he still had a beautifully made set of false teeth in place. Apparently in Britain at the time such teeth were very primitively made whereas the Bishop's teeth were far superior. His teeth went on show at the Museum of London for a time but I have no idea whether they were replaced!