|The Curé of Nottingham|
Edit: He was a fantastic man who will be sorely missed. He loved the things we love, and prayed earnestly for the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire, as do we. Now Mel Gibson will have to find another Royalist chaplain for his movie set. Thanks to PV Wood for this page from the Telegraph.
FATHER JEAN-MARIE CHARLES-ROUX, who has died aged 99, brought the mystical aura of French royalism to London as a Roman Catholic priest of the Rosminian order; he was devoted to the divine nature of monarchy and the Tridentine liturgy.
Tall, elegant, and with a theatrically silky voice, Charles-Roux wore buckled shoes and medallions commemorating martyred sovereigns, and used an eyeglass to read a newspaper during more than 40 years at the medieval church of St Etheldreda at Ely Place, off Holborn. There he celebrated the Latin Mass every morning with his back to the congregation. Sought after as a confessor, he preached lively and eloquent sermons, flattering and shocking his listeners in equal measure.
He would emphasise the Christian duty to the poor while maintaining that the parable of the talents proved that capitalism was not only acceptable but also a moral imperative. He made clear his abhorrence of the Allied bombing of Dresden by celebrating Mass for its victims. And once, comparing the transformation of the soul to cooking, he described how it was more likely to be successful in black saucepans (meaning priests) than in grander copper ones (casting a glance at Cardinal Hume sitting nearby).
Here is a more sympathetic article from the Catholic Herald, written by Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith. In contrast to Father, we hope someone does take on the task to write the auto-biography of this fascinating priest:
Fr Charles-Roux was deeply concerned about the state of the Church; indeed, it made him despair, if a Christian full of faith ever can despair. In private he was always charitable but highly critical of the lack of leadership he saw in various authorities and in particular their refusal to confront the serious problems posed by priests whose way of life was not in keeping with their vocation. He told me on several occasions that he had made his concerns known, but that the superiors simply would not listen. This was a pity, because Fr Charles-Roux was a close and wise observer and they would have done well to have taken his advice.
He was not in favour of “modern” liturgy and he lived long enough to see the traditional way of doing things come back into favour. But he had long ceased to play any active role in the life of the Church by that stage. Indeed, though a very social man, he was adept at avoiding people and situations that he found distasteful. He had retired from the field, shell-shocked in the culture wars. For him, everything had gone wrong a long time ago, indeed in 1789: the French Revolution had been the start of the continuing catastrophe through which we were all living still. Marie-Antoinette, famously, was his favourite subject, though he was hugely knowledgeable on all aspects of recent French history. He was widely assumed to be an aristocrat, but the only ancestor who had played any role in the Revolution, he told me, was one of the guards at Versailles, who was killed during the storming of the Chateau on 5th October 1789. His father was a famous diplomat and head of the Quai d’Orsay, who left behind a several valuable volumes of memoirs. Charles-Roux pére had spent a great deal of his career before the War in Rome, where Jean-Marie was born. On one occasion, Fr Charles-Roux remarked to me: “I switched on the television, and there was this lady singing in Daddy’s office.” The lady was Catherine Malfitano, playing Tosca, and Daddy’s office was of course in Palazzo Farnese. On another occasion, scanning the newspaper through his monocle, a piece of glass that seemed to be no help at all, as he held the paper at such an odd angle, he asked: “Is there anything good on television tonight?” I told him the only thing on was the World Cup. “Ah,” he said after a slight pause. “What is world cup?”
A brilliant speaker, and most amusing company, and also a stimulating preacher – I have heard thousands of sermons, but his I still remember – he was a simply terrible writer, much given to prolixity and eccentric figures of speech. Sentences would continue for pages and pages of typescript. (Needless to say he never learned to use a computer, but was one of the last to keep to a typewriter.) He would send people postcards covered with spidery writing which were allusive and elusive, indeed almost Sibylline. It is a pity that he never produced any memoirs and so sternly resisted anyone writing his life story. His autobiography would have been fascinating, could he have written it. A biography would have been good too, but it is too late for that. His story dies with him, which is how he would have wanted it. After all, he knew very well that it was not about him. He abhorred egotism, particularly in the clergy.
Photo stolen from Portrait Gallery...