The Corner

Church and State

Yikes!  [Just going back through yesterday’s Corner to catch up.]  Bitch-slapped again! What happened to the notion of us complementing each other, Ramesh?

Having no taste for bilious rancor, I’m going to quit the thread here — turning the other cheek, you might say.

In hope of clearing the air, I shall tell (or possibly re-tell, in which case I apologize) one of my favorite, entirely non-malicious, RC stories. This I heard from an English friend whose mother got her early education at a London convent school run by steely Irish nuns of the traditional type.

At the beginning of 1936 King George V died. His son David automatically became king, as Edward VIII. Preparations for a formal coronation ceremony began.

Part of those preparations included the issuing of coronation mugs to children throughout the country. The actual issuing was usually done through the schools. (My sister still has hers from the 1953 coronation.) So one day my friend’s mother and her little classmates — she was six or seven at this point — were issued coronation mugs by the nuns. They took them home with great pride for their parents to put on a display shelf.

A few months later, before there had been time for the coronation ceremony to take place, came the abdication crisis. David had been having a long-running affair with an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. You need to understand that in the 1930s the phrase “American divorcée” fell on the ears of the rather straitlaced English middle classes pretty much as “Moldovan masseuse” would nowadays. David decided to step down from the throne for “the woman I love,” as he explained to the nation in a famous radio address. His brother Bertie became king as George VI.

Following the abdication, the kids at the convent school were told to bring back their coronation mugs. They obediently did so. Then they were all brought to the school hall for a “special assembly.” There in the hall on trestle tables were their precious coronation mugs, all lined up in rows and columns. As the tots stood there baffled, not knowing what it was all about, in came Sister Perpetua with a ball-peen hammer. She strode over to the tables and started methodically smashing the coronation mugs.

The poor tots were horrified. They had loved their coronation mugs. Weeping and wailing broke out, mingling with the sounds of splintering chinaware. Then one tot got sufficient control of herself to ask: “Sister Perpetua, why are you doing this?”

Sister Perpetua, in between blows of her ball-peen hammer: “Because.  He’s.  A.  DirrrtyDivil.”