You can always rely on a Bishop to say something stupid: it must be part of the training. So yesterday evening, up pops Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, on the Six O’Clock News, to comment on Evan Harris’ Private Members Bill to amend the Act of Settlement. And in case you missed it, listen on BBC iPlayer: it’s roughly 14 minutes into the News.
Described in the introduction as a “senior Anglican leader”, my lord bishop launched straight into it,
It’s wretched to say so today, but Roman Catholics were regarded [in the Eighteenth Century] as like Al Qaeda or the Taleban are today.
There you have it: an obligatory hand-wringing preface, a reference to the bogey men of the Modern Age to point up how frightfully misguided our forefathers must have been, and wrong history. And all for a sound bite.
Instead the Act was another demonstration of Parliamentary power.
. . . a further Provision to be made for the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line for the Happiness of the Nation and the Security of our Religion. And it being absolutely necessary for the Safety Peace and Quiet of this Realm to obviate all Doubts and Contentions in the same by reason of any pretended Titles to the Crown and to maintain a Certainty in the Succession thereof to which your Subjects may safely have recourse for their Protection
The need was for certainty in the succession: Queen Anne’s only surviving child, the Duke of Gloucester had died in 1700 and Parliament, dominated by the Tory/Country Party interest, went for the Protestant Hanoverian line, and excluded the 57 or so Roman Catholic heirs.