By M. Gowlett, guest author
Lorna Doone - as love story, and historical drama with special attention to the English kings and queens of the day
What prompts us to re-discover a classic period drama? In my case, on hearing the name chosen by good friends of mine for their newborn baby girl, 'Lorna', the name 'Lorna Doone' immediately sprung to mind, and I know I wouldn't be alone in this.
The romantic novel Lorna Doone was written by the British author R.D. Blackmore in 1869, and since the single-volume version of the book was published in 1870, it has never been out of print - sure proof of its popularity. There is a memorial plaque to him both in Exeter Cathedral and on the banks of the Badgworthy River, which flows through Exmoor, where he enjoyed spending time as a child. It is thought that Blackmore created the name 'Lorna' for his beautiful heroine Lorna Doone, based on the Scottish place name Lorn, located in Argyll Scotland, and possibly also loosely on the Marquess of Lorne, who was the 9th Duke of Argyll who later married one of Queen Victoria's daughters, was appointed Governor General of Canada and created The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (among other things). The story has its origins in Scotland, but is set in Exmoor in the south west of England, where the Doone family settled after being dispossessed of their Scottish lands and outlawed. Today we can find the Lorne Valley in Exmoor, a beautiful place to walk and a popular tourist attraction, as is a similar Lorne Valley both in Canada and in Australia. The old English word 'lorn' meaning 'lost or forgotten', as in the word 'forlorn', and 'the maiden all forlorn' in the old English nursery rhyme 'The House that Jack Built', could actually relate to Mr. Blackmore's Lorna, who was pretty forlorn at the start of the story, but for the sake of the name, I prefer to remember only that Lorna is a beautiful name for a beautiful girl, as the author intended.
Lorna Doone is a love story set in Exmoor around 1675, which at the time was quite a wild and lawless area of England, being a difficult 7-day journey from London where all the law that existed was focused, during a period of political and religious unrest (which I will go into later). In this area lived the family Ridd: Jack and his wife Sara, son John and two daughters Annie and Lizzie. They were a peaceful, hard-working farming family who lived a simple but happy life, apart from one thing: the constant threat posed by their violent neighbours, the Doone family. The formerly noble Doones had been banished from their ancestral lands in Scotland and had chosen to settle in a valley in Exmoor knowing that in this place they could live by robbery, looting and murder and get away with it! They showed no mercy and their brutality was legendary, but no action was taken against them. When Jack Ridd was brutally murdered by the Doone son Carver, John could do nothing and his mother wisely prevented him from taking vengeance. How unfortunate it was then that John, as in Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story, should later fall in love with the beautiful daughter of this hated family, Lorna! Already as children when John fell over a cliff into deep water in Doone territory whilst fishing, Lorna had been kind to him and helped him escape from Carver, but he had not realised she was a Doone. When they meet again as young folks on a beautiful sunny day, both enjoying the pleasant Somerset countryside, they inevitably fall in love, with equally inevitable consequences. As I intend to recommend your watching this period drama film, I won't divulge how the consequences work out!
There have been several film versions of Lorna Doone; films from 1922, 1934 and 1951, and television productions from 1963, 1976 and 2000 and it is this latest Christmas 2000 BBC version that I chose to watch and tell about. My first comment is that I really enjoyed it and would rate it as a quality romantic period drama, with all the requirements: an excellent plot (thanks to Mr. Blackmore); plenty of authentic action and blood; lovely scenery (filmed in South Wales in the surroundings of the beautiful Brecon Beacons); gorgeous haunting music by Scottish composer John Lunn; perfect costumes (especially the military ones); and very good acting all round. For me, all of the actors chosen for this film portray their characters perfectly, although I had a slight doubt about the casting of both John and Carver, as regards body-build implied in the novel, but I convinced myself they are fine! Anyway, 'Well done' to director Mike Barker (also director of Broadchurch), to Adrian Hodges for screenplay, and to the actors and crew, and of course to the BBC!
Firstly, Amelia Warner made a great Lorna; beautiful, kind and serene -(Katie Pitts-Drake made a very sweet child version too). As was commented when John's family finally get to meet her, "It's almost impossible to believe she's a Doone!" - which proves to be a fair comment as she turns out not to be one, but to be the lost daughter of the wealthy Lady Dugal. As a young girl, Lorna had been kidnapped when the Doones attacked the family carriage killing everyone except her. In the attack, the Doones stole Lady Dugal's priceless necklace and gave it to Lorna, making her their 'queen', and a very desirable future wife for Carver, the fulfilment of which is his driving ambition! It is through this necklace that it is later discovered that Lorna is in fact heiress to one of the largest fortunes in the country, and is required by law, though against her will, to go to London and become a ward in Chancery, with the king as her guardian! This would appear to make her marrying John Ridd, a common farmer, even more out of the question, but again, I shouldn't tell more about how fate turns out.
Back to the casting: firstly, Jack Baverstock as the child, and Richard Coyle as adult John Ridd. By way of previous roles, among other things, Richard Coyle had a one-line part in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Jane Eyre, and appeared on stage in 'Proof' at London's Donmar Warehouse, a very special venue and great for his CV, I would think! For me he makes a very good John Ridd - as does Jack Baverstock as his child version. From the outset we see that he is a good, kind and soft-hearted person (seen at least once to wipe away a tear), showing love and respect for his father, bravery in being willing to avenge his killing yet able to accept his mother's wisdom and fulfil his duty by putting his heart into the farm work as bread-winner in his dad's place. He doesn't have the big, strong, gentle-giant build that Mr. Blackmore's book suggests - nor does Carver have the masterful he-man build I expected, though he certainly looks evil enough. Maybe this mismatch as regards build can be put down to changing fashions over the years. Anyway, when John smiles, his face lights up and his kindness shines through, making him well-worthy of being the handsome romantic hero, to my mind. In sharp contrast, Aidan Gillen (award-winning actor for his lead role in 'The Wire' + other wins and nominations) as Carver, has fine features qualifying him as a tall, dark, handsome man (as I'm sure he is in other roles in other films - a good actor can play all types, though I think he might specialise in hard types, so is well chosen for this role, despite being a bit on the thin side) but in this case, his intense cruelty, displayed from the outset, prevents him from appearing handsome to me. Maybe this is a woman's thing and men see things differently; maybe a man's attraction to a beautiful woman is purely physical and not influenced by her character. (It must actually work both ways though as there are plenty of real-life unsuitable matches made when a male or female has had their 'head turned' purely by good looks.) Anyway, John is through-and-through kind right to the end, when he cannot stop himself from offering a lifeline to Carver as he sinks in the quicksand, even though to be rid of him is the thing he wants most in the world!
Progressing to Anton Lesser as Counsellor Doone, Carver's father: a British actor who, among very many other things, has played many principle Shakespearean roles and whose lovely voice has often been used for spoken-word audio productions, played this role very masterfully. I had the feeling that he was not altogether a bad man, though having murdered Lorna's mother and grandma, and condoning his son's atrocious violence (quote from Carver: 'Bring back Lorna, but kill every man and child and burn the damn place to the ground!') he actually was very bad, but dutiful in his strivings to uphold the family and promote his son's marriage to Lorna in order to regain the family inheritance.
Veteran British actor Peter Vaughan played the role of Sir Ensor Doone masterfully too (as he plays all his roles - to mention just a couple from the past: Mr. Jaggers in Great Expectations 1967 and Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist 1962). Sir Ensor, as head of the family, in his way was a just man and after his death there were no restraints on Carver's brutality.
It was lucky for the Ridd family that they had a good friend, with influence in high places, in Captain Jeremy Stickles (played excellently by Martin Clunes - very different from Doc Martin and especially different from Gary in British Men Behaving Badly!). Without him, John would almost certainly have lost his head at the heavy hand of Judge Jeffreys (played convincingly by Michael Kitchen) along with the bunch of rebels who had backed the Duke of Monmouth and survived the counter-attack by the fearsome militia, only to face the formidable Judge Jeffreys, notorious for his ruthless sentences. In fact, John was not one of the rebels at all, and by being allowed to prove that, he was able to change his fate very, very much for the better!
Barbara Flynn, known to me particularly as Emily in the Forsyte Saga, Mrs Jamieson in Cranford and Madame Maigret, gave the perfect rendering of Sara Ridd - strong in standing up to Sir Ensor and full of love and support for her family, holding them together, despite her grief. She was realistic and able to accept the unimaginable sacrifice because she know that not accepting it would lead only to worse things.
The two Ridd daughters, Lizzie (I think the eldest) and Annie also well-deserve a mention. Lizzie, played by Joanne Froggatt (our dear Anna Bates from Downton Abbey), fought bravely, proving herself good with a gun, in Lorna's defence when the Doones attacked to forcibly retake her, despite having been initially, quite understandably, very outspoken against a Doone joining their family. Joanne Froggatt portrayed her change of heart very sensitively, when she thanked Lorna for saving her life and admitted that if she wasn't a Doone she could almost like her!
Annie, played by Honeysuckle Weeks (known to me for her role as Samantha in the great series Foyle's War alongside Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle - both brilliantly played, and whose husband's first name incidentally happens to be Lorne!) was a simple, loving character, adoring her brother and her ex-highwayman Tom Faggus (played by Anthony Calf - quite a change from his role in New Tricks!) despite what others thought of him, who finally proved himself worthy of her adoration - apart from one little wobble when he opted to join the rebels who rushed to welcome back to England, and fight for, the Duke of Monmouth - King Charles II's illegitimate son in an attempt to maintain a Protestant King. This was a tempting but unwise move, which was almost taken by many devout Protestants, and would have included the Ridd family's local church congregation, if John hadn't dissuaded them and made them see sense. Thankfully, John even manages to win Tom a pardon for his actions - almost too good to be true, but then he does have a winning smile!
I don't think I can include every character and actor in the film here, but briefly, two more women: Rebecca Callard, playing Ruth Huckaback, whom we have to respect for all her tender loving care, despite having had her hopes raised and dashed; and Helen Koker as Gwenny who convinced us that she did what she did 'for the best', even though she nearly wrecked the whole story! Finally, one last man: interestingly, Jack Ridd, key to the whole story, though gone in a flash, was played by Neil Finnighan who is now more well known, and award-winning, as a stunt performer and co-ordinator, himself a former special forces soldier and commando and having been awarded various combat service medals and Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant Award for his services to his Queen and country. I suppose his role in Lorna Doone was practically that of a stuntman.
The fictional love story Lorna Doone plays out during a period of particular political and religious unrest in the mid 17th century, during the reign of the Protestant Stuart King Charles II, followed by that of his brother James II, a Catholic. The political unrest hinged on the previous conflict between the Stuart Monarchy, in the form of the Stuart King Charles I (1625 -1649) and the Parliament, which had resulted in vicious civil wars, leading to the execution of King Charles I. This was followed by an unpopular eleven-year period of Oliver Cromwell's (and his son Richard Cromwell's) puritanical Protectorate, after which the people were ready to gladly welcome back a monarch in the form of King Charles II from exile, and he was dubbed 'the merry monarch' as he brought with him a mood of merriment and optimism after the austere times under the Cromwells.
The religious unrest resulted from the seemingly continuous rivalry between Roman Catholic and Protestant prospective heirs to the throne, often complicated by their religious conversion due, for example, to their marriage to someone from neighbouring Catholic European countries, such as France, Spain and Portugal or Protestant Netherlands, or Presbyterian Scots, often with a view to gaining power or avoiding a war. During periods when a Protestant monarch reigned, many Catholics were persecuted and killed, and vice versa, with the same fate awaiting the misfits!
King Charles II was raised as a Protestant, but his Portuguese wife Catherine of Braganza, was devoted to her Roman Catholic faith which made her a very unpopular Queen consort, and there were many rumours of Papist plots, one even suggesting that the Great Fire of London of 1666 had been caused deliberately by Papist agents. Catherine had three miscarriages but unfortunately couldn't provide Charles with an heir. In the meantime, Charles produced at least eight illegitimate children from a variety of mistresses, some of noble birth, others less so, the most famous of whom was Nell Gwynn, a notorious, high-spirited actress - in fact Charles II legitimised the profession of actress, but it was still considered a pretty scandalous activity for women! When Charles died in February 1685 (almost on his deathbed he finally converted to Catholicism, which he had actually always favoured), he was succeeded by his rightful heir, his brother James, who became King James II.
James had been raised Protestant like his brother and together they had lived through the miserable civil wars between Parliamentarians and Royalists. When the Royalists headquarters, the city of Oxford, surrendered he was taken prisoner at St. James’s Palace, but in 1648 when he was 15 he escaped in disguise to the court of his sister Mary and her husband William II of Orange in the Netherlands, very much Protestants and busily resisting the Catholic Spanish in the 80 Years' War. He later married Anne Hyde who he met there and with whom he had 8 children (in addition to many illegitimate ones.) Only two of the eight survived to adulthood, Lady Mary (who married William III of Orange and went on to become the famous William and Mary partnership of Protestant monarchs of England) and Lady Anne (who went on to become the first monarch of Kingdom of Great Britain). Anyway, by the time his brother Charles died in 1685 and he became King, he had converted to Catholicism, his first wife Anne had died, he had taken a devoutly Catholic second wife, Mary Modena of Italy, and they had had a son who would supersede his two protestant daughters Mary and Anne in the succession. This prospect worried the Protestant folks of England very much indeed and when they heard of the possibility of a Protestant son of Charles II's defeating and replacing James II (no matter that he was illegitimate), some were tempted to desert King James and back the opposition; hence the Battle of Sedgemoor on the 6th of July 1685. King James II was informed of the proposed invasion of the Duke of Monmouth and the expected mass of supporting rebels, and was ready for them. The untrained rebels proved no match for the mighty royal militia and many were slaughtered in the bloody battle that ensued, and any who did escape, survived only to be executed for treason. To bring back the link to Lorna Doone, the Doones had been persuaded to join the rebels by being promised that, with their help, the rebels were sure to win and that the new king would then look favourably on them and restore their lands to them, whereas under James II their prospects were bleak indeed as they had killed one of powerful Judge Jeffreys' men whilst trying to forcibly take Lorna back. At last the court of James II had realised that the country would be better off without the Doones and sent the militia to deal with them, along with the Duke of Monmouth and the other rebels. This was practically the end of Doones, except for Carver who escaped, but enough said - again I'm getting very close to divulging too much!
The current British monarchy is firmly Protestant, with no Catholic being able to become the monarch. This was clearly not always the case, and as this is such a key issue in the story of Lorna Doone, I thought it would be interesting to investigate the development of Protestantism in England up to the period of our story. However, as this really is rather a digression, I will put this section into an appendix.
So I will finish here by recommending that you watch this period drama. I chose to watch it for the sake of the name and enjoyed it very much, so I recommend you to watch it, purely for enjoyment!-------------------
Appendix: The development of Protestantism in England leading up to the period of the historical backdrop for 'Lorna Doone'
I must start by saying that this can only be a very shortened description of the complicated development of Protestantism, and not being in any way an expert in the field I can't vouch for its accuracy, but here goes!
Before looking at the divisions of Christianity, I really have to look further back to its beginnings. Christianity was first seen in England in the late 2nd century A.D. At the time, England and Wales were occupied and ruled by the Romans and the Roman Emperors did not approve of Christianity at all so the early Christians were ruthlessly persecuted. However, in 313 Emperor Constantine himself converted to Christianity so the persecution stopped and he granted Christians freedom to worship. From then on, Christianity slowly spread throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, gradually replacing the Celtic belief in many gods, Druidism and Paganism. By the year 407, the last of the Roman soldiers left Britain and invaders from Germany and Denmark, Saxons, Angles and Jutes arrived on the east coast and spread out across Britain bringing their own beliefs, largely displacing the early Catholic faith.
However, despite this fact and the distancing from Rome, Roman Catholic Christianity hung on and developed in Britain, reinforced by the arrival in Kent in 597, of a mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great and led by St Augustine of Canterbury. In fact, Catholicism became very powerful indeed and bishops sat alongside kings, becoming themselves very powerful: being involved in government, living in palaces and having many privileges, quite unlike the normal priests and common people, who were desperately poor. The services were held in Latin so that the normal people, even if they could read English, could understand nothing. The monks and nuns did do a lot to help the poor, giving food and setting up simple hospitals to help the sick and offer hospitality to travellers (hence the link between the two words). However, it was still very much 'them' and 'us'.
An important characteristic of Protestantism is the availability of the Bible in the vernacular so that people can understand it. A key Christian of the 14th century was John Wycliffe who translated the Bible from Latin to English, and he also spoke out against the doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that bread and wine are physically changed into the body and blood of Christ during the Mass). This was a risky thing to do and although he died of natural causes, his followers (who were called Lollards) were persecuted as heretics. In 1401, a law was passed which allowed heretics to be burned to death. Another very important Christian of the time was William Tyndale who translated the New Testament into English in 1525. He started on the Old Testament but was burnt as a heretic in 1536 before he could finish. His last words are said to have been: "Lord open the King of England's eyes!"
Altogether, the church at this time didn't sound to be in a good state, but the people outside the church probably weren't very good either. I suppose they were hard times and everyone was out for himself!
We tend to think that England converted to Protestantism when Henry VIII set up The Church of England, with himself as head in place of the Pope, to enable him to divorce unwanted wives instead of beheading them, but it was in fact much more complicated than that. Between 1536 and 1541, having made himself head of the church, he carried out huge reforms, including the dissolution of the many religious houses or monasteries which had sprung up, the properties and money from which of course went to the crown. By the time Henry VIII died in 1547, he had achieved his marriage annulments, he had substituted the King's authority for the supremacy of the Pope, he had introduced the basic Protestant requirement of a vernacular version of the Bible for the people (albeit with the restriction that the reading of The English Bible was a privilege of upper class men, and women - but only in private!), but otherwise, the doctrine of the English church was still pretty orthodox Roman Catholic, despite having broken with Rome. Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had managed only to give him a daughter, Princess Mary. His 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn, might have given him a son, but unfortunately the shock of her husband's serious jousting accident caused her to miscarry, so she left him with only another daughter, Princess Elizabeth. It was left to his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour to produce the precious son, Edward in 1537 (and she died in the process) who became King Edward VI, in 1547 at just 9 years old when his father died (his last three wives having given him no more offspring). Edward VI was the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. He ruled England and Ireland till he himself died at age15 in 1553 and during his brief 6-year reign, Protestantism was established for the first time in England, clerical celibacy was abolished and it became compulsory to hold services in the English language for the people to understand. When he knew he was dying, in an attempt to retain the Protestant church for England, he named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey as his heir, excluding his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth and overruling the order of succession. However, poor Jane only managed to reign for just 13 days till she was beheaded, aged 16, on 12 February 1554 and Mary came to the throne. Many of Edward’s reforms were reversed and many Protestants were murdered during Queen Mary's (together with her Spanish husband Philip’s) Catholic co-reign from 1553 till her death in 1558, but still something survived to become the basis of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1559, which, with just a few adjustments to appease the Catholic bishops, the protestant Church of England, 'Ecclesia Anglicana' or Anglicanism, was officially established. Of course, Anglicanism has evolved since these early beginnings, but basically it can be said to be the result of a combination of three streams of Christianity: the remnants of the old Romano-British church, the Roman tradition brought by St Augustine and his successors, and the Celtic tradition coming down from Scotland via Northumberland associated with the humble St Aidan and St Cuthbert - the resulting Church of England being led by the two Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, succeeded her sister Mary as Elizabeth I, and during her impressive reign of 44 years from 1559 taking us up to 1603, things remained firmly Protestant. She was actually pretty tolerant as regards religion, choosing to steer a middle course between the Puritanism of the Parliament and Catholicism, and as long as people were good, she didn't care too much. She developed a moderate form of Anglicanism, taking the best from both sides, in her opinion, and calling herself The Supreme Governor, rather than her father's title The Supreme Head of the Church of England, which appeased the Catholics a little and also those who weren't happy with the idea of a female leader of the church - (imagine what they would think of female bishops)! However, there were still various Catholic plots against Elizabeth, some involving her cousin Mary Stuart Queen of Scots (who she finally agreed to have executed) and the biggest of all - the Spanish Armada in 1588, probably initiated by Philip II of Spain who begrudged the way Catholics were being treated in England following the death of his wife Queen Mary. Elizabeth rose to the occasion, delivering a rousing speech to the English troops in which she said that although she had the body of a weak and feeble woman, she had the heart and stomach of a king and that, under God, she had placed her strength and good will in the loyal hearts of her subjects. She had first ordered a raid to weaken the Spanish fleet in Cadiz Harbour under Francis Drake, famously just back from his circumnavigation of the globe, and had sent troops to support the Dutch Protestants against Spanish Catholicism. Now the English fleet, again under Sir Francis Drake (maybe a bit of a pirate, but with the backing of the English Queen and knighted for his achievements), tackled the mighty Spanish fleet in the English Channel and partly by preventing the Spanish ships from meeting up with the Spanish land army, as was planned, finally won a splendid victory! In doing so, England was protected from Catholic invasion and Elizabeth's popularity amongst her subjects was boosted, even though she offered precious little reward to those brave fighting men who managed to survive the ordeal, as in fact, by being as stingy as possible with supplies and ammunition, she had shown little compassion for them whist they were enduring it! During her reign, Elizabeth rejected many proposals of marriage from various quarters, even one from Sir Walter Raleigh who planned to make her the queen of an American colony (which he named Virginia with Elizabeth in mind) and indeed she chose to remain the 'Virgin Queen' till she died, leaving no children and naming no successor. It was decided that the throne should pass to James Stuart, Elizabeth's first cousin twice removed, who had been King James VI of Scotland since 1567, so he also became James I of England in 1603 following the 'Union of the Crowns', by which he inherited the English (including Wales, incorporated into the Kingdom of England in 1284) and Irish throne. (Actually, this only meant 2 crowns on one head because the Scottish Parliament passed an Act of Union in 1607 but the English Parliament refused, so England and Scotland were only fully united 100 years later in 1707 when Queen Anne became the first monarch of the Kingdom of Great Britain, but that is much later and I've already mentioned her in the main text!).
James I was greeted enthusiastically when he rode down from Scotland, but he proved a disappointment and just two years after his coronation was the target of the famous Gunpowder Plot, when a bunch of impetuous Catholics attempted to blow him and his ministers up when he went to open Parliament. The plot failed and the Catholics were left worse off as James was advised to take more stringent measures against Catholics to avoid any further plots against his rule, but there were others, including one in which Sir Walter Raleigh (a big favourite of Queen Elizabeth I's) was involved, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 13 years before being executed for conspiracy in 1618. James I was wasteful with money, spending lavishly on his own court and was far too fond of handsome young men, such as the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, who was allowed to wield inappropriate political influence. As regards religion, he gave mixed messages as he angered the Puritans by refusing to get rid of the powerful bishops, but ordered a new translation of the Bible into English - the famous 'King James Bible of 1611. When his son Charles succeeded to the throne on his death in 1625, the legacy he handed to Charles I was quite a grim one, with the country at war with Catholic Spain, deepening rifts domestically between Parliament and the Crown, and a serious shortage of money!
Charles I was a nervous man with a stammer and weak legs and was not a born leader. He had very high moral standards but he made enemies as regards religion. He introduced a new Prayer Book to the Church of England, which he unsuccessfully tried (by force) to impose on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, in what became known as the 'First Bishops’ War' - the second one was even more of a humiliation! His reign was also blighted by a civil war between Royalists (mainly the old conservative nobility and people living in rural areas in the north and west) and Parliamentarians, led by the powerful Oliver Cromwell (mainly those wanting religious reform and people living in the industrial towns), which resulted in the battle of Marston Moor in Yorkshire in 1644 when Cromwell's cavalry decisively beat the King's, and in 1646 the 3-month siege of Pendennis Castle in Cornwall which was the last Royalist stronghold to hold out till near starvation against the Parliament's army. Charles I was defeated but he stubbornly refused to negotiate with the Parliamentarians, insisting that he was King by divine right, and finally in 1649 the drastic step of regicide was taken, when the king was formally tried and executed, leading to the interregnum period of Cromwell's Protectorate before the consequent Restoration of a king in the form of Charles II.
So now I have caught up with myself and we have reached 'Lorna Doone' time. In 1689, Parliament passed the Act of Toleration and the Government gave up trying to impose one kind of religion on the nation - simply the Monarch had to be Anglican, because after all, he or she was head of it. Thankfully, modern monarchs are Constitutional, no longer wielding power, but instead advising and carrying out other functions, leaving the business of running of the country to democratically elected governments. Alongside freedom to choose one's religion comes the freedom to reject religion too, and since then Britain has gradually become secularised, with those having no religious belief living happily alongside those of a variety of faiths. As regards Christianity in Britain (which is what I set myself to examine on account of Lorna Doone), both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have softened over time and now the various sub-divisions of Catholics and Protestants (such as Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) etc. etc. - (so complicated, especially when one looks worldwide including all the Orthodox Religions) are working on achieving unity as they realise that they all believe in Christ and want to follow his example, and that any differences in their beliefs are minor!
Now we have a very different situation, in which populations are able to travel and migrate to other countries in a way unimaginable in the past, meaning that the inhabitants of Britain now have a wide variety of faiths such as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, in addition to the various forms of Christianity and those of no religious faith, and all of these folk need to live peaceably together. Conflict is bound to arise if one group feels discriminated against, such that they feel at a disadvantage to others; this can be for religious reasons or otherwise - the Northern Ireland Conflict in the 1970s, 80s and 90s which was actually a political, ethnic and sectarian issue rather than a religious one, but which resulted in the tragic death of both Catholics and Protestants illustrates this, as did the antics and battles of the various Catholic versus Protestant monarchs of the past! If we could idealistically find a way to smooth out all discrimination and inequalities, our world would be a lovely peaceful place to live, which is just what the Ridd family wanted in the story 'Lorna Doone'!
- 'The Monarchs of Britain' by Josephine Ross
- BBC film Lorna Doone 2000