Letter: Political pope

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The Independent Online
Political pope

Sir: Both Austin Pielou (Letters, 5 July) and C Watson (10 July) miss the point about Pope Hadrian IV. Yes, Hadrian was English, but when the English King Henry II requested the Pope's support and blessing for an invasion of Ireland, Hadrian conspicuously did not give either. Instead he "granted" Ireland to Henry on the (dubious) authority of a (supposed) legacy from the Emperor Constantine under which all islands off the coast of Europe belonged to the Papacy.

Henry, newly crowned king of England, could not accept Hadrian's generosity and thus acknowledge that Ireland was the Pope's to grant and to take away, without acknowledging the Pope's similar sovereignty over Ireland's larger neighbour. The whole affair should thus be seen in the context of the centuries-long struggle between Church and Crown. Of course Hadrian was politically motivated, but his game plan held no place for petty nationalisms.


Troon, Cornwall