Secret Orders of the Knights of Martyred Saints Bent on Vengeance Is Exactly What Is Wrong With American Suburban Spread
Apparently curses have to comply with the Human Rights Act.
Which is where St Edmund and the divine smiting come in. The saint was martyred by marauding Vikings in 870. The Danish chief Hinguar called upon him to renounce Christianity. He refused. The Danes got upset, tied him to a tree, whipped him, used him for archery practice, then beheaded him. Perhaps understandably, St Edmund has since acquired a reputation for divine vengeance.
His most famous victim was, allegedly, Henry VIII. As part of his break with Rome, Henry caused the closure of St Edmund’s Abbey in 1539.
Legend has it that the king was sent mad by syphilis, screaming in his death throes: “The monks! The monks!” Mr Murdie says: “This is solemn stuff. At this stage, we are still praying that it won’t be necessary.”
Should it be necessary, though, on St Edmund’s feast day the knights will gather in the old Cattle Market and proceed to the abbey ruins, where the saint’s remains still lie. Prayers will be said.
Kirti Patel, the solicitor acting for the Knights of St Edmund, insisted last week: “It is not a curse, it is a peaceful prayer meeting, legal and in accordance with the Human Rights Act.”
Mr Murdie refers us to Psalm 109: “They have spoken against me with false tongues… Let Satan stand at his right hand… Let him be condemned… Let his days be few… let his children be fatherless… let there be no man to pity him.”
He believes that it will work. But isn’t it slightly excessive to swap the normal petitions and planning inquiries for inflicting syphilis and insanity?
“This development will blight the lives of thousands of Bury St Edmunds people,” Mr Murdie says. “It will condemn the elderly to spend their twilight years shuffling round a soulless ‘shopping hangar’ terrorised by youths in hooded tops and the other things that afflict these developments.”
Well, I’m square on the side of St Edmunds. So at least I’m free from smiting.
Debenhams and the developers see it differently. John Laker, the managing director of Centros Miller, says the townspeople were consulted extensively and an independent poll found that the majority supports the development.
“I think St Edmund would be on our side,” he says. “We are strengthening Bury St Edmunds. The towns around are developing. If you try to stand still, you lose trade to your neighbours and slide backwards.”
“And no,” he adds, “I don’t think I will get syphilis. I am married.”
You know, that kind of pride in the face of a divine curse is going to get him in trouble. He’d better get busy repenting.
Andrew Varley, the Conservative deputy leader of the council and the chairman of the Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party, has issued a written proclamation against cursing: “I must warn the Knights of St Edmund that I shall invoke an ancient bylaw which will allow me to have them burnt at the stake for witchcraft.”
Oh now that is just childish.
Mr Murdie dismisses this as rubbish. “In Medieval England, witches were hanged, and besides, what we are doing is Christianity, not witchcraft.”