Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Pope's Legion

In one of those unexpected coincidences of Oxford life, I found myself today at the Oxford book launch of 'The Pope's Legion' by Charles Coulombe, a book on the fascinating subject of the Papal Zouaves, the light infantry which was recruited internationally to defend Rome from the attacks of Garibaldi and Count Cavour. In the end the papal army was defeated, and in blatant disregard for international law Rome was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 (in time to disrupt the First Vatican Council, which was not a coincidence). The Zouaves came from all over the world, including England, and their story deserves to be more widely known.

I was introduced to the author (pictured in Blackwells) by no less a personage than James Bogle.

Here's the beginning of the English Zouaves' song:

St George and old England forever!
Once more her sons arm for the fight,
With the cross on their breasts, to do battle
for God, Holy Church, and the right.
Twine your swords with the palm branch, brave comrades,
For as pilgrims we march forth today;--
Love God, O my soul, love Him only,
And then with light heart go thy way.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:08 pm

    Can we have the rest....the first verse only whets the appetite - is there a known tune ? Please don't leave us with just the eight or so lines.
    Alan Robinson