Sir Winston Churchill – born of an American mother and an English father – reached the apex of human greatness in his country, and attained it deservedly by his exceptional talents, the unusual scope of his personality, and the merit of the many services he rendered his country during the course of a brilliant political career. Endowed moreover with the refinement of an excellent traditional education – Churchill was the grandson of a Duke of Marlborough – and of a vigorous and extensive culture, this great statesman also distinguished himself as a writer, a brilliant orator, and one of the finest conversationalists of our time. Our first picture shows him in grand uniform, with the collar of the Garter, as he arrives at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Obviously, it is only natural for a personage of such merit to present himself wearing his insignias at this most solemn ceremony of English public life.
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Now, it would be a big mistake to suppose that according to the doctrine that underlies the coronation ceremony, noble, dignified and solemn apparel is worn only by persons of distinction.
If clothing should correspond to the one who wears it and to the circumstances in which is worn, then the dress of the eminent man should harmonize with the position he has reached. But God does not only have eminent men as sons. Every human creature, however humble, has his own natural and inalienable dignity.
Given this fact, throughout the centuries of Christian civilization, customs slowly fashioned clothing with a high tenor of dignity for people of humble circumstances, as can be seen in our second picture.
It is the photograph of an anonymous person, an invalid from the Chelsea home for veterans, which was built in the seventeenth century by Charles II. This man also has his traditional uniform for days of gala, which he has donned to watch the coronation procession pass by.
Caught unaware by the camera, he is eating a sandwich. His features reveal the great distance between him and the glorious Churchill as regards personal merit and family tradition. He is however a man who honorably rendered the services he could. And if glory with its external signs belongs to the one, the respect that authentic common merit deserves belongs to the other. This respect is expressed in the dignity of his dress. For both great and small, there is a just and honorable place in Christian civilization.
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Of course, one does not seek to copy materially all of this in one’s own country. However, while the colors and styles of clothing and insignias change with time and place, the spirit and the principles of these traditions have a universal value. It is only necessary to restore the principles, and they will spontaneously give to each country and each institution the adequate tone for the circumstances of time and place.
The preceding article was originally published in Catolicismo, No. 33, September, 1953. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.