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According to William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar called out: “Et tu Brute!” moments before dying on 15 March, 44 BC. He was stabbed 23 times.

Pope Benedict XVI

On 28 February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI resigned the papacy as a result of his advanced age, becoming the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. In modern times, all popes stayed in office until death. Benedict XVI was be the first Pope to resign voluntarily since Pope Celestine V in 1294.

February 12 is an interesting day in history: in 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed for treason after reigning as queen of England for just nine days, and in 1912, the last emperor of China, Puyi, was forced to abdicate and the country became a republic.

February 11 is a moving date in history: in 1531, Henry VIII is recognised by the new Protestant Church of England as its ‘supreme head’; in 1975, Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman to head a British political party, leading the Conservatives; and in 1990, South African anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years.

British navigator Captain James Cook was killed by indigenous Hawaiians after a row over a stolen boat on 14 February 1779.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Saeculum Obscurum‏

The Saeculum Obscurum of the Papacy is a name given to a period in the history of the Papacy during the first half of the 10th century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964.

English: Portrait of Pope Sergius III in the B...

Pope Sergius III reigned from 904 to 911.

As a matter of fact, the dark ages of the papacy are also known as the pornocracy, the time politicking popes were mainly governed by local noblemen and prostitutes.

Sergius III is arguably the best example of the unbridled debauchery of the pornocracy. He was possibly the only pope known to have ordered the murder of another pope, namely Pope Leo V and his anti-pope Christopher, and probably the only pope to father an illegitimate son who later became pope and assumed the name John XI.


Pelagius (born circa 354, died after 418) was a British monk and theologian whose heterodox theological system known as Pelagianism emphasized the primacy of human effort in spiritual salvation. In short, he opposed the idea of predestination and asserted a strong version of the doctrine of free will.

A17th century Calvinist print depicting Pelagi...

A 17th century Calvinist print defaming Pelagius

After the fall of Rome to the Visigoth chieftain Alaric in 410, Pelagius and his closest collaborator Celestius went to Africa. There they encountered the hostile criticism of Augustine, who published several denunciatory letters concerning their doctrine, particularly Pelagius’ insistence on man’s basically good moral nature and on man’s own responsibility for voluntarily choosing Christian asceticism for his spiritual advancement.

Eventually, in 417, Pope Innocent I endorsed the condemnations and excommunicated made against Pelagius and Celestius. The proposal of the basic goodness in man was disposed of in Christian doctrine for centuries to come.


The custom that flourished, especially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by which a pope would name as his chief minister and most important advisor a nephew or similar relative who was elevated to the rank of cardinal and thereafter oversaw many of the most vital elements of papal administration. The practice was not invented in the sixteenth century, as papal nepotism had long been an established part of the pontifical court.

Pope Innocent III, himself a cardinal-nephew, created an unprecedented four cardinal-nephews

Pope Innocent III, himself a cardinal-nephew, created an unprecedented four cardinal-nephews

Pope Adrian IV (1154-1159), for example, named his nephew Boso to the cardinalate and put him in charge of Castel Sant’Angelo. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was common for a pope from one of the leading noble families to promote the interests of his house, but nepotism began reaching absurd heights toward the end of the fifteenth century with the accession of Alfonso de Borja y Borja as Callistus III (1455-1458). He made two nephews cardinals and worked to assist other family members with such vigor that at his death, the Aragonese who had profited from his generosity were driven from Rome. One nephew, Rodrigo Borgia, became Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). He made his son Cesare Borgia a cardinal and surrendered to him vast powers over papal policy. Cardinal-nephew could be young chaps; in 1545, Ranuccio Farnese was made cardinal by Paul III at the age of 15.

“A Pope’s nephew dies twice; the second time like all men, the first time when his uncle dies.” – Cardinal Albani

The cardinal nephew in later years developed out of the need for the pope, usually old at the time of his election, to be assisted in the demands of office by a younger and more energetic assistant. Given the climate of intrigue that often pervaded Roman society in the period, the pope regularly turned to a promising young nephew, as relatives were slightly more reliable than scheming prelates who might be anxious to replace the reigning pontiff. As a brother to Leo XIII, Giuseppe Pecci became the last cardinal-nephew to date in 1879. The practise seems to have died out.

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The late journalist Bill Deedes’ father, Herbert, inherited Saltwood Castle and thousands of acres of Kent but, unable to cope with life after the Boer War, lost the lot. As his father had no money to educate him, Bill joined the Morning Post in 1931. He thus became the first member of his family for 500 years to do an actual job.

Sheep, Stodmarsh, Kent, England

Sheep, Stodmarsh, Kent, England

25% of the world’s sheep are fat-tailed.

Lard is pig fat. A larder was originally the place where the lard was kept. The word lard comes from the ancient Greek for ‘dainty’.

The German for fat is Schmalz.

The simple origins of Pope Pius X became clear right after his election in 1903, when he wore a pectoral cross made of gilded metal on the day of his coronation. His entourage was horrified, the new pope explained that he always wore it and that he had brought no other with him. Pius X was well known for cutting down on papal ceremonies. He also abolished the custom of the pope dining alone, which had been established by Pope Urban VIII between 1623 and 1644, Pius X invited his friends to eat with him. He was also on one occasion chided by Rome’s social leaders for refusing to make his peasant sisters papal countesses, to which he responded “I have made them sisters of the pope; what more can I do for them?”

The Rule of the Harlots

Saeculum obscurum, literally meaning dark age, is a name given to a period in the history of the Papacy during the first half of the 10th century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964.

The period was first identified and named by the Italian Cardinal and ecclesiastical historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici in the sixteenth century.

Marozia e Teodora

Medieval print of Marioza and her mother Theodora sharing a bath

Other scholars have dated the period more broadly or narrowly, and with other terms, such as the Pornocracy or more commonly Rule of the Harlots, which was coined by Protestant German theologians in the nineteenth century.

During this period, the Popes were strongly influenced by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family; the Theophylacti and their relatives. The family originated from a man called Theophylactus, who had risen to hold many positions of some importance among the Roman nobility. His wife Theodora and daughter Marozia held a great influence over the papal selection and religious affairs in Rome through conspiracies, affairs and marriages. The power of the Theophylacti was generated through sex.

Marozia took rich lovers and powerful husbands and became the concubine of Pope Sergius III – the first pope to be depicted wearing the papal tiara – when aged 15. About six years later in the year 910, Marioza and Sergius III were blessed with a son whom they called John. Marioza would ensure that he would eventually be seated as pope.

To ensure her son’s place in the papal succession Marozia had to arrange the murder of her former lover Pope John X, the hero of Garigliano, where he had taken the field personally to lead the victorious Christian troops in battle against the Saracens in 915. He was imprisoned on the orders of Marioza and most probably murdered in 928. Ironically, it is rumoured that John X was also the lover of Marioza’s mother Theodora.

Leo VI and Stephen VII succeeded John X as in-between popes before Marioza’s precious son John was old enough to ascend St. Peter’s throne. According to the chroniclers; they were hand-picked by Marioza. Eventually, her son was created Pope John XI in 931, he was only twenty at the time.

Six more popes would descend from Marioza and her offspring.

See other: Hall of Fame Posts

Per Procurationem

From the Latin procurare, meaning to take care of, is a form of procuration. It involves the action of taking care of, hence management, stewardship, or agency. The word is applied to the authority or power delegated to a procurator, or agent, as well as to the exercise of such authority expressed frequently by procuration pro persona, or shortly per pro., or simply p.p.

Pope St. Pius IX

A common usage of per procurationem occurs in business letters, which are often signed on behalf of another person. For example, given a secretary authorized to sign a letter on behalf of the president of a company.

In ecclesiastical law, procuration is the provision of necessaries for bishops and archdeacons during their visitations of parochial churches in their dioceses. Procuration originally took the form of meat, drink, provender, and other accommodation, but was gradually changed to a sum of money.

The Pope of the Roman Catholic church signs papal laws and other formal documents with p.p. followed by his regal name.

Note also that English criminal law makes the provision or attempted provision of any person under twenty-one years of age for the purpose of illicit intercourse or prostitution, an offence, known as procuration.