Some days there are articles that make you wish your mother was still alive to see them. My old Convent educated mum was a not terribly closet Catholic all her life, and if there was one thing she would cross an entire city to see it was a good relic. Therefore visits to towns and cities always included a rummage about the nearest abbey or cathedral. The fingernails of Thomas (fresh from inspecting wounds); old rags with suspiciously fresh looking faces on them; hairs of the prophets; weeping statues and mummified monks all were grist to mother’s strange obsessions. I vividly remember when she came to Cyprus finding her at the back of a church wrestling with a huge wooden chest in which she was certain lay the bones of Lazarus.
So the news that there is an ongoing auction for a phial of blood from that most holy of recent Presidents, Ronnie Reagan would have had her raiding the biscuit jar. Yes indeed, you too can own a small glass vessel with some dried blood of the old saint himself, all nicely authorised by PFC Auctions a company trading out of the Channel Isles.
Of course the blogosphere is in uproar. How dare they, they shout in unison. The vile rank sacrilege of it all. The blood of the saints is not to be made for sale (at least not outside the USA). There is a quite a heat getting up!
But it’s hardly the first such exercise. Last year, in May, a bag of John F Kennedy’s hair clippings went on sale in Beverly Hills. It had been cut from the presidential head by Harry Gelbert “Barber to the stars” and reached $4,160. Not bad. A tie worn by Kennedy reached $8,540 in Bonham’s auctioneers.
The keeping, and subsequent selling off of souvenirs of the great and the good is hardly new, and we should not expect any better from our benighted generation. Blood soaked handkerchiefs from the execution of King Charles I are still venerated. In 1989 the police controlling the crowds of his funeral procession lost control, and the fingers of the old Ayatollah Khomeini were torn from his hands by his followers for souvenirs, as his body was taken in an open coffin to his burial. The hair of Washington, Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson all did the rounds until they were brought together in the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. Washington’s false teeth too, were much sought after. One plate is in the Smithsonian and the other was stolen!
Bids close Thursday.
Copyright David Macadam 2012