One of the delights of reading the exploits of the master is comparing them with other stories both real and fictional. Recently, the Nashville Scholars looked at” The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” and it didn’t take Dan Brown to bring to mind those mainstays of British lore, the knight-errant and the grail. Locating themes from Templar grail lore is quite a cottage industry. The connections that can be made from MUSGRAVE to theories explored in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code are abundant. Did you know that as a Stewart (Stuart) king, Charles I was the designated protector of the grail mystery? It’s those Templar/freemasons again. But even ignoring this line of reasoning, one is still provided with ample material for discussion.
The execution of Charles I was a turning point in the relationship between the people of Britain, their monarch, and their parliament. Although the monarchy would be reestablished under Charles II, it would never be as powerful. Parliament would exercise ever-greater power fulfilling a mandate begun centuries earlier at the signing of Magna Carta. This connection is the first of three which form the grand structure of the story. It is the common man who through his own efforts rises to a position of equality with those placed in power by circumstance. In MUSGRAVE, Holmes is closer to Brunton on social rank but is his superior because he has integrity; he is not equal to Sir Reginald Musgrave but rises above him because he has applied himself to education and does not take his status in society for granted.
The second connection is the lifestyle of Holmes, which I compare to that of the knight-errant of both British and European lore. It is the knight-errant that moves from place to place, from situation to situation, without visible means of support; about whom little is known, not his place of birth or his parentage, from whence he came and to where he is going. He is driven, however, by the need to right wrongs and add value to a society that without him would surely collapse. He carries with him the knowledge of what has come before and the ability to differentiate between its good and bad attributes. These characteristics give him an immortality that suggests among other things that should he be needed again, he will return. It seems that every culture has its version of this. Sometime, write a list of similarities between Sherlock Holmes and the Lone Ranger.
The third connection is the main theme of the story. The crown of Charles I symbolizing his authority was to be held by the Musgrave family until “He who will come” does indeed arrive to claim it. Yet no true king came who was worthy, and it becomes the responsibility of Holmes to discover the crown – or what was left of it – and explain that it is no longer needed. Sir Gawain did not prevail in his search for the Grail until he asked, “What is the Grail and whom does it serve?” Without the emphasis on the meaning of service even the holiest of things is meaningless. In context, Holmes also taught that it will be the integrity of purpose and personal honesty that makes his country, “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”( William Shakespeare, "King Richard II", Act 2 scene 1) and keeps it secure. To him, that is something sacred:
What shall we give for it? All that is ours
Why should we give it? For the sake of the trust
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Footprints Along the Paths / Filed August, 2011 / Dr. Marino Alvarez
Trummelbach Falls / Filed October, 2011 / Dr. Marino Alvarez