Can I coup my horse here?

PP senator Carlos Benet has said that Pavía entered Congress on a horse (during the 1874 coup), Tejero with a pistol (this is the 1981 coup that failed), while Zapatero arrived by suburban train (the reference is to the Al Qaeda train bombs before the elections two years ago). I don’t think Pavía actually went into parliament, and the difficulty of entering the chamber on all but a modest donkey suggests that Benet’s getting metaphorical on us. The numerous historical accounts of this kind of behaviour usually refer to entry in a place of worship. For example:

  • “As a crowning outrage, the vikings plundered Aachen and stabled their horses in the dome which Charles had built” (HW Carless Davis, Charlemagne (Charles the Great): The Hero of Two Nations)
  • “In Lichfield Cathedral [Cromwell’s Puritans] demolished the monuments and windows, stabled their horses in the chancel, tore up the pavement, hunted cats with hounds…” (John Parker Lawson, The Life and Times of William Laud, D.D.: Lord Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • “The soldiers of Napoleon stabled their horses in the monastery wherein this wonderful example of human genius was treasured…” (The World’s Progress)

However, entering the home of legitimacy apart from on foot needn’t always indicate a desire to undermine that legitimacy. Stephen W Williams (The Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida) points out that the troops of Henry IV wouldn’t have kept their horses in the church if the outbuildings hadn’t been destroyed, and George Ticknor (History of Spanish Literature) records that Spanish knights kept their horses along with their wives in their bedrooms (I don’t feel I’m stretching the point excessively) during the Moorish wars in order to be able to mount both with equal rapidity. I don’t really see why modern-day members of parliaments shouldn’t be allowed to bring in bicycles and even modest donkeys. Oil tankers should, on the other hand, be outlawed, particularly in Iran and in the case of Mr Galloway.

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