Obscure links: Kimbolton Castle & Spanish bureaurocracy

I love obscure links. They sometimes demonstrate serendipities that make the world and its history even more fascinating. At the heart of my village stands an imposing castle, Kimbolton Castle, the ancestral country home of the Montague family (better known as the Dukes of Manchester). When the Castle was owned by the Wingfields, it was used as the last place of imprisonment of Queen Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, and it was here that she died in 1536. Now, hidden in the sorry episode of Henry’s divorce from Catherine, lie the seeds of a phenomenon that would be eventually exported, via the Holy Roman Empire, to Spain (and many other countries) and is still alive and well to this day: the use of red tape.

The first use of the term “red tape” can be traced back to Henry VIII when he besieged the Pope with missives requesting the annulment of his marriage to Catherine. Each of the 80 petitions were individually bound with red tape. The use of red tape was then taken up by Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor) to distinguish important administrative documents from others. And the habit has stuck ever since. Even today, in an age of computerised administration, important state documents are still bound in red tape in Spain.

However, mention the term “red tape” to anyone and you will be greeted with a deep groan and probably several hours of anecdotal stories of trying to get a passport or a visa,  change a bank account or change names on an airline ticket. Spain is not alone in suffering from excessive red tape, but it has the skill honed down to perfection!! Watch this (it does have subtitles):

About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on February 15, 2012, in Obscure links and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Olivia A wylie

    I absolutely loved this – tried to e-mail this to my boss Juan Redondo at the college but no luck. Please e-mail this to me Frank and I will forward it to him. Thanks. O

  2. Hola Frank. Soy Ana Cecilia.

    Yo pense que esto solo sucedia en mi pais.

  3. Andres lopezdelallave

    Querido amigo Frank
    Me ha alegrado mucho recibir este Post
    Que interesante lo que cuentas!
    Un abrazo y besos a Jenny
    Muy buena tu foto de la “sombra del ciclista”

  4. María Pérez Narciso

    Pues si, esto es lo que pasa en España… es muy irritante!!!

  5. Leopoldo Castro

    Genial, el clip. Estas cosas siempre me recuerdan un cómic (posiblemente de los años 70) del humorista Forges en el que el funcionario le decía a su “cliente” (o víctima, más bien) que sus documentos no eran válidos porque no llevaban pegada una póliza redonda (por si acaso explicaré que las pólizas [extinguidas ya hace muchos años] eran como sellos de correos que era necesario poner en los impresos oficiales para muchas gestiones… y eran todas rectangulares).

    • ….sí, eso de las pólizas redondas, son como la situación ‘Catch 22’….que al final de todo, no existe solución que facilite los trámites del papeleo que sirve solo para fastidiarnos. Pero, proporciona trabajo para las masas…………..

  6. Interesting connections and the little film is brilliant, Frank! I remember it vividly – I don’t think I ever actually managed to enroll at the Universidad de Sevilla. By the time I nearly managed it, they’d all gone on strike. 🙂

    • …I thought it might stir a few memories of your time in Spain, Niobe. But when you stay long enough in Spain, you can even get to love (tolerate?) the interminable ‘papeleo’. Not that we are entirely free from it in the UK…………….

  7. A wonderful little film, one of my favourites, as a Spain-dweller who has to suffer Spanish admin! Very interesting to hear about the origin of the expression “red tape”. Thanks!

    • ….yes, interesting that in Spanish there is no direct translation (given that ‘red tape’ is still used in Spain). The nearest you’ll get is “formalidades, trámites etc…..”. But the one I like the most is “papeleo” which conveys a real sense of frustration!

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