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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):

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