Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Court of Chivalry in the 1630s

The Special Correspondent sent me this link to a post from the Institute of Historical Research into the records of the Court of Chivalry in the period 1634-40 and the insight they give into aristocratic and gentle mores in the reign of King Charles I.

The original post can be accessed here

Thursday, 18 May 2017

DNA and the Peerage

The Special Correspondent has sent me the link to the following and very interesting article from The Tatler about the implications for Peerage inheritance cases of a decision by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council concerning the admissability of DNA evidence to establish paternity. It can be read  here

Amongst the cases it discusses is the Russell of Ampthill one from the inter-war period about which I read an account many years ago.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

William Dobson painting for the Ashmolean

The Oxford Mail has a report about the assignment to the Ashmolean by H.M Treasury of a painting by William Dobson. Dobson who succeeded Van Dyke as Court painter, but in the very different circumstances of the Civil War, had a studio in the High Street in Oxford and painted Royalist officers during the war years. Dobson died in London in 1646.

This is the first of his paintings to come into the hands of the Ashmolean and depicts Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Colonel William Legge and Colonel John Russell at a meeting in Oxford. The Prince lodged with his brother Prince Maurice in the High close to where the Covered Market is now.


Prince Rupert, Colonel William Legge and Colonel John Russell meeting in Oxford

Image: Oxford Mail/Ashmolean 

Royal Visit to Oxford

On Tuesday the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook a series of engagements in Oxford, and the visit was covered by the Oxford Mail.

Pictures and "as-it-happens" reports from its webpages can be found at

and at

I have to admit that I did not know the visit was taking place - had I done so I would have gone along to see TRH, but so often in Oxford such visits are not well publicised in advance.

Empress Maria Theresa

Today is the 300th anniversary of the birth of the future Empress Maria Theresa in 1717.

Image result for empress maria theresa

Empress Maria Theresa
Portrait by Martin van Meytens 1759

Image: Wikipedia

There is an illustrated online biography of the Empress-Queen at Maria Theresa which covers not only the issues she faced and dealt with as ruler of the Habsburg lands but also her complex character - forceful and down-to-earth but also sentimental, not always logical or consistent and not infrequently quixotic, and emphatically feminine ( or should one say feminist today?)

The news service Royal Central had a post about the commemorations of this tercentenary a couple of months ago:

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of Austria’s most important figures. A major exhibition open until 29 November will be hosted this year at Schönbrunn Palace and across three sites in Vienna and Lower Austria, entitled “Maria Theresa, Strategist, Mother, Reformer”, to mark the tercentenary of her birth, each of which opens to the public on 15 March. The exhibition will explore the monarch's life and legacy, her political achievements and works, allowing us a rare insight into the many facets of her personality and also the darker periods of her reign.
Such was the power of her personality and legacy that she still can dominate today: she stands in the form of the great monument on the square in Vienna that bears her name, the Maria-Theresien-Platz. This monument does much to symbolise the many ways in which she has come to leave her mark on popular culture, showing her synonymously as both powerful Empress and unmistakable woman, which was part of the cult that Maria Theresa consciously cultivated. And then there is the depiction of her as Austria’s ‘Great Mother’, as a monarch ruling over her subjects as her first children - a remark which Maria Theresa actually made - meaning that in equal reverse, her children were first ruled like subjects, to whom she was devoted but who she nevertheless expected to be compliant when it came to their personal futures, which were decided by way of dynastic marriages to strengthen the Franco-Austrian alliance for the ultimate benefit of the state.  Maria Theresa promoted many reforms during her reign which would help to modernize the state - for which reason she is justly remembered today - although it is important to remember that she rather receives the credit for these as they took place during her reign, although her ministers and co-regent and successor Joseph II were more probably responsible for them.
She was born the eldest surviving child of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and his bride, Elisabeth Christine of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, on 17 May 1717 at the Hofburg Palace, the Imperial residence in Vienna, being christened later that day with the names Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina. Her sex was a source of disappointment at her birth. Charles VI had issued a variation of Leopold I’s Pact of Succession - the so-called Pragmatic Sanction in 1713 - which meant that his children could succeed before the daughters of his elder brother. Charles VI was deeply concerned that the Sanction should be recognised by the European Great Powers, although it was issued during the wait for the longed-for male heir to arrive, as the Sanction pre-dated Maria Theresa’s birth by four years. It seems to have been made as the last strategy at the end of a long-held hope: ultimately, with Maria Theresa’s recognition as his heir, marriage negotiations would eventually follow which would enable the Imperial elective throne of Holy Roman Emperor to be given to her future husband, Francis Stephan of Lorraine in 1745, thus making her Holy Roman Empress herself, albeit by marriage. On the sudden death of Charles VI, Maria Theresa found herself inexperienced and vulnerable to the attacks which soon followed: Shortly afterwards, several of the European powers that had acknowledged the Sanction repudiated their recognition of her rights, notably Prussia, with Frederick II’s invading of Austria’s hereditary territory of Silesia, thereby striking the match for what would become known as the War of the Austrian Succession. The loss of Silesia during this War meant that it would remain a bone of bitter contention, as it belonged to the inherited body of her dominions and was something which - despite the great Austrian victory at the battle of Kolin - was not recovered during the subsequent Seven Years’ War.
Maria Theresa fought in another way too. To achieve the dynastic marriages so desired by the state, she was prepared to make a personal sacrifice by way of her children. Among these were the future Emperors Joseph II, Leopold II, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who all made dynastic marriages negotiated by Maria Theresa’s State Chancellor, Prince von Kaunitz. The main aim of these state marriages was to support a volte-face in Austrian foreign policy: the rapprochement between the Hapsburg and Bourbon monarchies, underpinned by the 1756 Treaty of Versailles. The Roman Catholic Maria Theresa’s clever embracing of her sex in the form of a ‘Great Mother’ has meant that this is largely as she is remembered today, something which she promoted during her own lifetime.
The Maria-Theresa-Denkmal in Vienna  

Image: Wikimedia
Typical of the time in which she was born, Maria Theresa does, in fact, embody an era’s gradual dawning in transition, viewing reform with a caution which her natural conservatism could never entirely overcome. The many modernising advances introduced during her reign were essentially for the betterment of the state and not because of her philosophical convictions, along the lines of what has become known as 'enlightened absolutism'.  It was her son, Joseph II, who better personified a enlightened attitude in the next generation with the abolition of torture in 1776, for example. 

Arguably the greatest legacy of her reign was the renovation of the Imperial palace of Schönbrunn. A major exhibition in Vienna will be hosted this year at Schönbrunn and across other sites, entitled “Maria Theresa, Strategist, Mother, Reformer”, to mark 300 years since her birth. Her other main residence in Vienna was the Hofburg Palace where she was born and the wing in which she lived – the Leopoldinischer Trakt – is today the Chancellery of the Austrian President. The President’s Salon is presided over by an enormous portrait of Maria Theresia, in her former bedroom: The Empress has her place in Vienna’s future, as well as its past.

To this the Clever Boy would add that she exemplified many of the best qualities of successful female hereditary rulership and of the traditions of her dynasty. Edward Crankshaw's biography, though dating from the 1960s is still very readable, and she displayed an energy and commitment, a confidence and a directness that is striking and engaging. A formidable women in all things.

Monday, 15 May 2017

French Inauguration

One does one's best to try to ignore the political antics on the southern side of the Channel but even I managed to take on board something of the Presidential inauguration of M.Macron in Paris

There was the depressing sight of him in a lounge suit rather than the white tie of past inaugurations and the comdedy provided by the BBC when its website referred to the President being presented with a "necklace" which had belonged to Napoleon. What they actually meant but were either too ignorant themselves to know or assumed their public were too ignorant to understand was the Grand Master's Collar of the Legion of Honour...

I came across a set of quotations from M. Macron which are taken from a book by Eric Fottorrino Macron Par Macron which is based around interviews with the new President.

The first to be quoted, and the one that caught my eye is as follows:

“In French politics, this absence is the presence of a King, a King whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead,” said Macron. “The Revolution dug a deep emotional abyss, one that was imaginary and shared: the King is no more!” According to Macron, since the Revolution France has tried to fill this void, most notably with Napoleon and then Charles de Gaulle, which was only partially successful. “The rest of the time,” said Macron, “French democracy does not manage to fill this void.”

Well we know what the answer is to that do n't we?

There is more from the book at  http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/emmanuel-macron-policies-beliefs-philosophy

All in all, let's face it - no match for le Sacre at Reims.

Vive Le Roi!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fatima Centenary

Today is the centenary of the first of the Marian apparitions and locutions at Fátima in Portugal in 1917.

The story of Fátima is well enough known, but for those who do not there is an introduction to the events of the months from May to October 1917 and their aftermath at Our Lady of Fátima

It is intensely moving and one which casts, if one may mix ones images, both light and along shadow across the intervening century and into the future. It is a message both of comfort and of hope and also of danger and warning. In no way has it lost its relevance.

The Fátima Visionaries
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in 1917
There is something very arresting about the faces of these three children that goes far beyond any matter of unfamiliarity with the camera. It is one of the great photographs of the twentieth century.

Image: Wikipedia

Our Lady of Fátima pray for us!
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta pray for us!