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.

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Today is the 599th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, King Henry V's spectacular defeat of the French army in 1415.

I recently read Professor Anne Curry's excellent and authoritative book Agincourt: A New History - available in paperback from Tempus - and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the campaign and the battle.

Image: Amazon

Anne Curry brings out a whole range of details which have, I think, rather escaped earlier historians of the battle, and she writes with these in mind as well as considering the larger picture - not least the route taken by the English from Harfleur to the fateful confrontation at Agincourt.

The only criticism I would make is not of the author but of the publishers who provide many interesting  illustrations, but not of the best quality. This really is disappointing, given, for example, the care to show in photographs the landscape through which the army moved, yet for the images to be of low resolution, or relating to other themes, other stock images lacking the quality of other photo-agencies.

I shall no doubt have more to write about the battele and its context in the light of own interest in the period as we approach the 600th anniversary next year, but in the meantime Prof. Curry's book is a detailed and well researched read ideal for historians and armchair warriors alike.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

King Luis I of Portugal

The Mad Monarchist blog often has postings which are biographies of monarchs,including some who are less well known. A recent one which can be read at King Luis I of Portugal, and it brings out the difficulties facing the monarchy by the later nineteenth century. King Luis emerges as awell intentioned ruler, but perhaps lacking the flair of his elder brother. 

The article draws upon illustrative materail in the Portuguese edition of Wikipedia, and is a better account of the King and his reign than the English Wikipedia article.


King Luis I

King of Portugal and the Algarves 1861-1889


I posted about his elder brother and predecessor in King Pedro V, the Beloved

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria

Today is the appointed feast day of the Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. The day was selected as it is the date of his wedding to the future Empress Zita in 1911, and their exemplary married life was recognised as part of his claim to beatification. This is covered on the official website for his cause at The Emperor Karl League of Prayers, and which has a biography, photographs and prayers for his canonization.

The Mad Monarchist blog has an illustrated profile of him at Blessed Emperor Charles I, and Roman Christendom has a blog post from 2008 which concentrates on the piety of the Emperor which can be read at The holy Peace Emperor: Feast Day of the Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria on 21 October. The blog Nobility and other Analogous Elites had a good post last year about him which can be read at Karl of Austria

The Coronation procession of Blessed Karl as King of Hungary in Budapest on December 30th 1916

Image: iwm.org.uk

The psalmody at several points in both Lauds and Vespers today, in the ordinary course of the psalter, appeared very apposite on a day I was observing for a beatified monarch, the successor of both Charlemagne, recognised as a beatus at least by the Catholic Church ( even if his canonisation was by an anti-Pope) and St Stephen of Hungary as founders of the Empire and of the Apostolic Kingdom.

Quite apart from his genuine attempts to end the war in 1917, if the Austro-Hungarian Empire had survived ,WAvoid tragic loss of life if empire had survived it would have by its very existence have been a means of preventing so much more dreadful bloodshed and misery for the peoples of Europe.

The Emperor in the uniform of a Field Marshal
The uniform mayhave been field-grey, but the plumes of the hat would be green. I assume the black arm-band is for the Emperor Francis Joseph.

Image: Mad Monarchist blogspot

Quinta do Monte in Madeira
The Emperor died here on April 1st 1922


An evening with The Furies

Last Saturday evening I went with two friends to the Oxford Playhouse to see the Oxford Greek Play, a triennial event in which a classical Greek play is presented in the original language, but with modern staging and costuming, and with surtitles for those of us deficient in Classical Greek.

This year the production was of The Furies (The Eumenides), the concluding part of Aeschylus' Oresteia, first performed in 458 BC. I had not seen the play before, although I knew its basic structure and plot - it is, I suppose, incidentally, the first court room drama. There is much more about the play at Eumenides Study Guide, Book Notes, Summary, & Full Length Text . There is more about the legend of Orestes here.Three years ago I saw the previous such production, The Libation Bearers, the play which precedes it in the trilogy, and which is perhaps better known. I posted about that production in All Greek to me.

The house of Aetrius is one of the more, well, problematic dynasties one might encounter - you sense they were a family not at ease with themselves. Indeed as the Victorian lady commented after seeing Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra, "So unlike, so very unlike, the home life of our own dear Queen."

The Furies themselves made me wonder if I was witnessing some of the young female personages one sees heading off to the various night-clubs of Oxford on a weekend evening (one tries to practise custody of the eyes on such occasions) or a meeting of OUSU* Womens Committee.

In respect of the latter they would no doubt fault Aeschylus for not being feminist in that Apollo's defence of Orestes rested partly on the argument that his father had a greater claim on his loyalty than his mother. Apollo argued that it was Orestes' father, Agamemnon, who had borne him, not his mother, Clytemnestra, who was merely the carrier of the child. A biological view that is, even I would concede, a little outdated in terms of our knowledge of human reproductive sciences. 

The real argument of the play is about taming forces of unremitting, unceasing vengeance and creating civil society by mobilising those elemental forces to underpin it, and the risk of anarchy if they are unleashed. To prevent this there has to be such a thing as society, and that has to have law as a means of control and as a means of giving true freedom to humans.

This was a good production of a text which is both simple and elemental and yet also complex and reflective. There is an online newspaper review of the production from the Oxford Student at “Frenzying, Maddening”: The Oxford Greek Play

File:Orestes Apollo Louvre Cp710.jpg

Orestes being purified by Apollo
Clytemnestra tries to awake the sleeping Erinyes/Furies to the left.
Side A from an Apulian red-figure bell-krater, 380–370 BC. From Armento?
Louvre Paris

* Oxford University Students Union - not to be confused with The Oxford Union.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Restoration work

Regular readers will have noticed that in recent days the masthead and side panels that accompany this blog have disappeared. This was due to some technical or other sinister skulduggery beyond the Clever Boy's skill or competence to remedy. 

However his friend the Eminence grise offered assistance, and the mast head, taken from Andrea di Firenze's Triumph of the Church, has been reinstated. The side panels may take longer. I am very grateful, as always, to the Eminence grise for this restoration work.

Restoration is, readers will not be surprised to learn, an important concept for the Clever Boy, who has been helped in this instance to put his ideas into practice.

Conclusion of the Forty Hours at the Oxford Oratory

The Oxford Oratory website now has a splendid series of photographs of the conclusion of the Forty Hours yesterday. I think it worthwhile reproducing the series, with congratulations to the photographers for taking such excellent pictures unobtrusively, and with a few additional comments of my own.

"So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
                  To see your strength and your glory"  (Ps 62)

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The Forty Hours' prayer before the Blessed Sacrament concluded yesterday evening with Solemn Vespers, sung antiphonally by the clergy and the choir as well as the congregation, a procession around the church and Benediction.

The congregation was sizeable, but I do feel sorry that more people do not come along to join in such a wonderful series of acts of devotion and to celebrate their Faith.

Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament:

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The Officiant was the Provost Fr Daniel, the Cantors Fr Dominic and Br Oliver.

The Procession took the Blessed Sacrament, the clergy and congregation round the interior of the church - which tends to feel too small on these occasions:

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Br. Gregory Davies O.Praem., a Canon Regular of Prémontré, from St Philip's Priory in Chelmsford, who is studying in Oxford and Br Adam  Fairbairn C.O., from the Oratory at St Wilfrid's in York, established by the Oxford Oratory


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Images: Oxford Oratory

This was a beautiful and moving conclusion to the Forty Hours, the effect of the whole weekend being a reinvigoration of one's sense of devotion to Our Lord in His Sacramental Presence.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Forty Hours at the Oxford Oratory

I have adapted this post from one on the Oxford Oratory website about the Forty Hours Devotion, adding some personal reflections and some additional photographs provided by a friend. This year, we are praying especially for Peace, in union with persecuted Christians throughout the world.

I spent part of yesterday afternoon helping the Fathers and Brothers and Sacristan to set up - so time used profitably, I hope, dusting the throne canopy for the monstrance, squeezing candles into sconces that were too large with the help of paper collars, covering benches with tinfoil to catch wax, and then deciding that the whole process was unnecessary, and helping position candelabra. A satisfying afternoon, becuase one could see at the end what one had helped achieve.

This year we have a new machina to support the monstranc enad its throne as well as the candles and flowers. Painted to resemble marble or alabaster with lapis lazuli inset panels, it is very effective and provides more surface area than the previous arrangement. It was made by the father of Br Oliver.


The altar and machina before adding the gold frontal and the candles

Image: Irim Sarwar


The conclusion of Mass

Image: Irim Sarwar

Our Forty Hours' Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began with the Solemn Mass of Exposition at 6 pm. Unfortunately this beautiful Mass did not draw as many people as I would have hoped or expected, but it was a fine opening to the Devotion.


The Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance

Image: Irim Sarwar


A view across the Sanctuary

Image: Irim Sarwar 


The altar from the nave 

Image: Irim Sarwar

I counted 93 candles on the altar plus another 18 in the two free-standing candelabra.


A distant view along the nave

Image: Oxford Oratory

The effect of the candles around the enthroned monstrance made me think of the congregation as suitors to the Court of Heaven, which we are of course, and, as is the intention of the Forty Hours, to give us a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. Not light inaccessible hid from our eyes, but rather Light made visible.

Our own Holy Father St Philip used to attend Compline with the Dominicans of the Minerva so often that the Dominican friars gave him his own key to their church. We are very glad to continue this long-standing friendship by welcoming once the more the Dominicans of Blackfriars in Oxford to sing Compline before the Blessed Sacrament at 11pm. This drew a large congregation.


The Dominicans in choir
Image: Oxford Oratory


The prayers at Benediction
Image: Oxford Oratory

Benediction followed Compline, and so the all-night vigil began. As in previous years I stayed right through - with breaks for refreshments in the parish centre next door - on the basis that it is easier for me to help sustain the vigil than for those with families, and also because one can find deeper silence in the small hours.

The keen eyed amongst my readers can see  the back of my head and my light jacket in this photograph:


The congregation keeps vigil

Image: Oxford Oratory

We prayed the Rosary and at 5am had sung Matins and Lauds of the Blessed Sacrament in the presence of the Exposed Body of Our Lord. Singing - well, saying in my case - the psalmody in the Divine Presence brought home to me afresh Whom it is we are addressing when we say the Divine Office.

At 6 am we had a Mass in the Extrordinary Form for the feast of St Luke.

At breakfasttime I left to freshen up and indeed have breakfast with afriend at a nearby restaurant

The Blessed Sacrament will continue to be exposed until midnight today. There will be a Mass for Peace with hymns at 6:30pm.

Masses on Sunday are at the usual times. The Solemn Mass will be a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart, at the end of which exposition will resume until Solemn Vespers, Procession and Benediction at 5pm.