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.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1926

Stephanie Mann on her blog Supremacy and Survival has an interesting post about a topic she had hitherto been unaware of, as had I and, I suspect many others. This is the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1926 which removed many of the remaining legal disabilities against Catholics in Great Britain - not Northern Ireland, which had its own Parliament for such internal legislation. 

It is interesting to read how many pieces of anti- Catholic legislation remained on the Statute Book, even though most appear to have been otiose by the time of their repeal. At that time the Law Commission did not exist to tidy and prune the accumulation of enactments, hence the survival of the measures done away with in 1926 until that date. 

This is an interesting reminder of how legislation piled up and could be overlooked at earlier times, as in 1829, 1832 and 1844, and that the main 1829 Catholic Emanciption Act was not as far reaching as might be thought. It is also a reminder that there were opportunities which were occasionally indulged in, as over the Westminster Eucharistic Conference in 1907, for Catholic baiting. 

That some of it was completely ignored or forgotten is also witnessed to by Catholic churches with towers and bells being built before 1926 or the establishment of Catholic schools and colleges. This I assume was because the relevant authorities and the nation generally assumed such prohibitions were done away with by the 1829 Act.

The post about the legislation can be seen at Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1926

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The end of the line for Warwick the Kingmaker

I am not the first to make the slightly bad taste joke that the death of Warwick the Kingmaker on the battlefield at Barnet marked the end of the line for him as did for his brother Marquess Montagu on this day 550 years ago in 1471. Not being a great proponent of counter-factuals I will not speculate on what impact the Northern Line ( first opened in 1890 ) might have made in the events of the day had it been in existence in 1471.

Portrait of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, 'The Kingmaker', from the Rous Roll, 15th century.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury from the Rous Roll of 1483-4
His shield displays the arms of the Salisbury earldom alone.

Image: luminarium.org

r/heraldry - Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Bettter known as 'the Kingmaker' for his influence in English politics.
A modern depiction of the Earl and his heraldic achievements and badges

Image: reddit.com

April 14 1471 was Easter Sunday and the battle of Barnet took place very early in the morning in mist and fog. One of the recorded effects of this was when some Lancastrian troops mistook the star and streamers standard of the Earl of Oxford, who was on their side, for the Sun in Splendour standard of the Yorkist King Edward IV and attacked it.
There is a detailed online account of the campaign preceding the battle and of the events of the day at Battle of Barnet: Death of a KingmakerWikipedia has a shorter narrative at Battle of Barnet There is another, illustrated, account at Battle of Barnet 1471

The specific site of the fighting is somewhat debatable and there is a piece from The Times from 2015 about using possible archaeological evidence of early handguns, as were used at Towton a decade earlier, to ascertain that. What the investigation revealed does not appear. The original report can be seen at Handguns may reveal Battle of Barnet site.

Of those Lancastrian leaders who survived Barnet the Duke of Exeter appears to have been very lucky. His refuge and recovery, presumably in sanctuary, at Westminster doubtless saved him from King Edward IV’s vengeance, as well, perhaps, as the fact that he was married, if estranged, to the Yorkist King’s sister Anne. After a spell in the Tower of London he accompanied the King on his invasion of France in 1475, and somehow managed to fall overboard and drown on the return journey... The Earl of Oxford was a better survivor: after exile, capture, imprisonment and escape he joined King Henry VII at Bosworth and lived on into the early sixteenth century.  

Following his early morning victory King Edward IV was able to attend St Paul’s in London, and later, for the next three days,  the corpses of Warwick and Montagu, naked save for loincloths or their braies, were displayed in the cathedral to show that they were indeed dead. This is not the sort of visitor attraction the cathedral offers these days over the Easter weekend. Following that the bodies were interred at the Salisbury family burial place of Bisham Priory in Berkshire. Nothing remains above ground of the Augustinian priory, although the adjacent Montagu manor house, now styled Bisham Abbey, does survive. As the  monastic site is unexcavated one may assume that the two brothers and their parents are still there awaiting a King Richard III style rediscovery and examination.

Bisham Priory as depicted in the Earldom of Salisbury Roll 1463

Bisham Priory
Image: David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History

When he died Warwick the Kingmaker was only 42, yet for over twenty years he had been a major player in the politics of the country and beyond. There is an introduction to his life, including a useful introduction to the historiography about it, at Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick from Wikipedia.

For all his importance in his lifetime apart from the Rous Roll of a few years later the only other contemporary depiction of Warwick is as one of the weepers on the tomb of his father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (d. 1439) in the church of St Mary Warwick

Richard Beauchamp 1439 weeper Richard Neville 1460 I

Richard Beauchamp 1439 weeper Anne Beauchamp 1492 
Warwick and his wife Anne, who died in 1492, from the Beauchamp tomb

Images: themcs.org

The Earl’s appearance is not reassuring. He does not look like someone one would want an argument with, as quite a few found in the 1450s, 1460s and in 1470-71. The fourteen figures of the weepers do look like attempts at portraits. Warwick is dressed in his Parliamentary robes, but swathes them in a mourning cloak and, like others of the male figures, holds what is probably a Book of Hours or Breviary.

The Wikipedia summary of his historiography which I drew attention to assesses that in terms of how contemporary accounts shaped Edward Hall, Ralph Holinshead and William Shakespeare’s views, and how Warwick the Kingmaker was on the wrong side of history for the Whig interpretation of the past. Bulwar Lytton The Ladt of the Barons captures te spirit of that combined with nineteenth century romanticism. The Yorkists seem to continue to attract far more historical novelists to their camp than do the Lancastrians - but that is a matter for another post.

For many the best known biography of the Earl is that by the US based historian Paul Murray Kendall, and published in 1957. This has what might be described as a pro-Yorkist emphasis, and presents Warwick in a positive and dynamic way. I have not yet had occasion or opportunity to read the more recent biographies by the English academic historians Michael Hicks (1998) and A.J.Pollard (2007) These I imagine would revise Kendall’s view significantly - as the Wikipedia account suggests - and I really ought to look at them. I am not sure he was as successful a military man as he is sometimes presented, but lucky on significant occasions. As a politician he made the disastrous mistake of creating, but then underrating King Edward IV, and believed that the Lancastrians would forgive and forget. I doubt if they did, whatever the outward appearances. His tumultuous career ended bloodily that foggy morning at Barnet 550 years ago.

That same Easter Day Queen Margaret and her son the Prince of Wales arrived at Weymouth where they were joined by long-standing Lancastrian forces led by the Duke of Somerset, and who were to have their own appointment in Samarra at Tewkesbury at the beginning of May...

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

St Hermenegild

Today is the feast of the Spanish Visigothic St Hermenegild, who was martyred on the orders of his father King Leovigild, or Liuvigild, on this day in 585 for his adherence to Catholic rather than Arian Christianity. At the time he was only twenty one.

The Apotheosis of St Hermenegild
Francisco de Herrero the Elder (1576-1656)
Painted 1620-24

The martyr is shown ascending into Heaven. On the left is St Leander with Hermenegild’s son whilst Leander’s brother St Isidore, is shown on the right. King Leovigild crouches with his face averted.

Image :Wikimedia

There is an account of his life and martyrdom from Wikipedia which can be seen at Hermenegild

There is another account of the story from the National Catholic Reporter at April 13, St. Hermenegild, Martyr

Triunfo de san hermenegildo herrera el joven.jpeg

The Triumph of St Hermenegild
Francisco de Herrero the Younger (1622-1685)
Painted 1654

Image: Wikipedia

Both these paintings point to devotion to the Saint through such commissions and how he appealed to the Spanish Baroque imagination.

This royal martyr is the patron of the Spanish Armed Services and of the Royal and Military Order of St Hermenegild which was founded as a military award by King Ferdinand VII in 1814. It is in many ways the equivalent of the British Order of the Bath (1725/1815) and the Austrian Order of Maria Theresa (1757). It has four classes and is essentially a recognition for faithful  length of service. Wikipedia  has an account of it at Royal and Military Order of Saint Hermenegild

The distinctive Roman purple and white riband of the Order can be seen being worn frequently on pictures of Spanish State and Military occasions.

St Hermenegild pray for Spain and for fidelity to orthodox belief in the Church

More from the Peterborough Psalter

I have now found a set of images of more of the illuminations in the Peterborough Psalter which I posted about yesterday. They give a good idea of the richness of the design and skill of the painters.



Images: manuscriptminiatures.com

Monday, 12 April 2021

Medieval Oxford Jewry

The Haaretz website has an interesting report about an excavation in Oxford that has revealed for the first time in this country archaeological evidence for specifically Jewish occupation of a house site in the medieval period. Although there are of course surviving properties known from records to have been owned by Jews, both in Oxford and, most famously, in Lincoln, this is evidence drawn from animal bones and cooking pits. The site of the household in St Aldate’s, known to have been home to part of the Oxford Jewish community before 1290, appears to have been clearly kosher from the absence of food residues of swine and other ‘unclean’ species from the diet of the one-time occupants.

The Resurrection in the Peterborough Psalter

As we are still only in the early part of Pascaltide it seems appropriate to share this image of the Resurrection from the Peterborough Psalter.

Peterborough Psalter 1300-1325
Royal Library of Belgium

Image: manuscript miniatures.com

The early fourteenth century Peterborough Psalter, which is now in Brussels, is the central work of the “Fenland” group of manuscripts. It was made between 1300 and 1318 for Godfrey or Geoffrey of Croyland, who was Abbot of Peterborough from 1299 until 1321. As Abbot he seems to have been something of a patron of the arts as it was in that time that a chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury was built between the main church and the now destroyed Lady Chapel which extended eastwards from the north transept.

Peterborough Abbey, now the Cathedral, in the seventeenth century. In this view from the north the Lady Chapel with its flèche is shown on the left of the north transept. Abbot Croyland’s chapel would have been behind it.

Image: Wikimedia

The atelier of artists who collaborated to produce this and other manuscripts, such as the Ramsey Psalter, the Gough and BarcowPsalters  and the Canonici and Croyland Apocalypses, was probably headed by “Master A”, who illuminated the initial folios of the Peterborough Psalter. The group had at least five illuminators. “Master B” who executed most of the work on the volume also worked on the Ramsey Psalter. The group received commissions from patrons throughout East Anglia and is thought to have been based in either London or Norwich.

The Peterborough Psalter was given to Cardinal Gaucelin d’Euse or Duese (d.1348), a nephew or relative of Pope John XXII (1316-34) whilst on a diplomatic mission as a Legate to negotiate between England and Scotland in 1317-19. It was whilst on this legation with Cardinal Luca Fieschi that the two Cardinals were robbed in what became a major diplomatic incident when they travelled north to consecrate the new Bishop of Durham Louis de Beaumont. There is a life of the Cardinal, who appears to be typical in terms of his distinguished career and the preferments he acquired for a major Curial figure in the period of the Avignon Papacy, at Gauscelin de Jean.

The Psalter passed to Pope John XXII, who then gave the volume to King Philip VI of France, from whom it descended to the bibliophile King Charles V, and ultimately to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. It was during his ownership that his Ducal arms were added to the bottom of the leaves.

Arms of Gauscelin de Jean

The coat of arms of Cardinal Gauscelin de Jean

Image: heraldrywiki

With acknowledgements to facsimilefinder.com and cardinals.fiu.edu. Both have a few minor typographical errors.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Three Brothers

I recently came upon a post by the always lively and informative website of The Tudor Travel Guide about ‘The Three Brothers’. This was a spectacular piece of jewellery consisting of three large rubies and a pointed diamond, originally made in the late fourteenth century for the Dukes of Burgundy. Subsequently  bought by King Edward VI it is shown being worn in portraits by both Queen Elizabeth I and by King James I and VI. It was eventually sold it would seem by Queen Henrietta Maria to help fund the Royalist war effort in the Civil War and disappeared, the constituent pieces presumably recut and reset. The article can be seen at  'The Three Brothers': The Most Coveted Jewel in Renaissance Europe

Sir Roy Strong writes about the piece and its history in his book Lost Treasures of Britain.

Detail of the Three Brothers jewel as worn in two portraits of Queen Elizabeth I

Image: Wikipedia 

Looking further on the Internet I found what is, I think, a more detailed account on Wikipedia and which can be seen at Three Brothers (jewel)

The Tudor Travel Guide offered a forthcoming post about a similar piece of jewellery, created for King James I and VI and called the ‘Mirror of Great Britain’, a conscious celebration of the Union of the Crowns. I have not found that post so far. This jewel suffered a similar fate to the ‘Three Brothers’. It too was also discussed by Sir Roy in his book and Wikipedia has an account of the piece which can be seen at Mirror of Great Britain

The history of one of its constituent jewels can be read in the Wikipedia article on the Great H of Scotland

From the Mirror itself the one identifiable jewel today is the Sancy diamond which became part of the French royal collection and which has returned to France in recent decades. It can now be seen in the Louvre. The history of this particular gem is set out in Sancyagain from Wikipedia

To be honest the interest of these two pieces of jewellery is historic rather than aesthetic - to the eye of later centuries they probably appear massive and showy, but not particularly appealing to the eye. Large stones cut in an angular way without the facetting of modern jewellery lack the appeal of pieces of more recent creation. There is nothing of the delicacy of other surviving pieces from the later middle ages or the sixteenth century. Ironically had they survived - and they are undoubtedly a loss - they might appeal to a more modern fashion sense than other jewellery heirlooms.

The Shroud of Turin

Some time ago I came across a 2019 piece from The Remnant about new scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin. These are not a repeat of the much debated Carbon-14 ones which indicated a date from the later thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries but ones using spectroscopy which indicate a time frame of somewhere in the period 300BC to 400AD. The report can be seen here

Discussion of the scientific tests can become forceful and quite - or very - heated, as these two linked reports from The Independent from July and August 2018 show: Scientists prove Turin Shroud not genuine (again) and Believers hit back in almighty row over whether the famous Turin Shroud really did contain Jesus' body

I experienced something of this in the comments on a post I published about the Shroud in 2012 at The Shroud of Turin

My own interest in the Holy Shroud began with a chance discovery of a book about it in a shop on my hometown many years ago. Ian Wilson’s The Turin Shroud was a fascinating and stimulating book to read in Lent on two occasions and remains an excellent study and survey of the evidence.

Last year in Lent, and before lockdown intervened in our lives, the Oxford Oratory hosted a travelling exhibition about the Turin Shroud. This was an excellent and very informative display, including the latest research and there was also a good and well-attended lecture one Saturday by the organiser, Pam Moon, and entitled “The Cross, the Resurrection and the Shroud of Turin.” In addition there was a handsome and splendidly presented illustrated booklet on sale which summarised the story of, and case for, the Shroud.

The website for this touring exhibition is www.shroudofturinexhibition.com, and hopefully as things open up again, the exhibition will be once more available for others to see.

I have thought, and said, for years that the Holy Shroud and its image, is actually a terrifying object. If it really is what it is claimed to be, what one believes it to be, then it challenges us as individuals, as Christians, as a society, as humanity, to take it seriously... very seriously. If churchpeople do not, then what does that say about their belief? Is their Faith challenged ironically by that which might make it empirically true?

That is not to say that the Turin Shroud provides a “proof” that the Gospels and a lived Christian life do not. It is rather to say that here in an age that relies so much on physical demonstrations of facts there is, it would seem, such a piece of complementary evidence can not only exist, but that only since the development of photography and other analytical methodologies has it been made manifest.

Yet I am aware there are practising Catholics who seem to cling to a belief in the absolute truth of Carbon 14 testing which had “confirmed” that the Turin Shroud is a medieval forgery. Telling them that distinguished archaeologists these days are sceptical about it as a technique cuts no ice. Science has “proved” the Shroud to be a fake for these people and no other evidence or argument is therefore admissible.

Science can prove some things, Faith can prove other things, Historians can prove yet others. In the kaleidoscope of our understanding we need to align the various images we are presented with.

There is an excellent case for the authenticity of the Shroud  - not least its unique nature and its preservation - never mind the unresolved matter of how it came to be, and the extreme unlikelihood of it being a medieval forgery. No-one can come near to reproducing how it might have been made by human hands, let alone at the time when it might have been created as a forgery. We can never “know”  with absolute 100% scientific and historical certainly that this was indeed the actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth - but not accepting that there is an extraordinarily good case to believe that it is in fact genuine seems to me very sad.

It seems an appropriate subject to ponder on today, the day the Gospel at Mass is the story of Doubting Thomas.