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.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

St Thomas of Pontefract

Today is March 22nd, the anniversary of the beheading in 1322 in my home town of Pontefract of Thomas Earl of Lancaster following his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Within a very short time this often turbulent over-mighty subject of his cousin King Edward II was being hailed as a martyr - hence St Thomas of Pontefract - and his tomb became a focus of pilgrimage, something which endured to the dissolution of the monasteries.

Last year to mark the seven hundredth anniversary of his death I posted a lengthy piece about him, with links to other websites, and which can be seen at Thomas of Lancaster - from Rebel Earl to Popular Saint

This year in addition to posting that link, I am adding the links to three articles about Earl Thomas and his relationship with King Edward from the Edward II blog. They can be read at Thomas Of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (1),  at Thomas of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (2) and at Thomas of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (3)

I am also adding a link to the History of Parliament Trust website which has an article about Thomas’s defeat, capture, death and posthumous cult at ‘Oh! Earl of Lancaster! Where is your power, where are your riches, with which you hoped to subdue all?’ Thomas of Lancaster’s defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge, 16 March 1322 

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

The King’s Herb strewer and her maids

I was interested by a recent article on the Liturgical Arts Journal about the traditional custom of spreading on feast days bay or box or myrtle leaves in advance of processions in the churches of Rome. The article can be read at Romanitas: The Traditional Use of Fragrant Greenery for Processions

Quite apart from its own interest this had a topical resonance for me as up to and including the coronation in 1821 of King George IV the procession from Westminster Hall into Westminster Abbey was led by the King’s Herb Strewer and her six assistants who scattered sweet smelling plant material in advance of those coming after them along the carpeted processional way. There is more from contemporary sources about the Herb Strewer and her part in the proceedings of the 1821 Coronation from the notes accompanying the National Trust website about the print of Miss Fellowes in the collection at Belton House in Lincolnshire which can be seen at Miss Fellowes (b.c.1771) the Herb-strewer and her ladies at the Coronation of King George IV 

The article on Wikipedia at Herb Strewer gives the seventeenth century as the origin of the custom. They are clearly depicted and described - The Kings Herb-woman, & her 6 Maids, with baskets of sweet herbs & flowers, stewing the way - in the Sandford engraving of the procession of King James II at his coronation in 1685. However I suspect it is a much older custom, but not specifically recorded until the Restoration era.

Monday, 20 March 2023

Thy Chosen Servant - Prayer Book Society talks on the Coronation

The Prayer Book Society is holding a series of five online talks under the title of Thy Chosen Servant about the Coronation service. I was only alerted last week to the existence of the lectures with advance notice of the third one. They are being recorded and those that have already been delivered are now available on the PBS website via YouTube at https://www.pbs.org.uk/publications/coronation/

The remaining two are being delivered live on Wednesday evenings on March 22nd and 29th at 7.30pm. 


Last week’s talk by Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen’s House in Oxford,  was an excellent introduction to the pieces of regalia, robes, and the ceremonial furniture that will be used on May 6th.

In it he refers positively to a series of videos on the Coronation posted on YouTube by Allan Barton - The Antiquary. I too would recommend searching these out and watching them. I would also recommend Allan’s journal  The Antiquary Magazine, which can be subscribed to online or in printed form.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

The Golden Rose

Today being Lætare Sunday is the day for the blessing of the Golden Rose by the Pope before the Solemn Mass of the day.

The New Liturgical Movement had an article about it the other day which can be seen at The Tradition of the Rosa d'Oro (Golden Rose) of Laetare Sunday

Wikipedia has a lengthy, illustrated article about the history of the custom and of the ceremonial associated with the Golden Rose, together with a list of recipients since 1096. This can all be accessed at Golden Rose

That article is almost entirely based on that in the Catholic Encyclopaedia but with some additions as to changes in the twentieth century, and has a much more complete list of recipients. The older Encyclopaedia entry has a few pieces of additional information about the ceremonial associated with the rose and can be accessed at Golden Rose

The Golden Rose is not presented to an individual or, as these days, a shrine, every year by any means and some Popes have never bestowed it. Looking at the list of recipients it can clearly be linked as a gift to Papal diplomacy in the past, or at least in more recent centuries as an honour given to the consort of a Catholic sovereign. In recent decades it has become a way of honouring Marian shrines.

British recipients of the rose begin with King William I of Scots in 1183, King Henry VI in 1444, King James III in 1486, King James IV in1491, King Henry VIII on apparently three occasions in 1512, 1521 and 1524, Queen Mary I of England in 1555, Queen Mary I of Scots in 1560 and Queen Henrietta Maria in 1625.

It is rather a wonder when so much was unnecessarily and seemingly wilfully jettisoned in terms of Papal ceremonial and traditions in the pontificate of Pope Paul VI that it survived as a custom at all. 

Saturday, 18 March 2023

A significant cemetery used by both Romans and Anglo-Saxons in Yorkshire

The excavation of an early cemetery with over sixty burials at Garforth in my home area of the central West Riding has been described in reports this week as being a site of exceptional importance. This is because the site contains late Roman graves - one clearly a high status female in a lead coffin - alongside those of apparently pagan Anglo-Saxons with grave goods. Nearby there are the foundations of late Roman buildings and early Anglo-Saxon ones. It is also the first Anglo-Saxon cemetery to be found in the area, whereas in the East Riding such discoveries have been a standard feature of the archaeological record.

The implication of this is of two communities living and, indeed, dying and being buried alongside each other or of a continuity of occupation in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The significance of this is not just of apparent coexistence but also is related to its location. This is the territory of the British Kingdom of Elmet which survived as a separate entity until it was taken over by King Edwin of Northumbria in 616-17 - that is only a decade before his conversion and baptism by St Paulinus at York in 627. As a result it appears that Paulinus found either a residual British Christian community or at least its abandoned churches at places such as Dewsbury. The tradition is that he baptised converts in the river Calder there, the burh of someone with the very British name of Dewi. Yorkshire has several such place names with Celtic rather than Anglian roots.

Such evidence is fragmentary but fascinating in the quest for this outpost of Romano-British life in the era of conversion and Northumbrian expansion. The Wikipedia article on the history of Elmet is a good starting point and I see it includes research that was not available when I lived in the area. It can be seen at Elmet There is also the linked article about the last ruler of the kingdom at Ceretic of Elmet

As the main Wikipedia article points out the memory of Elmet endured for many centuries in place names for not a few villages, and still for two today, as well as for medieval wool and a modern parliamentary constituency.

The Garforth cemetary potentially adds significantly to our knowledge of Elmet, and casts additional light on the so-called Dark Ages.

Friday, 17 March 2023

The trials and tribulations of Jewry in medieval England and France

The Times of Israel has an interesting article about the place of the Tower of London in the life of the thirteenth century Jewish community in England. It is based on a study for Historic Royal Palaces of the evidence of material in the National Archives.

Coincidentally there is an article on the Medievalists. net website about the Jewish community in France in the wider medieval period, but which touches on similar themes. It can be seen at Hostility Against the Jews in Medieval France

Like much of the material in the article about England it does, as the title states, concentrate on discrimination and hostility towards Jews and only at the end allows that for much of the time there was coexistence and indeed collaboration. That aspect of the situation is made more clearly in the article about England. The Christian-Jewish relationship was often a strained or chafing one in both medieval England and France but it was, I think, more complex and indeed more positive for much of the time than many presentations suggest. It did not take much for mobs to form in response to claims of ritual murder for example, or in hostility to money lenders, but equally much of the time it was the ability of Jews to finance the activities of the Crown, the Church and landowners that made for wary collaboration.

Notre Dame - the iron in the stone

The ongoing restoration of Notre Dame in Paris has revealed an important aspect of the original construction of the cathedral in the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries in the form of iron bars or cramps to bind the masonry together.

Analysis of the iron has dated it to the time of the building, and indicates the technological breakthrough this represents in the construction of the great gothic cathedrals of Capetian France. On the basis of this it appears that Notre Dame was the first such church known to have used this method to bind the masonry together, enabling a lighter construction than had been used hitherto.

There are reports about the research from crns.fr at Notre Dame: First Gothic cathedral to make massive use of iron and from New Scientist at Notre Dame fire revealed cathedral’s innovative use of iron

Both of these articles draw attention to the different sources for the iron used and how this may cast light on the trade in iron ore and iron in the period of the cathedral’s construction.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Another Matthew Parker manuscript for Cambridge

A manuscript from 1573 presented along with gifts to Queen Elizabeth I by Archbishop Matthew Parker on her visit to Canterbury that year has been secured for the Archbishop’s collection at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. The Nine Roundels may well be a unique survival of courtly gift giving from the period and has been saved for the country through an export ban.

The BBC News website has a picture and a brief description of the roundels at University library acquires rare manuscript