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 30 June 2011

The reredos at SS Gregory and Augustine

Here is another picture of the reredos at SS Gregory and Augustine Oxford which was blessed by the Archbishop of Birmingham last Sunday. There are accompanying notes by Fr John Saward the parish priest.


"A generous bequest three years ago from the late Miss Kathleen White emboldened us to undertake what at least two of my predecessors considered, namely, the providing of the church with images of its two patrons in a restored reredos and sanctuary. The original reredos had three panels covered in Spanish leather, which forty years ago was replaced with wallpaper. By 2005 the wallpaper, though originally of high quality, was in a sorry state, faded and peeling. The parish, working closely with the diocesan Historic Churches Committee, commissioned the English painter James Gillick, his architect brother Gabriel, and other members of the Gillick family of Catholic artists to undertake the work of restoration. In the left-hand panel James has painted an image of Pope St Gregory, resplendent with Papal tiara, cope, and cross, and accompanied, as he is traditionally shown in Christian iconography, with the Dove, representing the Holy Ghost. On the right-hand side is St Augustine of Canterbury, sent by Pope Gregory to bring the Faith to England, and shown here as a simple Benedictine monk carrying, in accordance with the account given us by St Bede, an icon of the Divine Saviour. In the centre of the reredos, and above the two patron saints, is Our Lady with the Holy Child. I have christened her “Our Lady of Summertown” – the name for this suburb of Oxford."

Fr John Saward, parish priest.

Since this photograph was taken paintings of other saints have been inserted in the five panels of the wainscotting on either side of the altar.

Reproduced from Lawrence Lew's photostram in Flickr

Royal Wedding - style and substance

The departure of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their first official overseas visit to Canada seems a suitable day on which to post my final set of reflections on their wedding.


TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
One of the official photographs.

Image: The British Monarchy on Flickr

What struck me in particular about the wedding day was the sense that this was an event with a style and panache that was traditional, combining splendour with restraint. There was not the more elaborate or emotional style of the royal weddings of the 1980s, but an emphasis on traditional values and practice in both church and state. There was a real sense of being back on course, but with two new and attractive players centre stage. The best of the old and of the new.

The last time the sovereign's grandson in direct line of succession married was in 1893 when the future King George V as Duke of York married Mary of Teck. There is a description of that day in James Pope-Hennessy's wonderful official biography Queen Mary. That was essentially a private wedding in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace. This time the scale was very different, and very much a public event as royal weddings have been since 1922. Nonetheless this seemed closer, in the best sense, to the certainties of the later years Queen Victoria's reign than some more recent marriages.

This emphasis on tradition, on service by the Duke and Duchess to the Crown and their prospective realms, the religious values stressed in the service itself, down to such details as the inclusion of the national flower emblems of the United Kingdom in the wedding dress of the Duchess, all indicate to me at least, a reassertion of a tried and tested way of doing things. The official photographs carried the same message - a happy young couple and their families, but also a real understanding of what monarchy is about.

Even within an institution based on the principal of continuity, we appear, to borrow a phrase, to be looking at a hermeneutic of continuity.


The new personal standard for the Duke of Cambridge for use in Canada.
The grant of this is in itself is both a new departure, and a reassertion of ancient tradition.
There is more about it here.

Image: Yahoo

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Sarajevo anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo in 1914. Please remeber them in your prayers, and pray for the peace of the world and deliverance from radical, purblind, extremists. My post for this day last year can be read at Sarajevo remembered.

The assassination and the circumstances and possibilities - the "what ifs", or to be smart, the "counterfactuals" - and its continuing impact exert a fascination on my mind, and should, I believe, on those of others. For all the work of historians in, quite correctly, discerning trends and patterns there are specific moments when change occurs, events which do, literally, change the world. The Sarajevo assassination is one of them.

Looking at whatI wrote last year the only change I would really make would be to be firmer in my repugnance at the fate of the Archduke and his wife, and the consequent fate of us all - we all live in a world that came into being that sunny summer morning.

Dedijer's book remains the classic account, although it can be supplemented by later books. It was inevitably constrained by its author's background and the times in which he wrote, but it is agreat piece of work. One question I would have asked him, had I the possibility, was how many Bosnians were so taken up with violent revolutionary nationalism. Dedijer writes of all these groups - Pan-Slavs, South Slavs and Pan-Serbs - with precision and knowledge, but I do wonder to what extent they and their more passive supporters were a minority. They appear to share the same profile as other radical nationalist groups who, alas, manage to make the political running.

I have found some more images of that fateful morning, although they are refusing to expand to a larger size. Here then are the Archduke, the Duchess and Gen Potoriek, Govenor of Bosnia,
arriving at the city hall in Sarajevo:


The Archduke and the Duchess leave the city hall:


The driver takes the fatal wrong turn on the Appel Quay and the Archducal car wheels can be seen to begin to turn to the right. The assassination happened seconds later:


I also found this picture, which is a reminder of the fact that Europe's reaction was to show solidarity with the Habsburgs in this assault on their Empire and dynasty:


Requiem in the church of St Catherine in St Petersburg for Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914.

Monday 27 June 2011

A quiet weekend of piety

Having celebrated Corpus Christi in the Extraordinary Form on its traditional day last Thursday the Clever Boy was able to continue celebrating in the Ordinary Form over the weekend, even if in extraordinary ways.

On Saturday evening he betook himself to the Oxford Ordinariate group Mass at Holy Rood in Abingdon Road. This is the new place of worship for the group's Saturday Vigil Mass, and despite its rather austere exterior has an interior that is prayerful and spacious.

Holy Rood

The homily was given by Daniel Lloyd, now a deacon in the Ordinariate, and concentrate don his participation in the conference last week in Rome on Eucharistic adoration - something with which the Mass had been prefaced and which it is planned to establish as normal practice.

Following the Mass there were refreshments provided by Fr Paul Berrett and his wife to celebrate his recent ordination to the priesthood within the Ordinariate, followed by a visit with some of the younger members of the group to a local hostelry for drinks and discussion (i.e. church gossip). During this it the Clever Boy was asked if he could lend a white bow tie to wear as part of sub fusc for the next day's Corpus Christi procession, as the wearing of academic or professional dress is encouraged on this occasion. Yes, if I can find it, and if you 're wearing sub fusc I will as well, said the Clever Boy. So after a visit to the Oxford Union with part of the party (more drinks and gossip), he went off home to find and wash a white shirt and bow ties for the morrow. Other went off to prepare at SS Gregory and Augustine (vide infra)

Sunday morning and up in good time to dress in sub fusc ( dark suit, white shirt and bow tie, black shoes and socks) worn under the appropriate academic gown, say the office and off to get the 9.15 bus to St Gregory and St Augustine Oxford where the Clever Boy had been recruited to help as an additional server (one of the seven acolytes) for the visit by the Archbishop of Birmingham to bless the restored reredos and crucifix and celebrate Pontifical Mass.


The altar and reredos during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at SS Gregory and Augustine.

Great effort had been put into decorating the church with flowers and polishing and tidying. One server had 'borrowed' from his landlady (who, thankfully, was quite happy when she found out why her carpets had disappeared during the night) various Turkey rugs to enhance the sanctuary.

The Archbishop, having checked as to when he had met the Clever Boy before, assured him that he has a doppelganger - Cardinal Walter Kasper. Cardinalatial red would complete the effect. A recourse to the internet has yielded this photograph - I think I can see a resemblance, but who knows there own face?:


Cardinal Kasper - mein doppelganger?

The liturgy went smoothly, starting with the formal reception of the Archbishop at the entrance to the church with a crucifix at the kneeling desk, and a series of dedicatory prayers for the altar crucifix and new images of the saints. When pictures are available they will be posted.

Following Mass there was an excellent barbeque on what was becoming a very hot day ( not ideal in winter-weight suit and gown) before departing back by bus to the city centre for the deanery Corpus Christi procession which started at the Oxford Oratory at 2.30. By now it was the hottest day so far of the year. The following pictures are from the Oxford Oratory website of what was once again a well attended and impressive witness of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

As in previous years the CleverBoy was acting as a steward, so over the suit and gown went one of those tasteful luminous yellow waistcoat worn by roadmenders and the like, as the procession set off.

Diocesan clergy and religious in the procession with Bishop William at the right.


The Sacrament borne by the Prior of Blackfriars Fr John O'Connor.

The canopy bearers are pupils from the Oratory School at Woodcote near Reading, which was originally founded by Bl. John Henry Newman.


The Provost of the Oxford Oratory, Fr Daniel Seward, in his 'Mafia priest' look.


The Clever Boy can be seen in the background as one of the stewards flanking the Blessed Sacrament - vanity, O vanity.

The procession paused for a homily from Bishop William Kenny, the area auxiliary, at Blackfriars and then passed through part of the city centre, past the site of the birthplace of St Nicholas Owen and past the sites of the medieval Greyfriars and Blackfriars to the University Catholic Chaplaincy.



Witney Town Band conducted by Dr Gerard Hyland provided the music.


Inside the Chaplaincy.


Those in the procession are encouraged to wear their academic dress.


Bishop William Kenny bestows the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

After Benediction at the chaplaincy there was just time for some glasses of water to counteract the seeming risk of dehydration before shedding the luminous yellow waistcoat and setting off with others at 4.40 to walk back up to St Giles for 5 to share a taxi out to Dorchester on Thames. There at the exquisite church of St Birinus, Dorchester Fr David Elliott, who was ordained the previous day in Portsmouth Cathedral, and was formerly Vicar of Holy Trinity Reading, was to celebrate his first Sung Mass at 7. The Clever Boy was not serving, but was asked to act as photographer (he is not sure how the photographs came out, particularly as he sought to be unobtrusive). The Mass was elegant and there was an excellent homily from the parish priest of St Birinus, Fr John Osman. As well as Fr Elliott's Reading Ordinariate group there were members and supporters of the Oxford group as well as regular members of St Birinus' congregation.

Mass concluded with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the extensive grounds of the presbytery and Benediction in the church. To celebrate there were drinks and refreshments on what was a warm summer evening in the presbytery garden, and a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones. At 10.30, in the fading light, the taxi conveyed the Oxford party back to the city. and the Clever Boy made his fairly weary, but very happy, way home, still in full academic dress. The Clever Boy slept well that night - the fruit of simple piety.

Oratorian Martyr

From today's posting on the Oxford Oratory website:



The Congregation for the Causes of Saints today promulgated the Decree of Martyrdom for the Venerable Savio Huix Miralpeix, Bishop of Lérida and formerly of the Oratory of Vic, Catalonia, a martyr of the Spanish Civil War. A date can now be set for his beatification.

The Servant of God, Savio Huix Miralpeix, was born on 22nd December 1877 in Santa Margarita de Vellors in the Diocese of Vic in Catalonia, into a family for whom faith in God and love for the Church were an irrevocable inheritance.

He was ordained priest on 19th September 1903 and four years later entered the Congregation of the Oratory of Vic where for twenty years he gave himself over to an intense ministry of study, preaching and writing, catechising, teaching in the diocesan seminary and promoting associations for Catholic women.

He was the Provost of Vic when, in 1927, he was named Bishop of Ibiza. There he gave an extraordinary stimulus to religious life. Translated to Lérida on 29th January 1935 he continued his zealous apostolic work until 21st July 1936 when Republican forces broke into the Episcopal palace and Mgr Miralpeix, reluctantly and in order to safeguard his associates, took refuge with friends.

Seeing the dangers to which his helpers were exposed, on the night of 23rd he left his hideout and presented himself to the police, revealing his true identity. He was imprisoned at once, together with other prisoners with whom he shared both sufferings and also the joy of secret prayers and Masses, right up to the last moving Holy Communion which proved to be their Viaticum.

At 4.30 on the morning of 5th August they were all of them taken to the local cemetery and shot. The bishop asked that he might be the last to be killed so as to give absolution and comfort to his companions in martyrdom. Before his arrest he entrusted his pectoral cross to a friend, asking him to take it to the Holy Father, for whom he was offering his life and assuring him of his loyalty.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Celebrating Corpus Christi in Oxford

On Thursday I observed Corpus Christi in the Extraordinary Form, as I prefer to do. I went to the Low Mass offered at the Oratory at lunchtime and made my communion there, and then late afternoon went up to SS Gregory and Augustine to help do some practical sacristy jobs in preparation for the visit of the Archbishop of Birmingham to bless the redecorated reredos on Sunday. I was asked to serve at their Mass, which I did, despite a rhumatic knee (now recovered), and here are pictures of the Mass from Joe Shaw's LMS Chairman blog. We were rather short of servers, but the three of us managed to support Fr Saward.

2011 06 23_0274

2011 06 23_0285

Mass was followed by a procesion inside the church and Benediction.

There are more pictures here.

Order of the Star of India

Today is the 150th anniversary of the foundation of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India by Queen Victoria in 1861. There is an illustrated account of the Order and its history here. The last surviving member died in 2009.

The Order, designed to be awarded to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, is an interesting example of mid-Victorian inter-faith dialogue. Hence it avoided the use of the cross or terminology such as Knight Grand Cross in favour of Knight Grand Commander, and used as its motto the phrase "Heaven's Light Our Guide."

The Mantle of a GCSI

The star of the Order on the mantle
Images: Wikipedia

It is also interesting in that from the beginning women were admitted as KSI or later GCSI - something that was not possible in this country until the Order of the British Empire was created in 1917, and for the older Orders not until the reign of the present Queen.



Two contemporary views of Queen Victoria presiding over the first Chapter of the Order in 1861

Image: Columbia.edu

The insignia was particularly handsome, and the Prince Consort is often claimed to have had a hand in its design. The links with roses clearly derive from the Orders of the Garter and St Patrick. These alternate with the lotus flower to symbolise India. I have read, though I am not sure if the story is true, that some of the insignia which had been returned to the Crown was destroyed as superfluous in the 1950s. If so it was a very regretable decision.

 Magnificent Collar and Badge of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India

This is the magnificent Collar and Badge of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, Knight Grand Commander (GCSI), awarded to General His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan, Abassi, Bahadur, Nawab of Bahawalpur.

On his accession in 1907, he reigned under a Council of Regency until he came of age and was invested with limited administrative powers in 1922; he became President of the Council of Regency in May 1923, and almost a year later was invested with full ruling powers at Bahawalpur by His Excellency the Marquess of Reading, Viceroy of India.

He acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947 and merged his state into the province of West Pakistan in 1955.

At the ages of seven, His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan attended the Delhi Durbar 1911, where he commanded his state troops. He also attended the coronations of both King George VI 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II 1953. He served in the Great War and the Third Afghan War 1919; was ADC to the Prince of Wales 1921-22; and again served in the Second World War. General His Highness Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan, Abassi, Bahadur, Nawab of Bahawalpur died in London in 1966.

The estimate for this collar when it was sold was £20,000-25,000.

Illustration and information from Spink.com

Friday 24 June 2011

Coughton Court

Last Saturday I went on an excusion with the Brothers of the External Oratory in Oxford and organised by our prefect Fr Jerome Bertram to Coughton Court in Warwickshire. This was my first visit to this great recusant house ansd the whole day was both very enjoyable and informative.

CoughtonCourt (pronounced Coaton) has been the home of the Throckmorton family since 1409, although since 1946 the house has been vested in the National Trust. The Throckmortons and their house have survived the Wars of the Roses, the various stages of the English reformation, the Throckmorton plot involving a cadet member of the family, the Gunpowder Plot, the Civil War, the revolution of 1688 when the chapel was sacked by the mob, the civil disabilities laid on Catholics post-1688, and, following Catholic emancipation (the family produced the first Catholic MP after that legislation, winning one of the Berkshire seats in 1832), the agricultural depression of the nineteenth century, death duties, two world wars and everything else the twentieth or any other centory could throw up, and are able to boast of a continuity of occupancy and faith for over six centuries.

In particular the family are famous for their links to other notable Midland recusant families, such as the Catesbys and the Treshams, as well as Sir Walter Raleigh, and the family and the house feature in the story of the Gunpowder Plot. There is an article about some of its historyhere.

The oldest part of the presnt house is the gatehouse built by Sir George Throckmorton in the second decade of the sixteenth century . Successive rebuildings and repairs have produced a house with features of a wide range of styles right down to the saloon from just before the Great War.

I like this image!
Coughton Court gatehouse

The gatehouse from the courtyard


Amongst the many interesting relics in the house there is the remarkable Tabula Elienis, a painted cloth dating from 1596. So called from its picture of Ely cathedral and similarity to another example there, it depicts English kings and monnks, as well as the arms of recusant families, and appears to be a depiction of recusant heritage and identity. It is displayed in the tower room where the wives of some of those involved in the Gunpowder Plot awaited news of their husbands in 1605.


The Tabula Eliensis

Image:Keybuk photostream

Another room had a fascinating display of treasures including what is believed to be the chesmise worn by mary Queen of Scots at here execution in 1587. Apparently it bore blood stains until relativelty recently. One thing which struck me as being in support of the tradition is that its length would fit with the fact that Queen Mary was a tall woman. In the same room were mementoes of her descendants the Jacobite Kings James III and VIII, Charles III and Henry IX and I.


Chemise worn by Mary Queen of Scots at her execution
Image: Felicityfaery photostrean on Flickr

In the same room, but rather difficult to appreciate because of the necessarily low light levels and the case in which it was displayed, was a cope which is associated through its pomegranete motifs with Queen Catherine of Aragon. This photograph gives a better idea of the vestments which has been restored in recent years. It is, I think, Sarum blue rather than purple, and is a very fine piece of early sixteenth century work.


The Catherine of Aragon cope

Image: The Photostation.net

In the same room were a selection on manuscripts on display, including a late medieval priest's manual in which the clause giving the Pope's name could be seen to have been blotted or smudged out from the canon of the Mass as directed by King Henry VIII in the 1530s.

Elsewhere I was interested to see the possessions of a female members of the Throckmorton family who had been a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, including photographs of the Empress and the young Crown Prince Rudolf and the insignia of the Orders of the Starry Cross and of St Elizabeth.

We did not really have enough time to explore fully the gardens which have been developed by the family in the last fifteen years, but as well as the nineteenth century Catholic church built by the family we also looked in the late medieval parish church which adjoins the house, and contains many Throckmorton tombs. Like the gateway to the house it is a reminder of the prosperity of late medieval midland England.

The tombs include those of Sir George, the builder of the gatehouse, and his wife, of the last Abbess of Denny in Cambridgeshire, who, as a member of the family, returned to Coughton with two of her nuns to live out their lives, and, presumably, their vocations there. There is also the handsome tomb of Sir John Throckmorton(d.1580) and his wife Marjorie. A younger son he was alawyer and judge, apparently dismissed not long before his death by Queen Elizabeth I for his recusant sympathies. He lived at feckenham in Worcestershire, and his son Sir Francis gave the family name to the throckmorton Plot of 1583. I particularly liked this panel on the tomb base showing the sons as mourners and presumably including the conspirator Francis:


The mourners on the tomb base.

Image: Walwyn on Flick


The interior of the church.

Sir John Throckmorton's canopied tomb is to the right of the altar.

The one in the foreground was intended for one of his ancestors who died on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1518.

The tracery lights contain late medieval stained glass.

Image: Roy Reed on Flickr

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Norwegian Coronation 1906

Today is also the 105th anniversary of the coronation in Trondheim cathedral of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud as King and Queen of Norway in 1906. This followed from the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905 and the selection of Prince Carl of Denmark and his wife Princess Maud, daughter of King Edward VII as King and Queen. The new King assumed the name Haakon, the same name as the last independent King of Norway six centuries earlier.

King Haakon VII and Queen Maud following their Coronation in 1906.

There are some fine photographs of the Coronation - the first anywhere at which the ceremonies inside the cathedral were to be photographed - and of the ceremonies around it here, as well as articles about the history of the Norwegian coronation. There is a link to archive film here.

Here are two other photographs I found of the ceremonial inside the cathedral:


In this photograph the King is at the bottom left, and the Queen to the right. Her brother the Prince of Wales, the future King George V, can be clearly seen in the centre in front of the group of foreign representitives


Regrettably, very regrettably in my opinion, in 1908 the Norwegian parliament removed the clause from the Constitution making coronation at Trondheim mandatory.

The argument was that in a democratic age the rite of coronation marked the King out as having a superior authority. True - he does. In consequence the Coronation was no longer required, although not abolished. It perhaps an early example of Scandinavian secularism, rather like the decision in Sweden in 1907 not to have a coronation for King Gustav V on the grounds of expense. In Norway at the accession of King Olav V in 1957 he was able to arrange a service of Benediction at Trondheim, and I understand that that in 1991 was a more elaborate occasion. There is a good article about the history of the Norwegian coronation and the modern benediction rite here.

There is an article about the Norwegian regalia - which is kept at Trondheim, expressing the concept that the King holds the Kingdom from St Olav - here, and one about the King's crown, made for King Carl Johan, here.


The Crown of the King of Norway

The Crown of the Queen of Norway


The Crown of the Crown Prince of Norway

Coronation of King George V

Today is the centenary of the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. There is an article with links about it here.

Amongsty other points of interest is the fact that this was the first British coronation ceremony, as opposed to the procession, to be recorded by photographs. This photograph shows the beginning of the ceremony in Westminster abbey.

The coronation of King George V, Westminster Abbey, 22 June 1911.

Copyright: Heritage Images

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The King and Queen

Copyright: lamodeillustree.livejournal.com

It was King George who resumed the practice of being crowned with St Edward's Crown, rather than the lighter Imperial State Crown used by Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, although he quicly exchanged it for the Imperal crown. In 1937 and 1953 the monarch was to wear St Edward's Crown right up to the communion, only assuming the Imperial Stae Crown at the Recess for the procession out of the abbey and back to the palace. It was the King who ordered that St Edwar's Crown be permanently set with precious and semi-precious stones, rather than the previous practice of hiring gems for the Coronation and then replacing them with paste.


St Edward's Crown

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that it was King George V who from the 1913 State Opening of Parliament actually wore the Imperial State Crown with his robes of state, and this has remained the practice. at Queen Victoria's few post 1861 State Openings and those of King Edward VII the crown was carried on its cushion, although the Sovereign wore the robes.

The 1911 Coronation was, I think, the only time that Queen Mary's crown was used with its arches. Like Queen Alexandra's 1902 crown, but unlike those of 1831 for Queen Adelaide and 1937 for Queen Elizabeth, it has eight half arches rather than the more traditional four. In design it is very like the Crown of India, which was also made by Garrards that year - but I will say more about that in December.


Queen Mary's Crown

The crown contains some 2,200 diamonds and in 1911 it contained the Koh-i-Noor diamond as well as Cullinan III and Cullinan IV (the Cullinan diamond had been presented to King Edward VII and after cutting the largest piece was set in the sceptre and the second largest in the Imperial Stae Crown, displacing to the back of the circlet the Stuart Sapphire). In 1914 they were replaced by crystal models.

Unlike many earlier coronation crowns, it was specially constructed so that its arches could be removed, allowing it to be worn as a circlet, and it was in that way that Queen Mary wore it for State Openings and at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937. At her funeral in 1953 I understand that her crown did not rest on her coffin, unlike the practice at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in 2002.

As the Queen Consort's crown has been seen as an ornament rather than regalia Queen Mary presented her crown to King George V for the use of future Queens consort. However a new crown, based on a circlet made for Queen Victoria, and incorporating the Koh-i-Noor was used to make the 1937 crown for Queen Elizabeth, allowing Queen Mary to wear her crown as a circlet at that Coronation.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Further reflections on the Royal Wedding - the popular response

Today being the birthday of the Duke of Cambridge seems an appropriate one on which, apart from expressing best wishes to His Royal Highness, to try to finish my reflections on his wedding to the Duchess.


In this post I want to comment on the popular response. Quite obviously from the crowds in London and the worldwide television audience there were a very great number of people watching because they wanted to. So much for the argument which one has heard before every major royal celebration for a generation and more - "People aren't interested anymore."

In a very British way we prepared in a very understated way for the celebrations. One or two shops started having commemoratives in their windows, then a few more ,and a few more, and Union flags started appearing. Slightly sheepishly people began to prepare to celebrate, and to admit to being positive about the day.

Nor can interest be dismissed with the jokey "Thanks for the day off" line which appeared. The popular response was extensive and genuine, and more complex than some would have us believe. Of course there is the appeal of pagentry and finery, and there is something of the general well wishing towards any couple entering into marriage, and here was a young couple clearly in love and serious about their committment to one another.

I sensed there was much more than that - a sense of a real wishing well to this couple because they are who they are and represent what they do. People wish them well because they wish the monarchy well. After the difficulties of the 1990s this was an opportunity, indeed
the opportunity, to look to the furture with a renewed belief in the tradition the institution embodies and carries. People were wishing the couple well because they really wanted things to work out well.

Friends who were in London have described that positive good will amongst the crowds, and watching it all on television here in Oxford at our party at the Oratory I sensed that feeling not only of affection for the Duke and Duchess, but also for that which they committing themselves to. At that party there was also that sense of community which such national events bring out.

this was not I suspect confined to subjects of the Crown. One friend in London told me that he was aware of the considerable number of Germans around who seemed very interested in the wedding. He, I am sure rightly, explained this as an awareness (sensed rather than expressed) on their part of what they are lacking in their own national life.

Another friend summed up the mood with his reaction to the day - "Who would not want to live under such a system?"


St Aloysius Gonzaga

Today, being the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga, is the patronal festival for the Oxford Oratory parish.


St Aloysius as a boy

Image: Breviary.net

St Aloysius (1568-1591) is not perhaps the easiest company amongst the saints. An aristocrat who renounced his inheritance to join the Jesuits, and who, having lived a life of mortification and penance dies as aresult of nursing plague victims at the age of 23 he can appear uncomfortably demanding. Much of the later artwork depicting him has a somewhat sickly quality which gets in the way of understanding him as a human being. The contemporary portraits suggest aclear sighted young man with the very considerable sense of purpose he demonstrated in life.

He stands somewhat in the same tradition as St Louis of Toulouse or the later fourteenth century Peter of Luxembourg, all of them noted for their royal or aristocratic background, life of mortification, service of the poor and the Church, and early deaths.


St Aloysius as a teenage layman
Image: Gonzaga College

There is another account of his life and devotions to him here.

A year or two ago the preacher on St Aloysius day at the Oratory, Fr Brendan O'Callaghan SJ, the Master of Campion Hall, made the point that in order to understand St Aloysius and his choice of austerities it is important to realise that this came from his own self-knowledge of the temptations his birth and position offered.

File:The Vocation of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.PNG

The Vocation of St Aloysius
Painting c.1650
Image: Wikipedia

May St Aloysius pray for us all