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, 9 March 2012

The Queen and the Order of the British Empire

The Daily Telegraph has this rather fine photograph of The Queen at the sevice of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire which was held in St Paul's Cathedral this week. Her Majesty is wearing her robes as Sovereign of the Order.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh lead a special service of dedication and thanks for the Order of the British Empire at St Paul's Cathedral

The Queen at the service.
Her Majesty is wearing a tiara given to her by Queen Mary, who suggested the present rose-pink colour for the Order in place of the original purple.

Image:Geoff Pugh / Daily Telegraph

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh led worshippers at a special service of dedication and thanks for the Order of the British Empire. Around 2,000 people holding the honour filled St Paul's Cathedral where they made an act of personal dedication led by the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres. There are more pictures of the service here.

The Order, which was founded in 1917, has its chapel in the crypt of the cathedral, and the provisoon of uch chapels and the holding of services of the various Orders is an interesting development of the twentieth century. In 1900 there was only the Garter chapel at Windsor, and the ceremonial of procession and installation more fully restored in 1948 at its sixth centenary. The religious ceremonies of the Order of St Patrick had been abandoned at St Patrick's cathedral in Dublin with the dis-establishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869-71, and there were no other chapels functioning.

However in 1905 that of the Order of St Michael and St George was inaugurated by King Edward VII in St Paul's, the Thistle Chapel was built at St Giles Edinburgh in 1911, and the Order of the Bath established (or re-established) in King Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster Abbey in 1913. To this has been added the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire at St Pauls and the use by the Royal Victorian Order of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy. All these Orders now have annual, bi-annual or trienniel services with the installation of Knights or Knights Grand Cross and the wearing of the appropriate robes and insignia. These are, therefore, all good instances of that recovery - I much prefer to use that term rather than 'invention' - of tradition by the Crown in this country, and defying the levelling tendency, or to 'dumb down.' It conveys a dynamic tradition, of a belief in received practice.

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