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, 28 March 2013

Imperial Maundy

The tradition of the mandatum was not confined to English kings - it survived as a practice in the Austrian Empire and in Spain during the reign of King Alfonso XIII.
" In 1850, Franz Joseph participated for the first time as Emperor in the second of the traditional Habsburg expressions of dynastic piety: the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony, part of the four-day court observance of Easter. The master of the staff and the court prelates chose twelve poor elderly men, transported them to the Hofburg, and positioned them in the ceremonial hall on a raised dais. There, before an invited audience observing the scene from tribunes, the Emperor served the men a symbolic meal and Archdukes cleared the dishes. As a priest read aloud in Latin the words of the New Testament (John 3:15), “And he began to wash the feet of the disciples,” Franz Joseph knelt and, without rising from his knees, washed the feet of the twelve old men in imitation of Christ. Finally, the Emperor placed a bag of twenty silver coins around the necks of each before the men were led away and returned to their homes in imperial coaches."

The Emperor washing the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday
A lithograph of circa 1910
From Daniel L. Unowsky, The Pomp and Politics of Patriotism: Imperial Celebrations in Habsburg Austria 1848-1916 (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2005), p. 29.
Image and text: nobility.org March 7, 2011
1907 newspeper report says that thirty silver coins were given, but I am not sure if that is accurate.
In 1904 the ceremony was attended by Consuelo Duchess of Marlborough (1877-1964) who described it in her memoirs The Glitter and the Gold, published in 1953 and recently reprinted. The Vanderbilt heiress displays in her autobiography both a thoroughgoing pleasure in the privileges of her rank and an American edginess about such privileges, both of which are apparent in her account of the occasion:
[Text to be added]


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The last post was deleted as it was very rambling!

The Austrian imperial mandatum was a splendid custom. It shows perfectly the feeling of filial (not fraternal) affection between the Emperor and his people, between, indeed, the aristocracy and the peasantry that flourished until usury and industrialism - the rule of Herr Rothschild - destroyed the old rural estate ways in all but a few places.