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.

Saturday 29 June 2013

St Peter and St Paul

Today is the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, although this year it will be transferred to tomorrow, being Sunday, in the rubrics for the Novus Ordo.

St Peter and St Paul by El Greco

Image: LMS website

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Executions at Pontefract

"O Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
    Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
    Within the guilty closure of thy walls
    Richard the second here was hack'd to death;
    And, for more slander to thy dismal seat,
    We give thee up our guiltless blood to drink."

Shakespeare Richard III Act 3 Scene 3

Thus does the character of Anthony Woodville Earl Rivers apostrophise the castle at Pontefract in Richard III. In the scene he, his nephew Lord Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan are about to be decapitated on the orders of Richard Duke of Gloucester as part of his seizure of the throne 525 years ago in June 1483. The Pontefract executions occurred on June 25th.

File:Pontefract Castle.jpg

Pontefract Castle circa 1630
Today the castle is little more than foundations

Image: Wakefield MDC Museums

The immediate beginning of these events was the death on April 9th of King Edward IV, and the accession of his twelve year old son King Edward V, who was then at Ludlow. He left there in the company of, amongst others, his mother's brother Lord Rivers, his half brother Lord Richard (second son of Queen Elizabeth's first marriage) and Sir Thomas Vaughan, his father's Treasurer of the Household, on April 24th to travel to London.  

On April 29th they were met at Stony Stratford by Richard Duke of Gloucester, the late King's surviving younger brother, aged 31, and Henry Duke of Buckingham, who was married to Queen Elizabeth and Rivers' sister Catherine, and was 27. The party dined together, but on the following day Rivers, Grey and Vaughan were arrested on a charge of plotting against the Duke of Glouceser and sent north, into Richard's political heartland. Rivers was sent to Sheriff Hutton Castle and Grey to Middleham castle - both of them properties acquired by Duke Richard by his marriage to the daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker. Vaughan was sent to Pontefract, the other castle which served as the base for Gloucester's role as the King's representitive in the north. The boy King was taken to London, lodged in state in the Tower, and plans made for his coronation, but which continued to be postponed.

Gloucester's actions, if not intended from the beginning as a bid for the throne may reflect fears on his part of being excluded by the Woodville-Grey faction from his natural role as the new King's uncle and protector, and an awarenes s of the fates of the two previous Dukes of Gloucester, Thomas and Humphrey, following royal minorities. He may also have considered the Woodvilles responsible in part at least for the downfall and death of his brother George Duke of Clarence in 1477-8, not so much from affection as from fear of a similar fate. Buckingham, if not merely opportunistic, may well have resented being married as a boy to Catherine Woodville. It apears clear that the Woodvilles had never ben popular with at least a significant part of the Yorkist establishment

On June 10th letters were taken north by Sir Richard Ratcliffe, one of the Duke of Gloucester's closest lieutenants to raise an army and on June 13th Lord Hastings, Chamberlain to the King's late father, was seized and beheaded in the Tower of London. On June 22nd the story of the pre-contact of the late King Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler, which would invalidate the marraige of the King to Elizabeth Woodville and hence deprive King Edward V of his right to the throne, was first publicised in London.

larger image

Sheriff Hutton Castle in the early eighteenth century
After Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

Image: antique-prints-maps.com


Sheriff Hutton Castle from the north-west

 Image:Nick Garrod on Flickr

On June 23rd Rivers, doubtless hearing the worst made his last will as Sheriff Hutton, though he seems to have had some expectation of  travelling to the south:
"I, Anthony Wodevile, in the castle of Sheriff Hutton, bequeath all my lands that were my father's, to my brother Sir Edward Wodevile, and his heirs male, my heart to be buried (if I die south of Trent) before our lady of Pewe, beside St. Stephen's college at Westminster, also the lands that were my first wife's the Lady Scales, and Thomas Lord Scales's, her brother, to my brother Sir Edward, and his heirs male; but he to whom it should come, before he took possession thereof, to deduct 500 marks to be imployed for the souls of the said lady and her brother, and the souls of all the Scales's blood, &c. and to find a priest for one year to pray for them, his own soul, and all Christian souls, at our lady of Pewe; and another priest to sing at the chapel of the Rodes, in Greenwich, for his own soul, and all christian souls."

He willed the manor of Tirington Hall, in Middleton in Norfolk, the hundred of Frebridge, the manor of Wolverton and advowson, in Norfolk, with the manor of Rokeys in Berkey, in Hertfordshire, to be sold, to establish a hospital at Rochester, for 13 poor folk.
He directed that his apparel for his body was to be sold, with his horse-harness, &c. and with the money resulting therefrom, shirts and smocks to be bought for poor folks.

He appointed the Lady Willoughby, late wife of Sir Jervace Clifton, William Tunstall, Robert Poynts, Richard Hawte, William Catesby, Andrew Dimock, overseers of his will; but it does not appear that it was proved.

He left no children by his two wives, but by a mistress, called Gwentlian, only daughter of Sir William Stradling, third son of Sir William Stradling of Glamorgan , and Isabel, his wife, he had a daughter Margaret, who married Sir Robert Poynts, of Acton Iron in Gloucestershire.
Blomefield Norfolk 1809 vol 9  sub Middleton

That same day or the following he was taken the forty or so miles to Pontefract where he rejoined his nephew and Vaughan. Following an apparently perfunctory semblance of a trial presided over by the Earl of Northumberland the three men were behreaded in the presence of the northern army assembled by Ratcliffe, who seems to have been Gloucester's agent in the whole business. Ratcliffe announced to the ose present that the men were traitors. According to Edward Hall in the following century their bodies were buried naked in the nearby Cluniac monastery of St John - they were not interred as had been victims of the battle of Wakefield in the Dominican hous en the town, as they do not  feature in the comprehensive list of burials there made on the eve of the dissolution.

A hair shirt worn by Rivers was offered up and hung before the statue at the shrine of Our Lady of Doncaster in that town's Carmelite friary - perhaps an attempt to fulfill Rivers' request for his heart to be buried before Our Lady of Pew at Westminster. Aged 40 or 41 at the time of his death from his will Rivers appears pious within the courtly traditions of the era, and he was the most accomplished and cultivated member of his family according to the available evidence. There is an online account of his life here and the study by Michael Hicks in the Oxford DNB is here.

His nephew Lord Richard Grey was perhaps 23 at the time he died, and there is  an online life here.
The Oxford DNB account of him by Rosemary Horrox is here.

Sir Thomas Vaughan was about 73. There is an online article about him here,and the life by Prof. R.A. Griffiths in the Oxford DNB is available hereDuring his lifetime he had prepared a tomb with a monumental  for himself in Westminster abbey, and there is an article about that here.

The brass of Sir Thomas Vaughan in Westminster Abbey 

Image: keithblayney.com

Sir Richard Ratcliffe, who was clearly in charge of events at Pontefract, was to be immortalised in the couplet "The Rat, the Cat and Lovell our Dog rule all England under Richard the Hog" over the next two years before his death at Bosworth along with the King he served - William Catesby (named by Rivers as an executor in his will) was executed after that battle, and Francis Lord Lovell disappeared.
There is an online life of Ratcliffe here, and the life by Rosemary Horrox in the Oxford DNB  can be read here 

A fourth man, Sir Richard Haute, another executor of Rivers, is sometimes said to have been killed at Pontefract, but he was spared, and lived quietly through the next two years and died in 1492. The  article by Peter Fleming in the Oxford DNB about the Haute family can be read here

On the same day as the Pontefract executions the crown was offered to Richard Duke of Gloucester on the basis of his being the next lawful successor to King Edward IV, and he commenced his reign as King Richard III from the next day June 26th.

Monday 24 June 2013

The Nativity of St John the Baptist

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, and by tradition Midsummer Day - displacing a pagan festival. The Nativity of St John is one of only three births to be commemorated liturgically - the others are, of course, those of Our Lord and Our Lady. St John has this honour because he is understood to have been pre-santified in the womb of St Elizabeth.

At the Oxford Oratoty last night we had the first Vespers of the Nativity, followed by the Vigil Mass, to begin the observance of the Solemnity.

I have noted in previous posts the point made to me by an Oratorian that whereas in the medieval period devotion to St John was widespread and he frequently appeared in paintings, sculpture and as a patron of churches and other foundations, today his cultus has largely disappeared from popular conciousness. As I think about it church dedications to him may well have developed from the twelfth century in England, rather than earlier, although clearly St John's Chester appears to have had the dedication to him by 973.

St. John the Baptist - El Greco, 1600

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Most post-medieval depictions of St John seem to me to lack the spiritual insight of medieval ones. However this painting by El Greco does I think, capture the continuing spirit of medieval devotion, and, I sense, reflects a particular feature of spiritual continuity in the Spain of the reign of King Philip II - late-medieval Catholicism had flowed in an undisturbed stream into the post-Tridentine expression of it.

From a sermon by St Augustine appointed for today's Office of Readings:

" The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning."

I see from an article in The Times today about Midsummer Day that although it is not the longest day - that was three days ago - it is the day with the latest sunset. This is a consequence of the elliptical orbit of earth around the Sun. Similarly the day with the earliest sunrise is June 17th or 18th. According to farming folklore rain on Midsummer Day was deemed to be unlucky as it portended a wet harvest.

As afeast in the pre- hrvest season and when the days were at their longest it was asuitable one for popular gatherings such as the meeting of Tynwald in the Isle of Man, at the parish of St John's, but the 1752 calendar correction meant that Tynwald Day is now on July 5th, so as to keep a full legal year.

I have posted previously about the cult of St John the Baptist in

Sunday 23 June 2013

The Suppression of Roche Abbey in 1538 - a personal view

475 years ago, on June 23rd 1538, the Cistercian abbey of Roche, in the southernmost part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, was surrendered to the King's Commissioners by the Abbot and Convent. There is an online introduction to the history of the abbey here. The Victoria County History of Yorkshire section on the abbey can be read here and there is another, modern, academic online account here.
The remains of the abbey are now in the care of English Heritage.

Model of Roche

A modern reconstruction of Roche Abbey from the north-east

Roche Abbey - an aerial view from the west
Image: Copyright Skyscan Balloon Photography/Emglish Heritage
I have two reasons for posting about Roche amongst so many other houses that were being suppressed at that time, the first academic, the second more personal.

Michael Sherbrook was Rector of Wickersley, near Rotherham, from 1567 to 1610.  In the 1590s he completed an account of the memories of his father and uncle who witnessed the spoliation of Roche Abbey in 1538. His account shows the scale of devastation,and the extent of self-interest shown by monks and locals alike. It is taken from Tudor Treatises  Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series Vol. CXXV (Wakefield , 1959), p. 19:

 " [Roche Abbey] a house of White Monks; a very finely built house of freestone and covered with lead (as the abbeys in England, as well as the churches are). An uncle of mine was present at the breaking up of the abbey, for he was well acquainted with several of the monks there. When the community was evicted from the abbey, one of the monks, his friend, told him that each monk had been given his cell where he slept, wherein there was nothing of value save his bed and apparel, which was simple and of little worth. This monk urged my uncle to buy something from him, but my uncle replied that he could see nothing that would be of any use to him; the monk asked him for two pennies for his cell door, which was worth over five shillings; his uncle refused, as he had no idea what he would do with a door (for he was a young unmarried man, and in need of neither a house nor a door). Others who came along later to buy the monks’ corn or hay found that all the doors were open, and the locks and shackles plucked off, or the door itself removed; they entered and stole what they liked.

Some took the service-books that were in the church and laid them on their Waine Coppes to repair them; some took windows from the hay barn and hid them in the hay, and did the same with other things: some pulled iron hooks out of the walls – but did not buy them – when the yeomen and gentlemen of the country had bought the timber of the church.

For the church was the first thing that was spoiled; then the abbot’s lodging, the dormitory and refectory, with the cloister and all the buildings around, within the abbey walls. For nothing was spared except the ox-houses and swinecoates and other such houses or offices that stood outside the walls – these had greater favour shown to them than the church itself. This was done on the instruction of Cromwell, as Fox reports in his Book of Acts and Monuments. It would have pitied any heart to see the tearing up of the lead, the plucking up of boards and throwing down of the rafters. And when the lead was torn off and cast down into the church and the tombs in the church were all broken (for in most abbeys various noblemen and women were buried, and in some kings, but their tombs were no more regarded than those of lesser persons, for to what end should they stand when the church over them was not spared for their cause) and all things of value were spoiled, plucked away or utterly defaced, those who cast the lead into fodders plucked up all the seats in the choir where the monks sat when they said service. These seats were like the seats in minsters; they were burned and the lead melted, although there was plenty of wood nearby, for the abbey stood among the woods and the rocks of stone. Pewter vessels were stolen away and hidden in the rocks, and it seemed that every person was intent upon filching and spoiling what he could. Even those who had been content to permit the monks’ worship and do great reverence at their matins, masses and services two days previously were no less happy to pilfer, which is strange, that they could one day think it to be the house of God and the next the house of the Devil – or else they would not have been so ready to have spoiled it.

But it is not a thing to be wondered at by such persons that mark the inconstancy of the rude people in whom a man may graft a new religion every day. Did not the same Jews worship Christ on Sunday, who had done so much good to them, yet on the following Friday cried ‘Crucify him’?

For the better proof of this, thirty years after the Suppression I asked my father, who had bought part of the timber of the church and all the timber in the steeple with the bell frame, (in the steeple eight or nine bells hung - the last but one could not be bought today for £20 – and I myself saw these bells hanging there over a year after the Suppression) if he thought well of the religious people and of the religion followed at that time? And he told me yes, for he saw no cause to the contrary: well, I said, then how did it come to pass that you were so ready to destroy and spoil the thing that you thought so well of? What should I have done, he asked, might not I as well as the others have had some profit from the spoils of the abbey? For I saw that everything would disappear and therefore I did as the others did.’

Thus you may see that those who thought well of the religious, and those who thought otherwise, agreed enough to spoil them. Such a devil is covetousness and mammon! And such is the providence of God to punish sinners in making themselves instruments to punish themselves and all their posterity from generation to generation! For no doubt there have been millions of millions that have repented since, but all too late. And this is the extent of my knowledge relating to the fall of Roche Abbey."

Online source: cistercians.shef.ac.uk
The other reason is, as I wrote, more personal, but curious.
In, I think, the summer of 1955, when I was not yet four, one summer Sunday my parents took me, and my paternal grandmother, then living at Tickhill, out for the afternoon in the car. My mother suggested we visited the ruins of Roche abbey, which she had not visited although she had seen the signposts to it. This we dutifully did, although I remember nothing specifically of that part of the visit. We then went on, and this I do vaguely recall, to Blyth in north Nottinghamshire where we visited the Norman priory church - now the parish church  - and the now levelled but then still-standing ruins of Blyth Hall. My mother always maintained that therafter I assumed that a day out in the car meant a trip to see ruins and so my historical enthusiasm was fired. I do still recall our collecting my grandmother and the Blyth part of the day, and that I had indeed been to Roche.

I occasionally visited Roche on other occasions over the years, but not until about thirty years later did I realise a significant link. When looking at the published Parish Registers for Saddleworth in the mid-Pennines where the Whitehead family were settled for centuries  I discovered that the earliest recorded member of the family, the progenitor of many branches in that township of scattered hamlets in a remote and distinctive area,  was one Henry Whitehead, churchwarden of the chapel of St Chad in 1546, and in the 1530s bailiff of the lands there of Roche Abbey. There being no Whiteheads recorded in Saddleworth earlier I assume he came from outside the local community, but settled in and founded our family there. My branch left Saddleworth for the bright lights of Manchester in the mid-nineteenth century, and our own line came to Doncaster at the very end of the century.

The land of which he was bailiff had been given to Roche in the early fourteenth century by Sir Warin de Scargill (reputedly an ancestor of Arthur of more recent fame) and Sir Warin's fine effigy can be seen in the church at Darrington, two miles outside my own home town of Pontefract.

Funny how things go round in circles...

Friday 21 June 2013

St Aloysius Day

Today is the feast day of St Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron saint of the church of the Oxford Oratory. Built in 1875 by the Jesuits they took as their patron one of the great Jesuit saints, and a role model for youth.

The Jesuits surrenderd the care of the church to the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1981 and in 1990 the Oratorians arrived to found the third English Oratory. Nonetheless devotion to St Aloysius has continued alongside that of St Philip Neri, and St Aloysius Day is always a highlight of the parish year.


The statue of St Aloysius in the church of the Oxford Oratory

Image: Brownie Bear on Flickr

We commenced our celebrations last night with Solemn Vespers and this evening there was a Sung High Mass at 6pm. As is customary the preacher was a Jesuit, and this year it is Fr Dushan Croos  the assistant University Chaplain. In his sermon he said that on theapplication of the Gospel reading St Aloysius' love for God - unkowable to the outsider - could be measured by the love St Aloysius showed to his neighbour, and that this was a model for us all to follow, and as illustrated by the excellent pastoral care we enjoyed from the Oratorians.

It occurs to me that despite the diiferences between a Jesuit and an Oratorian approach one can see in St Aloysius a young man not unlike those of his near contemporaries who were transformed under St Philip's influence to lives of pastoral solicitude.

Following the Mass there was the customary parish buffet, and this time we were back in the reconstructed ansd extended parish centre which I wrote about in my last post. This proved an excellent setting and was amost enjoyable occasion, one on which one could talk to old and new friends and tuck in to Pimms and suitably festive food - not least meat on a Friday as today was, of course, a local Solemnity...  

My posts from previous years about St Aloysius can be seen at  Flos paradisi and  Celebrating St Aloysius from 2010, St Aloysius Gonzaga for 2011 and St Aloysius Gonzaga from last year.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Viewing the new building at the Oxford Oratory

Earlier this evening,together with other members of the Oratory's Benedictine Oblates group, I was given atour of the newly developed building for which the Oratory has been raising funds. This is Phase One. The building work is now completed, although some fitting out works remains to be carried out before His Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham is comes to celebrate Mass and bless the completed work on August 4th.

This evening we saw the impressive conversion of the old parish centre, complete with new kitchen and bar, the library created in the room above - originally these housed the parish school. The library promises to be a fine galleried room with space to house the sizeable Oratory library, including the Gaisford collection, part of the library of Mgr Graham Leonard and the remains of G. K.Chesterton's library and related manuscript material.

Beyond this lies a set of new rooms for Fathers of the Oratory and guest accomodation, giving the community the ability to expand. What is striking about the extension and conversion is the skill of the architect in creating so much space on a limited site and the care in providing the finishing touches to make it a properly finished building.

After all the work of fund raising and the wait to see what was going on behind the screened-off area it was very satisfying to see what has been achieved, to look forward to the completion of this Phase, and then, of course, to go on to Phase Two...

There is more about the project on the Oxford Oratory Appeal website.

Granting an interview to the Press

Late this afternoon as I hurried towards the ortaory for Mass I was suddenly approached by a lady on St Giles Street and asked " Excuse me, are you British?"  I replied that I was and found that my interlocutor was a German journalist who asked if I was willing to be interviewed for an article she was writing about attitudes to the impending birth of the first child of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Now of all the people to stop in the street and ask about attitudes to the monarchy - well she picked well in homing into me I think.

I said I was indeed very willing, provided I was not delayed getting to Mass. I was assured that the interview would be brief, as it proved to be.

I was asked about my attitude towrds the birth of the future monarch; it is very positive - I am a staunch Monarchist. What were my hopes for the child? I said that they were what one would hope for any child, for its health and welfare.

What name did I favour? I said I thought a boy would probbaly have a traditional name for a British monarch - perhaps not William to avoid confusion, but perhaps George, or Charles, and that a daughter again might well follow precedent - maybe Elizabeth in honour of the Queen.

That conclued the interview - along with asking my name, but not, I noticed, the all important thing in our newspapers, of one's age. I asked the lady where she came from in Germany  - from near Stuttgart I found out - and told her in a vainglorious moment, of the existence of this blog and that I had recently written about the rebuilding of the Berlin Stadtschloss. She said this was proving controversial in her country, as I knew, but she said she would look at the blog.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The Scottish Coronation in 1633

Today is the 380th anniversary of the coronation of King Charles I as King of Scots at Holyrood in 1633.

File:Charles I in 1633.jpg

King Charles I in 1633
The print commemorates the Coronation
Image: Wikimedia

Holyrood Palace in the early seventeenth century.
A drawing by James Gordon of Rothiemay about 1649


This was the first coronation in Scotland since that of King James VI in 1567, and as with the coronations of King James V and Queen Mary I, had been that of an infant. Not since that of James IV in 1488, at the age of 16, had there been the coronation of near adult, and before that it was that of King James I in 1424 which had last seen an adult ritually receive the Honours of Scotland. Probably for these reasons the King appointed acommission to research the rite, and this is a major source for our knowledge of the Scottish ceremony. Only once since has there been a Scottish coronation - that of King Charles II in 1651 - and were, as is, I think to be desired, there to be a restoration of the ceremony and as discussed here in the context of possible independence, the 1633 report would be an important source.

The 1513 and 1543 ceremonies had taken place in the Chapel Royal at Stirling and that of 1567 in the parish church of the Holy Rood there. The abbey of Scone, traditional place of coronations up to 1424, had been destroyed, and for this occasion the ceremonial was located in the remains of Holyrood abbey, which had seen the coronation of King James II in 1437.

All that remained of the abbey was the nave, the remainder of the church having been demolished in 1570, and the structure was now restored for the occasion.


The interior of the Chapel Royal in the late seventeenth century


Further renovated by King James VIi to act as the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle in 1687 it was sacked by the edinburgh mob in the following year during the revolution and was left in decay. In 1768 the vault collapsed, reducing it to ruins:

The interior of the Chapel Royal today


A late nineteenth century plan to restore it for the Thistle Chapel was deemed impractical, and the new Chapel of the Order added to St Giles Cathedral in the centre of the city. Incidentally it was on this visit to Scotland that King Charles  establsihed the new diocese of Edinburgh with St Giles as its cathedral.

The service was an opportunity to show liturgical ideas in accord with the ideas of Bishop William L aud of London who accompanied the King on his journey, and the episcopal genuflections in the service caused raised eyebrows, and indeed raised ire amongst the more Presbyterian of the King's subjects.

The principal officiant was Archbishop John Spottiswoode of St Andrews, of whom there is a biography here. The Oxford DNB life of him by A.S.W.Pearce can be seen here.

Archbishop Spottiswood, Lord High Chancellor

Archbishop John Spottiswoode of St Andrews

Image: scottish-places.info

For the ceremony the King wore the mantle of King James IV - as with other realms then and now such state vesture can have along life.

The text of the Coronation Oath sworn by Kings of Scots from King James VI onwards was approved by the Scottish Parliament  in 1567:
I, N.N., promise faithfully, in the presence of the eternal, my God, that I, enduring the whole Course of my Life, shall serve the same Eternal, my God, to the utmost of my Power, accordingly as he required in his most Holy Word, revealed and contained in the New and Old Testament; and according to the same Word shall maintain the true Religion of Jesus Christ, the preaching of his Holy Word, and due and right administration of his Sacraments, now received and practised within this Realm; and shall abolish and oppose all false Religion contrary to the same; and shall rule the People committed to my Charge, according to the Will and Command of God, revealed in his foresaid Word, and according to the lovable Laws and Constitutions received in this Realm, in no way repugnant to the said Word of the Eternal, my God; and shall procure to my utmost to the Kirk of God and whole Christian people true and perfect Peace in all times coming; the Rights and Rents, with all just privileges of the Crown of Scotland, I shall preserve and keep inviolate, neither shall I transfer nor alienate the same; I shall forbid and repress in all Estates and all Degrees theft, Oppression and all kind of Wrong; in all Judgements, I shall command and procure that Justice and Equity be kept to all creatures without exception, as he be merciful to me and you that is the Lord and Father of all Mercies; and out of all my lands and empire I shall be careful to root out all Heresy and Enemies to the true Worship of God, that shall be convicted by the true Kirk of God of the foresaid Crimes; and these Things above-written I faithfully affirm by my solemn Oath.
A later version was introduced in 1689.

A new ampulla for the oil of anointing was made for the occasion - it can be seen today in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh:

Gold ampulla

The gold ampulla which held the anointing oil for King Charles I at his 1633 Scottish coronation

Image: homesand property.co.uk

Scottish monarchs had been anointed since 1329 following a grant of the right to King Robert I for his successors by Pope John XXII in that year.

The regalia used were the Honours of Scotland as still to be seen in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle, and about which there is an article here.


The Honours of Scotland

Image: graphics.stanford.edu

The Coronation was also marked by the issue of commemorative medals by the King's favoured medallist, Nicholas Briot:

Charles I, Scottish Coronation 1633, silver medal by Nicholas Briot
Charles I, Scottish Coronation 1633, silver medal by Nicholas Briot

Coronation medal by Nicholas Briot


Several buildings erected in that Coronation year record in their plasterwork national symbols and the number of monarchs since the establishment of the monarchy by King Fergus I in the fourth century BC.
As part of the 1633 celebrations portraits of 107 kings were displayed, some of which (by George Jamesone) survive. There is more about this legendary history here.

Sunday 16 June 2013

The Prussian Crown of Wilhelm II

Following on from my previous post about the accession of Wilhelm II as Kaiser and King in 1888 here are pictures of the crown he commissioned as King of Prussia. The German Imperial Crown only existed as a model and in heraldric use, and there was no ceremonial investiture with it.

The Kings of Prussia did have a crown, and a coronation rite - notably as used by King Wilhelm I in 1861 at Königsberg - the first coronation of which there are photographs. In 1888 his short lived successor son Frederick III had visions of an Imperial coronation as Emperor Fredertick IV of a renewed Holy Roman Empire, but his failing health and the opposition of this Chancellor Bismarck - who pointed to the new constitutional dispendation of the post 1871 German Empire - prevented that ever being more than an idea.

The new Kaiser-King also thought of a traditional coronation at Königsberg, but Bismarck, who disliked the outward ceremonial of state dissuaded him. However the new monarch did have a new crown made as King of Prussia in 1888.

The Crown of Prussia made for Kaiser Wilhelm II

Image: Wikipedia

The crown  contains a large sapphire, supporting a diamond-studded cross, plus 142 rose-cut diamonds, 18 diamonds and 8 large pearls . It comprises eight half-arches.

Although he never wore it the crown does appear in some portraits and photographs from the early years of his reign.

When the Kaiser abdicated  in 1918 he was permitted to retain the family jewels, which included the Hohenzollern crown. To protect it from theft and destruction, during the Second World War  it was hidden in a wall in the crypt of a church. Following the war it was returned to the Hohenzollern family, and it is now kept at the family residence of Hohenzollern Castle in Swabia.


  King Wilhelm II's  "Hohenzollern House Crown", now at Hohenzollern Castle in Baden-Württemberg.

The older regalia survives in Berlin, and the 1701 crown clearly provided the design for the one made in 1888:

The Prussian Crown Jewels: The crown of King Frederick I - as it is today: a gold frame devoid of diamonds - together with the orb and sceptre, on display at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin.

Modern model of the original appearance of the diamond-studded crown of King Frederick I of Prussia, now at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin


Saturday 15 June 2013

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Today is the 125th anniversary of the accession of Wilhelm II as German Emperor and King of Prussia in 1888, the third Kaiser to rule in the Year of Three Emperors.

Kaiser Wilhelm: Succession law change would have made Kaiser Wilhelm King of England

The young Emperor Wilhelm II
Image: ETA/Daily Telegraph

Reading about him, and the pivotal role he played, or is claimed to have played, in the events of the succeeding decades what emerges is a complex man.  He was intelligent and talented, yet also neurotic, and clearly suffered from mood swings. Brash at times, tactful and sensitive at others, and could certainly display charm and humour. In his public speeches and statements he was prone to sweeping rhetorical phrases, not a few of which came back to haunt him. I know various attempts have been made to analyse him in terms of pschology or as a victim of birth trauma, but I wonder if he might have suffered from a form of Asperger's Syndrome - that could account for the retentive memory and some of the social awkwardnesses he manifested. 

The physical disability he had from birth of a withered left arm, usually carefully concealed in pictures and in his daily life, clearly made his life difficult from the earliest days of educating the heir to the Prussian throne to be able to perform his public duties - for example he clearly suffered greatly as a child in being forced to learn to ride - and the conciousness of that disability may well have compounded whatever other difficulties he suffered from.

Through his upbringing and education he had a complicated relationship with his mother and her country - they were too much alike in many ways. To some Germans he was, and is, seen as half English, and not sufficiently Prussian. To the British he was a sometimes popular figure, but more often not popular one, and an object of suspicion with his Naval expansion in the years before 1914, then an object of concentrated venom, and finally, perhaps, a curious survival as the exile of Doorn.

 File:Kohner - Kaiser Wilhelm II.jpg

Striking a pose - the young Emperor-King at his most grandiloquent. 
A state portrait of him as King of Prussia in 1890 by Max Koner.
He is wearing the mantle of the Order of the Black Eagle and has his crown as King of Prussia at his side


The other year I read Giles McDonagh's excellent biography of him The Last Kaiser and I currently have Christopher Clark's biography Kaiser Wilhelm II: A life in Power on order, which promises to be an excellent and well researched study. From what I have seen of it so far it is an insightful study into the Kaiser as monarch, and what his role actually was in government. 

Thursday 13 June 2013

The Great European Civil War

Perusing the newspapers earlier I saw that the Daily Mail was not only critical of the Bishop of London for his comments about the "baby-boomer" generation - he being a member should not criticise it etc being the argument - but also for saying that the Great War was a European civil war and that church leaders should reflect seriously on how their predecessors on all sides had endorsed men going off to fight. The Bishop's comments were apparently all the worse for being in line with an EU approach that the war had been such a civil conflict and in line with the Government apparently wanting not to blame the Germans when it came to commemorating the outbreak of hostilities next year.

Well now, the European civil war argument is not new - it was certainly used by F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing about the '20s, and strikes me as an excellent way to understand the dreadful disaster that was the 1914-18 war. You do not have to be an obsessive devotee of the modern EU to think that. One can be very Eurosceptic indeed about the structures of the Union without wanting to ignore the fact that the UK is inextricably bound up with what happens on the continental mainland of Europe - that is, after all, why we were drawn in in 1914.

As to blaming the Germans - well what actually started the war was not the Deutches Reich, but an act of terrorism against the established order in Sarajevo. That set off a tragic and disastrous series of political chain reactions that drew in most of Europe, due to mutual suspicion and the failure on all sides to look at the wider scene. It would be less than historically accurate to think that the war started when Germany invaded Belgium - that is of the "Fog in Channel, Continent cut off" school of thought.