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 October 2016

LMS Dominican Rite Pilgrimage in Oxford

Today was the Latin Mass Society's Oxford Pilgrimage in honour of the four martyrs of 1589 - the two priests Bl. George Nichols and Bl. Richard Yaxley, and the two laymen Bl. Thomas Belson and Bl. Humphrey Pritchard.

The well attended Mass was celebrated at Blackfriars according to the traditional Dominican Rite by Fr Oliver Keenan OP and the sermon was given by Fr Richard Conrad OP who also served as Deacon.

It was a great pleasure to meet up with my old friend, and indeed my sponsor when I was received as a Catholic in 2005, Br.Andrew from the Birmingham Oratory and some friends of his from the congregation there and to have lunch with them afterwards. I was then able to help Andrew show them around Oxford, concentrating especially on the life here of Bl. John Henry Newman. Being an Oriel man I was fortunately able to show them more of the college than they might otherwise have seen and to talk about Newman where he once lived.

Br. Andrew once paid me the compliment - the great compliment - in  saying he thought I was like Newman in my pursuit of truth, indeed Truth, and which I found a very moving observation.

It was also a pleasure to see Fr Hunwicke and talk to him briefly after the Mass. Although we live in the same city our paths cross far too infrequently.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The King of Romania at 95

Today is the 95th birthday of the King of Romania

I have adapted this post from one on Sunday on the Royal central website:

Image result for king of romania michael

The future King with his grandmother Queen Marie - who not infrequenty donned Romanian peasant dress 

King Michael will celebrate his 95th birthday in Switzerland with his family.

Although the celebrations in Switzerland will be a small affair, for eight days, events will be taking place across Romania to mark the former monarch’s longevity and to celebrate his life.

The celebrations began last Thursday when a performance of a play written by King Michael and Queen Anne was aired on the radio.

 Image result for king of romania michael

The King of Romania soon after his second accession to the throne

Image: Pinterest

A few days later on Monday, a photo exhibition will take place at Pelişor Castle entitled ‘King Michael, a happy childhood’. This exhibition will include many previously unseen images from the King’s childhood coming from three different collections: the family of photographer Joseph Bermam, the archive of the Royal House and the Romanian Academy Library.

Following on from the photo exhibition, there will be an awards ceremony held at Peles Castle. Acting on behalf on the King, who is too ill to attend, Crown Princess Margareta will present awards and decoration including the Hall of Honour of Peles Castle. After the ceremony, a reception will be held in the Salon Maur.

 Peles Castle 
Image: Wikipedia

The next day, October 25, will mark King Michael’s 95th birthday. He will celebrate the occasion privately in Switzerland with Princess Elena and Princess Sofia.

Meanwhile in Romania, a gala concert is scheduled at the Romanian Athenaeum. Princess Margareta and Prince Radu will be in attendance at the concert where all profits will go to charity.

At the beginning of the concert, Princess Margareta will make a speech on the occasion her father’s birthday.

There are many other smaller scale events happening across the country too showing that King Michael is still widely respected despite the fact he was forced to abdicate in 1947 by the government controlled by the Communist Party of Romania.

Image result for king of romania michael

The King on his 90th birthday when he addressed the Romanian parliament 
Image Daily Mail

It has, however, been a difficult year for the King and may be seen as one not worth celebrating. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing a complex and demanding treatment for chronic leukemia and epidermoid in Switzerland.

To add to his ill health, the King’s wife of 68 years, Queen Anne, died in August at the age of 92. King Michael was unable to travel back to Romania for The Queen’s funeral due to his fragility.


The Royal Standard of the King of Romania
 Image: Wikipedia


Wednesday 19 October 2016

St Frideswide

Today is the feast of St Fridewide, patron and probably foundress of Oxford.

The following account of her, slightly adapted, and the two images are copied from Pilgrim-WordPress.com:

Image result for St Frideswide

St. Frideswide, Oct. 19; translation, Feb. 12 (FREDESWEND, FREDESWYTHA, FRITHESWITHA, FRITHESWOED, etc.; in French, FREVISE, FREWISSE). c. 650-735. Patron of Oxford and of Bomy, in Artois. Represented with the pastoral staff of an abbess, a fountain springing up near her, an ox at her feet. 

Born at Oxford, which was then in the kingdom of Mercia. Her pious parents, Didan and Safrida, committed her to the care of a holy woman named Algiva. After her mother’s death, she returned to live with her father. He built a church at the gates of Oxford, and there she took the veil with twelve young women of her acquaintance. Didan then built them a convent near the church, and they lived there, not bound by the rules of the cloister, but by holy charity and love of seclusion. Algar, prince of Mercia, sent to ask Frideswide to marry him, as she was beautiful and very rich. She excused herself on the plea of her vow of celibacy. He persisted, and at last made a plan to carry her off. She fled to the river, and finding a boat, floated to Benton, about ten miles from Oxford. She took up her abode in a deserted hut used to shelter the swine that fed on the acorns in the forest. Here a fountain sprang up at her prayer. She remained concealed for about three years, while Algar tried to find her, at one time threatening to burn the city of Oxford unless she were given up to him. At last he discovered her hiding-place, and vowed to sacrifice her not only to his own brutality, but to that of his men. Just as she was about to fall into his hands, and was so worn out with fatigue and starvation that her last strength was forsaking her, she bethought her of the great saints who in the days of the early Church had saved their honour at the price of life; she invoked SS. Catherine and Cecilia. Immediately her persecutor was struck blind, and she was unmolested. She restored sight to her enemy on his repentance. She returned to Oxford, and there collected round her it number of Saxon maidens, over whom she presided in great holiness until her death in 735.
Many miracles are told of her in her life, and after her death. One of the former is that a leper conjured her in the name of Christ to kiss him, and she, overcoming her fear of infection and natural disgust at his loathsome condition, made the sign of the cross and kissed him. Immediately the scales fell from him, and his flesh came again like that of a child. Multitudes of pilgrims resorted to her tomb, the chapel on the site of the pigs hut, and the fountain which had sprung up at her prayer, and which soon became famous for miraculous cures. In 1180 her body was solemnly taken up from the obscure part of the church where it was buried, and translated to the chief place in the church, in presence of a great concourse of nobles, prelates, and people. For centuries no king of England would enter Oxford for fear of being struck blind. Henry III. was the first to disregard the tradition, and there were not wanting persons who attributed all his misfortunes to his presumption. Many kings, however, gave munificent offerings to the churches and schools of Oxford. The first school known with certainty to have existed in the sanctuary of St. Frideswide has become one of the most famous centres of literary and intellectual life in the world. Her monastery is now Christ Church college, and her church, rebuilt in the 12th century, is the cathedral. One version of her story says that she lived, died, and was buried at Thornbury, now Binsey, and that her body was translated thence to Oxford in the 12th century.
At Bomy, near Therouanne, in Artois, there is a tradition that she fled thither from the pursuit of Algar, and a fountain, said to have sprung up at her desire, is resorted to for cures and other answers to prayer. Notwithstanding these discrepancies in the accounts, and the fact that Bede, who was living during her reputed period, does not mention her, critics agree that her story is true in the main.

Image from frideswide.org – not attributed.

After Mass at the Oxford Oratory this evening, at which the fine music for the propers was provided by the female Frideswide Voices, we concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and sang, as is our custom, a hymn in her honour. I have reproduced the text of this truly wondrous composition, which came to us from Christ Church, in my post Hymn to St Frideswide from this day in 2011.

The icon reproduced at the head of this post can be purchased online if you search for it.

Monday 17 October 2016

Oxford Oratory Forty Hours

This past weekend has been the annual observance of the Forty Hours Devotion at the Oxford Oratory. Here are the images that have been published by the Oratory on its website:




The Solemn Mass of the Sacred Heart on Sunday morning:


Fr Dominic preaches:


The elevation of the chalice:


The Blessed Sacrament is exposed again at the end of Mass:



Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament:



The procession around our church:






Benediction concludes the Forty Hours:


Images:Photographs by Hannah Chegwyn/The Oxford Oratory

Sunday 16 October 2016

Well said, Sire!

A friend sent me this cartoon - 'nough said!

Friday 14 October 2016

Battle of Hastings 950

Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. This was arguably the most important event in English - and by extension British/UK  - history in the last thousand years. I posted something about the victor in 2012 at William the Conqueror

The anniversary is being commemorated on the latest 50pence piece with the figure, traditionally assumed to be King Harold II, on the reverse.

 Image result for Hastings commemorative coin

Image: changechecker.org

Guernsey has issued a £5 coin to mark the occasion - and as the Channel Islanders are wont to do may be seen as their celebration of 'their' conquest of Engalnd.
 Image result for Hastings commemorative coin

Image: The Westmister Collectyion 

The coins have the portrait of The Queen, who is, of course, descended from both King Harold II and King William I as Montcrieff and Pottinger pointed out in Blood Royal many years ago - Queen Philippa of Hainault was descended from King Harold, so all descendents of her and her husband King Edward III share this joint ancestry.


Tuesday 11 October 2016

A purseful of coins from twelfth century Derbyshire

A couple of months back the BBC News website had this interesting story about the discovery of a few twelfth century coins in Derbyshire. It is, as the report makes clear, the smallness of the number of pennies that make the find interesting. Here is, probably, a minor personal catastrophe of a lost purse that took centuries to be recovered, a vignette of life in the time of King Henry II:

Rare silver coins found in Derbyshire declared treasure
Silver 12th Century coins found in a field in Derbyshire are declared treasure by a coroner.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Newman celebrations in Oxford

This weekend has seen celebrations of the feast of Bl. John Henry Newman here in Oxford, on the 171st anniversary of his reception into the 'one fold of the Redeemer' by Blessed Dominic Barberi at Littlemore.

On Saturday night I joined, as I have each year since my own reception in 2005, the traditional Night Walk will take place, beginning at the Oratory at 7.45pm. We followed the more or less usual route to Littlemore, concluding there with a Holy Hour presided over by Bishop Robert Byrne, Cong. Orat., in the modern church dedicated to Bl. Dominic and then finished our pilgrimage in Newman's College with Benediction and veneration of the relic.

With us for part of the walk was Fr Paul Chavasse, Cong. Orat., former Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, and it was intersting to see him standing by the newly installed memorial near Magdalen School to his relative Capt. Noel Chavasse, who was awarded the Victoria Cross twice in the Great War - the later award being posthumous. Only three people have ever been awarded the decoration twice and Noel Chavasse was the only such recipient in World War I.
Image: Oxford Oratory website

This morning Bishop Robert celebrated the 11 Solemn Mass at the Oratory, at which Fr Paul preached and based his elegant and thoughtful sermon on a tour of Newman's room which survives as the Cardinal left it at his death in 1890 at the Brimingham Oratory. He stressed the numerous small pictures of his friends with which Newman adorned his room as reminders to pray for them, and urged such a concern for our friends upon us.


Newman's room at the Birmingham Oratory


Saturday 8 October 2016

Royal Wedding in Albania

The Royal Central website has the following post about the wedding of the claimant to the Albanian throne which took place today:

Prince Leka of Albania, or King Leka II of Albania as he is known by Albanian royalists, is getting married to his longtime fiancee Elia Zaharia today.
Prince Leka is the grandson of King Zog I, who ruled the country from 1928 until 1939. His parents were Leka, Crown Prince of Albania (or King Leka I of Albania) and Australian born Susan Cullen-Ward. His father was just a few days old when the family was exiled from Albania due to the Italian invasion. Prince Leka was born on 26 March 1982 on South Africa, although the maternity ward was temporarily declared to be Albanian territory.  He went to school at St Peter's College in Johannesburg and also graduated from Sandhurst Military Academy in 2006, where he was declared the "best foreign student of the Academy". He studied Italian at the Università per Stranieri and also completed training at the Albanian Military Academy Skanderbej. He is fluent in Albanian, English, Italian and speaks some Zulu.
He currently lives in the capital of Albania, Tirana. Prince Leka is pursuing a career in diplomacy and he is now serving as a political advisor to the President.
His fiancee, Elia Zaharia, is an Albanian actress born on 8 February 1983 to George Zaharia and Yllka Mujo. She graduated from the National Art School in Tirana in 2002 and moved to Paris in 2002 to continue her studies. She met Prince Leka around that time. She graduated from the National Conservatory of Bordeaux in 2005. The couple became in engaged in May 2010 and she has accompanied Prince Leka on his visits since then. She is the head of the Queen Geraldine Foundation, which was created by the Royal Court and helps Albanian families who need help.
Their wedding date was finally announced on 27 March 2016 and the couple is set to marry today in Tirana. The civil marriage will be officiated by the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj. A blessing will be given by the religious leaders of Albania.
The guest list for the wedding includes Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
Full guest list
Their Imperial and Royal Highnesses Archduke Georg and Archduchess Eilika
Her Royal Highness Princess Léa
Bourbon-Two Sicilies
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Castro
His Royal Highness Prince Ali
His Royal Highness Prince Davit Bagrationi
His Royal and Imperial Highness Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia
Her Royal Highness Princess Irene
His Royal Highness Prince Michael and Princess Marina
Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Pia of Savoy
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy
Their Serene Highnesses Prince Philipp and Princess Isabelle
Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla
His Royal Highness Prince Nikola II Petrović-Njegoš
Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Braganza
Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Margareta and Prince Radu
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria
His Imperial Highness Grand Duke George
Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine
Her Majesty Queen Sofia
Thurn und Taxis
Her Serene Highness Princess Gloria
Her Serene Highness Princess Elisabeth
The United Kingdom
Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Michael of Kent
His Serene Highness Prince Gundakar and Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Liechtenstein
Her Serene Highness Princess Imaculata of Liechtenstein
Her Serene Highness Princess Charlotte of Liechtenstein, Mrs PK Van der Byl
His Royal Highness Prince Michel of Yugoslavia
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Theresa of Bourbon-Parma
Their Imperial & Royal Highnesses Archduke Joseph Karl Habsburg and Her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Margarete of Austria.
Her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Johanna Sophie of Austria
His Highness Prince Joachim Murat
Prince Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga del Vodice
Prince Alvaro de Orleans-Borbon and Princess Antonella de Orleans-Borbon
HSH The Prince d`Arenberg
Princess Sonia Poniatowsky
Prince Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga del Vodice

Which is a pretty impressive line-up.

Dual Cypher 

Dual Cypher of Prince Leka and  Elia Zaharia

Image: Wikipedia
There is an online account of the wedding at Wedding of Prince Leka II and Elia Zaharia


The Arms of the House of Zogu as Kings of the Albanians

Image: Wikipedia

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Bohemian Coronation

Last month Prague witnessed a re-enactment of the coronation of the Emperor Charles IV as King Charles I of Bohemia in 1347 - as regular readers will be aware this year is the 700th anniversary of the birth of the Emperor.

The online journal Medieval Histories has a report about the events in Prague which I have copied below:

Couple playacting as Charles IV and Queen Blanche 1347 - 2016 Honza Keokotah

Photo from official presentation of the couple playing the roles of Charles IV and Blanche of Valois. © Honza Keokotah

Invitation to the Coronation of Charles IV 2016

The re-enactment of the Coronation of Charles IV in Prague is a recurrent event. This year, however, the professionals have fully taken over. They promise not just a re-enactment, but a faithful and scientifically based recreation

Bohemian Crown May 2016. Source: Wikipedia
Bohemian Crown May 2016. 
Source: Wikipedia
This year is the 700th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Charles IV, and one of the highlights is a faithful recreation of his coronation, celebrating the event, which took place on the 2nd of September 1347. The coronation itself takes place on the 4th of September at 1 pm at St Vitus’ Cathedral, but only for invited guests due to space limitations. It will be projected on a screen in nearby Hradčanské náměstí. – http://prague-stay.com/lifestyle/review/1597-hradcanske-namesti/ – Other parts of the re-creation such as processions and medieval markets will be open to the “burghers” and “peasants”.

The clothes and crowns for Charles IV and his wife, Blanche of Valois, have been faithfully copied, although some guesswork was involved on the part of historians from the Academy of Sciences and other institutions, which have collaborated on the project. Some is of course based on guesswork. For instance, the sceptre and orb, which survive are from the 16th century, so what they used like in the 14th century is a matter of conjecture. In the same way, the church where the coronation took place no longer exists, and the more modern cathedral now has to stand in its place.

Nevertheless, there exists a rather detailed description of the events as Charles personally wrote the manual: Ordo at coronandum regem Boemorum 1347. The recreation is based on this plus information gathered from chronicles and other sources.


Reconstruction of the coronation of Charles Iv in 2007
Reconstruction of the coronation of Charles IV in 2007
The festivities start on the 3rd of September with a medieval market from 10 am to 6 pm at the Karolinum, at Ovocný trh 3, across from the Estates Theatre. There will be juggling, music and dancing, and workshops for kids. In the evening, there will be a mass at Vyšehrad, a visit to the St Martin Rotunda and a penitential procession to the Karolinum and further on to the Old Town Square and Prague Castle. Festivities at Vyšehrad begins at 3:30 pm, and the procession starts at 6 pm. The day will end with prayers at St Vitus Cathedral at 9 pm. The King will at this event wear bast sandals. In the 14th century, we may believe, he walked barefooted.

The next day, Sept. 4, sees another medieval market at the Karolinum for 10 am to 6 pm. Festivities at St Vitus Cathedral begin at 12:50 for the invited, others are directed to go to Hradčanské náměstí. A procession will leave from Hradčanské náměstí at 3 pm, arriving at Old Town Square at 4 pm for fanfare, music, dancing and other festivities. A knight’s tournament with horses will take place at 6 pm, and events will end at 8:30 pm.

Performers in the pilgrimage and the coronation event have been chosen from local re-enactors, who have been instructed to wear precise period-close outfits. Suitable liturgical vestments have been borrowed from the depositories of the Royal Collegiate Chapter of Vyšehrad and the Roman Catholic parish at the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, while liturgical objects have been lent by the Archbishopric of Prague and the Chapter of St. Vitus. The actual crown will be the exact replica which is usually exhibited in the castle, but new sceptres and orbs have been created. Another huge effort has been invested in recrating the presumable outfits which were worn by the king and queenas well as some of the other major actors. Other work has been invested in the reproduction of a canopy, silk brocade banners, a reconstructed throne etc.

Cathedral of St. Vitus

At an early point a controversy existed about where to “perform” the actual coronation. Suggestions were to have it either performed in the other church in the Castle, St. George’s. Or, alternatively the Church of St. Mary and St. Jerome, which was founded by Charles in 1347. However, after long negotiations an agreement was finally reached to have the coronation recreated in St. Vitus.


The quality of the event has been carefully secured by engaging the official support of the Ministry for Culture, the University and the Catholic Church in Prague as well as numerous other institutions.
The scientific panel, which guarantees the faithful recreation consist of
National Czech television will broadcast the event, which – of course – will make it impossible for anyone outside Czechia to see the recreation as it takes place. Once again, copyright rules prevents the European broadcasting of the event.
A full programme for the coronation can be found at Korunovační slavnosti v Praze 3. – 4. 9. 2016  (CZ)


cover_coruna karl IV 
Ed. and translated by Jiří Kuthan, Miroslav Šmied, Joseph Cibulka and Jaromír Homolka
Nakladatelské údaje: Praha : Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy, 2009

The re-enactment was videoed and can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/01xRjoq7ib0
It lasts for an hour and three-quarters, but from what I have seen looks impressive. From reseaching the link such historical re-enactments are popular amongst modern Czechs.

Now all this is very interesting to the Clever Boy, but being the man he is, he is more than tempted to point out that the most genuine recent Bohemian coronation was that of King Ferdinand V in 1836 and to suggest that the cathedral of St Vitus might do well to be used for the coronation of the present de jure King of Bohemia, King Charles V...

Saturday 1 October 2016

DVD evenings

On several Saturday evenings last winter I have had supper with a friend and watched some DVDs on his television. Now as autumn gains upon us and the nights draw in here is something about three of the DVDs we watched for readers to consider viewing themselves. All three are about the background and lead-up to the Great War.

My friend already had "37 Days." This is a 2014 three part series from BBC Northern Ireland about the events between June 28th  and August 4th 1914 and the stumble into the First World War.  Filmed entirely in Northern Ireland it has Belfast City Hall as a passable Whitehall and such like. It chronicles events in a rather pedestrian manner with perhaps variable casting. The actor playing the young confident rising Winston Churchill as  First Lord of the Admiralty is one of the better and more credible performances, but the other really impressive one is that of Rainer Sellion as the Kaiser - a part which is a gift to an actor who can depict so complex a character.  The weakness of the production is that nothing like enough was researched or spent on creating the milieu or trappings of the courts of 1914. The effect is very worthy but rather lacking the gravitas of the subject matter, though I would say that the series improves on watching it again.

"Royal Cousins at War" also appeared in 2014 and presents the outbreak of war very much in terms of personal conflicts between the monarchs and dynasties of the time in a way that is I think, far too simplistic. It may be eye-catching but it is not very profound historically. However although I would not agree with all of its interpretation, it does use some fascinating archive film from the Danish Royal archives and contemporary photos as well as location filming. In those respects the two programmes are excellent.

The third series I suggested as I recalled watching it on television when it was first shown forty years ago. This is the drama series "Fall of Eagles", produced by the BBC in 1974. This presents in a series of plays the interconnected fortunes of the rulers of the Austrian, German and Russian Empires over the period 1848 - 1918.

What makes this such good viewing is the cast, which is almost a national repertory company from those years. The absolutely outstanding performance is that of Barry Foster as Emperor Wilhelm II. As a depiction of so crucial a figure in a whole range of moods and situations over thirty years it surely deserved an award, though I do not think Foster received one for it.  The whole series, almost all studio-based, is far more lavish and atmospheric than " 37 Days", and makes one sense how television drama has declined over the intervening decades.

Of the three series "Fall of Eagles" is much the best. It also had an accompanying BBC book - look for that in Oxfam or other bookshops or online.