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, 27 June 2020


My friend Fr John Hunwicke posted the other day on his blog about Dr William King and his celebrated “Redeat” speech as Public Orator of the University of Oxford in 1749 at the opening of the Radcliffe Library - now known as the Radcliffe Camera. His post, with extracts from the oration, can be read at dr-william-king.

Dr King was Principal of St Mary Hall, now fully integrated into the foundation which had always owned it, my own college of Oriel.
There is an online account of William King at William King (St Mary Hall)

This does have one error, as I understand it, in that Dr King met the Prince in London at Lady Primrose’s house in Essex Street off the Strand, where HRH was staying on his remarkable visit to the city in 1750. Just along the Strand was Temple Bar, still decorated with the heads of Jacobites executed in 1746. It was not a case of the Prince  popping down to Oxford to take tea with Dr King. 

                    Dr William King
1750 portrait by John Michael Williams
                   Image: Wikipedia 

The 1749 speech might just be dismissed as Oxford Jacobite nostalgia, but the occasion was a major event in the life of the University - Gibbs’ great domed Library changed the skyline of Oxford henceforward and was a significant addition to the resources of learning. The great and the good of both the University and the County were in attendance. Elsewhere the Elibank plot of 1752 was still in the making, and as Dr King was himself to see Prince Charles Edward sufficiently committed and plucky to venture to London in 1750 to meet Jacobite minded aristocrats such as the Duke of Beaufort, and to, briefly, become a communicant Anglican. To think of Jacobitism as finished at Culloden is too tidy and too simple. It might well have been over, but then again it might not. A decade later, in 1759, the French once again sounded out the Prince about a possible invasion. The Duc de Choiseuil dismissed the Prince’s requirements after meeting him as too much - but maybe the Prince was the one who was realistic in the light of his experiences in 1745-6.
There is a useful survey of the Jacobite movement at Jacobitism and this takes account of recent scholarship.

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