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.

Monday 31 May 2021

Our Lady of Walsingham

Today the virtual Marian pilgrimage concludes at Walsingham. Writing about it last year I reflected to myself about the amount of attention it has received from scholars and that summarising that is difficult. Nonetheless new material emerges. Relatively recent archaeological investigation has found physical evidence for the Anglo-Saxon origin of the Holy House. Much more recently we have had theories about the identity of Richeldis.

That was in my mind as I wrote and published last year my post for today’s last stage of the virtual pilgrimage at Our Lady of Walsingham

At almost that time there emerged the fascinating, and deeply attractive, theory that the famed statue of Our Lady was not burned in 1538 but rather that a substitute went into the flames at Chelsea, and that, against surely all the odds, the true statue, the much battered so-called Langham Madonna, survived, and can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I posted about this last August in Our Lady of Walsingham  

What better tribute could one have to the vitality of the English devotion to Our Lady.

Our Lady of Walsingham Pray for us

Sunday 30 May 2021

A First Mass in New Orleans

A week ago yesterday I wrote in Dominican Ordination in Washington DC about attending via live-streaming the Ordination of a former student of mine, Fr Reginald Hoefer OP, in Washington DC. 

This afternoon I was able by the same means to watch online his offering of his First Mass. This was in his home parish in New Orleans, Old St Patrick’s. From its website I learned that the church was the first founded for the American as opposed to the Creole community in the city. That was in 1833, and the present very handsome building was begun in 1840. It has one of those very large and stately altars that so many urban US Catholic Churches have, and whilst their European ancestry is clear they have a style and exhuberance all their own. In recent decades the church has been restored and its traditional decoration preserved, and lit to greater effect.

This then was the setting for Fr Reginald’s First Mass, which he celebrated with confidence and aplomb. The liturgy was in the Extrordinary Form and well attended.

At the conclusion, after leading the Solemn Te Deum, Fr Reginald briefly explained the significance and then presented his mother with his Manutergium and his father with his first stole - there is more about these two Ordination traditions, one old, the other a more recent development at Lost Liturgies File: The Manutergium - Community in Mission

A happy and holy occasion.

Ad multos annos 

Our Lady on the Red Mount King’s Lynn

The penultimate visit on the virtual Marian
Pilgrimage is to the chapel of Our Lady on the Red Mount in King’s Lynn. 

This is one of a number of churches and buildings in this historic town which are important survivors from the ecclesiastical life of this important medieval port. I wrote about the chapel last year in Our Lady of the Mount King’s Lynn

Our Lady on the Red Mount Pray for us

Saturday 29 May 2021

Celebrating Oak Apple Day

Today is Oak Apple Day, the celebration of the Restoration in 1660 of King Charles II.

Last year in Oak Apple Day  I argued for its revival as a genuinely popular and genuinely patriotic celebration and linked to ideas about why that should indeed be.

This year I will link to an a splendidly illustrated article about the 2017-18 Royal Collection exhibition Charles II: Art and Power which opens up the rich and discerning Court culture of the Caroline age. It has images of many of the spectacular works of art acquired or commissioned by the King and is also accompanied by contemporary engravings. These include Hollar’s depiction of the scene inside Westminster Abbey at the coronation of King Charles II on April 23rd 1661, 360 years ago. This excellent article, which has pictures of not few unfamiliar items from the Royal Collection, can be seen at Laura’s London: New Exhibition Report – Charles II: Art and Power at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

A Happy Oak Apple Day to all my readers.

Our Lady of the Oak at St Martin’s in Norwich

Today the virtual Marian pilgrimage reaches Norwich and the parochial shrine of Our Lady of the Oak in the churchyard of St Martin’s church in the northern part of the medieval city.  I rather doubt that it was coincidence that made Canon Stevenson chose a shrine based in an oak tree for May 29th, Oak Apple Day. If it was coincidental then it was certainly a fortuitous choice.

My article from last year about the church and its arboreal statue of the Virgin can be seen at Our Lady of the Oak at St Martins Norwich

Our Lady of the Oak, Norwich Pray for us

Friday 28 May 2021

Our Lady ‘of Ardenburgh’ at Great Yarmouth

My article about the shrine which comes today on the virtual pilgrimage, which was in the precincts of the priory and parish church of St Nicholas Great Yarmouth and dedicated to Our Lady ‘of Ardenburgh’ ( Aadenberg in Zeeland ) from last year can be seen at Our Lady ‘of Ardenbergh’ at Great Yarmouth

Our Lady ‘of Ardenbergh’ Pray for us

Our Lady of Winfarthing

The twenty seventh place on the virtual Marian pilgrimage is the rather intriguing rural one of Our Lady of Winfarthing in Norfolk. I wrote last year about the somewhat curious traditions that accompanied it at Our Lady of Winfarthing

Our Lady of Winfarthing Pray for us

Our Lady of Caversham

Before we leave the Thames valley it is appropriate to include a famous Marian shrine that is not, unaccountably, on the Stevenson itinerary. This is the shrine of Our Lady of Caversham which faces Reading across the Thames.

It may well have an origin in the Anglo-Saxon period - the parish history linked to below sets this in context. The shrine was a chapel east of the village which had the historic parish church, the river crossing and another focus of devotion, St Anne’s Well, at its western end. 

By 1106 it was sufficiently established to revive relics from the Holy Land and in 1162 passed under the control of the Augustinian abbey at Notley in Buckinghamshire. One of the canons was assigned to live in a house at the shrine. 

It continued to receive the support of the lords of Caversham - Marshals, Clares and Despensers over the centuries. In 1439, as we saw at Tewkesbury earlier in the month the last  Despenser, Isabella Countess of Warwick, bequeaths twenty pounds of gold to make a crown for the Caversham statue.

On July 17th 1532 Queen Catherine of Aragon came, not apparently for the first time, on pilgrimage to Caversham doubtless seeking aid in her increasingly beleaguered position in “The King’s Great Matter”

The original shrine was closed on September 14th 1538 by Thomas Cromwell’s representative Dr John London. Fr Bridgett quotes his letter back to Cromwell:

 have pulled down the image of our Lady of Caversham, whereunto was great pilgrimage. The image is plated over with silver, and I have put it in a chest, fast locked and nailed up, and by the next barge that cometh from Reading to London it shall be brought to your lordship. I have also pulled down the place she stood in, with all other ceremonies — as lights, shrouds, crutches, and images of wax hanging about the chapel — and have defaced the same thoroughly, in eschewing of any farther resort thither. . . . I have made fast the doors of the chapel, which is thoroughly well covered with lead ; and if it be your lordship's pleasure, I shall see it made sure to the king's grace's usje. And if it be not so ordered, the chapel standeth so wildly that the lead will be stolen by night, as I was served at the friars ; for as soon as I had taken the friars' surrender the multitude of the poverty of the town resorted thither, and all things that might be had they stole away. ... In this 1 have done as much as I could to save everything to the king's grace's use.' 

He goes on to add:

At Caversham is a proper lodging, where the canon lay, with a fair garden and an orchard, meet to be bestowed upon some friend of your lord-ship's in these parts.' 

The Tudor Society blog has a post about the closure of the shrine with substantial additional textual references about these events and information about other relics housed there, including what was believed to be the dagger used to kill King Henry VI in 1471, and the knife used in the murder of St Edward the Martyr in 978, and which can be read at 14 September 1538 - The Destruction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Caversham
The original site of the shrine chapel appears to have been quarried away by gravel extraction, but in 1897 a new statue was installed in the newly founded Catholic parish church of Our Lady and St Anne in Caversham.

In the years 1954-58 an extremely skilful apsial stonebchapel in the style of the twelfth century was added to this red brick church ans a late medieval statute acquired and installed. In 1996 to mark the centenary of the parish a crown was commissioned and, having been blessed on a parish pilgrimage to Rome by Pope John Paul II, was the statue crowned. In more recent years the chapel walls have been decorated with paintings in a medieval style.

The result is a beautiful and prayerful shrine, a regular place of pilgrimage, seemingly straight out of the middle ages yet on a modern suburban side street - quite entrancing.

The history section from the parish website can be read at History - Church of Our Lady and St Anne

Our Lady of Caversham Pray for us

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Our Lady of Windsor

Canon Stevenson’s virtual Marian pilgrimage now returns to the Thames valley and to St George’s Chapel at Windsor. I wrote about this centre of Marian piety and its other important relics of St George, the Cros Gneth and Bl. John Shorne last year in Our Lady of Windsor

Our Lady of Windsor Pray for us

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Our Lady of Winchester

The course of the Marian pilgrimage today goes south to Hampshire and to Winchester Cathedral. I posted about this as a centre of devotion to the Virgin last year in Our Lady of Winchester

Our Lady of Winchester Pray for us

Three Medieval Statues of Our Lady

Before the Marian pilgrimage departs the east midllands it seems appropriate to mention three syviving medieval statues of Our Lady that survive with specific links to individual churches.

The first is in Howden Minster in the East Riging of Yorkshire. Howden is a beautiful building, deeply evocative in its half ruined state - the choir vault collapsed alas in 1696.

The fourteenth century statue is normally described being of Our Lady Annunciate, wife the Dove representing the Holy Spirit perched on her shoulder.

14th-century Madonna and Child statue

Image: Britain Express

If Howden lies just beyond the north-western tip of Lincolnshire our next stop is at the extreme south-west of that county in the beautiful town of Stamford. 

There, in St Mary’s the oldest surviving of the substantial number of medieval parish churches that graced the town, is a statue of the Virgin dated to 1330 that was rediscovered hidden by seventeenth century panelling.

1330 statue of Our Lady

Image: Britain Express

The third statue of the Virgin and Child is now in Nottingham Castle Museum and was discovered during demolition work in 1779 buried beneath the chancel floor of the church at Flawford, a few miles south-east of the city. Carved in alabaster it was found with two others, of St Peter and of an Archbishop. After being used as garden ornaments, when the original polychrome decayed and then being covered in grey paint, they eventually found a safe refuge in the Museum. The French influenced statue of the Virgin and Church ld is dated to 1370-80. There is more about the statues at The Hidden Histories of Nottingham's Alabaster and at The Flawford Alabasters

The statue can be seen at Flawford-Virgin-and-Child

The survival of all three of these statues is remarkable and suggests a real concern in the mid-sixteenth century or later to preserve them.

Looking at them one reflects that before them the faithful prayed - women concerned by child bearing, their husbands, sons and brothers going off to Agincourt or the French wars, to the civil broils of the Wars of the Roses.....

Monday 24 May 2021

1471 - the survivors

The Tewkesbury Battlefield Society today looks at the fate over coming months and years of those who had survived the campaign of spring 1471:

Tying up loose ends

The campaign recounted by the ‘Arrivall’ lasted 83 dramatic days. At the end of the narrative there were unfinished stories. The lives of King Edward IV and Richard Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III, are well documented, but others aren’t. These few sentences are to tie up some of the loose ends. These are in no particular order. 

Thomas Neville, the Bastard of Fauconberg, seems not to have kept to the terms of his pardon. Details are unclear, but in September 1471 a misdemeanour in the north of England led to his execution. His head was brought back to London, to be displayed on London Bridge, the scene of his recent besieging. It was ordered that he was displayed ‘looking to Kentward’

Jasper Tudor was hunted down in Pembroke, but accompanied by his young nephew Henry he escaped from Tenby by ship. He was blown ashore in Brittany where he and Henry were placed under a loose arrest. In 1485, the pair returned, landing at Milford and fought for the throne at Bosworth. Henry was crowned king. Jasper spent his remaining years in quiet comfort, dying in December 1495.

John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, a committed Lancastrian, who was a commander in Warwick’s army which was defeated at Barnet fled to France after the battle. He returned two years later and was besieged on St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Captured and imprisoned he escaped, fled to France again and returned with Henry Tudor.  After the victory at Bosworth, he fought Henry VII’s rebels for him, including last, the repression of the Cornish rebels at Blackheath in 1497.

In 1475, King Edward invaded France with an army of 11,000 men. He had planned on support from the Dukes of Burgundy, Brittany and St Pol but was betrayed and let down badly by all three. His only option was peace, and one of the outcomes of the Treaty of Picquigny was that Queen Margaret was ransomed to King Louis for 50,000 crowns and returned to France. To discharge her debt she was forced to sign over her inheritance. When her father died, Louis evicted her and claimed her father’s lands. She died penniless on 25 August1482 and is buried in Angers Cathedral.

King Henry’s burial in Chertsey made it a place of pilgrimage, as was Prince Edward’s at Tewkesbury. This annoyed King Edward, who banned the practice. In 1484, King Richard had King Henry reinterred in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Henry VII made attempts to have him beatified and moved again, to Westminster Abbey but this came to naught and he remains at Windsor.

George, Duke of Clarence continued to be false and fleeting, and a thorn in his brother’s side. From confessions obtained from one of his retainers by torture he was tried for treason and executed, allegedly by drowning in a butt of malmsey wine.

Charles, Duke of Burgundy was impetuous to the end. He made more enemies than he could handle, and started a very brutal campaign against the Duke of Lorraine and the Swiss. Completely out-manoeuvred, he was killed at the battle of Nancy, fought in freezing conditions on 5 January 1477.    

Louis XI died in 1483, having overseen the fall of France’s many independent feudal Lords, and the creation of a strong nation. His unconventional methods and unusual personality hadn’t made him friends, though.

John Paston, wounded at Barnet and pardoned went home to Norfolk and fought through the courts, with his family, for what he believed was his. Once the claims of the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk had been defeated he settled down to the life of a squire. By good fortune, his Lancastrian leanings meant that he didn’t fight at Bosworth and his family flourished as country gentlemen and courtiers under the Tudors.

Sir Henry Vernon seems to have had a charmed life. Ignoring numerous calls to arms, he was forgiven by King Edward and became an Esquire to the Body to Edward and then King Richard. Avoiding Bosworth, he transitioned to the Tudors, becoming the Controller of the household of the new king's heir, Prince Arthur. He died quietly of old age.

Out Lady in the Wall at Boston

Another later medieval Lincolnshire place of devotion appears to have been a statue of the Virgin and Child built into the walls of Boston. There appears to be little recorded about it, but it may be significant that the Guild of St Mary was that of the urban patriarchate in the town. Their Guildhall survives and there is an account of its history at Boston Guildhall

Such a situation would be similar to Coventry, with popular devotion focussed on the Guild of Corpus Christi and extending beyond the town, and, of course, their annual play cycle.

Boston was well before the late fourteenth century when the Guild was incorporated one of the largest towns in the country and a major port, particularly for the Hanse and the trade with Norway and Denmark. In such matters the patronage of Our Lady was doubtless sought before and after voyages.

Our Lady of Boston Pray for us

Our Lady of Lincoln

Last year I added this shrine with its long-lost seated figure of the Virgin and Child to Canon Stevenson’s itinerary. I wrote an account of it and it’s place in the life of the cathedral and city of Lincoln and also included the statue of Our Lady recently commissioned by the cathedral. 

The article can be read at Our Lady of Lincoln

Our Lady of Lincoln Pray for us. 

Our Lady in the Wood near Epworth

The Marian pilgrimage now turns to the east midlands and to the Carthusian priory of Our Lady in the Wood, or, as it is perhaps better known, Axholme Priory. I wrote about this last year in Our Lady in the Wood in Axholme

To that I would now add an online survey of the site from Historic England which can be seen at Axholme Carthusian Priory and post-Dissolution garden earthworks, Melwood Park, Owston Ferry

Our Lady of the Wood Pray for us

Sunday 23 May 2021

May Procession at SS Gregory and Augustine Oxford

Earlier this afternoon I attended the May Procession at SS Gregory and Augustine in north Oxford. This is an occasion I always like to attend if possible, and it’s absence last year was noticeable in the period of ‘lockdown’.

Due to the remaining health restrictions and the slightly uncertain weather the event had to be adapted slightly from the usual format but all went well. We had a procession into the church with a statue of Our Lady, preceded by flower strewers, the rosary, crowning of the statue, Litany of Loretto, prayers and concluded with Benediction. 

The early twentieth century church, set in amongst flowerbeds, lawns and trees, has something of an Edwardian or ‘Arts and Crafts’aesthetic of rural charm - even if much of the decoration consists of fine examples of much more recent date. On an occasion like this, completer with the singing of “Bring flowers of the rarest...” this always seems a very appropriate combination.

The service is always followed by tea and cakes, and this was naturally an opportunity to catch up with friends and acquaintances one had not seen or been able to talk to for months. It was also an occasion, amid the bustle of young families, parish stalwarts and the all-important tea-makers, to reflect on the pleasure of being able to socialise as a group of Catholics, drawn to the afternoon’s event by a shared sense of filial devotion to Our Lady.

Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard

The Marian pilgrimage has, on its original itinerary, today moved to the south-west and the shrine of Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard in Cornwall.

As I set out last year this is a shrine whose location was rediscovered in the twentieth century and devotions have at times taken place again at the site. 

My account of it can be read at Our Lady of the Park at Liskeard

Our Lady of the Park Pray for us

Our Lady of All Hallows Barking by the Tower

Another London Marian shrine not included in Canon Stevenson’s list is that of Our Lady of All Hallows Barking by the Tower. This was a shrine which attracted royal patronage over several centuries.

This famous London church has a rich and long history, for which see the online article from Wikipedia at All Hallows-by-the-Tower and others at All Hallows By The Tower and at All Hallows-by-the-Tower | Historic London Churches

I have only visited it once and found it fascinating as a building which links Roman Londinium to the seventh century conversion and right through to the twentieth century Toc H and the bombing and restoration of the church.  Reading more about it in the last reference below in the Survey of London makes me want to pay another and longer visit.

It is included by Fr Bridgett in his Our Lady’s Dowry. I had intended to copy his account as it gives not only something of the history of the shrine but also an insight into the mindset that underlay and supported it. However on further research I find that his account is replicated with much more in the detailed history of the church from the Survey of London published in 1929. This includes a section on the free-standing chapel and the Royal Chantry and on devotion to the statue of Our Lady. It really repays study and shows just how much can be gleaned about parish life in the middle ages and in the reformation era if records have survived. It can be seen at The history of All Hallows Church: To c.1548 The account continues in the subsequent sections of the online Survey

Our Lady of All Hallows’ Barking Pray for us

More on the rural London shrines of Our Lady

Since writing about the shrines of Our Lady at Islington, Muswell and Willesden I came across an article online from The Tablet about these late medieval pilgrimages by Michael Carter from about a year ago. I thought I would republish some of it as it adds to what I had and adds another such shrine - Our Lady of Crome’s Hill at Greenwich. So our hypothetical late medieval pilgrims as they zig-zag across the country on the Stevenson itinerary could call in there on his way back from Kent yesterday.

The Crome’s Hill shrine appears to have been somewhere near the site of the Royal Observatory on the hill above the palace at Greenwich - Crome’s Hill Road marks the western boundary of the Royal Park.

Carter cites a pamphlet printed about 1520 which singles out four such shrines - Crome’s Hill at Greenwich, Muswell, “Our Lady that standers in the oke” between Highgate and Islington, and Willesden.

His coverage of Willesden is similar to mine but adds to it and is as follows:

In 1502, Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Henry VII, ranked the shrine as equal in status to Our Lady of the Pew at Westminster. A year later the pregnant Queen sought the protection of Our Lady of Willesden, paying a pilgrim to visit the image on her behalf. Alas, her prayers were to be unanswered, Elizabeth dying in childbirth a few days after. 

The statue attracted offerings and bequests.  In 1517, William Litchfield, vicar of Willesden and chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, was buried before it, leaving his parish a silver chalice to be used in honour of the Blessed Virgin forever. 

Other pilgrims to the shrine included Thomas More, who paid homage to the image a few weeks before his arrest in 1534. Some years before this visit, More had written of his concern that the eight-mile excursion from London to Willesden provided pilgrims with an opportunity to loosen their morals. The shrine was especially popular among the wives of the London citizenry. He cautioned "you men of London" to accompany their womenfolk to Willesden "or keep them at home with you! Else you be sorry." 

Catholic martyr and saint, More was entirely orthodox in his religious outlook and believed in the spiritual value of religious imagery and pilgrimages. His comments here reflect his embrace of humanist (in the Renaissance sense) scholarship and a somewhat snooty attitude towards popular religion, especially if it involved anything resembling fun. 

But the shrine also attracted the ire of reformers with more malign intent. A fire at Willesden church in 1509 prompted Elizabeth Sampson, a London Lollard, to denounce the image of the Virgin in fruity terms as a "burnt arse elf and a burnt arse stock, and if she might have helpen men and women which go to her on pilgrimage, she would not have suffered her tail to have been burnt". 

In this context, ‘burnt’ refers to the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection. Sampson was effectively comparing the Virgin of Willesden to a disease-ridden whore. Her comments led to a trial before an ecclesiastical court; given the severity of penalties for religious dissent at this time, she was lucky to escape with a penitential pilgrimage to the image she’d ridiculed. 

Willesden’s statue of the Virgin was targeted for destruction during the Reformation. In 1538, together with similar images from Ipswich, Walsingham and Worcester, it was reduced to cinders on a bonfire in Chelsea. 

Even then, Our Lady of Willesden still had devout followers. These included the Suffolk priest Sir Robert Creukehorne. He claimed that the Virgin had appeared to him in a vision, instructing him to preach that she should be venerated ‘at Willesden as she hath been in olden times’.

Our Lady of Willesden, of Crome’s Hill, of Muswell and of Islington Pray for us

1471 - Burying King Henry VI

The Tewkesbury Battlefield Society today concentrated on the burial of King Henry VI at Chertsey Abbey.

May 23rd 1471: A last trip to Chertsey

All that remains of Chertsey Abbey  ( Photo Source )

All that remains of Chertsey Abbey

(Photo Source)

King Henry lay in St Paul’s Cathedral whilst arrangements were made for his burial, and this was done with the proper solemnity accorded to his rank. His burial was at Chertsey Abbey, which was then one of the most important religious houses in the country, founded in 666AD

Sforza da Bettini, who diligently reported English and French affairs to the Duke of Milan, gave a sympathetic report to his master:

The body was exhibited for days in St. Paul's church in London, and was carried thence by the river Thames to the conventual church of the monks at Chertsey, in the diocese of Winchester, fifteen miles from the city; a kind of barge having been solemnly prepared for the purpose, provided with lighted torches. How great his deserts were, by reason of his innocence of life, his love of God and of the Church, his patience in adversity, and his other remarkable virtues, is abundantly testified by the miracles which God has wrought in favour of those who have, with devout hearts, implored his intercession. 

The Exchequer of Receipt issue Rolls record the cost of the funeral, managed by Hugh Brice:

To Hugh Brice in money delivered to him for money paid by him for wax cloth, linen, spices and other ordinary expenses promised and incurred by him in connection with the funeral of Henry of Windsor who died in the tower of London, and for the wages and rewards of various men carrying torches from the tower to the cathedral church of Saint Pauls, London, and then to Chertsey with the body: £15 3s 6 1/2d

This very public burial marked the end of the Lancastrian era in England and Wales. The King and his heir were both dead. Edward IV was now indisputably the King. The campaign was over.

Rather as I commented the other day I am struck by the comments of the Milanese ambassador about King Henry VI - a cult was already implicit by what he wrote and recorded.

Saturday 22 May 2021

1471 - Pacifying Kent

The note from the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society today is concerned with the situation in Kent and how King Edward IV brought his authority to bear in this notoriously turbulent county:

May 22nd 1471: Dealing with Kent

Westgate, Canterbury.  ( Photo Source )

Westgate, Canterbury.

(Photo Source)

King Edward did not rest on his laurels. As soon as his urgent business in London was done he was off on the road again with his brother Richard and his whole army, to deal with the Kentish rebels.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, went to Sandwich to accept the, probably pre-negotiated, surrender. There he found The Bastard of Fauconberg with a company of soldiers and the ships which hadn’t crossed the channel to Calais. There was no trouble, though. The ‘Arrivall’ has it that; ‘as soon as they understood the King and his host approached near unto them, the said bastard sent unto him such means as best he could humbly to sue for his grace and pardon, and them of his fellowship, and, by appointment, willed there to be delivered to the King’s behove all his ships, and became his true liegemen, with as straight promise of true allegiance as could be devised for them to be made, which, after deliberation taken in that part, for certain great considerations, was granted.’

The King, though, had stopped in Canterbury, where he held an inquiry. Retribution was harsh and punishment swift. Quyntyn and Spysyng, the captains involved in storming London, were among the executed. Their heads were displayed on the Aldgate in London. Nicholas Faunt, the Mayor, was taken to London to be beheaded.

John Thornton, the Town Sergeant was among those accused. It was said that he ‘Falsely and traitorously received the King’s wages to have gone with him to Tewkesbury and went not unto him, but that he with the same wages falsely and traitorously personally assisted the same Fauconberg in the said riot and insurrection’. His punishment isn’t known.

Edward took the Cinque Ports and Canterbury into his direct rule, appointing lieutenants to govern them. The inquiries into the wrongdoings of Kent went on well into the summer. The resultant fines and confiscations swelled the royal coffers. The Great Chronicle of London observed that ‘such as were rich were hanged by the purse and the other that were needy were hanged by the necks, by means whereof the King’s coffers somedeal increased’.

Our Lady of Aylesford

As the Marian pilgrimage is in Kent it seems only right and just to include the restored medieval Carmelite priory at Aylesford on the banks of the Medway.

Founded in 1242, and the site of the General Chapter in 1247 at which the Carmelites resolved to move from an etemitic life to one as mendicant friars, it was dissolved in 1538. Substantial parts of the original buildings survived and were reacquired by the Carmelites in 1949 and a friary re-established.

All four of the mendicant orders claim a special  relationship with the Virgin Mary so a Carmelite shrine fits well into this pilgrimage. The friary is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.

Flos Carmeli 
Modern glass by Moira Forsyth in the Cloister Chapel at Aylesford
Image: Wikipedia 

The Friary website can be seen at Aylesford Priory and the Wikipedia account is at Aylesford Priory

Our Lady of Aylesford Pray for us

Our Lady of Poulton

The shrine of Our Lady of Poulton is not on Canon Stevenson’s list but I think it worth adding to the itinerary. 

It was situated just to the west of Dover and close to the Premonstratensian ( Norbertine) St Radegund’s Abbey, to which it belonged and which seems to have provided it with clergy. The church at Poulton disappeared sometime after 1523 and the site is now marked by a stone. There are online accounts of the history of Poulton at OUR VILLAGES 1900at Page:Notes on the churches in the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey.and at KCC.ExploringKentsPast

Pilgrim badges from the church have been found in London, and from that and its position close to Dover, I imagine it was another popular resort for those travelling to and from
Calais to pray for a safe journey and to render thanks.

A specimen of the badge is in the Museum of London, and the following is from their website:

  • Pilgrim badge from the shrine of Our Lady of Poulton in Kent. The badge depicts the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne with the infant Christ on her right. They are both wearing tall crowns. At Mary’s feet is a rebus with the word ‘pul’ in black letter followed by a cask or tun, meaning ‘Poulton’. 

    The shrine of Our Lady of Poulton seems to have had a brief period of popularity, probably because it was close to Canterbury where so many pilgrims went to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. By the 16th century, the shrine’s fame had declined and was only of interest to people from the local area.

A photograph of the badge in the Museum collection can be seen here

Our Lady of Poulton Pray for us

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover

The online Marian pilgrimage today arrives at Dover and a shrine which clearly had a ministry to travellers as a place to pray for a successful Channel crossing and to give thanks for having had one. I posted about this last year in Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover

Our Lady of Pity in the Rock at Dover Pray for us

Dominican Ordination in Washington DC

This afternoon I was able, thanks to the wonder of the Internet and live-streaming, to virtually attend an Ordination at the Dominican Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The reason for my interest is that one of the five candidates for the priesthood, the now Fr Reginald Hoefer OP, was in 2011 a student of mine here in Oxford. He was here as a visiting studentt and I had the pleasure of being his tutor in history. 

It was a privilege today to be able to participate in such an important day for him and his four fellow ordinands.

I was impressed by the friary church, by the excellent sermon from the ordaining auxiliary Bishop from Washington and particularly by the sheer numbers of Dominicans in attendance at the Mass. If the US Dominicans are recruiting so many young men that must be a good sign for the future.

In the meantime my prayers for Fr Reginald and his confreres and my good wishes for their future ministry.

Friday 21 May 2021

King Henry VI - a royal failure?, a royal martyr?

Today is the 550th anniversary of the murder of King Henry VI in the Tower of London. 

Normally his death is commemorated by the Roses and lilies ceremony in the Tower when representatives of his two great foundations of Eton and King’s College Cambridge lay flowers in memory of their founder. Such an act of piety, however low-key, is a gracious gesture to him.

Academic historians of the fifteenth century tend to see the King very much through the lens of political success or failure and are usually less than impressed by what they see in his personal reign after the end of his minority in 1436. They may be charitable - though a few cutting remarks escape their pens and word processors - but they are not usually complimentary.

Writers of historical fiction, and the fifteenth century is a happy hunting ground for such as these, tend overwhelmingly to favour the Yorkists, swoooning over King Edward IV and his Queen, let alone King Richard III, and the Lancastrians get short shrift. That in itself is an interesting phenomenon.

Such however was not the reaction of English men and women in the fifteenth century. In the previous post I commented on the verdict of the Croyland Chronicle about the King’s death:

May God spare and grant time for repentance to the person, whoever he was, who thus dared lay sacrilegious hands upon the Lord's anointed! Hence it is that he who perpetrated this has justly earned the title of tyrant, while he who thus suffered had gained that of a glorious Martyr’. 

Polydore Vergil, writing admittedly in the time of King Henry VII, who saw himself as the heir of King Henry VI, wrote of him as

 “a man of mild and plain-speaking disposition, who preferred peace before wars, quietness before troubles, honesty before utility… there was not in this world a more pure, honest, and more holy creature”

That there was a popular cult of the King Is clear. Whilst he was on the throne popular criticism was not unknown as shown by R.L. Storey in his study of political disorder in the 1450s - yet when dethroned and certainly when dead there was genuinely popular cult - it seems to have had appeal to the poor and the marginalised. He appears to have been seen as a King who was concerned for, on the side of, the vulnerable and weak.

This developed under the Yorkists - notably the  statue ordered to be removed from York Minster in 1479 - and under King Henry VII was encouraged. The proposed shrine chapel at Westminster May not hold the remains of King Henry VI and bear the name of its builder King Henry VII but this richly endowed and spectacular chapel appears to have been so intended.

His former chaplain and later Carthusian monk John Blacman Life of the King - the text is available online at Henry the Sixth, a reprint of John Blacman's memoir : as well as a paperback  - has been queried by some historians as to its veracity but its rather artless style suggests authenticity.

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express have reports about the King’s missing arm from his skeleton which suggests relic abstraction when his body was at Chertsey Abbey hto assist pilgrims. This can be seen at Monks 'stole' Henry VI's arm and used King's bone 'as a straw' to drink wine
This is a facility I am unaware of at shrines today..,

If he was a failure as a King - the one Weak King in our history according to Sellers and Yeatman’s definitive 1066 and All That - the question remains as to why he was so popular as an intercessor, and indeed why had he retained the loyalty of so many of his subjects?

I have long thought and will venture to
suggest that we might consider a model based on the reign of King Richard II - who never attracted a saintly cult, although he had tried to
encourage one fir King Edward II. The parallels are fairly obvious with the problems of a royal minority and of succeeding a famous father and grandfather. However this line of argument does not seem to attract much attention. 1399 was not such a gulf, and the nature of English kingship changed more by personality of he who wore the crown rather than any inherent change.

As a boy King Henry seems to have been deliver raised to be pious - as a child what else could his tutors offer to do. They could hope that he might develop like his father,  who was not just a skilled ruler and warrior but was also seriously devout. A pious serious minded warrior administrator was what the monarch needed to be to continue the work of his illustrious father, Devotion could at least be inculcated young during the child King’s lengthy sojourn at the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. After that hopefully would come martial and administrative skills.That alas was not to be.

After a relatively successful minority, though seriously marred by clashes such as that in 1425 between the King’s great-uncle Bishop

Young-Henry6-CrownedBeaufort and his uncle Humphrey Duke of Gloucester and the resurgence of the Valois monarchy after 1429, the King ruled from 1436 onwards.

Margaret and Henry in the Talbot Shrewsbury Book. British Library Royal 15 E vi (https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/margaret-of-anjou-in-the-talbot-shrewsbury-book)

King Henry VI and Queen Margaret
From the Talbot Shrewsbury Book. British Library Royal 15 E vi 

Image: Historic Roysl Palaces 

King Henry was not averse in the years 1436-53 to assert his prerogatives - and in that way he resembles King Richard II at the same age. There were unpopular favourites, complacency leading to neglect of the great Duchy of Lancaster network of patronage which had served his father, grandfather and great grandfather so well, muddle and indecision in government, lack of funds, partisanship, the failure to moderate factions  - there were no equivalents to the Appellants to stop him, no equivalent of Radcot Bridge until the crisis years of 1449-53. There was fear as to the succession and as with Richard the creeping loss of territory in France, aggravated by fears as the King moved to negotiate a peace with his uncle King Charles VII, with the French playing a waiting game. All this resulted in serious clashes, fatalities, the desire for revenge, civil war, deposition, all alongside causing and caused by the King’s frail mental

Yet despite his infirmity after 1453 and all these problems he still commanded loyalty. Sometimes it was strained and bonds snapped, but many did remain his supporters.  This was not, I think the mere self-interest of those who were in and who were out at Court. I think Lancastrian loyalism has been underrated. Just to dismiss him as weak and beset by mental problems does not do justice I think to a monarch who, however maladroitly, showed tendencies towards an assertion of unfettered authority not dissimilar to King Richard II. The court culture also suggests similarities that do not appear to have attracted that much attention.

Too often I sense that discourse about the King and his reign does not break out of long-established paradigms that reflect now out-dated interpretations of the fifteenth century.

There are articles about his posthumous cult and recorded miracles at The miracle of Henry VI: how the weak medieval king became a 'saint'at The miraculous afterlife of Henry VI from his latest biographer and at Royalty, Virtue, and Adversity: The Cult of King Henry VI on JSTOR

In the late fifteenth century he often appeared
amongst the figures of Saints painted on the dado of Rood screens in English parish churches as at Henry VI (rood screen, 15th Century, restored), at King Henry VI, Rood Screen, Barton Turf Churchat Ludham, Norfolk, St Catherine's Church, and more generally at Rood Screens of East Anglia

The example is at Stambourne church in Essex

sows the two patron Saints of the dual monarchy he inherited, SS Denis and George, the Great East Anglian martyr King St Edmund and King Henry VI side by side on the screen.

A unique survival, sadly damaged, but still
striking, of what was clearly a well produced woodcut showing the King surrounded by votaries which survives in a Bodleian volume can be seen here

Rather like King Charles I, King Louis XVI and Emperor Nicholas II he continues to attract affection and devotees, although the parallels are not too strong - in their cases revolution destroyed them and their system. In England the revolution was over sixty years after King Henry’s death.

In some ways, as a dutiful peace loving monarch he has more in common with the contemporary cult of Bl Charles of Austria.

Modern attempts have been made to further his cause, but seem to have faltered at present according to this post The Henry VI Society 

The Prayer of King Henry VI

Lord Jesus Christ,

who created,

redeemed, and preordained

me to be this that I am,

you know what you wish to do with me;

do with me in accordance

with your will,

with mercy.