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.

Friday 31 March 2023

Fr Huddleston’s Missal

What is apparently a missal which belonged to Fr John Huddleston who aided King Charles II in 1651 in his flight after the battle of Worcester and who also was the priest who received the King into the Catholic Church on his deathbed in 1685, has been sold at auction.

Earlier reports about the impending sale of the volume consistently described it as a Bible and not as a missal, which does not say much about those who so described it for the auction, let alone the acuity of the journalists who blindly followed them and continued the error in print.

 The report of the sale from the BBC News website can be seen at Prayer book of priest who converted Charles II sold

It is good to see that the missal has been acquired by a public institution and that it will presumably go on display in due course. 

A collectible Book of Common Prayer

The tradition of printing a special edition of the Book of Common Prayer to mark the forthcoming Coronation has been taken up by the King’s Printer, Cambridge University Press, which oversees the publication of the official 1662 reissue, and in so doing thay have managed to produce not one, but two collectible versions.

There will be the standard celebratory printing but there is also the still more collectible rarity in which the ratification of the Thirty Nine Articles is ascribed not to Queen Elizabeth I but to King Charles, who is consequently described as King of England, France and Ireland, and in the year 1571. Now on his recent State Visit to Germany His Majesty did say he had been around for a long time, but clearly not that long.

The story of this new bibliographic rarity, which  I heard about a few days ago, is now set out by Christopher Hope in the Daily Telegraph at Reprint of the Book of Common Prayer mistakenly makes the King ruler of France

Eighteen years on - a coming of age?

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of my reception as a Catholic at the Oxford Oratory - so in modern, secular terms maybe I have come of age.

I usually mark the anniversary by writing something on this blog. Looking at what I wrote last year I think posting the link to that is still worthwhile and gives some indications of my spiritual journey, and indeed of where I am now on my life’s pilgrimage. If this is a time of coming of age it is that in not just the passing of a set number of years but also the acquisition of more experience and more grey hairs. There is much that needs to be confronted and amended in the Church, much that needs to be truly renewed and much that needs to be restored. The older I get, the more I reflect on my own experience and as I reflect as a historian on the Church, I find not serenity but the urge to make my position clear in my thoughts and words and deeds when so much seems at stake. At the same time both the call of Charity and the reality of physical ageing can be inhibiting factors! So, where shall we all be as the Church twelve months hence?

The relatively lengthy post from last year, setting out my reasons for being received, my subsequent growth as a Catholic and an indication of my standpoint on at least some of the issues currently facing the Church, can be read at Seventeen years in full peace and communion

Coronation Exhibitions

Those of us who visit stately homes are fairly used to seeing the appropriate family Coronation robes and coronets on display in one or other of the rooms. Similarly cathedrals and dioceses tend to display vestments with royal connections - I recall seeing the very splendid Coronation Cope of the Bishops of Bath and Wells on display in the Palace in Wells on a visit there.

The fact of an impending Coronation has resulted in rather more ambitious displays this year.

Lambeth Palace Library has put together an exhibition spanning more than nine centuries from King Henry I’s Coronation Charter of 1100 right through to the processional choreography notes for the ceremony in 1953. There is an article about it from the Evening Standard at 
York Minster, which will be the setting for this year’s Royal Maundy Service, has an exhibition   Majesty: Monarchy and York Minster. The website for it is at York Minster There are reports about it from the BBC News website at King Charles III Coronation: York Minster's royal treasures to go on displayfrom the York Free Press at King Charles III Coronation: York Minster opens historic royal displayand from the Association of English Cathedrals at York Minster opens Historic Collections for the Coronation - The Association of English Cathedrals

Blenheim Palace, where the Marlborough Coronation and Parliamentary robes were usually on display in the Library at the end of the tour of the main rooms, has mounted this year a special exhibition Royal Connections Crowns and Coronets, including the frame of a crown that belonged to Queen Anne. There is a report about it from the Daily Telegraph at Thrilling proof of a royal friendship that has endured for centuries

At Belvoir Castle the Rutland Ducal Coronation robes and coronets are on show as well as three pages’s costumes worn at the 1937 Coronation by the late Duke and his brothers. There is a report about that from the BBC News website at Belvoir Castle: Robes worn at George VI coronation go on displayone from Grantham Matters at Ceremonial Robes made for the Dukes of Rutland for Coronation of George V1 in 1937 to be shown at Belvoir Castle and another in a very similar vein from the Melton Times at 'It's a wonderful opportunity to share these beautifully made robes in this special Coronation year'

Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, the ancestral home of the sometime Dukes and Earls of Ancaster and now of their descendant the 28th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain of England, and who was one of the late Queen’s Maids of Honour trainbearers in 1953, has especially strong links to the ceremonies of state. Not only is the house holding an exhibition entitled Crown and Country: Grimsthorpe and Coronations of robes and coronets but the remarkable and impressive collection of royal perquisites acquired by past Lords Great Chamberlain in right of their position is also being displayed. The website for the exhibition is at Grimsthorpe Castle, Park and Gardens | Coronation Exhibition 2023

In addition there is also a one day symposium at Grimsthorpe about the exhibition and the role of the Lord Great Chamberlain on June 24th. Details about that can be found at Grimsthorpe Castle, Park and Gardens | Crown and Country: Grimsthorpe and Coronations

Grimsthorpe is not as well known as Blenheim or Belvoir but it is a fascinating building from the sixteenth century with an early eighteenth century grand entrance front by Vanbrugh. I have a family connection with the estate in that my great grandfather was head bricklayer on the estate in the 1890s, so I have a sense of identification with it.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Passiontide Veiling

I recently posted about the long standing tradition of veiling the reredos of churches, or even the whole sanctuary of a church in Lent, linking my article to a piece on the Liturgical Arts Journal . My article can be seen at The Lenten Veil

There have now been other posts about the more specific veiling associated with Passiontide. The first, which promises to be one of a series, is of individual churches which have put veils in place this year, and is from the New Liturgical Movement. It can be seen at Photopost Request: Passiontide Veils 2023

The Liturgical Arts Journal returns to the subject with a piece about the history of the practice and it can be seen at The Custom of Passiontide Veiling

As someone who is used to the custom both in my Anglican days and as a Catholic it is an eminently laudable practice. When I was churchwarden at St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford in 2004 I took it upon myself to restore the custom and did so single handed on the Saturday morning before Passion Sunday. The exceptions were the reredos, which was too high and inaccessible and one other painting of the Risen Christ which was also beyond my reach. Suffering as I do from vertigo, I did not wish to fall and become myself a martyr to liturgical good practice. That final part of the process was accomplished by the honorary assistant priest the following day. All of which was somewhat of a faff and took up my Saturday morning, but was ultimately something which was eminently rewarding to see once completed.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Towton remembered

Today is the anniversary of the battle of Towton in 1461. Fought in a snow storm for at least part of the day Palm Sunday Field, as contemporaries termed it, is thought to have been the bloodiest battle ever fought in this country. Whilst estimates of casualties both at the time and made subsequently by historians vary there is no doubt that the death toll was very high indeed. 

As Towton is in my home area, which helped form my interest in the later middle ages, and because I used to organise events to commemorate the battle when I still lived in the area, I like to post something here each year on the anniversary.

Last year’s post gave links to my previous posts about the battle and was combined with some topical reflections on warfare and remembrance in the light of the war in the Ukraine. That was prompted by a piece from the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society. I think it worth sharing again and it can be seen at The Battle of Towton 1461

In the past twelve months I have come upon several online pieces about the remains of 38 victims of the battle, aged between 17 and 50, whose bones were recovered from a mass grave from the site of the lost memorial chapel at Towton, or, in one case, close by at Towton Hall. Modern forensic archaeology can reveal something about these men and their life before the battle and it can also reveal shocking details of how they met their deaths on that snowy day.

The solitary individual from Towton Hall was 6’1” and aged between 36 and 45 when he died, and is described in posts at Battered soldier's body tells bloody tale of the Wars of the Roses and from Murray and Blue at Skeleton from medieval battlefield goes on display at York museum….

The bones from the mass grave are described in A game of thrones written in bones: The skeletal collection from the Battle of TowtonLike other studies this highlights the fate of one in particular who is now known as Towton 25.

The injuries suffered by this group of men are shown in a video which looks at the types of weapons used at the battle and how they were used to such lethal effect. This is from History Hit and can be seen at These Skeletons Reveal Horrific Injuries From The Battle of Towton

One of these anonymous men, the one now catalogued as Towton 25, was, like the man at Towton Hall, in the 36-45 age range, had recovered from previous head injuries, but died that Palm Sunday very violently as can be read at Towton 25

We cannot know his name but modern facial reconstruction can give a good idea of his appearance as can be seen at The Face of Towton 25 Man (Artistic Reconstruction)

Whichever side he was on - although the skeletons are thought more likely to be those of Lancastrian soldiers - or wherever he came from are lacking but that attempt to clothe his bones in virtual flesh restores his humanity, and reminds us that battles centuries ago were fought by flesh and blood men, not just coloured blocks on a map.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Driving the message home in Rome

Rorate Cæli reports an initiative in Rome to draw attention to the licit nature of the Traditional Latin Mass. For the coming fortnight billboards in the areas around the Vatican will bear images of and quotations from Popes St Pius V, St John Paul II, and Benedict XVI about the legitimacy of the rite as promulgated in 1570. The posters are in Italian and English, and sponsored by groups who seek to maintain continuing and open access to the Mass in that historic form. 

Coming just before Holy Week and Easter when so many of the faithful will doubtless be in Rome this is obviously designed to have maximum impact not just on the inmates of the Vatican but also on pilgrims.

The report about this excellent initiative can be seen at Dozens of billboards go up around Rome in defense of the TLM

Monday 27 March 2023

The Perils of Art History

These days academics in the humanities are vulnerable to assault on so many fronts for not being “woke” and attuned to the latest political sensibilities. We, and they, are getting used to it, alas. 

However the latest story of this sort from the US is slightly different, and, seemingly, even more bizarre. I am sure many readers will have read about the Florida parents who objected to not being warned in advance that their children were going to be shown photographs of Michelangelo’s “David” as part of a course on The Renaissance. One parent described it as “pornographic”. As a result the school principal was sacked. 

I am sure readers will join me in shaking their heads at such an approach to one of the high points of artistic creativity of the Italian Renaissance or indeed of any other era.

The Los Angeles Times also reports on the offer of a school trip for the children to see the original statue from the Mayor of Florence at After Florida school uproar, Italy extends an invitation to view Michelangelo's 'David' as does the Evening Standard at Museum wants parents to see Michelangelo’s David after statue branded ‘pornographic’

At the risk of having my blog labelled as pornographic - I should be so lucky/unlucky -  here is a reminder of the offending statue:

david-full-frontMichelangelo’s “David” 1501-4Image: accademia.org
For those who wish to be corrupted further Wikipedia has an illustrated account of the statue at David (Michelangelo) and the Accademia website has one also at Michelangelo's David: Admire World's Greatest Sculpture at Accademia Gallery

King Henry VIII’s medicines

Staying with the subject of King Henry VIII the Historic Royal Palaces website for Hampton Court recently had a piece about the medicines and ointments made for the King in his later years. Some indeed he devised himself - the ultimate treat perhaps for the privileged invalid or hypochondriac. It is based on research into a British Library manuscript - MS Sloan 1047 - which contains a wide range of these potions amounting to almost 200 recipes.

There is a longer article about the King and his use and patronage of “physik” and medicine in an academic paper ‘King Henry VIII’s Medical World’ which can be read at elizabethhurrenfinal

Recent studies of the later years of his reign have discussed and speculated about the King’s ailments, their cause and the impact they had on his ability to exercise authority and indeed his judgment in that period of shifting political, religious and diplomatic patterns. The health of rulers could then, and sometimes still, have a very considerable impact on the lives of  those they ruled.

I have myself posted previously, in 2020, about MS Sloan 1047 in The medicinal interests of King Henry VIII

Similar material survives from the records of the royal apothecary to King Henry’s maternal grandfather King Edward IV, a man whom he resembled in many ways - most of them unattractive. That manuscript evidence also includes cosmetics used by courtiers such as the Duke of Buckingham. It is cited and discussed in Thomas Penn’s very readable book The Brothers York: An English Tragedy

Sunday 26 March 2023

Updating a portrait of King Henry VIII

The Daily Telegraph reports how a research project has shown by using an x-ray how an early portrait of the youthful King Henry VIII was extensively repainted in 1519 to depict the significant changes in his appearance. He is shown with a bulkier torso, more elaborate clothing and, most obviously, the beard he grew to match that of King Francis I of France.

The extensive re-working of the painting suggests an owner who was anxious to show their loyalty to the King as he now appeared and not as he had been at the time of his accession a decade earlier.

Today we are used to computer enhanced images and photography has a long tradition of air-brushing, but the discovery of this sixteenth century equivalent appears to be quite a revelation to scholars.

I came upon an online article from 2015 about King Henry’s appearance as depicted in portraits and recorded by contemporaries. It shows his evolution from an athletic youth at his accession to the overweight familiar figure of the monarch who died aged fifty five.

That article from the Tudors Dynasty website can be seen at Excavating The Face of Young Henry VIII


Saturday 25 March 2023

Feast of The Annunciation

The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck 
Painted circa 1434-36
National Gallery of Art, Washington 
Image: Wikipedia 

For a study of the painting see the Wikipedia account at Annunciation (van Eyck, Washington)

New Liturgical Movement has a wide-ranging and informative article about the history of today’s feast and about the customs and conventions that have developed over the centuries around it.

The article can be seen at Lady Day

Wednesday 22 March 2023

St Thomas of Pontefract

Today is March 22nd, the anniversary of the beheading in 1322 in my home town of Pontefract of Thomas Earl of Lancaster following his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Within a very short time this often turbulent over-mighty subject of his cousin King Edward II was being hailed as a martyr - hence St Thomas of Pontefract - and his tomb became a focus of pilgrimage, something which endured to the dissolution of the monasteries.

Last year to mark the seven hundredth anniversary of his death I posted a lengthy piece about him, with links to other websites, and which can be seen at Thomas of Lancaster - from Rebel Earl to Popular Saint

This year in addition to posting that link, I am adding the links to three articles about Earl Thomas and his relationship with King Edward from the Edward II blog. They can be read at Thomas Of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (1),  at Thomas of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (2) and at Thomas of Lancaster And His Relationship With Edward II (3)

I am also adding a link to the History of Parliament Trust website which has an article about Thomas’s defeat, capture, death and posthumous cult at ‘Oh! Earl of Lancaster! Where is your power, where are your riches, with which you hoped to subdue all?’ Thomas of Lancaster’s defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge, 16 March 1322 

Tuesday 21 March 2023

The King’s Herb strewer and her maids

I was interested by a recent article on the Liturgical Arts Journal about the traditional custom of spreading on feast days bay or box or myrtle leaves in advance of processions in the churches of Rome. The article can be read at Romanitas: The Traditional Use of Fragrant Greenery for Processions

Quite apart from its own interest this had a topical resonance for me as up to and including the coronation in 1821 of King George IV the procession from Westminster Hall into Westminster Abbey was led by the King’s Herb Strewer and her six assistants who scattered sweet smelling plant material in advance of those coming after them along the carpeted processional way. There is more from contemporary sources about the Herb Strewer and her part in the proceedings of the 1821 Coronation from the notes accompanying the National Trust website about the print of Miss Fellowes in the collection at Belton House in Lincolnshire which can be seen at Miss Fellowes (b.c.1771) the Herb-strewer and her ladies at the Coronation of King George IV 

The article on Wikipedia at Herb Strewer gives the seventeenth century as the origin of the custom. They are clearly depicted and described - The Kings Herb-woman, & her 6 Maids, with baskets of sweet herbs & flowers, stewing the way - in the Sandford engraving of the procession of King James II at his coronation in 1685. However I suspect it is a much older custom, but not specifically recorded until the Restoration era.

Monday 20 March 2023

Thy Chosen Servant - Prayer Book Society talks on the Coronation

The Prayer Book Society is holding a series of five online talks under the title of Thy Chosen Servant about the Coronation service. I was only alerted last week to the existence of the lectures with advance notice of the third one. They are being recorded and those that have already been delivered are now available on the PBS website via YouTube at https://www.pbs.org.uk/publications/coronation/

The remaining two are being delivered live on Wednesday evenings on March 22nd and 29th at 7.30pm. 


Last week’s talk by Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen’s House in Oxford,  was an excellent introduction to the pieces of regalia, robes, and the ceremonial furniture that will be used on May 6th.

In it he refers positively to a series of videos on the Coronation posted on YouTube by Allan Barton - The Antiquary. I too would recommend searching these out and watching them. I would also recommend Allan’s journal  The Antiquary Magazine, which can be subscribed to online or in printed form.

Sunday 19 March 2023

The Golden Rose

Today being Lætare Sunday is the day for the blessing of the Golden Rose by the Pope before the Solemn Mass of the day.

The New Liturgical Movement had an article about it the other day which can be seen at The Tradition of the Rosa d'Oro (Golden Rose) of Laetare Sunday

Wikipedia has a lengthy, illustrated article about the history of the custom and of the ceremonial associated with the Golden Rose, together with a list of recipients since 1096. This can all be accessed at Golden Rose

That article is almost entirely based on that in the Catholic Encyclopaedia but with some additions as to changes in the twentieth century, and has a much more complete list of recipients. The older Encyclopaedia entry has a few pieces of additional information about the ceremonial associated with the rose and can be accessed at Golden Rose

The Golden Rose is not presented to an individual or, as these days, a shrine, every year by any means and some Popes have never bestowed it. Looking at the list of recipients it can clearly be linked as a gift to Papal diplomacy in the past, or at least in more recent centuries as an honour given to the consort of a Catholic sovereign. In recent decades it has become a way of honouring Marian shrines.

British recipients of the rose begin with King William I of Scots in 1183, King Henry VI in 1444, King James III in 1486, King James IV in1491, King Henry VIII on apparently three occasions in 1512, 1521 and 1524, Queen Mary I of England in 1555, Queen Mary I of Scots in 1560 and Queen Henrietta Maria in 1625.

It is rather a wonder when so much was unnecessarily and seemingly wilfully jettisoned in terms of Papal ceremonial and traditions in the pontificate of Pope Paul VI that it survived as a custom at all. 

Saturday 18 March 2023

A significant cemetery used by both Romans and Anglo-Saxons in Yorkshire

The excavation of an early cemetery with over sixty burials at Garforth in my home area of the central West Riding has been described in reports this week as being a site of exceptional importance. This is because the site contains late Roman graves - one clearly a high status female in a lead coffin - alongside those of apparently pagan Anglo-Saxons with grave goods. Nearby there are the foundations of late Roman buildings and early Anglo-Saxon ones. It is also the first Anglo-Saxon cemetery to be found in the area, whereas in the East Riding such discoveries have been a standard feature of the archaeological record.

The implication of this is of two communities living and, indeed, dying and being buried alongside each other or of a continuity of occupation in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The significance of this is not just of apparent coexistence but also is related to its location. This is the territory of the British Kingdom of Elmet which survived as a separate entity until it was taken over by King Edwin of Northumbria in 616-17 - that is only a decade before his conversion and baptism by St Paulinus at York in 627. As a result it appears that Paulinus found either a residual British Christian community or at least its abandoned churches at places such as Dewsbury. The tradition is that he baptised converts in the river Calder there, the burh of someone with the very British name of Dewi. Yorkshire has several such place names with Celtic rather than Anglian roots.

Such evidence is fragmentary but fascinating in the quest for this outpost of Romano-British life in the era of conversion and Northumbrian expansion. The Wikipedia article on the history of Elmet is a good starting point and I see it includes research that was not available when I lived in the area. It can be seen at Elmet There is also the linked article about the last ruler of the kingdom at Ceretic of Elmet

As the main Wikipedia article points out the memory of Elmet endured for many centuries in place names for not a few villages, and still for two today, as well as for medieval wool and a modern parliamentary constituency.

The Garforth cemetary potentially adds significantly to our knowledge of Elmet, and casts additional light on the so-called Dark Ages.

Friday 17 March 2023

The trials and tribulations of Jewry in medieval England and France

The Times of Israel has an interesting article about the place of the Tower of London in the life of the thirteenth century Jewish community in England. It is based on a study for Historic Royal Palaces of the evidence of material in the National Archives.

Coincidentally there is an article on the Medievalists. net website about the Jewish community in France in the wider medieval period, but which touches on similar themes. It can be seen at Hostility Against the Jews in Medieval France

Like much of the material in the article about England it does, as the title states, concentrate on discrimination and hostility towards Jews and only at the end allows that for much of the time there was coexistence and indeed collaboration. That aspect of the situation is made more clearly in the article about England. The Christian-Jewish relationship was often a strained or chafing one in both medieval England and France but it was, I think, more complex and indeed more positive for much of the time than many presentations suggest. It did not take much for mobs to form in response to claims of ritual murder for example, or in hostility to money lenders, but equally much of the time it was the ability of Jews to finance the activities of the Crown, the Church and landowners that made for wary collaboration.

Notre Dame - the iron in the stone

The ongoing restoration of Notre Dame in Paris has revealed an important aspect of the original construction of the cathedral in the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries in the form of iron bars or cramps to bind the masonry together.

Analysis of the iron has dated it to the time of the building, and indicates the technological breakthrough this represents in the construction of the great gothic cathedrals of Capetian France. On the basis of this it appears that Notre Dame was the first such church known to have used this method to bind the masonry together, enabling a lighter construction than had been used hitherto.

There are reports about the research from crns.fr at Notre Dame: First Gothic cathedral to make massive use of iron and from New Scientist at Notre Dame fire revealed cathedral’s innovative use of iron

Both of these articles draw attention to the different sources for the iron used and how this may cast light on the trade in iron ore and iron in the period of the cathedral’s construction.

Thursday 16 March 2023

Another Matthew Parker manuscript for Cambridge

A manuscript from 1573 presented along with gifts to Queen Elizabeth I by Archbishop Matthew Parker on her visit to Canterbury that year has been secured for the Archbishop’s collection at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. The Nine Roundels may well be a unique survival of courtly gift giving from the period and has been saved for the country through an export ban.

The BBC News website has a picture and a brief description of the roundels at University library acquires rare manuscript

The Lenten Veil

The website of the Liturgical Arts Journal has an article about the use of the Lenten Veil in churches. It argues the custom of concealing the reredos and other features with hangings decorated with Passiontide and Holy Week symbols is Gallican in origin, and where it is attested from at least the seventh century.

Medieval England appears to have adopted it enthusiastically and major churches such as Westminster Abbey and Wakefield Cathedral restored the practice in the wake of the Oxford Movement and its consequent impact on liturgy in the early twentieth century. Some Anglo-Catholic clergy also wore matching unbleached linen vestments, but that I think is a modern idea, and I have never seen it referred to in the 1552 Church Goods inventories, which do sometimes refer to a Lenten Veil. Nineteenth century Anglican pioneers of liturgical restoration in books such as Ancient English Holy Week Ceremonial collected references from late medieval sources such as inventories and parish accounts to veils.

It survives in Sicily as can be seen in the striking photographs which accompany the article, and they can be seen and the piece read at More Examples of Lenten Veils -- the "Velum Quadrigesimale"

Ruperra Castle - sign the petition

Country Life has an article by John Goodall about the condition of Ruperra Castle near Caerphilly in south Wales. Built in 1626 it is one of a group of houses built in the later years of the Elizabethan age and the reign of King James I when there was a last flowering of a romantic revival of chivalric culture - notably championed by Henry Prince of Wales. These “pavilion castles” were marked out by having round towers at the corners of their four-square blocks and sought to suggest the style of older castles with the use of battlements and suchlike features. Ruperra was damaged by fire in 1785 and reconstructed, but burnt out again in 1941 when requisitioned for the military. Since then the ruins have mouldered and in 1982 one corner tower collapsed. 

The article draws attention to the need for Cadw and other relevant bodies to take appropriate action for the maintenance of the ruins and has a link to a petition to the Senedd for such policies to be applied in this and similar cases. I have signed and urge my readers to do so as well. 

The illustrated article can be read at The fate of Ruperra Castle 'is a national scandal’

There is more about the history of the castle and its grounds on the impressive and informative website of the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust, together with details of how to join the Trust, which I shall do, and all of which can be viewed at Welcome to Ruperra Castle - Castell Rhiw'r Perrai

Monday 13 March 2023

A Romano-Celtic Temple discovered in Lancaster

It is sometimes curious which websites pick up which stories. It was slightly surprising to see that the Jerusalem Post had a report about the discovery of a Romano-Celtic temple in Lancaster. The article can be seen at 1,900-year-old Romano-Celtic temple discovered in northern England

This has been followed by another, similar  account with additional details, of the temple on the Arkeonews website. It can be read at Evidence of Rare Romano-Celtic Temple Near Lancaster Castle -may be only the second of its type

The temple is only the second such structure to be be identified so far in what was Britannia. It does not mean that is the last. It is also a further indicator of the complexity of life in Roman Britain and a reminder of how our knowledge of its history continues to increase through archaeology in all its contemporary forms.

More about the Colchester Vase

I recently posted in Roman Colchester about the Roman vase found in the town in the nineteenth century with its depiction of gladiators fighting and the latest interpretation that it is evidence for gladiatorial contests in Roman Britain. My post contains several links to articles about it. The vase is a work of great importance and was one of the items selected to be shown to the King and Queen when they visited Colchester last week to mark the grant to it of city status.

There is now a further article on the Live Science website about the piece which gives additional information and which can be seen at Gladiators fought in Roman Britain, action-packed cremation urn carvings reveal

A new Duke of Edinburgh

The announcement last Friday of the creation of the Earl of Wessex and Forfar as Duke of Rdinburgh was by no means unexpected, though deferred until his birthday, and eminently appropriate. An explanation of the relative time-lag is offered in an article from that day by Camilla Twominey in the Daily Telegraph, which may or may not be that accurate given the standard of so much reporting about the Royal Family even in the more erudite press, and which may be read at How the fall of Nicola Sturgeon played a part in whether Prince Edward was given the Duke of Edinburgh title

Later on in the day I read a fairly slight but inoffensive article by Christopher Howse about the creation and which can be read at Britain needs more hereditary dukes – the rank is becoming endangered

What shocked me was when I made the mistake of looking at the comments, which appeared to be filled with class hatred and bile.  Now I appreciate that open internet access can take readers to papers they might not otherwise read but if even some of the authors were Telegraph regulars I find it quite disturbing. In part I blame recent owners such as Conrad Black and the drradful Barclay brothers for attracting the wrong sort of readership. As a friend said to me the next day in such onlinr reading onr should not look below the bottom line.

This is the fifth creation of the dukedom since its creation in 1726 by King George I for his grandson Prince Frederick Lewis. Some years earlier the title of Duke of Gloucester had been proposed for the Prince as second in line to the throne but he had not been so created. In addition to the Edinburgh dukedom he was made Marquess of the Isle of Ely, Earl of Eltham, Viscount [of] Launceston and Baron [of ] Snaudon [Snowden]. The following year his father succeeded as King George II and in 1729 Frederick Lewis was created Prince of Wales, and the titles held with the other subsidiary ones of the heir apparent. There is a Wikipedia biography at Frederick, Prince of Wales

When Fredrick died in 1751 all his titles passed to his eldest son and heir who was almost immediately created Prince of Wales and became King George III in 1760.

In 1764 King George created his younger brother Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh with the subsidiary title of Earl of Connaught. Upon his death in 1805 the combined dukedom descended to his son, who later married the King’s daughter Princess Mary. They were childless and the title became extinct in 1834 upon the Duke’s death, although the Duchess lived on to 1857. There are Wikipedia biographies of the two Dukes at Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh

In 1866 Queen Victoria, who disliked the York ducal usually given to second sons of the monarch because of her “wicked uncles” created her second son Prince Alfred as Duke of Edinburgh and with the additional titles of Earl of Ulster and Earl of Kent. There is a Wikipedia biography at Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

In 1893 he succeeded his uncle as sovereign Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha. Whilst renouncing his seat in the House of Lords ( unlike his great uncle the King of Hanover in 1837 ) he retained the Edinburgh title. His son predeceseased him in 1899 and the death of the Duke in 1900 brought the end of the title. Had those events not happened Edinburgh much well have suffered the fate of two other royal ducal titles - those of Cumberland and Albany - in 1919 with their still unreversed forfeiture. Duke Alfred’s Romanov widow, H.I. and R.H. The Dowager Duchess of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, Duchess of Edinburgh died in 1920.

The fourth creation was in 1947 of Prince Philip  - then Lt. Philip Mountbatten - as Duke of Rdinbugh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron  Greenwich. The late Queen was Duchess of Edinburgh until her accession in 1952, but the title of Princess Elizabeth always preceded it. On the death of Prince Philip in 2021 his titles descended to the then Prince of Wales, and reverted to the Crown with his accession as King Charles III in 2022. 

This new, fifth, creation is unusual in being described as a life time grant rather than a hereditary one. In the later middle ages this was not unknown - King Henry V’s younger brothers, the Dukes of Clarence, Bedford and Gloucester, were life not hereditary grants, and as none left legitimate male offspring there was no occasion to amend or revise the grants. Since then most titles of nobility have been hereditary until the nineteenth century with the emergence of the Law Lords in 1876. That system was ended in 2009.

Along with this new grant is the elevation of the new Duke’s son, Viscount Severn, to his father’s Earldoms of Wessex and Forfar as the courtesy title of the heir, but with no expectation of inheritance of the Edinburgh Dukedom in the fullness of time

A friend drew my attention to Halsbury’s Laws of England which states in its latest that there are hereditary peerages which cannot be just for life ( thanks to the ruling over the Wensleydale barony in 1856 ) and life peerages created under the 1958 Act, and those can only be barons. This creation fits in with neither of these legal requirements. As my friend and I agreed we suspect further Letters Patent may be required.

In any case my loyal congratulations are offered to the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Thursday 9 March 2023

The Coronation Oil

Several websites report the consecration last Friday in Jerusalem of the oil, described by the liturgical term of Chrism, to be used at the Coronation of the King and Queen. 

The Royal Family website has its report of the ceremony at The consecration of the Coronation Oil

The Mail Online has a rather more detailed account with more about the history of the anointing at The new sacred oil that will anoint Charles as King

The consecration of the oil by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem is a notably ecumenical act. It is a tribute to The King’s publically expressed support for ecumenical dialogue and for Christians in the Middle East. It links two at least of the strands of the “Branch Theory”, and, in the light of the latest set of fissures in the Anglican Communion, obviates tensions and doubts therein about validity. 

The reports tend to concentrate on the contemporary concern with not using animal products as are used in the 1626 recipe. That may have been something new in part in its own time. As King James I, having been anointed at his Scottish coronation as an infant in 1567, was not anointed again at his English coronation in 1603, although King Charles I was anointedat both his English and Scottish coronations. Thus in 1626 the last anointing at Westminster had been in 1559 when Queen Elizabeth had complained the oil smelt of fish. 

Not using animal products from civet, whales, and deer may well be standard in preparing Chrism for consecration at the Holy Week liturgy today. I once attended the the Archbishop of Birmingham’s Chrism Mass at the Oxford Oratory and once that of the then Bishop of Ebbsfleet at Pusey. At both there was a genuine sense of witnessing something that was ‘other’, that was indeed sacramental.

I recall hearing that a Catholic bishop spoke of how his consecration was fixed in his memory by the rich, pervading aromas of the scented oils that were infused into the Chrism.

Robert Hardman in his Mail Online account makes the excellent point that the King is reverting to an older tradition with this use of Chrism.

This act of consecration in Jerusalem is probably a first for centuries - not arguably since tha days of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century. That is, of course, if the Kings of Jerusalem were anointed - the privilege was closely guarded by theHoly Roman Emperors and the Kings of France and England and maybe some others. The Kings of Scots did not receive the Papal privilege until 1329, and the Kings of Portugal until a century later. In Scandinavia it appears to have developed following Old Testament precedent with the Lutheran reformation in the sixteenth century.

The Royal family has acquired a spiritual connection with Jerusalem in the twentieth century through the burial there of His Majesty’s grandmother Princess Alice - and indeed to her aunt, St Elizabeth the New Martyr who is also buried there.

At his coronation in October 1399 King Henry IV was the first English monarch who was able to receive the oil reputed to have been given miraculously by the Virgin Mary to St Thomas of Canterbury during his exile at Sens in the 1160s, and which had, apparently, languished forgotten in a box in the Tower of London despite the best attempts of King Edward II and later King Richard II to be supplementarily anointed with it. This was refused by Pope John XXII in the first instance in 1317 and Archbishop Thomas Arundel in the second in 1396-7. The story is somewhat disjointed but is set out in regard to King Edward II by the Fourteenth Century Fiend website at Edward II & the Holy Oil of St Thomas Becket

In 1399 King Richard appears to have taken the phial containing the holy oil - presumably it normally sat in the eagle ampulla - and worn it around his neck on his ill-fated visit to Ireland that ended with his deposition.

How one quite forgets about a gift entrusted by the Virgin Mary to the great English martyr Archbishop is almost as much a mystery as the gift itself, but that is perhaps another matter for another day.

King Henry IV’s tomb tester in Canterbury Cathedral is decorated inter alia with the eagle emblem, and at other fifteenth century coronations the ampulla had an enhanced place in the procession into the Abbey. 

King Henry was thus anointed with this miraculous oil of Chrism, a rival to the French Sainte Ampoule at Reims. It was possibly, maybe probably, from the very same Eagle ampulla - much restored in 1661 - that will be used on May 6th.

The Ampulla and Spoon

Image: Crown Copyright/ Country Life

We must trust that this Chrism will not have the  same physical side effect it had upon the monarch in 1399, as according to one source, King Henry IV apparently suffered some type of skin reaction on his scalp from the oil. To some this may have been seen as a judgment in dethroning King Richard II. Today one might wonder if it was an allergic reaction by a redhead - I am, for example, assured that they react differently to anaesthetics from the rest of us.

We may have some idea of the constituents of the present recipe, and of that from 1626 - but those of the miraculous oil delivered to St Thomas remains a Divine Mystery.