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.

Sunday 30 April 2023

Coronation commentary pieces

In the plethora of often poorly prepared, endlessly repetitive, or plain ill-informed coverage in the media of the lead up to the Coronation, together with the sometimes saccharine and trivial and, alas, the sometimes actively or passively hostile, it is a relief, and indeed a reassurance, to come upon pieces that are mentally stimulating and positive, as well as grounded in serious reflection.

Two such are Britain needs King Charles the Weird by Aris Roussinos on the UnHerd and Ritual, not pageantry by Francis Young on that of The Critic

David Starkey has produced some Coronation themed videos. I would particularly recommend King Charles' Coronation: Why it matters!

In this recent address to a group in Kent Dr Starkey is on his usual good form and seeks, very rightly, to get his hearers to see the importance of the Monarchy as both sacral and contractual - both in the past and also now.

I might, as a medievalist, query aspects of one or two of his arguments but the talk is as lively and intellectually provocative as one has come to expect from him. He has given himself a broad canvas which on which he works with considerable skill. It is well worth watching.

Allan Barton - The Antiquary has put together a whole series of videos about the Coronation which are very well worth looking at. As relatively short pieces looking at a theme or an object they provide a wealth of information which helps to prepare for the complex and powerful symbolism we shall see on May 6th.
Look him up on YouTube and sample some or all of his Coronation videos. 

Saturday 29 April 2023

Coronation plans - Regalia bearers, Officers of State and the Anointing screen

The last few days have seen significant information and details being released about the Coronation, including the list of those processing and bearing or delivering the regalia and details of the new anointing screen.

Those chosen to represent the component parts of the national life in the procession are a valiant attempt to be inclusive of different faiths and communities. Such an initiative unfortunately may attract from the persistently aggrieved the charge of tokenism, which would I am sure be grotesquely unfair, but a risk such moves do sadly run. From others it may attract the opposite charge of wokery. The organisers have had to tread a careful path here.

As a friend commented the appointment for the day of the Chief of the Defence Staff as Lord High Constable of England does elegantly link the ancient Great Officer of State with the modern effective commander-in-chief. I think that since the downfall of the last hereditary Lord High Constable the third Duke of Buckingham in 1521, for past coronations the office remained with the holder for the rest of their life rather than just being for the day of the coronation itself. Thus, pace Wikipedia, the Earl of Arundel served in both 1553 and 1559, the Duke of Wellington in 1821,1831 and 1838, and the Duke of Fife in 1902 and 1911.

I would also agree with the same friend that giving the King’s Champion, Francis Dymoke, the task of bearing the Royal Standard is more appropriate than the Union Flag as his father did in 1953. Mind you, I hanker after the days when the armoured Champion, flanked by the Lord High Constable and the Earl Marshal rode into Westminster Hall at the Coronation banquet to challenge all comers who gainsaid the King’s rights.

I was also struck by the high profile for the Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Archbishop of Wales and the Archbishop of Armagh as bearers of parts of the regalia. I am not sure off-hand as to what extent Irish bishops participated before the 1870 disestablishment, though I assume they were in attendance in the nineteenth century. I do not think a Welsh bishop participated in either 1937 or 1953 following the creation of the Church in Wales in 1919-20. I strongly suspect the last time a Scottish Episcopalian bishop participated in a coronation was in 1633 for King Charles I at Holyrood.

There has been quite a bit of coverage in the last few hours of the new Anointing screen with its Commonwealth inspired design in the media. We are told that this is a change on The King’s initiative to take the anointing out of the gaze of those in the Abbey as the monarch receives Divine unction. 

There were reports of using a canopy that would have an open or transparent top to allow the unction to be viewed by the public on television. This was deplored - rightly I think - by commentators such as Catherine Pepinster.

Allan Barton The Antiquary has a video about the news screen at The new Coronation Anointing Screen of Charles III

I am not sure off-hand how long the type of canopy used in 1937 and 1953 has been used. The one used then was made in 1902. I ought to check on earlier usage. It was in 1626 that the anointing was, for the first time, carried out, as ever since, in St Edward’s Chair. In 1603 there was no unction as King James was already an anointed monarch from his Scottish coronation in 1567 at Stirling.

Up to 1559 the monarch knelt, as far as we can tell, before the altar to be anointed. This was as in France, where a canopy was suspended high above from the vault in Reims Cathedral, but, according to pictures of the later French coronations the King was apparently not concealed as have been by St Edward’s Chair and the canopy their English opposite numbers.

The screen will not reappear for the anointing of The Queen, which does traditionally occur kneeling before the altar. This time however it will be without the traditional canopy.

My personal view is that I regret this alteration to the practice of past coronations. I also prefer the aesthetic, and the tradition, of the golden canopy with its eagle embroidered sides. I say a bit more about this in my comment on his site about Allan Barton’s video - vide supra.

I also wonder, with all due respect to the guardsmen charged with putting it in place and removing it afterwards, how that procedure will look. I can imagine it runs the risk of an element of risibility like screens round a hospital bed. I hope and trust it does not.

The new arrangement flies rather against the idea of the sacramental being performed somewhere in the sight of the people - this is more like a liturgy where the monarch goes off into an inner sanctum or side chapel for this part of the Rite, as in that of the Russian Emperors. It is different from the idea that lay behind the creation of Westminster and Reims as liturgical sacred spaces for both visibility and relative obscurity at times within that.

Thinking further about the traditional canopy I begin to doubt if it was designed to conceal the monarch so much as to show honour to what was being administered to the monarch beneath. Maybe it is a canopy of honour rather than, or as much as, one of concealment. For centuries the ciborium style of altar - as in St John Lateran - gave both a covering of honour to the altar and the sacrament as well as having curtains to conceal the Eucharistic act before drawing them back to present the consecrated elements to the faithful. Similarly at the coronation the monarch and the sacramental they receive are partially hidden but also honoured by the canopy. It is not to provide privacy so much as dignity, awe and a proper sense of mystery.

I do wonder if the anointing screen with its Commonwealth theme will suffer the fate of the hanging designed to surround the central archway of Buckingham Palace on ceremonial occasions and including the flags of all the Commonwealth nations. It was inaugurated at the late Queen’s Golden Jubilee and described as to be used for future occadions - and has never been seen since.

Thursday 27 April 2023

The Patronage of St Philip at the Oxford Oratory

Today the Oxford Oratory has been celebrating the Patronage of St Philip, that is, the feast specific to each Oratory commemorating its formal canonical erection as an independent house of Oratorians.

It was in 1990 that the founding members of the Oxford community moved into the church and presbytery of St Aloysius as an Oratory in Formation, and it was two and a half years later that on April 27th 1993 they were formally established as the third Oratory in England by PopeJohn Paul II. 

This year then sees the thirtieth anniversary of its independent existence. Much has been achieved in those thirty years and there is much to be thankful for. There is, I am sure, much to look forward to in the life and potential  of the Oratory in Oxford.

This evening following the appointed Mass for the feast there was a Musical Oratory which concentrated on the spirituality of the ‘Saint of Joy’ concluding with the Litany of St Philip and the singing of the Te Deum. Both the Mass and the Musical Oratory can be seen in a recording of the livestream on YouTube at Thursday

May St Philip continue to pray for the Oxford Oratory and its ministry.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

The Collegiate Church of Holy Trinity Edinburgh

The BBC News website reported recently about the identification of some carved stonework in Edinburgh as being from the Collegiate Church of Holy Trinity, which was tragically demolished in 1848 to make way for Waverley Station. The plan was to store the stonework re-erect the church. By the time that happened in 1872 quite a bit of the masonry had gone missing and the resulting rebuilding in Chalmers Close was significantly less than the original church. It was presumably in this mid-nineteenth century period that the recently identified stonework migrated. The report about them can be read at Mystery carvings came from dismantled royal church

The church from the north in the early 1840s

Image: Wikipedia 

building had been left uncompleted in the fifteenth century. It was founded in 1460 by Queen Mary of Guelders, the widow of King James II, as a memorial to her husband who had been killed at the siege of Roxburgh that year. Although work on the project clearly continued after her death in 1463, when she was buried in the church, the nave of the church was never built, nor was the central tower completed. Wikipedia has a very detailed account of the foundation and building, and of its subsequent fate, with excellent illustrations and plans. This can all be seen at Trinity College Kirk

The Wikipedia life of the Queen can be seen at Mary of Guelders

However there is in addition an excellent online biography and appraisal of Queen Mary from the weavingthetapestry project at Mary of Guelders, Queen of Scots (c.1433-1460)

There is a somewhat shorter account that is also well balanced from Medievalists. net at Mary of Guelders, Queen of Scotland

Her activities as a builder are described in a video which can be seen at Mary of Guelders and the Architecture of Queenship in fifteenth-century Scotland

One unique and beautiful treasure does survive from the medieval church - the two sided wings of the altar piece which depict on the outside the Holy Trinity and the first Provost, Edward Bonkhill, accompanied by an Angel organist and, on the inside, Queen Mary’s son King James III with St Andrew and his Queen, Margaret of Denmark, with St George.

Hugo van der Goes circa 1478-9
Royal Collection on permanent loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh  

Image: Wikipedia 

Tuesday 25 April 2023

A bit more about the Stone of Scone and Scottish Coronations

Since I published my last post about the Stone of Scone it has continued to be in the news, so I thought I would share those and other relevant and appropriate links.

I found in my files an article with more about the claim that the genuine Stone was held at a church in Dundee following the1950 theft and then moved, care of the Knights Templar [sic], to a former church at Dull in Perthshire. This article can be seen at Was the real Stone of Destiny hidden in plain sight in Dundee?

The Daily Telegraph now has a report about the stories about the provenance of the Stone based on the views of Rev. Prof. Ian Bradley as expressed in a recent article. He joins other scholars in being sceptical about the more romantic and esoteric claims about the origins of the Stone. Prof. Bradley was one of the contributing speakers to the Prayer Book Society’s series of Lenten talks on the Coronation which I linked to before Easter. He is highly sensitive to the Christian basis of the Croronation liturgy in both England and Scotland. The article about his interpretation of the history and significance of this particular national relic can be read in the somewhat melodramatically entitled piece at Stone of Scone row reignited as eminent St Andrews historian suggests sandstone is not original

I also came across a tour website which features Scone with a history of the Stone and which has pictures of both the later Palace of the Earls of Mansfield and of the Moot Hill Kirk which saw the coronation of King Charles II in 1651. The article can be seen at The Coronation Stone or "The Stone of Scone"

There is a valuable article by George Gross about the 1651 Coronation from The Court Historian which can be read online at 1651: The Last Coronation in Scotland — An Anomaly?

Finally the Daily Telegraph had a report the first details of the ceremony due to be held in St Giles’ Cathedral on July 5th when the Honours of Scotland will be presented to The King. This service will follow the format designed in 1953 for what was the nearest thing to a separate Scottish coronation since that of 1651. Whilst not that it did bear some similarities to the Dutch and Norwegian enthronement ceremonies we have seen in recent years. This time however it will include the Stone of Scone, which in 1953 was back in Westminster Abbey. This report about the ceremony can be seen at Scotland to host its own Coronation for the King with Stone of Destiny at its heart

One historic piece from the Scottish Honours that presumably will not be in use on July 5th is the ampulla made for the coronation of King Charles I in 1633. Not used in 1651 it became separated from the other Honours and was acquired by what is now the National Museum of Scotland in 1948. Their website has an account of it at Coronation ampulla of Charles I

Saturday 22 April 2023

Learning more about the Stone of Scone

Live Science has an article about the latest research that has been undertaken on the Stone of Scone prior to its journey to Westminster for the Coronation. The study has identified additional markings on the stone, evidence of different masons working on it, of a lost brass fitting and confirms that the rock from which it is made belongs to the area of Scone itself. The article can be read at Hidden symbols and 'anomalies' discovered in 800-year-old 'Stone of Destiny' to be used in Charles III's coronation

There is a similar article about the Stone from The National which was published a few weeks ago and which can be seen at New symbols found on Stone of Destiny ahead of transportation for coronation

There is another article about these new discoveries from The Archaeologist at The Scottish Stone of Destiny has Roman numerals, according to archaeologists and one from Medievalists.net at Markings revealed on the Stone of Destiny, new research finds

Meanwhile, a Glasgow pub claims that it has the real Stone of Scone, left there by the four students who stole it from Westminster Abbey in 1950. This story is reported upon by the Daily Telegraph at The real Stone of Scone is in my pub and I will prove it, says landlord and by the Daily Express at Landlord claims King's real Coronation stone is in his pub

Now I know strange things turn up in lost property boxes and cupboards but that idea of it just being left in a pub does seem to stretch credibility ever so slightly. 

There is, or was, a church in Scotland whose Minister was of a nationalist persuasion and linked to those who stole it in 1950, and it too claims to have the ‘real’ Stone of Scone. This story, which brings in the (modern) Knights Templar, can be read about in more detail in articles from The Herald from 1996 at So which is fake, and which the genuine article? and from The Independent from 1999 at Where does the real Stone of Scone lie?

Following on from that and similar reports it is something of a relief to turn to the two detailed articles on Wikipedia about the Stone which give a comprehensive outline of its history and the various claims made about it. The first one also has useful links at the end to articles about similar enthronement stones in Britain, Ireland and Europe. The second ends with a thought provoking sting in the tail. The articles can be seen at Stone of Scone and at Westminster Stone theory

I would also strongly recommend the new video from the always well researched History Calling about the Stone, its history, legends and the modern claims. In particular the presenter is, quite rightly, scathing about the four people who stole and severely damaged the Stone and St Edward’s Chair in 1950. She also takes issue with claims that the real Stone either never left Scotland in 1296, or that it was a copy which was returned in 1950.

Thursday 20 April 2023

A Christian insight into the ‘Green Man’

In my recent post Thoughts on the Green Man I drew together some ideas about the image almost universally known as the ‘Green Man’ and the fact that the terminology and general classification dates only from 1939, whereas there are numerous medieval depictions of a face sprouting foliage.

I have now come upon a short note in the Guardian about the possible, if not indeed probable, origin of this common medieval decorative motif. It also explains why it is so frequently found in church buildings. The author argues that it represents the tree that grew from the three seeds placed in Adam’s mouth at his burial. In the legendary history of the Cross that tree was, of course, the one which became the wood of Calvary. I linked to that narrative in my 2021 posts The Legend of the True Cross and Another commentary on Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross

The Guardian note is by Stephen Miller, author of The Green Man in Medieval England: Christian Shoots from Pagan Roots. It can be read at The Christian history of the Green Man motif | Folklore and mythology

I have not read Miller’s book but his argument would seem to make sense. When we see the ‘Green Man’ in churches and cathedrals we are not seeing residual paganism but part of the narrative of Salvation history.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

The Cross of Wales

The gift by The King, initiated when he was still Prince of Wales, of a processional cross that is to be the joint property of the Catholic Church in Wales and of the Anglican Church in Wales, is a witness to His Majesty’s commitment to Christianity, to ecumenical dialogue, and also to his profound sense of history.

The new Cross is made of silver provided by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, and which was personally hallmarked by His Majesty last November, and utilises slate and wood from Wales to enclose within it two relics of the True Cross given by Pope Francis to the King to mark his accession. The Tablet website has a piece about that at Pope gives King 'relic of True Cross' to mark Coronation

Despite the often snide remarks about the veracity of relics of the True Cross I was reliably informed that there had been an academic study which showed that such relics usually consist - like these - of two hairs breadth slivers, and are quite credible as being what they are claimed to be, amounting to only a small portion in total of what would have comprised a crucifixion instrument in the Roman period.

The gift by the then Prince was intended to mark the centenary of the Church in Wales, but it looks to be taking on wider significance. 

Incorporating as it does the Papal gift of relics of the True Cross it will lead the procession into Westminster Abbey for the Coronation on May 6th, when, as we know, the Chrism has been consecrated by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem it does draw further attention to the essential and sacred nature of the ceremonies that will be enacted. Alongside the historic relics of the monarchy with Papal gifts of relics and Patriarchally consecrated Chrism this has the potential to be the most sacrosanct coronation since the sixteenth century.

The website of the Church in Wales has a description of the new Cross, with pictures of today’s service in Llandudno at which it was blessed by the Archbishop of Wales. The report also has statements about the gift from the Archbishop of Wales and the Archbishop of Cardiff - Bishop of Menevia and can be accessed at The Cross of Wales will lead Coronation procession

There are other reports about the Cross from the BBC News website at Coronation cross will include 'crucifixion relics' and from STV at King’s coronation procession to be led by cross containing relics gifted by Pope

What they do not mention is that whilst not a direct replacement the new Cross does rather more than suggest a spiritual and symbolic link with the famed Cross Neith, Y Groes Naid, which was the greatest treasure of the later Princes of Gwynedd of the House of Aberffaw. 

It was kept at the Cistercian abbey of Aberconwy which was removed to a new site at Maenon by King Edward I and the original site taken over by his new castle and town of Conwy. Part of the old abbey church appears to be incorporated in the present parish church of Conwy. Llandudno where the new Cross was blessed today at the beginning of the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales is very close indeed to the old, last Welsh, home of the Cross Neith.

Taken by King Edward I in 1283 to London and moved to St George’s Windsor in 1352 by King Edward III, it disappeared under King Edward VI. However the niche in which it was exhibited in the south choir aisle at St George’s and a panel showing King Edward IV and Bishop Beauchamp of Salisbury kneeling before it is nearby. In those years of the rebuilding of the Garter Chapel the King appears to have been conciously augmenting the relic collection gathered around it at Windsor. 

The hope of some in Wales that the Cross had survived is, I am sure, regrettably unlikely, but the new piece is resonant of what once existed. Whilst not a named replacement, as the English regalia were in 1661, it is at least an implied acknowledgment of an object that once existed, one whose essence was a statement about the place of Christianity in the life of the Principality, and that statement can be made afresh, with echoes of the past.

I have posted before, in 2013, about the history of the medieval relic in Cross Neith - Y Groes Naid

The account from the St George’s Chapel website can be seen at The Cross Gneth - College of St George

Wikipedia has relevant articles at Cross of Neithat Welsh crown jewels and also at  Llywelyn's coronet

Wales online has a 2013 article about the Cross at Missing golden cross melted away from the public view

King Edward IV and Bishop Richard Beauchamp of Salisbury kneeling before the Cross Neith. A carving from the 1470s in the south choir aisle of St George’s Windsor. 
The depictions of the Cross at Windsor are the only ones to survive as an indivcation of its appearance. King Edward IV is the 16x great grandfather of King Charles III.

Image: The Review

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Recreating Old St Peter’s

It was on this day, April 18th, in 1506 that Pope Julius II laid the foundation stone of the new basilica of St Peter in Rome. His ambitious plans led to the creation of the dominant and spectacular Vatican basilica we know today. The cost however was not just financial - and think what the sale of indulgences to fund it led to - but also archaeological and artistic - the loss of its venerable predecessor which dated from the fourth century.

A while ago I linked to two videos from the Liturgical Arts Journal about the appearance of the Constantinian basilica of St Peter and its evolution down to its demolition at the beginning of the sixteenth century and its replacement by the present basilica. These two videos can be seen at Envisioning Old St. Peter's at the End of the Middle Ages: The Atrium and Facade and at Envisioning Old St. Peter's: The Interior from the Time of Constantine through the Renaissance

The Liturgical Arts Journal has now linked to another reconstruction video which gives considerably more detail about the late antique and medieval basilica and its physical development over the centuries. It is an excellent visual aid to understanding the appearance and character of the major shrine church of St Peter, even if it was not the seat of Papal authority until the last century or so of its existence.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Isabel Duchess of Burgundy and her claim to the English throne

In my post The claims of the Earl of Loudoun I looked at the hypothetical or arguable claims to the English - but not the Scottish - throne of the Earl of Loudoun ( from George Duke of Clarence ), Lady Kinloss ( from Lady Catherine Grey ) and the Earl of Jersey ( from Margaret Countess of Derby).

To these claims, and the much better known and more recent one of the Jacobite line, represented today by the de jure King of Bavaria, one can add another from Isabel Duchess of Burgundy (1397-1471).

There is an introduction to the life of the Duchess from Wikipedia at Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

As the daughter of King Joao I of Portugal and his Queen Philippa of Lancaster she set out in the last months of her life her claim to be the heiress general of the recently deceased King Henry VI and the house of Lancaster as granddaughter of John of Gaunt. In her claim she sidelined that of her nephew King Afonso V of Portugal, the son of her eldest brother. 

If - and the point is debatable - the prohibition on the Beaufort family succeeding to the throne “saving the dignity royal” added to the confirmation of their legitimacy by King Henry IV is accepted as lawful then the claim of King Henry VII through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort is negated, and the next Lancastrian claimants would be the Portuguese royal house.

Isabel of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

Isabel Duchess of Burgundy 
School of Rogier van der Weyden

Image: the Freelance History Writer

Isabel was an intelligent, well educated, cultured and forceful woman,who had been considered as a possible bride for her cousin King Henry V - the family resemblance is striking. As it was she was married in 1429 to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy as part of the network of alliances to reinforce the Anglo-Burgundian alliance.

Shortly after producing her notarial instrument, and not long before her death, the Duchess renounced her claim in favour of her son Duke Charles - whose wife was, ironically, the sister of the Yorkist King Edward IV, and who was to be a redoubtable campaigner for the Yorkist claimants after 1485 until her death in 1503. This is set out in a recent video from History’s Forgotten People at A Dangerous Duchess To The Tudors | Margaret of York | Duchess of Burgundy

Rogier van der Weyden painted Charles the Bold as a young man in about 1460,

Duke Charles of Burgundy

Image: Medievalists. net

Although Duke Charles, who died at the battle of Nancy in 1477, did not do anything much with the claim - though he also took similarly formal note of it - it had been registered. Unlike some of the other claims I drew attention to in the post I linked to above this is an easy one to follow through. From Duke Charles the claim would pass to his daughter Mary and then to her son by her marriage to the future Emperor Maximilian I, Philip, who by marriage became King Philip I of Castile, fathered the Emperor Charles V who was also descended from John of Gaunt’s daughter by his second marriage, Catalina of Lancaster. Thus the claim passes through the descent of the Spanish kingdoms down to the present King Felipe VI, who under Duchess Isabel’s notarised argument could claim to be King Philip VI of England….

The Duchess’ notarised instrument is discussed and can be seen on the British Library Medieval manuscripts blog at Claim of thrones

Friday 14 April 2023

The Kiss of Peace

I suspect that I am by no means alone in feeling rather glad that the usual exchange of the Peace in the 1970 rite of Mass with its disruptive handshaking appears to have been in many instances a casualty of covid.

The New Liturgical Movement has published a revised version of a 2007 article by Michael P. Foley about the long history as well as the theology and practice of the Kiss of Peace both in the East and the West, and amongst both the clergy and the laity.  This is a piece which is clearly based on serious research and reflection and places the development of the exchange in a proper historical process. You learn something from the article which helps explain one’s dis-ease with contemporary practice. It is therefore well worth reading and sharing as a source of information.

The Declaration of Breda

SkyNews recently had a report about the forthcoming sale of one of the two surviving copies of the Declaration of Breda - there were originally five - issued by King Charles II on April 4th 1660 in advance of the Restoration in May of that year.

The circumstances surrounding its issue and the contents are set out by Wikipedia at Declaration of Breda and the SkyNews report can be seen at King Charles II's declaration outlining his return from exile expected to fetch up to £600k at auction

It is to be hoped that the copy finds a suitable home in an appropriate archive or library.


Thursday 13 April 2023

Problematic leadership for both Catholics and Anglicans

My friend Dan Hitchens has a good and thoughtful article in The Spectator about the leadership - or rather the lack of it - from the top in both the Catholic and Anglican communions. If, and it is a fairly big one, if both Pope Francis and Archbishop Wellby were seen as figures of unity and inclusiveness a decade ago as they commenced their current roles, that is no longer the case. Their successors are likely to be from one side of the divide or divides which have developed further during their primacies. What that may portend is almost anyone’s guess.

The article can be read at The third great crisis in Christianity

There is nought, or precious little, for either communion’s current comfort in the picture that is painted, and that is without probing too deeply into the divisions. It does not take long to begin to take the measure of those by sampling the videos on YouTube and to realise that the bland nostrums of so much ecclesiastical officialdom are in effect fiddling whilst both Rome and Canterbury burn.

It does, I think, show the need for the faithful to pray not just for their present leaders but also for their future ones.

Coronations in British Library manuscripts

The always insightful British Library Medieval manuscripts blog has an interesting and entertaining post about items in the BL collection that are pertinent to the history of the Coronation. These include early Coronation ordos, illustrated chronicles, as well as the tenth century Gospel book Sir Robert Cotton believed - no-one is really certain - had been proffered in the middle ages for the King’s oath, and his unsuccessful attempt to get it used as such at the coronation of King Charles I in 1626. There is also Pope Leo X’s bull of 1521 conferring the title Defender of the Faith upon King Henry VIII.

The illustrated post can be online seen at Coronations

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Numismatic discoveries 3 : A Cavalier’s savings from the Civil War

Last September I posted in A soldier’s savings from the Wars of the Roses about what is believed to have been the money - all 2s 3d of it and a gold ring - of a soldier from the later 1470s which was found buried near Harrogate in 2020.

What appears to be a similar find of a soldier’s savings, but this time forming a much larger hoard, and comprised this time of gold coins, and from the time of the English Civil War, has been found at Box in Wiltshire. The suggestion is that the fourteen gold coins were buried on the eve of the battle of Lansdowne near Bath, fought on July 5th 1643, by a Royalist officer who did not survive the day.

An account of the coins and of their discovery by a detectorist can be read in an article from the Swindon Advertiser at Novice metal detectorist finds Civil War coins worth up to £24,000 in Wiltshire

Numismatic discoveries 2 : A halfpenny of King Edgar

The London World website has a report about the sale at auction of a halfpenny struck by King Edgar (Eadgar) who reigned in the years 959-75. It was found in Hampshire and the coin had been minted in Winchester. 

What makes this tiny piece so important is that it is an actual minted coin, not, as was common at the time, a penny cut in half. In the 1839 another example was found in the City of London but subsequently lost, and indeed its authenticity questioned in consequence.

Some of the comments from the specialist at Spinks are a little curious. King Eadgar is a figure who should come to mind when we think about late Anglo-Saxon England. He can be seen as the ruler at the apogee of the tenth century English realm, and that it was after his death that problems arose and consolidated under his sons King Edward the Martyr and King Æthelred II the Unready. Furthermore regulating the currency through issuing new dies was a royal prerogative and indicator of the ability of kings to exercise their authority in a way that reached down to everyone in the country.

The man from Spinks was however right to draw attention to King Eadgar for his 973 Coronation at Bath - the first of which we have a detailed record and one that shows a direct link to what we shall see on May 6th.

Numismatic discoveries 1 : The Norton hoard of Roman coins

Coins and coin hoards have not a few attractions for archaeologists, historians and collectors. One of the most important is that they are datable and can not only fix a point in time when a site was occupied or abandoned but also may tell us something of their relationship to events in the existing historical record.

The BBC News website reports on the purchase by Doncaster Museum of the Norton hoard of Roman coins which was found at that village, a few miles north of Doncaster, in 2018.
The large and substantial hoard is of silver coins which were apparently buried in 230. There is no obvious reason for their being hidden.

Norton lies on the well drained fertile soils of the magnesium limestone scarp north of Doncaster, and this is not the first Roman coin hoard to have been found in the area. This may well suggest this was a prosperous farming area in the Roman period.

Other coin hoards from the area include one at Campsmount in the neighbouring village of Campsall in the earlier nineteenth century, and slightly further to the north two hoards from Cridling Stubbs and Womersley in 1967 and 2011. The first of these is described by Wikipedia at Cridling Stubbs Hoard

The article has one mistake - whilst Doncaster ( Danum ) was a Roman fort and town Pontefract was not then an urban settlement in the Roman era, lying as it did just south of the fort and town at Castleford ( Legiolium ).

The report about the Norton coins can be read at Hoard of Roman silver coins bought by council

Tuesday 11 April 2023

The St John’s College Oxford Vestments

One of the lesser known treasures of Oxford is the collection of vestments at St John’s College. Usually understood to commence with Sir Thomas White as founder of the College in 1555 that are also associated in name at least with Archbishop William Laud, alumnus and munificent benefactor of St John’s, and who is buried in the chapel.

The collection includes not only liturgical vestments but also rare or probably unique survivals in the form of two banners used at the rededication of the college chapel at its foundation in 1555, and also Archbishop Laud’s skull cap.

The College has posted online a summary of the individual papers given at a recent two day conference on the collection at which a series of leading authorities spoke about the vestments and their historical context.

The account of the conference can be accessed at The Vestments Conference, in Review

It has a reminder that the vestments are available for public viewing on the Saturday of Seventh Week of each term. The collection is very well worth seeing if you are in or arrange to be in Oxford one of those days.

Monday 10 April 2023

The claims of the Earl of Loudoun

The Cabinet Office has announced the list of those whose claims to perform a specified function at the Coronation either by hereditary right or on right of their current office have been accepted. The list can be seen at People who will play historic roles at the heart of the Coronation Service announced. Other names will follow of those appointed to perform other ceremonial roles in the Abbey on May 6th.

One of the names on the list is that of the Earl of Loudoun, who, along with Lord Hastings, who is also on the list, has the hereditary right to bear one of the monarch’s spurs in the procession to the altar.

The Daily Telegraph reports on this successful claim by the Earl, and then goes on to reflect on another claim made by some on his behalf - the claim that he should be King of England and of Ireland ( or a part thereof ). The article can be read at Aristocrat with rival claim to throne will play key role in coronation

This argument emerged some years ago and was turned into a television programme. This is, as the article explains, based on the argument ( which is strongly contested ) that King Edward IV was illegitimate, that the Yorkist heir was his next brother George Duke of Clarence, and that through George’s daughter, Bl. Margaret Pole, the crown would descend to the present, fifteenth Earl of Loudoun.

Despite his having a Scottish title this would negate the Union of the Crowns, let alone the Parliaments with Scotland - which might bring some comfort to the SNP on its current distress. It might even mean that the Duke of Hamilton is the de jure King of Scots rather than the de jure King of Bavaria.

This story was made into a television programme in 2004 entitled Britain’s Real Monarch - which is inaccurate to start with because, as I point out above, the succession involved is not to a unified British monarchy but only to one of England and Ireland.

The genealogy involved is set out in a good video from Useful Charts  (I have the odd quibble, but never mind for the moment ) and which then goes on to make a sensible assessment of the virtue of the claim, coming down against it. The video can be watched at Is Britain's Real Monarch Living in Australia?

The same conclusion is set out in a good video on the theory from the excellent and balanced History Calling channel which can be viewed at WAS EDWARD IV ILLEGITIMATE? | The life of Edward IV | The birth of Edward IV

Discussions of this theory tend not to see that at a time when a clear line of succession did not obviously extend beyond the monarch’s immediate family or those named in letters patent, as up to the 1370s, or an act of Parliament as periodically from 1406, the various options of male only, male preference or simple primogeniture were not codified. Whether the Crown descended like a peerage by writ or by creation, or by its own unique rules was not clear. King Richard II did not help matters by periodically indicating or threatening to designate one or other of his relatives as his heir despite there being others with probably stronger claims.

Thus the importance of the March claim via the daughter of Lionel Duke of Clarence can be exaggerated in contrast to that of Henry of Lancaster in 1399. Care was taken to legitimise  his accession and he may well have genuinely believed his grandfather’s patent ( lost until the 1970s) placed him next in line as heir, even without confirmation by the parliamentary type assembly that recognised him as king in September 1399.

As to the future King Edward IV’s legitimacy the videos above give cogent arginine its favour. Had Richard Duke of York believed his wife had been unfaithful he would have been able to seek a dissolution of the marriage. As it was the Duke and Duchess went on to have many other children. That there may have been the odd whispers some years later about archer Braybourne proves very little indeed. 
Absolute blood line primogeniture has never really obtained in this country. Thus King Henry VII’s claim was in part hereditary ( and posssibly implied recognition as heir by the saintly King Henry VI ), in part by right of conquest, in part the promise to marry Elizabeth of York ( but he did not do that until after he was crowned ) and by when he had obtained legal acceptance by Parliament. That act which established him underlies all subsequent monarchs, modified as it was in 1689, 1701 or 1936.

Useful Charts also has a video which looks at the possible consequences if the provisions of the 1543-4 Succession to the Crown Act - set out by Wikipedia at Third Succession Act - and which excluded the Scottish descendants of King Henry VIII’s elder sister Queen Margaret had been followed in 1603. As it was it was discretely forgotten, as had been possible since the convoluted Anglo-Scottish discussions of the early 1560s, which would have then doubtless required a change in the law. As it was the matter was left unsaid and publically unresolved . Had the Henrician Act been followed there would similarly have been no Scottish union, but the throne would have passed to the Seymours, and then via the Percies and Brydges-Chandos family eventually to the present Lady Kinloss or, if the marriage of Lady Catherine Grey to Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford is deemed invalid, through the Cliffords and Stanleys to the present Earl of Jersey.


Chaucer said that April was when the thoughts of his contemporaries turned to pilgrimage …

Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;


Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale fowles maken melodye,


That slepen al the night with open yë,

(So priketh hem nature in hir corages):

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

(And palmers for to seken straunge strondes)

To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;


And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The holy blisful martir for to seke,

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

Text from Project Gutenberg 

Well, as it is now April and we are in Eastertide maybe our thoughts should be turning towards going on pilgrimage. 

The Critic has an interesting article about British attitudes to pilgrimage as an experience and as a means of promoting tourism. It contrasts the rather lacklustre attitude of government here with that in Spain and Portugal. I suppose one obvious explanation is that pilgrimage as a societal norm lost out here due to the reformation, whereas in Catholic Europe it has remained a vital force. That said, as the article shows, the twentieth century revival of pilgrimage to Walsingham has been impressive and Christians other than Catholics do respond to the idea in away that would have not so long ago been unthinkable. In the nineteenth century Catholicsbegan to revive the tradition here of public pilgrimage, but the great Alfred Hope-Patten at Walsingham gave the idea a place in Anglo-Catholic practice which diffused to other parts of the established Church. Historic cathedrals in the Church of England such as St Albans, Hereford, Lincoln and Lichfield have shown themselves increasingly keen in recent years to promote their saints as the objects of devotion. The Church in Wales has also shown similar trends, and there has been the restoration of the abbey-cathedral complex at Iona. New works of art have been commissioned and pilgrims made welcome across much of Great Britain.

The article can be seen at The British pilgrimage problem

I came upon a newspaper article about this year’s Northern Cross walking pilgrimage to Lindisfarne on Good Friday to mark Lent and Easter, which also suggests a willingness to undertake pilgrimage in a tradition that is partly Catholic and partly Evangelical. The report can be read at Pilgrims mark Good Friday with annual trip to Holy Island

Having once stayed on Lindisfarne I can see the appeal is more than just that of it being an historic site - fascinating and stimulating as that is - it is also a prayerful place, where the great Northumbrian saints seem close by and the open sea and sky are conducive to thoughts about the eternal.