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, 19 June 2017

Corpus Christi in Oxford

Yesterday was the Corpus Christi Procession here in Oxford and this is the account on the Oxford Oratory website, to which I have added a few extra words of commentary:

O Sacrament Most Holy!


Many hundreds braved the sweltering heat yesterday to walk through the streets of Oxford with our Eucharistic Lord. For the first time we were able to close streets to traffic along the way, by the courtesy of Oxford City Council, and this made for a smooth procession and an excellent witness.

The Blessed Sacrament is exposed:


The Blessed Sacrament is taken from the Oratory:


Parishioners'gardens provided petals to strew along the Processional route:



The Procession heads along St Giles':



The canopy bearers were from the Conventual Franciscans house in Oxford

The Witney Town Band performed valiantly and rousingly a selection of marches and hymns to the Blessed Sacrament:


At Blackfriars, where Fr Robert Ombres O.P. preached:


The Gospel is read:




The Procession leaving Blackfriars:


This year the Procession was, as the website mentions, very effecively re-routed round the churchyard of St Mary Magdalene's church and past the Oxford Martyrs Memorial, erected to commemorate Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley in 1841 as a riposte to the Oxford Movement... :


Archbishop Cranmer doesn't appear to approve. The Clever Boy will add that in 1555 Cranmer, together with Latimer and Ridley, were brought out from their prison to watch the Corpus Christi Procession that year and definitely did not approve - one of the bishops dived into a shop doorway to avoid the spectacle... :


In Magdalen Street:



The corner of Balliol is the site of the Catherine Wheel Inn where the four Oxford Catholic Martyrs of 1589 were arrested:



St Michael's Street, passing the Oxford Union:




New Inn Hall Street:


St Ebbe's:



Benediction was given in the Newman Rooms at the University Chaplaincy:

Fr Daniel gives Benediction:


At last, tea!


Images: Oxford Oratory website

As always this was a splendid witness to our belief in the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lord's Presence amongst us, and I was delighted once again to be a participant.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Memories of Imperial Russia in Oxford

The website Royal Central has the following post today which has a special resonance for those of us who live in Oxford:

An Oxford House and Imperial Russia

by Elizabeth Jane Timms

A building in a suburb of Oxford has a remarkably unique history. At first glance, it could be yet another late-Victorian townhouse, although the presence of its distinctive blue double-doors suggests something more unusual. Although now split up into apartments, the building hints at having once been something else, despite having been flats for over 30 years. The building replaced the apothecary and almshouses of the Cutler Boulter Charity on St Clement’s Road. It remained the main dispensary for this East Oxford suburb until 1948 and is, therefore, historically significant to the area. The building had incidentally also been the main A.R.P telephone station for Oxfordshire until 1945. Several years after this, it attracted the interest of the person with whom it is now most closely associated.

Charles Sydney Gibbes with Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna 
Image: Romanov family Flickr / Wikimedia
Charles Sydney Gibbes, who became a well-recognised figure in Oxford, was originally from Yorkshire and educated at St John’s College, Cambridge. Gibbes initially went to Russia to teach English to the aristocracy but was later summoned to the Russian Imperial Court to be considered as tutor to the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. In 1913, Gibbes became English tutor to the nine-year-old Tsarevich Alexei, the heir-apparent to the throne.
Following the Tsar’s abdication on 2/15 March 1917, the Imperial Family was detained under the Provisional Government, interned as prisoners within their residence of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar’s Village) outside St. Petersburg. Initially, the Imperial Family was moved to the 'Governor's House' at Tobolsk in Siberia, but in April 1918, orders were issued to move the Tsar and his family again, this time to Ekaterinburg. The Imperial Family was housed at the Ipatiev House (also dubbed the House of Special Purpose) where on the night of 16/17 July 1918, the entire family - together with their faithful retainers, the maid Anna Demidova and the former court physician Dr Botkin - were shot in the cellar of the house by Bolsheviks. Gibbes had not been allowed contact with the Imperial Family and was only able to enter the Ipatiev House later, following the murder, in the subsequent period when Ekaterinburg was briefly under the control of the White Army.
Gibbes returned to England and enrolled in an ordination course at St Stephen’s House in 1928; although, he subsequently decided against a career in the Anglican Church. On his return to Harbin, he was received into the Russian Orthodox Church as a tonsured monk, taking as his new name Father Nicholas, after the murdered Tsar Nicholas II. Gibbes again returned to England, moving to Oxford in 1941, where he established an Orthodox congregation in the medieval chapel at Bartlemas, which borders the recreation grounds of Oriel, Jesus and Lincoln Colleges. It was after the end of the Second World War when Gibbes found himself looking for somewhere permanent to settle that he came across the building in Oxford.
Father Nicholas purchased the house in 1949 and converted one ground-floor room of the house into a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker, where the Russian Imperial Family was mentioned in the services which were celebrated there. It was within this chapel that Gibbes displayed many of the relics which he had preserved and carried with him across the world. Most poignantly perhaps, was the chandelier of red and white glass tulips which hung originally in the ‘House of Special Purpose’ at Ekaterinburg, which Gibbes had salvaged. Among the icons hung in the chapel were those which had been personally given to Gibbes by the Imperial Family or were those rescued from the dustbins and stoves of the ‘House of Special Purpose.’
Elsewhere, Gibbes carefully preserved his other relics of the Imperial Family, which included a handkerchief, pencil-case and bell owned by the Tsarevich Alexei. There was also a pair of Tsar Nicholas II’s felt boots which were kept near the altar. Gibbes established a library behind the chapel, which contained some exercise books of his Imperial pupils Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia, as well as some of his photographs. Other items included a coat-of-arms from the imperial yacht Standart and a collection of sleigh bells.
The house was subsequently split into flats, and the chapel that held such poignant relics of the Imperial Family was also turned into a flat. Nothing remains of Gibbes's time there. Much of his collection was sold to the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo where a memorial chapel was made to house them, consecrated by Archbishop Anthony of Sourozh. When Luton Hoo became a luxury hotel, the Wernher Collection moved to Greenwich and was managed by English Heritage. The Gibbes collection, however, is now in private hands.
The house was successfully nominated as a heritage asset in 2015. It is also a building of spiritual importance regarding the history of Oxford’s Orthodox communities, as the Russian Orthodox Chapel in Oxford was only established much later and not within Gibbes’s lifetime. Appropriately enough, the chapel today contains an engraving of Gibbes in its main entrance hall, showing him as the white-bearded figure in black that he had familiarly become in 1950s Oxford. Fittingly, the chapel contains also icons of the Russian Imperial Family in its window niches, who were finally recognised - following much debate - as Passion Bearers by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000.
Gibbes died aged 87 in 1963 and is buried in Headington Cemetery, his gravestone bearing the three staves of the Russian Orthodox Cross. In 2013, a memorial service took place at Headington Cemetery to mark his 137th birthday, attended by the Russian Orthodox Community. The service took place in deep snow; ironically enough, it was a scene that fittingly could have occurred in Russia.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ember Saturday after Pentecost

This morning I attended the traditional Mass for the Ember Saturday following Pentecost at Holy Rood here in Oxford. This had been sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr Daniel Lloyd from the Ordinariate who is now parish priest of Holy Rood, and it was good to be able to attend so ancient a part of the liturgy in a modern church and celebrated by a young priest.

The texts for the Mass can be read in translation from Deacon John Giglio's blog here.

Afterwards a group of us, including the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society and his family, went off for a convivial pub lunch together at the Head of the River by Folly Bridge.

Dr Shaw has subsequently posted on his website pictures of the Mass with comments about the celebration of the traditional Rite in a modern church - Holy Rood was built during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII. His post can be viewed  here

The sharp-eyed amongst my readers may spot amongst the photos the Clever Boy who is sporting a sling to support his right forearm. This problem, some rheumatic condition related to gout, is on the mend, though the sling is something of a handicap ( no pun intended, but unintentionally appropriate...)

Friday, 9 June 2017

The morning after the night before

Today I suppose we are suffering a National collective political hangover.

I took myself off to bed and lsitened to  the results being declared on the radio. Once the pattern, or rather, patterns started to emerge it became quite predicable.

I rapidly realised that I was not that surprised at what has happened. The one thing that gsave genuine pleasur was the resurgance of the pro-Union vote in Scotland and the sense that maybe - maybe - a corner has been turned there.

Otherwise I felt this was the verdict of the electorate on an unnecessary election, one that witnessd areturn to the two-party dominance we have tended to be used to, but without giving a clear result. Frankly it is a mess - Mrs May has only herself to blame for the biggest electoral miscalculation inliving memory, and Labour has got itself into the conundrum of gaining seats but with a leader whom many clearly perceive as unelectable. The Conservatives have their best result in terms of the popular vote for over twenty years, yet lack a Parliamentary majority. The Liberals continue to pay the price for supporting the Conservative-led Coalition from 2010. The distrust of established political parties and politicians by electorates across the western world has claimed more scalps, yet the politicians appear unable to address that dissatisfaction. Those who do, like Mr Corbyn clearly has to some extent during the campaign, nonetheless have that dangerous popularist appeal that bodes ill.

In the words of Oliver Hardy "Another fine mess you've got us into."

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Coronation of Francis Joseph as King of Hungary in 1867

On June 8th 1867 there took place the coronation in Budapest of Francis Joseph as King of Hungary.

This followed upon the negotiation of the Ausgleich which created the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and re-configured relationships within the Habsburg empire. The background to this settlement and its details can be read here. There is a fuller account with several maps here

Like all compromises the Ausgleich can be viewed in different ways. It brought stability to the Habsburg Empire, but entrenched Magyar authority over the whole realm of Hungary. Whereas before a single central authority in Vienna could balance - or play off against one another - the various minorities now power lay firmly over the Kingdom in Budapest with the Magyar elite. The possibility of a genuinely federal union based on historic and linguistic or ethnic divisions was pushed into the background. The Austrian half of the empire developed along more modern lines whilst it might well be argued than the Hungarian kingdom which retained a landowning agricultural model. However that agricultural base fed the whole empire so all did reasonably well.

The prosperity of post-1867 Budapest is obvious from the expansion and development of the capital city and its acquisition in these years of expansive and impressive public buildings on each bank of the Danube, including the restoration of the coronation church, the extension to the Royal Palace and most strikingly the enormous Parliament building with its inherent celebration of the realm's historic constitution.

Relations between the two realms were not always smooth and the Hungarian government acted as a brake on Austrian ideas of siding with France in 1870.

By the early twentieth century nationalist pressure groups were stirring - though how much and to what effect can be debated - and a feeling amongst some, notably Archduke Franz Ferdinand - that the Hungarians ought to be brought into line for the wider good of the Habsburg monarchy, meant that trouble was potentially brewing once the Emperor-King Francis Joseph died. having helped put the Dual Monarchy in place the Emperor-King refused to consider amending a project to which he had sworn.Events, of course, conspired to prevent the Archduke from trying to reconfigure it, and it was still in place when King Charles IV was crowned in 1916.

The history of the ceremonial and its significance within the historic Hungarian constituion can be read at Coronation of the Hungarian monarch

 Empress Elisabeth, Part IV

  The coronation of the King by the Prince Primate Archbishop of Esztergom and Count Andrassy

  Image: Pinterest/forum.aleaxanderpalace.org

 Koronázás Budán.jpg

A contemporary print by V.Katzler

The Hungarian King of Arms can be seen in the centre with his tabard and plumed hat.Behind the King and Andrassy is an Eastern-Rite bishop. Queen Elisabeth is on the left


File:Kollarz Ferenc I. Ferenc józsef magyar király megkoronázása a budavári plébánia-templomában, junius 8-án 1867.jpg 

A contemporary engraving of the Coronation 

Eastern-Rite bishops can again be seen in the right foreground. The Archbishop of Esztergom is shown here wearing achasuble rather than a cope as in the preceding and subsequent images


 1867. június 8 Ferenc József koronázása.jpg

  A later painting of the Coronation

Image: Wikimedia


 The King ceremonially flourishes the sword in defence of the realm

 Image: Look and Learn from the Illustrtaed London News June 29 1867


Elisabeth met Graaf Andrassy tijdens de kroning als koningin van Hongarije 

Traditionally the Queen of Hungary is touched upon the right shoulder with the Holy Crown as part of her Coronation

Image: Pinterest


The King and Queen receive the acclamation of their people

Image: Wikipedia 

Image result for Francis Joseph coronation 1867 Elisabeth

Queen Elisabeth on the day of the Coronation

Image: Pinterest

The following piece by Stephan Gruber is taken from the website The World of the Habsburgs ( Die Habsburger.net):
His spelling still not entirely reliable, the nine-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf gave an account in his school exercise book of the coronation ceremony held in St Matthias’ Cathedral in Budapest. Here, on 8 June 1867, using the Crown of St Stephen, Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary by Hungarian Prime Minister Count Andrássy and the Primate of the Catholic church:

"In the church there were many magnates and officers, then the music started and the Primate and many Catholic and Greek bishops and very many other priests. Then came Papa and Mama. Mama sat down on a kind of throne, and Papa went to the altar, where a lot of Latin was read out … Afterwards, the drums resounded and Andrássy and the Primate put the crown on Papa’s head. Then the imperial orb and sceptre were placed in Papa’s hands.“

As a result of defeats in Italy in 1859 and against Prussia in 1866, Franz Joseph’s position within the Monarchy had been considerably weakened. This forced the Emperor into a hasty compromise with the representatives of Hungary, something his wife Elisabeth had also strongly favoured. In 1867, Franz Joseph agreed to the Compromise plan, which required the restoration of traditional rights and Hungary’s independence, and which reinstated the old Hungarian constitution dating back to the period before the 1848 Revolution. In personal union, Franz Joseph was now simultaneously King of Hungary and Emperor of Austria, but through the Compromise, the two halves of the Empire were two formally independent states of equal status.

As a coronation gift, the royal couple were given the Baroque palace of Gödöllö. The Swiss envoy did not experience the ceremony in quite the same manner as the young Rudolf, finding it no longer contemporary in all its pageantry: ‘Despite its pomp and veritable magnificence, yet the entire procession gave the detached observer somewhat the impression of a carnival masquerade … This vestige from the Middle Ages simply does not fit with our times.’ The envoy moreover noted the irony of Franz Joseph being crowned by Count Andrássy:

"It gives an extremely strange impression to see the manner in which the man whose death sentence Emperor Franz Joseph had signed in 1849 and whose name was nailed to the gallows in Pest, now, eighteen years later, places the crown on the head of the monarch whose highest confidence he today enjoys.“

The Oath taking ceremony
A photograph that has been enhanced by engraving

Image: Wikiwand


The King taking the Oath

Image: Alamy

File:Krönung Franz Joseph zum König von Ungarn 1867.jpg

The King rides up the Coronation Hill

Image: Wikimedia

Image result for Coronation of Francis Joseph 1867

King Francis Joseph on horseback again flourishes his sword in sign of defending the realm from the Coronation Hill

Image: Die Welt der Habsburger

Commemorating the coronation of Hungary. Real couple Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary.

Statues in the Hungarian Parliament commemorating the Coronation of 1867


All in all a veery impressive day and one which marked and symbolised a significant development in Habsburg and Hungarian history.


St William of York

Today is the feast of St William of York.

William Fitzherbert who died in 1154 had a somewhat chequered career trying to hold on to the See of York, and according to some traditions died as a result of a poisoned chalice. There is an account of his life at William of York

Today Gordon Plumb, who is a superb photographer of medieval stained glass and generous in making his work available, posted a link on the Medieval Religion discussion group to an album containing images of all the main light panels in the St William window in York Minster. The window which lights the north-east choir transept, and with that dedicated to St Cuthbert opposite, flanks the original site of the High Altar in the Minster - the altar was moved a bay east in the eighteenth century and now occupies what before the sixteenth century removal of the freretory was the shrine chapel of St William. The window, which shows scenes from his life and of his posthumous miracles, was the gift of the baronial family of Roos of Helmsley Castle - who feature in the donor panels at the base of the window.

The album can be viewed here.

Battle of Medway 1667

The BBC News website has a post about the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway in 1667. This raid by the Dutch on Chatham was a humiliation for the English government.

The article, which is illustrated with contemporary illustrations of the fighting and also of the remains of the stern of King Charles II's yacht the Royal Charles which was captured by the Dutch can be seen at Battle of Medway: The English defeat that's largely forgotten

The Battle of Medway
A painting in the Rijksmuseum

Image: Rijksmuseum and BBC

The BBC article has a very useful link to the website of  The Historic Dockyard Chatham - Battle of Medway which gives additional information about the events of that week in early June 1667.

The commemorations of the battle this year include a visit from Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau, van Vollenhoven, Prince of the Netherlands, who is a first cousin of the King of the Netherlands.

General Election

Well, this morning I have gone and done my duty and voted in the General Election.

It has been the most sterile and depressing election I can recall, with bad temper and cheap jibes abounding, and interrupted by terrorist violence  - which remind sus all of what the real issues are.

We shall have to see what the results bring overnight but I continue to feel this has been an unnecessary campaign and one which from the government side has been badly managed and presented.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Oliver Cromwell's bones

Looking at the latest mailing from Quora I found by chance the following piece posted in answer to a question as to current British attitudes to Oliver Cromwell. It is from Robert Frost, who works for NASA and describes himself as an Archaeology student. Here is what he says:
"Oliver Cromwell was buried and then later dug up to be posthumously executed and desecrated. Most of his body was then thrown in a pit and his head became a collector’s item.

It has been the dream, since the age of six, for this Brit, to find his bones and desecrate them again by urinating all over them. Cromwell and his Parliamentarians were responsible for destroying many beautiful castles, including the one in my home town. I’ve always despised him for that."

I think it's good and reassuring to know there are people like that out there...

And yes, Cromwell was in part responsible for the destruction of the castle in my home town of Pontefract.


Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Order of the British Empire

Today is the centenary of the foundation by King George V on June 4 1917 of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Last month the College of Arms web newsletter had an article about the Order and its insignia which the College introduced follows:

Dr Lynsey Darby, College of Arms Archivist, periodically creates online exhibitions from the College archives, which give a good overview of some of the kinds of archival material held here. The most recent addition is an exhibition on The Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Companions of Honour, to mark the centenary of their foundations, which includes a look at a predecessor Hanoverian order, the Royal Guelphic Order.

I adpted her material about the Royal Guelphic Order to produce a separate post last month, but that material can be seen again in Dr Darby's post.

There is another useful illustrated online introduction to the Order from Wikipedia at Order of the British Empire

Both accounts draw attention to that fact that women were admitted alongside men to the Order, but the use of the style of Dame has an older precedent. During the Civil War King Charles I createdat least one lady baronet, Mary Bolles from the West Riding of Yorkshire, and she was thereafter known as Dame Mary Bolles.

It might also be suggested that the Order had a precedent in the The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, founded in 1878 and reorganised in 1887. This had a similar title, not totally disimilar insignia and the riband was similar in colour to that assigned in 1917, but changed in 1937 for the Order of the British Empire. Both had a similar type of recipient. There is more about that Order at Order of the Indian Empire

Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Girls of Great Britain Tiara 

H.M.The Queen in the her robes as Sovereign of the Order of the British Empire


The present distinctive rose-pink and grey robes and riband were introduced at the suggestion of Queen Mary who became Grand Master of the Order in 1936 as well as the conjoint portraits of King George V and herself rather than the figure of Britannia on the original insignia.


Thursday, 1 June 2017



All three Limbourg brothers, Jean, Paul and Herman, are believed to have had a hand in producing this page, as well as, possibly, Jean Colombe, the artist who continued the work on the Book of Hours in the years 1485-89.

Here, as in the May page, is a depiction of a royal residence in central Paris but it is shown with a rural scene of hay making in the foreground. Once again the image is idyllic - in contrast to the often violent urban life of Paris in these years.

 The buildings are the the Palais de la Cité with the Sainte Chapelle, built by St Louis, which is clearly identifiable on the right. In addition to the Chapel considerable  parts of the other buildings still survive. This was the seat of much of the royal administration of Capetian and Valois France, although the King had largely given it up as a royal residence by this date in favour of the Louvre or other palaces.

It was in and around the court that the factions developed which undermined the Valois monarchy in these years. King Charles VI was a sufferer from bouts of mental illness, and his male relatives, notably his brother the Duke of Orleans, and, after his murder in 1407, his son, and the King's cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, vied for power and influence. The Duke of Berry, as an older member of the family, was one who may be seen as seeking to stabilise an increasingly unstable political situation, but he had died on June 15th 1416 and was no longer able to influence events. Into that situation in the summer of 1417 stepped King Henry V and his invasion army.