THIS IS a bumber year for anniversaries, notably perhaps, the half millenium since the Tudor accession in 1485, the year of three kings.
How frustrating, however, that it is so "diffucult to see anything of the fifteenth century (or earlier) domestic way of life anywhere in England today."
So writes Patrick Phillips, QC, in a fascinating introductory article to the latest, and radically revamped, edition of Historic Houses, Castles and Gardens.
The publication of this famous and indispensable annual bumber guide has been transferred, due to group reorganisation, from ABC Historic Publications to a new imprint, British Leisure Publications, based in East Grinstead.
Several changes are immediately noticeable and are very welcome, particularly the new 12-page map section. There is now colour throughout the magazine and the editorial information has been re-set into an easier-to-use two-column format.
After reading what Mr Phillips had to say, I naturally turned to the entry describing his own magnificent Tudor house, Kentwell Hall near Long Melford in Suffolk.
1 was delighted to see that its owner has generously arranged to provide a remedy for the lack of opportunity which he Mentions of getting some true idea of how people lived in the fifteenth century.
From June 23 to July 14 it will be possible to see, at Kentwell, a unique re-creation of Tudor domestic life. This will be open to the public at large on Saturdays and Sundays (from II to 5). It will also be open to school parties on weekdays, but these must be booked in advance.
Kentwell is particularly well adapted for such a re-creation since externally the building has been altered very little since it was built. Its original E-plan and inner courtyard are intact. There will, I understand, be an interesting collection of old farm implements and an exhibition of Tudor style costume.
NOT FAR AWAY is another Tudor gem, Melford Hall, built by a famous Speaker of the Commons who entertained Queen Elizabeth at his house more than once. It is grander but less cosy than Kentwell.
Such efforts to re-create Tudor life are commendable indeed for although my own favourite Tudor mansion is Burghley House near Stamford, the interior was so altered in the seventeenth century that there is little to remind one of its Tudor past.
But its colossal scale and extravagance outwardly evoke the quintessence of the Elizabethan age more than any other private house. It does not, of course, have happy associations for Catholics since it was btsilt by William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley.
A more practical grievance with regard to Burghley House is that though it is stuffed with such great masters as Cranach, Veronese, Correggio and many others, the visitor is likely to be stupified bythese and annoyed by (on last visit) a somewhat tedious guided tour which left out most of such Tudor portions of the house as are still to be seen.
Perhaps a change will occur in this anniversary year.
Haven for Huguenots
ANOTHER anniversary, the three hundredth, is that of the Edict of Nantes' Revocation which unleashed so much persecution on the French Protestants and sent about 40,000 or so Huguenots scurrying across to England.
They made a lasting impact on our home front and way of life as is testified by such names as Plimsoll, Olivier, Coutauld, Garrick, Mallalieu, Chevalier, Bosanquet and even, less obviously, Knight.
Naturally this will be a special year for the Huguenot Society in Britain whose Tercentenary Committee is headed by the attractive and eternally youthful Emma (Lady) Monson whose mother was a Majolicr.
The committee has set up a temporary I luguenot Heritage office in London and has arranged, among other things, a most intriguing exhibition "The Quiet Conquest" — at the Museum of London.
Numerous lectures and guided tours are also, 1 understand, being arranged. To remedy my syoeful ignorance of Huguenot History in this country I must find out more. (Telephone number of the Huguenot Society of London: 01-274 2266).
STILE. ON anniversaries, I fear, but congratulations to Fr Denis Mercer, OSB, of Belmont Abbey who recently celebrated
his 50 years as a priest.
Among the many who flocked to the ceremony marking the event (at Belmont) were numerous "old boys" who had known Fr Denis as their housemaster. His administration of the strap had left no permanent marks, except of the credit variety.
It is true, as many aver, that the disappearance of the strap is not important in itself, but that discipline in many schools has suffered because young people, no longer having anything to "fear," do not respond with equal alacrity to the rather more nebulous demands of "love"?
Fr Denis has, meanwhile, been honoured by being made titular Cathedral Prior of Rochester. The conferring of such honours is a little known historical "remainder," and has sometimes caused misunderstandings. Before the Reformation the English Benedictines formed the Chapters of nine of England's Cathedrals. They had the privileges of a Diocesan Chapter and elected the Bishop. The superior of the Monastic Community was the Cathedral Prior.
In 1633, the Holy See enacted that these titles should be perpetuated. The enactment, in theory, has been carried out, but the Office in question confers no jurisdiction, giving only honour and precedence.
The Cathedrals involved, moreover, are all Anglican. One of them is Peterborough in which a certain Benedictine, long since dead, mistakenly thought he had acquired some jurisdiction by Virtue of being made titular Prior.
His attempt on one occasion to take his "seat" in Chapter was diplomatically explained away on the grounds of eccentricity.
Among prominent members of the English (Catholic) Benedictine Congregation to be made titular Priors of (Anglican) Cathedrals in recent years have been Dorn Bernard Orchard of Ealing (Canterbury), Dom Aelred Graham of Ampleforth (Winchester), Dom Brendan Lavery of Downside (Ely), and Dom Andrew Gibbons of Douai (Gloucester).
HIS YEAR'S Templeton foundation Prize for Progress ill Religion will he awarded — in a celebration at the Guildhall next Tuesday — to Sir Alister Hardy.
1 had the pleasure of meeting the eternally young (88 year old) Sir Mister when lunching last autumn at Manchester College in Oxford, He has devoted much of his life to reconciling Darwinian biology with the spiritual nature of man as a result of a vow he made during the first world war.
He swore that if he survived the war he would devote his energies to this not ignoble task.
As Professor of Zoology at Oxford as of 1925 he used every
opportunity of carrying out hiS promise. He began collecting, from the experiences of individuals, data on spiritual phenomena as affecting everyday life and in 1969 founded the Religious Experiences Research Unit. The Unit continues to flourish and is indeed expanding.
The Templeton Foundation, whose chairman is the Duke of Norfolk, seems yet again to have spotted a worthy recipient for its annual reward.
Get the pitcher?
LAST WEEK I inadvertently referred to the distinguished "new" Jesuit Provincial, Fr George Earle. It was a slip of the pen which must, I think, have been subliminal, caused by subconsciousness that there is a new Superior at Farm Street, Fr Anthony Nye. My apologies, none the less, to all concerned.
Somebody in the office consoled me by saying that it was a ,felix culpa compared to the unfortunate correction made in some copy for the once famous Irish paper the Skibareen Eagle.
Reference to the "new" Bishop was questioned by the editor on the groturids that His Lordship had been around for some four years. The sub-editor duly changed the word from "new" to "old."
Word-users in general will meanwhile be pleased to know that a brand new edition of Chambers Concise 20th Century Dictionary is about to be published at only £7.50. It has been revised in accordance with the language of the 1980's with interesting notes on American English.
It is not, I think, (or is it?) my imagination that our daily language has become rapidly more Americanised of late. More and more people say something has not happened "in" (rather than "for") many years. A house is now "on" rather than "in" such-and-such a street. And "skedule" seems to have come to stay.
Why don't we go the whole hog and use such words as "pitcher" instead of "jug," and "gotten" instead of "got"? At least we would be going back to the Elizabethan English which our forebears took with them to the new world.