The dowry of Our Lady

Comments on an earlier post led me to wonder about the origin of the tradition that England is the dowry of Our Lady. So I did a bit of a hunt, and found that England has been formally consecrated to Our Lady – given to Her as a gift – on several different occasions, most recently by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales in 1893.

The diptych above is a fanciful rendering of one of those occasions. In 1381, Richard II rode out twice to meet with the leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt. Richard was 14, and had been king since he was 10. After the peasants had gone home, Richard consecrated England to Our Lady, and this consecration was recorded in a painting at the English College in Rome, and here on the diptych, which was a portable altar stand, probably used by the King during trips away from London.

Richard wears a brooch showing his symbol (a white stag), and is being presented by three of his favourite saints, each of whom had a chapel in Westminster Abbey during Richard’s reign: Edmund the Martyr (with the arrow that killed him), Edward the Confessor (with the ring he gave to a stranger who turned out to be John the Evangelist), and John the Baptist.

Note the angel carrying the banner of St George; the sphere on top of the pole shows England.

On the back of the diptych are Richard’s white stag and his coat of arms.

The diptych belongs to the National Gallery of London.

Advertisement

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
This entry was posted in Church History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The dowry of Our Lady

  1. kathleen says:

    Beautiful images on this ancient diptych!
    It is possible though that this title goes back further, to even before the Norman invasion. There is a strong connection between the lovely shrine of Walsingham in Norfolk – England’s Nazareth – and the title, ‘Dowry of Mary’.

    “There is a tradition that the title ‘Dowry of Mary’ goes back to Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066). This may well be true, but there is no historical documentation to support it. There is no doubt, however, about the deep devotion to Our Lady that existed in medieval England and the dedication rests on this foundation.”

    http://www.rcsouthwark.co.uk/dowry_walsingham.html

    Like

  2. joyfulpapist says:

    Kathleen, I came across that tradition, too, in my travels. In 1399, Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to his suffragan bishops:

    “The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has drawn all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the first beginnings of our redemption. But we English, being the servants of her special inheritance and her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions.”

    So the title of England as ‘The Dowry of Mary’ was definitely in use by the end of the fourteenth century, but Archbishop Arundel’s letter seems to indicate that at the time of his writing it was already in common use, indicating an earlier origin.

    Certainly the Pynson Ballad (printed in 1460) looks to Walsingham rather than Richard II:

    Walsingham, in thee is built New Nazareth
    Where shall be held in a memorial
    The great joy of my salutation,
    First of my joys, their foundation and origin
    Root of mankind’s gracious redemption,
    When Gabriel gave me this news:
    To be a Mother through humility
    And God’s Son conceive in virginity.

    O England, you have great cause to be glad
    For you are compared to the Promised Land, Zion
    You are called in every realm and region
    The Holy Land, Our Lady’s Dowry.
    In you is built new Nazareth,
    A house to the honor of the Queen of Heaven
    And her most glorious Salutation
    When Gabriel said at Old Nazareth,
    Ave, This same joy shall here be daily and for ever remembered.

    As well as the Walsingham tradition and its link to Edward the Confessor, an image in the Royal Chapel of St Stephen, which had been covered with oak panelling when it was converted into Parliament, shows Edward III and his Queen making the same dedication earlier in the 14th Century. So the dedication has been attributed to at least three reigning monarchs. And why should it not have been all three? And perhaps others as well?

    Like

  3. edmund matyjaszek says:

    There is a deeper conenction between Walsingham and the title of Dowry of Mary. I can send on a recent article in the Catholic Herald that covers this. There are historical grounds for arguing the validity of this title that go to the root of the actual documented origin of “England” as an entity. Send me your e-mails and I can send on the article. Ed Matyjaszek

    Like

  4. Brother Burrito says:

    Edmund,

    Send your info via the dropbox under

    https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/about/

    Like

  5. cherry says:

    Hi – sorry to be a pain but I’ve requested twice how I may contact Edmund Matyjasek with reagrd to his post about the Dowry of Mary on 4th June. Im due to give a talk tothe UCM on this and wanted very much to know how I mayobtani the article Edmund says he worte:edmund matyjaszek says:
    June 4, 2011 at 01:04
    There is a deeper conenction between Walsingham and the title of Dowry of Mary. I can send on a recent article in the Catholic Herald that covers this. There are historical grounds for arguing the validity of this title that go to the root of the actual documented origin of “England” as an entity. Send me your e-mails and I can send on the article. Ed Matyjaszek

    Like

  6. edmund matyjaszek says:

    I need e-mails to send this article on. I was asked to put it in the dopr box and tried but could not find a dropbox. I do not know how it works. If you e-mail ems@emsbase.co.uk I can send them on.
    Edmund Matyjaszek

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s