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.