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So! (or rather Hwæt!)[1] My dissertation has just been passed, and it’s winging its electronic way to the printer and binder as I type (hat tip: I always use White’s, whenever I do a PhD!). One day, perhaps soon, it will be a book which all of you can read (if you can be bothered… if not, I’ll forgive you. Probably.). But the book won’t be quite the same, and it certainly won’t have quite the same acknowledgements in the front. In reflecting on the journey from thesis to book, it occurred to me that since this version will ultimately be read by few people, very few people will ever see the list of thank-yous that were important enough for me to put in the acknowledgements section. So I’m sharing them with you here, just so that my thanks are on record publicly, and because lots of people out there are awesome, friendly, helpful, wonderful colleagues, and that should be celebrated!

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Henry III’s devotion to St Edward the Confessor is fairly well known. If you haven’t yet read David Carpenter on the topic, if I simply say “Westminster Abbey”, that might be enough to be going on with.[1] What is rather less well known is Henry’s (albeit passing) attention to St Nicholas. Since the Feast of St Nicholas (6th December – not to be confused with the feast of his translation on 9th May) is so closely associated with Christmas these days, I thought it would make an appropriate point of discussion in Advent. This post is based on yet another one of the things in my *large* ‘to-do’ pile: I plead the last throes of thesis drafting… In the mean while, here is a rather preliminary collation of my musing on the matter which I hope to write up more formally and extensively in the reasonably near future.

St Nicholas and the miracle of the golden cup, Bourges, Cathédrale St Etienne. Photo by Gordon Plumb via Flickr.

St Nicholas and the miracle of the golden cup, Bourges, Cathédrale St Etienne. Photo by Gordon Plumb via Flickr.

The evidence of the Close Rolls suggests his release from captivity following the Battle of Evesham (4 August 1264) may have evoked in Henry a brief period of increased devotion to St Nicholas, patron saint of, among other groups, prisoners and the innocent.[2] On 7 September the king promised to pay 50s. annually for masses to be said by a canon of St Margaret’s-without-Marlborough in the chapel of St Nicholas at Marlborough Castle.[3] Just two days later, an order was issued for the restoration of an altarpiece depicting the saint in that chapel,[4] and more substantial renovations were ordered in October.[5] The order for masses to be said at Marlborough seems to have been executed, since a contrabreve on the Liberate Rolls, c. March 1266, authorised the payment of two 25s. installments to the relevant canon to be made annually at Michaelmas and Easter.[6] Masses were still being heard in the chapel in honour of the saint’s feast in 1270, when 1m. was delivered to the clerks of the king’s gift,[7] although by 1271 the payments for masses had fallen into arrears.[8] Also in 1265, perhaps reflecting the new significance of St Nicholas to the king, an order was sent to the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset to “repair and amend without fail out of the issues of the counties” the chapel of St Nicholas at Dorchester along with the house wherein the king’s pleas were held.[9] Read the rest of this entry »

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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Twitter: @KB_Neal

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