College of St George Archives Blog

College of St George Archives

The 670th anniversary of the Battle of Crécy

August 26th, 2016

670 years ago today, on 26 August 1346, one of the most significant victories in English military history took place – the Battle of Crécy – where, against the odds, Edward III’s army defeated the forces of Philip VI of France. The battle formed part of the long running dispute between England and France, later known as the Hundred Years War, which had been instigated by the founder of St George’s College, Edward III, to assert his claim to the French throne. Following the victory, the English forces were able to capture the strategically advantageous city of Calais from their weakened opponents within a year.

Despite its importance to Edward III’s campaign, not many reports have survived from Crécy. The fullest and most contemporary account now known was produced by an Italian, Giovanni Villani, sometime before 1348.(1) Edward III is reported to have chosen a stand at Crécy to confront the French army who were pursuing him. Villani states that while the French had 12,000 knights and almost numberless men at arms, the English had just 4,000 knights and 30,000 English and Welsh bowmen. These numbers are almost certainly greatly exaggerated, but they do give an idea of the relative sizes of the two armies. The English king used his position and small numbers to the best possible advantage, ordering that the carts carrying their provisions should be arranged to protect the English forces and leave only a small area in which the troops could engage. Combined with the (in)famous longbows, this strategy rendered large parts of the French army useless: their hired Genoese crossbowmen did not have enough range to out-shoot the English while armoured and horsed French knights could be brought down from a distance, thereafter becoming obstacles for their own men. Such tactics were considered ‘un-knightly’ by the French and much scorned by their chroniclers.

One of several theories about Edward III’s reasons for founding the chivalric company, later known as the Order of the Garter, in 1348, was to reward those who had served him well in France and to secure their future loyalty. Of the twenty five men usually considered ‘Founder Knights’ of the Garter, well over half had been present that day at Crécy and many of them also at the successful siege of Calais which followed.

Notable among these was Edward III’s eldest son, ‘the Black Prince’, who at just sixteen years old commanded one of the three divisions of the English troops. He was supported in this by Sir Bartholomew Burghersh, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Sir John Chandos, who would all become Founder Knights. Meanwhile, Sir James Audley, Sir Reginald Cobham, Sir John Lisle, Sir John Grey and Sir John Beauchamp fought in the king’s retinue, Beauchamp carrying the Royal Standard.

However, not all those gave distinguished service at Crécy, and other battles in the Hundred Years War, were chosen as ‘Founder Knights’. Some were appointed later in the 1340s and 1350s, notably Sir William FitzWaryn, Earl of Northampton, William de Bohun and Sir Thomas Ughtred. Meanwhile, Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel, who had been given command of one of the three divisions of the English army at Crécy, never rose to the distinction of Garter Knight, although he lived for nearly thirty years after the company had come into being. The early development of the Order of the Garter is lost in obscurity and this apparent omission, along with many other details, may never be fully understood.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

(1) A detailed analysis of this and other accounts can be found in Barber, R., Edward III and the Triumph of England (London, 2013).

Letters to Mother

August 15th, 2016

Philip Frank Eliot was appointed a Canon of Windsor in 1886. Prior to this he had been Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bournemouth. For five years he continued to hold the parish in plurality with his canonry at St George’s and during that time he is said to have spent more time in Bournemouth than in Windsor. This was not unusual behaviour for a canon in the nineteenth century, nevertheless, Eliot’s promotion to Dean in 1891 caused something of a stir amongst his colleagues and was thought largely to have been due to his wife’s position in the Queen’s household – Mary Emma Pitt Rivers had been Queen Victoria’s Maid of Honour from 1870 until her marriage to Eliot in 1883.

The Eliot family’s favour with Queen Victoria and the Royal Family is made clear in letters to and from Philip Eliot that survive in the St George’s Chapel Archives. Prominent among these are the letters that he wrote to his mother, describing in detail the services and social occasions which provided the opportunity for interaction with the Royal Family.

This letter to Mrs Eliot was written not long after her son’s appointment as Dean of Windsor and hints at his difficulties adjusting to his recent elevation.

5 February, 1891: On Tuesday afternoon we got a telegram from Osborne saying that the Queen wished us to go to dine at Osborne on Wednesday and to stay the night. … Dinner was at quarter to nine. Mary had to dress in black as the court is in mourning – and she looked as nice as could be. The Queen came into the drawing-room for a moment before dinner, and kissed Mary and bowed to me. At dinner there were: Princess Louise – Princess Beatrice – the Duchess of Connaught – the Duchess of Albany – the Duke of Connaught – Prince Henry of Battenburg and two or three of the household. I sat next to Princess Beatrice on one side and Lady Waterpark on the other. The dinner was very lively and there was a good deal of conversation. I said “Grace” right this time!

Princess Beatrice talked a good deal to me especially about our going to Windsor. After dinner the Queen first talked to Mary and then came to me. – Nothing could be nicer and kinder than she was, and when I had got over my little speech of thanks “for her kindness and confidence” in appointing me to the Deanery, I did not feel at all nervous, and talked to her for nearly half an hour. [SGC M.885/3]

Only a few months later, Dean Eliot was able to report on the wedding of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig Holstein:

8 July, 1891: As for the Wedding on Monday, it was magnificent as a scene. You must imagine the whole of St George’s filled from end to end with men in magnificent uniforms and ladies in magnificent dresses.

All the ladies who were invited guests were in low dresses. My lady looking as well as any of them.

The Archbishop and I walked side by side at the end of the clerical procession; two boys in surplices holding up the Archbishop’s long red train behind him. The Queen and the German Emperor and Empress and all the other Royalties were on a platform just outside the Communion Rails. …

The Service itself was very reverent and impressive and the music quite perfect. Immediately afterwards I had to go up to the Castle with the Register Books and was ushered into a Room where all the Royal people were, and had to show the Queen and the German Emperor and Empress and all the others where to sign their names.

There was a great fuss for a time about the Archbishop – as he had gone astray and could not be found. The Queen got quite impatient and sent 3 messengers for him before he could be found. [SGC M.885/4]

Later, as the bride and groom left, Eliot tells that the German Emperor “ran after the carriage like a school-boy and threw an old shoe at it!”

Dean Eliot’s confidence can be seen to grow over the years he spends as dean and he is able to report to his mother occasions when he has made The Queen laugh, or provided comfort to a member of the Royal Family in distress. His children were also allowed to take dancing lessons with some of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, and this is a cause of great excitement for the family. The collection of Eliot’s correspondence also includes a number of letters to and from the Royal Family, including Queen Victoria herself. Although always formally expressed, these letters are evidence of the friendly connection between Eliot and the Royals.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

A king five years ahead of schedule?

July 18th, 2016

On my third day of work experience at the College of St George’s archives on a two-week attachment, I was asked to catalogue the digital photographs which record the various sections of the ‘Tables’ of the Knights of the Garter, which hang in the Deanery at St George’s Chapel.

The ‘Tables’ are large hinged panels displaying the coats of arms of every individual appointed to the Order of the Garter since its foundation, arranged according to the reign during which they were appointed. They were moved from the main part of the Deanery to a room known as Mr Dean’s Upper Hall (later the library) in the 1920s by Dean Albert Victor Baillie, who feared their former position left them vulnerable to damage or theft.

Testing carried out on the paint and woodwork of the panels in the early 2000s suggests that these panels date from the seventeenth century, and indeed the central decorative panel is painted with the initials CR, presumably for Charles Rex, one of the two Charleses to reign during that century. There is strong documentary evidence that panels similar to these existed as early as 1400, but what became of those is unknown.

While examining the photographs, I noticed in one image from the collection an inscription which caused me something of a conundrum. I understood that it related to Edward III – Edwardus tertius – but some of the numbers did not add up.

The inscription surrounding Edward III’s coat of arms appeared to read ‘Began to Reigne Jan ye 25. In 1322 And He Reigned 1 years & 5 mon.’ This was very suspicious as the reign of Edward III is well documented as having begun on 25 January 1327, when he was crowned at the age of fourteen after his father was deposed by the Queen and the Earl of March. He reigned for a little over fifty years before dying in June 1377.

Fortunately, closer examination of the photograph showed one perceived mistake was just a mis-reading on my part. The painter had mixed Arabic numbers and Roman numerals and what had looked at first glance like a 1 was in fact an L – the Roman numeral for fifty.

Even so, Edward III’s date of coronation has indisputably been painted on the panel as 25 January 1322, when we know that it was 1327. Surely there was a reason why?

There was no answer to this question – it seems that the painter had simply included the wrong date. It leads to an interesting thought on how even those employed by the highest in society to work on material relating to kings and queens can make slips of the pen – or paintbrush – and how one must always keep an open mind when looking at any historical evidence.

Stuart Hemsley, work experience student, St George’s Chapel Archives

Life of a chorister

June 15th, 2016

In January 1901 James Douglas, former chorister in the St George’s Chapel choir, wrote an account for his daughter of the years he had spent at Windsor, from 1847. Over a century later, their descendants gifted a copy of this account to the St George’s Chapel Archives [SGC M.1061]. It provides a fascinating account of life in St George’s College at that time through the eyes of a young boy who was “always sent out spick and span” by his mother and whose grandparents and aunts granted him “many indulgences”.

James tells how he and his fellow choristers were remunerated for singing in the Chapel with 18s a month and their schooling. For the occasional singing they did at Eton, however, each boy was paid with a 1lb loaf, 1lb of meat and one quart of beer for the day. At this time James was only ten years old.

Many of his recollections seem to be connected with food; buying freshly-baked ½d sausage rolls from a shop in Windsor; being treated to a large bowl of “strawberry mess” (strawberries beaten up with sugar and cream) by a kindly Etonian; visiting the Deanery each year on stir-up Sunday (traditionally the last Sunday before Advent, when Christmas pudding is made) and being given a mince pie “about the size of a large cheese plate”.

Of the pass-times of the choristers, who spent most of their days between 7am and 5pm in a mixture of school-work, singing in the Chapel and practising and learning to sing, James says that they mostly played marbles and went fishing. He attributes these choices to there being no cricket ground for them to use, a fact that he seems to regret. The choristers also took an unusual interest in candle-wax – James reports that they often “watched the candles more than thinking of the service that was going on” – because they could collect the drippings from them and, when they had enough, sell the old wax. Accordingly, they looked forward to draughty nights and James reports that some of them secretly wedged their candles with small pieces of paper so they would tilt slightly and drip more frequently.

The memoir also gives accounts of some of the men living and working in St George’s Chapel at the time. Notable amongst these is Sir George Elvey, then organist and master of the choristers, whom the boys liked very much because he very rarely punished them. Nevertheless, he was known to use a paper knife to hold their tongues down if they were not opening their mouths properly when singing. He also boxed the ears of any boy who sang carelessly or out of tune in a Chapel service – James recalls that this usually seemed to happen in the afternoon services and never in the morning. Other colourful characters include a rather lazy lay clerk, described as “one of the biggest men I ever saw”, who paid James 6d a month to hang his hat upon its peg and hand him his surplice; a virger with a fondness for long words but little idea of when best to use them; and a devoted member of the congregation, who could repeat any verse of the Bible correctly and would call out to any canon who made a mistake in the collect or readings during a service, “you’re wrong!”

James Douglas remained a singer throughout his adult life but, despite a glowing testimonial from Sir George Elvey and his own childhood habit of making a wish every time he tasted a fruit or vegetable for the first time in a season, he never made it into a Cathedral Choir as an adult. He ends his recollections of Windsor by saying they were “happy, very happy days, such days as few boys are privileged to have, and tho’ my life has not been at all what it should have been, yet the influence of those days has I think often helped me strive against evil.”

Kate McQuillian (Assistant Archivist)

Peter Mews: a warrior priest in interesting times

May 15th, 2016

Few of Windsor’s many canons are likely to have heard the sound of cannon fired in anger. One who certainly did was the “Christian soldier” Peter Mews, who held the canonry of the 7th stall from 1662 to 1673, and later became bishop of Bath and Wells, and finally bishop of Winchester.

Peter Mews was born in the tiny Dorset village of Purse Caundle (some four miles east of Sherborne) in 1619, to Elisha Mews and his wife Elizabeth. With the help of his uncle, Dr Thomas Winniffe (who was dean of St Paul’s), he was able to attend Merchant Taylors’ School in London, and from there proceeded to St John’s College, Oxford, where he was elected a fellow in 1641. An academic career seemed to beckon, but by this time England was in a state of mounting crisis with the king and parliament moving towards open conflict. After the civil war began in August 1642, he joined the king’s army, rising to the rank of captain. Several times he was wounded, and at the battle of Naseby in June 1645, he was taken prisoner. After the war, he was ejected from his fellowship at St John’s College.

During the years of the Commonwealth (1653-60), Mews was in exile in the United Provinces. Initially, he planned to return to academic life and had his eye on the professorship of philosophy at Breda. This came to nothing however and so he spent most of the seven years involved in royalist plotting on behalf of the court in exile. This entailed acting as a messenger or liaison officer, and several times his life was in danger. Altogether it was not an easy time for him, and he suffered from the backbiting and intrigue which dogged the exiled royal court. It is not clear when he was ordained, but as he was known as Captain Mews during the years of exile, it seems unlikely he was then a clergyman.

Once Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, his fortunes looked up. He was installed archdeacon of Huntingdon in 1660 and over the next decade acquired a string of church appointments, culminating in the deanery of Rochester in 1670. Preferment in the academic world came his way too. In 1667 he succeeded to the presidency of St John’s College, (having married the previous president’s daughter a few years before) and from 1669 to 1673 was chancellor of Oxford University. As a churchman, he was fierce in his persecution of dissenters, whom he described in almost quasi-military terms, as if he was continuing to fight the civil war by other means.

When he was consecrated bishop of Winchester in 1684, he was sixty-five years old and his days of military activity must have seemed long past. Events were to dictate otherwise. In 1685, James II (whom he strongly supported) succeeded his brother, and within months faced a serious challenge from James, duke of Monmouth. Seeing a chance to relive his military youth, Bishop Mews hurried down to the west country to join the royal camp at Sedgemoor and took part in the battle on 6 July, in which Monmouth’s men were routed. His exact role in the battle is not clear, but he lent some horses which were used to pull cannon and he was wounded, which suggests close engagement with the rebels. The king gave him a medal in recognition of his contribution to the victory. Despite his views on dissent, he urged clemency for the rebels, but to no avail. Following the Bloody Assizes presided over by Judge George Jeffreys, many were executed by drawing and quartering.

Three years later, James II’s rule was crumbling. Bishop Mews did what he could to save his royal master, but at times seemed to do more harm than good. After James’s overthrow, he conformed to the revolution, but in parliament he voted against the transfer of the crown to William and Mary.
He remained bishop of Winchester, but his effectiveness in his diocese was much reduced. His death, at the ripe age of 87, occurred at his palace, Farnham Castle, on 9 November 1706, following a dose of incorrect medicine. It was a sad end to a sometimes colourful life, shaped by the turbulence of interesting times.

Simon Harrison, Archives volunteer

Researching medieval Garter robes

April 25th, 2016

To mark St George’s Day on Saturday, research project The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Royal Wardrobe Accounts published an article about the Order of the Garter. The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing is a project designed to encourage school-children, students and interested members of the public to engage with Britain’s medieval past, its language, manuscripts, and the clothing worn at the time.

An interview has also been published between Dr Charles Farris, project researcher, and Dr Euan Roger, who recently completed his PhD on the College of St George in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The interview was filmed in the St George’s Chapel Archives, where Dr Farris and Dr Roger were also able to inspect the sixteenth-century depiction of Garter Robes in the Black Book of the Garter.

The article can be read here. To watch the interview please click here.

It’s not business, it’s strictly personal

April 15th, 2016
More on the personal seals in the Archives.

Following a blog published in July 2015, this is a more detailed look at the value and importance of personal seals from the point-of-view of their history, usage, ownership and designs.

Most of the wax seals in the St George’s Chapel Archives remain attached to their original documents. The best represented period is between the 13th and 17th centuries: five hundred years of seals being used throughout the United Kingdom for the first time. During that time seals (and, of course the matrices from which they took their impression) reduced in size and shape, becoming mostly circular, with an average diameter of 18mm.

Personal seals are those used by an individual in a private capacity as a means of authentication and validation. They were attached at the bottom of a handwritten deed or covenant by a parchment tag or tongue, or plaited strings or cord, or applied directly onto the deed itself by pressing a seal matrix into soft wax on the parchment. Once attached, the seal helped to maintain the integrity of the document as it had to be placed by the owner of the matrix and could not be reused. In the case of important transactions or agreements the seals of all parties to the arrangement, including witnesses, might be attached to the document.

During the 13th century the use of seals spread to all but the lowest levels of society in England and Wales. This is usually attributed to a developing land market and an increase in trade and the subsequent use of documentation: individuals demanded written proof of transactions and agreements. Because such proofs represented finalisation of the transactions the records were stored away and moved infrequently and thus have been little disturbed, unlike medieval books. Now, however, the documents are used for study and this provides an opportunity to clean the seals of centuries of dirt and grime to reveal wonders of art and design.

A particularly lovely non-stamped seal in the Chapel Archives bears a remarkably preserved ash tree leaf set onto a red wax seal and attached by a parchment tag to a document appointing a man to a canonry in the deanery of Wolverhampton.

It is fascinating how many different designs and meanings are represented on wax seals and the collection in the Chapel Archives is no exception. From equestrian noblemen shown hunting, surrounded by a legend, to simple flowers with no legend, and many categories in between. Some feature a merchant’s mark, unique to each merchant – sometimes still in use today as a trademark or company logo. The meanings of some designs are lost to the mists of time, such as a fox and a goose attached to a lease of 1555.

Seals showing family coats of arms are fairly common, with a legend surrounding the design often commencing with the letter S or the full SIGILLVM (Latin for seal) followed by the bearer’s name and title. Sometimes the designs are puns on the owner’s name, such as a figure with a bow and arrow for a man called Archer. This is known as a rebus.

If a seal has a legend on the obverse or reverse, or both, and it is intact and clear enough to read this is a great help identifying ownership or meaning.  One of my favourites is a thirteenth century seal which reads ECCE AGNUS DEI EST AMOR MEUS ‘Behold the Lamb of God is my love’.

Peter Eley, Archives volunteer

I am indebted to Dr Elizabeth New’s work ‘Seals and Sealing Practices’. 2010 British Records Association for additional information.

From your very loving Staff

March 16th, 2016

Arthur Stafford Crawley was Canon of Windsor from 1934 until his death in 1948. Amongst the papers that are housed in St George’s Chapel Archives, there is an extensive correspondence between Crawley and his wife, Anstice, written whilst he was in France serving as an army chaplain from 1915 to autumn 1917. These letters hold a wealth of information about what life was like for him on the front line as a Chaplain serving the soldiers and as a man missing his family and struggling with the conditions.

Crawley wrote to his wife almost every day, and sometimes more than once a day. He spent most of his time visiting different troops who were always happy to have a visitor. He tries to give services where he can with his busiest times being around Christmas and Easter. In his letter on 28th December 1916, he writes that he will be taking a service every morning that week and on Good Friday in 1917 he took three services in one day (M.126/F/413, M.126/F/493 & 493). He cares for the men practically too and his letters are full of worries and concerns about the long hours and terrible weather the soldiers work in.

The stories Crawley tells his wife about people he has just met exemplify his caring nature. He tells of one occasion when he shared a train carriage with two newly trained flying officers. They had come from the far north of Scotland and had travelled for a week before even reaching France (M.126/F/486). Another such example was a Gunner he met on a boat who had been recalled to the Front after only one night back home with his wife and child (M.126/F/484). Crawley cared enough to ask these people their stories. Although he does not record their names he retained details about them, details he felt worth remembering and sharing. Details, one imagines, he would have remembered after they had parted and the Gunner and flying officers went to fight and possibly make the ultimate sacrifice.

As well as seeing Crawley’s caring nature for the soldiers as Army Chaplain, it is easy to see the father and husband in him. In most letters the last page has nothing to do with the war or what he’s been doing but rather is about the family. Whether he’s sending thanks to one of his children for their letter or advising about potato planting or just sending his love and saying how much he misses them, it is always present. Of particular interest was the difference between a letter written on the 14th March 1917 and one on the 28th. Between the sending of these two letters Crawley had been home for 10 days leave. His excitement about coming home had led to him sending almost the exact same plans and concerns for his leave in three consecutive letters. This contrasts with his complete sadness about having to say goodbye after the ‘perfect happiness’ he has enjoyed with his wife and children (M.126/F/483). The interesting nature of Crawley’s letters and the information they contain leave you wanting to know more of his time there. But more so, the caring nature of the man himself endears you to him and leaves you wanting to know how the rest of his family is and when he is going to receive another letter from them.

Hannah Pomeroy, work experience student

Love thy neighbour

February 15th, 2016

For many who work for the College of St George, Windsor Castle is not just their place of work, but also their home. People are not just colleagues but neighbours who foster a wonderful sense of community. However, a couple of fascinating documents in the archives reveal a dispute between neighbours that erupted in September 1607; a dispute that began with some name-calling but ended with a door taken off its hinges!

The main players in the dispute were Mark Leonard and his wife, and Nathaniel Giles and his wife, Anne. Mark Leonard was a petticannon, now known as a Minor Canon. Nathaniel Giles was Master of the Choristers and Organist. The primary document of dispute is intriguing and comprehensive, relating the events of mid-September 1607 as told by Nathaniel Giles [XI.B.50].

According to Nathaniel Giles, on September 15th 1607, Anne Giles heard Mark Leonard’s wife make “rayling speeches” towards Alice Newcomb and Mrs Leonard’s ire turned to Anne Giles when she attempted to placate her. Using “in rayling sort divers evil wordes”, Mrs Leonard called Anne Giles “paltery Baggage”, with Anne Giles retorting, as she walked away from her, “Away pich, I will not touch thee”.

Giles continues that Alice Newcomb made a complaint, and as a consequence, Anne Giles was summoned to appear at the Chapter House, and under oath, she stated that she had heard Mrs Leonard shout insults at Alice Newcomb. Taking exception to her testimony, Mrs Leonard argued that Anne Giles had, in fact, insulted her on September 15th, for she believed Anne Giles had said something slightly different from “Away pich”. According to Giles, Mrs Leonard proceeded to brand his wife “brazen faced Baggage”. Mrs Leonard was admonished for her behaviour and an end was put to it, or so it seemed.

However, according to the document, on September 16th another incident erupted. While Mr Giles was dining in the mayor’s house, Mrs Giles had some guests for dinner. The children of the choir (choristers) were outside playing in the castle yard. Mark Leonard, believing that one of the children, George Pretty, had mocked his daughter, went to strike the boy, and then ran after the children with a stick. The children ran into the Giles’s house followed by Mark Leonard. Mrs Giles admonished him for threatening violence and for chasing the children. A war of words then erupted, according to the document, in which various insults were thrown. Mark Leonard was referred to as “a dog”, and “a minstrell”, while Mrs Giles was singled out as being not only “flirt Baggage” but also “scurvy Baggage”. Her husband, in his absence, was deemed “a fiddler” who “getts his living by fidlinge” and Mrs Gibbs, one of Mrs Giles’s guests, was labelled “an idle housewife”.

The situation escalated and attempts to close the door on Mark Leonard resulted in Mrs Giles being thrown against the wall and hurting her hand. All the guests and servants then combined in an attempt to shut the door while Mrs Leonard joined her husband pushing the door from the outside. The door was lifted clear of its hinges. Mark Leonard then departed but one unfortunate child was caught as he left and struck across the face.

Nathaniel Giles was made aware of what was happening through a messenger and – as soon as dinner was finished – he returned home.

The second document is the response from Mark Leonard [XI.B.63], a concise document in which he does not directly address the events as told by Nathaniel Giles, but rather refers to a number of insults to which he was subjected. In his response, Mark Leonard requests that the Dean ask Mr Giles whether or not he said, “If yu shouldst but hurt so much of my dog his Tayle thou shouldst know I would make thee eate it”, and secondly, whether after enquiring if Mr Giles knew some of his family that he responded, “Yes I knowe them to have more honestie in one finger then such a Harlett as you hast or wilt have in thee”.

What was the outcome of the whole affair? The Chapter Acts record on October 24th 1607 that Mark Leonard received his first admonition according to the statutes for “affrightinge the wief and houshold of Mr Giles by a violent attemptinge to [end]d enter, into the same house”.  He lost one month’s pay and had to acknowledge his fault in the Chapter house in the presence of Mr Giles and the rest of the choir.

At present, all the doors of the houses in the castle are sitting on their hinges and nobody has been accused of being paltry, scurvy or flirt baggage for some time.

Éilis Crowe, Archives Trainee

A (Windsor) Christmas Carol

December 16th, 2015

In April 1901 Major Charles Grantley Campbell Norton was admitted as a Military Knight. With him to Windsor came his wife, the popular guitarist, singer and songwriter, Mina Norton. Mrs Norton could sing in eight languages and had performed before the Royal Family.

The St George’s Chapel Archives holds a collection of the Nortons’ letters, notebooks and song lyrics written by Mina Norton [SGC M.1205]. Included in this is a Christmas carol that she wrote and set to music for their first Christmas living in the Lower Ward. The third verse is all about their new community of neighbours in the College of St George.

Oh! Christmas! time of joy and mirth,
The advent of our Saviour’s birth,
When all around breathes peace on earth,
Oh! happy Christmas-tide.
The time when heart-felt prayers ascend
To God for blessings on each friend;
Oh! may Thy holy joy descend
On us this Christmas-tide

God bless our King and Royalty;
May all his subjects loyal be,
And all unite in praising Thee
This joyful Christmas-tide.
And bless our soldiers now at war,
Guard those at sea when storm clouds lower;
May every nation feel Thye power
This glorious Christmas-tide.

God bless the Dean and clergy, too,
Who strive Thy holy will to do;
The organist and choir, who
Praise Thee this Christmas-tide.
And bless the gallant knights so bold,
And all within these precincts old;
Oh! may our present Governor hold
His post next Christmas-tide.

And bless, Lord, those now racked with pain,
Restore them soon to health again;
Oh! may Thy Heavenly peace remain
With them this Christmas-tide.
And when around dark shadows creep,
May angels soothe our long last sleep,
And bear our souls on high to keep
Eternal Christmas-tide.

Words by Mina Norton, Henry VIII Gateway, Windsor Castle, Christmas 1901.