College of St George Archives Blog

College of St George Archives

Removing the banner of James II

April 22nd, 2014

The documents that are kept in the St George’s Chapel Archives arrive here from a huge variety of sources, both internal and external to the College of St George, and for a huge variety of reasons. In the case of the order given and signed by William of Orange for removing the Garter banner and achievements of the former King James II from St George’s Chapel [SGC M.1142], a copy found its way into the Archives almost by chance.
In 1984 a series of letters were written between the Windsor Castle Librarian and the Dean of Windsor and an academic living in New York. These letters are now kept in the Archives with a photocopy of the document they discuss. In August 1984 the Procedure for Removing the Banner of the Sovereign had been “recently acquired” by the American academic who sent a photocopy of it to the Windsor Castle Library, enquiring if it was of any interest to them, given that it referred to the “Chapel Royall of Windsor”. The librarian passed this on to the Rt. Revd. Michael Mann, then Dean of Windsor, who acknowledged that the document was of some interest to the College of St George because of its connection with the Order of the Garter. The final letter in this series is an offer to sell the document to St George’s for $1250 (then approximately £1000). Scribbled at the foot of this is a handwritten note: “Archivist, Is it worth it? MAM” and as no more is known of the fate of this record than that it is not held in the St George’s Chapel Archives, we can only assume that the archivist’s answer was “No.”
While perhaps not worth an expenditure of £1000, the document in question is quite significant. It represents actions taken at an unusual juncture in the history of the British Monarchy. That is, following the overthrow of King James II by his son-in-law and eventual successor, William of Orange, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The actions taken by William, a confirmed Protestant, were prompted by English nobles who feared that James II had been going to found a new Roman Catholic dynasty in England. The document is dated 18th April 1689, two months after James II was declared to have abdicated the throne by his attempt to flee the country and only one week after William and James’s daughter, Mary, were crowned joint monarchs at Westminster Abbey. It is signed at the top “William R” (the R stands for Rex, the Latin word for king) and gives orders that “the Banner and other Atcheivements of King James the second late Sovereigne of the Most Noble Order of the Garter are to be taken downe and Ours placed in there Room”. At this date, James II was living in exile in France. According to Peter Begent’s work on the Order of the Garter, he continued to act as Sovereign, or head, of the Garter while over there and even created a number of supposed Garter Knights at his court in St Germain-en-Laye.
However, this document clearly demonstrates that although James II was never officially degraded from the Order, his position was considered terminated from the time that Parliament declared he was no longer king. The “Atcheivements” referred to in this order would have been the helmet, crest, mantling and sword that were set up above the Sovereign’s stall for King James II along with his banner. It is usual for these achievements to be taken down following the death of a Knight of the Garter, as they then cease to be a member of the Order, but in this case the action was taken more than a decade before James II’s death in 1701. The position of Sovereign of the Garter was then surrendered to William of Orange, as were all of the symbols of kingship of England.
It is not known to us what became of the original document after 1984, though it probably now forms part of a private collection. The photocopy has been kept here because it is in itself a useful document from which information can be gained that provides insight into events at a period of change and turmoil in British royal and political history.
Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

When Samuel met Catherine

January 23rd, 2014

Samuel Pepys, as we know from the pages of his diary, had an eye for attractive young ladies, and was not averse to recording his amorous adventures in London, albeit in coded language.  Perhaps his most strange one to one encounter was with a French queen consort of England, who was also one of the medieval ladies of the Garter.  Impossible?  On the face of it, yes, but as we shall see, it really did happen.  But first, a resume of the life of the lady in question: Catherine of Valois.

Catherine was born at a Parisian royal palace on 27 October 1401.  She was the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France (1368-1422) and his consort Isabella of Bavaria (c.1370-1435).  When she was still a child there was talk of marrying her off to the English King Henry IV’s son, Prince Henry, but the king died, in 1413, before any serious bargaining could begin.  Henry V, however, had his eyes on France in more ways than one; he invaded in 1415 and won a stunning victory against the odds at Agincourt in October.  Shakespeare’s play portrays Henry’s subsequent amorous wooing of Catherine, and theirs seems to have been a genuine love match.  However their wedding did not take place until 2 June 1420 (probably in Troyes Cathedral), nearly five years after Agincourt.  Owing to Henry’s military commitments in France, their “honeymoon” was mainly spent at a succession of sieges.

On 23 February 1421, Catherine was crowned queen consort in Westminster Abbey, and on 6 December 1421 gave birth to Prince Henry (later King Henry VI) at Windsor.  Sadly, her time as queen consort was to be brief.  In August 1422, Henry V fell ill with dysentery, and died short of his thirty-sixth birthday.  Catherine was not quite twenty-one, so would be expected to find another husband.  Surprisingly perhaps (at least to those in court circles), she fell for a young Welsh squire named Owen Tudor (c.1400-1461).  Sometime between 1428 and 1432 she married him, though doubts have been cast on the marriage’s legality.  Yet it was to be a match of huge dynastic importance.  Edmund Tudor, one of their three sons, was to marry Margaret Beaufort, and their son Henry of Richmond was destined to become king in 1485.

Like her first husband, Catherine only lived to be thirty-five.  She passed away at Bermondsey Abbey on 3 January 1437 shortly after childbirth, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  So she did not live to see her adopted country torn apart by dynastic warfare.  Owen, her second husband, was to be executed by the Yorkists in 1461, and of course her only son Henry VI was murdered in 1471 after a troubled life and reign.

And so to Catherine’s posthumous “fame”.  It seems her body was embalmed before interment, and sometime in the reign of Henry VII her coffin lid was accidentally raised, revealing her intact corpse.  As a result, between the 16th and 18th centuries, she was often put on display for visitors to the abbey. Only in Queen Victoria’s reign were Catherine’s remains properly re-interred.  On Shrove Tuesday 1669, Samuel Pepys, curious about so many things, went along to the Abbey to see the embalmed Catherine.  And as he records in his diary, this is how he paid his respects:

…I to the Abbey went, and by favour did see the body of Queen Catherine of Valois, and had the upper part of the body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it I did kiss a Queen: and this my birthday and I thirty-six years old and I did kiss a Queen.

The display of a body in this way as a tourist attraction seems utterly foreign to our culture, and we may be repelled or shocked by Samuel Pepys’s physical “intimacy” with Catherine’s embalmed corpse.  But then again he was living in an urban society in which early or sudden death was an everyday reality (it was only four years after the great plague of London).  So perhaps we can excuse his fascination with a beautiful medieval princess and queen who passed from the earth in the prime of her life.

Simon Harrison  (Archives volunteer)

St George’s School and the wider world

December 20th, 2013

Reports on political and social unrest in England and the British Empire in the early decades of the 20th century may be found the St George’s school magazines.  Some of the writers demonstrate attitudes which would be unlikely to appear today. Old Boy J.S. W. Dean writes in 1908 that he hopes to return to England to play in the Old Boys’ cricket match, but if these “conspirators in petticoats” [suffragettes] are not brought to their senses, England may be too dangerous a place for him to think of returning; however if the present government doubles the police he may apply for leave.  Another Old Boy, at Oxford, comments that he has “been subjected to the tyrannical onslaught of militant suffragettes and of those who, failing to qualify for the old age pension and dissatisfied with the scheme newly introduced, could cross the Channel and try to qualify for a pension in the land of our friendly neighbour”.

School life in the Easter Term 1912 was affected by national unrest.  On March 13th 1912, the Windsor Castle State Apartments and St George’s Chapel were closed because of possible a suffragette raid.  The following Sunday , March 17th, was observed as a special day of intercession on account of the prevailing labour unrest and in the same period a voice trial of choristers had to be postponed because of difficult railway connections caused by the coal strike.

The school was little affected by the General Strike of 1926.  One boy was unable to travel from Scotland, but all food came in as usual and the boys formed a defence corps and started daily drills.

In 1930, Old Boy K. F. Roberts writes from Rawalpindi that so far, in spite of many dangers about, it is mainly a Muslim Community.  On the day of Gandhi’s arrest several thousand Hindus assembled in a bazaar were being incited to violence when a loud exhaust sound from a passing lorry caused them to flee.  Roberts jokes that he intends to have made some rattles resembling machine gunfire which will be used in future to save ammunition.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

St George’s School during World War I

November 27th, 2013

Windsor Castle was declared a fortress area at the start of the war, so the school had to relinquish the key to the Hundred Steps which were closed for the duration.  After Evensong, instead of the usual prayers, special intercessions were made for the King, for his soldiers and sailors, for the wounded and for the restoration of the peace.  Boys began to contribute to Princess Mary’s fund for Christmas presents for the troops at the Front.  In the Christmas Term magazine it was reported that the 5000 men billeted at Windsor drilled every morning in the Home Park. In the following Spring Term a Volunteer Training Corps was formed at the school.  In the Summer Term the boys went to see the King review 1800 troops in the Great Park.  The removal from the Chapel in May of the banners of 8 enemy Knights of the Garter met with the comment “It is a great relief to find that these Germanic emblems no longer hang in the Choir of St George’s Chapel”.
From this point lists of old boys serving in the war and of those killed, injured or POWs were made.  Old boys begin to write of life at the Front and of the fighting.  In the Easter 1916 magazine, J F B Northcott reports the arrest of a man wearing the uniform of a British Officer: ”he was spying for Germany to aid Zeppelins in finding their bearings and he will be shot”.  E H Cox writes of the gallantry of Harold Cox who had led an attack, initially successful , in taking and holding for a day, a line of German trenches, but was  outnumbered and only 60 of his 650 men survived.  An enemy shell had exploded near where Harold and 3 other officers were sheltering; he was badly wounded and no more was heard of him.
In the Spring Term of 1917 the boys had begun to create an allotment, planting mainly potatoes.  A year later the Corps was revived at the School.  The following year food rationing was apparently having no ill effects; there was less meat, but thanks to beans, lentils, potatoes and bacon, the quantity and digestibility of the food was good.
As teachers were enlisted, the number of forms was reduced to 4.  By 1918, with the school porter, Mr. Such, having been called up for munitions work, the servant problem became difficult and boys had to turn their hand to unaccustomed work.  A weekly rota was set up for waiting and clearing up and boys frequently made their own beds!
On hearing the news of the Armistice, on November 11th, 1918, the boys stopped work, the flag of St George was run up the flagpole, flags were bought and displayed and the “Home” and “New Room” were decorated.  On the following evening there was a fancy dress dance with refreshments followed by fireworks.
During the Summer Term of 1919 a memorial service was held in the Chapel for the 18 old boys who had lost their lives in the war.  The Dean spoke of the loyalty and devotion to duty acquired while a boy is at school which help to carry him honourably throughout his career.  Subsequently a memorial service was held each year on November 11th.  Two years later, in 1921, a memorial stained glass window commemorating old boys who had lost their lives in World War I was installed above the North Door of the Chapel and was dedicated by the Dean.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

Isabella: capricious child and Garter Lady

October 30th, 2013

As we know, the Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, remained an exclusive male preserve until the late 20th century.  However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, there were more than seventy ladies who were granted Garter robes and so have come to be known as Ladies of the Garter.  Most were either daughters or wives of Garter knights, and in some cases both.  The last of the medieval ladies to be so honoured was Elizabeth Tudor (died 1495), daughter of Henry VII.  After her death, no more Garter ladies appear in the records until the 20th century, when Queen Alexandra was declared a Lady of the Order by special statute in 1901.

One of the earliest Garter ladies was Isabella, eldest daughter of Edward III (1312-77) and Philippa of Hainault (c.1310-1369).  She was born at Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, on 16 June 1332, the second of the ten surviving children of the royal couple.   Isabella was to be her parents’ favourite child and they spoilt her accordingly.  As a baby, she slept in a gilded cradle lined with taffeta and covered with a fur blanket.  Her gowns were made of imported Italian silk embroidered with jewels.   She and her siblings had a whole retinue of servants to attend to all their needs – a personal chaplain, musicians, grooms, clerks, butlers and cooks.  Isabella was later lavished with lands and money.  Such over-indulgence led her to become capricious and extravagant.

To complicate matters, Isabella became a pawn in the dynastic marriage game, going through several failed marriage proposals.  When she was aged just three, her father tried to arrange a marriage for her with Pedro of Castile, the heir to the Castilian throne.  Doubtless he had diplomatic gain in mind, but the negotiations came to nothing.  In 1351, when she was nineteen, Isabella was due to sail to Gascony to marry a Frenchman, but just before the departure time, she changed her mind and the marriage was called off.  Edward III does not appear to have been angry with his favourite daughter though.  Some years later he granted her an annuity of 1000 marks, and in 1359, lent her a further 1000 marks to redeem jewels she had pawned.

Dark-haired and dark-eyed, though of a sallow complexion, Isabella entered her thirties without a husband, which was unusual for a royal princess at this time.  Then she fell in love with a French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy (c.1340-1397), who was seven years her junior.  They were married at Windsor on 27 July 1365, and went on to have two daughters, Philippa and Mary (also known as Marie).  Enguerrand, who had formerly been a hostage of the English, was now very much in royal favour, and was created a Knight of the Garter and Earl of Bedford in 1366.  Isabella herself was granted Garter robes in 1376, 1377 and 1377.

As a Frenchman, Enguerrand was conscious of his conflicting national loyalties, and seems to have spent much time away from Isabella, engaged in fighting in Italy and France.  Towards the end of her life, Isabella was living in England with her younger daughter Philippa (who later married the Earl of Oxford).  She died sometime before 4 May 1379, aged forty-six, and was buried in the Greyfriars Church, Newgate, in London.

Simon Harrison  (Archives volunteer)

W G Edwards, Old Boy of St George’s School

October 5th, 2013

Among the many famous Old Boys of St George’s School, Windsor Castle, W. G Edwards should hold a special place.  At school in the 1890s, he was a distinguished chorister.  On his death aged 93 his obituary in the school magazine states that throughout his life he displayed a fanatical devotion to the school, never losing an opportunity to visit the school and enthralling boys and staff with his lectures and anecdotes.  He was also the best Old Boy correspondent, writing lively and informative letters about his life and work running a large farm in Africa.

In 1910 he went to Kenya, then known as British East Africa, and worked as an administrative officer, but in the following year he began to farm and, in a letter in the magazine, he writes of the customs of the Wataveta people at Taveta, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  He served in East Africa in the First World War and in 1916 he writes of patrolling the railway running from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, in deep bush country and of German attempts to bomb the railway.  In the same year, now a battalion signalling officer, he reports that his battalion had survived a sustained shelling attack and having pushed back the enemy, had laid 7½ miles of telephone wire.  By 1917 he was a Captain, with temporary command of a Company.  Shortly afterwards he describes two battles in which he was involved against German forces and, just after the end of the war, the trials of a march through German East Africa where crop failure had led to famine, lions were a danger and his party was unlucky in shooting meat.  He was awarded the M.C. and left the Army as a Major.

By 1922 W. G. Edwards had returned to his farm on which he had 594 beasts; while he employed a number of native workers he writes to say he is looking for more pupils – an early example of work experience.  He was to guide many prospective young farmers.  Nine years later he writes of camping out on his new farm at Rumunati.  Some of the lions kill to eat, others for pleasure.  There was dissension between WGE’s Masai herdboys and his Turkhana and on his suggestion that differences be settled by fists, one Turkana went “gugger”,  leaping high in the air and shrieking before collapsing.  WGE’s Masai and Tunkana all fear for their lives and those of  their children as the new herdboy is a witchdoctor. By 1934 WGE writes of having 100 breeding cows; he can still pay some of the wages in kind, for, as he notes, the “natives ….still pay for their wives in cattle”.

In 1935 WGE visited the school, travelling from Nairobi by plane.  He addressed the boys recommending air travel on long distance journeys and spoke of his many adventures with lions and other wild animals in East Africa.

WGE had founded the Old Boys Club several years earlier and by 1935 it had over 160 members.  Old Boys attended the annual service to commemorate those who had given their lives in the Great War.  An Old Boys’ Tea came to be held at the school’s annual Sports Day, also a cricket match against the school.   At the Old Boys’ Feast in 1937 the boys consumed 2 pies each 1½ feet long, a 1 foot long sausage and 35 bottles of ginger beer; the Feast was followed by a concert given by the Old Boys.  In the same year it was decided that masters, as well as former pupils, were eligible to join the Club and in January 1939 there was an Old Boys’ weekend at the school.

During World War II, WGE showed kindness and hospitality to many in the armed forces in Kenya and the UK.  In his last letter for the school magazine in 1953 he writes that he is well guarded by four spearmen, two by day armed with rifles, and two by night armed with shotguns and that he feels the government are now getting on top of the situation. W. G. Edwards died in 1977.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

St George’s School Magazine

September 29th, 2013
St George's School, Windsor Castle

St George's School, Windsor Castle

‘St George’s School Magazine’ was initiated by George Foster who became Headmaster in the Christmas Term 1904. From its first edition, in 1908, it was published at the end of each term and always featured an editorial of events of the term, detailed descriptions of cricket matches played (with analysis of individual players’ performances!) and also of soccer matches, comments on incidence of infectious illness among the boys, a full report of the annual school play and descriptions of important services at St George’s Chapel or elsewhere in which the Choir had taken part. It also included news of Old Boys.  Frequently there are reports from Oxford and Cambridge contributed by Old Boys whilst studying as undergraduates and also letters from Old Boys living and working in British Empire territories.

The most prolific correspondent, W. G. Edwards, who had been a distinguished chorister in the 1890s, farmed in East Africa. He was the founder of the Old Boys’ Club whose annual reunions were to include a cricket match, dinner at the school and frequently an entertainment for the boys.

In St George’s Chapel Archives can be found copies of the school magazine from the first issue in 1908 to 1987 [SGC M.956/1-155].

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

The funeral of Charles I

September 25th, 2013

The English Civil War has sparked controversy and debate for over 350 years. One little known area is not so much the death of King Charles I, for that has been well recorded, but the circumstances of his burial. Whilst there is no doubt that he was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the interesting question seldom discussed is: did Charles I have a funeral?  Although the Edwardians appear to have believed that he had a funeral, as is shown in the early 20th century reconstructive painting of Charles I’s funeral procession by Ernest Crofts now in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the answer is not as simple as that.

Lord Clarendon, although absent from Charles’ burial, describes the occasion in his book, History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (first published 1702-1704).  Clarendon mentions the Parliamentary letter accepting that Charles would be allowed to be buried at St George’s Chapel provided he be “privately carried to Windsor without pomp or noise”. Had Charles had the funeral that a King deserves, his procession to Windsor would have been anything but quiet.  Because his journey from St James’ Palace to Windsor Castle and indeed from his bedchamber at Windsor Castle to his final resting place was to take place “without pomp or noise”, I believe that Charles’s burial was not spectacular and fitting enough to be described as a funeral, at least in the ceremonial respect.

However, the 17th century author of Athenae Oxonieses (1691–92), Anthony Wood, disagrees with Clarendon in at least one respect: that the burial was a quiet affair. Wood describes Charles’s journey from St James’ Palace to Windsor as being accompanied by “a dozen gentlemen”, rather than by only “four of those servants” appointed by Parliament to attend on him during his imprisonment as Clarendon believed.  Wood’s interpretation of the burial itself is more in line with Croft’s painting which depicts a far more elaborate ceremony, saying that the burial procession took place at a “slow and solemn pace”, with the coffin carried from St George’s Hall by “gentlemen of quality in mourning”, followed by the Governor, several gentlemen, officers and attendants. In attendance at the burial were several noblemen – the Duke of Richmond, the Marquis of Hertford and The Earl of Lindsay – and Dr. Juxon, Bishop of London. Wood also describes how a snow storm, which had arisen suddenly as the King’s body was carried to the west end of St George’s Chapel, covered the black velvet pall with thick white snow, “the colour of innocency”.   The snow storm features in Crofts’ portrayal of the scene.

Had Charles been able to choose the form of his funeral before he died, the most important thing for him would no doubt have been the religious aspects and the prayers said for him. Unfortunately all three commentators, Clarendon, Wood, and Charles’ Groom of the Bedchamber, Mr Herbert,  agree on one aspect of the burial: that there was no reciting of the funeral service from the Book of Common Prayer. Both Clarendon and Wood record that, at some point (they disagree when), the Governor of the Castle, Colonel Whitchcot, forbade use of the Book of Common Prayer, meaning that Charles, an extremely religious man, was buried without the traditional Christian rites, something that he would not have approved of.  Clarendon writes that “the King’s body was laid, without any words, or other ceremonies than the tears and sights of a few beholders”.

Sir Henry Halford, who was present at the opening of King Charles I’s coffin in 1813, and even took some relics from the King’s body, concluded that the burial had been a “very hasty one” implying that there was indeed little ceremony when it came to King Charles’ final farewell. Indeed, he believed that the neighbouring coffin, that of Henry VIII, may well have been “injured by a precipitate introduction of the coffin of King Charles; and that the Governor was not under the influence of feelings, in those times, which gave him any concern about Royal remains, or the vault which contained  them”.

Whilst there are several different interpretations of Charles’s final moments above ground,  I think that had Charles watched his own burial, he would been mortified when Whitchcot denied him the honour of a funeral service. Thus overall, whilst indeed Charles was buried, I believe that, thanks to Colonel Whitchcot, along with other factors such as the lack of a formal procession to Windsor, one cannot say that Charles did in fact receive a ‘funeral’.

Denis Magee, Archives work experience student.

Back to Bedlam

August 1st, 2013

On 17 May 1677, the Chapter Acts note that “Mr Collins,  one of the Petty Canons,  is lately  fallen  distracted and that his father hath consented to his being  placed  in  Bedlam  at London as the likeliest means (by God’s blessing)  for  the  recovery  of  his health”

Thomas Collins had been appointed as a Petty Canon of Windsor almost exactly a year before this entry, on 16 May 1676, and was admitted and sworn in on the 31 May 1676. As a Petty Canon, he formed part of the choral men, and sang tenor. He was taken to Bedlam by his colleague John Maidstone.

Bedlam, or Bethlem Royal Hospital, was Europe’s first and therefore oldest institution to deal specifically with mental illnesses. Originally occupying a site near modern day Liverpool Street Station, Collins would have been one of the first patients at the new site at Moorfields, built between 1675 and 1676 to a design by Robert Hooke and which was able to hold 120 patients.

Although in more pleasant surroundings than the squalid and decrepit old Bedlam, it would still not have been an easy place for Thomas Collins to have been.  The concept of the four humours and the need to balance them was still very much prevalent, leading to daily rounds of bleeding, purging, blistering and enforced voiding of bowels.  It also meant a severely restricted diet, which was often inadequate as corrupt staff looked to earn extra money. Patients considered violent or dangerous would be restrained with manacles and chains. This would be in full view of the many members of the public who paid to come and see the “lunatics”.

A year after being admitted to Bedlam, Collins was still there, and Chapter found a temporary replacement for him. His house in Horseshoe Cloister was let out, and although he continued to receive his pay, it was reduced to that of a clerk, the remainder going to his replacements. He continued to be paid his stipend until his death in 1694, although it would seem that he never returned to Windsor.

Collins was not however the first member of College to face the trials of Bedlam. In November 1666, it was “ordered that if Charles Lluellin being a Lunatique person be received into Bethlem Hospitall, the Treasurer of the Church for the tyme being shall pay Twenty shillings every month to whomsoever the officer of the place shall appoint, during the space of a whole yeare following from the date hereof Provided the said Charles Lluellin be not cured of his lunacy before the said tyme expired.” A clerk of the choir, the previous year he had been dismissed from his place for dishonouring the church. He declared himself “greatly afflicted by the hand of God both in his body and mind” and begged forgiveness. He was readmitted, but by April 1666 he was declared “uncapable of serving the Church as a Clerke because of his distemper”. It would seem that time away from Windsor worked, and in 1669 he was welcomed back to Windsor and admitted to come into the Quire, although not as a full member.

Sadly for Charles, he would have been treated at the original hospital which had just 12 cells for inmates, and which by the end of the seventeenth century was described as “very olde, weake & ruinous and to small and streight for keepeing the greater numbr of lunaticks therein att p’sent”. It would have been overcrowded and filthy, a very good reason not to remain there too long!

Eleanor Cracknell, Assistant Archivist

The Office of High Steward

July 12th, 2013

In the 15th century the universities of Oxford and Cambridge both appointed a High Steward to assist the University Chancellor in his official duties, in particular in the adjudication of disputes between members.  As time went on, the office evolved into a position which the universities tended to use to reward their patrons and to formalise their relationship with prominent external figures who might promote their interests at Court and in Parliament.  Although some of the original duties remained, such as arbitration in disputes and deputising for the Chancellor during a vacancy, the position of High Steward within the universities had become principally an honorary one.

Paralleling this development, the Dean and Canons of Windsor created the new college office of High Steward in the late 15th or early 16th century in order to secure influential patronage at the Royal Court.  The first known holder of this office at the College of St George was Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter KG, who was replaced in 1526 by Sir Thomas Lovell KG. Although the original Chapter Act Book which recorded this appointment does not survive, the entry was fortunately copied into a memoranda book by Canon Evans [SGC IV.B.17 p.27]. Subsequent High Stewards of the College included Lord Burghley KG, Lord High Treasurer of England, and Robert Devereux,  Earl of Essex KG,  who was appointed in 1598 for an annual fee of £13 6s 8d, a considerable sum in the 16th century [SGC VI.B.2: entry for 14 October 1598].

The name of the earliest High Steward at Windsor is not recorded, however, it is possible that it was the Chapel’s chief private benefactor, Sir Reginald (or Reynold) Bray KG. Sometime between 1491 and 1503, Bray signed an acquittance, acknowledging the receipt of 10 marks for half-a-year’s fee [SGC XV.60.137].  The purpose of the fee is not specified but the total annuity of 20 marks equates to £13 6s 8d – the sum granted to the Earl of Essex in 1598 for his annual fee as High Steward. Moreover, we know that Bray also held the position of High Steward of Oxford University, to which he was appointed in 1494, and of Chief Steward of Eton College.  His political influence at Henry VII’s court and his personal interest in St Georges Chapel, Windsor, where he chose to be buried, would have made him a wise choice as High Steward to the College of St George.

Clare Rider, Archivist and Chapter Librarian