There has been much comment about the fact that the Duke and Duchess’ first-born, should she be a she, will succeed to the throne before any brothers. Had this happened in the early stages of the Stuart monarchy, British history might indeed have been very different. For when the then heir to the throne, Henry, died suddenly in 1612, aged eighteen, his sixteen year-old sister, Princess Elizabeth would have been next in line, not her other brother, Charles (I). This winter, on the four hundredth anniversary of his death, an exhibition on this ‘Lost Prince’ is being staged at the National Gallery in London. Little has been published about him, or indeed about his sister, though a book called A Stuart Portrait was published about Elizabeth, Queen of Hearts, in 1934, by Alice Buchan.
Henry frequently scolded his sister Elizabeth for listening to gossip about their grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots. He said she had been a very unhappy and foolish woman. As time went on she came more and more under Henry’s influence and that of her tutor, Lord Harrington, at his home at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire, where she was taught the domestic arts as well as receiving the moral education which would one day fit her to be the bride of a Protestant Prince. It was from here that the recusant Catholic gentry planned to kidnap her and smuggle her into hiding so that, once successful in their rebellion against her father, and having killed him and her brother Henry by blowing up Parliament at its state opening on November 5th, 1605, they would place her on the throne as Queen Elizabeth II, gaining the toleration James I had once granted but then brutally revoked. However, both the Gunpowder Plot and the Rebellion came to nothing, failing even to take her captive, since her tutor received warning and swiftly moved her into the nearby walled and gated City of Coventry for safekeeping. The experience merely served to strengthen her in her belief that, like her godmother, the first Elizabeth, she was destined to be the Hope of the Protestant Cause. However, the plotters were right in believing that, also like Elizabeth I, and unlike her father, she did not wish to enslave men to state Protestantism on pain of persecution, but to lead them to God by the shining example of her own goodness.
She wrote religious poetry and did penance, self-inflicted. She saw herself one day reigning with the beauty of her grandmother and the grace of her godmother. All through the endless negotiations for her marriage to the Elector Palatine, Prince Frederick, she had remained the pattern of a dutiful princess. When he arrived to pay his first respects, she had not lifted her eyes from the ground while he bowed over her hand and exchanged compliments with her brother, Prince Henry, but when he knelt before her and she saw how handsome he was, just like the fairy-tale Prince of all her dreams, her heart skipped and she presented not her hand but her cheek in greeting! He was only a year older than Elizabeth, but the Protestant alliance he brought with him would consolidate the goodwill towards the Stuart monarchy of the English and that of the Protestant States of Germany and Holland towards the English. Queen Anne, Elizabeth’s Danish mother, was a secret covert to Rome and wanted a Spanish alliance, but Frederick won her over by presenting her with a diamond coronet.
Before she met Frederick, all her hopes had rested on her brother Henry for the future of her family, as her father was often ill-tempered and argumentative, not least with Parliament, the Commons of which were increasingly critical of his excessive spending at Court. She herself was embarrassed at the lack of funding for her tutelage at Coombe Abbey, where Lord Harrington had to meet most of her expenses out of his own purse. Many hopes were similarly resting on the shoulders of the young Prince of Wales. His brother, Charles, was so small and frail as a child that he was not expected to live long, which was probably why the Gunpowder plotters, on the advice of Sir Thomas Percy, a member of the Royal Household, had decided to kidnap Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey, not risking exposure in London by attempting to seize her sickly younger brother from the royal household. Yet it was Henry who became ill with a contagious disease in 1612, probably the Plague, considering how quickly it killed him and the fact that even his dear sister was forbidden to visit him. She had pleaded many times with the Court physician, Mayerne. Others had shared her helpless misery: Raleigh, pacing the narrow battlement of the Tower, where he had been imprisoned by James, grieved for a hopeful young life which he had watched with keen affection. He believed that the Prince would one day, as King, bring about the reconciliation of Europe, after more than a century of religious conflict and warfare. There were many others like Raleigh who saw in him another Henry of Lancaster, the founder of the Tudor dynasty. He also was stern, courageous, austere, pious and just ruthless enough to enable his ideals to achieve practical success.
Henry’s last words had been for Elizabeth – Where is my dear sister? She had watched from the bedroom of her suite in Whitehall (now backing onto Downing Street) as, with heavy snow-clouds overhead, the funeral procession wound its way through the mourning crowds to Westminster. The following February, on Valentine’s Day, she watched from the same window as the carriages prepared to take her to her wedding. The Prince of Wales’ sudden death still threw a long shadow over the betrothal celebrations. However, it had brought the couple even closer together, since Henry had spoken up on behalf of the match after welcoming the young Elector Palatine, commending him to his sister’s love in the warmest possible terms. Her much-loved elder brother had for so long been her Mentor that she prepared obediently to love the Prince from Germany, the report of whose many virtues had preceded him to England. It was enough for Elizabeth that Henry approved of the marriage. As a young Puritan, he had disapproved of much at Court, forbidding his own servants to swear and fining them if they did, and checking his sister’s hankering after idle vanities!
Elizabeth’s solemn public engagement to Frederick had taken place soon after Henry’s death; she had appeared in black satin with a white plume in her hair. Some students of the Middle Temple had given a play called The Tempest by a popular playwright named William Shakespeare, now an old man living in distinguished retirement in his native Warwickshire. Some of the lines from the play stuck in her memory, recalled in later years, after she had experienced their truths as the Winter Queen of Bohemia and the exiled Queen of Hearts at the Dutch Court:
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve
And like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a wrack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
related articles -
- Henricus Princeps (londonhistorians.wordpress.com)
- Royal succession: why a new law won’t change much | Richard J Evans (guardian.co.uk)
So you think you know the life and times of Her Majesty?
Use the power-point and texts posted below, the reader ‘the Modern Elizabethans’, and your own general knowledge, to answer the sixty questions which follow, one for every year of the Queen‘s reign.
1. Match the following patron saints to their correct countries:
Scotland St George
Wales St Patrick
Ireland St Andrew
England St David
Scotland – St Andrew, Wales – St David, Ireland – St Patrick, England – St George.
2. What is the current (present) title of the British National Anthem?
‘God Save the Queen‘
3. Which of these cities is not a capital city?
Manchester (unless you support one of their football teams!)
4. What is the capital city of Northern Ireland?
5. Which of the following is not a Royal Residence?
a) Buckingham Palace
d) Windsor Castle
b) (It is the ancestral home and birthplace of Winston Churchill)
6. What is the population of ‘Greater’ London?
7 – 10 million, depending on how many ‘boroughs’ you include. As a local government area (Greater London Authority), nearer 7.
7. Which of these is not a British city?
a) Dublin – capital of the Irish Free State/ Republic of Ireland (Eire) since 1922.
8. Which monument is in Trafalgar Square in London?
a) The ‘Great Fire’ Monument
b) Nelson’s Column
d) The Cenotaph
b) Nelson’s Column
9. Which of the following is not a British River?
a) The Mersey
b) The Tyne
c) The Severn
d) The Shannon
10. Complete the following paragraph:
Britain is a constitutional monarchy. The sovereign (King or Queen) is head of state, but not head of the government.
The sovereign appoints her prime minister on the advice of the leader of the political party that wins the biggest
number of seats in Parliament in a general election.
11. When was Elizabeth II born (year and month)?
April 21st, 1926 (see power-point/ text)
12. Who was then the heir to the throne?
Edward , Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII)
13. What colour were her eyes?
14. Who did she take after in appearance?
Her father, George, Duke of York
15. What was her sister’s full name?
Nearly 500 million (compared with 50 million in the UK)
17. Why did King Edward VIII give up the throne?
Because his ‘proposed’ wife could not become Queen to him as ‘Governer’ of the Church of England, and he would not ‘give her up’.
18. What word do we use for this?
19. What happened for the first time after the coronation in May 1937?
The newly-crowned king spoke to his peoples throughout the Empire on the radio that same night.
20. Who did the Duke of Windsor meet after his marriage?
Adolf Hitler, at his mountain villa in Berchtesgarden.
21. After Dunkerque, what did Churchill say would never happen?
The British would ‘never surrender’ (give in)
22. Where did the Battle of Britain take place?
In the skies over the (English) Channel and the south coast of England
23. How long did it last?
24. What were the night-time raids on London and other cities called?
25. What new word described the raid of 14th/15th November, 1940?
26. Which factory was the most damaged by the bombs?
27. Which services were badly disrupted after the raid?
electricity, gas, telephone, water
28. What code-name did the Luftwaffe give to the operation?
29. What were the shelters in people’s gardens called?
30. What was formed by the former countries of the British Empire after the War?
The (British) Commonwealth (of Nations)
31. Where was Elizabeth when she heard of her father’s death?
(Up a fig tree!) in Kenya
32. When and where was she crowned Queen (year)?
Westminster Abbey, London, 1953
33. When is her ’official birthday’ (month)?
34. Which famous event happens on that day?
The Trooping of the Colour
35. As ’sovereign’, where does the Queen’s income come from?
A grant from Parliament: ‘The Civil List’
36. What is Prince Philip’s title?
Duke of Edinburgh (he’s also ‘Prince Consort’)
37. What did he found in 1956 to reward young people?
38. When was Elizabeth’s ’heir-apparent’ born?
39. What title was he given?
The Prince of Wales
40. Which University College did he attend in the 1970s?
41. What did he establish in 1976?
The Prince’s Trust
42. Whom did he marry in 1981?
Lady Diana Spencer
43. What are the names of their two children?
Prince William and Prince Henry (‘Harry’) (of Wales, both)
44. Which Scottish castle is the Royal Family’s Summer ’retreat’?
45. When, where and how did Princess Diana die in 1997?
In the late summer (August), in Paris, in a car accident.
46. How is she best-remembered?
For her work with AIDS victims and campaigning for the banning of land-mines (as well as as William and Harry’s mum!)
47. Where did she come in a TV poll for ’the Greatest Briton’?
Third (behind Winston Churchill and I K Brunel)
48. Who came together to raise money for Ethiopia in 1984?
Bob Geldof and Midge Ure
49. What was the 1985 concert they organised called?
50. What award did the Queen give Bob Geldof, as an Irish citizen?
An ‘honorary’ knighthood
ROYAL FAMILY PROFILES: WHO AM I?
51. I was educated at Gordonstoun School (Scotland), Lakefield College (Canada) the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth (England). I became an officer in the Royal Marines, qualifying as a helicopter pilot, and saw active service in 1982. I was given my title after my marriage in 1986. I am now divorced, and have two grown-up daughters.
52. I married the Duke of York, second son of George V, in 1923, and we had two daughters together. I became Queen in December 1936 after the abdication of my brother-in-law. Following the death of my husband, in 1952, I continued to undertake many public duties until well into my nineties.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon>Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (after 1952)
53. I am eighth in line to the throne, although the second eldest in my family. My mother gave me my title in 1987. I won the European Horse-Riding Championships in 1971 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year by millions of viewers. I also represented Britain int he 1986 Olympics in Montreal. Since 1970 I have been President of Save the Children Fund.
Princess Anne, the Princeess Royal
54. Who is second in line to the throne?
Prince William of Wales
55. What duty does she perform when she has to give a speech written for her by the government?
56. What is the name, title and age of her youngest son?
57. What is the name, title and age of her youngest grandchild?
(I’ll be posting the answers later, if you need them!)
58 – 60: See below.
Other activities to go with the Power-point Presentation:
2012 Magazine Articles: Questions, Activities and Talking Points:
1. Round Britain Tour:
Using the mini-maps of the UK, mark the places referred to int he article on the outline map provided, and then draw lines linking them together to show ’the Royal Progress’ of HM Queen Elizabeth II during her Jubilee Celebrations. Put a tick by the places she has already visited.
2. The Crown Jewels:
Translate the following words and phrases into your own language, after finding them in the article:
steeped in history –
spectacular display –
to highlight the significance of sthng –
to anoint –
Questions/ Talking Points:
58. What are the three most important symbols of Royal Power, or ’Prerogative’ in the Coronation ceremony?
The Orb, the Sceptre and the Crown
59. What is the oldest item in the collection? How old is it?
The Coronation Spoon, used to ‘anoint’ the monarch since the 12th Century, so c 750-800 years.
60. According to the keepers of the jewels, what three messages does the new display try to give to the visiting public?
- the importance of the collection for British heritage;
- the fact that the jewels are ‘the real thing’;
- they are ‘working treasures’.
3. ’Tender Tribute’:
Find the following words and phrases in the article and, using the context, give an accurate translation of their meaning into your language:
to decline compliments –
to reinforce the sentiments –
to fulfil a uniquely demanding role –
nearest and dearest –
support beyond measure –
pleasurable duty –
to rededicate –
Questions/ Talking Points:
How many Prime Ministers has the Queen met with during her time as ’sovereign’?
What did the Lords and Commons do to commemorate the Queen’s sixty year reign?
The MPs and peers have paid for a new stained-glass window feturing HM’s coat of arms to be installed in Westminster Hall.
From the details given in this article, and your own knowledge, how do you think Prince Philip has developed the role of ’Royal Consort’ during the Queen’s reign?
He’s concentrated on his role as Head of the Family, and has supported his wife privately and in public, accompanying her on many tours of duty at home and overseas.
- The Modern Elizabethans: The Life and Times of Queen Elizabeth II, 1926-1997 (chandlerozconsultants.wordpress.com)
Her parents were then the Duke and Duchess of York, and, after her uncle, the Prince of Wales, and her father, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne. She had blue eyes and weighed a little under average. All through the christening she cried loudly, but at six months she was a good-tempered child, always smiling.
People said she took after her father in appearance, but was more like her mother in personality. Two years later, on 21st August 1930, her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, was born in Scotland, at Glamis Castle. She also had blue eyes, but had darker hair than Elizabeth, and weighed more at birth. The two princesses appeared in public together on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in November 1934, after the marriage of King George V’s youngest son, Prince George, to the Greek Princess Marina at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth was a bridesmaid to the couple, who were made Duke and Duchess of Kent by the King.
The following May, hundreds of thousands of people came out on the streets of London to celebrate the Silver Jubilee (25th Anniversary) of his reign over nearly five hundred million subjects throughout the world in what was known as ‘the British Empire’.
‘Long live the King’ cried the ‘Heralds’ on 22nd January 1936, following the death of King George. They were proclaiming the ‘accession’ to the throne of King Edward VIII, who had been, as ‘heir’, the Prince of Wales.
He was unmarried, but in August he was seen on holiday with a 39-year-old American woman who already had a husband, Edward Simpson, whom she had married after divorcing her first husband.
The Simpsons had moved to London where they met the Prince of Wales, and by 1934 the Prince and Mrs Simpson had become good friends. At first, this friendship was not reported in the British newspapers, and the photographs of them on the ‘cruise-ship’ were not published.
The following month, Elizabeth’s uncle, now the ‘Duke of Windsor’, married Mrs Simpson at Château de Condé near Tours in France, with no member of the royal family among the guests. After the honeymoon they went on holiday to Austria, where they met Adolf Hitler at his mountain villa at Berchtesgaden, near Germany’s border with Hitler’s homeland, which his soldiers occupied a year later.
Hitler wanted more and more land. When he took control of Austria and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the British did nothing. But it became clear that he was a danger to all Europeans. There were stories that he was sending large numbers of German Jews to prison for no reason. When he invaded Poland in 1939, the Second World War began. George VI once more broadcast to the British people and Empire on the radio. To do so, he had overcome a bad stammer, with the help of his speech therapist. The story of this was recently made into a film, The King’s Speech. His words helped to inspire his peoples at home and overseas.
The Spirit of Dunkerque and Coventry:
At first the war went badly for Britain. British soldiers went to France, but they were soon pushed out again by the powerful German Army. They had to be rescued from the beaches near Dunkerque, with the help of all kinds of small fishing and sailing boats which crossed the English channel. The stories of their bravery, and that of the trapped soldiers, led to ‘the Dunkerque Spirit’ which the British Prime Minister spoke about, saying that the British would ‘never surrender’. By the summer of 1940, most of France, Belgium and the Netherlands were under Hitler’s control. He now made plans to invade Britain, which was on its own in western Europe as a free country, but first he had to win control of the skies over the Channel and the south coast of England. The Battle of Britain was the first real air battle in history. German and British planes fought for three months, but the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, couldn’t defeat the pilots of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in their Spitfires and Hurricanes. Eventually, he decided to bomb London and the cities where the planes were being made. He began a series of night-time raids which became known as ‘the Blitz’.
On the night of the 14/15th November, 1940, Coventry, a city in the English Midlands was the target for a bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe. The city had been bombed 24 times before, between August and November. But this raid gave its name to a new word in both the English and German dictionaries,
‘Coventration’, which meant a concentrated bombing of an urban area. For almost eleven hours on that night, 449 bomber aircraft raided the city, killing 568 people and seriously injuring 863. Two thirds of the medieval centre was either completely destroyed or badly damaged, including the cathedral, the market hall and the main theatre. However, the main targets were the factories, where a large number of the British Armed Forces land vehicles and aircraft were made. Of the 189 factories in the city, 111 were hit, the Daimler factory being the most damaged. Even more damaging was that electricity, gas, telephone, transport and water services were all severely disrupted. Almost 12% of the city’s houses were either destroyed or were so badly damaged that no-one could live in them anymore. The operation was called ‘Moonlight Sonata’ by the Luftwaffe, which meant there would be a raid in three stages by the light of a full moon. However, the new Enigma de-coding system could not get the message that Coventry was to be hit out in time for a warning to be given to the city’s people.
The survivors did not take long to get back on their feet. One of them wrote that, ‘out of the rubble began to grow local pride…no one had ever suffered more. It was a wonder to have endured at all’. Although London had been badly hit in the ‘Blitz’ which followed the Battle of Britain, earlier that autumn, this was not a ‘lightning’ raid, which was what ‘blitzkrieg’ had meant at first, and Coventry was the first town or city outside the capital to suffer such an intense attack. Unlike ‘Greater London’, which was really a collection of villages, Coventry was a relatively small city with a distinct, largely timber-framed medieval centre and a series of modern housing estates growing up around it. This made the destruction of its centre even more impressive.
The destruction of the cathedral became a very important symbol in the fight against fascism, which gripped the imagination of the world. The way in which the people of Coventry stood up to their ordeal made a very deep impression. Telegrams and messages arrived from all over the world, together with donations of money. Many famous people visited the city in the next weeks. The Coventry Standard of the 7th December, out of action for two weeks for the first time since 1741, reported the visit of the King and Queen Elizabeth. Buckingham Palace had also been hit by a bomb at the time of the bombing of ‘the East End’, with the King and Queen, though not the fourteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth, at home. Coventry soon became a name which was known and respected throughout the world, closely linked to the resistance of the British people, which became known as ‘the Spirit of the Blitz’.
Finally, in 1941, Hitler gave up his plans to invade Britain, and chose to invade Russia instead. Like Napoleon before him, he failed to capture Moscow, and was eventually defeated at Stalingrad. The Russians then began pushing the Germans out of the Soviet Union, and the USA joined the British and other ‘Allied’ troops in landing in France and pushing the German Armies back into Germany. This took a year, but by May 1945 the Russians and the other Allied troops met at the River Elbe, Hitler killed himself, and the German Armies surrendered. The war continued in the Far East, where Japan had joined Germany in 1941, attacked the USA and took control of many lands under the control of the British Empire. A quarter of a million British and American people, not just soldiers, sailors and airmen, were made prisoners by the Japanese. The British pushed them out of India and Burma, while the Americans defeated them in the Pacific Ocean. In August, following the dropping of atom bombs on two Japanese cities, the Japanese Emperor surrendered.
After the Second World War, Britain couldn’t keep control of its empire. India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, and most of the other countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean soon followed. However, many of them joined ‘the Commonwealth’, a group of states from around the world that work together on many important matters. The British monarch still remains the head of the Commonwealth, and is still the Head of State in some countries, like Australia.
‘Family of Nations’; ‘the Family’ at Home:
By the time Princess Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom in 1952, while visiting Kenya, the British Empire was coming to an end. However, as a result of its spreading of the English language throughout the world, it has continued to work closely with the USA and other English-speaking countries over the past sixty years, as well as, more recently, within the European Community and Union.
When George VI died on 6th February 1952, his 26 year-old daughter became monarch (‘Accession’). She was crowned (‘Coronation’) the following year in Westminster Abbey. Her official birthday, the second Saturday in June, is marked by the Trooping of the Colour, a ceremony during which regiments of the Guards Division and the Household Cavalry parade (or ‘troop’) the regimental flag (‘the colour’) before her, as ‘sovereign’. She receives an income from the ‘civil list’ (an annual allowance voted by Parliament, which is divided among the members of the Royal Family for the expenses involved in doing their public duties). Among her many duties are the regular visits to foreign countries, especially those in the Commonwealth, whose interests and welfare are very important to her.
Elizabeth had already been married for five years when she became Queen, and her husband, Prince Philip, is known as her ‘Consort’. He is five years older than her, and also has the title, ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, which was given to him after their wedding. He has always taken a great interest in the achievements of young people and in 1956 he founded the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. The ‘awards’ are given to young people between the ages of 14 and 21 for enterprise, initiative and achievement.
The Prince has become well-known as a keen promoter of British causes abroad, especially in the Commonwealth, and of the interests of all the British people at home, whatever their first language, religion, ethnic or economic background. He set up the Prince’s Trust in 1976 to provide work opportunities and recreation facilities for young people from deprived backgrounds. He married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and she became Princess of Wales. They had two children, William and Harry, two of the Queen’s eight grandchildren.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have responded to the interest of people throughout the world in the life of ‘the Royal Family’, even allowing TV cameras to film them on holiday at Balmoral, the castle in Scotland which is their ‘summer retreat’. It has sometimes proved difficult for people marrying into the family to deal with the loss of privacy and the public pressures which have resulted from this decision.
Three of the four first marriages of ‘the Royal Children’ ended in separation or divorce, and the tragic death of Princess Diana in a Paris subway car accident in 1997 was partly caused by photo-journalists trying to take pictures of her. The British public was deeply affected by her death, and both the monarchy and the media were forced to change some of their ways of doing things.
- Queen marks 87th birthday privately (bigpondnews.com)
- The Elizabethan Era Nears Its End as Prince Charles Begins to Take on Queen’s Duties (world.time.com)
- Designs on a new Queen: Hartnell’s hand-coloured sketch of Elizabeth II in her coronation gown is centrepiece of exhibition to mark 60th anniversary (laurelbabeblog.wordpress.com)
- Queen Elizabeth II (hnr20.wordpress.com)
- Beautiful paintings of the Queen in her coronation gown to go on display in new exhibition to mark 60th anniversary (dailymail.co.uk)
- 10 Curious Facts About The British Monarchy (listverse.com)
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh Host a Lovely Garden Party. (royalcorrespondent.com)
Jesus said: I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God are sons and daughters of God. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
A few weeks after Jesus went back up to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. Jesus’ friends were all together. Suddenly they saw little flames on each other’s heads. Then the people began talking in other languages they hadn’t learned (Acts 2)
A Children’s Prayer for Whitsun
We remember today how the coming of God’s Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost changed the lives of the disciples.
Loving Lord God,
Thank for the joy of the disciples.
We need the gift of joy;
Give us your Spirit, Lord.
Thank you for the courage of the disciples.
We need the gift of courage;
Give us your Spirit, Lord.
Thank you for the goodness and unselfishness of the disciples.
We need these gifts;
Give us your Spirit, Lord.
Thank you for the way the disciples spread the good news of your love.
We need to be your messengers;
Give us your Spirit, Lord.
Thank you for the disciples’ certainty that Jesus would always be with them.
We need his friendship and help;
Give us your Spirit, Lord.
Lord, help us feel your living Spirit present with us as we worship and at all times. Amen.
Luke 4. 18-19:
May the spirit of the Lord be upon us that we may be announce good news to the poor, proclaim release for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind; that we may let the broken victim go free, and proclaim the year of our Lord’s favour; according to the example of Christ and by his grace. Amen.
Galatians 5. 22-24:
Grant to us Lord the fruit of the Spirit: and may your life in ours fulfil itself in love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. May our lower nature, with its passions and desires, be crucified with Christ, that true life may come. And may the Holy Spirit, the source of that new life, direct its course to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Breath of the Spirit
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew.
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Blend all my soul with thine,
Until this eartly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God;
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.
The idea of breath has always had a central role in Christian theology. The Greek word for this, and for the Spirit is ‘pneuma’, as in pneumonia, pneumatic, etc.. The Latin word ‘spiritus’ also refers to breath. The creative function of God has often been thought of as the action of breathing life into mankind, following the description in Genesis 2:7: ‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’
Whereas to a physicist pneumatology means the science of air and gases, to a theologian it means the doctrine and study of the Holy Spirit. It is this notion of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God breathed into his creatures that Edwin Hatch (1835-89) develops in this simple devotional hymn. It first appeared in 1878 in a privately printed pamphlet, Between Doubt and Prayer. Hatch was born into a nonconformist family in Birmingham, educated at the King Edward VI School and Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met and befriended several members of the future Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood of artists, including William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Although contributing articles to magazines and artistic reviews, he didn’t follow his friends into a literary or artistic career, but chose instead to become a Church of England minister in the East End of London. Later, he became Professor of Classics at Trinity College, Toronto and then returned to Oxford, ending his academic career as a Reader in Church History. Despite his academic abilities, his faith was said to be as simple as a child’s, and deep.
‘Breathe on Me Breath of God’ is sung to a number of tunes, the most effective of which is ‘Wirksworth’, named after the Derbyshire village with traditions of well-dressing at Whitsun, and found in a Book of Psalmody of 1718, harmonised by S S Wesley (1810-76). The use of some less lively tunes has been criticised as suggesting ‘that the breath of God was an anaesthetic, not a “Giver of Life”.’ So perhaps we should stick to Wirksworth or, even more appropriately perhaps, to Carlisle, by Charles Lockhart (1745-1815), who , despite being blind from infancy, was a notable church organist in London, well known for his training of children’s choirs.
O God, who art father of our spirits, the lover of our souls, and the Lord of our lives: we offer thee our worship and our praise. With thy whole Church in heaven and on earth we adore thee for thy wondrous mercy in the work of our redemption through Jesus Christ thy Son. We thank thee for the grace of thy Holy Spirit, who did brood upon the waters when darkness was upon the face of the deep, speak in the prophets to foretell the coming of thy Christ, and descend as in tongues of living fire upon thy Church at Pentecost. We bless thee that thou hast never taken or withheld thy Holy Spirit from us, but that he abides with us for ever to rebuke us for our sin, to comfort us in our tribulations, to help our infirmities and teach us how to pray, and to witness with our spirits that we are thy children and joint-heirs with Christ. To thee, O god, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we give all praise and glory, for ever and ever. AMEN.
Grace, Mercy and Peace from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. AMEN.
- The English Spirit (revteapot.wordpress.com)
- …that through this belief you may have life in his name (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
- Behold The Holy Spirit Leads… (catholicjules.net)
- OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: SANCTIFICATION AFFAIRS HOMILY FOR THE PENTECOST SUNDAY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD (frbonnie.wordpress.com)
- A Litany to the Holy Spirit (interruptingthesilence.com)
- Pentecost – The Holy Spirit Has Come (girlfriendscoffeehour.com)
- The Holy Spirit: The life of the Church (junjunfaithbook.com)
- Whit Sunday (Seven Weeks after Easter Sunday) (chandlerozconsultants.wordpress.com)
- Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23 New discovery!!!!!! (prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com)
- Come, Holy Spirit! (opinion.inquirer.net)
The world is charged with the grandeur of God,
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
Of the three major festivals in the Christian calendar, Whitsun is perhaps the least celebrated by people in Britain, certainly as a ‘folk’ festival, though it has become more important recently with the growth of the charismatic movement in churches. The coming of the Holy Spirit to revitalise the apostles and, through them, the whole church, is more difficult to picture, especially for children, than the events of Christmas and Easter week. In English culture, at least, Whitsun was upstaged by May Day. It is no longer merits a general ‘bank’ holiday in its own right in Britain, for the Monday following, though there is a late Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May, which may or may not coincide. In 2012, this holiday was postponed to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the 2nd-5th June, to allow for a long weekend. In parts of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, ‘Ladies go Dancing at Whitsun’ still, as the song has it. The white clothes worn in these secular activities, as well as in churches for baptisms and confirmations, is the origin of the name in English, though other cultures use the original Greek name for the Hebrew festival of the fiftieth day after Passover, ‘Pentecost‘.
After the events of Easter Day, the disciples of Jesus were comforted and encouraged for forty days by his appearances before them. They were still looking for Christ’s kingdom to come and needed the presence of the King. However, Jesus told them that it was not for them to know how this kingdom would be achieved, but he would always be with them and they would be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Then, forty days after his Resurrection, he went from their sight in the event which is commemorated by the Church on Ascension Day. Ten days later the apostles (now made up to twelve by the appointment of Matthias as treasurer, replacing Judas Iscariot) came together to celebrate Pentecost. As they talked, fearful of what might happen to them, a power came over them, in a moment of time, which they all experienced, and which, sweeping away their fears, emboldened them to go out to the crowds and to preach the gospel in such a way that all the pilgrims , gathered in Jerusalem from many lands and speaking many languages, could understand their enthusiastic message. Although, like Jesus, the disciples would have spoken a little Greek as well as their own colloquial Aramaic, and may have been able to read and write in Hebrew, they could not possibly, as uneducated Galileans, have learnt so many languages, especially the Persian and Asian languages. Even the fifty days they had been quietly preparing for their ministry would not have been long enough to learn the range of tongues required to preach confidently in each. The tongues of fire which ‘spread out and touched each person there’ remind one of the ‘dragon’s tongue’ symbol of the Welsh language Society.
They were so enthusiastic that the more cynical onlookers made fun of them, suggesting that they’d been drinking wine at breakfast, as it was only just nine o’ clock. This was how the missionary work of the Church began, bringing death in many cruel forms to some of the twelve, and many others.
Today, most Whitsun ceremonies, derived from the Saxon ‘Hirita Surnondseg’ customs, have little reference to the first Whitsun described in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 2), and many of them are pagan in origin, although the Church has given them Christian significance. The pagan cult of well worship and veneration of water spirits was one of the most difficult traditions to transform. To this day, in most European cultures, the custom of throwing coins into a fountain or ‘wishing well’ is still a common practice and a good way of charities gaining income. Wells and spas are still a feature of many towns in Britain, with England’s smallest city named after the several natural springs which surface there, near the Cathedral. Bath, a world heritage centre, has been an important Spa since Roman times, of course, and place-names like Royal Leamington Spa and Llandrindod Wells are part of the revival of water-treatments in Georgian times.
The most colourful ceremony which continues in contemporary celebrations at Ascentiontide and Whitsuntide is Well Dressing, very popular in the north Midlands, or Peak District. This has become an art form in its own right with origins in the Dark Ages and floral pictures up to ten feet (3m) in height are set up at springs and well-heads. Tissington, Buxton and Wirksworth in Derbyshire, are noted for the beauty of their well dressings. The scenes depicted are biblical, constructed entirely from natural materials, pebbles, flowers and petals, leaves, moss, and crystal rocks. At Tissington, after morning prayers, the clergy and choir process around five local wells, blessing each one. The Whitsun Ale was a sort of parish ‘carousel’ vaguely linked to the ‘Agapae’ or Love Feasts of the early Church when the rich ate with the poor and shared their food. The churchwardens arranged the event and provided the beer which was sold, with all profits going to the poor. The ‘Church Ale’ led to village benefit clubs of the nineteenth century which did more to benefit the hierarchical control of squire and parson, than they benefited the poor, and were replaced by ‘friendly’ and co-operative societies.
More than anything, Whitsun, now Spring Bank Holiday, is the time for Morris-Dancers to emerge, and the popularity of this tradition, encouraged in the 1960s by the English Folk Dance Society, remains widespread throughout England and Wales. The ‘Morris’ is the English version of the ‘Morisca’ or ‘Moorish’ Dance which began as a ritualistic form of battle mime, brought back to England by the Crusaders. As in other European cultures throughout May, floral decorations like the ‘Kissing Bower’ are still made by children in some villages. These are two intertwined circular arches of wild flowers, which are carried from house to house. These customs were not always popular with clergymen, however, who would perhaps have been more positive about the cycles of mystery plays performed at Whitsuntide outside the Cathedrals at Chester, Wakefield and Coventry. These were presented as ‘pageants’ on moving stages which processed around the town, which meant that the biblical scene for a particular festival was presented several times by the chosen trade guild for that scene, as the audiences watched on at different points around the city. Freed from the direct control of the Church, they contained sometimes bawdy dramatic effects, or ‘slapstick’ humour, written into lively, colloquial scripts. It would be interesting to know what special effects they could produce both for the Ascension and Pentecost stories.
Which brings us back to where we came in. Children can understand the idea of the Holy Spirit as a conscience, or counsellor, as well as a comforter or helper, as in the picture and text below. And both children and adults can understand Paul’s teaching on the ‘fruits of the spirit’; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost may have been dramatic, but its continuing charisma is manifested in the ordinary, everyday lives of Christians who follow its promptings and reveal its power in the way they live out these values and qualities of Love Divine.
- Pentecost Sunday Cycle C (frdoug.typepad.com)
- Shovuos (Pentecost – Jewish Festival) (chandlerozconsultants.wordpress.com)
- This Sunday is Pentecost (livingchrist.typepad.com)
- Pentecost, Sunday, May 19, 2013 (pendernews.org)
- The Church’s Birthday Tomorrow? (garyware.me)
- Bring Out the Red! …for Pentecost Sunday, May 19 (arborlawnumc.typepad.com)
- Shavuot and Ruth (bobmschwartz.com)
- Gil Rosenberg’s Anniversary, Jesus’ Pentecost (Sunday Homily) (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)
- The Mystery of the Ascension (spnmaine.org)
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days.
(Leviticus 23: 16)
Judaism‘s festival of weeks comes seven weeks, or fifty days (‘Pentecost’) after the Passover Festival. This festival was originally celebrated as the gathering of the barley harvest, seven weeks after the harvesting of the wheat crop. It was, therefore, the a thanksgiving festival and was first observed after the Hebrews had settled in Palestine as a farming community. It gained greater importance as the festival of ‘the Torah’, the Hebrew Law given by God on Mount Sinai to Moses. According to the Bible story, the Hebrews entered the Sinai desert in the third month of their exodus from Egypt. Much later, in the nineteenth century, the festival acquired even greater significance when it was recognised as the day of confirmation, on which thirteen year-olds were confirmed in the faith through a special ceremony. Previously, only boys were allowed to go through this ‘Bar Mitzvah’, but now both boys and girls are confirmed at this age.
The festival also has a Christian significance, for it was at Pentecost that Jesus’ disciples suddenly found the courage to go out and tell the whole world about their belief, so that the festival became ‘Whitsun’ in the Christian calendar, a popular day for baptisms and confirmations, with the weekend popular for white weddings! I was baptised on Whit Sunday, forty years ago, fifteen years after being born at a Nottinghamshire Baptist manse on a Whit Monday!
Shovuos is a summer festival and Jewish homes are decorated in green, while the food is largely composed of dairy dishes. A popular dish is ‘blintzes’, which is cheese rolled in dough. In Jewish schools children are taught the story of Ruth, which reminds them of their agricultural heritage and also turns their thoughts to David and Bethlehem, his home town. The story begins in a time of hardship and famine, when a farmer named Elimelech, together with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, decided to move to another country, Moab, to find better pastures there. Sadly, Emilelech died, leaving the two boys to look after their mother. In time, the boys married, the elder to a Moabite woman, Ruth. Naomi found happiness with her two daughters-in-law and her sons, and they prospered for a decade. Then, tragically, the two sons were killed in an accident and Naomi, now very lonely, decided to return to Bethlehem. Ruth asked to go with her, with the words:
Wherever you go, I will go,
Wherever you live, I will live.
Your people shall be my people
and your God, my God.
They went back to Bethlehem together, to find the situation very different to how it had been a decade previously. The famine was over and the harvests were good. However, the two women remained poor and at the barley harvest time Ruth went into the fields to ‘glean’ among the sheaves left by the reapers. The owner, Boaz, saw her, fell in love with her, and gave her six measures of barley to take home to her mother-in-law. They were married and their son, Obed, was Jesse’s father, who was father to David, hence the significance of the story to Christians, since Jesus was David’s descendant, born in his home town of Bethlehem.
However, although the Christian festival of Whitsun is a popular time for baptisms and confirmations, like ‘Bar Mitzvah’ celebrations, the basis of the festival is the New Testament story of what happened to the apostles on the morning after the seventh sabbath.
The ‘Bar Mitzvah’ (boys) and ‘Bat Mitzvah‘ (girls) ceremonies mark the occasion when the young Jew reaches religious and legal maturity. There are celebrations both in the synagogue and at home. The young boy is taught to read the Torah scroll, and a great extended family party follows. The young person gives a speech in which s/he expresses their thanks to their parents for all their love and concern in bringing them up.
- Wisdom of the Book of Ruth (graftedinelena.wordpress.com)
- The Pentecost Prophecy (popularbookreviewsandinfo.com)
- Celebrate Pentecost – May 14, 15 and 16, 2013! (jscotthusted.wordpress.com)
- Ministerial Shavuot Greetings at Special Bar Mitzvah (israelnationalnews.com)
- Happy Shavuot! (jewishvoice.wordpress.com)
- Jewish Festival of Weeks (travelingyoshi.wordpress.com)
- Shavuot (Pentecost) Guide for the Perplexed 2013 (algemeiner.com)
- A Different Set of Loaves (momsfirstscreenn.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s Wedding – Thoughts on Shavuot (algemeiner.com)
- Seniors celebrate their b’nai mitzvah at Pembroke Pines synagogue (miamiherald.com)