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Special services mark royal anniversaries

Posted on: January 7, 2016 2:06 PM
The Bayeux Tapestry portrays the death of King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings

[ACNS] A service of Compline was held last night (Wednesday) at Waltham Abbey Church in Essex, England, to commemorate the 950th anniversary of the coronation of King Harold Godwinson. Harold didn’t remain King long – he lost his life a few months after his coronation at the Battle of Hastings during the Norman invasion of England. He is believed to be buried in the churchyard at Waltham Abbey. Last night service was the first of many events taking place this year to mark the anniversaries.

The Church at Waltham Abbey has long enjoyed royal connections. The present building stands on the site of a wooden church first built around 610 by Sabert, King of the East Saxons and it has enjoyed royal patronage ever since. King Harold is said to have rebuilt the church in gratitude for healing during a pilgrimage while he was Earl of Essex and East Anglia.

Henry II founded a college of Augustinian Canons at the church as penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. King Henry VIII was a regular visitor and held discussions here with Thomas Cranmer which led to the English Reformation.

“I think [the service] should be interesting because it is very unusual for a compline service to be held in an Anglican church,” organiser Tricia Gurnett, told the Waltham Forest Guardian newspaper. “It is something King Harold would have known very well, he would very much have recognised what kind of a service it is.”

The anniversary of the Battle of Hastings – the last time any foreign army successful invaded Britain – will be marked by another service later in the year, as will King Harold Day, in October.

“We are all very keen to really commemorate the town’s links with Harold Godwinson this year,” the town’s museum manager, Tony O’Connor, told the newspaper. “It is such a significant year, and it seemed like a wonderful way to begin the commemorations with a service on the day of the coronation, and in the church which Harold founded, redeveloped, and may well be buried in – all the evidence seems to be going in that direction.”

Meanwhile, the first service according to the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church to be celebrated since the 1550s at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal will be held next month. The Vespers service, which will be held mostly in Latin, will be celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, the Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, will preach.

The organisers of the service, the Genesis Foundation and the Choral Foundation, describe the “historic” service as “an unprecedented coming together of the Catholic and Anglican churches on such an historically important site.”

The musical element of the service has been chosen and will be performed by Harry Christophers and his ensembles The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen. Paying tribute to the rich and turbulent religious history of the Chapel Royal, the ensembles will sing Thomas Tallis’ Magnificat, William Cornysh’s Salve Regina and John Taverner’s ‘Leroy’ Kyrie.

Before the service, the two church leaders will hold a discussion on “Faith and the Crown” in the Palace’s Great Hall. “Their discussion will be wide-ranging and will address the relationship between the two churches and the monarchy,” a spokesman said.

“Taking the Chapel Royal as their starting point, the two men will discuss its role in maintaining elements of Catholic worship to the present day. The emphasis will be very much on exploring the bonds between their churches and the dialogue they have had over the centuries, many of which are exemplified by the Chapel Royal during its often turbulent history.”

Michele Price, the director of development at the Choral Foundation, said that “the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court played centre stage to the religious changes in the 16th Century. Its musicians and composers met the challenge of serving the spiritual needs of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, by producing new and beautiful music and in so doing became ‘the cradle of English church music.’

“This historic occasion enables us to explore our rich heritage and bring together Christian traditions as we celebrate 500 years of Hampton Court Palace.”