131 PlERs McGRANDLE THE DUKE AND Duchess of Norfolk knelt at dawn in the Tower of London on Thursday to commemorate the fourth centenary of Saint Philip Howard.
Accompanied by Bishop Murphy O'Connor and assorted members of their family, they prayed in the cell where the Earl of Arundel died for his faith.
Behind the ceremony lies a story of low intrigue and high faith. St Philip, a young nobleman in the court of Elizabeth I, was baptised a Catholic in the presence of Queen Mary, but then brought up a Protestant. Married in 1571 to Anne nacre, he converted to the faith of his baptism 12 years later, installing a Catholic priest in his London house so that he could attend daily Mass.
Seeking advice about his new faith, he wrote a letter to Cardinal Allen at Douai Abbey. But the letter was intercepted and he was sent a bogus reply recommending him to leave England.
Setting sail from Littlehampton, the Earl was arrested off the coast for attempting to flee the country and sent back.
Imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1585 on the grounds of treason and fined £10,000, he remained in the Tower until his death a decade later.
Denied access to his wife and children, he was sustained by a Latin saying that he
inscribed on the wall: "The more suffering for Christ in this world so much more the glory with Christ in the next".
Enduring a slow and painful death, the Earl appealed to Queen Elizabeth to let him see his wife and son. The Queen replied that if he would go once to their Protestant church, she would allow him both to visit his children and to restore to him his estates and honours. With great sadness, St Philip declined.
Canonised in 1970, his body .was brought to a new shrine in Arundel Cathedral which was re-dedicated to "Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Howard".
Speaking of St Philip Bishop Murphy O'Connor said that "Philip was faced with the fact that to follow his conscience would mean the loss of all his property and privilege.
"It could even mean the forfeit of his life. He knew that he had everything to lose and, humanly speaking, nothing to gain".
The bishop added that St Philip Howard's "steadfastness in the long years in prison is heroic. It makes us examine our priorities. We too live in an affluent society and one in which we see values changing very rapidly".
One of the celebratory highlights of the week ahead will be the sight of Arundel Cathedral, the gift of Henry Fitzalan Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, being fully illuminated for the first time in its history.