Page 7, 21st June 2002

21st June 2002
Page 7
Page 7, 21st June 2002 — Cambridge blues

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Organisations: Christ Church


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Cambridge blues

From Dom Alberic Stacpoole OSB Sir, A half-millennium is slipping by almost unnoticed, one that began solidly rooted in Catholicism. The last Catholic king, before his son's ChurchAnglicanisation by Act of State, was Henry VII, a Tudor who died just months before his saintly mother, in 1509. Married thrice, she had arranged his fruitful marriage to Elizabeth of York, reconciling rivals and bringing a quarter-century of peace with prosperity.

In 1495, the Lady Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, took as her spiritual director a future saint, John Fisher of Beverley, Cardinal and martyr, who though life-chancellor of Cambridge was also, from 1504, Bishop of Rochester (and the only prelate to confront Henry VIII).

The Lady Margaret was persuaded by Fisher to live a full religious life, to become a "Sister" of the London Charterhouse and Westminster Abbey, to co-found two Cambridge Colleges (Christ's and St John's) and to establish a Cambridge preachership.

Perhaps most importantly, she founded at Oxford, in 1502, the Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity, now held 500 years later by Canon Dr John Webster of Christ Church; then in 1503, at Cambridge, a further such professorship, filled at the outset by Fisher, who also became chancellor the next year. The most famous living successor of Fisher is Charlie Moule (Lady Margaret 1951-76, i.e. for a quartercentury).

Who wins? In boat-race terms Cambridge — having had all manner of celebrations and raised a festschrift of Scripture and Theology Studies. Oxford attached a lecture to a dinner at Christ Church. Will they be better prepared in 2502? Will the Lady Margaret be a lady prelate?

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