England, The Dowry of Mary

There is a tradition that the title ‘Dowry of Mary’ goes back to St Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066). There is no doubt, about the deep devotion to Our Lady that existed in medieval England, and the fame of Walsingham and other medieval English Shrines of Our Lady are a strong testimony to this devotion.

The first documentary evidence for the title was found in a painting which used to hang in the Hospice of St Thomas, which was the English Hospice for pilgrims in Rome, now the Venerable English College. It showed King Richard II (r. 1377-1399) and his consort Anne of Bohemia at Westminster Abbey on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1381. They are praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pewe, offering England to Our Lady as Her Dowry. He holds a parchment with a Latin inscription: ‘Dos tua pia haec est, quare leges, Maria’ – This is your dowry, O pious Virgin.

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This is Your Dowry, O Pious Virgin

One of the most famous paintings in the National Gallery in London is the Wilton Dyptych (above). This was a travelling altar showing King Richard II praying before Our Lady. Behind him are his patrons, St John the Baptist, St Edward the Confessor and St Edmund. In 1399 Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to his suffragan bishops:

“The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has drawn all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the first beginnings of our Redemption. But we English, being the servants of her special inheritance and her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions.”

 

So, the title of England as ‘The Dowry of Mary’ was definitely in use by the end of the fourteenth century, but Archbishop Arundel’s letter seems to indicate that at the time of his writing it was already in common use, indicating an earlier origin.

Resources

The re-dedication in 2020, unlike the dedication of King Richard II in 1381, will not be the gift of the country of England, but the personal gift of the faith of the people of England to the Mother of God, to seek her help in building a strong spiritual foundation for the New Evangelisation.

We call upon Our Lady to guide and protect our country in the years to come, that our people may work together to face the challenges of our times, as we work to build a Common Good.

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“When England goes back to Walsingham,
Our Lady will return to England”

Pope Leo XIII

 

A spiritual renewal to facilitate the New Evangelisation

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“When England goes back to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England”

These prophetic words of Pope Leo XIII seem to indicate that Walsingham is intimately associated with the spiritual health of England. The Walsingham (Pynson) Ballad reflects the tradition that the title ‘Dowry of Mary’ goes back to St Edward the Confessor, in whose reign (1042-1066) the Holy House was built. Whether the title originated in Walsingham or not, the title was certainly promoted there. The Holy House in Walsingham was erected as a replica of Mary’s house in Nazareth, which led to England becoming known as the “Holy Land, Our Lady’s Dowry”, and Walsingham being called the “New Nazareth”

 

So the 2020 rededication will be the offering of the faith of the people of this country to the Mother of God, to seek Our Lady’s prayers for the loving care and protection of our country.

Contact Details

For further information and updates on events, please contact:

The Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham

Address: Dowry Tour, Pilgrim Bureau, Friday Market Place, Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6EG
Phone: 01328 801 007
Email: dowrytour@walsingham.org.uk

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