Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Howard Connexion

A fine, large print of Cardinal Philip Howard (1629 - 1694) hangs in Clergy House. A Dominican, he is buried in Cardinal Cormac's titular church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, in Rome. The Howard family, which includes the Dukes of Norfolk, is one of the oldest English families and holds the premier Dukedom; despite high office under successive English monarchs, they retained their Catholic faith. Over the generations, the Howard family has had close connexions with Westminster Cathedral.

Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847 - 1917), the 15th Duke, was a major supporter of the Catholic Church in the years following Catholic Emancipation, and founded the Catholic cathedrals at Arundel and Norwich. He was a significant contributor to funds for the building of Westminster Cathedral.

Miles Fitzalan-Howard (1915 - 2002), the 17th Duke, was a familiar figure at Westminster Cathedral and patron of several of our fundraising appeals. A warm and generous man, he provided considerable personal support to several Administrators (including me). On many occasions he welcomed the Friends of Westminster Cathedral to his home at Arundel Castle, and was a close person friend of Cardinal Cormac, who had previously been Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.

Edward Fitzalan Howard, the current Duke, continues the family tradition of support for Westminster Cathedral. Above, he and the Duchess view Elgar's manuscript of the Dream of Gerontius in the sacristy in 2003. The occasion was the centenary of the first London performance; on that previous occasion, the 15th Duke had been present in the Cathedral - a report is here. Looking on is Archbishop Michael Bowen, emeritus Archbishop of Southwark.

One of the highlights of the visit came when the Duke inspected the Howard plate or, as he jokingly called it, the 'family silver'. Above, Fr Tim Dean describes the pieces to the Duke.

The Howard plate was bequeathed to Westminster Cathedral by another illustrious member of the family, Cardinal Edward Henry Howard (1829 - 1892). Having served on the missions in India, Cardinal Howard became Archpriest of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It is interesting to note that at that time there were three English members of the Sacred College (Cardinals Howard, Newman and Manning).

The Howard plate is italian silver-gilt. Each piece is decorated in 17th century style with scrolls, foliage and clouds, and set with bloodstones. Most display the coat of arms of the Cardinal.

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