Black Princes Chantry Huguenot Chapel French Protestant Church

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

BLACK PRINCE'S CHANTRY - HUGUENOT CHAPEL - French Protestant Church

Date: 5th June 2015

BLACK PRINCE’S CHANTRY – HUGUENOT CHAPEL – French Protestant Church

Whatever you choose to call it, this little space is unique.

Eldest son of Edward 111, the young Edward was born on 15th June 1330 at Woodstock. As the heir apparent he was invested with the title Prince of Wales. He died one year before his father and never acceded to the Crown.  His young son Richard 11 became King at the age of 9.  He had the crown taken from him by Henry 1V - or was it he?

Why the name 'The Black Prince'? We are not sure. Some believe it was because he wore Black Armour others that, after his siege of Limoges and the massacre of 3,000 of its inhabitants, the French called him Le Prince Noir (the Prince of Darkness – Satan).

His stunning tomb in Canterbury Cathedral displays him in armour and it is certainly not black so the mystery continues.

In his will, drawn up on his deathbed at Westminster Palace on 7 June 1376, the Black Prince left detailed instructions for his funeral, tomb and epitaph. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral as he had wished, but in the Trinity Chapel, not in the chantry chapel he had founded in the crypt, as he had specified.  It is thought that his father and the monks of Canterbury Cathedral wanted his tomb to be adjacent to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket - more fitting perhaps or a better 'pull' for the pilgrims!

In the olden days, the rich would endow a Chantry Chapel where, after death, prayers would be said for the soul. Edward’s Chantry Chapel is beautifully decorated with Lierne vaulting and many bosses which look as though they were carved and put in place yesterday. This ornate Chantry Chapel is in stark contrast to the very simple Romanesque Chapels on the North side of the Transept.

Edward wished to marry his cousin, Joan the Fair Maid of Kent. As Catholics, this was regarded as being within the bounds of consanguinity (blood ties) and they needed Papal dispensation which was granted. The Chapel was decorated as an act of piety - in thanks for this ‘favour’ perhaps.

Now we come to the Huguenots – French Protestants escaping religious persecution. Arguments rage as to where/how the term Huguenot originated.

Henry V111’s son Edward V1 had a short reign but he granted the ‘Refugees’ freedom of Religious worship and at one period many years later, the Western Crypt would have been flooded with around 2,000 Huguenot worshippers. Many dispersed around the country or went further abroad and as their numbers dwindled the congregation moved into the Southern side of the Western Crypt. Eventually in 1885, their numbers were so small that the Dean and Chapter granted them the use of the Black Prince’s Chantry in perpetuity. And that is how the French Protestants come to have this beautiful Chapel as their own.

My original interest in the Chapel and the Huguenots came out of curiosity. I knew that my grandmother was of French descent and the Pettet family had lived in and around the Canterbury area for hundreds of years. (Whether we are Huguenot or not remains to be seen) Some 4 years ago I attended a service at the Chapel and was very warmly welcomed. Some months later I went again and gradually my visits increased until I was ‘sucked’ into the place. I give my support, not out of deep religious conviction though I much admire the simplicity of the service, but because I want to help keep this historic place alive.

Services are in French every Sunday at 3.00 pm – it is very easy to follow on the printed service sheet and there are English translations if you need them. There’s plenty of singing of hymns and canticles and very often the sermon is conducted in English – which suits me because my French is far from fluent. Though I have to admit my French accent has improved no end, I could still not converse adequately in French at a dinner party not unless they were speaking Church french!!!

We haven’t had a Pasteur for 4 years and that is why we rely upon visiting preachers and lay people of all denominations to come and take the sermon. It has been a case of ‘all hands to the pump’ and many of us actually read the Liturgy – even myself, though I was scared to death the first time. I’m used to public speaking but not in a foreign language.

Recently our long standing ‘pillar of the chapel’ Miss Anne Oakley has been given the Délégation Pastorale – which means that she is in effect our Pasteur and is able to take Communion. She has asked that we still continue to help by reading the liturgy and we will also continue to have our visiting preachers.

I have been co-opted onto the Consistory of the Chapel and also, for the time being, act as Secretary. However we are on the look out for a salaried Bi-lingual Administrator/Secretary so if you know anyone who would welcome a part time job, do get in touch. The work is not arduous, would be rather sporadic, and most of it could be done from home.

So why have I told you all this? Several of us felt we needed to inject some vitality into the organisation and I took it upon myself, with the aid of my invaluable helper and friend Paul Rice, to completely upgrade the Website which is now live and interactive.

So please do have a look – www.frenchchurchcanterbury.org.uk

 


 

BLACK PRINCE'S CHANTRY - HUGUENOT CHAPEL - French Protestant Church

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