Black Princes Chantry Huguenot Chapel Canterbury Cathedral

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 - Canterbury Cathedral

Date: 27th September 2011

The Chapel of Prince Edward / The Black Prince’s Chantry.

It was good to get back to my Assisting at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday. The attendances fluctuate greatly and being a gloriously sunny day, we appeared to have fewer visitors but what we lacked in quantity was certainly made up for in quality - by that I mean the interest and the questions. I was particularly taken with a group of three new students from the University. They’d somehow managed to get past the Welcome Desk without picking up a leaflet which gives a tour of the highlights of the Cathedral. They were at the furthest East End of the Cathedral when they asked where was the Tomb of Becket. Having taken them to the Martyrdom they appeared to be so interested that I took them on into the crypt and then up to the site of the shrine which Henry V111 had destroyed in 1538. I must have spent about an hour with them and felt more than amply rewarded when they not only expressed their intention of coming back for a longer visit but declared that they’d bring their mothers with them.

I decided that I’d attend the Huguenot Service in the Black Prince’s Chantry - they hold a service in French every Sunday at 3.00 pm and I’d not been for a while. I’m getting to grips with the service but when the sermon is in French, I’m left behind. But I also wanted to take photos of the Chantry as I’m often asked about it by visitors and there’s no entry to it from the Crypt.

The Black Prince had somehow escaped a youthful royal marriage and when he did ‘fall in love’ it was with his cousin Joan - the Fair Maid of Kent. They were descended from different wives of Edward 1 and had grown up together at court. Because of the consanguinity, Edward had to get Papal Dispensation for the marriage and the ‘Fee’ demanded was used to remodel the old Romanesque Chapel in the transept of the Crypt.
The two chapels in the transept were identical until the renovation and now they look completely different - one being plain and simple and the other highly decorated.
Edward wished to be buried in the Crypt so it was appropriate that his Chantry Chapel should have been in the crypt (The Chantry was where masses would have been said for his eternal soul). However, the populus held Edward in such high regard that, when he died, his tomb was erected alongside the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. It is a strange quirk of fate that on the other side of the Cathedral, opposite the tomb of the Black Prince there’s the tomb of the only king to be buried in Canterbury Cathedral - Henry 1V and it was he who usurped the throne from the Black Prince’s son Richard 11. (The Black Prince died one year before his father so it was Joan and Edward’s son Richard who inherited the throne) One wonders if their spirits argue at night when everyone has left the Cathedral.

Following the destruction of Becket’s shrine and the loss of the pilgrims, there were many empty dwellings in Canterbury and the City Fathers were happy to welcome firstly the Protestant Walloons and then the French Huguenots both escaping from Religious persecution in their own lands. They offered much welcome employment to local women and children engaged in spinning, the cloth being woven on looms in their houses.

If you want to know more about the history of the Chantry then click onto this website - where you will find more about the fascinating history of this little chapel.

When the French Huguenots also fled to England to escape religious persecution in the 16th Century they were given permission by Elizabeth 1 to worship in the Crypt and eventually, as numbers dwindled, they were given the little Chapel which is not regarded as part of the Cathedral and is the property of the Huguenots.

This is a Bosse of the Fair Maid of Kent - the Bride with her hair in a gilded snood. Well I suppose Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder!
I’ll post other photos from the Chapel in the Gallery.

BLACK PRINCE'S CHANTRY/Huguenot Chapel - Canterbury Cathedral

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