TV Historian, Dr Emma Wells, takes a look at York Minster’s royal connections

in York

Pope Gregory I chose York as the seat for a northern English archbishopric at the end of the sixth century. Thirty years later, on Easter Day 627, King Edwin of Deira was baptised as a Christian in the city’s first wooden ‘Minster’ church. Ever since, the close relationship between Minster – officially titled the ‘Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York’— and Crown has continued.

As William the Conqueror slaked his vengeant “Harrying” on the North of the country, in 1070, his royal chaplain, Thomas of Bayeux, became the archbishop of the ecclesiastical Province of York. Archbishop Bayeux launched a great Norman renovation of the old, desolated minster—but it wasn’t until 1220 that the present Gothic-style church was constructed—and it took over 200 years. In fact, the nave was likely only started to house a royal wedding. The official ceremony of the fifteen-year-old King Edward III and his bride, Philippa of Hainault, took place in January 1328, as a biting snowstorm swirled around them inside the unfinished cathedral—and the archbishop, who had failed to complete the building work in time, looked on with embarrassment.

As the epicentre of the North, the Minster continued to play an important role in national affairs and key events. Though no official coronations occurred inside, it did see a few crown-wearings (known as ceremonies of inauguration). Richard III visited the city for his soon after his official crowning at Westminster Abbey in 1483.

Half a century later, the wedding of the Duke of Kent and Katharine Worsley was held inside the Minster and, relaunching an historic tradition, Queen Elizabeth II then distributed alms (known as the Royal Maundy) on the year of her Diamond Jubilee (2012). Her son, the future King Charles III, similarly presented 74 men and 74 women (signifying his own age) with Maundy Money in 2022, in gratitude of their outstanding Christian service.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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