29 December 2022

The King's Champion

Fr H is anunreconstructed Jacobite. He would have made a marvellous Chaplain to the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie! However, he is wrong on one point. The last time the King's Champion issued his challenge was in 1821 at the coronation of HM King George IV.

From Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment

At coronations up to that of George III, the rites were followed by a great banquet ... at the end of which, a memorable ceremony occurred.

Into the Banquet Hall rode a knight in full armour. He uttered a challenge to any who might dispute the right to the throne of the prince who had just been crowned; then he threw down his gauntlet (gage, armoured glove) onto the ground. 

Any man who took up that gauntlet, leaving behind him on the ground his own gauntlet, would be deemed to have accepted the challenge. Monomachy .. or disgrace ... must follow.

After the coronation of George III, rumours spread that a mysterious Person had, indeed, accepted that challenge. The novelist Sir Walter Scott incoporated a fictionalised account of this into his novel Redgauntlet. The 'Narrator' in what follows is a young lady called Lilias, whose Jacobite uncle Redgauntlet has smuggled her into the Banquet.

"It is indeed", said I, "all that my mind could have fancied of regal power and splendour."

"Girl, " he whispered, ..."all that is noble and worthy in this fair land are there assembled -- but it is to bend like slaves and sycophants before the throne of a new usurper."

"For God's sake, "I whispered, "consider where we are." 

"Fear nothing", he said, "we are surrounded by friends. " As he proceeded, his strong and muscular frame shook with suppressed agitation. "See," he said, "yonder bends Norfolk, renegade to his Catholic faith;" there stoops the Bishop of --, traitor to the Church of England; and, --the shame of shames! yonder the gigantic form of Errol bows his head before the grandson of his father's murderer!..."

I was not long held in suspense. A loud flourish of trumpets and the voice of heralds were mixed with the clatter of horses' hoofs, while a champion, armed at all points like those I had read of in romances, attended by esquires, pages, and the whole retinue of chivalry, pranced forward, mounted upon a barbed steed. His challenge, in defiance of all who dared impeach the title of the new sovereign, was recited aloud-- once, and again.

"Rush in at the third sounding," said my uncle to me; "bring me the parader's gage, and leave mine in lieu of it."

... at the third sounding of the trumpets, a line opened as if by word of command, betwixt me and the champion, and my uncle's voice said, "Now, Lilias, NOW!"

With a swift and yet steady step, and with a presence of mind for which I have never since been able to account, I discharged the perilous commission. I was hardly seen, I believe, as I exchanged the pledges of battle, and in an instant retired. "Nobly done, my girl!" said my uncle, at whose side I found myself, shrouded as I was before, by the interposition of the bystanders. "Cover our retreat, gentlemen," he whispered to those around him ...

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