Gateway to the Classics: Tales from Canterbury Cathedral by Mrs. Frewen Lord
Tales from Canterbury Cathedral by  Mrs. Frewen Lord

Soldiers of the Church, Soldiers of the King

Canterbury Cathedral is full of memorials of soldiers—soldiers of the Church and soldiers of the King. So, close to the monuments of these brave men who fought during the Sikh War for their Queen and country, we come to the two monuments of two soldiers of the Church—Dr. Parry, the first Bishop of Dover, and Dr. Sumner, who was Archbishop of Canterbury more than thirty years ago.

Both of these men gave all their time and all their strength to fight in and for the Church; to make the lives of countless men, women, and children better and happier; to do away with all that is bad; to uphold all that is good, and to help those around them "to fear God and honour the King," as the Prayer-book teaches us that all men should do. A clergyman who does all this is, in the best sense of the word, a soldier; and so it seems fitting that these soldiers of the Church should be remembered in Canterbury Cathedral side by side with those other soldiers who were killed while fighting our battles in far-away lands.

But among the many bishops and archbishops buried here, there were some, as you will see when we come to the story of Archbishop Walter, who were soldiers in both senses of the word.

Of Dr. Parry, who was the son of Sir Edward Parry, the great Arctic explorer, I must not say more, for if I told you the story of every good or great man commemorated here, this book would grow to be far too long; but you will most likely often hear of him, and you will then remember having seen his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral.

Dr. Sumner—Archbishop Sumner, as he is always called—was born more than a hundred years ago (1780) in a country vicarage, where he spent the first twelve years of his life, running wild in the woods and the fields, making friends with the birds and animals around him, and learning his lessons with his brothers, at home, until he was old enough to go to a public school. Not only his father, but his grandfather also, was a clergyman; and so it seemed quite natural that John, when he left Eton and Cambridge, should be a clergyman too. Indeed, his was a family of clergymen, for another brother, Charles, was afterwards well known as the Bishop of Winchester. It is not often that there are in one family two bishops at the same time; but John Sumner was made Bishop of Chester, and Charles Sumner Bishop of Winchester, in the same year. Here in Chester he worked—building churches and schools, preaching and teaching, and looking after the two hundred and fifty-five parishes which he, as bishop, had charge of—for twenty years. Then, when Archbishop Howley died, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was then sixty-eight years old, but not too old still to go on working; and for another sixteen years he worked as archbishop, as hard as ever, and won the love and respect of all who knew him. When he was over eighty years old, people used to try and persuade him to rest more, and let others work for him, but he always answered that "the time would come when he would be unequal to it," but until then he was anxious to know and visit, himself, all his parishes. And so he did, travelling about very quietly and simply, with his one servant, and thinking of, and working for, the Church almost up to the last day of his life. At last, on the 6th of September, 1862, he died—an old man of eighty-two—at the Archbishop's Palace at Addington, and was buried there, in the quiet little country churchyard. The monument which you see here in the nave of his own cathedral was subscribed for, and put up to his memory by those who loved him, and who wished that his name should never be forgotten.

On our way up the nave, we now come to a curious old monument in memory of Sir James Hales, who died as long ago as 1589. The only reason I mention it at all is that in the many times I have been to Canterbury Cathedral, I have never walked round the nave without being asked what is the story of that curious monument with the ship, out of which a man is being dropped into the sea.

This Sir James Hales went to Portugal, which was a much longer voyage in those days than it is now, and on the way home he was taken very ill and died. Instead of bringing his body home to be buried in England, he was buried at sea. The sculptor who made the monument knew this, and he probably thought that his family and friends would like to be reminded, and be sure that their children and grandchildren should be reminded, of how and where Sir James died; and so it came about that this quaint monument was put up. Close to him is a tablet in memory of six marines—a seaman and a steward of H.M.S. Kent  who fell in the action off the Falkland Islands, December 8, 1914. It was put up by their captain, the officers and men of H.M.S. Kent.

If we now cross over the nave, and go down the other side we come to many more monuments to soldiers. Among them you will see another large one in memory of the officers and men of the Queen's Lancers who were killed in the Sikh War, and one to the memory of Charles Cyril Taylor. Close by is buried Bishop Broughton, who was the first Bishop of Sydney in Australia.

The tomb of Bishop Broughton and the monument to Sir George Gipps stand next to one another, and here, once again, we see how two soldiers are remembered close together—one a soldier of the Church, and one a soldier of the King.

More than a hundred years ago (May 22, 1788), William Grant Broughton was born in Westminster. He lived in London until he was old enough to be sent to school—first to a small one near home, and then to the King's School, Canterbury. Here he soon made plenty of friends, but among them he had a special one, who had come to school about the same time that he did. This boy was George Gipps, who was about three years younger than William. George's home was not far from Canterbury. His father was the Rector of Ringwould, a little village near Dover. There George had been born, and there he had spent all his life. When William left school he went back to London and became a clerk in an office. Meanwhile, George, when the time came for him, too, to say good-bye to the old school, went to Woolwich and became a soldier. Now, William's great wish had always been to go to college; but when he left school it seemed impossible to manage it, so, as I told you, he became a clerk. But disappointed as he was he worked hard and well, and when after five years things altered, and he was able to go to Cambridge , every one who knew him was glad, and every one said that he would some day be a great man. And so he was.

He became a clergyman, and after working for some years in England, he was made Archdeacon of Sydney, and went out to Australia. It would take far too long to tell you even half of all he did out there. Some day you will read his "Life" for yourselves, and see how he worked—how he travelled about the country, and how, thanks to him, so many churches and schools were built that he was obliged to write home and ask if there were not more clergymen who would come out and help him.

When he came home on leave he was made Bishop of Sydney, and when he went back the first stone of St. Andrew's Cathedral, in Sydney, was laid (March 16, 1837). Every one who has seen St. Andrew's, always says how much it reminds them of Canterbury Cathedral.

Soon after he went back, he had a great pleasure. A new Governor of New South Wales had just been sent from England, and who should it be but his old friend and schoolfellow, George Gipps, who had fought in Spain under the Duke of Wellington, had only just missed being at the battle of Waterloo by being sent to guard Ostend, and who had been made, by King William IV., Sir George Gipps. For nine years the two friends were again together—both working with all their hearts for the good of the country. Then Sir George, who was not at all well, went home and settled at Canterbury; but he had only been there a little more than a year when he died (February 28, 1847), and was buried in the cathedral cloisters, where he and William had so often walked and talked in the old King's School days.

Five years later the bishop left Sydney to come home to a great meeting of bishops from all parts of the world. The story of the voyage home shows how Bishop Broughton was as brave in facing danger as Sir George Gipps, or any other soldier, when leading his men to battle. A dreadful illness, yellow fever, broke out on the ship. It seemed as though every one must catch it, and sailor after sailor died. The bishop was one of the first to go and help nurse the sick; they would hardly let him leave them, and he read to them and looked after them and comforted them. When the ship reached England, all who were well were allowed to go on shore, and thankful they were to get away. But there were two sailors very ill, and the bishop had promised he would not leave them. So he and his servant, James Barker, who was devoted to him, and who said if the bishop stayed he would stay too, watched all the other passengers leave, and then went back to the sick men. Soon they both died, and then orders came that the ship must put out to sea again; for so terrible an illness is the yellow fever, that it was not safe to bring the bodies of the men who had died to be buried on shore, and they had to be buried at sea. Once again the bishop was told he might leave if he liked, and once again he said he would stay; this time that he might read the funeral service for the two poor sailors. And so he did, and one of the men who was there said, afterwards, that he should never forget the bishop or the little sermon he preached to them. Then at last he went on shore, and came up to London to stay with Lady Gipps, the widow of his old friend. But although he had not caught the fever, he felt the effects of all he had gone through. Then, too, he came to London at a bad time of year, the middle of November, and soon after his arrival he became very ill with bronchitis. Lady Gipps nursed him, and took every care of him, but on February 20, 1853, he died, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. There, as I told you, you will see his tomb close to the monument to his old friend Sir George Gipps. Nearby is the memorial to Dean Farrar who wrote a school story called "Eric" and many other books. This memorial to him is put up by his son Eric. And here, too, are three War Memorials: the first to the memory of the 16th Lancers who were killed in the South African War which lasted from 1899 to 1902 and made the last years of Queen Victoria's life very sad ones. And then another 16th Queen's Lancers to commemorate those who were killed in the Great War. Just under the Tablet is the Book with the names of all those who were killed. The other one is a V.C. and D.S.O.: Major Edward Mannock. He was one of 517 Canterbury men in the Air Force, and he was "killed in Aerial Combat 18th July, 1918."

Now we turn again, and walk up the nave. Instead of going up the great stone staircase leading to the choir, we turn to the left, and find ourselves in the north transept, or what is called the Martyrdom, because it was here Thomas Becket was killed. Here, too, you will see the tombs of two archbishops—Archbishop Peckham, who died more than six hundred and fifty years ago, and Archbishop Warham, the great friend of King Henry VII., who used often to come and stay with him at Canterbury. The archbishop, who lived to see Prince Henry, as he then was, reigning over England as King Henry VIII., died an old man of over eighty, and Thomas Cranmer, of whom you have all heard, was made archbishop in his stead. Leading out of the north transept is a little chapel called the Dean's Chapel, and here are monuments to five deans. One—that to Dr. Boys —must you specially notice. He was Dean of Canterbury in the reign of Charles I., at the time when the Princess Henrietta Maria came to England to marry the King. One early June day (June 13, 1625) she landed at Dover, and found the King and a great company waiting to welcome her. The journey to London was a long one, and as the Princess was tired, a halt was made at Canterbury. The next day she and the King, attended by all their lords and ladies, came to service in Canterbury Cathedral—the first English cathedral the Princess had seen—and listened to a sermon preached by Dean Boys. It must have been one of the last he preached, for it was in the same year that he died, quite suddenly, while sitting one day in his study surrounded by his books, just as you see him in his monument.

We are now, standing here in the north transept, reminded of one of the greatest of the many great men commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral—of Thomas Becket, whose story, for it is rather a long one, you will find in the next chapter.

But before we begin the story you must be sure to look at the Great Window at the end of the North Transept. It was given to the Cathedral by King Edward IV. The figures beginning at the left hand side are the two little Princes who were killed in the Tower—then the King—then the Queen, and then the five Princesses, the first one being Princess Elizabeth who married Henry VII. and whose story I told you in Westminster Abbey.

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