After the break with Rome at the Reformation, private sympathies, inter-religious marriages and clandestine conversions maintained a fragile bond between the Crown and the Catholic Church.
It was the kind of event that usually attracts only the most devout and well-to-do Catholics: a fund-raising reception for the centenary of the Society of Saint Augustine, founded to raise funds to maintain and improve Archbishop’s House on Ambrosden Avenue, residence of the Archbishop of Westminster. But among the crowd at the company’s reception on May 10 was a surprising guest of honour: the Prince of Wales.
The prince may have been drawn to the Society’s efforts to pay for the reduction in energy consumption at Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ home, given his own ecological concerns. But something more than the cardinal’s promise of rooftop solar panels may also have piqued his interest – the president of the Society of St Augustine is the Duke of Norfolk. And at this point in the prince’s life, the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, became a very important person. Because Eddie Norfolk holds the historic title of Earl Marshal – the man who leads the coronation. It is the Duke who will lead the ceremony when Charles is crowned king – an event, given his mother’s great age, which may not be so far off.