In 1061, our Lady appeared to the Lady Richeldis de Faverches, the widow of the Lord of the Manor of Walsingham Parva ("Little Walsingham").
In this vision she was taken by Mary to be shown the Holy House in Nazareth where the Archangel St Gabriel had announced to her that she would be the mother of the Saviour and thus the Mother of God. The real Holy House itself was later taken from Nazareth to Italy, coming to rest eventually where it now is in Loreto.
Mary asked the Lady Richeldis to build an exact replica of the Holy House in Walsingham. The vision was repeated three times and the materials given by Richeldis were finally constructed miraculously one night into the replica Holy House while she kept a vigil of prayer. The shrine was later passed down to her son, Geoffrey de Faverches. The shrine came to be called "England's Nazareth".
Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham. The Priory passed into the care of Augustinian Canons sometime between 1146 and 1174.
The Shrine grew enormously due to receiving visits and support from Kings Henry III, Edward II, Edward III, Henry IV, Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII.
It became one of the 4 great shrines of Latin Christendom with Rome, Santiago de Compostella and Monte Gargano in Italy (where the Archangel St Michael had appeared in a cave).
Throughout the Middle Ages it was England's greatest national shrine and great men like St Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam visited it and prayed.
King Henry VIII came there and followed the custom of removing shoes at the "Slipper chapel" (now the Roman Catholic shrine) and walking the mile into Little Walsingham, barefoot in the snow, to the Augustinian Priory that stood over the shrine of the replica Holy House of Nazareth built by the Lady Richeldis.
However, Henry went to the bad, seduced by the Enemy of human nature, Satan, and by the flesh, worldly wealth and the spirit of power which hates the sublime virtue of obedience.
After the Pope would not agree to his putting away Katherine of Aragon, his true Queen, he raged and fumed and in his lust-filled arrogance repudiated the Pope and instigated the English Protestant Reformation. He dismantled the monasteries of England which owned over 1/3rd of all land and were, among other things a huge private, religious welfare system for the poor, sick and elderly.
The system of social welfare built on the religious houses was a true "private finance intitiative" of the best sort but on a grand scale and built upon charity and love rather than self-interest and greed.
Indeed, it shews that private wealth can be used for public good without even the slightest hint of Socialism or Communism, those materialistic counterfeits of true love and charity. The essential ingredient is always religion, charity and love. These are things which the State cannot compel. They must come from the heart and from the Grace of God. Medieval men gave willingly and generously to the monasteries so that a huge welfare network existed all over the country based not upon tight-fisted, rule-obsessed, faceless, heartless bureaucracy but upon the sacrifice of Christians and of devout religious and upon the love of God and of our neighbour, just as the Gospel teaches us.
This was all smashed by the odious Henry.
He raided this enormous patrimony of the poor and gave it to himself and his friends who enriched themselves to a degree which, at that time, was beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.
So began the huge disparity between rich and poor in England and the establishment of a wide number of immensely rich and recently ennobled families, like the Russell Earls of Bedford and many others, whose descendants became the great Whigs and so-called "Liberals" of England. Whenever their position of monumental wealth and privilege was threatened, they clandestinely fomented anti-Catholic and "No Popery" riots to distract the people from the real causes for their grinding poverty and oppression.
These same Whigs and "Liberals" conspired against their true king and secured the exile of the Catholic Stuarts. They were responsible for the Penal Laws against Catholics, one of the most disgracefully oppressive codes ever introduced into law in any country of Europe. Their constant, and ill-founded, fear was that a Catholic government in England might re-take their ill-gotten wealth from them and restore it to the monasteries and the poor from whom these Whigs and "Liberals" had first stolen it. Actually, as Catholic Queen Mary and Catholic King James II had made clear, that was not going to happen becuase it was, by then, virtually impossible to restore everything. It is easy to destroy but to build is always more difficult, time-consuming and painstaking.
The only thing these supposed "Liberals" were liberal with was the money of the poor which they stole! Liberality for them meant grinding and crushing the poor so that they, the "Liberals", could pamper themselves!
They wanted "freedom" from the Pope so that they did not have to obey the laws of the Church forbidding them from killing, grinding, robbing and oppressing the poor. In return, they demanded the most slavish obedience from the poor and stole every ounce of freedom from them.
Hypocrites! Blind guides! Pharisees! Whited sepulchres! How can you be saved! So might our Lord have addressed these most hypocritical of "Christians".
Throughout this period, as William Cobbett, himself a Protestant author and Member of Parliament, shews in his book The History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, the people of England were impoverished to a degree unheard ever before or since. As he further shews, the Parliamentary Speenhamland reports evidence the fact that the poor were, in some parts of late 18th century England, living on nothing but cold water and potatoes!
He contrasts this with the far greater wealth and comfort which their ancestors had enjoyed in medieval times under the Catholic monarchs, providing statistical evidence to prove the same.
Henry VIII's Commissioners went to Walsingham and its Priory and, as with all the other monasteries and religious houses, despoiled them, robbed and stole from them and threw the religious out, leaving the poor to starve.
The booty was, as ever, to go to the rich to make them richer at the expense of the poor. It was an unheard of thing in the whole of Christendom: shameless and diabolical to a simply incredible degree.
This was truly the "revolt of the rich" as Chesterton called it. It was as if the rich of today were to raid the Department of Work and Pensions and several other departments of state and keep all the money for themselves. This was made all the worse because they were robbing, in acts of unprecedented blasphemy, holy sanctuaries dedicated to God.
The robbing of the great shrine of Walsingham signified this total calamity for the people of England and Ireland.
This calamity became so acute that, by the end of the 18th century, the people were in a state of terror, misery or drunken stupefaction (to "drown their sorrows") and there were over 200 capital offences readily enforced by anti-Catholic tyrants like Lord Chancellor Eldon but mitigated by men of humanity like Lord Chancellor Mansfield. One might be transported to Australia merely for stealing 6d to feed one's starving family and in Ireland things were even worse. However, juries began to devalue stolen goods so that they fell below the capital offence value and good judges, like Mansfield, winked at this.
William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield had been raised a Jacobite, coming as he did from the famous Scottish Jacobite family of Murray, the men who provided Bonnie Prince Charlie with a whole brigade of men, the Athollmen under Lord George Murray and the Jacobite Duke of Atholl. After the failure of the Jacobite uprising, he was later associated with the Tories. He practically codified the English law of his time and famously founded English mercantile law using his wide knowledge of foreign and Roman law. He famously gave judgment in Somersett's case which declared slavery illegal in England.
Mansfield's house was burnt down by the anti-Catholic mob in the Gordon riots, egged on by the same anti-Catholic Whigs who always did so. But the mob went too far, as mobs often do. A priceless collection of Law Reports with Mansfield's detailed marginal notes was burned by the mob. Mansfield was attacked because a decision of his had prevented a Catholic priest from being unfairly persecuted.
Lord George Gordon, from the once Catholic Scots family of the Dukes of Huntly, who had fomented the riots, escaped but later came back to face trial where he was given only a jail sentence. In prison he abandoned Protestant Christianity and became a Jew.
John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon was of opposite character to Mansfield and much lampooned by Charles Dickens. No legislator — his one aim in politics was to keep in office, and maintain things as he found them, almost the only laws he helped to pass were laws for popular coercion. For nearly forty years he fought against every improvement in law or in the Constitution, calling God to witness, on the smallest proposal of reform, that he foresaw from it the downfall of his country. Without any political principles, properly so called, and without interest in or knowledge of foreign affairs, he maintained himself and his party in power for an unprecedented period in virtue of his two great political properties of zeal against every species of reform, and zeal against Roman Catholics. As a judge he was a by-word for delay and injustice. He is fittingly portrayed in Dicken's Bleak House in which the never-ending case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce ends with judgment having been so long delayed by Eldon that the estate is all eaten up by lawyers' fees with nothing left for the children of the estate.
Our Lady had her revenge, however, and, in a wonderful reversal, the present John Scott, 5th Earl of Eldon, is a convert to Roman Catholicism!
The calamity of England had, however, been further secured by the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688/9 of the Protestant Whigs and "Liberals" when they finally excluded the Catholic king, James II and VII, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he had sought to relieve the sufferings of the people by easing the Penal Laws.
The "Revolution" had been achieved by the treachery of inviting the Dutch Stadhouder, Prince William of Orange, to invade. The so-called Bill of Rights which was said to secure the freedoms and rights of the English people only did so for the rich middle and upper classes. The poor were as destitute as ever. It was as hollow a piece of shameless hypocrisy as ever was devised by men of politics since it spoke of noble things whilst they were simultaneously being savagely denied to all but the rich and powerful. It was really designed to allow the rich Whigs and their allies to bolster their power against the King and the State so that they could go on enjoying their own personal wealth and freedoms and not be troubled by laws giving any rights to the poor and the people such as previous kings, like James II, had tried to obtain.
Such was the world of vile corruption, villainy, sin and oppression that was ushered in by the Protestant Reformation, the smashing of the monasteries, the murder of priests and religious and the sack and pillage of the great shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.
But our Lady again had her just revenge and it was a representative of that same oppressive Church of England, now a virtual new creation following the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, one Fr Alfred Hope Patton, who, in the 1920s, restored the shrine creating a new statue based upon the old medieval seal of the old Priory.
In fact, the Catholic Church had acquired the old "Slipper chapel" and had re-established the shrine in 1897 but the Church of England itself, through Fr Hope Patton, re-built a replica of the Holy House and housed an Anglican shrine around it.
Now both Catholic and Anglican pilgrims visit the shrine in large numbers throughout the year.
The old seal of the former Priory of Walsingham
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!