Edited by westendwilly on February 19, 2013, 10:00 am
Yet there are a number of things that we can say for sure. One is that it has a Cross on the top of it, so must have some Christian symbolism. Another is that its name betrays a link with Edward the Confessor. Twining does touch on one thing, the spike on the end, possibly indicating a walking stick, even one that guides the Sovereign. Loftie suggests something in 'the mound supposed, like that on the steeple of Old St Paul’s, to contain a piece of the Cross'.
Evelyn Waugh may come to our rescue in part, telling in a very approachable way the life of St Helena. It is believed that she was born in Colchester, Essex about 246, married the Emperor Constantius and was mother to the Emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity, taking his Empire with him. In 326, Helena went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, after exhaustive searches, found the True Cross. Constantine ordered the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of the discovery and part of the Cross was immediately housed there. Another part went to Constantinople and other pieces were dispersed throughout the Empire, including Helena's homeland.
In essence, one fragment found its way into the hands of the early English kings. Rather as Helena had sought and found the True Cross, there could be no doubt in the mind of the pious Edward the Confessor that possession of such a relic would also guide his feet in the right way. He ordered a staff made to house the relic and it passed into the treasury of his Abbey at Westminster. Such was their faith in the portent of the True Cross that each successive Sovereign was given the Staff to carry at his Coronation, to guide his feet in the right way and to lead him to the Altar of the Abbey, the Shrine of the Confessor and his own personal Consecration.
One of the consequences of the 16th century Reformation was a curtailing of Catholic devotion, including that afforded to relics. The Staff survived but its purpose was veiled in Protestant obfuscation. Henceforth, it was carried in front of the Sovereign at the Procession into the Abbey.
The present St Edward's Staff was created in 1660 to replace that destroyed under Cromwell and it is not known whether the Relic was preserved in the mound. However, its purpose remains unchanged and it was carried immediately before The Queen in 1953 by the Earl of Ancaster.
In 1953, broadcasters reminded their audiences that the Staff is 'to guide the footsteps of The Queen'. It has been suggested that the practice of the Sovereign himself carrying the Staff into the Abbey should resume at the next Coronation, thus once again uniting the person with the belief that has been echoed by the choir for centuries at this moment: 'I was glad when they said unto me: we will go into the House of the Lord'.
Responses are not allowed!