And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen? 
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills? 
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire. 
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem In England’s green and pleasant land. 
William Blake, 1757 – 1827

PHOTO CREDIT: Eve Nicholson


The English Catholic Exiles

Refugees to Spanish Shores By Barbara Monzon-Puleo One little-known consequence of the fateful divorce of Henry VIII of England from Catherine of Aragon is that the fallout locked England and Spain in a political and religious struggle which brought waves of English refugees fleeing to Spanish shores for almost 150 years afterwards. Between 1533 and … Read more

Bucking the System

Sunday Roast

If one day you are invited to ‘Sunday Lunch’ in England, say a grateful prayer and accept with pleasure. Whether in a gastro-pub or an Englishman’s castle, these people know what they are doing. You are in for a treat– classically delicious seasonal roasted meat, complemented by local vegetables. And though your hosts may not know it, they are continuing a centuries-old Catholic tradition. For, from the time when the earliest Christians came to England in 159 AD,* we have come together over a table blessing after Sunday Mass. sunday roast1

How deeply ingrained the Old Faith is in the English culture can be found in both its calendar and table culture.  For example, English schools traditionally begin with the Michaelmas (pronounced MICKel-mus) term, on or near the September 29 feast of St. Michael the Archangel.

St. Michael is usually depicted in art carrying a sword and/or shield, battling Lucifer. Christian tradition holds that Michael (whose name in Hebrew translates, “Who is like God?”) was the leader of the angelic army that threw Satan out of Heaven after a considerable row.  He is the patron of knights, policemen, soldiers, paramedics, ambulance drivers — and also danger at sea, for the sick, and of a holy death.

Sunday Roast2

The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
(October 28)


She Loves Me:’ At this time of year, the Aster (Aster nova-belgii) blooms, known as the Michaelmas Daisy – famous as a portent for lovers.  English-speakers the world over are familiar with seasonal custom of pulling these daisy petals, reciting “S/he loves me,” and “S/he loves me not,” until all the petals are gone. (The words one intones while pulling off the last petal lets one know if one’s love is requited.)

Michaelmas was when geese were brought to market to be sold from farms into towns, so roast goose dinners are traditional.  It was also the time when the fishing season ended, the hunting season began, and apples were harvested.


Roast Goose with Apples (serves 8)

1 13-lb. goose, giblets and neck discarded (you’ll need 1 lb per person)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 golden delicious apples, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Rinse goose inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Using knife, cut small slits all over goose; place garlic slices into slits. Place goose on rack, breast side down, in large roasting pan. Roast goose 2 hours 45 minutes, basting occasionally with drippings and removing excess fat; reserve 6 tablespoons fat. Turn goose over. Roast until brown and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting occasionally with drippings, about 45 minutes longer. Meanwhile, toss apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Pour 6 tablespoons goose fat into 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer apples to baking dish; toss apples in goose fat. Add sugar, Calvados and cinnamon to apples; toss. Bake apples alongside goose until very tender and golden, about 1 hour. Serve goose with caramelized apples and a Bordeaux wine.

Sunday Roast 3* According to the Venerable Bede, during the reign of Roman emperor Marcus Antoninus, a British king named Lucius wrote Pope Eleutherus in Rome requesting instruction in the Christian faith.

CHRIST IN THE KITCHEN: English Catholics in the Middle Ages would cross-section an apple to show their children how the 5 seeds inside the 5-pointed star found inside represented the Five Wounds of Christ.


Sunday Roast 4


A Catholic Grace: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”


Saint John Henry Newman: The ‘Pope of Oxford’

October 9

Saint John Henry Newman’s feast day today.  Ora pro nobis. 

The Real Cardinal Newman

In the years since his death, Newman’s work has been translated into many languages, read by serious Christians around the world.  Littlemore in Oxford, today staffed by Catholic nuns, is replete with photos, paintings, memorabilia and sculptures of Newman.

By Beverly Stevens, Editor, Regina Magazine

He is Pope Benedict’s favorite theologian, and hundreds of “Cardinal Newman” schools have made his name familiar to Catholics in the English-speaking world. But who was John Henry Newman, really?

His amazing long life spanned nearly all of the 19th century. Born in a time when Napolean was threatening the West, he died as the 20th century was dawning.  He was a don, a leader of the “Oxford Movement” and perhaps the leading Church of England theologian (“the pope of Oxford”) in a proud age when the British Empire was at its apogee.

Doing the Unthinkable


At the very height of his career, however, Newman took a turn that shocked and dismayed the Victorian ‘chattering classes’ in a way that even Charles Darwin’s revolutionary Theory of Evolution failed to do.

He did the unthinkable. He became a Catholic.

Stranger still, John Henry Newman read and reasoned his way into the Catholic Church. He didn’t actually know any Catholics. When he read the early Church Fathers on heresy, however, his superbly trained mind could reach no other conclusion.

He explained himself at great length to Victorian society in a variety of books and sermons, but essentially it came down to the basics: Rome was the ancient primordial seat of Peter. The doctrine of the Faith had been handed down intact since Apostolic times. Against everything he had ever learned and taught at Oxford, Newman’s intellectual honesty forced him to admit that Catholicism was the true Faith.

Newman paid a huge personal price for crossing the Tiber. His family emphatically did not understand; in fact, leaving his living at Oxford essentially removed his ability to support his widowed mother. His old friends at Oxford refused him. Newspapers openly berated him. Eventually, he became an Invisible Man as far as English society was concerned.

Newman paid a huge personal price for crossing the Tiber. Eventually, he became an Invisible Man as far as English society was concerned.

Worse, English Roman Catholics seemed not to know what to do with this towering intellect who spoke so softly. The Catholic bishops did not receive him with joy; recently re-established in England, in a delicate position vis-a-vis an unsympathetic Protestant nation, they did not need this high-profile convert to complicate things. Far from being lauded as the great theologian he was, Newman was assigned to an urban parish, filled with immigrants and the poor with no idea who this man was who heard their confessions and worried about the plumbing in the old building.

In fact, throughout his life as a Catholic, Newman would be regarded with suspicion by other Catholics, which caused him great pain. Every single project he labored to begin seemed to struggle hopelessly, causing him no end of worry and concern. In fact, his two greatest works – the establishment of the Oratory School at Birmingham and a Catholic University at Dublin – faced seemingly-insurmountable problems at their inception, and indeed only prospered after he was no longer involved with them.

newman3Newman’s own writing desk and chair, from which he penned his famous letters to his friends and family announcing his decision to convert to Catholicism.

Newman in the 21st Century

He continued to write and to teach, however. One reason he speaks so compellingly to Catholics today is that he was one of the earliest to identify the problem of liberalism in religion. In 1838 he made an outlandish prediction which has become all too true in our day:

The view henceforth is to be, that Christianity does not exist in documents, any more than in institutions; in other words, the Bible will be given up as well as the Church. It will be said that the benefit which Christianity has done to the world, and which its Divine Author meant it should do, was to give an impulse to society, to infuse a spirit, to direct, control, purify, enlighten the mass of human thought and action, but not to be a separate and definite something, whether doctrine or association, existing objectively, integral, and with an identity, and forever, and with a claim upon our homage and obedience. And all this fearfully coincides with the symptoms in other directions of the spread of a Pantheistic spirit, that is, the religion of beauty, imagination, and philosophy, without constraint, moral or intellectual, a religion speculative and self-indulgent. Pantheism, indeed, is the great deceit which awaits the age to come.”


Littlemore,’ the converted stables where Newman and his friends moved from Oriel College at Oxford. Here, he came to the conclusion that the great Church that he was the leading light of was heretical — and that the religion of the poor, despised Irish immigrants who had cleaned his rooms at Oxford was actually the true church.

Cardinal Newman

Pope Leo XIII refused to let any of Newman’s personal frustrations frustrate his own intentions: he would make Newman a Cardinal. And a Cardinal the frail old Oxfordian became, at the age of 80. Newman responded to the papal bestowal of a red hat in his famous biglietto speech, once again seeing far into the future, down to our present day:

“For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth…

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man’s religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.”

In 2010, John Henry Newman was declared blessed by his 20th century pupil, Pope Benedict XVI, amidst a crowd of English well-wishers in a Birmingham park. The old Pope had braved a hostile press and protests by anti-Catholics to come to England, telling the thousands of faithful Catholics who stood in the rain that Newman’s “insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance to Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”

“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another…”

The Cardinal’s Miracle

In 2001, Jack Sullivan, a deacon from Massachusetts, attributed his recovery from a spinal cord disorder to Cardinal Newman. On 24 April 2008, the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory reported that the medical consultants at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had met that day and voted unanimously that Sullivan’s recovery defied any scientific or medical explanation. The question of the genuineness of the alleged miracle then went to the panel of theological consultants who unanimously agreed to recognize the miracle a year later, clearing the way for Pope Benedict XVI to beatify Newman. Canonization – which awaits one more miracle — would make Cardinal Newman the first English person who has lived since the 17th century to be officially recognized as a saint.  His feast day is October 9, the day of his conversion in 1845, which is also his feast day.

Newman’s Chapel: He had a spare stall in the old barn at Littlemore converted to a Catholic chapel – with all the windows and walls carefully covered so that no curious passerby could peer in and report on his ‘popish’ worship.   






























Featured image:,_1st_Bt.jpg

The Church Lady

Glorious Hats Make a Comeback








The American Catholic Jackie Kennedy instinctively grasped what the English always knew: there’s just something about a lady in a hat. And in England, hats for church weddings have always been de rigueur.

For centuries before the 1960s Vatican II, women veiled themselves in church. In fact, in 1917 the Church clearly prescribed head-coverings for women with canon 1262 — which under pressure from modernists was abrogated in 1983.

The English fondness for hats in church derives from their 1394 years of Catholicism before the Reformation. The biblical source for this proscription is the Apostle Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. 

While in the last 50 years most Catholics have abandoned head-coverings, the Anglicans retained this churchly tradition, especially for weddings.  Kate and William’s wedding has brought hats out in full force – first, all over Westminster Abbey, and now, the world! Who knows, perhaps hats will make a comeback in Catholic churches, too?


Chesterton’s Secret People

The English Catholics It was a rainy spring morning in Wallingford, a charming grey stone market town in Oxfordshire, bordering the meandering Thames. I slipped out of a friend’s house on foot, headed for morning Mass. The wet streets were practically empty, save for a few early Sunday shoppers. Finding the church was a little … Read more

Shades of Evelyn Waugh: An Update on the Latin Mass in England & Wales

‘SINCE the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the Roman Catholic church has striven to adapt to the modern world. But in the West—where many hoped a contemporary message would go down best—believers have left in droves. Sunday mass attendance in England & Wales has fallen by half from the 1.8m recorded in 1960; the average age of parishioners has risen from 37 in 1980 to 52 now. In America attendance has declined by over a third since 1960. Less than 5% of French Catholics attend regularly, and only 15% in Italy. Yet as the mainstream wanes, traditionalists wax.’ –  The Economist, December 14, 2012

Joseph Shaw is the 42 year old Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. An Oxford don, he teaches Philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, the Benedictine house of studies in Oxford University. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Dr. Shaw discusses the Society, its history and the amazing success the Extraordinary Form has met with in recent years.

Q. Tell us about the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. When was it founded, and by whom?

Three people are principally responsible for the founding of the Society, in 1965: Evelyn Waugh, the foremost Catholic writer of his day (“Brideshead Revisited”), Sir Arnold Lunn, controversialist and skiing pioneer, and Hugh Ross Williamson, media personality and historian.

Evelyn Waugh’s concerns about Vatican II and the liturgical reform are recorded in his diaries and letters, and in a famous Spectator article at the onset of the Council. Much of this material, and responses to his letters from Cardinal Heenan, has been turned into a book, ‘A Most Bitter Trial’ (ed Scott Reid). Waugh didn’t live to see the 1970 Missal, but he was deeply concerned about the 1955 Holy Week Reform, the Dialogue Mass, and Mass in English. He wrote in the Spectator article:

‘Participation’ in the Mass does not mean hearing our own voices. It means God hearing our voices. Only He knows who is ‘participating’ at Mass. I believe, to compare small things with great, that I ‘participate’ in a work of art when I study it and love it silently. No need to shout. …If the Germans want to be noisy, let them. But why should they disturb our devotions?’

That is a key idea: the responses, the English, the jumping up and down, shaking hands and so on ‘disturbs our devotions’: the serious business of engaging prayerfully in the Mass.

Hugh Ross-Williamson was an Anglican clergyman who converted. He had been brought up in a non-conformist (Presbyterian) family, had become a High Anglican, and was finally received inti the Catholic Church when the Anglicans recognised the orders of group of Methodist clergy in India in 1955. He wrote a book about the Roman Canon, ‘The Great Prayer’, as well as plays, history, and journalism; he was on the ‘Brains Trust’ TV programme until his conversion. (His complaint ‘This is 1955, not 1555!’ fell on deaf ears: a Catholic was not acceptable on the programme.)

Williamson was very disturbed by the theology of the New Mass and later wrote a pamphlet arguing that it was invalid. He saw a strong parallel with the liturgical changes made by Cranmer in the course of the English Reformation.

Arnold Lunn was a great apologist, as well the inventor of slalom ski racing; as an agnostic he had a debate with Monsignor Ronald Knox which was turned into a book, ‘Difficulties’, and although many thought he’d done rather well in the debate, two years later he became a Catholic. Even as an agnostic he had been a fierce opponent of scientific materialism, and was very interested in the roots of the decline in religious belief. He researched the way religion was being taught in the great Anglican public schools and published a book, ‘Public School Religion’, about it.

Basically it wasn’t being taught at all because the chaplains in those places no longer had any confidence in their religion – this was in the 1930s. The great contrast, he discovered, was with the Catholic schools, where it was still being taken very seriously. He could see where things were going; like many in the early 20th Century the Catholic Church looked like the last bastion of reason and civilisation, let alone religion. And then the Catholic Church started to incorporate many of the same ideas and reforms which had hollowed out the Anglicans.

The attitude of these three was not unusual: one of the great early successes of the LMS was organising a petition to ask Pope Paul V that the Traditional Mass be preserved. This led to the ‘English Indult’ of 1971. The petitioners were all intellectual and cultural figures, mostly non-Catholic; the included Yehudi Menuhin, Agatha Christi, Grwham Greene and Sir Colin Davis. You can see more about that here and here.

Q. Given that England was the first nation to obtain an indult for the Latin Mass, what progress do you see being made, say, since the Motu Proprio of 2007?

We have records for the number of publicly advertised Masses taking place, as we publish lists every quarter, and have done so for decades. A few months ago we put these figures together for The Economist:

• In 2007, there were regular Masses in the Extraordinary Form being celebrated in 26 locations.
• In 2012, the figure is 157

A typical Holyday of Obligation:

• In 2007 there were 10 Masses in the Extraordinary Form celebrated on All Saints Day.

• In 2012, the figure is 60 and counting.

Q. Extraordinary! Are there many more priests learning the Mass?

Since 2007, we have run eight residential training conferences for priests and 200 places have been taken up at these. Many have attended more than one conference, so that represents around 120 individual priests. Of these, we understand that about 100 have gone on to celebrate the old rite at least occasionally, but usually at least monthly, in public.

In addition, the LMS is aware of some 50 or so priests who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in public at least occasionally. These are priests who taught themselves privately, or who are older priests who were taught at seminary when they were younger. There is an unknown number of priests (mainly retired now) who celebrate the Extraordinary Form privately. Recently, we did an exercise identifying priests who say the TLM and I think the total is certainly in the region of 200. Before the Motu Proprio we reckon there were about 50 priests.

Q. This is great news. Does this mean that the Mass is now available regularly on Sundays all over England and Wales?

The availability of EF Sunday Masses in stable venues (ie a Mass every week) is still limited, at 33 in England and Wales, plus a handful of ‘rotating venue’ situations (one in Kent, one in Arundel and Brighton diocese, for example.)

Even this represents a big increase on the number before the Motu Proprio.

Q. So, in your experience, how does the Mass gain a foothold? What typically happens?

First, you have groups of the Faithful asking for the Extraordinary Form. This was the usual case until the Motu Proprio, but it was very hard work. A group like this kept the TLM going at the Brompton Oratory, for example, where it was said in the Little Oratory for years – not the main church – and wasn’t advertised.  A group of laity in the Reading area managed in the end to get the FSSP to come to serve them. A group in Oxford had a succession of priests who were retired to say Mass for them in private houses; eventually this was taken over by the Oratory here. The community in Chesham persuaded a local priest to say the EF and, following his recent death, has been proactive in getting priests in week by week to keep it going.

Second, you get individual priests who fall in love with the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This has now become quite common. There are quite a few priests who do a weekday or Saturday Mass and the occasional ‘big’ thing they manage to arrange; others have taken it a step further and introduced it into their parishes on a Sunday.

For example Fr Bede Rowe, assigned to a remote parish in Clifton Diocese, started a Sunday evening EF Mass and a congregation for this gradually established itself. Fr John Saward in Oxford (the translator, in fact, of Pope Benedict’s ‘Spirit of the Liturgy’) says the EF in his parish of SS Gregory and Augustine twice a week on weekdays and once a month has a sung TLM on a Sunday: it is really entirely his own initiative, though of course he is also mindful of pastoral needs. Another local example is Fr John Osman, in St Birinus, Dorchester on Thames. Fr Osman waxes quite lyrical about how he fell in love with it, and how important it has been for his spiritual life.

A good example of how this happens is Fr Timothy Finigan of Blackfen in London, who was asked some years ago to say a TLM for a funeral. He said: ‘yes why not?’ and had to learn it from scratch. It made such an impression on him that he gradually learned more and introduced it to his parish on a Sunday.

Another important factor is priests influencing each other. We find little ‘hot spots’ of priests learning the Mass because they all know a particular priest who loves it, and spreads the word.

Q. You have publicly discussed the inclusivity of the TLM; what did you mean?

I’ve certainly noticed that in a big parish with different Masses the congregations tend to separate into different groups according to liturgical preference; this also happens between parishes. This separation can very easily gain a class character – in England, where class is never very far away!

The universal appeal of the TLM is very evident from talking to members of the congregation. You really do have all sorts of people. Some engage with the liturgy primarily in an intellectual way. Others engage primarily in an aesthetic or emotional way. The intellectual and the other aspects of the TLM are not in competition with each other — you can take out of it whatever you need.

There is an excellent book about this by a Dominican (now ex-Dominican) sociologist Anthony Archer, ‘The Two Catholic Churches’, I have discussed it and quoted it here.

Archer says the working classes engaged with the liturgy in a particular way, in relation to what they saw as ‘ritual efficacy’: what was going on at the Altar was real, objective, it made a difference, it made something happen. They focused on that and were absorbed by it.

The things which are supposed to help participation in the New Mass are more appealing to the middle class: they require social confidence, being articulate. There is a class distinction also about what sort of community people are comfortable with — little cliquey groups (middle class) and larger numbers (working class). All the stuff about sharing your experiences at a charismatic prayer meeting or cosy little house Masses is middle class and off-putting to everyone else.

That is Archer’s thesis, and it fits with my own observations.

Q. In many countries, there seems to be no crisis of priestly vocations in circles where the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is supported. Have you noticed this to be the case in England and Wales?

This is certainly true. We have now 10 young men from England and Wales in traditional seminaries, mostly the FSSP; two more are joining them in September. That is totally disproportionate to the size of the EF-going community in England and Wales, compared to vocations coming out of the Novus Ordo congregations.

What is more, a great many seminarians in ordinary seminaries have had contact with the EF and like it, and it has played a part in their spiritual development and vocation. They will be wanting to learn it as soon as they can.

In fact, the only new priest for East Anglia this year said a TLM a day or two after his ordination; he was at the Priest Training Conference the LMS had this year in Leicester. This is increasingly common.

Q.  Many Catholics today no longer see the need for Confession, or Reconciliation, though this does not seem to be the case for those who attend the TLM. Why do you think this is?

Yes certainly EF-goers seem to go to confession more than the average Catholic (who, I suppose, goes pretty infrequently). This is an indication of a wider truth, that the TLM brings with it traditional spirituality, theology, preaching, and so on. The priests encourage it and make it available, the people read the good old books which encourage it, and the Mass itself fosters a sense of sin and a sense of the reality of grace and of sacramental efficacy.

The communities which grow up around the TLM quickly become characterised by traditional attitudes and devotions, a strong pro-life stance, large families, modest clothing, mantillas, all that stuff. This alarms some people, but these are counter-cultural communities giving each other mutual support.

Q. Anecdotally, I have heard many people say that they were converted to Catholicism through the beauty of their experience of the Extraordinary Form. Do you find this to be true?

I can’t say I know many atheists, but a good non-Catholic friend of mine certainly finds the EF more attractive than the OF (he also for a time went to the Orthodox). I know a number of young men who lapsed and came back for the TLM, or could have lapsed were it not for the TLM. A good female friend converted from Judaism in the context of the EF.

The aesthetics and emotionality of many Novus Ordo celebrations can be exquisitely painful, particularly to young men. When they find the TLM, they can fall in love with it instantly – that happened to me, in a Low Mass. That’s not aestheticism, even if we agree we are using the term in a non-pejorative sense: it is glimpsing Christ made present in the liturgy.

‘Beauty’ is perhaps a misleading term here. No doubt some people will go to a Mozart Mass because of the Mozart, but such Masses are actually quite rare. The music and the vestments vary from the ‘decent’ to the ‘not very good’ in a lot of places, and there are a lot of Low Masses going on.

They can be very attractive, nevertheless, because of the contemplative quality, the peace, the reverence, the invitation to pray and be quiet with God. A better term than ‘beauty’ here would be ‘spirituality’: they are attracted by the spirituality of the TLM.

Upper Class and Underground

Art as Secret Rebellion in Protestant England by Suzanne Duque-Salvo “The sun had sunk now to the line of woodland beyond the valley; all the opposing slope was already in twilight, but lakes below us were aflame; the light grew in strength and splendour as it neared death, drawing long shadows across the pasture, falling … Read more

A ‘Modest Proposal’

The English Bride


England, the land of princess brides, is the trend-setter. The 2011 wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William held the entire world in thrall, harkening back to the late Diana, ‘England’s Rose.’

Fashion commentators breathlessly reported on Kate’s gown, which was so, well, modest. Experts wondered — was Kate setting a trend away from the naked shoulders and deep décolleté of the last decade?

Debra Turvey, the English proprietor of Sunflower Bridal, specializes in modest wedding clothing for British brides. In this exclusive Regina interview, she reveals all — about not revealing all.


What inspired Sunflower Bridals?

In October, 2009 one of my daughters got engaged. She didn’t want a dress that needed a jacket or camisole, but did want to be covered for religious reasons.

We visited many bridal boutiques but it was impossible to find one in the UK, so Emily looked on the internet. She found a dress she fell in love with, found a source for the dress in Utah and we called them and ordered it. Her father was able to pick the dress up on a business trip there.
However, as a mother I missed the experience of trying dresses on with Emily and finding that one special dress. So Sunflower Bridal was born. I began trading in September 2010.

Do you think Kate Middleton’s dress has had an impact on modest wedding clothing?

I think Kate Middleton has had some impact; her dress was so beautiful and elegant. I think however that brides are just wanting to be different and follow their desires, rather than fashion.

Certainly Kate Middleton showed that a bride should wear what she is comfortable with and what makes her feel good. She shouldn’t feel compelled to simply follow fashion.

Milly Bridal Studio for file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Dress by Diane Rees
“Brides like to feel comfortable, demure and elegant. Many don’t even realize that they have a choice.”

How and why do brides seek out Sunflower Bridals?

It’s exciting to see how my business is growing. My brides either come from word of mouth, or by internet search, looking for ‘wedding dresses with sleeves’ or ‘modest wedding dresses’. (They find us at My brides come to Sunflower Bridal for all sorts of reasons: religious, coverage, size (at both ends of the spectrum), or because they want something different because of their age or second marriages.

“Brides are relieved that they have found dresses they can try on in the UK. They are happy and excited and travel great distances to come.”

One of the first reactions I get from bridal enquiries is simply an expression of relief that they have found dresses they can try on in the UK. They are happy and excited and travel great distances to come and try them on.

I’ve had brides from all over the United Kingdom, and even some from mainland Europe. Because brides are often travelling a long way to get here, I try to keep a good selection of styles and sizes and often the bride can take her dress away with her. I also encourage brides to try lots of different styles so they can see for themselves which suits them best.


Jerusalem in England


England has always been a tastemaker, particularly in weddings and coronations. Do you see growing interest in modest wedding clothing among English brides?

I have been surprised how many brides I have seen who simply want to be a little more covered, purely to suit their own taste, and not necessarily for religious reasons.

‘Dare to bare’ might work for some on a beach but not for such a special occasion as a wedding. Brides like to feel comfortable, demure and elegant and I see that there is definitely a growing interest in wedding dresses with a little more coverage.

Many brides don’t even realize that they have a choice.

photo‘Dare to bare’ might work for some on a beach,  but not for such a special occasion as a wedding.

I encourage brides to try lots of different styles so they can see for themselves which suits them best.”


England has always been a taste-maker, particularly in weddings and coronations. (Below: The 1953 coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth II, designer’s rendering.)

Coronation gownbridal22


TALES FROM THE JOURNEY HOME Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl — Both become Catholic and have a family!

It was my senior year of public high school, in Cullman, AL, 1991. I remember clearly, walking the school sidewalk, on a sunny, warm afternoon, towards my favorite class of the day. Always a grand time, our Art teacher, allowed us to work at our own pace, socialize, and often joined in our discussions. This … Read more

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