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680th Anniversary for The Queen’s College

10 February 2021

This year Queen’s celebrates its 680th anniversary. It is not, perhaps, the most significant of anniversaries, but in present circumstances, even the slightest cause of celebration is worth noting! Unlike some colleges it is difficult to identify a single ‘birthday’, but there are several possibilities.

More often than not, the College has adopted 18 January, the date of the ‘Foundation Charter’. In reality this is not so straightforward, as this deed was not issued by the founder, but is Letters Patent of Edward III, issued under the Great Seal. At Queen Philippa’s request it grants permission to her chaplain, Robert de Eglesfield to create his Aule Scolarium Regine de Oxon (the Hall of the Queen’s Scholars of Oxford), and was issued 18 January 1341 from the Tower of London.

However, today, 10 February, is also a good candidate. On this day, 680 years ago, Robert de Eglesfield issued the statutes under which the College would be governed. Unlike the so-called ‘Foundation Deed’ these were issued with Robert’s own seal. They cover one side of a large parchment roll (38 inches by 26) with a beautifully illustrated initial letter. The statutes, which continued in place until the late nineteenth century, set out how the College was to be run in great detail, but he makes clear his motivation is the cultivation of the ‘tree of theology’, particularly in his native Cumbria.

In these difficult times, when many of us can’t see beyond the end of the week, it is comforting to know that the College has lasted over two-thirds of a millennium, and has survived both plague and war on numerous occasions. It will not be long before we’re celebrating 700 years!

Michael Riordan, Archivist

Images: (above) the Foundation Charter; (below) the College statutes