01 December 2022

Watching football in the pub
with princes and dukes

The Duke of Wellington on Wolverton Road, Stony Stratford … once known as the Duke of Edinburgh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

There is a story about the Duke of Edinburgh that is probably apocryphal but is still worth retelling.

It is said that one Saturday afternoon, during a football match, he personally rang one of the senior farm staff members at Balmoral. The phone was answered by the man’s son, who said his father was watching football on the television, and asked could whether he could take a message.

‘No, tell him I want to talk to him,’ Prince Philip insisted.

‘OK,’ the youth came back, ‘but who’s calling him?’

‘The Duke of Edinburgh,’ the duke said clearly.

Without dropping the ’phone, the boy shouted out, ‘Hey, Dad! Some bloke from the pub wants to talk to you. Are you in?’

There are pubs throughout England and Scotland known as the Duke of Edinburgh, and when Prince Philip died earlier last year many were – paradoxically – disappointed that they could not close as marks of respect, because they were already closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But, of course, few if any of the Dukes of Edinburgh up and down the land were not named after Prince Philip. Most of these pubs, it seems, were named after Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred (1844-1900), who was given the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Ulster, and Earl of Kent by his mother in 1866.

Prince Alfred later became the sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1893-1900), and the title ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ lost its popularity as a name for pubs in England as tensions with Germany rose in the years before World War I.

The coat of arms of the Duke of Wellington on the pub sign (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

In the 1860s, the Duke of Edinburgh was the name of a pub on the corner of Wolverton Road and King Street in Stony Stratford. The popularity of the pub grew with the development of the tram line between Stony Stratford and Wolverton, but the name lost its lustre at the same time.

For a time it was known as the Dog and Gun, but a succession of proprietors eventually settled on the name of the Duke of Wellington for their premises.

Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington, was born in Merrion Square, Dublin, and went to school at Drogheda Grammar School. He was one of the many Irish-born British Prime Ministers, but he is popularly remembered and celebrated as the victor at the Battle of Waterloo. He had been a proxy sponsor at the baptism of that earlier Duke of Edinburgh, and died in 1852, long before the Duke of Edinburgh in Stony Stratford changed its name.

In recent weeks, the Duke of Wellington on Wolverton Road has changed management, and the scaffolding has come down from around the building, revealing once again the sign displaying the coat of arms of the Dukes of Wellington. These arms quarters the arms of the Wellesley and Cowley families, with an additional representation of the crosses of Saint George, Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick as ‘the union badge of the United Kingdom.’

The Colley or Cowley family, the direct male line of ancestors of the Dukes, came to Ireland in the late 16th century. When Richard Colley’s distant cousin Garret Wesley died and he inherited the Dangan and Mornington estates in Co Meath, Richard Colley changed his name to Wellesley.

The Duke of Wellington is the only pub in Stony Stratford that I know to have a name with Irish associations. The new-look pub has become a popular local venue in recent weeks for World Cup fixtures. For England supporters, it matters little whether the Duke of Edinburgh was Scots or German or the Duke of Wellington was Irish or English. Hopefully, there are more pressing issues, such as human rights in Qatar, including the rights of women, gay people and migrant workers, the lack of democracy, and the despotic and explotative regime, and the arrogant, grubby attitude of senior officials in FIFA.

The Duke of Wellington at night … a popular venue for watching live sport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying in Advent with Lichfield Cathedral
and USPG: Thursday 1 December 2022

‘Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light’ (Advent Collect) … in the streets of Tangier, where Charles de Foucauld travelled in 1883 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Advent began on Sunday (27 November 2022), the First Sunday of Advent. The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship commemorates Charles de Foucauld, Hermit in the Sahara, 1916 (1 December 2022).

Charles Eugène de Foucauld de Pontbriand (1858-1916) led a dissipated life as a young officer in the cavalry. In 1883, he decided to explore Morocco, disguised as a Jew: ‘I disguised myself from Tangiers onwards, so as to avoid awkward meetings. I pretended I was an Israelite. During my trip, my costume was that of Moroccan Jews, my religion, theirs, my name, Rabbi Joseph. I prayed and I sang in the Synagogue. Parents pleaded with me to bless their children …’

There he developed a passion for north Africa and its ways. Four years later, he returned to the Catholicism of his childhood. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he became a Trappist monk in 1890. Desiring an even more austere life, he left in 1897 and became a servant to the Poor Clares in Jerusalem and Nazareth.

He was ordained priest in 1901 and went to live as a hermit in Algeria. He became fluent in the local language and his care and concern for the local tribes-people made him accepted and then much loved, though he never sought converts. He composed Rules for brothers and for sisters, though none ever actually joined him. He was assassinated on 1 December 1916, a victim of local religious wars.

The Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart were founded in 1933, inspired by his rule for sisters. His writings inspired René Voillaume and others to adopt a life based on his rule, eventually becoming the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1945. He was canonised a saint by Pope Francis on 15 May 2022.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

During Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, The reading suggested in the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced by Lichfield Cathedral this year;

2, praying with the Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

In the old Jewish Quarter of Tangier … Charles de Foucauld travelled through Tangier and Morocco disguised as a Jew named Rabbi Joseph (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 7: 21, 24-27 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 21 ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

24 ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!’

‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock’ (Matthew 7: 24) … a rock-top monastery in Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar:

In a confusing world with many competing ideas, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction in all the big decisions each of us has to make, to rebuild where necessary, to centre our lives on true foundations.


Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

O Lord our God,
make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear,
he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service
and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘World Aids Day.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a report from the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (World Aids Day) in these words:

Let us pray for those who live with stigma and discrimination. May we work to raise awareness of prejudice and be bold in our challenge of discrimination.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘A foolish man … built his house on sand’ (Matthew 7: 26) … a sandcastle on a beach at Costa de la Carihuela, near Torremolinos in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org