NOTES AND QUERIES. [io s. xii. OCT. 2, 1909,
ORANGE CUSTOM AT THE SAVOY.
TIMBS says at the end of his account of the Chapel Royal, Savoy :
" On the Sunday following Christmas Day it has been customary to place near the door a chair covered with a cloth, on the chair being an orange hi a plate. This curious custom at the Savoy has never been explained." ' Curiosities of London,' new ed., Virtue & Co., 1885, p. 144.
It is needless to say that the custom has long fallen into abeyance, and that no one living remembers it. After many inquiries I have failed to come across any one who can throw any light on the subject. I have, therefore, been driven to formulate a theory for myself.
My idea is that it has reference to Nell Gwyn. She was an " orange girl," a regular prof ession inPepys's time, as he tells us in his diary. As the favourite of Charles II., no doubt she attended the Savoy Chapel. She died in November, 1687, in her thirty- eighth year.
Her will (of which a copy may be seen) is dated 9 July, 1687, and is signed E. G. It was proved in Doctors' Commons on 7 December of the same year. I am con- cerned with only two clauses of the will, numbered in the original draft 4 and 12.
" 4. I desire that he [i.e. her son, the Duke of St. Albans] would give one hundred pounds for the use of the poor of St. Martin's, and St. James', Westminster, to be given into the hands of Dr. Tenison to be disposed of at his discretion for taking any poor debtors of the said parish out of prison, and for clothes this winter, and other necessaries, as he shall find most fit."
" 12. That his Grace would please lo lay out 201. yearly for the releasing of poor debtors out of prison every Christmas Day."
There is no mention of the Savoy, but it seems not unlikely that
1. Either she left a further sum in this quarter.
2. Or that Dr. Tenison should have appor- tioned a part to the Savoy, which contained a prison, and was a special "sanctuary" for the poor and the oppressed.
In a report on the Poultry Conrpter in 1811 it is mentioned that the prisoners received 65 penny loaves every eight weeks, the gift of Eleanor Gwynne.
If my supposition is correct, this charity in money or bread might well be distributed at the Savoy Chapel on the first Sunday after Christmas, if there was no service there on Christmas Day.
On that day a chair (perhaps the very one used by Nell herself) would be draped in black, and an orange placed upon it to signify her lowly origin, of which, be it
remembered, she was never 'ashamed. Thus*, the recipients of her charity would be reminded every Christmastide of the humbly born benefactress who filled so high, a place at Court.
The custom had therefore no Italian significance, except that the orange, which was brought to Italy and Provence in the twelfth century by returning pilgrims and Crusaders, and introduced to England in the fifteenth century by Italian (Genoese) merchants, serves to remind us of the Italian origin of our English Savoy.
325, Southampton Street, Camberwell, S.E.
'DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY: EPITOME,' 1903.
(See 10 S. ix. 21, 47, 83, 152, 211, 294, 397, 431 ; x. 183, 282; xii. 24, 124.)
THE concluding portion is now given of the third alphabet of corrections, omissions, and suggestions :
Macknight (Thomas), 1829-99. Add : Author of ' Life of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke/ 1863.
Maitland (Frederic William), LL.D. B. 28 May 1850 ; d. 22 Dec., 1906. Cambridge Professor of English Law from 1888. Author of ' Gloucester Pleas,' 1884, and several other works. Co-author of ' History of English Law,' 1895.
Mearne (Charles), d. 1686. Succeeded Samuel Mearne as Bookbinder and Bookseller to the King.
Mearne (Samuel), d. 1684 (?). Bookbinder and Bookseller to King Charles II. Famous for his- bindings, many of which were floridly decorated in, gold. Left behind him thirty thousand tracts con- cerning matters of State. His widow Anne success- fully petitioned Charles II. on 15 May, 1684, for permission to sell them.
Meredith (William George), M.A. of Brasenose Coll. Author of ' Memorials of Charles John r King of Sweden and Norway,' 1829 ; ' History of International Intercourse.'
Merridew (Henry), Coventry printer and publisher. Proprietor of The Coventry Herald* Founded the original Leamington Chronicle, which ceased issue in 1842. In or about 1848 established a lending library at Boulogne-sur- Mer.
Merridew (John), b. 1789 ; d. 1862. Conducted bookselling and publishing at Coventry, Warwick, and Leamington. Possessed exceptional know- ledge of Warwickshire literature, and assisted John Staunton to form his celebrated collection, relating to that county. His publications had permanent merit.
Merridew (Melville), son of Henry. D. 1879. Successfully conducted the British library at Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Merridew (Nathaniel), Coventry bookseller and publisher. Chamberlain of that city 1800, Sheriff 1809, and twice Mayor (1822-3). His sons. John and Henry developed the book business.