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Thursday, 14 April 2011

All about fancy gowns?


Fancy gowns and overblown triumphalist ceremony - I'm not talking about the traditional Mass but about one of our leading universities.

Damian Thompson has a post today which continues a theme where he (rightly in my personal opinion) expresses concern about the silly remarks made by David Cameron about Oxford University, accusing the University of discriminatory admissions policies.

I don't feel that is particularly a discussion for this blog but I was struck by the photograph used to illustrate Damian's post. The Chancellor, Chris Patten, is wearing a richly decorated gown, and assisted by a young train-bearer in buckled shoes. If you look at other photos of Encaenia (the annual honorary degree awarding ceremony) you will see all sorts of fancy gowns and accoutrements.

Were this a procession for a traditional Mass, there would undoubtedly be spiteful comments about how they are only concerned with outward show, lace and fancy cloaks, how it is all a bit, well, unmanly, and how much better it would be if they only made it more simple and immediately intelligible.

The gowns, hoods and mortar boards worn at Oxford are vestiges of its clerical past. It is interesting that they are acceptable when the living tradition of ecclesiastical dress attracts so much vitriol. Oh, and by the way, the formal orations at Encaenia are given in Latin.
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