“Our Lady’s Dowry” is a title of the country of England. It is an expression of the devotion of English Catholics to Our Blessed Mother. They consider their country to be under her particular patronage and care, belonging to her in a special way.
The exact origins of this title are unknown. Some say it goes back to Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. It was certainly in common use by the mid-fourteenth century.
In regards to the meaning of the term “dowry,” some say that in the context of medieval England, it refers to a portion of property set aside by a husband for the care of his bride in the event of his death. Others identify it as a similar gift provided by the bride’s family, as we normally understand the word. Either way, it is a particular possession of the lady, belonging specifically to her.
Richard II dedicated England to Our Lady around the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1381. This event was depicted in a painting showing the king and queen handing a globe of England to Our Lady, with the inscription: Dos tua Virgo pia haec est, quare rege, Maria. “This is thy Dowry, loving Virgin, therefore rule over it, Mary.”
This painting has, unfortunately, been lost, but the Wilton Diptych—painted in the late 1390s—is similar and we still have that one. (It’s in the National Gallery in London—view it here.) Note the angel holding the flag of England. The orb at its apex contains a miniscule map of England.
A number of consecrations of England to Our Lady have taken place since the late nineteenth century. Just two years ago, on March 29th, 2020, the country was re-dedicated as Our Lady’s Dowry. The dedication followed a nation-wide tour of a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, England’s most famous shrine to Our Lady (which we’ll write more about in a future Get Fed).
Although it may seem that England and the other countries of the West have wandered far from their ancient faith, hope always flourishes for those who know the power of Our Lady. May the prayers of her faithful children in Great Britain and throughout the world bring this once-devoted country back to its original fervor.
Honor Our Lady as Queen—of England, of our country, of Heaven and earth—with our beautiful Coronation of the Virgin Framed Print, a replica of a stunning image by Italian artist Fabriano. Created in stunning gold tones and completed with a matching frame, this image will remind you to pray for the return of the entire world to Our Lady’s care. Available today at The Catholic Company!