ENGLAND, THE DOWRY OF MARY
Where does the title come from? Dowry comes from the Latin word ‘dos’ meaning a gift or
donation. England was given to the Blessed Virgin as an offering: it has been set apart for Mary.
Legends say that Joseph of Arimathea built a wattle church at Glastonbury. Whether or not this
is true, there was an early Christian settlement there. When the Saxons reached Glastonbury in
658 there was already a wattle church dedicated to Our Lady.
During this era oratories were built to Our Lady around the country: in Canterbury (616),
Evesham (701) and Tewkesbury (715).
Our Lady appeared to Eoves, a swineherd, and asked for a sanctuary to be built, dedicated to
her. Eoves conveyed the message to Egwin (later Saint Egwin), who had just returned from a
pilgrimage. He was also granted a vision of Our Lady and in about 714 the famous Abbey of
Evesham was founded. In 934 there were pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Abingdon.
The building of churches and shrines to Our Lady continued: Ely (1020), Coventry (1043),
Walsingham (1061), Ladyewell, Lancashire (11 century), Caversham (1106), Lincoln (1147),
Ipswich (1152), Aylesford (1265), Worcester (1315). Many more churches were dedicated to Our
Lady showing the special devotion which England had for the Mother of God.
Why is Mary so very special? The moment Mary was conceived Anne’s womb, her soul was free
from the Original Sin inherited from Adam and Eve. This special grace was enhanced when,
from the Cross, Jesus said: “This is your Mother,” and gave His mother to us. A most wonderful
The first mention of ‘dowry’ came in the medieval period when devotion to the Virgin Mary in
England was particularly strong. It was believed that England belonged in some special way to
Mary, who was seen as the country’s protectress. Around the year 1350, preachers were saying:
“It is commonly said that the land of England is the Virgin’s dowry.”
This is emphasised by the Wilton Diptych which depicts Richard II kneeling before the Virgin and
Child. Carried by a nearby angel is the Cross of St George, the staff of which has an orb at the top
featuring a miniscule map of England. An altarpiece from the same era showed Richard handing the
orb to Mary, with the inscription ‘Dos tua Virgo pia haec est’: ‘This is thy dowry, O Holy Virgin.’
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) referred to England as The Dowry of Mary when he said: “The
wonderful filial love which burnt within the hearts of your forefathers towards the Mother of
God ... to whose services they consecrated themselves with such abundant proof of devotion,
that the Kingdom itself acquired the singular title of Mary’s Dowry.”
We must be proud of our title: England, Mary’s Dowry.
Our Lady's Serenity