Canterbury - Coronation Privileges of the two Archbishops
"I hear excellent reports of your work at Portsea, and I find you actually keep a staff of twelve curates. You should take to yourself a wife. I believe you would be able to do with two curates less." "Ah, no, your Majesty, that would scarcely do. If I have a curate who does not suit, I can get rid of him; but I could not do the same with a wife." "True," replied the Queen, "but take the advice of an old woman and marry."
Such was the conversation which took place some years ago between the late Queen Victoria and her favourite preacher, Dr. Cosmo Gordon Lang, the present Archbishop of York. And up to the present Dr. Lang has not seen his way to comply with the kindly counsel of the late Queen. And yet no man has a greater admiration for the part that women play in the religious work of the world than Dr. Lang. But, unlike his predecessor, Dr. Maclagan, who retired from the Archbishopric in 1909, and died a year later, and unlike Dr. Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the latter's predecessors, Dr. Temple and Dr. Benson, Dr. Lang has not found the assistance of a helpmeet necessary in his work.
It is an exceptional instance, however, and many are the tributes which have been paid by archbishops and bishops to the services rendered by their wives, although Archbishop Temple held very strong views on the duties of wives, as the following story shows. Not a hundred miles from Canterbury is a small parish, to the vicar-ship of which a young and deserving curate was promoted by Dr. Temple. Shortly after his promotion, the new vicar's wife-was sitting at a dinner-party at the side of the Archbishop, who inquired how they liked the place. "Is there any view from the windows?" asked his Grace. "Well, no, that's the only drawback. The house has no view at all," the young wife somewhat disconsolately said. "Never mind," said Dr. Temple cheerily, "that's an advantage. Your husband will busy himself with the parish and you must spend your time in the kitchen; that's the proper place for women."
Dr. Maclagan was twice married, first, in 1860, to Miss Chapman, who died two years later, and in 1878 to the Hon. Augusta Anne Barrington, the fourth daughter of the sixth Viscount Barrington and aunt of the present Viscount. By his first marriage Dr. Maclagan had two sons, and by his second a son and daughter.
His second marriage was an ideal one in every sense of the word, for Miss Barrington had identified herself with much philanthropic and social work, her experience proving of inestimable service to her husband. And nothing could have been happier than the marriage of Dr. Davidson, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, to Miss Edith Tait, the second daughter of Archbishop Tait, of Canterbury, to whom Dr. Davidson acted as private secretary for a number of years, as afterwards in a similar capacity to Archbishop Benson. Curiously enough, Dr. Davidson married Miss Tait in the same year that Dr. Maclagan married Miss Barrington.
Now, it is a fact not generally known that the wife of an archbishop has no title nor precedence, in spite of the fact that on her shoulders rests much responsibility and many onerous duties. On the other hand, the Archbishop of Canterbury takes rank immediately after Princes of the blood Royal and immediately before the Lord Chancellor, after whom comes the Archbishop of York. Although, however, the wife of an archbishop is plain "Mrs." - unless, of course, she possesses a title of her own - and although her name rarely comes before the public, unless it is in connection with some particular religious movement in which she is interested, she not only does much work, quietly and unostentatiously, for the good of the community, but renders valuable assistance to her husband in regard to social gather-i n g s and meetings at his residence.
Not that any elaborate entertainments are held either at Bishop-thorpe, the home of successive Archbishops of York for something like six hundred years, and, perhaps, the most beautiful episcopal residence in the country, or at the Old Palace, Canterbury, or the Palace, Lambeth, which is the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both archbishops, however, are assisted by armies of clergymen, who, in their turn, are helped by their wives and other female relatives. An archbishop's wife makes it her duty to become acquainted, as far as possible, with the latter, and invites them to her garden parties, her afternoon receptions, and her dinners.
"It is really marvellous," said the late Dr. Maclagan on one occasion, referring to his wife, " what a wonderful power for good in a diocese is feminine influence. An archbishop is confronted by a hundred and one problems, in the solving of which a woman's advice proves invaluable."
Dr. Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and Mrs. Davidson
Photo, C. Knight, jun.
The "Servants' Friend"
As already explained, however, Dr. Mac-lagan was fortunate in possessing a wife of exceptional ability as a religious worker. For some years prior to her marriage she had lived and worked in poor London districts, being a co-worker with that wonderful woman, Miss Octavia Hill, who, in 1864, supported by John Ruskin, commenced her great work of improving the homes of working men in the slums and the dismal alleys of the metropolis. And hundreds of people, thanks to Miss Hill and her little band of workers, have been helped to lead more comfortable and better lives.