John Green’s 1819 drawing of St Peter’s Church Drawing in Vermont Museum, Bermuda National Trust
Origin of the Title
In 1689, William and Mary became joint monarchs of England. (The only precedent for a joint monarchy dates from the 16th century when Queen Mary I married Philip of Spain.)
It was the usual practice for monarchs in those days to send communion silver to the churches in their colonies and this early historic title for St Peter’s was first used during their reign.
On 18 March 1697 a warrant was issued to ‘the Hon’ble…Montigue Esq…Master of His Maj’ies Jewell house’ on behalf of King William III and Queen Mary II. The warrant requested the Master of the Jewell house to ‘prepare and deliver unto Samuell Day Esq, Governor of Bermudas Two little Flaggons one Challice a Petten and a Receiver to take the offrings in for use of Their Maj’ties Chappell there.’
This Communion set, engraved with the Royal cypher WR and William’s coat of arms, was duly prepared and delivered to Bermuda where it is currently displayed in its entirety, in the Vestry.
The William III Communion set is possibly one of the oldest of such sets which were provided to the Crown Colonies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and certainly one of very few still intact and in the church to which they were given. It is remarkable that the set has survived intact for over 300 years. Although now secure in a safe – oddly enough the safe that once housed the lost Teddy Tucker Emerald Cross – it must at times have been merely locked in the vestry.
Background to Designation
Dr Thomas Sinsteden of Connecticut is an expert in old silver. Some years ago whilst undertaking research in the Public Records Office in London, he came upon a warrant dated 18 March 1697 issued on behalf of the joint monarchs William and Mary, requesting the Master of the Jewell House to send to Their Majesties Chappell in Bermuda a silver communion set.
Dr Sinsteden had sailed to Bermuda several times and stopping off at the Island during one Newport-to-Bermuda yacht race, he said: “I had a bit of time on my hands. I went to St Peter’s Church and saw some Irish silver on display in the safe there. Among the silver was some royal silver.” Dr Sinsteden returned to Bermuda in 2007 and brought to the church a copy of the warrant. “He just walked in off the street and said he had something for us” said Rev’d Raths. “I saw Their Majesties Chappell and I thought, Oh boy!”
Actually confirming the Royal title for St Peter’s required some behind-the-scenes diplomacy. The then Governor of Bermuda, Sir Richard Gozney, had to write to Queen Elizabeth II to request permission to restore the royal title to St Peter’s, while Mr David Baldwin, a member of the Queen’s Household and Serjeant of the Vestry of the Chapel Royal, liaised with Rev’d Raths regarding the status of the production of the Intituling document signifying Her Majesty’s pleasure to designate to St Peter’s this early historic title.
The process took several years and finally in 1612, in honour of the church’s 400th anniversary, Queen Elizabeth approved the redesignation. As Their Majesties Chappell, St Peter’s was accorded new emblemage in the form of ‘royal scarlet broken-banding’ used on the cincture worn by the incumbent of St Peter’s, on the Mitre worn by the Bishop of Bermuda when visiting St Peter’s, and as a banding on the edge of its new flags and banners. The engraving on The St George’s Chalice, given to the church in 1625 by the Bermuda Company – of the Sea Venture ship hitting the reef off Bermuda in 1609 – was the inspiration for Their Majesties Chappell’s new logo used on stationery, flags and banner.
Service of Intituling
On Sunday, 18 March 2012, the congregation of St Peter’s witnessed a service to celebrate the Intituling of St Peter’s as ‘Their Majesties Chappell’ during which the Communion Silver was carried in solemn procession to the 1612 Communion Table.
The Intituling document had been brought to Bermuda by Queen Elizabeth’s envoy, Mr David Baldwin, Serjeant of the Vestry of the Chapel Royal. The position of Serjeant of the Vestry is a very ancient one dating back to pre-medieval times, when it required the Serjeant, amongst other things, to transport the communion silver to wherever the monarch worshipped, even onto the battlefield. The Intituling document was presented to the Governor of Bermuda who read it to the assembled church and civil dignitaries, parishioners and invited guests.