Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: names and spellings

Magdalene College, Cambridge has existed in two incarnations, under several names and various spellings.

From 1428 until 1539, it was a "cell" (dependency, offshoot, branch plant) of Crowland (in the fifteenth century, Croyland) Abbey in Lincolnshire.[1] In recent times, historians have used the term "Monks' Hostel" for the first half century of its existence, while recognising that it had become known as Buckingham College by 1483. After a brief period in limbo, it was reconstituted in 1542 as the College of St Mary Magdalene in the University of Cambridge. Sixteenth-century English spelling was notoriously random, but it seems safe to conclude that, by about 1600, it was  conventionally known as "Magdalen", the version used, then and now, by its Oxford counterpart, founded as Magdalen Hall in 1448 and re-chartered as a college in 1457.[2] In the early nineteenth century, the Cambridge institution added a final –e to its name: Magdalene. Only one College historian, F.R. Salter, has addressed the change in spelling, which he dated to "probably some time between 1816 and 1820". He could not satisfactorily explain it.[3]

It should be stressed that the institution did not acquire a legal personality until its refoundation in 1542. It was only when it became competent to own property (although, sadly, not very much of it) that we have some idea of how its inmates wished to describe their society.[4] By contrast, the hostel for monks that became known as Buckingham College appears only in documents written by others, for purposes of their own. Nor does it help that most of the early sources were written in Latin, an elegant language whose telescoped phrases are usually open to various translations.

Abbot Litlyngton and the Benedictine hostel In a Note mainly focused on names, there might seem to be little call for a detailed history of what Peter Cunich has called – and efficiently described – as "Proto-Magdalene", the eleven decades from 1428 to 1539.[5] Nonetheless, an overview may highlight some new perspectives. Concern had been voiced in the Benedictine Order for some time about the risks of sending young monks to study among the temptations of Cambridge.  Individual abbeys already owned some small hostels, but these could not house all the monastic undergraduates, while sharing accommodation with laity created too many temptations. In 1428, the Abbot of Crowland, John Litlyington (or Litlington), persuaded the king's Council that the Benedictines needed their own residence in the university town, and Henry VI authorised its establishment through a device called letters patent.[6]  To quote Cunich, it is "not known" why it was Crowland that acted on behalf of the Order, but the choice made some sense. Although Litlyngton was young, he was already experienced and obviously efficient – and would go on to lead the monastery for a remarkable four decades.[7] The fourteenth-century Crowland Chronicle recounted that scholars from the abbey had begun the teaching of sacred theology, logic and rhetoric at Cambridge in 1109,  a claim that formed one of the University's confusing origin myths.[8] It would have been natural for Crowland to covet the honour of renewing that association. In addition, the abbey owned the manors of Cottenham, Dry Drayton and Oakington, handily located on the northern flank of Cambridge. (It had been from Cottenham that the monkish professors had allegedly launched the putative twelfth-century University.) In earlier times, these properties had been managed by a resident reeve, an official on-the-spot who might have been useful in establishing the hostel, and it is possible to think of the three manors as sources of supplies, foodstuffs, firewood and timber for repairs. However, by the early fifteenth century, declining crop yields and difficulty in retaining tenants had greatly reduced the value of the estates. Cash rents replaced services, and demesnes were leased to contractors, Dry Drayton in 1415, Oakington in 1429, although the abbey still took its Cambridgeshire estates seriously during the 1420s, attempting to develop large-scale sheep farming.[9]

Abbot Litlyngton was not directly entrusted with the acquisition of premises for their new Cambridge hostel. Rather, he and his fellow monks were to be recipients of property in the parish of St Giles to be conveyed to them by two bishops, Thomas Langley of Durham and William Alnwick of Norwich. A third man, John Hore of Childerley, was also named, although his role was not explained. The Crown charged a fee for exemption from mortmain, the laws that sought to prevent estates from falling into the dead hand (mortmain) of Church control, and the grant firmly specified that all the Benedictine monks studying at Cambridge were required to lodge in the hostel.[10]  Some of the participants solemnly mentioned in the formal document may be discounted as serious contributors to the founding of proto-Magdalene. Henry VI, for instance, was a six-year-old boy, and certainly knew nothing about it.[11] (When he did become old enough to lavish his own generosity upon Cambridge, his energies were largely focused on the establishment of King's.) At first sight, the involvement of the two bishops is also a mystery. Neither was a Benedictine, but both were key administrators in the regency that represented the young monarch, Langley as the long-serving Chancellor (a kind of medieval prime minister) and Alnwick as keeper of the privy seal, a role comparable to a modern-day chief of staff. It is hard to believe that they had either the time or the interest to take an active part in a small property transaction in a provincial town, but – as speculatively suggested below – their signatures (or seals) were probably required to transfer rights acquired by the Crown. This leaves the shadowy John Hore of Childerley. The hostel precinct took in two sites: Cunich concluded that the two bishops donated the land along the street front, which stretched back to the site of the later Pepys Building, while he regarded Hore as the donor of the pondyards, the open space that today forms the College gardens.[12]

Discovering John Hore Fortunately, John Hore emerges from obscurity thanks to a biographical essay devoted to him by the History of Parliament project in 1993, which portrays him as a substantial local figure.[13] Welcome as this information must be, a note of caution is called for. The injection of biographical detail into a familiar story may stimulate fresh perspectives, but it also has the potential to distort the overall picture: the fact that we now know more about John Hore cannot obviate the possibility that he was still only a minor player in the establishment of the Benedictine hostel. Nonetheless, he seems to have been an impressive and an intriguing character. Presumably he came from a genteel background, since by 1393 he was a retainer at the court of Richard II. His fortune, however, was acquired through three successive marriages, each of which brought him valuable estates. Through his first wife, Hore became the owner of Great Childerley, nine miles west of Cambridge – with access to the University town along the street that led down to the Great Bridge – and, by about 1400, he had acquired Little Childerley as well.[14] Around 1412, he added estates in nearby Huntingdonshire through a second marriage, this time to a wealthy widow – he was executor to her husband's Will at the time –which he energetically extended. Hore's business methods may have been less endearing than his courtship techniques, since in 1417 he survived a violent physical attack, in which another man was killed. However, he was by now sufficiently prominent to be elected to parliament, successively for Cambridgeshire in 1415 and 1425, and for Huntingdonshire in 1416. To be a county MP – a knight of the shire – was a considerable distinction, yet neither Henry IV – who had ousted and probably murdered his former employer king Richard – nor Henry V ever bestowed local office upon him. No doubt John Hore would have sworn his allegiance to the Lancastrian monarchs, a requirement to serve in parliament, but it is likely that he was regarded with suspicion as somebody emotionally committed to the deposed and martyred king. It was not until 1424, during the minority of Henry VI when an insecure regime needed broad support, that he was given an appointment. It may be significant in the proto-Magdalene story that the job was as an escheator, an official who seized and administered the property of those who died intestate, thereby forfeiting their estates to the king. In 1426, Hore served as sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire and, soon after, a third marriage, to yet another wealthy widow, extended his own portfolio into Norfolk. Almost certainly, he was by now in his fifties, the age when medieval people began to ponder their likely fate in the afterlife. He seems to have been attracted to the Benedictine Order – which had also had a loyal follower in Richard II. He arranged to leave property to their house at Ramsey, although he reserved a life interest for his son. Ramsey Abbey did not actually acquire the bequest until 1453 – which may explain why the monks of Ramsey felt obligated to build one of the brick staircases that were added to the Cambridge hostel twenty years later.[15] By 1428, he was mature enough and rich enough to make provision for his soul. These elements alone would help to explain his support for the Crowland project.

A converted inn? Thus far, this recently excavated barrage of historical facts enables us to see John Hore as somebody who was in a position to make a substantial contribution to the establishment of the hostel beyond Magdalene Bridge. Perhaps it is time for an excursion into the realms of assessment and speculation, to explore whether they may throw potential light on events.  We may start with the location, which would make Magdalene the only ancient college on the west bank of the Cam.[16] Doubt may be thrown upon one persistent assumption, that the monks were "[a]iming to put themselves at a distance from the temptations of the town".[17] For centuries, the image of Magdalene has been shaped by the narrow central-Cambridge obsession which sees anywhere more than a few yards from the Trinity Street-King's Parade axis as here-be-dragons outer darkness. Thus in 1655, Thomas Fuller, a product of Queens' and Sidney Sussex, called the College "an anchoret [anchorite, hermit] in itself", whose students "though furthest from the schools [examination halls]" were able to live "cheaper, privater, and freer from the temptations of the town".[18] In reality, the new facility was located a few yards from Quayside, the muscular heart of a busy inland port, and alongside the thoroughfare that provided the only access to the town from the north and west. By the sixteenth century (when records are more frequent), it is clear that the street leading downhill from the Castle was lined with inns, competing to serve travellers. They had probably existed earlier: the Victoria County History identifies sixteen establishments by name in the town that can be traced before 1500. Although their locations are not always certain, some of the structures in Magdalene Street are (or were) of medieval date, and they may well have been trading earlier.[19] Over the centuries, the College would eliminate four establishments in the Old Lodge / Master's garden area. Later, it took control of two impressive inns across the road, one of which, the Cross Keys, became undergraduate accommodation, leaving only one licensed premises, the Pickerel, still in operation.[20] Hence the mild comment by Cunich: "while the trans-pontine location of the hostel may have removed the monk-scholars from the temptations and diversions of the town centre, they were still in a rather busy part of the town".[21]   

It is possible that the location attracted Abbot Litlyngton for two other reasons. First, the pondyards offered direct access to the Cam, and hence to the immense network of fenland water transport, of which Crowland formed part. It is difficult today to grasp the importance of Cambridge's role as an inland port, linked to the wider world through Kings Lynn, but benefiting from a network of rivers and canals ("lodes") that connected towns, villages and abbeys.  A reconstruction of a journey undertaken by a group of students from Cambridge to York in 1319 shows that, travelling by boat, they reached Spalding, ten miles beyond Crowland, in two days – and that was in mid-December, when lack of daylight would have reduced potential travel time.[22] Travel by boat would allow convenient supervision of the hostel from the parent Abbey, but it was undoubtedly expensive: in that era, students often remained in Cambridge year-round to save money. However, even if the young monks could not afford to use the river highway to get home in vacation, they could at least be decanted straight on to the site without having to pass through those wicked downtown fleshpots.[23] Here was the second advantage of the location, its size. Students at a university could not be confined to barracks all the time, but the precinct was large enough to reproduce something resembling a cloistered life. The point was not that it lay in some innocent paradise beyond the bridge, but rather that it was close to what was still the edge of the town, where more space was available than on the busy central streets.[24] Above all, it seems likely that the precinct had ready-to-occupy accommodation.

True, Benson empathetically insisted that the site contained only "[s]ome mean tenements and houses", but Ronald Hyam is almost certainly on firmer ground in suggesting that "the site in 1428 contained a couple of pre-existing houses in the street ... and these sufficed for a time".[25] As usual, the available records do not tell us much, but a little detective work and some brave leaps of imagination may flesh out a story, perhaps even the story. The letters patent are not very helpful, since they simply refer to "two messuages with the appurtenances". This remarkably imprecise description is probably explained by the fact that the document simply authorised the establishment of a hostel, which it exempted from mortmain, empowering Langley, Alnwick and Hore to negotiate a more detailed legal transfer, which would have described the property in appropriate detail. This documentation would have been kept among the muniments of Crowland Abbey as proof of title. Deeds of nearby holdings have survived, but – regrettably – nothing relating to this transaction. As Cunich explains, "the term 'messuage' was usually applied to any dwelling-house with its outbuildings and land, or land which could hold such". Hence his deduction that the two bishops "were persuaded to purchase the land occupied by First and Second Courts", while Hore supplied the site of the College gardens.[26]  However, an alternative might be posited, since the pondyards, usually described as a close (i.e. devoid of buildings), may not have qualified as a messuage. There is generally accepted evidence for the existence of two fifteenth-century structures along the street front of First Court.[27] This is simply deduced from the building history of the College. The northern section of the west range, from A staircase to the start of the porters' lodge (the former B staircase, eliminated when the lodge was enlarged in the 1960s) is authoritatively dated to around 1480. The southern section, from the lodge to C staircase, was filled in around 1585, thanks largely to a benefaction from an Elizabethan judge, Sir Christopher Wray. It may be possible to go further, and suggest that there was some entrance space between the two buildings, giving access to a yard behind – maybe the "appurtenances" mentioned in the letters patent. As Ronald Hyam pointed out, there is not only "a very sharp break in the character of the brickwork" but the internal partition at the back of the porters' lodge is "unusually thick". This suggests that the fifteenth-century range terminated in an external wall. This gap probably provided the original gateway to the hostel. Its ghostly trace survives in the path across First Court to the screens passage, angled because the replacement gateway of 1585 was moved slightly to the south.[28]

It may be possible to go even further in imagining the site of the hostel in 1428. First, even allowing for a gap between them, it seems likely that the two structures were relatively large buildings, with street frontage considerably longer than the surviving Cross Keys block across the street. We may also note that they had apparently been combined to form a single property, which explains why both messuages were available for acquisition. Could the premises have been in use as an inn? It would have been one of the larger establishments in Cambridge, probably with outbuildings that covered much of First and Second Court. Such hostelries were not unusual. In the early sixteenth century (and perhaps earlier), the Dolphin stretched from All Saints churchyard to Bridge Street. In the seventeenth century, the famous carrier (and no-option supplier of horses) Thomas Hobson ran the George in Trumpington Street, later absorbed by St Catharine's, which comprised not only barns and stables but an orchard. Other large inns have left their mark on the city's street plan: the Black Bear as Market Passage, the Red Lion in the Lion Yard complex.[29] It made sense for hospitality enterprises to be located on the edge of the urban area: as Purnell wordily put it, "the multiplication of inns here being doubtless due to the market-folk putting up at the entrance to the town".[30] By the late-fourteenth century, there were around two dozen such hostelries in Southwark High Street, the main approach to London from Kent. Of these, the Tabard offered medieval five-star accommodation to Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims: "The chambres and the stables weren wyde / And wel we weren esed atte beste". Half a century later, we might expect to find a similar facility in Magdalene Street. We might further guess that it had come into the hands of the Crown as a result of intestacy, probably while Hore held the office of escheator for the county.  It is evident that representations had been made on behalf of Crowland Abbey to the Council sometime before the letters patent were issued in July 1428. Since its abbot was usually summoned to parliament, it is likely that John Litlyngton journeyed to London for the session of 1427. We may imagine him, recently elected and full of enthusiasm, inspecting the Crowland estates on his way south. Dry Drayton is the next parish to Childerley. Courtesy would have led Hore to offer hospitality. Doubtless the abbot described how the Benedictines needed large enclosed premises in which to establish a well-disciplined student hostel. John Hore knew the very place, a property that would not only sleep several dozen studious young monks, but was also supplied with kitchens to feed them, and communal space that could be used for teaching and worship. If the business was actually functioning, it would even come equipped with a staff of scullions and skivvies to smooth the transition. Moreover, having just made a third lucrative marriage, Hore was in a position to safeguard his middle-aged soul by paying for the property himself. All that was required was to persuade the Council to sell. With a war in France devouring cash – in 1427, even bills from the Agincourt campaign twelve years earlier remained unpaid – and the regime forced to borrow at interest rates of up to 33 percent, this would not have been a huge challenge.[31]

However, it must be admitted that this scenario faces a problem, in the formidable shape of the pioneer historian of medieval law, F.W. Maitland. Property was forfeited to the king through treason, felony and intestacy. The first is unlikely: there had been plots against the Lancastrian monarchs between 1400 and 1415, but no recent conspiracy that might have triggered such a windfall.  The goods and chattels of criminals became the property of the town, not the Crown – no doubt an incentive to encourage Cambridge to pursue its criminals. Most inconvenient of all was Maitland's assertion that escheat through intestacy was "rare, very rare" in Cambridge, apparently because the burgesses could bequeath their property without any feudal intervention.[32] However, this might not have prevented the sudden elimination of an innkeeper and his whole family through a lightning outbreak of disease that permitted no time for the formal disposition of their assets. Cambridge seems to have been free from major outbreaks of bubonic plague for almost a century after 1389, but there were plenty of other afflictions that were both quick and lethal: in 1442, Henry VI decided not to attend the laying of the foundation stone for King's College chapel because of " the aier and the Pestilence that hath long regned in our said Universite".[33] Equally, the inn might have been owned by a Cambridgeshire resident as an investment, and been seized by a county official, such as John Hore, as part of his estate if the proprietor had died without leaving a Will. It might even be objected that there is no need for the escheat hypothesis at all, since Cambridge shared in the general urban crisis that swept late fourteenth-century England, and the town would have had ample vacant property, probably cheap to purchase.[34] However, a transaction on the open market would hardly have required the participation of two bishops holding key administrative offices. It is surely the case that Langley and Alnwick were not, as Cunich concludes, "persuaded to purchase the land" but rather that they – or clerks responsible to them – were commissioned to negotiate with John Hore for the sale and transfer of a piece of fortuitously acquired Crown property to Crowland. Like most coalitions, the Council governing England on behalf of Henry VI had its internal tensions. In 1427, faced with the pretensions of the boy king's uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who believed he was entitled to act as regent, its members decreed that no one person "may owe or ascribe to himself the said rule or governaille" – in other words, that none of them should take sole responsibility (or claim personal credit) for any of their actions.[35] Hence the cumbersome procedure of naming two busy ecclesiastics nominally to oversee the sale of a couple of messuages in a Cambridge street.

I venture to explore the imagined Magdalene Street inn a little further. It has already been suggested that the gap between the two street-front messuages opened into a yard. Lyne's map of 1574 shows two projecting wings behind the Pickerel, on the opposite side of the street. By the time of Loggan's map of 1688, these extended as far as Bin Brook, and similar outbuildings ("appurtenances") were attached to other local inns. An establishment serving travellers at the edge of the town would certainly have needed extensive stables. There were houses between the site and the Great Bridge, some of them probably used for industrial purposes.[36] It would have made sense to have the stables up against that urban enclave, running along the south side of the inn yard. Perhaps they were later converted – one hopes, after extensive fumigation – into cubicles for the student monks. Half a century later, these were superseded by D, E and F staircases. A respectable inn would also have required high status accommodation, a suite of rooms suitable for passing dignitaries, such as bishops, knights and nobility. The logical position for these would have been in an inner north range, away from the busy street and as far from the stench of the river as possible. It is surely no coincidence that, by 1480, we find there the handsome rooms of the prior studentium, the director of studies who supervised the young monks – spacious apartments that became and remained the Master's Lodge until 1837.[37] As a precaution against fire, kitchens and bakehouses were generally located in free-standing structures away from other buildings – possibly close to the east side of First Court where permanent kitchens and buttery were erected, probably early in the sixteenth century, and certainly before 1519. Thus far, cynics may note that the alleged appurtenances would all have vanished under fifteenth- and sixteenth-century brickwork, where the archaeologist's trowel cannot now pursue them. However, there is no reason to assume that an inn yard would have been as neatly arranged as a subsequent college courtyard. Centuries of levelling, landscaping and the dumping of rubbish will have encumbered the Magdalene precinct with a cacophony of archaeological noise, but it may be that a geophysics survey could find traces of earlier buildings. Searching for them, whether to confirm or explode this hypothesis, would form a suitable contribution to the observance of the six-hundredth anniversary.[38]

(Left) Part of the map of Cambridge by Richard Lynes, 1574. Although the thumbnail sketch of Magdalene's First Court is probably stylised, it does seem to indicate a gap half way along the street-front, probably the site of a gatehouse (on the site of the present Porters' Lodge) and a small garden. The two long ranges on the west side of the street were probably part of the Pickerel inn yard. St Giles' and St Peter's churches are marked at the foot of Castle Hill; St Clement's and the Round Church are across the bridge. R on the map represented the School of Pythagoras, the medieval town house now forming part of St John's. More mysteriously, T (at the top of Magdalene Street) marked a cast-iron fence (perhaps a cattle grid?) which Lynes believed indicated a former course of the Cam. (Right) Hammond's map of 1592 shows the College after the completion of First Court c. 1585, and the in-filling of the pondyards c. 1586 (although wavy lines alongside Chesterton Lane may suggest water?). Black lines highlight the boundaries of two messuages of 1428 (First and most of Second Court) and the pondyards (now the College garden). The River Court / Bright's Building area was acquired c. 1793.  

1428-72: a hostel without a name? None of this reconstruction brings us any closer to discovering the name of the new foundation. Putting flesh on the bones of John Hore and hailing him as the precinct's first benefactor seems an overdue act of justice, but perhaps it was for the best that his name was not associated with the new hall of residence, unlike –say – that of Edmund Gonville, who had launched a similar project back in 1348. Godshouse, Michaelhouse and Peterhouse are enough to indicate the potential embarrassment that might have been associated with any such appreciative commemoration.[39] On the analogy of the three Benedictine establishments at Oxford, named after their houses at Canterbury, Durham and Gloucester, we might have expected the Cambridge hostel to be formally associated with Crowland, but this evidently did not happen.[40] The abbey was a middle-sized community: 41 monks, just three of them novices in 1324, numbers which fell in the later fourteenth century, recovering to 36 in 1440 and 41 five years later, before slipping back to 32 in 1534 and just 28 at the Dissolution in 1539. In 1440, Crowland had only two students studying at Cambridge.[41] By contrast, even after a century of falling numbers, Christ Church Canterbury still housed 70 monks in 1500, Gloucester Abbey 50, while Durham usually had six novices being prepared for Oxford.[42] Crowland was simply not big enough to impose its institutional personality, and hence its name, on the Cambridge project. Twice, the office of prior studentium was filled by a monk from St Mary's Abbey at York, although it was John Wisbech of Crowland who took the lead in the building programme of the 1470s. Yet the project seems to have remained the preserve of the Fenland abbeys, plus the nearby house at Saffron Walden. The apparent lack of involvement on the part of the immensely wealthy monastic community of Bury St Edmunds, not thirty miles away, is striking. The abbot closed its own Cambridge hostel in 1433, no doubt in response to the insistence of the letters patent that all Benedictine students in the University should reside in the new establishment. However, Bury's links were primarily with Oxford, where it traditionally supported four students at Gloucester Hall.[43] Other substantial – and wealthy – Benedictine foundations, such as Peterborough, St Albans and Westminster, were hardly remote, but have left no trace in the admittedly opaque story of the Cambridge community. Most remarkable of all was the case of the Benedictine monks of Norwich, who refused to abandon their links with Gonville Hall and Trinity Hall. The fact that they went to the trouble to secure a papal bull in 1481 confirming this arrangement suggests that they were resisting pressure to contribute to the programme of renewal that had been launched by Abbot Wisbech, and which was still incomplete.[44] Lack of enthusiasm from some of the richer Benedictine houses probably explains why he sought external sponsorship for the rebuilding of the 1470s.

Perhaps, lacking as it did any legal personality or independent existence, the Magdalene Street hall of residence did not need a formal name. It was referred to in a deed of 1472, apparently of an adjoining property, as the "hostel called Monks' place", but this is presumably a translation of a Latin phrase that might have carried other connotations.[45] Similarly, the section of the Crowland Chronicle written about 1486, after it had acquired a sponsor's name, called it "Collegio monachorum Buckinghamiae": this might be "Buckingham College of the monks", "the monks' college of Buckingham" or, more loosely, "the monastic College of Buckingham". One obvious candidate for an informal local nickname, the Benedictine hostel, was ruled out because Corpus Christi was known as Bene't College: its inmates prayed in the parish church next door. (The Crowland offshoot was located in the parish of St Giles, which belonged to Barnwell Priory – an Augustinian foundation – hence it is not clear whether there was a close relationship between the hostel and the nearby church.) How, then, have we come so confidently to call it the Monks' Hostel? Writing in 1574, Dr John Caius did not name the establishment at all. Thomas Fuller, in 1655, boldly called it "Monks' College".[46] Speculation seems to have lapsed for two centuries: J.W. Clark in 1886 noted a "legend" that the name was "Monks' Corner", but he broadly hinted that this was a romantic name for the recesses of the College garden.[47] E.K. Purnell, Magdalene's first stand-alone historian, called his opening chapter "Monks', Later Buckingham College", but avoided committing himself to any specific designation in the text. The first explicit description of the foundation as "Monks' Hostel" seems to be in Benson's short history of 1923, again a chapter title, with his sole textual statement that the place was "called Monks' Hostel or Monks' College".[48] It was the quincentenary appeal for cash needed to construct a new court that explicitly invoked five hundred years of "Magdalene College Cambridge formerly Monks' Hostel 1428-1542-1928". This was a wholly pardonable decision, since chequebooks were hardly likely to fly open in celebration of the five-hundredth birthday of an institution that nobody could even name.

However, there may have been another element in this process. In the years after the First World War, pressure of numbers forced the creation of a new Magdalene. The forty undergraduates of late-Victorian days had swollen to a community of 180 students, and the days when they could all spend three years in College had gone for good. With lodgings in private houses increasingly difficult to procure, Magdalene – in common with other colleges – was forced to establish hostels. By 1928, there were three of them. The Appeal brochure of that year indicated an embarrassed sense that they represented a second-class Cambridge experience, but there was little doubt that hostels would be a permanent feature of College life. Perhaps the dons of Magdalene reacted subconsciously, but it was a characteristic Cambridge device to disguise change by portraying it as a revival of past practice. Boarding in Kingsley House or Mallory Court (which was originally not included within the academic precinct) might be less atmospheric than "keeping" in rooms overlooking First Court or high in the Pepys Building, but somehow the exiled undergraduate was in touch with centuries of lost tradition.[49] By a process of historical sleight of hand, Magdalene historians – myself included – came to accept that the institution had originally been formally titled the Monks' Hostel (usually with the definite article). In reality, we have almost no idea what the place was called during its first half-century as a place of study.

Buckingham College From 1483, we are on firmer ground. That year, the town's local tax record mentions payment by the Abbot of Crowland for a hostel called "Bokyngham College".  The reference to "Collegio monachorum Buckinghamiae" in the Crowland Chronicle is slightly later, but refers  to the building programme begun by Abbot John Wisbech, who was in office from 1470 to 1476, and to which it was assumed Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham had contributed. Thus we may conclude, with Cunich, that the new name dates from "some point" in that decade.[50] It should be noted here that, even if there was some sort of re-launch, we still know very little about the institution. "Evidence for the story of Buckingham College is very scanty," R.W. McDowall remarked in 1952, and most commentators have echoed his complaint. The principal traces are easily summarised. In 1502, the town authorities evidently determined to crack down on nuisances. One problem was the obstruction of streets by stacks of timber. The Prior of Buckingham College was presented (i.e. threatened with prosecution) "for having blocks of wood lying before that College". Whether this represented firewood, or implied some forgotten construction project, it is impossible to say. At the same time, the town also censured the "master or keeper" of Buckingham College for erecting privies that discharged into the Cam, although it seems unlikely that these were a new feature. The following year, local records mention the "Mancipil of Bokyngham College": a manciple was a catering manager, confirmation of the obvious point that the Crowland hostel fed its inmates. Within a few years, it becomes clear that the institution had become a recognised part of the University. In 1514, it appeared in the proctorial cycle, taking its turn to nominate members of the academic police force. From around 1500, some students and teachers can be identified by name. In 1519 (so tradition dates it), a fine collegiate Hall was built, by another Duke of Buckingham, Edward Stafford. In 1535, Buckingham College was required to contribute lectures in Greek and Latin to a new humanistic curriculum. Yet none of these allusions emanated from within Buckingham College itself, simply because the attribution was a misnomer, a term politely applied to an institution that was not chartered, self-governing or independent and hence had no capacity to issue statements on its own behalf. When Crowland Abbey surrendered to Henry VIII four years later, we cannot even say that Buckingham College also formally closed its gates, since – technically, at least – it had never existed in the first place.[51]

The received story of the rebuilding programme of the 1470s may be briefly summarised. Abbot John Wisbech embarked on a programme of building chambers suitable for accommodation and study. He enlisted the support of the second Duke of Buckingham, but for some reason the project had to be completed by the abbeys of Ely, Ramsay and Walden, each of which built a staircase, presumably retaining rights to demand rooms in their own investment.  Abbot Wisbech's motives are unknown, but can be guessed. Perhaps Crowland had grown somnolent under the very long rule of John Litlyngton, and he felt the need for some striking project. If the hostel had indeed taken over the premises of a working inn, after half a century it probably required refurbishment. Fifteenth-century monks hankered after a comfortable lifestyle, and an obscure phrase in the account by Dr Caius suggests that more of them wished to come to Cambridge.[52] A wish to emulate, and compete with, the comfortable Benedictine facilities at Oxford may also have been an incentive. However, as Cunich carefully explained, it is harder to account for the involvement of Buckingham. He had no particular connection with the Abbey, and the Crowland Chronicle is hardly polite about him. However, this section was written after the Duke's execution in 1483, when his reputation had been tarnished, first by abandoning Edward IV's young sons, the famous Princes in the Tower, and then by rebelling against the usurper, Richard III, and – worse still – carrying out his revolt ineptly. The problem is that Duke Henry did not control his inheritance until he reached his eighteenth birthday in 1473. Although enormous estates made him one of the richest landowners in England, extreme wealth was usually inextricably entangled with massive debt, a problem that limited the options of his son, Edward, the third Duke, when he resumed the patronage of Buckingham College around 1519. Cunich plausibly argues that the financial support for the rebuilding programme came from the young nobleman's grandmother, Anne Neville, widow of the first Duke, who was held in unusual honour by the monks. This is entirely possible: Clare, Pembroke and – later – Sidney Sussex were all founded by noblewomen, but in each case the college took its name from the (male) family title.[53] We have only the authority of Dr John Caius, writing a century later, for the belief that Henry Duke of Buckingham began building in brick, and that the institution derived its name accordingly. Since Dr Caius could not provide anything like a precise date, it seems likely that he was not working from any documentary source, but merely citing academic hearsay.

A consensus has emerged that divides the 1470s construction into two segments. To understand the new name, we need to explore the connection between them. The Buckingham-funded Crowland contribution was the north range of First Court, comprising the Chapel and the prior's apartments, now the Parlour and the Old Library (or, perhaps more likely, the rooms above them), plus what is now A staircase, replacing the northernmost of the two messuages of 1428.[54] Separately, the staircases built by the abbeys of Ely, Ramsey and (Saffron) Walden are generally assumed to be D, E and F, on the south side  of First Court. Given the distinct layout of each of these three staircases, this makes sense. Unfortunately, the interpretation was for long complicated by an observation made in 1777 by the antiquary William Cole, who spotted the arms of Ely Abbey over the archway in the north-west corner of First Court, leading to the assumption that Ely had constructed A staircase. However, since the heraldry was upside down, it is permissible to assume that this was a clumsy repair job, perhaps perpetrated much later when the interior of First Court was barbarically covered with stucco in 1760.[55] Thus we have two separate but related building projects – but how do they relate, in time and in purpose, and what light can they throw upon the name?

Dr Caius simply described how the Duke began construction in brick, while others built another section ("dum aliam partem alii aedificarunt"). But Purnell quoted a sentence from the Cotton MSS in the British Museum (now British Library), which implied a sequence. " Aedificare incepit Henricus, dux Buckinghamiae, sed intermissa aedificia abbates Elienses, Ramsienses et Waldenses prope absolverunt." (Henry, Duke of Buckingham, began to build, but when the building was interrupted, the abbots [or abbeys] of Ely, Ramsey and Walden quickly stepped in.) As always, much depends on the nuances of translation. The verb "absolvere" can mean to liberate or to absolve, as we would expect, but it can also mean to continue, as is probably intended here. It is intriguing when put alongside "intermissa aedificia", the suggestion of an interruption in the Duke's activities perhaps carrying with it the sense of our word intermission, and with it the assumption that he might in due course resume his support. Thus, as Dr Caius seemed to imply, in taking on part of the project themselves, the three abbeys were not letting Edward Stafford permanently off the hook. Unfortunately, Purnell did not identify the extract from the Cotton MSS, which were assembled in the early seventeenth century.[56] Hence it is impossible here to determine whether it was an elaboration imaginatively derived from Dr Caius, or the product of some independent tradition. If the Cotton MSS source is reliable, it would help to explain not merely how the Duke's name came to be associated with the hostel, but why it was retained even after he had apparently failed to deliver.

However difficult it may be to pin down, the timing of construction around First Court is of some importance in relation to the appearance of Buckingham College in the local tax register of 1483. (This, it should also be remembered, is simply the first such list to survive, and therefore does not disprove the adoption of the name some years earlier, as implied by its retrospective use in the Crowland Chronicle.) The Chronicle's statement that buildings were erected by Abbot John Wisbech may not necessarily mean that they were completed by the time of his death in 1476. Construction in brick, complete with timber fittings, was probably not an overnight operation, especially as benefactors tended to provide cash in instalments, which might be delayed.[57] It does not help that the ducal project and the abbey staircases are linked by two Latin conjunctions, with slightly different meanings: "dum" (while) in Caius, "prope" (close) quoted from the Cotton MSS. The first could imply that the work on the north and south ranges was carried on simultaneously, in which case the involvement of three abbeys was only loosely connected with the Buckingham largesse. The second suggests that there was a short interval between the stages, but this in itself cannot prove that Ely, Ramsey and Walden became involved because the Duke had defaulted. Religious houses were not construction companies, and perhaps they needed time to gear themselves up to design and erect their staircases. Here the fact that the Benedictine monks of Norwich thought it worth securing the support of Sixtus IV in distancing themselves from the Order's Cambridge hostel in 1481 may suggest that they were under pressure to make some contribution: papal bulls did not come cheap, nor were they rapidly procured. Nor should we forget that we have one architectural conundrum that leaves its mark in the brickwork of First Court to this day: the west range was left incomplete, and remained so for one hundred years, leaving a gap, presumably comprising one of the original messuages, between the two brick structures, which was surely a reproach to institutional self-respect. Could it be that the "intermissa aedificia" resulted from the Duke of Buckingham's execution in 1483 – that same year that we know the townsfolk associated his name with the Crowland hostel?

It seems worth pointing out here that discussions of the origins of names tend to concentrate on the reasons for their emergence, coupled with explanation of their significance. In addition, there is a deeper issue of process that is generally ignored, but which is of importance in understanding the Buckingham label. There are two ways in which places and institutions acquire their names – the first through community consensus, the second through deliberate promulgation on the part of some sort of authority, such as a founder, government agency or property developer. Since the sixteenth century, certainly in the western world, the second process has dominated, perhaps as a side-effect of the spread of printing. Thus, of 64 jurisdictions that comprise the United States and Canada, only one – Newfoundland – can be said to have acquired a European name through popular invention.[58] The remainder, starting with the coinage of Virginia in 1584, traditionally attributed to Walter Ralegh, have been specifically designated, as we might say, from above.[59]  By contrast, medieval place names in Britain and Ireland almost all evolved through word of mouth and were shaped by popular etymology. There were, however, a few exceptions. The Essex village recorded in Domesday Book as Fulepet became Beaumont, presumably because some Norman interloper preferred his address to be Fair Hill rather than Foul Pit. On founding a town in twelfth-century Hertfordshire, the Knights Templars decided to call it after the Mesopotamian city of Baghdad. (There are some processes of medieval thinking that must permanently elude us.) They used the French version of that name, Baudac, which, with some intervention from local usage, settled down as Baldock. Where colleges were concerned, the picture was more complicated. There were instances where a nickname came to define the institution: Bene't College for Corpus Christi and, perhaps most notably, Brasenose in Oxford, believed to have been named in mocking honour of a splendid door-knocker, and this despite the fact that accessory went missing for five hundred years. In fifteenth-century Cambridge, there was no consistency. St Catharine's, founded in 1473, was known by its dedication, interpreted as Catharine Hall until 1860. By contrast, the Royal College of St Nicholas became King's (1441), while the College of St Margaret and St Bernard (1448) was known as Queens'.[60] These by-names may have been popular inventions, but they could have been adopted and fostered by the institutions themselves, for there would have been something of a swank factor in claiming association with royalty. There is also the intriguing case of "The College of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and the Glorious Virgin Saint Radegund", founded in 1496. Tradition claims that its founder, Bishop John Alcock, wished it to be generally known as Jesus College, although it is puzzling that he did not so formally name it.[61]

Thus the question that rises with regard to the emergence of the name Buckingham College is whether it arose spontaneously among the local population or was consciously chosen by Crowland Abbey and the Benedictine Order at large? If the latter, are we perhaps looking at a very early example of the sale of naming rights that would one day lead to the O2 Arena and the Emirates Stadium? The conundrum will probably remain an unsolved mystery, for that very basic reason that no letters patent, charter or statutes were ever issued by or for Buckingham College. However, it may help to illuminate a related issue: why did the apparently informal name survive the execution of Duke Henry in 1483, continuing into an era when his reputation was deservedly held in widespread contempt? Once again, Cunich is our guide among the dynastic politics of the period. The monks of Crowland had no interest in honouring the fallen nobleman, but they did require the political patronage of Henry VII's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, a local landowner and hence vital ally in controlling the unruly Lincolnshire farmers. She was also the great-aunt of Duke Henry's two young sons, who were entrusted by the first Tudor king to her care.[62] Perhaps equally important was the new monarch's gesture of reconciliation, in restoring the elder boy, seven year-old Edward, to the dukedom of Buckingham. The monks might hope that, in due course, the third Duke would honour his father's memory by re-asserting his sponsorship rights over their Cambridge hostel. Coupled with this were elements of simple inertia. Once a name got into popular currency, it was hard to shift: Cambridge borough records continued to refer to Buckingham College until 1550, eight years after its refoundation as Magdalene. In any case, the monks were to a considerable extent stuck with the Buckingham association. As part of the deal to secure the erection of the new buildings, the Benedictines would have undertaken to pray for Duke Henry's soul, an obligation that could hardly be dumped, all the more so because the disreputable culmination of his career meant that he needed all the posthumous spiritual support that organised holiness could supply.

The third Duke of Buckingham eventually provided a further instalment of external support, and is regarded as having constructed the Hall in 1519. It was not his first contribution to Cambridge. The problem, from the Crowland hostel point of view, was that his guardian, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was also an academic benefactor, indeed the (re)founder of Christ's in 1505 and a supporter of St John's, which was formally inaugurated by her executors in 1511, two years after her death. Presumably under his great-aunt's influence and guidance, in early adult life the young Duke made gifts to Christ's, Michaelhouse and Queens'.  The low priority that Edward Stafford evidently assigned to the institution that shared his title would seem to indicate that any agreement between the family and the monks had been merely informal, and that it may have taken some effort to persuade him that the Benedictines had any claim upon his largesse. Worse still, by the 1510s that largesse was less than munificent: not withstanding his enormous wealth, Buckingham was deeply in debt.  Cunich suggests that they enlisted his support during a visit to Cambridge in 1513-14.[63] This could fit well with the evidence that points to the construction of the kitchens some time before the erection of the Hall. Once again, it is important to remember that brick buildings did not go up overnight: the tracery and glazing of the giant windows alone would have required intricate and time-consuming work.[64]

It had taken forty years for the nominal Buckingham connection to deliver a second dividend, but eventually it had come in the form of an undoubtedly handsome Hall. The monks might reasonably have hoped that their patron would solve his financial problems, and return to complete their courtyard.[65] In the event, he was charged with treason and executed in 1421.[66] His father had been beheaded by Richard III after a failed attempt to link up with Henry Tudor, who gratefully restored the dukedom when he became king. There would be no such forgiveness in the next generation. Buckingham's son and heir, Thomas Stafford, remained a mere commoner until 1547, when he recovered the lowest of the family titles, a mere barony. Most of the dynastic wealth was swept away by a retrospective act of attainder in 1523, and was never recovered.[67] By the time Crowland Abbey surrendered itself, and its Cambridge cell, to the Crown on 4 December 1539,[68] the Buckingham label had ceased to offer any potential advantages. Yet, while Purnell may have been right in suggesting that the name was "doubtless offensive to the king", there would have been simpler ways to erase its existence. The Dissolution was accompanied by large scale destruction of monasteries, and the cost of demolishing an incomplete courtyard in a Cambridge street could probably have been recouped by recycling the bricks and timber. The challenge raised by the institution between 1539 and 1542 lay not in any need to rewrite the past but rather in its persistent, if almost certainly tenuous, continuation into the present. Buckingham College, which had never formally been born, now stubbornly refused to die.

The "missing years", 1539-42 The interregnum (or interruption) between 1539 and 1542 "has always presented problems for historians".[69] In the absence of any College archives, the evidence is slight, merely inferential although, in recent times, it has been regarded as persuasive. The University petitioned the king to take over abandoned monastic buildings in the town, but did not include the Crowland cell in their wish-list. Somebody continued to pay the local property tax on the pondyards in the name of "Buckyngham College". Presumably, some sort of communal life was being maintained. The obvious question that arises in regard to these "missing years" is financial: how did an institution with no endowment manage to struggle on? The nearest it possessed to an assured income was the rent from the pondyards, barely £1 a year. However, the key here may be that both students and teachers were monks, who were provided with pensions at the Dissolution. The younger men would not have received much cash, but the more experienced senior members – there could hardly have been many of them – perhaps felt able to keep the enterprise afloat in the desperate hope that the nightmare of the Henrician Reformation might go into reverse gear. Final examinations for the BA, in the form of oral "disputations", were taken during the fourth year of study, the various tests culminating in the week before Easter. By the Michaelmas Term of 1539, it would have been clear that the monasteries were doomed, and it is unlikely that any of them sent novices to Cambridge. But, a year earlier, the Class of 1538 had probably matriculated in normal fashion, and by December 1539 had perhaps acquired sufficient corporate loyalty to wish to remain within familiar walls. Deprived of their hopes of a life in the cloister, students probably hoped for preferment as parish clergy, for which a university degree was a useful qualification. Maybe they were allowed to complete their second year at Buckingham College, on the understanding that they would then relocate to other establishments for the remainder of their studies. Then, on 10 June 1540, their arch-enemy Thomas Cromwell was dramatically arrested, and lost his head at the end of July. Henry VIII turned to more conservative counsellors, and Buckingham College was encouraged by the apparent U-turn to reassemble that autumn, intent on seeing its final cohort of students through to graduation in 1542. Easter Sunday that year fell on 2 April; the letters patent refounding the institution as Magdalene College were issued on 3 April.[70] This looks like a smooth transition, not the belated kick-starting of a dormant institution.[71]

Magdalene would become cautiously aware of its Buckingham past during the eighteenth century.[72] By the nineteenth, Magdalene had embraced a wholly spurious origin myth which claimed that the third Duke had bought out the monks and established his own college when he paid for the Hall.  Although neither Clark nor Purnell endorsed this tale, the annual Cambridge Academic Calendar continued to give 1519 as the foundation date until the eve of the First World War. In 1968-70, the name Buckingham Court was applied to new student accommodation.[73]

Thomas Audley and John Hughes  It has to be said that Thomas Audley has not received a vast amount of posthumous gratitude for his establishment of Magdalene College in 1542. The time-serving lackey of an unstable tyrant, he was hardly the founder any college would have chosen, nor is it easy to understand why an apparatchik, notable both for greed and betrayal, should have made such a gesture.  "It is difficult to find a convincing explanation for this isolated and uncharacteristic act of altruism, for the refounding of Magdalene is completely inconsistent with Audley's general behaviour during the last fifteen years of his life."[74] Audley's possible motives are reviewed later, but for the time being it is sufficient to note that, in recent times, emphasis has been transferred to the men around him, especially his domestic chaplain, John Hughes. Indeed, so entrenched has the revised story become that it has even been said that: "If there were any justice in history, Magdalene ought really to be called Hughes Hall."[75]

John Hughes was a Welshman and an Oxford graduate. Of his commitment to the refounded College there can be no doubt, for he promptly endowed Magdalene with estates in North Wales, showing considerably more generosity and speed than his employer.[76] Once Audley established Walden Abbey as his principal residence, from 1538, Hughes would have had opportunities to strike friendships in Cambridge, just fifteen miles away, but there is no evidence that he had any previous connections with the University. Cunich identified an impressive array of Benedictine scholars who are thought to have passed through Buckingham College, some of whom may be assumed to have encouraged Hughes to adopt the orphan hostel. Thanks to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which appeared a decade after the College History, more light can be thrown on some of these personalities. Of course, the most we can conclude is that several of them were in a position to provide support, although we cannot know that they actually became involved.

One possible candidate for membership of a Magdalene College cheer squad was Thomas Holbeach (alias Rands). He had spent around a decade studying in Cambridge, achieving a doctorate in theology in 1534. The following year, he became the last known appointment to the office of prior studentium at Buckingham College. Cranmer regarded Holbeach as one of only two Benedictines who possessed "all qualities meet for an head and master of an house", and in 1536 he was whisked away to become prior of Worcester. There is no record of the appointment of any successor at Buckingham College. Since it is improbable that the Benedictines would have scrapped their academic programme in the year that the closure of the smaller monasteries was (allegedly) intended to encourage the larger houses to reform, it is likely that he retained the nominal office and informally appointed a deputy. Unfortunately, in turbulent Reformation times, membership of an institution did not necessarily imply loyalty to its survival, and Holbeach was undoubtedly ambitious. Moreover, at the time when the fate of Buckingham College was in doubt, he had his own career to protect: Worcester's cathedral priory was dissolved in 1540, but it was not until January 1542 that he became dean of the reconstituted cathedral. (Two years later, he was made a bishop.)[77] Another Cambridge-educated Benedictine, John Chambers, made a more comfortable transition through the Dissolution. Elected Abbot of Peterborough in 1528, he is said to have spent the next decade studying theology, graduating as a bachelor in theology in 1539: he could hardly have been a resident student. His abbey surrendered to the Crown in 1539, but Chambers was appointed keeper of its temporalities (on a generous salary). Two years later, in October 1541, he was consecrated as the first bishop of the new diocese.[78] It was reasonably certain that Peterborough would survive in some form, because Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had been buried there as recently as 1536: although repudiated in life, she could hardly be dishonoured in death. Thus Chambers probably felt more secure than Holbeach, he was located much closer to Cambridge and had recently studied in the University, presumably having an affiliation with Buckingham College. Whether he exerted himself in its interests cannot be known. 

Holbeach and Chambers were Benedictines on the make, in positions where they might have exercised influence on behalf of Buckingham College, but neither with an overpowering motive nor an obvious link to Audley. A third member of the Order slots more neatly into the personalities and the politics behind the refounding of Magdalene. John Capon was a monk at St John's Abbey, Colchester. He too had an alias, Salcot, which suggests that he was born in the Essex marshland village of that name.[79] He studied at Cambridge during the early years of the reign of Henry VIII, graduating with a doctorate in theology in 1515. On his return to Colchester, he became prior (in effect, number two) at the Abbey. At the same time, the rising lawyer Thomas Audley was the borough's town clerk, and it is likely that the two men knew one another. Promotion came to Capon quickly, probably through cultivating political support. In 1517, he became abbot of St Benet Hulme (sometimes "Home"), a Benedictine house in the Norfolk Broads. He might well have kept in touch with Audley, since it would have been logical to stop overnight at Colchester on journeys to London. Capon also maintained close links with Cambridge, where his brother began a thirty-year reign as Master of Jesus College in 1516. One history of St Benet Hulme suggests that he spent more time at the University than in the cloisters: by 1526, some of the monks thought the community was becoming slack, although the most specific complaint was the presence of too many dogs.[80] By this time, Capon – like Audley – had become an adherent of Wolsey, but both men side-stepped the Cardinal's fall and energetically championed the king's plans to divorce Catherine of Aragon. This renewed Capon's links with Cambridge, where he was chosen as a member of a University commission ostensibly intended to study the validity of the marriage, but – of course – actually established as part of Henry VIII's propaganda machine.

In 1534, Capon was appointed to the see of Bangor in north Wales, although he held the bishopric for just five years. He was by now deeply committed to the cause of religious reform, but was mainly based in London. He appointed his brother as his diocesan administrator, but it is unlikely that the Master of Jesus spent much time in Wales either. Nor would they have achieved much had they actually visited: Capon admitted in 1535 that he was hampered in the "diligent setting forth and sincere preaching" of Protestant ideas by his inability to speak Welsh.[81] The clergy of the Bangor diocese were not noted for learning, and it is likely that Capon relied upon two educated cathedral officials, Robert Evans, who became Dean in 1534, and John Hughes, a member of the chapter who held various parish appointments. We may be reasonably sure that both spoke Welsh as their first language, and were capable of acting as intermediaries between their bishop and his flock. Hughes we have already encountered as the real founder of Magdalene; Evans would be appointed as the College's first Master, retaining his Deanery plus, incidentally, a very lucrative living in the Fens. In 1539, Capon was translated to Salisbury, where he would crown twenty years of energetic support for the Reformation by presiding over the burning of heretics during the reign of Mary.[82] In John Capon, we have the combination of factors that point to a supporting role in the establishment of Magdalene: episcopal status, political skill, association with Cambridge, all capable of working through plausible links with both Audley and Hughes. It is likely that he was in or around London in the early months of 1542, when the letters patent were issued, for he was commissioned by Convocation to contribute to a planned (but abandoned) project for a new translation of the Bible. Capon was allocated the epistles to the Corinthians. How he would have handled the inspirational evocation of charity in 1 Corinthians 13 we can only guess. The family surname was occasionally spelt "Capone", and the variant seems somehow appropriate.

If Capon was indeed a key player in the refoundation, his role underlines the extent to which the project was linked to north Wales, and the diocese of Bangor in particular. The most traditional part of the Principality, the area was doggedly Catholic and overwhelmingly Welsh-speaking, served by clergy who were generally poor, uneducated and firmly attached to their womenfolk. Capon's attempt to make them dump their concubines (as their blameless partners were cruelly termed) triggered a petition to Thomas Cromwell in 1536, in which they argued that, deprived of their female companions, they would be banned from the homes of laity because they would be perceived as a threat to the chastity of wives and daughters. Nor could the region be written off as an unimportant backwater. Not only had it been the centre of resistance to English rule in the time of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in the thirteenth century, and Owain Glyndŵr in the fifteenth, but Anglesey in particular was regarded as strategically vulnerable, open to seizure by both the Spanish and the Scots. In 1542, Capon's successor enjoined his clergy to give religious teaching to their parishioners in Welsh, but it was not until 1547 that a Welsh primer appeared – the first printed book in any Celtic language, and even then a private project rather than a government initiative.[83] Education was clearly the key to producing Welsh clergy capable of translating English and Protestant ideas to their flocks, and thereby making them loyal and peaceable subjects. It is likely that there was something more than the rescuing of a stranded academic hostel at stake in the launching of Magdalene.

It is reasonable to suggest that a coalition of interested parties around Thomas Audley pointed him towards the rescue of a destitute academic unit, but it would be implausible to assume that so masterful a personality was manipulated as a simple cipher. Audley's own motives are of some importance, not least in relation to the name he selected for the revived institution. We may begin by dismissing one charming tradition, that he had studied at Buckingham College and was paying some debt of gratitude. There is some slight evidence that the Benedictines took in students who were not monks – or perhaps simply rented vacant rooms to balance the books – but it has proved very difficult to identify any of them. Although he was about 22 when he was admitted to study at the Inner Temple in 1510, old enough to have allowed for a preliminary sojourn at university, the available evidence seems to indicate that he opted for a professional training, sufficient to qualify him for the office of town clerk of Colchester just four years later. Audley mocked the intellectualism of Sir Thomas More, telling More's daughter: "I am very glad that I have no learning but in a few of Aesop's fables". The French ambassador sneered that Audley could not converse in Latin, a requirement of Cambridge students, although the ferocity of such provision in various statutes suggests that it was not always observed.[84]

J. B. Mullinger, a nineteenth-century historian of the University, made the reasonable deduction that Audley's interest in Buckingham College stemmed from his acquisition in 1538 of the Benedictine Walden Abbey.  However, Mullinger dived too deeply into the romantic when he hazarded that "the  Cam itself,  as  it  stole  onward  through  the  abbey  grounds  at Walden,  might  serve  to  remind  him  of  those  ancient  and impoverished  foundations  which  rose  on  its  banks  in  its remoter  course".[85] It is much more likely that Audley's interest was aroused on learning that Walden Abbey had constructed one of the staircases when Buckingham College had launched into bricks and mortar. The abbey would certainly have asserted at least a moral claim to the occupation of the chambers it had erected, and Audley's covetous legal mind would have translated that into some form of property right. Although Walden Abbey would have exercised at most a consultative role in the Order's selection of the head of the hostel, Audley was obviously attracted by the patronage power of an external appointment, implicitly using the monkish precedent to reserve the choice of Master of Magdalene to himself and his heirs.  The prior studentium cast a long shadow over the College until the increasingly inappropriate provision was finally abolished in 2012.

Another major development in Audley's life that occurred in 1538 was his elevation to the peerage, as Baron Audley of Walden. His new status involved the acquisition of a coat of arms, often an opportunity for a new man to claim fake aristocratic ancestry. A medieval Staffordshire landowning family called Audley were an obvious target, but there were no clues or connections that might have justified resort to the common practice of buying a spurious genealogy from the College of Heralds. Audley's father seems to have been a land agent managing an estate near Colchester, and their surname was generally spelt "Audeley". Thomas could do no more than hint at some association: he dropped the middle letter, and incorporated the Audley knot, the Midlands family's geometrical symbol, into his own coat of arms.[86] The medieval family had been granted several peerages, one of which passed in the fifteenth century through the female line to the Buckinghams. The title had gone into abeyance at the fall of the third Duke. Taking control of the destiny of Buckingham College was another way of signalling a claim to noble ancestry, unstated (because not susceptible of proof) but artfully projected.[87] Thus there were certainly elements of vanity among Audley's motives, and it may be for the best that this was so. The Dissolution hit University enrolments hard, and there was no student demand that might have justified the founding of another college in 1542.

No amount of historical revisionism will ever succeed in portraying Thomas Audley as anything other than hard-nosed and hard-hearted. Yet there is one curious episode which may throw light on his involvement in the Magdalene project. Visiting his home in Colchester in September 1538, he had learned of rumours that the town's Benedictine abbey, St John's, and the Augustinian house at St Osyth, ten miles away, on the coast, were both facing closure. He was probably lobbied by the abbot of St John's, Thomas Beche, whose vocal defence of his community would take him to the gallows a year later. Since he had, six months earlier, accepted the grant of Walden Abbey, Audley was not an obvious ally in the fight against dissolution.[88] He had used Colchester to launch himself into national politics as MP for the town in the parliament of 1523, but he no longer needed his home town as a power base: Colchester was economically stagnant, and it needed Audley's support rather than vice-versa.  Nonetheless, he sent a curious proposal to Thomas Cromwell, arguing for "the contynuance of the same ii places, not as they bee religious, but that it mought pleese the kynges majesty of his goodness to translate them into colleges".[89] Audley was entirely happy for Henry VIII to determine what form these institutions should take, and for the appointment of deans and prebendaries to become a royal prerogative. Since he was prepared to pay the staggering sum of two thousand pounds to preserve the two monasteries, Audley evidently wanted to save them very much. Yet his fervent plea suggests that he was not very clear in his own mind why they should be exempted from the general assault on monasticism. He argued that Colchester contained "many poor people which have daily relefe of the house; another cawse, bothe these houses be in the ende of the shire of Essex where litel hospitality shalbe kept yf these be dissolved ". These were standard arguments in defence of all religious houses, with no serious reason advanced to justify their particular use here. Few travellers were likely to be inconvenienced by the closure of the two abbeys: Colchester was a large town well supplied with inns, while St Osyth was located at the end of a peninsula where few wayfarers would have passed.[90] Audley added that "Seynt Jones lakkyth water and Seynt Osyes stondith in the marshes not very holsom as yt fewe of reputation as I thinke will kepe contynual howses in any of them save it be a congregation as ther be now". (In fact, both abbeys later became great houses.) He also threw in the plea that there were " xxti howses gret and small dissolved in the shire of Essex all redy". Indeed, Audley seems to have appreciated that he was not making a very strong case, urging Cromwell that "knowyng bothe the howses as ye do can alegge more better considerations than I can imagyne or wryte".

It is difficult to imagine how Audley's vaguely conceived colleges would have differed from the monasteries they were supposed to replace (which may have been the idea). He was not totally alone in his fantasy: Bishop Latimer similarly sought to carry forward the priory at Great Malvern "not in monkery", but as a centre of "teaching, preaching, [and] study with praying".[91] In deepest Worcestershire, that might have been a safe endeavour. But Colchester was a town with a stubborn Lollard tradition, and a maritime trade around the North Sea, elements that would surely have encouraged a fermentation of Lutheran ideas. A case might have been made for the conversion of St John's into a cathedral, with an accompanying chapter – Colchester had been designated as the title for a suffragan bishopric in 1536, but that was a roving commission that did not require an episcopal headquarters. The creation of new dioceses did not come on to the political agenda until the following year, and Audley would perhaps have rejected the strategy as requiring the abandonment of St Osyth. Not surprisingly, this bizarre exercise in spiritual nimbyism quickly disappeared. After making the tactical mistake of denying that the king had any right to close his monastery, Abbot John Beche was arrested for treason in November 1538, the same month in which Audley was awarded his peerage.  Nonetheless, Thomas Audley did secure one small success for Colchester and for the cause of education. In November 1539, Henry VIII granted the property of two local chantries to the town, for the erection of a free school to be governed by statutes and ordinances – to be laid down by Audley himself.[92] As with Magdalene, he had not got around to this detailed work by the time of his death in 1544, but it seems clear that Thomas Audley was open to backing educational projects, provided somebody else's resources could be mobilised for his own glorification. When, just over two years later, a coalition of associates and acolytes pressed him to establish a college at Cambridge, he was willing to listen. The practical mechanics of chartering Magdalene were straightforward, for letters patent were promulgated in the king's name by the Lord Chancellor. Since this was the office that Audley held, in effect he simply wrote his own ticket. This gave him unlimited scope to choose a name for the new institution.

M+Audley+N  Both the letters patent of 1542 and the original Statutes of 1555 were in Latin, but it is reasonably certain that the founder intended to rename Buckingham College as the College of St Mary Magdalene in the University of Cambridge.[93] However, we can be reasonably sure that name "Magdalene" was the keyword, in whatever spelling, and that it was pronounced to rhyme with "dawdlin'".[94] In 1655, Thomas Fuller offered an ingenious interpretation of its derivation, which he indicated was in general circulation ("as some will have it"). Audley had chosen to honour the Biblical saint because "his sirname [sic] is therein contained, betwixt the initial and final letter thereof, M AUDLEY N."[95] Fuller, a student in the 1630s, would have encountered dons whose origins were close to the founder's era, which lends credibility to a plausible tale. However, the story dropped from sight, perhaps because it did nothing to enhance the collective self-esteem of an institution that was already the Cinderella of Cambridge. Neither Clark nor Purnell even considered the possibility. It seems to have been revived by Arthur Gray of Jesus College, who produced an enviable output of good-humoured Cambridge history in the early twentieth century – but even Gray assumed Fuller was being facetious.[96] However, A.C. Benson, himself a skilled wordsmith, picked up the idea in 1923, and called it "probable".[97] The hypothesis is now generally accepted. Noting that many early documents in the College archives used the spelling "Maudleyn", Cunich concludes that the choice "seems to have been act of clever arrogance by Audley".[98]

Perhaps we should not jump to the conclusion that the pun was merely a piece of insensitive boasting. Audley was content to act as assiduous chief messenger rather than powerful chief minister to Henry VIII, but he would have been well aware that two of his predecessors, Wolsey and Cromwell, had dramatically fallen from favour because, as men of humble origins, they had antagonised the traditional nobility by displaying overweening pride. Thomas Audley would have been well advised to tread a careful line – pride at his rise in the world was pardonable, arrogance could be counter-productive. Hence we should ask: were there other layers of meaning in the choice the new collegiate name? Here, a loud note of caution is required. Grafting Tudor thought patterns on to my mental universe, formed four centuries later, may be like seeking to reverse extinction by injecting dinosaur DNA into a hedgehog. The process can generate results, but it also risks producing monsters. Even E.M.W. Tillyard, who memorably explored the world of Shakespeare's contemporaries, warned his readers that there were "many variations about the way the universe was constituted" and that some of his interpretations were "only approximate".[99] My own speculations certainly call for ferocious interrogation by experts in the period. Nonetheless, it may be confidently stated that letters and wordplay conveyed important (if sometimes conflicting) messages to contemporaries. Nor should we forget that colleges spent a great deal of time at prayer. Some at least of these services would have been accompanied by homilies and sermons, and preachers presumably sought ingenious new angles to vaunt the merits of their founder and their patron saint.[100]

One problem in the religious use of letters was that the major examples came from the Greek alphabet, which presumably limited popular interpretations of their significance. Thus the Christogram, IHS, represented the first three letters of the name of Jesus, the H being the Greek long E (eta).[101] Probably more widely understood was the pairing of Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, to convey the concept of the eternity of God. The official promulgation of the Great Bible of 1539 would have made its meaning clearer to those churchgoers who ventured into the imagery of the Book of Revelation.[102]

Here we might note that M + AUDLEY + N places the founder's surname between the two middle letters of the alphabet. This might be a boastful statement that he occupied a place right at the heart of Henry VIII's England, as was undoubtedly the case, but it might perhaps also represent a signal of great humility, that Thomas Audley was a mere mortal, the polar opposite of the Alpha and Omega that symbolised the Almighty. An alternative way of interpreting the flanking letters would involve fast-forwarding to the pairing of M and N which became part of the English liturgy in the prayer book of 1549, as the opening question and answer of the catechism for Confirmation: "What is your name? N or M." This derived from the Latin "nomen vel nomina" (name or names), with the M used as a typographical convention to represent the plural. Production-line prayers in medieval primers inserted the capital N where supplicants were required to identify themselves.[103] Could M + AUDLEY + N convey the message that, among all the names in the world, that of the founder stood out in special distinction?

In the more dangerous realm of prophecy, combinations of letters were both dynamic and Delphic. A well-known example was the distich: "When Hempe is spun / England's done". "Hempe" was an acronym of Henry (VIII), Edward (VI), Mary and Philip (her husband and king consort, Philip of Spain), ending with Elizabeth. It can hardly have arisen much before the 1570s, as it became clear that Elizabeth would not produce an heir: Francis Bacon, born in 1561, recalled hearing it as a child. In this case, the message was widely understood and effectively conveyed, so much so that it was used to oppose James I's plans to subsume England (and Scotland) into a new kingdom of Great Britain. The letter E alone conveyed persistent but mysterious associations with royalty. In the late sixteenth century, it could obviously be linked to Elizabeth, but it also spoke of the cult of the lost leader who would return to save his people, triggering reports that Edward VI was still alive, and probably referring back to rumours surrounding the fate of Edward V, whose deposition in 1483 had formed part of the turbulent final episode in the life of Duke Henry of Buckingham. Consecutive letters might hint at some portentous magical significance. In the late 1530s, immediately before the refoundation of Magdalene, strange prophecies circulated about ABC and KLM. Even Keith Thomas, the authority on the interface between religion and magic, can only propose tentative elucidations: perhaps ABC stood for Anne Boleyn and Cromwell, KLM for Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Lady Mary, demoted from her status as a princess after being declared illegitimate.[104] M + AUDLEY + N was almost certainly not coined with the intention of encouraging the dangerous practice of prophecy, but the surname might have been abbreviated to its first letter, shortening the wordplay to M-A-N. Here again is ambiguity, at one level implying with humility that the College's founder was merely a sinful man, at another elevating him to some larger-than-life position within the universe, or at least the world of Henry VIII. Man, said Tillyard, occupied "the nodal point" in the chain of being, with "the unique function of binding together all creation ... a kind of Clapham Junction where all the tracks converge".[105] The two approaches might even elide into a unique synthesis of their own, exalting Man, in Hamlet's evocation, as "infinite in faculty ... the paragon of animals", with the letter A here linking Audley to Adam and back still further to the protean void of Alpha. These ruminations may be no more than shallow streams posing as deep waters, but they make the point that, if we are to accept the M + AUDLEY + N hypothesis, we should treat it as something more than a Henrician one-liner, a quarry for commemoration and not a throw-away gag.

Mary of Magdala If the ramifications of a long-forgotten pun are puzzling to unravel, it might seem more straightforward to find meaning in the choice of the reconstituted college's patron saint, for it can hardly be likely that Mary Magdalene was simply selected as the vehicle for a joke. Even so, it may be first of all worthwhile to ask: why was Buckingham College renamed after a saint at all? Magdalene is the last of the pre-1600 Cambridge colleges to bear a saint's name: Trinity, established four years later, and Emmanuel (in 1584) more accurately reflected the growing emphasis upon the godhead.[106] The years between 1533 and 1547 represented a curious time of transition for official religion in England, a period in which Catholic beliefs and practices officially held sway, but were internally hollowed out by Protestant attitudes and ideas.[107] Thanks to Henry VIII's inconsistent conservatism, and the factional struggles around him, the process was anything but unidirectional, but the cult of saints came under pressure, both from reformers and those who sought to retain but purify ancient ways.[108] The Bishops' Book of 1537, an attempt to explain the new compromise belief system, stated that "we abuse our English when we call the temples, churches, or altars by the name of any saint, as the church or altar of our lady, the church or altar of St. Michael, of St. Peter, of St. Paul, or such other. For we ought to call them no otherwise but the memories of our lady, of St. Michael, St. Peter, St. Paul, and so of other saints; and the churches or temples of God only, in which be the memorials of those saints. And likewise must the altars be dedicated to our Lord only, though it be for the memorial of any saint." There was some backtracking on this in the King's Book that followed six years later – redrafted by Henry in person, it was more tolerant towards the use of images as an aid to piety – but essentially it restated the earlier position: saints were now to be regarded as symbols, not as intermediaries.[109] In the advanced Injunctions of 1538, saints were "squeezed out" on time-and-motion principles: most processions, it was claimed, were too brief to allow all their names to be recited. Dubious and marginal members of the heavenly congregation were sidelined, 58 of them being removed altogether from an English translation of the Litany in 1544. Mary Magdalene became caught up in this zigzag roller-coaster.  Her feast was abolished in 1536, but reinstated in July 1541 – just in time for the refoundation – on the grounds that she was among the saints who were "often and many times mentioned in plain and manifest Scripture".[110] In 1542, her function was more likely to have been inspirational rather than devotional.[111]

What, then, was known of Mary Magdalene, and how might aspects of her life have been harnessed to a renewed academic mission statement?[112] The received portrayal of her comes from two sources, the gospels and Church tradition. In 1542, it is likely that more emphasis would have been placed upon the former, in which Mary Magdalene was a prominent participant, although one who left curiously little trace. It is assumed from her descriptor (it can hardly be called a surname) that she came from Magdala, a village on the Sea of Galilee.[113] Prior to the drama of the Crucifixion, the sole biographical detail about Mary Magdalene was in Luke 8:2, which described her as one of the women "healed of evil spirits and infirmities ... out of whom went seven devils". Almost as an afterthought, Mark 16:9 confirmed – what we might suspect from her fervent support for his mission – that Jesus was her healer.[114] How might this tale have been applied to the re-launching of an academic institution? The driving out of devils is so basic a part of the story of Mary Magdalene that it surely must have been regarded as a parable applicable to the renewal of the College. Church tradition equated the seven devils with the seven deadly sins, but this hardly reflects the implication of the story that Mary had been afflicted in some way. Possibly it was applied to the excision of the Buckingham name, with its treasonable connotations. The regime had unleashed a far more vicious assault upon the memory of Thomas Becket, a particular target of the Henrician cancel culture because of his defiance of the Crown, albeit four centuries earlier. His shrine at Canterbury had been vandalised, his bones scattered, and the faithful compelled ordered to excise his name from memorials and primers. Likening the Staffords to devils would have been a mild revenge in comparison. Perhaps the cast-out demons were the Benedictines. This may seem to us an exaggerated condemnation, and it would probably have grated on those recent but now ex-Benedictines who are assumed to have lobbied for the reprieve of their academic hostel. However, Reformation propaganda was capable of accusing monks of "abominations", and they had certainly been cast out of their Cambridge establishment.

The major role Biblical played by Mary Magdalene was her participation in the story of the Resurrection. Diarmuid MacCulloch has made the point – one of those basic elements that are so obvious they need to be dragged into daylight – that "nowhere in the New Testament is there a description of the Resurrection".[115] The gospels built up the evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead by multiplying eye-witness accounts, and Mary Magdalene played so large role in those testimonies that they could hardly have been separated from the decision to apply her name to the Cambridge college. The implications of this association may seem startling, to some even shocking. Here, once again, we need to remember the strange vagaries of the Tudor mind, but a possible deduction might conclude that Buckingham College had fallen into limbo but that, in the third year, and at Eastertide too, it had risen anew. Not only was Mary Magdalene a witness to this new beginning, but it was impossible to conjure the image of rebirth without summoning her as inspirational patroness.

Unfortunately, especially in the longer term, there was a third element to the Mary Magdalene story, one entirely concocted by the male chauvinism of the Church. Modern scholars see her as an organiser of the Jesus movement in her saviour's lifetime, and a leader and preacher after his death. John Hughes and Thomas Audley could not have known of those interpretations, because the Church, and especially Pope Gregory I (590-604), deliberately erased them under a welter of unfounded slander. In Luke (7:37-8), Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee. The Great Bible takes up the story: "behold a woman in that cytie (which was a synner) as sone as she knewe that Iesus sat at meat in the pharises house, she brought an alablaster boxe of oyntment, & stode at his fete behinde him wepyng, & beganne to wasshe hys fete wt teares, and dyd wype them with the heares of her head, & kyssed his fete, & anoynted them with the oyntment." This extravagance provoked an argument: was her gesture a waste of money that might have been better spent helping the poor? However, Jesus (7: 47) insisted that "many synnes are forgeuen her, for she loued moch". Most people were sinners, so it seems unfair to deduce that this unnamed female was a prostitute, although the fact that her hair was evidently loose enough to be used as a towel suggested a defiance of decent custom. For Pope Gregory, however, the story and the pejorative assumptions behind it offered a handy way of sidelining Mary Magdalene. He simply elided the two. Mary Magdalene was no longer an inconveniently central female pioneer of the new religion, but rather a penitent whore who hung around Jesus in adoring and presumably empty-headed fidelity. Some later medieval commentators went even further, and lumped her in with the woman taken in adultery, also unnamed, apprehended "euen as the dede was a doing", as the Great Bible put it (John 8:4). Like the ointment lady, she is forgiven and told: "Go and synne nomore" (8:11). Mary Magdalene had hit the stained-glass ceiling.[116]

The notion of Mary Magdalene as an adulteress and a prostitute was obviously deeply entrenched in European culture. Yet there may be reasons for doubting whether these sensual aspects played a large part in her identification with the resurrected college. The general picture of her as a sinner and a penitent was no doubt helpful, if only because sixteenth-century people were all sinners who were called upon to repent.[117] But Magdalene College was a male and celibate community, in which there was no place for women, so that her previous career and private life would have offered few if any lessons and pointers.[118] Perhaps more to the point was the problem of timing. Magdalene College was refounded six weeks after the execution of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, hardly a tactful moment to vaunt the spiritual qualities of a woman allegedly taken in adultery.

Unfortunately, it would be the Mary Magdalene of the Church tradition who was gradually incorporated into the iconography of the Cambridge college that bore her name. In the Chapel, a sanctuary statue shows her holding, not an alabaster container but a gilded chalice. In 1850, A.W. Pugin was commissioned to create a new east window featuring her life. Two of the five panels depict her with her jar of ointment washing the feet of Jesus.[119] In 1876, a plinth was erected on the Chapel roof to support a statue of St Mary Magdalene, enabling unimaginative Victorian Protestants to engage in the conceit that the patroness presided over the fortunes of her College.[120] In the twentieth century, her casket was used as a coded symbol to indicate C staircase in Benson Court. From the reign of Elizabeth, Magdalene was decidedly Protestant, but any temptation to shrug off Popish prejudices against its patroness was outweighed by its collective fear of women. The downside of associating the College's name with the social problem of commercial sex probably explained the decision to change its conventional spelling around 1818.

To –e or not to –e  If, as Cunich suggests, the conventional spelling of the College preserved the pun on Audley's name, the memory did not linger very long. A University official, John Mere of King's, kept a diary in which he referred to "Mawdlen college" in 1549, and again in 1557.[121] But when in 1572, the University reacted against a new set of Statutes imposed upon it two years earlier, its protest referred in passing to "Magdalen Colledge".[122] Outsiders occasionally used phonetic spellings, the House of Commons opting for "Mawdlyn College" in 1642, Robert Hooke, the London-based architect and mathematician, "Maudlin College" in 1677. Within Cambridge, and in the College itself, there can be no doubt that the accepted spelling was "Magdalen".[123] This, of course, was not the institution's official name, which was still expressed in Latin. When the Master and Fellows were required to accept defeat in a protracted legal battle to recover the College's lost Aldgate property, they formally surrendered in the name of "St Mary Magdalen Colledge in Cambridge". "Magdalen" was the version of St Mary's identifier in the Great Bible of 1539, which continued in use until it was superseded by the Authorised Version of 1611.[124] Although the celebrated King James Bible would influence the cadences of English speech for centuries ahead, the decision of its translators to add an extra –e to Magdalen had no effect on the conventional names of either the colleges in the ancient universities throughout the next two hundred years.[125] Then, suddenly it seems, the Cambridge institution became "Magdalene".

During the 18th and 19th centuries (and, indeed, for much of the 20th), it may be politely said that Cambridge academics  were not fixated upon publication. Few Magdalene dons troubled the printer, but those who did firmly identified the institution as "Magdalen College". Daniel Waterland (Master 1714-40) produced a major theological work on the doctrine of the Trinity in 1734: a 3rd edition appeared in 1800. Peter Peckard (Master 1781-97) denounced the slave trade, as in his sermon of 1788. 

F.R. Salter, the only historian to consider the matter, dated the change in spelling to the years between 1816 and 1820. Pointing out that the College had a strong Evangelical tradition, he speculated that there was a wish to conform to (1611) Biblical usage. However, that phase of Magdalene history was over, the curmudgeonly William Gretton (Master, 1797-1813) having been appointed to drive out the "Methodists". Salter wondered whether there was some desire to distinguish the Cambridge institution from its Oxford namesake. In recent years, the suggestion has been floated that "the advent of the postal service in the mid nineteenth-century" made the change desirable. This is an interesting but unfortunately untenable speculation, not least because the penny post (to which it presumably refers) only began in 1840.[126] In fact, the change can be pinpointed to the winter of 1817-18, and probably more narrowly to the early months of 1818, a date which supports the hypothesis that the College did indeed wish to distinguish itself from a similarly named institution, but not from its Oxford counterpart.

Magdalene was one of the smallest colleges in Cambridge. Its senior membership, a Master, four Foundation Fellows and up to thirteen Bye-Fellows, constituted a less impressive array than it might sound. Evidence is sketchy, but the general picture was given in the Cambridge University Calendar for 1818, which may be supplemented by information supplied from the College to the first Royal Commission on Cambridge University in 1851.[127] The Master and the four Foundation Fellows constituted the College Meeting (renamed in the twentieth century the Governing Body), and drew an annual "dividend" from the profits of running the College: in 1850 this was an attractive £330, plus £28 in Commons (daily food allowance), but this seems to have been a bumper year.[128] By contrast, the Bye-Fellows received little or nothing, depending on the endowments of each one (or, more usually, two, for most foundations supported a pair of them). The Cambridge University Calendar specified a cash sum only for the two Bye-Fellows on the foundation established by John Smith in 1638, who in 1818 were paid £25 a year; by 1850, this had been increased to £40. In 1851, Bye-Fellowships yielded between (approximately) £21 and £71 annually, but in several cases, where endowments had failed, they were merely titular.[129] There are problems in making a detailed interpretation of these figures, since Bye-Fellows presumably received some benefits in kind, privileges such as dining at High Table, although it is not clear whether they all had the right to free accommodation in College. Broadly, it may be said that the best-paid Bye-Fellow was probably about as well-off as a skilled London building worker, while the worst would have envied the Chapel Clerk, who at least commanded a guaranteed salary of £12 a year.[130] Essentially, the key point is that there was a vast disparity in both income and authority between the Master and the four Foundation Fellows on the one hand, and the Bye-Fellows on the other.[131] Furthermore, the 1555 Statutes gave the Master two votes – surely another echo of the authority of the prior studentium – which conferred disproportionate influence in such a small governing body.

On the death of William Gretton, Lord Braybrooke – the latest successor of the founder at Audley End – imposed his son, George Neville-Grenville, upon the College.[132] The appointment was a staggering piece of jobbery. The Statutes said that the Master should be thirty years of age "or thereabouts":[133] young George was 24. Lord Braybrooke did not even bother to argue the matter; he simply announced that, as Visitor, he had the power to dispense with the requirement. George Neville-Grenville showed no sign of any bent towards scholarship. He had taken a degree as a Fellow Commoner, a privileged undergraduate at Trinity, but almost certainly without sitting any examinations, since he was awarded an MA after three years, the usual compliment to an aristocrat. Anglican rules were also bent to ordain him at high speed, since the Master had to be in holy orders. (He would rise eventually to became Dean of Windsor, one of the most comfortable billets in the Church of England, although he retained  his Magdalene appointment, keeping it warm for his nephew until 1853, when Latimer Neville reached the mature age of thereabouts, or, in mathematical terms, 26.)[134] As the son of a peer, Neville-Grenville stood out among Cambridge Heads of Houses, most of whom had risen from obscure backgrounds through dogged devotion to learning and religion. In 1816, the young Master doubled up on the College's aristocratic cachet by marrying the daughter of the Earl of Dartmouth. There can be little doubt that he intended to make Magdalene into a fashionable oasis, largely populated by the gentlemanly and the titled.

George Neville-Grenville was installed in October 1813. Shortly afterwards, there was a vacancy in the Foundation Fellowships. In theory, the field was promising, for, in January 1814, Magdalene had – most unusually – netted three Firsts ("Wranglers") in the Mathematical Tripos, then Cambridge's only Honours degree.[135] Unfortunately, Cecil, Babington and Cox were not promising candidate for the Master's effete salon. Babington seems to have left Cambridge immediately to seek ordination. Cox came from Wisbech, the school that sent Magdalene a steady stream of poor boys. He was fobbed off with a Bye-Fellowship at the end of the year, shortly before he headed for London to train as a lawyer. William Cecil, however, was minded to remain in Cambridge. Had he been one of the aristocratic Cecils, related to the Marquess of Exeter or the Marquess of Salisbury, he might well have fitted into the Master's grand plan. Unfortunately, he was the son of an Evangelical clergyman from Islington. Magdalene recognised both his intellect and his social standing: in October 1814, he became Bye-Fellow – admittedly in one of the slots that actually paid a moderate pittance, but he was clearly not in the running for the vacant top spot.

Instead, in December 1814, the Foundation Fellowship was bestowed upon Richard Crawley. Like Neville-Grenville himself, Crawley was an import from Trinity, and also a product of that year's Tripos cohort. Yet he had graduated at the head of the second class ("Senior Optime"), and his intrusion into the College was resisted.[136] With one slot vacant, Neville-Grenville needed the support of only one of the three continuing Foundation Fellows to use his double vote to override objections from the other two. There are obvious dangers in second-guessing an appointment two centuries later: Crawley may have had personal qualities that promised to make him a more effective teacher than Cecil. But it is hard not to suspect that Crawley's background – he was a product of Westminster, at that time a school equal in prestige to Eton – that made him an acceptable colleague in Neville-Grenville's eyes. Arguably, it was a fateful decision. In 1820, William Cecil constructed a prototype internal combustion engine, driven by hydrogen.[137] The engine came sixty years too soon, the fuel was two centuries ahead of its time. Even so, it is permissible to wonder whether the technological history of Britain – and the world – might have been different had Neville-Grenville gone for brains over breeding in choosing a Foundation Fellow.[138]

The campaign to convert Magdalene into a sub-section of Debrett's Peerage developed at ruthless speed.[139] In January 1814, three months into the new Master's term of office, the Honourable John Fortescue was admitted as a Fellow Commoner. An Etonian and a younger son of the notably unimpressive Earl Fortescue, he was also Neville-Grenville's cousin: they shared descent from George Grenville, the prime minister whose 1765 Stamp Act had fatally poisoned relations with the American colonies. His blue blood entitled him to an automatic MA, granted in 1816, when he could hardly have been twenty. Even more remarkably, in December 1815, he had been elected to a Foundation Fellowship.[140] At the same time as he recruited Crawley, Neville-Grenville also imported the son of a baronet from Trinity. Unfortunately, John Vane was illegitimate (although his father, Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, had reared him as his own), and he had to be satisfied with one of the part-funded Bye-Fellowships.[141] In 1818, two of the four Fellow Commoners were sons of peers. One of them, the Honourable Robert Eden, the son of Lord Auckland, was elected to a Fellowship, and went on to inherit the family title and rose to become a bishop.[142] In the years from 1816 to 1820, at least six more aristocrats entered Magdalene.[143] The flow seems to have slackened off in the 1820s, but the image of the College had been irretrievably changed.[144]  J.M.F. Wright, an undergraduate who arrived at Trinity in 1815, encountered the myths associated with the serious-minded Evangelical institution of the late eighteenth century. "The 'Maudlin Men' were, at one time, so famous for Tea-drinking, that the Cam, which licks the very walls of the college, is said to have been absolutely rendered unnavigable with Tea-leaves." (This was almost certainly an arch allusion to the density, and the colour, of sewage in the river after it had flowed through the town.) Wright told the tale of twelve pious undergraduates who daringly attempted to get drunk on a single bottle of wine. But by the time he wrote in 1827, those days were passed. "The modern men of Maudlin, however, fully attest, by their copious libations, the immense strides they have made in civilization."[145]

Wright's informal phonetic orthography is a reminder that the College's spelling was contested when he wrote. In seeking to explain this, we may be reasonably sure of two assumptions. The first is that the pressure for change from Magdalen to Magdalene came from within the institution, since it is hardly the kind of emendation that would suddenly arise in popular etymology. The second is that it was probably associated in some way with Neville-Grenville's push to create an aristocratic oasis within the University. Pinpointing the date of the change is a precondition to examining possible reasons behind it. Newspaper evidence makes it possible to narrow Salter's time frame of 1816-20 to the winter of 1817-18, although the difficulty here is to identify which reports reflect announcements from the College, as distinct from journalistic news items. The last apparently official use of the old spelling came in April 1817: "Marmaduke Lawson, Esq. B. A. is elected a Fellow of Magdalen-college."[146] The "Magdalen" spelling also appears in reports of members of the College taking the MA degree in April and July of that year, and of the ordination a graduate in October, but these were probably not based on statements issued by the Master and Fellows.   Similarly, news of the death at the end of January 1818, "after a very short illness", of William Smith, "porter of Magdalen-college" may have been some scribbler's transmission of an item conveyed by word of mouth.[147]

It is likely that the change of spelling, almost certainly Neville-Grenville's decision, was made sometime early in 1818. In that era, the academic year was considered to begin, not with the Michaelmas Term in October, with a ceremony called Commencement, which took place early in July. Hence the publishers of the annual Cambridge University Calendar had to go to press in March if they were to produce a reference work for the next session. With over 300 pages of densely packed information, it made sense to carry type forward from year to year, making only the minimal necessary changes in most sections. The 1818 volume was signed off on 2 March, the editors registering thanks to members of the University who "by corrections and other assistance, have contributed to the accuracy of the work". The colleges section included a four-page entry for "Magdalene College", in which it had only been necessary to alter the opening title and the running heads. Elsewhere in the volume, college identifications of various academics and University officers still referred to "Magdalen".[148] Also in March 1818, the College elected a new Foundation Fellow, once again from Trinity.  John Lodge would prove to be an effective don, a competent administrator who also became University Librarian, although he would later become a discontented  member of the Fellowship. Since he was wealthy enough to purchase a country estate in the Lake District, he was presumably an acceptable recruit in Neville-Grenville's policy of gentrification.[149] Newspapers generally reported his election, in brief notes – probably copies from paper to paper – that referred to the College by its time-honoured name of "Magdalen".[150] However, the York Herald added its own human-interest note: "Mr. Lodge, of Trinity College. Cambridge, who has been elected a Fellow of Magdalene College, in the same University, is the only son of John Lodge, Esq. at Askrigg, in the north-riding at [sic] this county."[151] The information had probably come from the proud father, transcribing information from Lodge himself. He had only become a member of his new college on 11 March, and no doubt accepted the new spelling. The York Herald report may well be the first public intimation that Magdalen College had added a final –e. It was startlingly easy to change the official spelling. Cambridge ran on pen and ink: printed question papers were first introduced into the Mathematical Tripos in 1827, while headed notepaper only came into general use in Britain during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.[152] It is hard to imagine modern academic life without bureaucratic forms, but – astonishingly – dons managed to deliver teaching without ticking a single box. Correspondence, reports, accounts were all written out in painstaking longhand. Switching from Magdalen to Magdalene did not affect the institution's legal name, no agency or watchdog had to be consulted and no stationery needed to be pulped. Nonetheless – as reviewed below – it would take time for the new version to catch on.

There are two possible contemporary developments that might account for the change of spelling early in 1818. Of these, the first is charming but unpersuasive, and may be briefly reviewed and dismissed. The College was not the only Cambridge institution commemorating St Mary Magdalene. On the eastern fringes of the town stood the abandoned chapel of a former leper hospital, which shared the dedication. Its shell had survived as an adjunct to Stourbridge Fair, the town's annual outdoor commercial extravaganza, and it had been used as a store, a barn and even as a bar. In 1816, it was purchased, for £160, by Thomas Kerrich, who restored it and, the following year, conveyed it to the University, cannily organising a public appeal to reimburse himself for his efforts.[153] Kerrich was a former President of Magdalen / Magdalene, who had become University Librarian in 1797.  He gruffly claimed to be "one of the most unpopular men in Cambridge", and had probably severed all connections with his own College: his name was not listed among the resident members in the 1818 Calendar.[154] Kerrich's initiative perhaps gave rise to some donnish conversation about the spelling of their patron saint, thereby putting the question in some sense on the table, but there is no conceivable reason why the Master and Fellows should have renamed themselves in conformity with a leper hospital.

Nor was there any scandal in the College's Oxford namesake that might have called for so drastic a gesture of differentiation. Magdalen College Oxford was a scandal, an institution that wasted a massive endowment in self-important privilege, and barely bothered to educate undergraduates – but that would not have offended Neville-Grenville's values.[155] However, in 1817, another similarly named institution had been thrust into an uncomfortable prominence that would have been an embarrassment to the new Master's yearning for ermine and earldoms. By the end of the seventeenth century, "magdalen" had come to be used as a quasi-romanticised description of a prostitute, and especially for one who sought to escape her degrading fate.[156] The term might be regarded as objectionable in denying any individuality to female sex workers, but at least it conveyed a benign subtext that they were victims who craved redemption. With growing urbanisation and increased stirrings of philanthropic conscience, eighteenth-century Britain gradually became aware that it needed to make some positive response to the problem of prostitution. In London, which would double to over a million people by 1800, the answer was the founding in 1758 of the Magdalen Hospital, which soon acquired impressive premises in Southwark.[157]  A similar project, the Magdalen Institution, opened in Dublin nine years later. Bristol established a Magdalen House in 1800. The spelling could vary: Edinburgh (1795) and Glasgow (1815) opted for Magdalene Asylums, but Scotland was a remote country and its variances made little impact down south. Other terms were used: Hull (1811) was upbeat in creating a Home of Hope, while Bath (1805) and Liverpool (1810) adopted the term "Penitentiary", a word which was in transition from meaning a place of remorse to a place of punishment. London's Magdalen Hospital had space for about one hundred trainees; in 1812 it was estimated that there were 30,000 prostitutes in the capital. A second establishment, the London Female Penitentiary, duplicated and overlapped its mission. Rescuing prostitutes was becoming a major do-gooding priority: by 1822, similar institutions had opened in Exeter, Gloucester, Leeds, Manchester and York, including either "Magdalen" or "Penitentiary" in their titles.[158] Pope Gregory's misapplied male chauvinism had come to dominate the popular image of the New Testament saint.

It may be objected that there was no obvious reason why this earnest social reform impulse should impinge upon two bastions of male academic celibacy in the ancient universities. From the mid-1760s, the London institution was casually referred to by the direct article as "the Magdalen", while the official history published in 1917 insisted that it had always been pronounced as spelt, "mag-da-len" – although it is always difficult to know words were voiced in earlier times.[159] However, a curious nexus quickly developed between the asylum for sex workers and the upper classes. Religious training naturally formed part of the women's regime, and a handsome chapel was provided as part of their indoctrination. The project's promoters quickly realised that this might also be used for the delivery of fund-raising sermons targeted at the fashionable and wealthy. (The inmates were obliged to attend, but were hidden behind a screen in the gallery.) Before long, nobility and even royalty became habitual worshippers at the Magdalen. As an extra-parochial place of worship, it could control admission to its services by charging for tickets, making it a place to see and be seen: "to go to the Magdalen was the proper thing for country cousins on a visit to Town".[160] It would probably have been tactless for any preacher to denounce the Pharisees, for the function of the Magdalen was to encourage ostentatious charitable donations, a policy that proved very successful: in 1816, the Hospital raised £1,613 in its collections, although sardonic observers noted that £62 of this was offered in counterfeit coin.[161] The preacher who first put the Magdalen on the London spiritual map was the flamboyant William Dodd, who delivered colourful sermons, some of them on explicitly sexual themes which, the official history of 1917 remarked, "would certainly be thought unfitting nowadays". Worshippers were thus enabled to indulge in the peculiarly English delight of condemning depravity whilst thrilling in its proximity and wallowing in its details.[162] Dodd's promising career terminated not with a mitre but with a noose: he was hanged for forgery in 1777. Nonetheless, the Magdalen continued to flourish as a place of fashionable resort. In November 1817, Britain was swept by a wave of grief by the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte, the heiress presumptive to the throne. Places of worship were decked in black mourning, and services of sympathy held to coincide with the royal funeral. In London, the Magdalen was one of a handful of institutions that were "well attended by the nobility".[163]

The Magdalen Hospital in Southwark was a well-known London landmark. Its chapel was patronised by the upper classes. Its inclusion in the 1817 parliamentary enquiry into London policing may have implied negative publicity that was unwelcome to George Neville-Grenville's attempts to fill the College with young aristocrats. The final -e seems to have been added to the name soon afterwards. 

At just the moment when Princess Charlotte's death underlined the associations between the nobility and the Magdalen, the Hospital came under more sinister scrutiny. It is not necessary to subscribe to the sweeping and controversial discipline-and-punish theories of Michel Foucault to accept that an institution dedicated to redemption could also be regarded as a reformatory imposing social control.[164] With its massive mushroom growth, London in particular faced a large-scale crime problem, yet the obvious response, the establishment of a city-wide police force, was resisted on grounds of cost and infringement of personal liberty. Between 1812 and 1827, five House of Commons committees examined the problem, with myopic determination to uncover some alternative solution: eventually, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel grasped the nettle and created the Metropolitan Police.[165] The 1817 enquiry seems to have assumed that it might sidestep the challenge by cracking down on the causes of crime. It spread its net widely, taking extensive evidence from voluntary organisations, including the Magdalen. In fact, the Hospital's dedicated and long-serving secretary, the Reverend John Prince, presented a positive report, one sympathetically received by the parliamentarians, although he could only claim a success rate of between half and two-thirds of the women who passed through its doors.[166] It is hard not to suspect that a fine line had been crossed: the Magdalen Hospital was now subtly regarded not simply as a place of redemption but as a weapon of correction. In September 1817, The Times urged an increase in its funding "in order to enable the governors to institute suits in strikingly gross instances against the vile seducers of the unhappy and degraded tenants of that mansion", a policy of retribution that its managers had never attempted. Perhaps the final straw came three months later, when the Morning Post published the Reverend John Prince's evidence in full in two of its editions.[167] When the house journal of the upper classes portrayed the Magdalen as an institution for the repression of crime, the association of names had finally become an embarrassment.

To venture even deeper into the realms of speculation, it is possible that the change of spelling was a rare example of the influence of a Master's wife.[168] Lady Charlotte Legge had married George Neville-Grenville in May 1816.[169] Their first baby was born the following February. A second child arrived in July 1818.[170] Her philanthropic grandfather, the second Earl of Dartmouth, was primarily associated with another London charity, the Foundling Hospital, but he also supported the Magdalen, both administratively and devotionally.  Visiting the chapel in 1760, the socialite Horace Walpole spotted "Lord and Lady Dartmouth in the odour of devotion".[171] Since the family maintained a residence just five miles away at Blackheath, it is likely that Lord Dartmouth's descendants remained aware of the Magdalen, and there are indications that support continued at least into the next generation.[172] Facing the hazards of childbirth once again in the winter of 1817-18, Lady Charlotte may well have objected to the embarrassment that her husband's College shared its name with an inconveniently prominent home for fallen women. No such consideration would have applied at Magdalen College, Oxford, where the President, Martin Routh, was opposed to all change, and would remain a bachelor until he was 65.

All of this is admittedly speculative. There is no record of any College decision to amend its spelling. No correspondence, no contemporary diary, no known newspaper report documents and explains the change. Historians do well to recall the principle, post hoc ergo propter hoc: just because Event B immediately follows Event A, it does not prove there is a causal relationship between them. Yet it is difficult not to connect the addition of the final –e to a Cambridge college that sought to oblige the nobility and gentry with the sudden public scrutiny of an identically named London charity much patronised by the upper classes.

The new name made slow inroads on public consciousness. Late in 1818, there was an announcement of the ordination of "W. L. Baker, A.M. late of Magdalene-college, Cambridge", while in October 1819, two members of "Magdalene" College were reported among University appointments.[173] An early triumph was the adoption of the revised spelling by William Van Mildert, the scholarly Bishop of Llandaff, on the title-pages of his multi-volume edition of the works of the eighteenth-century Master, Daniel Waterland, which appeared in 1823. Neville-Grenville had helped in the research, and no doubt courteous appreciation overcame any editorial concerns about the anachronistic usage.[174] Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Waterland's works became a best-seller, while there is ample evidence that the old version held sway in the wider world, as was shown by a human interest story from 1825. It concerned the absent-mindedness of a "well-known gentleman of Magdalen College, Cambridge" who took out his watch to time the boiling of an egg. Unfortunately, he became distracted, and was found by a friend holding the egg in his hand while the watch bubbled in the saucepan.[175]

There is reason to believe that some members of the College never adopted the revised spelling. John Raven graduated in 1801 and spent some years as a clergyman in Wiltshire, before becoming a schoolmaster in Guernsey. Since he did not take his MA, it is likely that he never returned to Cambridge and, in the absence of any alumni network in that era, he may simply not have known that a final letter had been added to the name of his College. Island life must have suited him, since in 1838 he arrived in the Australian colony of Van Diemen's Land, where he advertised himself as a schoolmaster and graduate of "Magdalen College, Cambridge".[176] Charles Januarius Acton was one of Neville-Grenville's gentlemanly recruits, who achieved the unique distinction of becoming Magdalene's only cardinal. However, he seems to have rejected the Master's revised spelling, for press reports about him seem to use only the superseded version. When he received his red hat in 1842, The Times noted that "Cardinal Acton was a member of Magdalen College in the years 1819 and 1820."  Even more remarkable, as late as 1885 the Dictionary of National Biography echoed the statement, making him "an inmate of Magdalen College".[177] When a combative padre rallied British troops attempting to run away from the Sikhs at the battle of Chillianwala in 1849, he was briefly hailed as a national hero packaged as "Whiting of Magdalen": Walter Whiting had entered Magdalene in 1830, and graduated five years later, very definitely during the Neville-Grenville era.[178] An intriguing example is Robert Edgar Hughes, Fellow and Tutor of the College, who published a book about his two cruises through the Baltic during the Crimean War years 1854 and 1855, recklessly hoping that his tiny yacht might provoke the Russians into conflict. Its title page called him "Fellow of Magdalen College". Since the book went through two editions, this can hardly have been a publisher's error, and there are at least two similar descriptions of Hughes. He was one of a group of Fellows who made a rare stand of resistance to Braybrooke family pretensions to control the College: was his identification with the older spelling a coded protest against them?[179] When William Cecil died in 1882, reports associated him with "Magdalen", which suggests that he had never embraced the emended orthography.[180] Even students from later generations could seem ambivalent about the name. Samuel Tarratt Nevill was one of the last Fellow Commoners, spending four years at Magdalene between 1862 and 1866, before becoming Bishop of Dunedin and, ultimately, Primate of New Zealand. The colony's newspapers invariably used the older spelling in reporting his educational background, and there seems little doubt that journalists reflected information that Nevill himself had supplied. On a return visit to Britain in 1906, he was "looking forward with pleasure" to revisiting his old University, where "[a]t the special request of the master of Magdalen College, Cambridge", he was to preach at the annual Commemoration of Benefactors service.[181]

The persistence of the old spelling, with scattered examples even into the twentieth century, suggests distaste and resistance to Neville-Grenville's innovation. Members of the smaller colleges often developed an inversely intense patriotism towards their humble institutions. It was high-handed of Neville-Grenville to rip up the associations with which they identified. Perhaps the most striking point about the change in spelling was that the process was so casual. A small coterie of dons agreed, or perhaps acquiesced, in the proposal to add a final letter to the name by which the institution had been known for over two hundred years. No doubt the handful of officials who ran the University in those days were notified, as was the printer of the annual academic almanac. Local tradesmen were probably instructed to amend their termly accounts. The undergraduate population was small enough for the rebranding to have been conveyed by word of mouth. This is in stark contrast with more recent times, where name changes have to be approved by the Privy Council, and may become controversial.[182]

Summary  This essay began as a Note examining the various names borne by Magdalene College, Cambridge.  However, it is impossible to evaluate how those names were selected or how they evolved without considering the establishment of the monkish hostel in 1428, the building programme of ?1470-?1483, and the refoundation of the College in 1542. The arguments advanced here necessarily contain a considerable element of speculation.

The name of John Hore of Childerley has long been associated with the arrival of the monks in the street across the Great Bridge, for he was named in the letters patent of 1428 as one of the three persons authorised to handle the necessary property transaction. In the three decades since the 1994 College History was written, information about his career has become available. But the fact that we now know more about John Hore cannot in itself prove that he played a crucial role in helping the Benedictines. It merely enables us to work out how he might have been well placed to provide support. His third marriage in 1427 brought him additional wealth that could be employed for charitable and religious ends. More broadly, I suggest that his recent holding of the office of escheator for Cambridgeshire gave him a knowledge of local property that that had come to the Crown through intestacy, and that this helped him to steer Abbot Litlyington towards the "two messuages" in a busy street. In a further leap, I discuss the possibility that the fact that two adjoining buildings were simultaneously available for purchase may indicate that they jointly constituted an existing enterprise which, from its size, might well have been an inn – premises that would have provided ready-made the accommodation and the facilities required  by the Benedictines.

We need to face the embarrassing historical lacuna that we have no idea what the establishment was called throughout the first half century of its existence. It was not until 1928 that Magdalene settled upon "Monks' Hostel", and only then because it was difficult to celebrate (and raise funds on the back of) an institution lost in anonymity.

The relationship between the rebuilding that began in the 1470s and its identification as Buckingham College raises two questions. The first concerns the chronology of construction on the north and south sides of First Court; the second relates to the process by which the new name was adopted.  Although slight, the available evidence indicates that the phases were sequential, with Crowland Abbey probably taking the initiative and the responsibility for the north and north-west segment of First Court, with Ely, Ramsey and Walden adding D, E and F staircases on the south side. Construction may have occupied a longer period than was implied by the Crowland Chronicle. The fact that, as late as 1481, the Benedictines of Norwich appealed to Rome to defend their links with Gonville Hall and Trinity Hall suggests disagreement within the Order over the commitment of individual houses to its Cambridge operation.  The apparent detachment of the mighty abbey at Bury St Edmunds, barely twenty-five miles away, also calls for investigation.

The drawn-out nature of the rebuilding programme has implications for the adoption of the new name. It seems reasonable to infer that Crowland took Buckingham money, but that the other Benedictine abbeys decided whether or not to sponsor a staircase out of their own resources. If so, was there an agreement or understanding with the Duke or his philanthropic grandmother that their name would be associated with the hostel? In the absence of a foundation charter, it is hard to see how this could have been assured, the more so as the hostel belonged to the Order at large and not to any single abbey within it. Yet if Buckingham College was the invention of the local community, how did the people of Cambridge become aware of the sponsorship? All we can say with certainty is that the name quickly acquired popular validation, continuing in use in town records until 1550.

This discussion accepts the modern consensus that "the College – it seems – never closed" following the Dissolution of its parent abbey in 1539. Indeed, an examination of the timetable of the degree curriculum suggests that the Class of 1538 – likely to have been the last monkish cohort to be admitted – would have completed their studies during Easter week of 1542, just days before Thomas Audley refounded Magdalene as an independent entity under a new name. The publication of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 2004 has thrown new light upon prominent Benedictines who were energetically adapting to the new religious regime. Once again, the availability of additional information does not in itself prove that all or any of them lobbied for the hostel's preservation: at most, it may help to explain how they might have become involved. Of the possible candidates for eminence grise, John Capon alias Salcot stands out, sharing a background with Audley in Colchester and encountering and perhaps acquiring obligations to Audley's chaplain, John Hughes, for administrative support (and Welsh language skills) in the diocese of Bangor. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to assume that Audley was simply manipulated into saving an academic hostel that meant very little to him. His curiously sentimental plea in 1538 for the reprieve of two abbeys in his native corner of Essex deserves to be factored into the Magdalene story: at the very least, he may have been susceptible to the schemes of those around him. We should also bear in mind that, in his recent elevation to the peerage, he had sought to project himself as a previously unknown outrider of the medieval baronial family of Audley. One of their titles had passed to the Staffords, and had perished with the third Duke of Buckingham. Refounding Buckingham College was a coded allusion to a genealogical message that was too implausible ever to be explicitly stated.

While I have long believed that the new name was a play on M + AUDLEY + N, I have reservations about dismissing the choice as a mere act of conceit on the part of the founder, if only because arrogance was not a life-enhancing quality at the court of Henry VIII.  There may have been other perceived meanings in the device, messages that are difficult for the modern mind to detect. Equally, I argue that the choice in 1542 of a saint, any saint, to name an institution needs to be filtered through the rapidly changing attitudes of the Henrician Reformation. Official propaganda disavowed the traditional view that saints were intermediaries to Heaven, and sought rather to portray them as figures who might inspire and instruct. Accordingly, I suggest that Mary Magdalene might have been championed as a symbol both of exorcism and of rebirth.

The final section examines the addition of the final –e to the spelling that had settled, by the end of the sixteenth century, as "Magdalen". The change is dated to the winter of 1817-18, and is placed in the context of the Master's preposterous exercise in social engineering designed to fill the College with young aristocrats. I point to the coincidence that a representative of the Magdalen Hospital, a London charity patronised by the nobility that offered a refuge for prostitutes, had been summoned to give evidence to a parliamentary enquiry into the capital's crime problem, and suggest that there was a relationship between the Magdalen's negative publicity and Magdalene's discreet rebranding. The key word here is "coincidence": it seems plausible to postulate a causal link, but the possibility must be allowed that the two events simply happened at much the same time.

In the next two decades, Magdalene College Cambridge will have opportunities to mark, celebrate or interrogate a number of major anniversaries, most notably, in 2028, six centuries since the arrival of the monks and, in 2042, five hundred years as a fully constituted College. As was evident in the blandness of the Quincentenary Appeal in 1928, the problem that will be encountered in 2028 is the absence of anything from the foundation year upon which to focus. Archaeology may offer opportunities to evaluate the site in the fifteenth century. While invasive excavation may not be welcome on sacred grass, ground-penetrating radar could examine the possibility that there were earlier buildings in First and Second Court. Dendrochronology might illuminate the sequence of building in the Buckingham College years, but it is necessary to bear in mind that the technique can only establish an approximate felling date for timber, not the year in which it used for construction. We should also remember that an institution that was perennially short of cash probably recycled existing building materials, nor should we forget the load of timber that blocked Magdalene Street in 1502, possibly suggesting a need for repairs. I hope that the reconnaissances and speculations offered here may contribute to the commemorative process.

ENDNOTES  I owe thanks to Dr Andrew Jones for his shrewd comments on an earlier draft.

 [1] This Note is based on the following histories of Magdalene: R. Willis and J.W. Clark, The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge ... , ii (1886), 351-88; E.K. Purnell, Magdalene College: University of Cambridge: College Histories (1904), esp. 1-44; A.C. Benson, Magdalene College, Cambridge: a Little View of its Buildings and History (1923), esp. 1-15; R.W. McDowall, "Buckingham College", Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, xlvi (1951), 1-12;  F.R. Salter, "Magdalene College", Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii (1959), 450-6:;  P. Cunich in P. Cunich, D. Hoyle, E. Duffy and R. Hyam, A History of Magdalene College Cambridge 1428-1988 (1994), 1-59;  R. Hyam, Magdalene Described … (2nd ed., 2011). For ease of referencing, I omit place of publication, and cite these key works by author alone. Willis and Clark, Purnell and McDowall are all available online. The 1988 reissue of Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge omits names of contributors, but it may be assumed that the discussion of "Magdalene College" in part ii, 137-47 is either the work of McDowall or follows closely his analysis.

[2] Victoria County History of the County of Oxford, iii, 193-207:

[3] Salter, 450-6.

[4] However, it is not entirely true that the hostel for monks / Buckingham College had no property attached. The original precinct as defined in 1428 included the pondyards ("les pondyerds", now the College garden) which was leased to local entrepreneurs. It may have been this slight source of revenue that helped sustain the institution between 1539 and 1542, years in which it (or somebody) continued to pay a local property tax on the pondyards, although it could hardly have been enough.

[5] Cunich, 1-30.

[6] In this case, the issue of letters patent might be likened to launching the hull of a ship. Langley, Alnwick and Hore were licensed to establish the hostel, but a great deal of detailed work remained to be done.

[7] Cunich, 4, says 38 years; other sources, e.g. Victoria County History of Lincolnshire, ii, 105-18 suggest 43.

[8] H.T. Riley, trs, Ingulph's Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland ... (1854), 237-9. The alleged 12th-century Crowland initiative was accepted as the founding of the University in one of the earliest scholarly studies of Cambridge, J. Lamb, A Collection ... Illustrative of the History of the University of Cambridge… (1838), xiii.  See also T.O. Licence, "St Guthlac and Croyland Abbey", Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 2005-6, 66-73.

[9] I have been unable to consult F.M. Page, The Estates of Crowland Abbey... (1934), but there is useful information in Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, ix, 58-63, 77-83, 199-204.

[10] The grant is given in translation in C.H. Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, i (1842), 178-9 [cited as Cooper, Annals]. The date of the foundation, 7 July 1428, comes from the inaccurate Julian calendar, which was eleven days out by the time it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1752. The 600th anniversary of the designation of the Magdalene core as academic space will fall on 16 July 2028.

[11] With some suspension of disbelief, in 1940 Magdalene placed outside the Chapel a statuette of the boy king brandishing the letters patent. It is one of two representations of the monarch in the College. Hyam, 12.

[12] Cunich, 5. Neither Purnell nor Salter mentioned Hore. As so often with 15th-century transactions, the precise date of the transfer of the pondyards is difficult to determine. Cunich, 5, says that until 1424, they belonged to Robert Goodrich, who owned property further up Magdalene Street, and was perhaps an innkeeper. Borough records note receipt of a rent for "lez pondyerds" from the Abbot of Crowland in 1432, describing them as late in the occupation of Robert Goderych. John Hore is assumed to have died between 1431 and 1434, and formal ownership might not have been transferred until after his death. Cooper, Annals, i, 184.

[13] The essay on John Hore, by L.S. Woodger [later publishing as Linda Clark], is on

[14] Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, ix, 41-4. Later owners razed both villages.

[15] The statement by Tait in Dictionary of National Biography, xlviii (1896), 157 that "Croyland Abbey ... assigned [Richard II] the honours of a founder" does not seem to be borne out by the Crowland Chronicle or by other accounts: it may point to confusion with Richard I, who had issued a charter in favour of the abbey in 1193. There may be some faint possibility that the founding of the Cambridge hostel was the project of an unofficial Richard II Appreciation Society.

[16] Strictly speaking, the course of the Cam locates the site on the north bank at this point. Similarly, it should be noted that Magdalene's older courts are aligned at an angle to longitude. Hence the terms such as west (for the street front) and east (for the Hall) are not so much geographically as liturgically determined, according to the layout of the Chapel.

[17] Hyam, 1, a convenient statement of a more general viewpoint.

[18] Quoted, Purnell, 10.

[19] Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 115.

[20] T. Licence, "The Old Inns of Magdalene Street", Magdalene College Magazine and Record, li (2006-7), 112-18.

[21] Cunich, 6. The Cross Keys, a papal symbol, suggests a medieval origin for the inn opposite the College gates. I discuss the College's location problem in "Magdalene College Cambridge in mid-Victorian times":

[22] W.W.R. Ball, Cambridge Papers (1918), 156-7. For Fenland water transport, M. Chisholm, "The Medieval Network of Navigable Fenland Waterways i: Crowland", Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, lxxxxix (2010), 125-38. Communications across the North Sea help to explain why Reformation ideas struck deeper roots in Cambridge than Oxford.

[23] It has usually been assumed that the pondyards were useful in supplying fish for meatless Friday meals. This may have been so, but it is perhaps unlikely that the reported 7 ponds within the existing garden area would have provided enough fish for the community. Although Cunich, 27, cannot find evidence of more than 28 monks, by name, being resident in the hostel at any one time, maximum numbers may have been larger, and many students remained in residence during vacations. Could the ponds alone have produced 28 x 52 = 1,456 fish every year? Supplies from the fens were probably abundant and reasonably cheap. It is true that the pondyards were let on a 3-year contract to a fishmonger in 1579, but it seems that he did not take up the option of a 21-year extension, and the ponds were filled in c. 1586. Purnell, 14. Perhaps by then they had silted up.

[24] In founding King's, Henry VI dealt with this problem by razing a downtown district, and closing off the former spinal street, bits of which survive as Queens' Lane and Trinity Lane.  But Henry VI had powers not available to the Abbot of Crowland.

[25] Benson, 4; Hyam, 1.

[26] Cunich, 5.

[27] The assertion that there were almost certainly medieval buildings along the street front is based on the assumption that it is highly unlikely that there was vacant space along so busy a street so close to the quays on the Cam. However, it might be objected that the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge dates the surviving buildings along the west side of Magdalene Street to the 16th century. The following points may be made here. In the 1950s, when the Royal Commission was published, there was a general cultural assumption that substantial timbered buildings all dated from the 16th century. In some cases, dendro-dating has pushed these back to earlier periods. More to the point is the theory advanced by the landscape historian W.G. Hoskins of a "great rebuilding" across England from c. 1570 to c.1640. Most medieval homes were single-storey buildings heated (if at all) by wood fires. The emphasis in the late-Tudor rebuilding was on adding additional storeys, often overhanging at the front in characteristic "jetties". The change was associated with the introduction of coal as a household fuel, which (for health and safety reasons) required the installation of fireplaces: an Essex clergyman, William Harrison, famously commented in 1577 on "the multitude of chimneys lately erected" across England. Cooper's Annals of Cambridge (ii, 57) quotes local regulations regulating the import of coal in 1551: as these relate to the privileges of the port of Kings Lynn, the reference must be to "sea coal" (i.e. mined in the north-east of England), and not charcoal. The new fuel presumably caught on quickly: in 1564, a substantial quantity of sea coal was imported via Lynn for the use of the poor of the town (ii, 181). Fire was always a risk that might force rebuilding: the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge, ii, 344 reported charred timbers behind brickwork in H and J staircases of Benson Court, suggesting that the projecting rear wing of the Cross Keys may have narrowly escaped destruction at some time in the past. Early deeds indicate the existence of at least two properties in Magdalene Street by 1411. In 1483 (the earliest surviving list), the Abbot of Crowland paid "high-gable" rent for the hostel. This was a property levy originally known as haw-gavel or haggable, its rendering through popular etymology indicating that it applied to buildings. (The term comes from the Old English, gafol, a tax, preserved in the Essex place name of Galleywood. The borough of Cambridge also levied land-gavel.) In Bury St Edmunds, where it was known as hadgoval, its pre-Conquest origin has been taken as evidence that the properties paying it were in existence before 1066. It does not seem safe to assume that this applied to Cambridge, although Maitland noted that many tenements within the borough were exempt. The high-gable evidence is not conclusive, but it tends to suggest that Magdalene Street was a built-up area at an early period. The Domesday Book statement that 27 houses were cleared to make space for Cambridge Castle indicates extensive urban development beyond the bridge by 1066. Cunich, 8; R.S. Gottfried, Bury St Edmunds and the Urban Crisis: 1290-1539 (1982), 36-8; F.W. Maitland, Township and Borough (1898), 70-1. Anyone setting foot into First Court from the street will realise that building must have commenced on the College site before the carriageway was raised. The Great Bridge was rebuilt in 1482, 1754 and 1823. Changes to the level of the approach road might have accompanied any one of these. Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 114.

[28] The detailed discussions in the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge are briefly summarised in S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire (2014), 149 and Hyam, 7. The very obvious dividing line in the brickwork was obscured by stucco from 1760 to 1955. It can be clearly seen in the masthead photograph on Richard Lyne's map of Cambridge in 1574 shows two distinct ranges of buildings along the street front of Magdalene, with what appears to be a single-storey shed-like structure between them. However, it is possible that all or part of the remaining medieval building at the southern end of the street range may have been demolished by then.  

[29] Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 115-16;

[30] Purnell, 11.

[31] E.F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 (1961), 208-10, 226-30, 254-6.

[32] F.W. Maitland and M. Bateson, The Charters of the Borough of Cambridge (1900), xxiv-xxv; Maitland, Township and Borough, 71.

[33] Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 12-13. In his place, the king sent the Marquess of Suffolk, who was presumably germ-proof.

[34] In 1427 the burgesses halved the daily allowance they paid to their representatives in parliament, an indication of the town's poverty. Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 13.

[35] Cunich, 5; Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485, 224-5.

[36] Fuller in 1655 noted a "smoking brewery" in what is now River Court.

[37] Hyam, 6-7. The "new" Master's Lodge is generally dated to 1835, the year in which the foundation stone was laid, but the building was occupied two years later. J.P.T. Bury, ed., Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1832-42 (1967), 120 (25 May 1837).

[38] As Benson, 5, pointed out in 1923, there must have been a "Hall" (i.e. refectory) before the present Hall was erected c. 1519. However, he was probably wrong to add "perhaps a Chapter-room for daily meetings". The Benedictine monks at Cambridge did not form a single community, and, as students, they were subject to tight discipline. Occasional business meetings and pep-talks could have taken place in the dining area, which was almost certainly where classes were held.

[39] Godshouse was relocated to become Christ's College in 1505; Michaelhouse was absorbed into Trinity in 1546. 15th-century pronunciation would have distinguished between word beginning in wh- and h- (as is still the case with educated Scots) but later generations might not have been so discerning.

[40] Durham and Gloucester Colleges later became the sites of Trinity and Worcester College (Trinity being the project of Sir Thomas Pope, who was also responsible for Magdalene's first Statutes in 1555). Canterbury became a quadrangle in Christ Church. Canterbury College was small, but Durham and Gloucester were well-financed and flourishing concerns, operating with purpose-built accommodation by the early 15th century. The Cambridge venture faced considerable competition. Victoria County History of the County  of Oxford, ii, 68-71:


[42] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485, 294. Durham Priory remained "remarkably stable" between 1400 and 1529, at between 66 and 70 monks, although about one-third of these lived in cells, away from the main house. Between 1383 and 1441, almost half the community (51 / 132, and probably more) are known to have studied at Oxford. J.R. Lander, Government and Community: England 1450-1509 (1980), 141-4.

[43] Gottfried, Bury St Edmunds and the Urban Crisis: 1290-1539, 212-13.

[44] Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 162. Nonetheless, Dr Caius recalled in 1568 that there were still monks at Buckingham College when he was a student in the early 1530s, and that they came from various English monasteries.

[45] Cunich, 8.

[46] T. Fuller (ed. J. Nichols), The History of the University of Cambridge ... (1655 / 1840 ed.), 146. I have not been able to consult the original, but no doubt the apostrophe was an editorial emendation to the 17th-century text.

[47] Willis and Clark, ii, 351n. J.W. Clark continued the work begun by his uncle, Robert Willis, who had devoted little research to early Magdalene. Clark pointed out that the Custance map of 1798 applied the term "Monks' Corner" to part of the College garden.

[48] Benson, 4-5.

[49] Mallory Court, the conversion of a former brewery, was planned in 1924, and completed in 1926. It was named in honour of the mountaineer, George Mallory, who had died on Everest in 1924. Gradually increasing prosperity made Cambridge householders less willing to take in students as lodgers (and subject themselves to University regulations in doing so). The Pye factory on the eastern side of town provided employment, including jobs for women, in manufacturing radio sets, and hence an alternative source of income.

[50] Purnell, 2-3; Cunich, 8-9.

[51] Purnell, 2-10; Cunich, 8-30; McDowall, 1; Cooper, Annals, i, 257-8. The riverside privies were still a feature four centuries later, and were described, briefly but pungently, by Ronald Hyam in A History of Magdalene College Cambridge 1428-1988, 224.

[52] Caius wrote of "incrementum monachi". Online translators do not always capture the subtlety of the ancient languages. The phrase does not seem grammatical to me, since it appears to mean "increase monks" or "increase of the monk", However, my Latin was just sufficient to get me through a translation paper in History Prelims in 1965, and it has not improved since, while Dr Caius spoke and wrote the language fluently.

[53] Cunich, 8-14.

[54] Purnell, 7 noted that the Chapel restoration of 1848 [recte 1847-51] reproduced the Buckingham family symbol, the Stafford knot, which "may well have been suggested by something they had seen about the building", and cf. 19 for a reference of 1847 to the Stafford arms in the unrestored Chapel.

[55] Purnell, 4; Hyam, 8.

[56] Purnell, 4.

[57] Thus although King's College Chapel took over 70 years to complete, very little of that time was occupied by actual building work. In 1564, the Duke of Norfolk promised Magdalene £40 a year to finish First Court, but there is no indication that he ever delivered.

[58] Described in 1502 Henry VII's accounts as "the new founde launde", and noted without the direct article as "Newfownd Land" by John Dee in 1580 – before any formal attempt to assert English sovereignty. E.R. Seary, Place Names of the Avalon Peninsula and the Island of Newfoundland (1971), 31-2.

[59] Many States and Provinces have names adapted from indigenous languages, but invariably by some formal process that has often changed the original meaning: thus Quebec ("narrow passage" in Algonquin) is thought to have described a stretch of the St Lawrence river near Quebec city.

[60] The corporate title of King's was "Rector et Scholares Collegii Regalis Sancti Nicholai de Cantebrigia". Although often translated as referring to "the King's College", the key adjective, "regalis" (think the English word "regalia") means "royal". "Rex" (king) would form the possessive "regis" (as in Bognor). Victoria County History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, iii, 377.

[61] A. Gray and F. Brittain, A History of Jesus College Cambridge (1979), 28-9.

[62] Cunich, 10-11.

[63] Cunich, 18-19.

[64] The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, ii, 142 for the Hall windows; Hyam, 14, points out that the fenestration is basically unchanged (unlike, for instance, that of the adjoining Combination Room). As Cunich, 19, noted, the Hall was constructed on a relatively generous scale, its north-west corner abutting the existing Chapel in a wrap-around arrangement which originally permitted direct access between them. Its size suggests that the institution accommodated more than the maximum of 28 monks that Cunich traced by name.

[65] At some point in the 16th century, it seems that the remaining medieval building facing the street was demolished, presumably to make way for the desired replacement. Possibly it had contained the original refectory, no longer needed after the construction of the Hall. Willis and Clark, ii, 363 quoted a detailed description  of the College in 1555 which included reference to a very small garden ("hortulus omnium multo minimis") near the entrance to the College ("juxta ipsas portas atque januas"). It was probably here that the Master and Fellows gathered on 10 August 1564 (20 August on the Gregorian calendar in use today) planning to address Elizabeth I as she rode out of Cambridge at the close of her visit, no doubt with the laudable intention of asking for public funds. The Queen rebuffed them, but their demonstration embarrassed the Duke of Norfolk, who, as owner of Walden Abbey (and son-in-law of Magdalene's founder, Thomas Audley), possessed the right to appoint the Master. After escorting his sovereign on her way, he returned, "entred Magdalen College, and gave much money to the same. Promising £40 by year until they had builded the quadrant of their College."  J. Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth... (1823), 182. It is difficult to calculate the commitment he had made. In 1611, St Catharine's contracted with a local builder to erect a set of chambers on a similar sized block of land, for £126, 13 shillings and fourpence.  The price included the fitting of the interior, but the builder was entitled to use existing materials on the site (Willis and Clark, ii, 91-1, 111-12). Sir Christopher Wray, who completed Magdalene's First Court in 1585-7, probably built a more ambitious structure. This suggests that the Duke of Norfolk undertook to support a programme spread over perhaps 5 years. In the event, he does not seem to have paid over any money before he, too, was beheaded in 1572, but it was nice of him to make the promise.

[66] C. S. L. Davies , "Stafford, Edward, third duke of Buckingham (1478–1521)",  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I have been unable to consult B. J. Harris, Edward Stafford, third Duke of Buckingham (1986). Edward Stafford had plenty of Plantagenet blood, and was sometimes spoken of as a possible king should the Tudor line fail. In 1520, he attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a summit meeting with the French king arranged in the English-held Pale of Calais. Massive amounts of money were spent building what was virtually a temporary city, and the outlay could hardly have helped Buckingham's straitened finances. To balance his accounts, he needed to collect outstanding rents from recalcitrant tenants along the Welsh border. His preparations for armed debt-collecting fatally alarmed Henry VIII, as they seemed reminiscent of his father's rebellion in 1483.

[67] Thomas Stafford had good reason to prefer a low profile to a severed neck. His father had married him to Ursula Pole, granddaughter of George, Duke of Clarence, whose murder in 1478 is forever associated with Malmsey wine.  By the close of the 1530s, Ursula's brother Reginald Pole was a cardinal, an exile and a principal focus for Catholic opposition to Henry VIII and his policies. The king's vengeance fell upon members of the family, most notably with the killing of Ursula's (and Reginald's) mother Margaret, Countess of Salisbury in 1541. Historians use terms like "beheading" and "execution" to launder the horror of Tudor judicial killings, but this elderly woman was butchered in a savage axe murder.

[68] In modern (Gregorian) calendar terms, 14 December 1539.

[69] For the transition years, Cunich, 32-4.

[70] These are the dates on the Julian calendar. By the Gregorian calendar, Magdalene's birthday falls on 13 April.

[71] One other piece of information may expand the picture. Little is known of the second Master of Magdalene, Richard Carr, who was appointed in 1546 and ejected (i.e. sacked) in 1559, presumably for refusing to accept the Elizabethan religious settlement. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, states that he took his BA in 1541-2. Perhaps he was one of the Buckingham survivors, and continued in residence as part of the renamed College. An element of continuity among its personnel could also explain why the town records continued to refer to Buckingham College until 1550. There is very little information about members of Magdalene in those early years. Carr was probably still in his twenties when he was appointed in 1546: this may explain why the first College statutes, in 1555, imposed a minimum age for the Mastership of (approximately) 30.

[72] Magdalene seems to have been reintroduced to its past by Browne Willis, an Oxford-educated antiquarian, a native of Buckinghamshire and former MP for the county town. It might be politely said that he had Buckingham on the brain. Willis, who would only respond to correspondence addressed from Buckingham College, was tactfully encouraged by Daniel Waterland, one of Magdalene's more impressive Masters. In 1727, Willis arranged for the presentation of a portrait of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke. However, since Magdalene in return subscribed £60 to Willis's project to rebuild Fenny Stratford church, the net benefit may have been small. John Chapman (Master 1746-60) was said to have offended Willis by failing to acknowledge a gift of books to the College. Later in the century, a second portrait of Duke Edward was presented by a Fellow, Thomas Kerrich, and this hangs in Hall to this day. Purnell, 156-7, 22, 166; N. Doggett, "Willis, Browne (1682–1760)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[73] Hyam, 41. The Buckingham title was revived three times. In 1626, the Master of Magdalene, Henry Smyth, strongly supported Charles I's favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham as a candidate for the office of Chancellor of the University. He was motivated not by sentiment, but by pressure from the Visitor, the Earl of Suffolk. Villiers was murdered two years later. (David Hoyle in A History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 1428-1988, 110.) The title was revived again in the 18th century for the descendants of George Grenville, the prime minister whose 1765 Stamp Act fatally soured British-American relations. Through his mother, George Neville-Grenville, Master of Magdalene 1813-53, was related to the family. The future  Duke of Buckingham, was at Magdalene for long enough in 1819 for the University to award him an LLD. His son, Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, had 5 surnames but no financial acumen, eventually going bankrupt with £1 million debts in 1848. George Neville-Grenville was a trustee for his marriage settlement, which made the Master of Magdalene formally responsible for the Hope plantation in Jamaica. After the abolition of slavery, Neville-Grenville received £6,630, five shillings and sixpence for 379 slaves. The money was, of course, merely resting in his account, but it is an inconvenient blot on Magdalene's otherwise stellar record of fighting for Abolition:

[74] Cunich, 35.

[75] Professor Nicholas Boyle, Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 2009-10, 68.

[76] Hughes presented his endowment to the College in 1543. That same year, the Dennis bequest to the now-dissolved Carthusian priory at Sheen was also transferred, by act of parliament – paralleling the approach used by Audley in financing a school in Colchester (discussed below) by diverting other funds. It is worth underlining that Magdalene was officially founded with no income at all. In September 1542, the colleges were taxed by pay for ten soldiers. King's paid the most, £4, St Catharine's the least (ten shillings). Newly relaunched Magdalene was not included. The soldiers were sent to Scotland, where they presumably participated in the battle of Solway Moss, the last formal clash between the two kingdoms. Cooper, Annals, i, 404.

[77] M. Bowker, "Holbeach [formerly Rands], Henry (d. 1551)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In 1534, Cranmer summoned him to preach in London: "Mr Holbeche the monk he desireth to preche at paules the 3 Sonday, and the same day in like manner to preche at Westminster". Lamb, A Collection ... Illustrative of the History of the University of Cambridge, 35.

[78] A.A. Chibi, "Chambers [Borowe, Burgh], John (d. 1556), abbot and bishop of Peterborough", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[79] A. J. Louisa, "Capon [Salcot], John (d. 1557)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The ODNB biography of his brother firmly identifies Salcot as his birthplace: B. Williams, "Capon, William (c. 1480–1550)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Biographical information taken throughout from Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses is not specifically acknowledged:


[81] G. Williams, Renewal and Reformation: Wales, c.1415-1642 (1993), 282. Welsh dioceses were regularly headed by unilingual Englishmen. In 1529, it was reported that Capon's predecessor in Bangor, who double-jobbed as abbot of Beaulieu in Hampshire, had not visited the diocese for 14 years.

[82] Capon was probably in his seventies during the Marian reaction, and – although acquiescent – may not have been active in the persecution of Protestants.

[83] Williams, Renewal and Reformation: Wales, c.1415-1642, 358-9, 282, 295. It is difficult to assess how effective Magdalene was in educating Welshmen, since it is impossible to identify all students from the early years. It was alleged that Degory Nicholls, Master 1577-82, was determined to "roote out all the Welshmen in the Colledge". Nicholls has always been portrayed as a comical bigot, which is probably accurate, and there are indications that he was a combative character. It may be that he simply became embroiled in a dispute with two Fellows (not an uncommon scenario in early Magdalene) who happened to be Welsh: nothing is known of the origins of his principal antagonist, William Bulkeley, but his surname suggests that he belonged to the powerful Anglesey family who were a turbulent influence in the region. The Master also ousted a lecturer in Greek described as "Johns", who was almost certainly Richard Jones from Merionethshire. However, Nicholls may have had another agenda, in which the Welsh were merely a collateral target. He came from an Anglo-Cornish background, held 3 Cornish livings and apparently retired to the West Country. He matriculated (at Peterhouse) in 1560, which suggests that he was born c.1542-3 (ODNB suggests 1545). The Cornish rebellion of 1549, directed against the imposition of a prayer book in English, developed into an attack on the gentry. To Nicholls, this would probably have been a traumatic episode in his childhood which could well have left him with a hatred for the Cornish language. Because Cornish had no access to the printing press, its only chance of survival was through association with Welsh. Hence an attack on the Magdalene Welsh may have formed part of a personal crusade to eradicate Cornish. D. Hoyle in A History of Magdalene College Cambridge 1428-1988, 84-9; N. G. Jones, "Nicholls, Degory (c. 1545–c. 1591)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography;

[84] Dictionary of National Biography, ii (1885), 253; L. L. Ford , "Audley, Thomas, Baron Audley of Walden (1487/8–1544), lord chancellor", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. From Aesop he claimed to have imbibed the precept "that when fools are stronger than wise men it is better to go with fools", a sound survival technique in Henry VIII's England, although not one for communication to the king himself.

[85] J.B. Mullinger, The University of Cambridge: from the Royal Injunctions of 1535 to the Accession of Charles the First  (1884), 67.

[86] Known as a "fret", it still sits at the centre of the Magdalene coat of arms. I do not know how the Audley heraldry was transferred to the College.

[87] G.M. Hughes investigated possible connections in "Audley Families and Garde Ta Foy", Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 2001-2, 107-10, but could find no relationship.

[88] There was some excuse for Audley's acquisition of Walden, since the community there had virtually collapsed. In 1535, the abbot confessed that he was secretly married, and that he delivered a daily lecture in which he insisted that "there was no sanctity in monkery". This had reduced the community to seven, all of them "very old". Victoria County History of Essex, ii, 114.

[89] Audley's letter of 8 September 1538 is printed in Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, but I quote here from the extensive extract in Victoria County History of Essex, ii, 97-8: .

[90] For Colchester's inns, Victoria County History of Essex, ix, 123-4, and 67-132 for the town in the 16th century generally. Even remote St Osyth probably supported a couple of inns in the mid-16th century, Victoria County History of Essex, xii (i), 156-7.

[91] F. Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (2003), 141. The Duke of Norfolk entertained similar hopes for Thetford Priory, 92. 

[92] Victoria County History of Essex, ii, 502.

[93] The amended Statutes were rendered into English in 1860, but even in modern times there has been some uncertainty about the institution's official name. An amending Statute in 1958 referred both to "the College of St Mary Magdalene" and "the College of St Mary Magdalene in the University of Cambridge", while the order of the Privy Council confirming it used the title "Magdalene College, in the University of Cambridge". The muddle was repeated in various amendments between 1963 and 1967, when attempts were made to use the formula "Magdalene College in the University of Cambridge founded in honour of Saint Mary Magdalene, commonly called Magdalene College". I have not traced earlier or later revisions.

[94] An indecorous limerick that includes this rhyme, also recited at Oxford, seems to date only from the 1930s.

[95] T. Fuller, The History of the University of Cambridge… (1840 ed. J. Nicholls, first published 1655), 171-2.

[96] A.B. Gray, Cambridge Revisited (1921), 46. Gray was Master of Jesus College from 1912 to 1940.

[97] Benson, 11. It is curious that Benson, who had taught Latin at Eton, should have called the device a "rebus", overlooking the word's origin in the phrase "non verbis sed rebus" (not by words but by things). A rebus was a visual device, like Bishop Alcock's use of the cockerel symbol. Hyam, 2, more accurately calls it a "pun".

[98] Cunich, 40.

[99] E.M.W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (1963 ed., first published 1943), 8.

[100] The 1555 Statutes required 3 celebrations of Mass each week, to become daily once Magdalene reached 30 in numbers. Since Mass was to be said at 5 a.m., it may be that sermons were not a frequent feature. But morning and evening prayers were to be held every day. Cunich, 56.

[101] Even more obscure was the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter code YHWH representing the Hebrew word for God, Yahweh. For its use in late-medieval prayers, E. Duffy, Marking the Hours ... (2006), 91, 94.

[102] "I am Alpha and Omega, the begynnyng and the endynge, sayth the Lorde almyghty, which is and which was, and which is to come." (Revelations, I:8, one of several instances of the phrase.)

[103] Duffy, Marking the Hours, 32.

[104] K. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic ... (1973 ed., first published 1971), 462-3, 473-5, 498-501. I discount here other possible interpretations, e.g. M is the Roman numeral for 1,000, in accounting generally used in the lower case: it is difficult to see how it could apply here, especially as N had no numerical value. It is peculiarly difficult to decode some prophecies. In 1537, a monk of Furness Abbey in Lancashire predicted that ABC and TTT would combine to oust Henry VIII and restore papal authority. ABC also featured in the conservative predictions of a Yorkshire priest, hanged in 1538. Both by date and intention, these can hardly refer to Anne Boleyn. It is a measure of the challenge we face in penetrating the Tudor mind that very different identities are now suggested by ABC (generally, the alphabet; in America and Australia, television networks),  KLM (a Dutch airline) and E (a dangerous narcotic).

[105] Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture, 83 and seq. Here again, seismic change in meaning cuts us off from the past. Thus the key phrase Hamlet's "What a piece of work is man" now conveys an entirely negative picture, usually including the adjective "nasty".

[106] The last pre-1600 Oxford college to be thus named, St John's (1555), belongs to the Marian reaction.  Since the 19th century, Oxford has added a profusion of sainted colleges; Cambridge has acquired just one (St Edmund's, 1996).

[107] For religious policy in the late 1530s and early 1540s, E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (1992), 379-447 and his Marking the Hours, 147-8;  J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1971, first published 1968), 516-47.

[108] Eamon Duffy's phrase in The Stripping of the Altars, 408.

[109] The Institution of a Christian Man (1537), in Formularies of Faith Put Forth by Authority during the Reign of Henry VIII... (1825), 141-2, repeated in A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man (1543), ibid., 305.

[110]  Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 546; Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, 395, 430.

[111] In monkish days, the Chapel would almost certainly have contained an image (or images) of St Benedict. Perhaps these were removed in 1539, but they may have been replaced later by Mary Magdalene. The iconoclast William Dowsing recorded breaking down "about 40 Superstitious Pictures" in 1643, but he did not mention statues. A History of Magdalene College, 122.

[112] There is, of course, an extensive amount of encyclopaedia, internet and revisionist material about Mary Magdalene, of which the works of S. Haskins and K.L. King look especially interesting. Since my focus is on 1542, I have not attempted to consult these. A useful and accessible guide is J. Carroll, "Who Was Mary Magdalene?", Smithsonian Magazine (2006): In his wide-ranging discussion, "St Mary Magdalene",  Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 1999-2000, 55-62, Eamon Duffy described the choice of patron saint in the Protestant atmosphere of 1542 as "a little surprising". Jane Williams reviewed the Mary Magdalene legends in Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 2014-15, 109-112.  

[113] The place is referred to only once, when Jesus travelled there by boat (Matthew 15:39), but the visit does not mention Mary. In 1882, the Revised Version claimed that Magdala was a scribal misreading, and substituted Magadan. While this emendation has been followed by other modern translations, it has not influenced the naming of any institution that honours the saint. It is possible that the 1882 translators wished to avoid confusion (or embarrassment) in relation to the capital of Abyssinia, also called Magdala, which had been destroyed by a British invading force in 1868.

[114] There is no information about the nature of the demons that possessed Mary Magdalene. It seems strange that the gospels offer no account of what sounds like a striking miracle. Moreover, it was allegedly in Magdala (or Magadan) that Pharisees and Sadducees mockingly demanded that Jesus give them some sign of his divine mission, which he refused to do.

[115] D. MacCulloch, A History of Christianity (2012 ed., first published 2009), 94. We may also note that despite (or perhaps because of) its centrality in Christian belief, the Resurrection has rarely if ever been used as a dedication. The Anglican Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield is the example that comes to mind, and their origins go back no further than the late-19th century.

[116]  The elision only came under question when the twentieth-century churches realised that the New Testament story needed some female managerial talent. In 1969 Rome quietly uncoupled the three women, tacitly admitting that Mary Magdalene was neither a prostitute nor an adulteress. The confusions remained entrenched in popular culture, e.g. the 1971 rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

[117] The Oxford English Dictionary quotes a sermon by Latimer, who died in 1555, in which he insisted that "we be all Magdelens, in fallyng into sinne".

[118] We might fancifully compare the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with tears to a college beside the Cam, but 16th-century Magdalene was separated from the river by the area that now forms River Court.

[119] Hyam, 11-13. A.C. Benson celebrated his election to a Fellowship in 1904 by purchasing an Italian painting of the (unnamed) woman taken in adultery. D. Newsome, On the Edge of Paradise... (1980), 157.

[120]  Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge, ii, 140. The statue formed part of a programme of renovation by the Magdalene-educated architect, F.C. Penrose. In due course, the installation became as unsafe as the theology behind it, and the statue was removed. In his retirement, Sir Henry Willink (Master 1948-67) told me that he had hoped to replace the patroness on her plinth (which remains to this day), but was persuaded that it was a low priority. See also Hyam, 7.

[121] Lamb, A Collection ... Illustrative of the History of the University of Cambridge, 189, 203-4. Mere described the descent of the Visitors on the College on 17 January 1557: "at one the Visitors wente to Mawdlen College and were received of the Master and company standing at the gate within and so wente straight into the Chapple and viewed the awlter and superaltare and then went uppe into the M[aste]rs chamber where fyrst all the company were called by name, and after that they asked the Master and company if they had any thynge to say or petition to make generally and then required to se[e] the foundation [i.e. letters patent and Statutes] which was done and they made an ende there sone after iii." The description is valuable in confirming that the Master's apartments were on the first floor of First Court, presumably in the north range, and nowadays allocated to the Chaplain. The Visitation was intended to ensure that Cambridge conformed to the Catholic faith, reimposed under Mary. Two prominent but recently deceased heretics were disinterred, and their remains burned on Market Hill.

[122] Lamb, A Collection ... Illustrative of the History of the University of Cambridge, 393.

[123] This statement (of the historically obvious) is based on a trawl of references in A History of Magdalene College and Purnell. Care is needed in using Purnell, whose transcriptions were sometimes inaccurate. The "Magdalen" spelling is also standard on the title pages of publications by College authors, such as the prolific Daniel Waterland (Master, 1714-40).

[124] I have not explored the academic literature on the origins of the Authorised Version of the Bible. I note that the translators also replaced the Great Bible terms "Gaderinites" and "Nazarites" with "Gadarenes" and "Nazarenes". The final –e was perhaps added to "Magdalen" for consistency.

[125] There are indications that "Magdalene" was occasionally used in the 18th century. Four examples are quoted from documentary sources between 1760 and 1783, three by Eamon Duffy, A History of Magdalene College, 180, 183, 187, and one by D.A.  Winstanley, The University of Cambridge in the Eighteenth Century (1958), 321n. Only one of these originated within the College. It may be noted that the 1783 example came from Charles Simeon, evidence that Evangelicals favoured the (1611) Biblical spelling, although it was not adopted by the College during its late-18th century Evangelical period.

[126] Salter, 455. The suggestion about the postal service (which perhaps does not understand that letters were sorted by post-town) appears on a Magdalene website in 2022. I give no reference as I am sure it will be changed.

[127] The Cambridge University Calendar for the Year 1818, 235-8; British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-3 (1559), Report of the Royal Commission on Cambridge University, 403-7. The Royal Commission (167) was not impressed by Magdalene's pay scales. Information for the College was supplied on 6 February 1851 by the President (i.e. vice-Master), the Reverend Edward Warter, since the Master, George Neville-Grenville, had retreated on medical advice to St Leonards in Sussex for the winter. Warter is one of the unsung heroes of Magdalene history, people who have laboured to keep the College afloat despite its perennial lack of resources. A lithograph in the National Portrait Gallery ( suggests a friendly face. 

[128] The Master received a double dividend. Returns fell dramatically in the later 19th century as the crisis in British agriculture drove down rents.

[129] In 1818, two of the 13 Bye-Fellowships were vacant, including the only one that carried a real income. This was the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship, whose holder had to come from Norfolk and was required to travel (but not to Norfolk). The annual stipend was "upwards of £100", and it was tenable for 9 glorious years. Not all Bye-Fellows were resident in Cambridge: the brothers Charles and Robert Grant, holdovers from Magdalene's Evangelical era, were both pursuing careers in London, Charles as an MP and junior minister.

[130] M. Daunton, Progress and Poverty ... (1995), 435, and passim for discussion of real incomes. The comparison is based on 6-day weeks and daily wage rates, taking no account of possible unemployment, health problems, accommodation costs, nor indeed the general expense of living in London. But the building worker may have had income-earning family members. G. Best, Mid-Victorian Britain 1851-1875 (1973 ed., first published 1971), 116 would indicate that Bye-Fellows earned as much as cabmen, coalheavers , postmen and tailors – to which we might add, since most of them were heading for ordination, notoriously exploited curates.

[131] But holders of Bye-Fellowships were conventionally styled as Fellows, which may sometimes obscure the distinction in status within the senior membership. The downside for the small inner elite was that they had to carry the burden of College offices. In 1818, of the two working Foundation Fellows, Richard Crawley was both President and Tutor, while William Cornforth was Dean. The Master himself acted as Bursar and Steward, which must have created challenges, since he was also Rector of Hawarden in north Wales, and almost certainly spent part of the year there.

[132] The Master adopted the additional surname of Grenville in 1825, but is referred to here by that form for convenience. (By tradition, it is pronounced "Greenville".)

[133] In the absence of modern registration procedures, it was difficult to establish the precise age of most people.

[134] Eamon Duffy is rightly scornful of the episode: A History of Magdalene College, 195. Even by the standards of a corrupt era, Lord Braybrooke had form. He is said to have received £120,000 during his lifetime from the sinecure office of provost-marshal of Jamaica, an island that he never visited. In fairness, for many years it would have been difficult for him to discharge any related duties, since he was appointed at the age of 12. R. Thorne, "Griffin, Richard [formerly Richard Aldworth Neville], second Baron Braybrooke (1750–1825)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[135] Stamford Mercury, 22 October 1813; Morning Chronicle, 22 January 1814.

[136] My copy of Purnell has faded pencil annotations by somebody who was clearly well informed about Magdalene traditions. A note on Crawley says "broght [sic] in as Fellow by the Masters [sic] famous (or infamous) casting-vote". Crawley was elected in December 1814: Norfolk Chronicle, 17 December 1814.

[137] Cecil was rescued from historical obscurity in Magdalene College Magazine, June 1909, 3-9, in an article by Stephen Gaselee, and discussed in further detail by Jeffrey Lewins in Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 1996-97, 27-33. The ODNB does not include him. There is a delightful reconstruction of his engine on Cecil's engine used about 0.5 cubic metres of hydrogen an hour, which made it impractical and almost certainly uneconomic at the time.

[138] In 1823, the College appointed Cecil Rector of Longstanton St Michael, a parish of around 100 people. There he ministered for 58 years until his death in 1882. It is assumed, and certainly hoped, that he led a contented life, since he was reputed to have haunted the Rectory garden after his death.

[139] Neville-Grenville's swamping of Magdalene with aristocrats was all the more effective since his appointment seems to have discouraged more plebeian applicants. In 1811-13, the College had admitted 37 undergraduates. This fell in 1814-16 to 20. By contrast, matriculations in the University rose in 1815 to 297, their highest level since the late 17th century: just 4 of these were at Magdalene. A History of Magdalene College, 306; J.R. Tanner, ed., The Historical Register of the University of Cambridge... (1917), 990.

[140] Bury and Norwich Post, 27 December 1815. In 1821, he was appointed to the College living of Anderby with Cumberworth. In the 1860s, his son, Hugh Fortescue, gained both a Blue for rowing and a respectable Honours degree.

[141] Jack Vane's birth out of wedlock was not an obstacle to a career in the Church.

[142] Bishop of Sodor and Man, translated to Bath and Wells: G. C. Boase / M. C. Curthoys , "Eden, Robert John, third Baron Auckland (1799–1870)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[143] For a useful analysis of the student population in 1819, Duffy in A History of Magdalene College, 196-7. Some of them are spectacularly unknown, e.g. Augustus Cavendish (1817) and his brother Thomas (1820), sons of Lord Waterpark, an Irish peer who lived in Derbyshire.

[144] Magdalene also benefited from the continuing pressure of admissions into the University as a whole, which diluted its aristocratic element: there were 16 undergraduates in residence in 1818, 31 by 1826. However, there can be no doubt that the tone of the College had changed, to the disadvantage of its academic seriousness.

[145] [J.F.W. Wright], Alma Mater … (2 vols, 1827), ii, 201-2. The adjective "maudlin", meaning mawkishly sentimental and probably inebriated, gained currency during the 17th century.

[146] Lawson had in fact been elected to a Bye-Fellowship, albeit one that carried a small income. The heir to a Yorkshire landowning family, Lawson had matriculated at St John's in 1811, but "migrated" (transferred) to Magdalene in 1815. He may have been drawn by the College's new "tone", but he was probably also attracted by the fact that Scholarships and Bye-Fellowships were reserved for ex-pupils of his school, Shrewsbury. Lawson had genuine academic ability: in 1816, he was joint winner of the University's highest award for Classical composition, the Chancellor's Medal. No doubt he found Magdalene a congenial environment, having in 1812 denounced "blackguard discontented stocking weavers". He evidently had mental health issues, being suspected of arson while at Cambridge, where on one occasion he was observed walking naked in the middle of the day. He was still in residence in 1818 when he was elected MP for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire (a pocket borough in which his family had influence over the voters). He staged a triumphal return to College, a gesture that nearly ended in disaster. As he travelled along Bridge Street in a post-chaise, preceded by a stagecoach, upon which was perched a band of musicians and decorated with ribbons, a report spread that the occupant of the post-chaise was a hated government agent, Oliver the Spy. A mob gathered aiming to drag Lawson out and no doubt lynch him, but fortunately his true identity was discovered and "the Gentleman was set down in safety at the gates of Magdalen College". (Leeds Intelligencer, 6 July 1818).  Early in 1819, he delivered his maiden speech on the condition of Yorkshire highways in a jaunty and highly unusual style. This was praised by the Examiner (24 January 1819) which noted that he "cracked a few refreshing jokes by way of specimen. We hope to hear him soon upon more important subjects, on ways which are much dirtier, and want a great deal more mending".  The Times (2 February 1819) took a different view:  "His talents are so great, and his acquirements so diversified, that his friends and the country at large have a right to expect much from a proper application of them. But he seems to have entirelv mistaken the nature and object of a speech in the British Senate." Venn described his style of oratory in the House of Commons as "ludicrous". Like so many Cambridge products of that era, he died young, aged 30 in 1823.

[147] Norfolk Chronicle, 5 April, 5 July, 4 October 1817; Bury and Norwich Post, 4 February 1818.

[148] Cambridge University Calendar for the Year 1818 (1818), iii, 235-8. The 1818 calendar may be consulted on the internet thanks to the digital diligence of Princeton. I have been unable to consult the 1817 Calendar. The University Library's iDiscover catalogue indicates that the only known copy in Cambridge is held by Christ's College.

[149] Lodge had been 12th Wrangler in 1814. He became University Librarian in 1822.  In 1827, he combined the offices of Dean and Steward. Venn did not identify his school.

[150]  Norfolk Chronicle, 21 March; Bury and Norwich Post, 25 March; Leeds Intelligencer, 6 April; Lancaster Gazette, 11 April 1818. The sequence of publication will indicate that newspapers copied items.

[151] York Herald, 4 April 1818.

[152] Ball, Cambridge Papers, 294-6. Note this description of a Tripos examination in 1823. "There were no printed question-papers: each examiner had his bound manuscript of questions, and he read out his first question; each of the examinees who thought himself able proceeded to write out his answer, and then orally called out 'Done'. [Is there any other way to call out a word?] The Moderator [i.e. examiner], as soon as he thought proper, proceeded with another question."

[153] Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: City of Cambridge, ii, 298; B. Pearce, Stourbridge Leper Hospital…  (2003):

[154] H. Gunning, Reminiscences of the University, Town, and County of Cambridge... (1855), 74.

[155] An otherwise detailed study in the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, iii, 193-207 passes over Magdalen in the  first half of the nineteenth century in a few despondent lines:  Its shortcomings were compounded by a remarkably durable and inflexibly conservative President, Martin Routh: V.H.H. Green, "Routh, Martin Joseph (1755–1854)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[156] But "magdalen" did not appear in Johnson's Dictionary (1755), published 3 years before the founding of the London institution.

[157] Despite its name, the Magdalen Hospital provided no medical treatment. The London Lock Hospital, established in 1747, treated venereal diseases.

[158] F. Finnegan, Do Penance or Perish (2004), 6-9. The generic term came to refer to all such institutions. "A Magdalen Hospital would be of the greatest benefit in every diocese", declared Archdeacon Manning in 1844: H.E. Manning, Penitents and Saints: a Sermon Preached in behalf of the Magdalen Hospital ... May 8, 1844, 21. There is even a curious near-contemporary example of its broader use in Lady Morgan's novel, Florence Macarthy: an Irish Tale (4  vols, 1818), ii, 79, in which a character called Crawley  protests: "I will not have my house made a magdalen asylum to a parcel of canting methodistical thieves". By strange coincidence, he shared his surname with the President of Magdalene.

[159] H.F.B. Compston, The Magdalen Hospital... (1917), 55. Our best guide to earlier pronunciation comes through poetry. Alas, Alexander Pope, in his Epistle to a Lady (1743) used the term ("Let then the Fair one beautifully cry / In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye") but not as a rhyme. The Audley End elite were amused in 1846 when a servant asked Lady Braybrooke about her plans to visit Cambridge: "An't you going, my Lady, to the Magdalene[?]", but the phonetics were not supplied. M.E. Bury and J.D. Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847 (1994), 159.

[160] Compston, The Magdalen Hospital, 89.

[161] Compston, The Magdalen Hospital, 93; Norfolk Chronicle, 10 January 1818.

[162] Compston, The Magdalen Hospital, 119n.  Visiting London in 1769, the Scottish Presbyterian divine Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk found that it was "much the fashion to go on a Sunday evening to a chapel of the Magdalen Asylum". He found it difficult to obtain a seat, "the crowd of genteel people was so great". Much to Carlyle's disapproval, Dodd preached on Matthew, 5:27-8, "everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart". "The text itself was shocking, and the sermon was composed with the least possible delicacy, and was a shocking insult on a sincere penitent, and fuel for the warm passions of the hypocrites." Carlyle concluded that the Magdalen was "a disgrace to a Christian city". A. Carlyle (ed. J.H. Burton), Autobiography... (1860), 503-4.

[163] Morning Chronicle, 20 November 1817.

[164] M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish ... (1991 ed., first published 1975, translated A. Sheridan, 1977). Foucault had little to say about prostitution. The shift in emphasis was driven not so much by a desire to punish sex workers but rather by the imperative of preventing them from moving on to committing crimes against property.

[165] S. Inwood, A History of London (1998), 590-2; F. Sheppard, London 1808-1870: the Infernal Wen (1971), 30-6.

[166] British Parliamentary Papers,  1817, 484, Select Committee on State of Police of Metropolis..., 499-505 and 332 for the Committee's report.

[167] The Times, 17 September; Morning Post, 11, 13 December 1817. The article in The Times was a rare instance of recognition that men might have some responsibility in the degradation of female sex workers. It may be worth noting that the Regency period was characterised by an elaborate cult of politeness (as well as by political repression). Jane Austen published 6 novels between 1811 and 1817. 1818 saw the completion of Thomas Bowdler's The Family Shakspeare (in which even the Bard's name was changed), an edition that excised "words and expressions ... which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family". A curious parallel example is the Essex place name of Pissingford Bridge, quietly emended to Passingford Bridge between 1815 and 1819:

[168] Masters' partners have made little impact on the history of Magdalene. The wife of Degory Nicholls was alleged to be "so chidinge that often she is hard [sic] all over the colledge to the disturbance of the students". Elizabeth Chapman, whose husband was Master 1746-60, was described as "that dry piece of goods". A.C. Benson alleged that Latimer Neville's wife regarded the College as "a disagreeable incumbrance on the Mastership". A History of Magdalene College, 87, 207; Purnell, 166. These descriptions come from hostile sources. To be the sole female in Magdalene was probably a toughening experience. Peter Peckard's marriage to Martha Ferrar brought the important Little Gidding MSS to Magdalene, but I am not aware of any personal information about her.

[169] She was generally known as Lady Charlotte Neville, even after her husband added Grenville to his surname. Invitations to dine at the Master's Lodge were much prized, indicating that she was a skilful hostess. She seems to have been popular with undergraduates: in 1830, the Boat Club called its new boat "Lady Charlotte". The Cambridge diarist Joseph Romilly encountered her in 1846 with "a Church-exploring party" at Histon. The Magdalene Boat Club... (1930), 3; Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847, 165.  

[170] The couple were married on 6 May 1816. Their eldest son, Ralph Neville-Grenville, was born on 27 February 1817. He studied at Magdalene, as did his son, Robert Neville, who beat up Parnell. Lady Charlotte probably realised that she was pregnant again at about the time her royal namesake died in childbirth.

[171] Compston, The Magdalen Hospital, 152, and 62-3 for Lord Dartmouth's support.

[172] Lady Charlotte's uncle, the Hon. Heneage Legge, was one of the stewards at a charity service in 1787. In 1820, another uncle, Edward Legge, Bishop of Oxford, preached the prestigious Anniversary Sermon. The Times, 2 May 1787; Compston, The Magdalen Hospital, 218.

[173] Northampton Mercury, 21 November 1818; Bury and Norwich Post, 20 October 1819. "AM" comes from the Latin version of MA.

[174] W. Van Mildert, The Works of the Rev. Daniel Waterland, D.D. formerly Master of Magdalene College,  Cambridge.... , i(i), 5, 301n. In 1826, Van Mildert was translated to become the last Prince Bishop of Durham. Realising the inevitability of attacks on Church endowments, he supported the diversion of some of his Episcopal wealth to the foundation of an Anglican University in Durham. E. A. Varley, "Mildert, William Van (1765–1836)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In 1965, Durham University opened a College bearing his name.  

[175] Examiner, 12 July 1825. The story was widely copied in Australia, e.g. Sydney Gazette, 8 March 1826.

[176] The True Colonist (Hobart), 29 June 1838. Van Diemen's Land had its own change of name in 1854, to Tasmania.

[177] The Times, 21 February 1842; Dictionary of National Biography, i (1885), 65.



[180] E.g. The Times, 15 February 1882.

[181] Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1906.

[182] Naming rights for Cambridge colleges have become more expensive over the years. In 1973, University College, a recently established graduate community, was renamed Wolfson College in recognition of a grant from the Wolfson Foundation of £2 million. However, the gesture was also intended to "commemorate the many benefactions of the Wolfson family to the University and Colleges of Cambridge". (Similarly, Rewley House at Oxford was renamed Kellogg College in 1992 in recognition of the wider generosity of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the University.) A benefaction of £18 million from David Robinson established a Cambridge college in his name in 1977, at first primarily for undergraduates, even though this was perhaps not the University's highest priority for expansion at the time. In 2008, New Hall became Murray Edwards College, a gift of £30 million from Ros and Steve Edwards honouring the first President, Rosemary Murray. (Ms Edwards was an alumna.) At Oxford a new graduate society, provisionally named Parks College, opened in 2019 as Reuben College, thanks to what the Vice-Chancellor called the "extraordinary generosity" of a donation of £80 million from the Reuben Foundation In 2021, Linacre College agreed in principle to become Thao College in return for a gift of £155 million. At the time of writing (October 2022), it is not clear if this proposal is going ahead. [The proposal was abandoned in September 2023. The negative publicity that Linacre College has received from this strange episode will perhaps affect similar naming projects in the future.] Like most educational institutions, Cambridge colleges depend upon financial support both from alumni and major donors for new buildings. Magdalene has especially benefited from the generosity of the Cripps Foundation. The Foundation's website lists gifts of £11.5 million to Magdalene (among other Cambridge colleges) for the new Library and the development of Cripps Court, but the financial support from the family has undoubtedly been far greater over several decades. Hyam, 42, described an earlier gift from Edward and Robert Cripps as "the most magnificent benefaction the College has ever received". This made possible the original Cripps Court (opened in 2005), and named in their recognition by Magdalene. The next College History will have much to celebrate.