Visiting The Queen's College, Oxford, England: nearly seven centuries of scholarship
Founded in honour of Queen Philippa of Hainault
First of all, do bear in mind that the official title of the College has the definite article: The Queen's College. This is significant for more than one reason. In the first place, the College was founded in 1341 in honour of a specific Queen Consort, Philippa of Hainaut (1314-1369); the College founder was Robert de Eglesfield (c. 1295-1349), who took his name from a village in the North of England. Also, it is useful to remember that there is indeed a College at Cambridge University with a very similar name, but the Cambridge foundation is properly Queens' College, that is, in the plural, without the definite article, and with an obligatory apostrophe at the end of the word!
Most of the College's buildings date from well after the 14th century. The Library dates from 1693-96. The Chapel, dating from 1719, is the home of the choir, which contributes greatly to the College's strong, musical tradition.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the College authorities started to pull down many existing buildings, largely Medieval, and thus The Queen's College began to acquire fine, Baroque-style architecture. The Front Quad's lines follow designs by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Thus, by the middle of the 18th century, the College's architecture stood out markedly from that of other Oxford Colleges. The cupola over the main entrance is something of a landmark.
Among traditions of the College is the singing of the Boar's Head Carol at what is known as the Boar's Head Gaudy, held on the last Saturday before Christmas, to which, in rotation by year of matriculation, Old Members of the College are invited. Continuing this theme, the College has sometimes issued Boar's Head Christmas cards (1).
Interestingly, some Oxford Colleges have traditionally had particularly strong associations with certain geographical areas of Great Britain: for example, Jesus College has maintained strong links with Wales; and, for its part, The Queen's College has had a high proportion of members from the North of England.
Regarding the local geography of Oxford, however, The Queen's College is situated on the High Street, opposite University College, and adjacent to All Souls College; in the other direction, St. Edmund Hall is also in close proximity.
Famous people associated over the centuries with the College include: Medieval theologian John Wycliffe (1328-1384); English King Henry V (1386-1482); Utilitarian philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832); British Astronomer Royal Edmund Halley (1656-1742), American Astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953); MIT professor and developer of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee (1955-) and many others.
(1) Nearby Shotover Forest was formerly a habitat for wild boar, in centuries past. It is said that this tradition at The Queen's College is derived from an incident when a student of the College was studying Aristotle in Shotover Forest when he was suddenly attacked by a wild boar. Showing some presence of mind, and exercising the limits of his available defences, the student is said to have successfully overcome the boar by thrusting his multipurpose volume of Aristotle down the fierce animal's throat.
Also worth seeing
In Oxford , numerous visitor attractions include the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College, Oxford Castle, the enormous Chapel at Keble College, the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, and numerous others.
How to get there : Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Oxford : 77 kilometres. Oxford links by rail with London Paddington station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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