Royal Visitors



By Paul Whitton, England

My poem is inspired by Mary de Bohun (1368-1394) who was married to Henry Bolingbroke when she was only 12 years old. She lived for some time in Hinton Manor, then owned by the de Bohun family, and her eldest son Henry referred to in my poem, went on to become King Henry Vth. Mary was noted for her spiritual life and study.

The oaken gate behind me swung,

Its lichen-covered timbers gnarled

I trod the icy gravel path

Steering each faltering sliding step

While moonlight sparkled on the snow

Until I reached the church’s door


Hinton Waldrist Church, courtesy of Paul Whitton

My frozen hand stretched out to lift

The rusty iron portal lock

When soldier’s mail-clad gloved fist

Was raised in front of my visage

“Why enterest thou into this place

Of holy worship at this hour?


“Know’st thou not in Hinton church

The highest lady in our land

Has come to say her Christmas mass?”

Yet when I told him whence I came

His guard was lowered; he bade me pass

To enter through the low-hung porch


I step into the gloomy nave,

By candles and three reed lamps lit.

Kneeling behind the nearest pew

I slowly lift my gaze to see

In front a truly dazzling sight

A gorgeous gown of royal blue

Worn by our Mary de Bohun


And clasped to Mary’s loving breast

The infant Henry, royal heir,

Not yet two winters since his birth.

If only now they could but see

The ways of pain which lay ahead

For each in such diverse

And truly anguished ways.


Mary de Bohun was soon to die

Before six winters more had passed

Leaving her Bolingbroke bereft.


After the Holy Mass was said

The Benediction sent us forth

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

I wanted then to pay respect

To Lady Bohun and her son

To stoop down and obeisance make.


When Mary lifted up her head

The tranquil beauty of that gaze

Transfixed me in suspended time

As all of thought froze like the frost.

She gently gestured with her hand

To show me that I might approach.


On bending low a fine-coiffed head

She softly breathed into my ear

“Seest thou that infant Christ

Whose likeness we have come to lay

In wooden crib for his nativity?

Be sure to render worship true

To Him who heav’n and earth hath made.


“Bow not to me nor to my infant son

For in our Scriptures it is writ

Worship the one true God and his dear Son.”

Then as the fleeting moment passed

It seemed as if this frozen season flew

Out through the stained  glass window panes

And spring’s sweet breath swept through the nave.


I saw then clearly in my dream

The future of this Hinton church

Lay not with earthly kings, nor lords

Who enter through its timber door

But with our humble village folk

Who down the centuries  attend

Week after  week to bow the knee

Before the King of time and space.

This poem was inspired by Luke 4:8: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” It is so tempting to be impressed by celebrities and wealthy, famous people in our culture that we always need this reminder from our Lord. We can overlook that we are in the presence of the King of Kings.

Our village, Hinton Waldrist, is very small, with less than 300 inhabitants. I was very surprised when moving there that it once had famous royal visitors in its church, the form of King Henry V.

Paul Whitton is a Director of Oxford Literary and Rights Agency Ltd, based near Oxford in England. He is married to Hana; together they have co-authored several books. He has more than 35 years experience in international publishing. After three years living and working in Germany, Paul returned to the UK to work for the Christian publisher Lion Hudson plc in Oxford UK, going on to become their head of international rights. He worships in their village church which is more than 760 years old.

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