The Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis

Today is Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and the official start of the new year, in a legal and calendar sense, in Tudor England. In fact, it was the start of the new year in England until 1752 when 1st January became the official start.

What’s confusing is that the Roman tradition of New Year was celebrated on 1st January and ‘New Year’s gifts’ were given then. I suppose it’s like today in England when we have the calendar year starting on 1st January but the financial year starting on 6th April.

Another confusion is with the dates of events which took place between 1st January and 25th March in Tudor times. For example, Thomas Boleyn’s date of death is often cited as 12th March 1538 because he died before Lady Day of that year. In modern terms, he died on 12th March 1539 if we consider 1539 starting on 1st January. Confused yet? As if the Tudors didn’t confuse us enough with everyone being called Thomas, Henry, Catherine, Elizabeth, Anne and Mary!

P.S. Don’t know what the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin is? Well, it commemorates the day when the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary and told her that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, the moment when ‘the Word became flesh’.

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