Now I understand the Year of Grace….
It is a truth that one learns something new every day. For me today it is an explanation of the phrase ‘Year of Grace’. I had not really given it any thought at all, imagining it simply meant the year granted by God’s Grace. Well, in point of fact, it does mean that, but not in the way that seems most obvious.
In Ian Mortimer’s excellent The Fears of Henry IV, I learned that on Maundy Thursday 1398, the soon-to-be Henry IV gave alms to mark the number of years he had lived. But he gave to thirty-three paupers, even though he was only thirty-one. This might be the first instance of this odd method of calculation. The custom arose to give not for the present year, or the next, but the one after that. In later years the payment by the king of an extra year’s alms was described as ‘the Year of Grace’, that is, the next year the king hoped that by God’s Grace he would live to see.
Thank you, Ian Mortimer. I am now a little wiser!