January 9 was the death day in 1873 of Napoleon III, soi-disant Emperor of the French and father of the Suez Canal. HIM may seem to have little to do with the patrimony – and that is true. However, after the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War and his abdication, the Imperial family went into exile in Great Britain. Six years after his father’s death, the Prince Imperial met his end fighting for Great Britain against the Zulus. The following year, his distraught mother, the Empress Eugenie, began the building of St. Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, Kent, as both a Monastery and the Imperial Mausoleum.
In 1895, anti-clerical laws drove the monks of Solesmes Abbey into exile. The Empress gave them and their prior, Dom Fernand Cabrol (worthy successor of Dom Prosper Gueranger as head both of Solesmes, the Liturgical Movement, and the revival of Gregorian Chant) the abbey as their home. Monsignor Ronald Knox, a key figure in the Catholic Literary Revival between the wars, was received into the Church here. In 1947, Farnborough was transferred from the French Benedictine Congregation to the jurisdiction of Prinknash Abbey. That community had been founded as an Anglican foundation by the redoubtable Dom Aelred Carlisle in 1895, and led by him into the Catholic Church in 1913 (the second such move in the world, after the Graymoor friars and sisters). Farnborough retains an excellent liturgical life, is home to Britain’s National Shrine of St. Joseph, and continues to protect the tombs and pray for the souls of the Imperial Family. Napoleon III may not have been a major contributor to the patrimony, but he is certainly responsible for this particular pleasant corner of it.