Photo (above): Daylight over England.
The Order of Saint Augustine (sometimes known as the Austin Friars in England) came to Britain over 750 years ago. This was in 1249, brought about by Tuscan hermits called Gianboniti who were involved in the Grand Union that began the present Order of St Augustine only seven years later.
In 1248 Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was the most powerful baron in England at that time. He invited the Tuscan hermits of the Little Union of 1244 to expand from France to his land at Suffolk, England.
Richard was one of the most experienced and most travelled diplomats in England in his day, and was a contact in diplomatic circles with the Cardinal Protector of the Tuscan hermits since 1244, Richard Annibaldi. And so, through the negotiations of these two powerful figures, Clare Priory, Suffolk began.
The arrival from France of members of the Tuscan hermits (probably Frenchmen) was welcomed by the English monarch, King Henry III, who on 3rd September 1249 wrote that he intended that "they shall stay in this land and that good be done to them by everyone."
The newcomers may have been attracted to accept an invitation to England because the eremitical (hermit) tradition was exceptionally strong there. And Henry III was known to have been favourably disposed towards the earlier mendicant orders; the Dominicans had come to England in 1221, the Franciscans in 1224, the Carmelites about the year 1240, and the Sack Friars before 1257. By 1300 there would be about 150 communities of various mendicant friars in England.
Regarding the arrival of the Augustinians, much was also due to the influence of the Cardinal Protector of the newcomers, Cardinal Richard Annibaldi; his powerful position in the Roman Curia had the attention of King Henry III.
Henry had in December 1243 enlisted the aid of Annibaldi in successfully seeking the position of Archbishop of Canterbury for his uncle, Boniface of Savoy. In return, Annibaldi received financial favours from the king (a pledge of thirty marks per year for life, but which soon fell in arrears), and benefices for some of his family members.
Henry was in contact with Annibaldi again in 1252 when approached by Annibaldi in his ambitious plan to have neither an Italian nor a German become the next King of Sicily.
He sought Henry III's brother, Richard of Cornwall, who refused. Henry III accepted the position for his son Edmund - then a mere child.
(Continued on the next page.)