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Luck of Edenhall


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In the Victoria and Albert Museum is a delicate painted and gilded glass beaker, made in Syria in the middle of the 13th century. How and when it reached England is unknown, but some verses of 1729 mention it by name, and indicate it was a cherished heirloom of the Musgraves of Edenhall in Cumbria. Its leather case is inscribed with IHS, a Catholics monogram for Iesus Hominum Salvator (‘Jesus, Saviour of Humanity’), probably implying that it was once used as a chalice.

Later, in 1791, an article in The Gentleman's Magazine gave the legend of its origins:Tradition … says, that a party of Fairies were drinking and making merry round a well near the Hall, called St Cuthbert's well; but, being interrupted by the intrusion of some curious people, they were frightened, and made a hasty retreat, and left the cup in question; one of the last screaming out:If this cup should break or fall.Farewell the Luck of Edenhall!

Tradition … says, that a party of Fairies were drinking and making merry round a well near the Hall, called St Cuthbert's well; but, being interrupted by the intrusion of some curious people, they were frightened, and made a hasty retreat, and left the cup in question; one of the last screaming out:

This story follows the pattern of a migratory legend about how a precious cup or drinking horn was stolen from fairies and then given to a church, or to a great lord (see Willy Howe). If the Luck of Edenhall was indeed a Catholic chalice, this would be a perfect cover story to explain the politically risky act of keeping it.

Two other families in Cumbria keep heirlooms called ‘Lucks’: a glass bowl at Muncaster, said to have been given by the saintly Henry VI; a brass dish at Burrel Green with a Catholic Latin inscription, allegedly given by a fairy or a witch.


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