Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Vicar "on the Turf"

“A more sensational Leger ... has never been experienced in the whole history of the race,” the sporting papers declared in September 1874. Apology, the pre-race favourite in Doncaster, had been the subject of the wildest rumours: that she was lame and one or more legs had to be packed in ice the night previous. But, with "all of Lincolnshire" betting on her chances, she cantered to the post with twelve other horses. Three minutes later, charging from behind, Apology triumphed by a length and a half, “amidst a scene of the wildest excitement and enthusiasm.” Having earlier won the 1000 Guineas in May, the Coronation Stakes in June, and now adding the St. Leger, Apology became only the third filly to sweep the triple-crown for three-year olds. 

It was a signal achievement for Apology's owner, a mysterious "Mr. Launde." The attendant publicity, however, soon revealed that the champion horse was owned by the Rev. John William King, longtime vicar of St. Hybald's, Ashby-de-la-Launde. That a clergyman would be "on the turf" excited some comment and public debate to the point that the Bishop of Lincoln felt the need to administer a "smart rap with his episcopal crook." He publicly scolded the Rev. King for "bringing discredit on your sacred profession ... training racehorses for the turf, instead of devoting yourself entirely to the work to which you pledged yourself at your ordination." As for the sporting parson, the Rev. King was 82 and in extremely poor health (although tended to devotedly by his new wife in her late 20's!) He still took offense at the reprimand, demanding to know "what was so scandalous about improving the horses of this country?" King announced that he would be resigning all his church livings, "not under compulsion, but simply because I desire to live out the remainder of my days in peace.” 

The Rev. King died within the year and left his stables and Ashby Hall, a mansion well-stocked with the finest wines, to his youthful widow. 

Volume two of Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series is now in preparation. Volume 1 is still available in E-book form at and Thank you.
Illustration: Apology (wikipedia)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are always welcome. I am keen to learn more, make corrections, or discuss. Thanks for visiting.