April 11, 2015, by Oliver Thomas
A Puzzle for the Holidays
Helen Lovatt finds a brainteaser for Latinists at Audley End.
Sometimes it can be hard to escape from Classics. My family, for instance, like to visit country houses. What could be more relaxing than a tour of a grand residence, a walk in the park, and a cup of tea in the cafe? But then there will be neo-classical architecture, casts and sculptures, mythological paintings, temples in the park, and even an inscription. The classical world is everywhere.
Take Audley End, for instance, a Jacobean house set in the beautiful Essex countryside near Saffron Walden, with gardens designed by Capability Brown.
We wandered up to the temple of Concord, the focal point for the view at the rear of the house, pictured above.
On the front was a Latin dedication, which drew my attention because quite a few of the letters were missing. It goes like this:
?_ _? G _ O _ _ _ O * T E _ T I O * _ P _ _ M O * R E G I * P A T _ _ _ *
_ _ H_ R L O _ T AE _ R E G _ N AE * _ _ I R _ _ T I B U S * C _ A _ I _ _ M AE
See it for yourself here:
The guide book informs me that it was ‘designed in 1790 by RWE Brettingham to celebrate George III’s return to health after his first attack of “madness”‘. The spaces between the letters are not uniform and some of the word dividers are also missing. Can we work out what it says? I’ll let others make suggestions. Please leave comments below.
The dedication on the rear of the temple is complete:
CONCORDIAE SACRUM – Sacred to Concordia
IOAN GRIFFIN DON HOWARD L J (?) BRAYBROOKE POSUIT – John Griffin donated, and L J Howard, Lord Braybrooke, set it up
M.CC.C – presumably MDCCXC, 1790.
The whole temple:
All images (c) Helen and Andrew Lovatt.
G E O R G I O * T E R T I O * O P T I M O * R E G I * P A T R I * P A T R I AE for the first line.
C H A R L O T T AE R E G I N AE for the start of the second.
Last word is I M AE, isn’t it? Which might suggest G R A T I AE as penultimate.
V I R T U T I B U S to complete? Sorry for all the posts.
The last two words are “virtutibus clarissimae”
I think it’s “Ioan. Griffin don. Howard et Braybrooke posuit” — i.e. one person, John Griffin, fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke; don. = dominus.
Thank you both!
That didn’t take long! I had got most of that but virtutibus makes it all make sense. For those without Latin I think I’m right to translate:
To George the Third, best king and father of the fatherland
and Queen Charlotte most famous for her virtues.
I was looking for something which made reference to the recovery from illness or indeed to the building, both of which were putting me off!