During the next few years a great deal of the cardinal’s time and attention was taken up by a controversy which arose out of the movement in favour of corporate reunion associated with the name of Lord Halifax. Representing a small fraction of the Anglican body, Lord Halifax and his friends, warmly encouraged by certain French ecclesiastics, thought the way to reconciliation would be made easier if what they called “a point of contact” could be found which might serve to bring the parties together. It was thought, for instance, that a consideration of the question of Anglican Orders might lead to discussion and then to friendly explanations on both sides. If an understanding could be arrived at in regard to the validity of the orders of the English Church, other conferences might be arranged dealing with more difficult points. The cardinal felt that the subject chosen for discussion was unhappily selected.  The validity of Anglican Orders was mainly a question of fact, and was not one which admitted of any sort of compromise. However, he was quite willing that all the facts of the case should be investigated anew—all he insisted on was that the investigation should be as thorough as possible and made by a body of historical experts. 

A strong commission was appointed consisting of Father de Augustinis, S.J., M. l’Abbe Duchesne, Mgr. Gasparri, Abbot Gasquet, O.S.B., Rev. David Fleming, O.S.F., Canon Moyes, Rev. Dr. T. Scannell, and Rev. Jose de Llevaneras. The commission held its first conference on 24 March, 1896. When after a series of meetings the process of investigation was finished, the collected evidence was laid before the cardinals of the Holy Office, who delivered judgment on 16 July, 1896, and declared the orders of the Anglican Church to be certainly null and void. This decision was confirmed by the Bull, “Apostolicae Sedis”, published on the thirteenth of the following September.

Westminster Cathedral

When the Cardinal came to Westminster he came resolved to build a great cathedral. Both Wiseman and Manning had agreed on the necessity of a metropolitan Cathedral to complete the restoration of the Hierarchy but it was left to Vaughan to build it. His predecessor had secured a site, but the site was mortgaged for 20,000, and there was no money for building. Few men ever collected more money than Cardinal Vaughan, though to him it was always “hateful work”. In July, 1894, he made his first public appeal for the cathedral. On 29 June of the following year the foundation stone was laid and the cardinal had 75,000 in the bank. It was a cathedral of no mean proportions that he meant to build. The design of John Francis Bentley combined the idea of a Roman basilica with the constructive improvements introduced by the Byzantine architects. A little later the sale of a city church which the shifting of the population had made superfluous enabled the cardinal, after setting aside 20,000 for a new church, to add 48,000 to the credit of the cathedral building fund. In June, 1902, he made his last appeal. He asked for another 16,000, and it came. The cathedral was opened for public worship a year later, and Cardinal Vaughan was there before the high altar in his coffin.

The Last Days

During he last years of his life Cardinal Vaughan suffered from almost continuous ill-health. He laboured strenuously to the last, especially in the cause of the denominational schools. He had fought their fight for a quarter of a century and had the satisfaction of seeing the great Act of 1902 safely on the statute books.

In the summer of 1902, the strain on his heart demanded complete rest.  His doctor ordered him to a health spa abroad, and no better when he returned, he sought hospitality from his friends, Lord and Lady Talbot, at Derwent Hall until December 1902. Through the winter, he busied himself with diocesan affairs and grew steadily weaker. On the Feast of St. Joseph, Cardinal Vaughan was anointed at Archbishop’s House as Mass was being celebrated for the first time in the Cathedral’s Lady Chapel. After that, he left Archbishop’s House forever. St. Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, had been his first love and it was his last; he went there to die and he chose it for his place of burial. He lingered on until 19 June, when the end came a few hours after he had made his public profession of faith in the presence of the Westminster Chapter. He died in his room in the presence of Fr. Christian van den Biesen, one of his Mill Hill missionaries and his nurses, Mr. Young and Mr. Keating. When the body was laid out for burial an iron circlet was found driven into the flesh of the left arm.

In the morning of Saturday, 20 June 1903, the body of the Founder was laid in the chapel of St. Joseph’s College where it was to remain until taken to his cathedral on the Sunday evening.  The Cardinal had instructed his executors that his funeral was to be held there without expensive hangings.  His body was to be laid in a cheap coffin and taken to Mill Hill in a hearse pulled by only two horses.  There were to be no floral tributes.

Out of respect for King Edward VII, whose birthday was to be celebrated on Friday, 26 June, the vigil was shortened by a day, and the solemn requiem was announced for Thursday 25 June.  It was the first solemn religious ceremony held in the cathedral.  It was celebrated by Vaughan’s auxiliary, Bishop Stanley and the Irish Cardinal, Logue gave the final absolution.  Early next morning the funeral procession began its two hour journey to Mill Hill where it was met by the community of St. Joseph’s College and representative of the Diocese of Salford.  Fr. Henry, the Rector of the college, celebrated the Requiem after which the students carried the body of the Founder to ‘Calvary’ where some neighbours and schoolchildren were waiting with Louis Casartelli, future bishop of Salford, the Duchess of Newcastle and Vaughan’s good friends, the Talbots.

In accordance with the Cardinal’s wishes, his tomb was inscribed with the title:
Servulus Perpetuus, Gloriosae et Beatae Mariae Virginis et Sancti Jospehi (Forever the Poor Little Slave of the Glorious and Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph). Vaughan’s remains were interred in Westminster Cathedral in a private ceremony on 14 March 2005.  On 29 April, solemn Vespers were conducted to commemorate the event. Cardinal Vaughan was a man of strong vitality, and his energies were devoted, with rare singleness of purpose, to one end—the salvation of souls. He loved directness in thought and speech, and had little taste for speculation or analysis. He knew how to win and to hold the allegiance of men, and the touching extracts from his intimate diary which were published after his death showed him to have been a man of exceptional and unsuspected humility.


Jubilee Conference by Fr Robert O’Neil mhm, biogrpaher of Cardinal Herbert Vaughan.

« Part 9 – Reducing the financial debt