2011 marks the centenary of the institution of The Memorial of Merit. In 1910 Captain Henry Stuart Wheatly-Crowe, desiring a church honours system for the Anglican Communion, submitted the Statutes and Constitution of the Memorial to Archbishop Randall Davidson, the 96th Archbishop of Canterbury. Having received approval from the Archbishop, the Statutes and Constitution of the Memorial were set before HM King Edward VII. With the King’s approbation the Memorial was instituted the following year.
The Constitution and Statutes of 1911 direct that the Memorial is “to be offered as a token of regard and honour to members of the Church of England, and the churches in communion therewith, who have served the church in some especial way”.
Fifty-four years later the Archbishop of Canterbury began a similar system with the awarding of the Cross of Saint Augustine. Thus the Memorial of Merit and the Cross of St Augustine are the only two awards of recognition within the Anglican Communion. The chief difference is that, although the Memorial of Merit is significantly older than and served as the template for the Cross of Saint Augustine, it is a private foundation which does not pretend to share the prestige or scope of the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As you would expect from its dedication to King Charles the Martyr, the founding members of the Memorial were all of a High Church persuasion. Their deeply held belief was that, in the end, Charles the 1st died because of his faith in the Catholic nature of Anglicanism and its apostolic episcopacy. Thus he was deemed the obvious Patron for a foundation which seeks to uphold these same ideals.
During the last hundred years the Memorial has counted some of the most distinguished High Church Anglicans of their age amongst its Companions:
3. The 1st Earl of Halifax who amongst his other achievements was Viceroy and Governor General of India, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and British Ambassador to the United States.
Other prominent members included:
1. the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Steward of the Household, Chamberlain to HM Queen Mary, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, County Antrim & Dorset, & Lord Mayor of Belfast;
3. The Venerable Edward Barber, Archdeacon of Chester;
6. the 8th Duke of Northumberland, Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland & Chancellor of the University of Durham;
8. The Rev’d Canon David John Garland, Archdeacon of North Queensland & Founder of Anzac Day;
13. The 13th Duke of Hamilton & 10th Duke of Brandon
16. Sir Donald Walter Cameron of Lochiel, Bt., Chief of Clan Cameron, Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire;
18. and Athelstan Riley, Esq, Author of A Guide to the Divine Liturgy in the East: & After the Tractarians and the hymn ‘Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones’.