The Grace Cup
IN ANCIENT times it was usual at festive gatherings for those present to take it in turn to drink from a large cup. He who thus drank stood up, and as he lifted the cup with both hands, his body was exposed without any defence to a blow – especially from behind.
The occasion was sometimes seized by an enemy to stab the drinker in the back, and to prevent such foul play it became the custom for one of the company to stand as a pledge or surety that the one who was drinking should come to no harm.
Nowadays such procedure is unnecessary, but the custom of pledging is obviously the forerunner of the various ceremonials in connection with the Loving Cup, which, although they have fallen out of general use, are still retained at certain gatherings where traditions are cherished.
The Loving Cup which was used at civic functions in Bristol was given to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, but has always been in the custody of the Corporation. It is known as the Grace Cup, and was presented to the hospital at the request of Mr William Byrde, whose father bearing the same name, was Mayor of Bristol in 1589.
Mr Byrde, the elder, was a generous benefactor to QEH and purchased from the Corporation the Mansion House and orchard of the dissolved Hospital of the Gaunts for the school.
Mr Byrde, the younger, on his deathbed, regretting he had not “remembered” the hospital in his will, requested his wife to present to it, after his decease, a piece of plate as a token of his affection. The plate, presented in 1599, was the silver-gilt Grace Cup and cover, fifteen and a quarter inches high and weighing thirty ounces. It is surmounted by a female figure holding a shield of the donor’s arms. The bowl and cover are engraved all over with scroll-work and foliage, and round the lip is the inscription: Ex dono Willmi Byrde filii Willmi Byrde generosi istivs domus precipue benefactoris 1597. (Which translates as “The gift of William Byrde, son of William Byrde, a particularly generous benefactor of this house.”)
The Bristol Post, December 30, 2014 – read more at: