Tuesday, December 31, 2013

King of Angels or King of the English? Adeste Fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful

Because I sent a contribution to the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst in England, they sent me a Christmas card, signed by Lord and Lady Windsor, Nicholas and Paola. The art for the outside of the Christmas card is one of the manuscript copies of John Francis Wade's "Adeste, Fideles". My husband took the pictures below:


The most familiar translation of this hymn, which was written by Wade in 1750, is by Frederick Oakeley, an Oxford Movement follower of Blessed John Henry Newman, who joined the Catholic Church in 1845.

There is a very common theory that this hymn contains a code referring to Bonnie Prince Charlie--Wade was a Jacobite, and an exile in Europe after the '45. The BBC cites this expert, Bennett Zon of Durham University:

He said "clear references" to the prince were in the lyrics, written by John Francis Wade in the 18th Century. The prince was defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 after raising an army to take the British throne.Born shortly before Christmas in December 1720, Bonnie Prince Charlie was the grandson of England's last Catholic monarch, James II. He was born in exile in Italy and became the focus for Catholic Jacobite rebels intent on restoring the House of Stuart to the British throne.

Prof Zon, said there was "far more" to the carol - also known as Adeste Fideles - than was originally thought.
He said: "Fideles is Faithful Catholic Jacobites. Bethlehem is a common Jacobite cipher for England, and Regem Angelorum is a well-known pun on Angelorum, angels and Anglorum, English.
"The meaning of the Christmas carol is clear: 'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels' really means, 'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of the English' - Bonnie Prince Charlie." Professor Zon said the Jacobite meaning of the carol gradually faded as the cause lost its grip on popular consciousness.

This interpretation has been around for a long time, however, according to this site. I can accept the possible code in the first verse, but wonder about the rest of the hymn. Did John Francis Wade really intend his fellow Jacobites to think of Bonnie Prince Charlie as "Deum de Deo" (God from God), "Lumen de Lumine" (Light from Light)? I have my doubts about that! Canon Oakeley's translation:

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels;

Chorus:O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light;
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin's womb:
Very God,
Begotten, not created; Chorus.

Sing, choirs of angels;
Sking in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God
In the highest; Chorus.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning:
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Late in flesh appearing; Chorus.


  1. If this were true it would be blasphemous. It is surely a scholar's fantasy.

    1. I agree, Patricius--the "code" doesn't hold up past the first verse!