Foundation Stone

No-one, since college histories began to be written, has actually seen the foundation stone of Queens’ College.

Nevertheless, written histories do have accounts of the foundation stone. According to an ancient manuscript history of the college [QC Archives Misc A], possibly written in the 1470s, the foundation stone was laid by Sir John Wenlock (chamberlain to the foundress Queen Margaret) on 1448 April 15th, at the south-east corner of the chapel, and the inscription on the stone was:

“Erit Domine nostre regine Margarete Dominium in refugium et lapis iste in signum”

together with the date. Searle  [1867 p. 44] suggested that this meant “The power of our Lady queen Margaret shall be our refuge and this stone (laid in her name) the sign of her protection”. However, in the history written by John Caius (not a particularly reliable historian) the inscription is quoted [1574 p. 70] as:

“Erit dominæ nostræ Reginæ Margaretæ dominus in refugium & lapis iste in signum”

which Fuller suggested [1655 p. 80] meant “The Lord shall be for a refuge to the Lady Margaret, and this stone for a signe”. Every subsequent historian uncritically followed the latin text of Caius, and the suggested translation of Fuller, until Searle transcribed the original 1470s manuscript.

The quoted date 1448 April 15th is also the known date of Queen Margaret’s charter for the foundation of the college, which seems a rather remarkable coincidence. Another possibility might be that the compiler of the 1470s history adopted the charter date (for which there was documentary evidence) as a convenient proxy for the date of laying of the foundation stone.

References and Further Reading

1574: Historiæ Cantebrigiensis Academiæ ab urbe condita, by John Caius, Liber primus, p. 70;
1912: Edition within The Works of John Caius, M.D. by Ernest Stewart Roberts, p. 56.

1655: The History of the University of Cambridge, by Thomas Fuller, Section V, ¶32, p. 80; (OCLC 752917426)
1655: often bound with The church-history of Britain; (OCLC 13589226)
1840: Edition by James Nichols, p. 120; (OCLC 6928511)
1840: Edition by Marmaduke Prickett and Thomas Wright, p. 162. (OCLC 1977548)

1867: The History of the Queens’ College of St Margaret and St Bernard in the University of Cambridge, by William George Searle, Volume 1, 1446–​1560, Cambridge Antiquarian Society Octavo Publications No IX, pp. 44–​8. (OCLC 3279381)

1899: The Queens’ College of St Margaret and St Bernard in the University of Cambridge, by Joseph Henry Gray, pp. 17–​18; (OCLC 8568413)
1926: New edition, updated, p. 16. (OCLC 79562186)