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Almoner

poor, lord, kings, king, alms, office and grand

ALMONER, once written Aumner and Amner, was an officer in a king's, prince's, prelate's, or other great man's household, whose business it was to dis tribute alms to the poor. Previous to the dissolution every great monastery in England had its almoner. The almoner of the king of France was styled his grand aumonier, and we find a similar officer at a very early period attached to the household of the popes. The word almoner is a corruption of eleemosyna rius, a word which is formed from the Greek eleemosjjne (Aenaoaimn). The word almonarius is a corruption of elee mosynarius.

Fleta,' a law treatise of the time of Edward I., describes the duties of the high almoner as they then stood in Eng land (ii. c. 23). He had to collect the fragments of the royal table, and distribute them daily to the poor ; to visit the sick, poor widows, prisoners, and other per sons in distress ; he reminded the king about the bestowal of his alms, especially on saints'-days, and was careful that the cast-off robes, which were often of high price, should not be bestowed on players, minstrels, or flatterers, but their value given to increase the king's charity.

In modern times the office of lord high almoner has been long held by the arch bishops of York. There is also a sub almoner, an office which is at present filled by the dean of Chester. The he reditary grand almoner is the Marquis of Exeter. There is an office appro priated to the business of the almonry in Middle Scotland Yard, Whitehall. Chem berlayne, in the Present State of Great Britain,' octavo, London, 1755, gives an account of the lord almoner's office as it then stood. " The lord almoner disposes of the king's alms, and for that use re ceives (besides other monies allowed by the king) all deodands and bona felonum de se to be that way disposed. Moreover, the lord almoner hath the privilege to give the king's dish to whatsoever poor men he pleases ; that is, the first dish at dinner which is set upon the king's table, or instead thereof 4d. per diem. Next he distributes to twenty-four poor men, no minated by the parishioners of the parish adjacent to the king's palace of residence, to each of them 4d. in money, a twopenny loaf, and a gallon of beer, or, instead thereof, 3d. in money, to be equally divided among them every morning at seven of the clock at the court-gate ; and every poor man, before he receives the alms, to repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer in the presence of one of the king's chaplains, deputed by the lord almoner to be his sub-almoner; who is also to scatter new-coined twopences in the towns and places where the king passeth through in his progress, to a cer tain sum by the year. Besides there are

many poor pensioners to the king and queen below stairs, that is, such as are pat to pension, either because they are so old that they are unfit for service, or else the widows of such of his majesty's house hold servants that died poor, and were not able to provide for their wives and children in their lifetimes : every one of these bath a competency duly paid them. Under the lord high almoner there are a sub-almoner, a yeoman, and two grooms of the almonry." The lord almoner's annual distribution is now made in the queen's name, on the Thursday before Easter, called Maundy Thursday.

There is at Cambridge the lord al moner's professorship of Arabic, founded in 1770. The professor is appointed by the lord almoner, and is paid out of the almonry funds.

The grand almoner of the king of France was once the highest ecclesiastical dignitary in that kingdom. To him be longed the distribution of the royal bounty to the poor, the superintendence of all houses in the kingdom for the re ception of poor foreigners, and houses of lepers ; the king received the sacrament from his hand ; and he said mass before the king in all great ceremonies and solemnities. At the establishment of the imperial household in 1804, Napoleon restored the office of grand almoner of France in the person of Cardinal Fesch : and the office was continued till the exile of Charles X.

Ducange, in his Glossary (' Eleemo syuariP), gives other meanings of the word almoner. It was sometimes used for those who distributed the pious be quests of others ; sometimes for a person who by testament left alms to the poor; and sometimes for the poor upon whom the alms were bestowed. The elemnosy narii regis, or persons who were sup ported by the king's bounty, occasionally noticed in the Domesday Survey, were of this last description. Almoner is a name also given in ecclesiastical writers to the deacons of churches.