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Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
The Calendar ‘English Style’ (1) : An English monk warned of a flaw in the world’s most widely-used calendar.
The Calendar ‘English Style’
Part one

Until 1752, the British Isles used the Julian Calendar brought here by the Romans in the first century AD. It had its problems, as its vocal champion St Bede recognised, but when a solution finally came out of Rome, the Reformation was in full swing and the English were in no mood to comply.

AT the close of the tenth century, peoples from the eastern borders of the Roman Empire to newly-Christian Russia and even Britain shared one calendar, the Julian, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC. And thanks in no small degree to eighth-century Northumbrian monk Bede and his best-seller ‘On the Reckoning of Time’, they also shared one Easter, looking up the first full moon of Spring in tables devised in fourth-century Alexandria, and taking March 21st as a convenient first day of Spring.*

However, Bede himself noted that the Julian civil calendar had a flaw, and was increasingly out of step with the heavens. In his time, the discrepancy was three days; by the sixteenth century the drift had reached ten, and the tables for predicting the Paschal full moons required some tidying up too.* Eventually Pope Gregory XIII responded by rolling out a new calendar in 1582, the Gregorian, undoubtedly more accurate, but bitterly controversial, not least in England.

* For the background, see our post Bede and the Paschal Controversy.

* By 1752, when England introduced the modern Gregorian calendar, the difference was eleven days, and since 1900 it has increased to thirteen.

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Picture: Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image. View original
A page for November from the calendar in the Book of Common Prayer (edition of 1614). The calendar and its rules for finding the date of Easter all assumed the Julian calendar used as the civil calendar of Europe from 45 BC to 1582, and in England until 1752.
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By Thomas Babington Macaulay
(1800-1859)

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