I didn’t expect to find anything like this. Apparently, William Longespee was at the center of fortuitous omens involving candles.
This site relates an incident involving William’s shipwreck on Isle de Re in 1226.
The passage it quotes is attributed to “Dugdale,” though I am unfamiliar with the source, but it is a fascinating story:
“There arose so great a tempest at sea that, despairing of life, he threw his money and rich apparel overboard. But when all hopes were passed, they discerned a mighty taper of wax burning bright at the prow of the ship and a beautiful woman standing by it who preserved it from wind and rain so that it gave a clear and bright lustre. Upon sight of which heavenly vision both himself and the mariners concluded of their future security, but everyone there being ignorant what this vision might portend except the earl, he, however, attributed it to the benignity of the blessed virgin by reason that, upon the day when he was honoured with the girdle of knighthood, he brought a taper to her altar to be lighted ever day at mass when the canonical hours used to be sung, and to the intent that, for this terrestrial light, he might enjoy that which is eternal.”
Longespee survived the storm and spent several months thereafter at a monastery. I had initially thought it was only a few days, or long enough to charter a ship, but this does give some weight to my memory of aspiring to join a monastery in that life.
But his luck ran out shortly after his return to England. Already ill, and possibly poisoned by Hubert de Burgh, he died in March 1226. But here’s where the story gets really interesting.
Apparently, according to this page, during his funeral procession, the candles of mourners burned on in spite of the wind and rain. It was taken as a sign that William had died in grace.
But maybe it meant something else. Perhaps the candle burned on in more ways than one.
Around the time I was born in 1984, the Olympic torch- another flame guarded from dying out- passed my family’s trailer in Oklahoma City. This might mean nothing or it might mean everything.