Anthony Bartlett, who has died aged 87, was the last man in the world to hold the antiquated and decorative position of Gentiluomo, as Gentleman at Arms to the Cardinal Archbishops of Westminster.
Bartlett's upright figure, in 18th-century court dress, with black breeches, buckled shoes, ruffles at neck and wrists, a sword at his side, stood out on formal occasions. He was one of the small group admitted to the very graveside of Cardinal Hume when he was laid to rest in St Gregory's chapel at Westminster Cathedral in 1999. In the funeral procession Bartlett carried a cushion on which lay the decorations of the cardinal he had served for 23 years.
In the same way, after taking on the role of Gentiluomo from his father, Bartlett had walked in procession behind Cardinal Hume's four predecessors: cardinals Hinsley (1935-43), Griffin (1943-56), Godfrey (1956-63) and Heenan (1963-75).
There was a renaissance flavour to the post. At High Mass on Easter Sunday the cardinal's private chaplain would stand by the episcopal cathedra or throne, the Gentiluomo beside him, hand in sword lest an attempt be made on the cardinal's life.
In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council put an end to much colourful ceremonial. Out went the Pope's sedia gestatoria (the chair in which he was carried about at shoulder height), the flabella (vast ostrich feather fans waved about him); with them went the cardinal's tasselled hat, long train – and his Gentiluomo. But in 1968, enthused by the need to give a grand welcome to Dr Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on his historic visit to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the authorities decided that the post of Gentiluomo in England should be kept in being, for the lifetime of its holder.
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