Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plates 2.29-2.35: Three Monuments in Westminster Abbey (Original Explanatory Account)





Read at the SOCIETY of ANTIQUARIES March 12, 1778.




[(Page) 1]

THE removal, in the summer of the year 1775, of the wainscot and tapestry hangings which composed the screens on each side of the area, or second pavement, before the altar, in the collegiate church of St. Peter at Westminster, disclosed the principal front of the shrine and tomb of SEBERT, KING OF THE EAST SAXONS—The monument of AVELINE, COUNTESS OF LANCASTER—and that of THE LADY ANN OF CLEVES:—each of which, for many years past, had been hid from public view, except for a short space of time only, when those screens were occasionally taken down in order to erect the scaffolding, and make other preparations necessary for celebrating the solemnities of coronations.


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[(Page) 2]

Soon after the new foundation of the church of Westminster, by queen Elizabeth, Mr. Camden published his book, written in Latin, and intituled, “Reges, Reginae, Nobiles, et alii in Ecclesia beati Petri Westmonasteriensis sepulti [Kings, Queens, Nobles, and Others Buried in the Church of St. Peter in Westminster]:” wherein the learned author, after a concise narrative of the founding that church, and of its several rebuildings, as also of the alterations made in the establishment thereof down to his own time, gives faithful transcripts of the monumental inscriptions within the abbey and its cloysters, together with a state of the principal unlettered sepulchral monuments; the situation of each of which he points out, and adds a short account of the persons to whose memories they were respectively erected.


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[(Page) 3]

[pub-]lication, which was in the year 1618, there were not set up within that church, any linings or other obstructions whatsoever, whereby a full and distinct view, from the choir, of the several monuments which grace the sides of the presbytery, might in any respect be impeded: for if the sides of the presbytery had been then furnished with any such linings, and the sight of those monuments been thereby prevented, it cannot be doubted but that so remarkable and interesting a circumstance would have been mentioned by that editor, and more especially so as that second edition was undertaken for the purpose of correcting the errors, supplying the omissions, and enlarging the matter in the former, and not because the original edition of the Survey was grown scarce or out of print.


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[(Page) 4]

Soon after the breaking out of the grand rebellion, these tapestries, then justly deemed extremely valuable, were taken down and secured from the outrages of Cromwell’s soldiers, who, encouraged by what was then called parliament, took possession of the Abbey, and made its choir the scene of their riot, drunkenness, and debaucheries. After the restoration and coronation of the Second Charles, these tapestries were brought out again, and hung up in their former places on the sides of the Presbytery, where they remained until the year 1706, when the dean and chapter having obtained from Queen Anne a grant of the present marble altar piece, they were again taken away and replaced by two other pieces which continued till these alterations were made in the choir in the year 1775.


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[(Page) 5]

  1. Gules, 3 Lions passant Guardant Or, a Label of 3 Points Azure, each charged with 3 Fleurs de lis Or—Edmond Crouchback Earl of Lancaster.
  2. Barre of 6 Vair and Gules, impaling Gules 3 Pales Vair. On a chief, a Label of 3 Points, whose Colour is not distinguishable.
  3. Gules, a Bar Argent—for Austria—impaling a Coat quite defaced.
  4. Or, 3 Escutcheons Gules, each charged with a Bars Vair—for Montchensey.
  5. Or, a Manche Gules—for Hastings.
  6. Paly of four, Or and Sable. Impaling Azure, three Cinquefoils Or,—for Bardolph.
  7. A Lion Rampant debruised with a Bendlet.
  8. The same Arms impaling, Gules, 2 pales Vair. On a chief a Label of three Points.


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[(Page) 6]

The pediment or head of the canopy is carried up from the back parts of the cluster of pillars or shafts, placed at each angle of the tomb, and hath in the area of its tympanum a large compartment, formed by three semicircular convex mouldings conjoined at their respective points. These mouldings are richly carved and gilt, and the pannel of the compartment appears to have been adorned with an historical painting, now much defaced (k).


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[(Page) 7]

greatest reason to suppose to be decorated in the same elegant and rich manner as that on the south, became totally hid. The north front of the tomb itself, however continued exposed to open view, until within a few years now past, when bishop Duppa’s monuments being taken down, and removed to another part of the church, the whole north side of Aveline’s monument was entirely shut up behind a very high stone-wall there, which was built as a backing and support to a lofty monumental pile of massy marble, lately erected to the memory of the late lord Ligonier.


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[(Page) 8]

Mr. Sandford, and such of our modern historians as mention this lady, run into one common mistake, by telling us, that she died in the same year in which she was married. The precise time of her decease is not indeed any where specified upon good authority, but that she was living, and came of age in the beginning of the year 1273, is evident from the recitals in the several writs bearing teste the 2d of February, 1 Edward I. (l) directed to the sheriffs of Hampshire, Kent, Roteland, Lincoln, Yorks, Bucks, and Surry, commanding them to give to her, the said Aveline, and to her husband Edmond, full seizin of the several lands and tenements within their respective counties, which William de Fortibus, thentofore earl of Albemarle, and father of the said Aveline held in capite, and which upon his death came to her by right of inheritance.


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[(Page) 9]

[Ed-]ward the First the better to fortify his title to the isle, in the sixth year of his reign, procured a release from John de Aston, who, he says, pretended some right by descent, from the earls of Devon, of all the claim and interest which he had, or which could devolve to him, from either of them (r). Here, however, our great antiquary runs into a most palpable error, and forgetting what he himself had just before told us touching the descent of this John de Aston, actually mistakes a release made by him of his claim to the earldom of Albemarle, and the lands belonging thereto, for a release of his claim and interest in the Isle of Wight, to which Isle he could not have any pretensions whatsoever, as not being allied in blood to the family of Redvers, to whom it belonged.


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[(Page) 10]

WALTERUS COVENTREN. & LICH. EPUS dicit quod Epũs Dunolm̃. mandavit ei, quod statim occurreret ei apud Stokewel, viz. die Lune ante Festum Sancti Martini anno &c. ob quod mandatum idem Walterus ibidem venit eodem die circa horam primam, et ibi ex predcĩ Episcopi Dunolm̃. mandato fecit & scripsit quandam Cartam in quodam Gardino que in se continebat, quod ISABELLA DE FORTIBUS COMITISSA ALBEMARL concessit & reddidit Dño suo Dño Regi Anglie Insulam de Wyght, Manerium de Cristecherche et Manerium de Faukesshalle cum pertinenciis, et quietum clamavit de se et heredibus suis predicts Dño Regi & hereribus suis imperpetuum.


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[(Page) 11]

that little more than the outline of one of them, and some fragments of other paintings on the spandrils of the pyramids, which form the finishing of the pannels, are now visible, so that it is impossible to ascertain who were the several persons that these figures were designed to represent.


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[(Page) 12]

The wainscotting, which forms the front of the canopy on the side adjoining to the south ambulatory, stands close to, and serves as a backing for the recess wherein the chest or altar table is placed on the side facing the presbytery, and is there, as on the opposite side, divided into four pannels or panes, each of them seven feet two inches in height, by two feet eight inches in width.


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[(Page) 13]

a new feretry, as was actually done on the 3d of the ides of October in the year 1163. What were the particular figures which were painted on the fourth pannel, as also on the two others that stood at the head and foot of the shrine, must ever remain unknown, those pannels having long since been destroyed, and replaced by others.


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[(Page) 14]

Ware, being elected abbot of Westminster in the year 1258, went soon after to Rome to be confirmed, and during his abode there, he in all probability became acquainted with the most celebrated artists of that city: for we find him again at Rome in the year 1267, being sent thither by King Henry to procure workmen to ornament the new church of Westminster, the building whereof was then far advanced, and to erect a tomb or Shrine for the body of Edward the Confessor, that which King Henry had caused to be built in the year 1241 not being thought sufficiently elegant.


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[(Page) 15]

The unfinished monument of THE LADY ANNE OF CLEVES, fourth wife of king Henry the Eighth, which is the last of the three sepulchral monuments mentioned in the former part of this memoir, as being hid from public view, stands between the two westernmost of those columns which separate the presbytery from the south transcept of the cross, and is shut up between the screen of carpentry that lines the south side of the area before the altar, and a wall built there in order to support to the backs of the monuments of the Doctors South and Busby;


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Translations of the Longer Passages:

Page 8, lines 54-62: (l) Rot. Claus. 1 Edw. I. m. 10. The King to viscount Sutht. Saltm. Because it has been established to our satisfaction upon demonstrations of proof received in our court that Aveline, wife of our brother Edmund, and heiress of William De Forz, formerly count of Albermale, recently deceased, who held in-chief of us, is of such an age that lands and holdings, which fall to her by hereditary right, ought to be restored to her, we have accepted the fealty of the aforementioned Edmund, husband of the aforesaid Aveline, regarding the aforesaid lands and holdings and we have given back to her those lands and holdings and, therefore, we instruct you to give to the same Edmund and Aveline full possession of the lands and holdings within your bailiwick, which fall to her by hereditary right and which on the occasion of the death of the aforesaid William, father of the same Aveline, were taken into my father’s possession by reason of the minority of the heiress of the aforementioned William. Westm. 2 Feb.

Page 10, lines 1-30: Walter, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, says that the bishop of Durham ordered him to meet him immediately at Stockwell, that is on the Monday before the feast of Martinmas, in the year etc. [9 November 1293], on account of which command the same Walter came there on the same day, at about the first hour, and there, at the command of the aforesaid bishop of Durham, he made and wrote a certain charter, in a certain garden, in which it was contained [lit. which contained in itself] that Isabel de Forz countess of Aumale granted and surrendered to her lord, the lord king of England, the Isle of Wight, and the manor of Christchurch, and the manor of Vauxhall with their appurtenances, and quitclaimed them of herself and her heirs to the aforesaid lord king and his heirs in perpetuity. And he delivered that charter to the aforementioned bishop of Durham, who went with it to the aforementioned countess to seal it, and afterwards he returned the same charter to the same Walter, sealed with the seal of the aforesaid countess. And he says that afterwards, when the aforementioned bishop of Durham returned to the aforesaid countess to take his leave of her, the same Walter, together with the aforementioned bishop, entered the chamber where the aforementioned countess was lying, around the third hour, and heard her speaking with the aforesaid bishop.
Brother William of Gainsborough says that he was the aforesaid countess’ confessor for four years before her death, and that he, at the command of the aforesaid countess, came to a certain manor called Sutton outside Dartford, where the same countess had fallen ill in coming from Canterbury, and thus he was with her continuously there, and at Stockwell, until the death of the same countess. And he says that he was present on the said Monday [9 November 1293] when the aforesaid bishop of Durham came to the countess at Stockwell, and he saw and heard when the aforesaid bishop questioned her on a certain agreement previously made between the lord king and her concerning the Isle of Wight, the manors of Christchurch and Vauxhall, with their appurtenances. And he asked her if she was then of the same mind to give the aforesaid island and manors to the lord king, as had previously been agreed: and she said that she was. Also asked by the same bishop if she wished a charter to be made on this, she said that she did. And then the aforesaid bishop made the aforesaid Walter write the aforesaid charter: and when it had been written, the same bishop returned with it before the same countess, and before the same countess, in the presence of the same Brother William, Gilbert of Knoville, Geoffrey the chaplain, here he says that he believes of Agnes de Mounceaux, a lady-in-waiting of the same countess, and of many others of the household of the same countess, he had that charter read. And he asked the aforesaid countess if she wished that charter, drawn up in that way, to be sealed: and she said that she did. And she ordered the aforesaid Agnes to bring her seal to seal that charter: as was done. After it had been sealed in the presence of the aforesaid, the same countess handed the aforesaid charter to the aforesaid bishop, and freely and entirely of her own will, surrendered seisin of the aforesaid island and manors contained in the aforesaid charter into the hands of the same bishop, in the name of the lord king, and for his benefit, through the gloves of the same bishop, which the same countess held in her hand. And afterwards around the third hour when the same bishop had thus left the same countess rested in this way. And afterwards the same Brother William after the ninth hour asked the aforesaid countess to make her will, and she replied that she was so exhausted, because she had expended so much effort in talking, that she feared that she was greatly weakened and made worse by this: but afterwards the same countess, after the hour of vespers, asked again by the same brother to do the same thing, made her will, and nominated her executors with her fingers, namely the abbot of Quarr, the prior of Brommore, the prior of Christchurch, and Gilbert of Knoville: and exhausted in this way she rested. And afterwards for some time she had Holy Communion given to her by the same Brother William, robed to do this, and during all the aforesaid time she was of good and sound mind, and afterwards between the middle of the night and the dawn she died.