Hair today, gone tomorrow (4) – A prodigal lock of hair….


Lock of hair belonging to Isabel Despenser, Countess of Warwick – now at Tewkesbury Museum

Years ago, not quite before the Flood, although it feels like it now, I went to Tewkesbury Abbey with my husband and we saw a flat glass display cabinet containing a number of ancient locks of hair. I was writing a book called “Wife to the Kingmaker” at the time, so I was particularly interested.

Later the display cabinet and its contents disappeared. I asked where it was, and no one seemed to know much. So I pursued it in more depth, with emails and general pestering. But those intriguing locks of hair appeared to have vanished. I was both dismayed and appalled to think such precious things might have been thrown out, or at the very least misfiled in the bowels of the abbey.

In the end I gave up, because I was going around in ever-decreasing circles. All I could say for certain was that those locks of hair had definitely been there, back in the 1970s.

Now, thanks to a post by a Facebook friend, who found this article first, I learn that at least one of of the errant locks has reappeared. It belongs to Isabel, Countess of Warwick, grandmother of Anne Neville. Isabel’s first husband, Richard Beauchamp, 1st Earl of Worcester, was buried today, 25th April, 1422.

Her second husband was the first’s first cousin, also named Richard Beauchamp, but this time the 13th Earl of Warwick. Their daughter, Anne Beauchamp, became (on the death of her only brother) the 15th Countess of Warwick. She married Richard Neville, who, in her right, became 16th Earl of Warwick and is known to posterity as the Kingmaker. He and Anne had two daughters, Isabel and Anne Neville, whose place in Yorkist history is so very well known to us. The 13th Earl of Warwick’s magnificent tomb can be seen in the Beauchamp Chapel. (for many illustrations see here)

Where the other missing locks of hair from Tewkesbury Abbey might be I don’t know, nor can I even remember to whom they belonged. Unfortunately they were simply trimmed and therefore cannot be used for DNA because they lack follicles.

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