Two miles from Edenbridge in Kent lies the small but attractive castle of Hever. Originally built in 1270, it was taken over 1462 by Geoffrey Bullen (or Boleyn) younger brother of Thomas Boleyn , Master of Gonville Hall, a constituent college of Cambridge. Geoffrey had a son called William and he in turn fathered Thomas Boleyn, who was probably born at Hever.
Thomas inherited the castle in 1505 and lived there with his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk and his wife, Elizabeth Tilney (making her the granddaughter of John Howard who fought for Richard III at Bosworth.) At Hever, Thomas and Elizabeth had five children, two daughters, Mary and Anne, and three sons, Thomas, Henry and George, although two sons died young, and the last was eventually executed by Henry VIII.
Thomas is sometimes seen a ruthless social climber willing to do anything to further his ambitions through his daughters (and so he might have been), but he was also quite a notable person before his daughter Anne became involved with Henry VIII. He had escorted Mary Tudor to her wedding to James IV of Scotland and was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII’s Coronation, long before Anne and Henry’s relationship. He also became Sheriff of Kent twice and served as an occasional foreign ambassador. He was made Lord Privy Seal during Henry’s marriage to Anne, but upon her fall and execution, this position was stripped from him, and he died in disgrace in 1538.
He was buried in St Peter’s church in Hever, in a Purbeck marble chest tomb which has upon it one of the finest Tudor era brasses in existence. On the brass, still bright and unworn, Thomas wears his Garter robes and regalia, and a falcon, crest of the Boleyn family, is carved above his right shoulder. Near his tomb is the grave of one of his sons, Henry, who died in infancy—a humble brass cross on the floor marks the spot. Both lie in the Boleyn chantry, near an unusual feature for any church—a fireplace—which was added in sometime during the Tudor period.
(The church also contains another beautiful medieval brass well worth viewing, that of Margaret Cheyne, who died in 1419. It shows great detail of Margaret’s dress and headgear, and two winged angels hover at her shoulders.)
It is worth noting that the pleasant old inn across the road from St Peters, now called The Henry VIII, was originally called The Bull, a play on the name Bullen/Boleyn. Later, local folklore says, it was changed to ‘The Bull and the Butcher’ in reference to Henry’s execution of Anne.
An interesting view on Thomas Boleyn, whose character has been increasing damned in fiction and TV/Film: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/in-defence-of-thomas-boleyn-father-of-anne-boleyn/
We do know that Edmund Bonner , born in Worcestershire in about 1500, died in the Marshalsea Prison, today in 1569 and was buried secretly in St. George’s, Southwark. Rather like the head of Cardinal Morton, however, we cannot be certain that he remains there. As Bishop of London under Mary I, he (along with Cardinal Pole and Bishop Gardiner) had been significantly responsible for applying her policy of de heretico comburendo. London, the south-east and East Anglia had seen most of the persecution .
Not surprisingly, he was unpopular with her successor, being deprived and imprisoned later. Our old friend Strype, in his Ecclesiastica Memoria, actually suggests that Bonner’s father was actually Rev. George Savage of Cheshire. Illegitimacy, if known, could have made Edmund ineligble for ordination. Having lived occasionally in Copford, Essex, it is rumoured that he was reburied here, particularly as a suitable , named, coffin was found there in 1809. He seems to have added his name to the lexicon of a county further north, with a new name for a ladybird.
On Friday 13th June 1483 Cardinal Morton, along with others, was arrested at the Tower of London. It is well documented the role Morton played in the downfall of Richard lll. Morton was Richard’s arch enemy and his deviousness, cunning and powers of manipulation being well known, there is no need to go into them here in detail, only to recap briefly on his enforced stay at Brecknock castle where he latched on to the flawed Buckingham’s shallow and vainglorious character (what were you thinking of Richard?!) inveigling him to rebel and desert Richard, a result of the ensuing rebellion being that Buckingham was swiftly defeated, captured and ignominiously executed, while he, Morton, legged it to the Fens and his ‘see of Ely, where he found both money and friends’ (1) It should be noted that Margaret Beaufort’s estate at Collyweston was but a short distance of 40 miles from Ely. Morton then ‘sailed into Flanders, where he remained, doing good service to the the Earl of Richmond until the scheme at Brecknock had been realised and the Earl had become king of England’ (2 ). As Bishop of Ely Morton would have been very conscious of the sanctity of the Coronation ceremony but this did in no way deter him from playing a prominent role in the betrayal of King Richard. How he came to terms with his treachery is difficult to understand, and is of course something we will never know, but manage he did somehow and the rest is history.
His achievements are likewise well known and numerous, including “Tudor” promoting him to the see of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor in 1487, eventually prevailing on the Pope to make him a cardinal , the conceiving of the infamous Morton’s Fork – although to be fair some attribute this to Bishop Fox (3) – and his patronage of the young Thomas More who served in his household as a page. Morton was without doubt an enormous influence in poisoning the young More against Richard. More later went on to write his ‘History’ which has proven to be extremely damaging to Richard’s memory as it is oft quoted by ‘historians’ who should know better. It is believed by some that it was in fact Morton who was the original author including the late Professor A F Pollard who opined Morton wrote a latin version which More translated later into English (4).
It is easy to imagine, as he lay dying, after achieving what was a good age in those harsh times, that Morton felt rather pleased with himself for had he not been instrumental in achieving practically the impossible?..the slaughter of a rightful king and replacing him with someone with very tenuous claims to the throne. He had already made elaborate plans for where he wanted to be buried.in the Chapel of our Lady in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral beneath the pavement of the western bay.
‘He had chosen the spot himself as a quiet and retired one, “non in tumultu sed in secreto subterraneoque loco in criptis nuncupato, lapide duntaxat coopertus marmoreo coran Imagine Beatissime Virgin Marie, quam ex intimo diligebat sepulture locum elegit ubi ipsius corpus felicissimum jam quiescit” ‘ (5)
Which translates as he had chosen for his burial ‘not an ostentatious place but rather a secret one with a simple marble cover before an image of the most blessed Virgin Mary., whom he held in very high esteem and where his most fortunate body might rest in peace’
A splendid altar tomb/cenotaph was built nearby which incorporated Morton’s rebus of a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun), and the Tudor badges of portcullis and rose. And here he was laid to rest.
Morton’s rebus, a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun)
Morton’s altar tomb/cenotaph in the western bay of the chapel
Alabaster figure of Morton on his tomb/cenotaph
However, this is where his plans finally went awry. The crypt became a ‘repository for scaffolding poles and building material, and rendered unfit for sacred purposes’ (6)
Turner’s painting of the Crypt in the 18th century showing Morton’s Tomb/Cenotaph amid building rubble
The slab covering the tomb was eventually broken and smashed and the remains in their cere cloth revealed Over a period of time these were gradually stolen until none were left except his skull which a Ralph Sheldon rescued in 1670 leaving it to his niece on his death. Eventually the head found a final resting place at Stonyhurst College, where it still is to this very day. The head was recently loaned to an exhibition on the life of Thomas More in Washington DC (7). It is both ironic and just that the king that Morton callously betrayed, and whose remains were given a cut-price burial in Leicester, have now been reburied with the honour that he deserved, while all that remains of Morton is his head in a box in a cupboard. As they say man makes plans and the Gods laugh…
As a footnote to this story in my delving around I think I may have come across a ‘secret’ portrait of Morton in the wonderful medieval windows of St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. These windows have survived it is believed because they show hidden portraits of the Tudor royal family and important members of Henry Vll’s court. One portrait is described as being that of Wolsey…but I believe this is erroneous..why would Wolsey’s portrait being included with those of Henry Vll and his family including Henry Vlll as a child. I have since compared it with that of the wooden bosses thought to represent Morton at Bere Regis Church. I show them here for comparison. Any thoughts?
The portrait in the nave of St Mary’s Church described as being of Wolsey? But could it possibly be Morton?
One of the bosses on the roof of Bere Regis Church thought to represent Morton for comparison.
(1) R L Woodhouse The Life of John Morton Archbishop of Canterbury p.75
(3) W E Hampton Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p96.
( 4) A F Pollard Luminarium Encyclopedia. On line article.
(5) C Eveleigh Woodruff.M.A. The Chapel of our Lady in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral p. 158.
(7) I am most grateful for this information kindly given to me by Mr J Reed, Assistant Curator of the College Collections and Museum by the Association, Stonyhurst College.
In the chancel of the church of St Bartholomew, Much Marcle, Herefordshire can be found one of the most beautiful tombs chests in England, that of Blanche Mortimer, Lady Grandison. I happened by chance on this lovely monument some years ago. I stood there entranced, unwilling to leave. Blanche’s tomb has been described by Nikolaus Pevsner as follows “The head is strikingly beautiful, eyes closed and lips slightly parted. Beautiful hands with long fingers..moreover the most surprising demonstration of realism in the way of her long skirt hangs down over the tomb chest”. Simon Jenkins in his book “England’s Thousand Best Churches describes the monument as “An image as lovely as any bequeathed by a medieval church….the effigy might be the original for Sleeping Beauty’. English Heritage describe it as one of the finest of its date in England.
Close up of the attention to detail in the tightly buttoned sleeves of Blanche’s gown.
Blanche was born around 1316, dying in 1347 and was the youngest daughter of the lst Earl of March, Roger Mortimer who rebelled against King Edward ll. He and Queen Isabella were lovers and probably arranged the murder of Edward. Roger, was eventually overthrown by Edward’s son, Edward III and executed, but that is another story. Blanche was married to Peter Grandison. He is not buried besides her but lies in Hereford Cathedral. Little is knows of their relationship but the meticulous care, craftsmanship and attention to detailed lavished on the design and building of the tomb would indicate that Peter Grandison loved and missed his wife. And there, atop her tomb, lies Blanche to this day. Her face, serene and lovely, her long gown hanging down gracefully in folds over the front of the tomb chest and her hands, beautifully carved, hold her rosary, although alas her little dog is missing his head.
The tomb chest with its displays of the Mortimer blue and gold heraldic badge and the Grandison badge of blue, red and gold.
Blanche’s husband, Peter Grandison’s tomb in Hereford Cathedral
But that is not the end of the story for Blanche. For while the monument was being restored, Blanche’s lead coffin was found resting within the tomb chest. This was most unusual as it has been thought that tomb chest monuments were built on top of or nearby where the dedicatee had been buried beneath the church floor or in a vault. It is now known, through this discovery that some coffins were placed inside the tomb chest itself. After the restoration was completed, led by sculpture conservator Michael Eastham, the coffin was returned to the tomb chest with new steel supports to provide future protection. The lead coffin was briefly examined but the decision was made not to disturb it.
Blanche’s lead coffin
Blanche’s effigy prior to replacement on top of the tomb chest.
St Bartholomew’s very own ‘Sleeping Beauty’
Blanche’s effigy after renovation..her little dog, although damaged, still lying at her feet..
And so we leave Blanche and her little dog..serene and lovely..truly St Bartholomew’s very own sleeping beauty.
Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick is one of the most colourful and interesting figures of the 15th c. He put Edward IV on the throne, then fell out with him over his “marriage” with Elizabeth Woodville (and Edward’s increased chumminess with the Woodville family to the exclusion of Warwick) He married his elder daughter Isabel to George of Clarence against Edward’s orders, dangling the carrot of potential kingship in front of George’s face…then, when that didn’t seem promising, restored the sickly and saintly Henry VI, and came to an arrangment with Margaret of Anjou to marry daughter number two, Anne, to Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Warwick’s plans and schemes ended when he died at the Battle of Barnet, leaving no male heirs.
Now it seems that there are some folks trying to discovering some new branches on the Warwick family tree.
Actually, contrary to what the article implies, Warwick does have many living descendants from the union of his daughter Isabel with George of Clarence. He also had an illegitimate daughter, Margaret, who was born some years before his legitimate daughters, Isabel and Anne, maybe when he was around 17/18 years of age.
Margaret seems to have been well looked after and may have even lived in Warwick’s household. She married Sir Richard Huddleston and had three children, Richard, Margaret and Joan. She seemed to be close to her half-sister Anne and was her lady-in-waiting when Anne was Queen. Margaret’s husband died in 1485, most likely fighting for Richard III at Bosworth. Although Margaret’s son had no children himself, dying in his early 20’s after an abduction (!), her daughters have descendants who would of course also be of Warwick’s line.
Tomb effigy of Margaret, Warwick’s illegitimate daughter
modern depiction of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick
There really are some morons around. If they’re caught, I hope they are punished – by being publicly named and then hurt in their bank balance!
We all know that the principal protagonists of Edward II’s reign – the King himself and Roger Mortimer, later Earl of March – were among Richard III’s ancestors. However, this table shows that Anne Neville, his Queen Consort, was descended from Hugh le Despenser the Elder (and also from the Younger) through the Beauchamps of Warwick. As a Neville, she was also descended from Edward II, through John of Gaunt, but not from the Mortimers. Thus Edward of Middleham, their son, was descended from all three.
I was quite amazed to find out last week, when visiting Leicester Cathedral, that the small coat of arms that can be seen on the front part of the tomb was made by a skilled craftsman called Thomas Greenaway, who is one of only a handful of people who use the 16th Century craft of Pietra Dura (Italian for ‘hard stone’). This is a highly specialised way of making a picture by a method that is a kind of cross between a jigsaw puzzle and a mosaic. It originated in Florence and is still taught there today. The shield is not painted or made out of some plastic material, but is composed from three hundred and fifty small pieces of semi-precious stones – in this case Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, Duke’s Red limestone from Derbyshire (which is very rare) and Yellow Chalcedony from Italy. Each lion is composed of twenty pieces of stone and the claws are Lapis Lazuli. All the pieces are precisely cut to shape and fitted using traditional sixteenth century techniques and the Coat of Arms took two months to complete. Click on the picture below to visit Thomas Greenaway’s site to find out more.
There is a great five minute video of how the tomb was carved, polished, moved and laid, including the making of the Coat of Arms here.
Thanks to Thomas Greenaway for permission to use this picture of the shield.
In the quiet village of Boyton in Wiltshire stands the Church of St Mary’s, known locally as ‘Blessed Mary of Boyton.’ Dating from the early 13th century it contains several unusual and startling features, including a medieval oven where priests baked the sacramental bread.
It is probably most famous, however, for the chantry of the Giffard family, who played an important role in 13th century politics and had connections to the royal family.
Sir Hugh Giffard instructed the young Prince Edward, son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, later to become Edward I, in horsemanship and ‘manly arts’, while his wife Sibilla assisted with both births and the education of the other royal children.
The chantry was begun in 1270 for Hugh and Sibilla and all their family by their sons Walter and Godfrey. Both of these men rose to high prominence, with each in turn being appointed Lord Chancellor of England. Walter was also made Archbishop of York, while Godfrey was Bishop of Worcester.
The huge wheel window which dominates the chantry is probably its outstanding feature, and is unparalleled anywhere in Britain. The small roundels of glass could actually be moved in their grooves to display different points.
Nearer to the altar, lies a superb effigy of an armoured knight with his feet resting on an otter and three lions on his shield, thought to be Godfrey and Walter’s brother, Alexander, who was in Egypt during the Seventh Crusade in 1250. He fought in the Battle of Al Mansourah and died there, while, legend says, attempting to help wounded soldiers escape down the Nile. The effigy predates the chantry and was moved into its current position at a later date. Traces of gold paint still remain on the armour.
The central tomb chest belongs to Lady Margaret Neville, who appears to have been a niece of Godfrey and Walter. Originally, there was an elaborate painted canopy over the tomb, but excavations in recent years show that there was once a fire in the chapel, and the canopy burnt down. The ashes from the destruction were found trapped beneath the flagstones, along with two other extremely unusual finds.
One was a clam shell which still bears traces of medieval paint inside. It is thought to have served as an artist’s palette, in which he mixed colours. The shell is on display in a glass box in the church and its still-vivid colours have been used as a guide to restoring the paint on the angel carvings around the ceiling.
Along with the shell, a fairly substantial fragment of original stained glass was found, bearing the arms of Thomas Plantagenet. Thomas was the grandson of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and the son of Edmund Crouchback (whose name came from his right to wear a cross on his back.) Thomas was prominent at the coronation of Edward I, carrying Curtana, the sword of Edward the confessor. He was also one of the judges who tried and convicted Piers Gaveston during the reign of Edward II; Gaveston had previously insulted him with unflattering nicknames such as ‘the Fiddler’ and ‘The Churl.’ Thomas attempted to wrest affairs away from Edward during the following four years, but could not keep order amongst the nobility.
Eventually he mounted a full rebellion against the King in 1321 and was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Having surrendered, he was given a ‘show trial,’ in which he was neither allowed to speak in his own defence nor to have anyone speak for him. Predictably, he was sentenced to death for treason and beheaded near Pontefract. Later, miracles were said to have taken place at his tomb.
Today, Thomas’s arms are back on display in one of St Mary’s windows alongside fine collections of medieval glass that were not originally in the church, but installed by later owners of the nearby manor, who were great collectors of ancient glass. Beneath Thomas’s arms lies an inscription mentioning the long-time friendship of the Giffards with the Plantagenets.