Monuments In Westminster Abbey

Eleanor of Castile, Wife and Queen to Edward I.

Located in the apse around the shrine of Edward the Confessor, this tomb was a very expensive and beautiful memorial to Eleanor of Castile, the much loved wife and queen of Edward I. She died of a fever in Harby, Nottinghamshire while following Edward on one of his Scottish campaigns. She was embalmed in Lincoln and her viscera was buried in Lincoln Cathedral; her heart was buried separately in Blackfriars Church in London. Edward built several ('Eleanor') crosses to mark the resting places of the journey from Lincoln to London, and for 250 years, lessons were read and candles burned around her tomb on the eve of St. Andrew.

The tomb is both the earliest example of a bronze effigy and also the earliest example of iron grate on a tomb in the UK. Built between 1290 and 1292, it comprises the effigy of Eleanor on a Purbeck marble tomb, the top of which is enclosed by a decorated wrought and stamped iron grate, added in 1294 to protect the effigy.

The bronze effigy is the work of master William Torel, goldsmith of London, made using the lost wax method. It is thought that this effigy and the neighbouring one to Edwards father Henry III (1292), also by Torel, were the first English attempts to to produce large figures in metal.

A Richard Crundale was resposible for the Purbeck slabs that formed the tomb; the basement was painted by Master Thomas of Durham; the wooden tester was the work of Thomas of Hokyntone; the ironwork was by Thomas of Leighton.

There are very few surviving bronze effigy tombs, probably due to the intrinsic value of the metal, but Westminster Abbey is lucky enough to house six, including those of Henry III (1292), Edward III (1377), Richard II (1395) and Henry VII (1518).

Edward III

This bronze tomb effigy likeness of King Edward III, shown below, was taken from a wooden funerary effigy which is still on view in Westminster Abbey, London.

The wooden funerary effigy, which was a portrait, was produced by Stephen Hadley for the enormous sum of £22-4s-11d. to take part in the Kings funeral procession in 1377. It is the earliest funerary effigy in the Abbey's collection. It shows quite clearly the droop to one side of the mouth which was caused by the effects of the Stroke suffered by the King only three days before his death.

Photo: Nathan Fairweather The bronze figure shown here is obviously a very close copy of the wooden figure but is portrayed without the mouth droop. This figure was most probably the work of master effigy maker John Orchard.



Princess Sophia

One of the most beautiful and pathetic funerary monuments is in "Innocents's Corner" in The Chapel of King Henry VII, also in Westminster Abbey. It is the funerary cradle of Sophia, infant daughter of King James 1st, who died in 1606 aged only three days. The cradle and part effigy by Maximilian Colt is a real masterpiece and is exceptionally rare as the remains of the child actually rest in the crib beneath the stone 'Covers'.

Photo: Nathan Fairweather


Monument to Elizabeth Russell

Lady Elizabeth Russell, died 1601 (sculptor unknown). She was the daughter of Lord John Russell and was actually born within the precincts of the abbey, as the Dean had given her mother permission to take refuge there from the plague. Elizabeth became a maid of honour to her godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. She and a friend her banished from court for a short time by the wrath of her mistress, at her walking with a friend through the private galleries of Whitehall to see the Lords and Gentlemen play at ballon (the girls were un-chaperoned). Shortly after her return to court, she died of consumption.

She is shown asleep on a basket of Osiers. Hers was the first figure in the abbey to be shown not recumbent on a tomb. The skull beneath her foot was an emblem of the Russell family. Some people said that she had died from the prick of a needle and claimed that this was a punishment for working on a Sunday.

  Photo: Jo Whitlock Blundell

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