Saturday, March 31, 2012

Question from Mary R - Anne Stanhope's tomb in Westminster Abbey

On a visit to Westminster Abbey, I was struck by the tomb/effigy of Anne Stanhope (Duchess of Sommerset, and the wife of Edward Seymour, the fist of Edward VI's Lord Protectors). It seemed to me that her memorial was more grand/ostentatious than that of any monarch.

Since she died in 1587, roughly forty years after her husband was executed, I wondered why she was given such consideration. From everything I've read, it seems that she was almost universally disliked by her contemporaries. She was considered excessively proud, even claiming precedence over Katherine Parr (because Katherine had married Thomas Seymour, the Protector's younger brother).

Did Anne pay for her own tomb in advance? Is there an interesting story here?


Susan Higginbotham said...

She died a wealthy woman, so her executor, her oldest son, could have afforded to erect a fine tomb for his mother.

There's an inventory of her goods in the 1845 Gentleman's Magazine (the piece on her begins on page 371):'s+magazine&source=bl&ots=v2XRFsk1Nv&sig=dRUeb83qOMsgDfspMGS4BKFIKf8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yKl3T6vFEZOTtwez0cDXAg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Susan Higginbotham said...

I did some googling and the English inscription by her tomb states that her son the Earl of Hertford erected the tomb "for the dutifull love he beareth her." Since his beheaded father had no monument to his memory, Hertford may have considered it particularly important to give his mother a fine tomb.

Foose said...

I think Anne benefited from her son's dynastic pretensions. He had married Catherine Grey secretly, and throughout the rest of Elizabeth's reign the chances of his sons by her (although officially illegitimate) were secretly canvassed by the Protestant factions and covertly pushed by Hertford himself as he tried to get his marriage recognized. Hertford's memorials to his family were part of his campaign.

The earl was very long-lived (dying in 1621) and built impressive tombs for members of his family and himself that detail the Seymours' various virtues and his noble descent from Edward III (Anne's tomb includes the genealogy), all of them indirectly praising the memory of the "Good Duke," his father the Protector. His sister Lady Jane's tomb actually describes the Protector as "Prince Edward Duke of Somerset."

Mary R said...

Susan Higginbotham and Foose, thank you both for looking into this for me!

Susan: My visit to Westminster Abbey was a number of years ago, and I did not remember the inscriptions. Good to know!

Foose: I thought there might be an interesting story here. Love your ideas!