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Remarks on the Monument of A Supposed Princess of Portugal in East Shefford Church, Berkshire

An Article by J.R. Planché Esq., Rouge Croix

Elias Ashmole, in his Antiquities of Berkshire (published in 1723), describing the church of East or Little Shefford, says, "On the south side of the chancel is a fair, raised tomb, whereon lyes the statue of a man in armour; much like that once upon John of Gaunt's tomb in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. On a wreath on his helm, lying under his head, is his crest, viz., an eagle's head, and his feet resting on a lion. His lady lyes by his right side, drest in the habit of the times in which she lived; without any inscription by which any discovery can be made to whom it belonged." Lysons, as late as 1806, describing the same church, speaks of "a handsome monument, with figures in alabaster of a man in armour, and a female without any inscription or arms." (Magna Britannia) And even the industrious author of the History and Antiquities of Newbury (1839) contents himself with repeating almost verbatim the brief notice of Lysons. There can be no doubt, however, that the late Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas was correct in assigning it to Thomas Fettiplace of East Shefford, and his wife Beatrice; the latter of whom died on Christmas Day 1447. And it appears by the will of their son, John Fettiplace, citizen and draper of London, dated 22nd of August 1463, and proved 3rd of September 1464, that he bequeathed £40 to repair the church of Shefford, to build new pillars, erect a "little steeple" of timber, and make "a closure" round the tomb of his father and mother buried there. By an inquisition taken at Wilton (Wiltshire), on the 22nd day of April 1448, we learn that this Beatrice had been previously the wife of Sir Gilbert Talbot, Baron Talbot of Blakemere; that she was seized, at the time of her death, of the third part of the manor of Swindon in the said county of Wiltshire; and that she held that third part in dower of the inheritance of John, Earl of Shrewsbury, and of the gift of her former husband, the said Gilbert Talbot; and the jurors also found that William Fettiplace was the son and heir of the said Beatrice, and was then twenty-four years of age. Dugdale, in his Baronage, has stated, apparently on the authority of a document of 1432, that Beatrice, Lady Talbot "was the illegitimate daughter to the King of Portugal, who surviving him [ie. Sir Gilbert Talbot] became the wife of Thomas, Earl of Arundel"; and he has been followed without question by Lysons and others; while Collins, in his Peerage, states that Beatrice was first married to the Earl of Arundel, then to Gilbert, Lord Talbot; after his decease became the wife of John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon; and finally married John Fettiplace of Childrey in Berkshire. The author of the History of Newbury, before mentioned, follows Collins, correcting only the Christian name of the last husband, which was Thomas, not John; but, singularly enough, does not associate him or his lady in any way with the monument which he describes on the same page. It is evident, therefore, he was not aware that five years previous to the publication of his valuable volume, Sir Harris Nicolas, with the assistance of Sir Frederick Madden, had clearly demonstrated that Beatrice, the illegitimate daughter of John, King of Portugal, who was first Countess of Arundel, and then Countess of Huntingdon, was a perfectly distinct personage from Beatrice, Lady Talbot, afterwards wife of Thomas Fettiplace, esq., of East Shefford, Berkshire. This notice is to be found in the first volume of the Collectanea Genealogica et Topographica (1834), to which I must refer those who desire more detail than I can be allowed to enter on at the present moment, while I limit myself to a brief statement of the principal facts collected by these eminent antiquaries; and which will be sufficient to satisfy my auditory that we may dismiss from our present inquiry all other material bearing oil Beatrice, Countess of Arundel and Huntingdon.

That lady was undoubtedly the daughter of John, first King of Portugal, by Donna Agnez Pirez, or Perez, by whom he had also a son named Alphonso, who "was legitimated by his father on the 20th of October 1401; created Count of Barcellos and afterwards Duke of Braganza, and was the immediate ancestor of the present Royal family of Portugal." His sister, Donna, Beatrice, was contracted to Thomas FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, whom the Portuguese historians properly describe as "de sangue real da Inglaterra," as he was great-grandson of Edward I of England, and second cousin to Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, the Queen of John, King of Portugal, his father-in-law. By his descent also from Eleanor of Castile, Queen of Edward I, he was fourth cousin once removed to the King of Portugal himself. "It can scarcely admit of a doubt," observes Sir H. Nicolas, "that similar letters of legitimation to those accorded by King John to his son, Alphonso, were granted to his sister Beatrice; but however that may be, she was solemnly contracted to the Earl of Arundel, by proxy, at Lisbon in April 1405, the Earl's representative being Sir John Wiltshire, first gentleman of his household; and about October in the same year she proceeded to England, accompanied, it appears, by her brother, Alphonso, Count of Barcellos. Her marriage took place at Lambeth, with great splendour, on the 26th of November following, in presence of Henry IV and his queen, the King himself giving away the bride." The Earl of Arundel died without issue on the 13th of October 1414, and in 1433, his widow, Beatrice, Countess of Arundel, married John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, afterwards Duke of Exeter; the licence for which marriage is dated 20th of January in that year. This match is neither mentioned by Sandford, Brooke, nor Vincent; but the latter has made a manuscript note of it in the margin of his own copy preserved in the College of Arms, London. The Countess died at Bordeaux, without issue, on the 13th of November 1439, and was buried with her first husband, in the College of Arundel. Her effigy, affording a fine example of the horned headdress of that period, has been engraved by Stothard and Blore; and that portion of it which illustrates the headdress, in my own and other works on costume. Her seal, exhibiting the arms of FitzAlan, quartering Warren, and impaling the Royal Arms of Portugal borne by King John, her father, without any mark of illegitimacy is circumscribed "Sigoiilum Beatricis comitissae Arundeliae et Surriae." It was engraved for the volume of the Collectanea before mentioned, from an original impression affixed to an instrument in the Harleian Collection (MS. 4840, 650).

These dates and facts, supported by the most authentic collateral evidence, having been fully set forth in the Collectanea, and the distinction between the two Beatrices clearly established. It remains for us still to discover who was Beatrice, Lady Talbot, for so many years confounded with the daughter of John, King of Portugal, and around whose last resting place is at East Shefford in Berkshire. That she was also Portuguese is proved by the Close Roll of 1419, which states that Gilbert, Lord Talbot is dead; that Beatrice, his widow, was born in Portugal; and that, during the time his wife was an alien, he became seized of the manor of Blakemere, alias Whitchurch, to the use of himself and the said Beatrice and the heirs of the said Gilbert, etc. The absence of all allusion to Royal birth in this official document, would of itself be a sufficient answer to the assertion that she was actually the daughter of John, King of Portugal; but that she was in some way descended from, or connected with, the Royal family of Portugal, appears probable from her seal affixed to a grant dated 1418, exhibiting a shield of the arms of Talbot quartering Strange, and impaling quarterly, first and fourth, the ancient arms of Portugal, and second and third, five crescents in a saltire formation, surrounded by the inscription, "Sigillum Beatricis Talbot d'ne de Blakemere"; of which a drawing is preserved in the Cottonian Collection of MSs (British Museum), and has been engraved for Sir H. Nicolas's essay in the Collectanea. To this portion of the evidence we will return presently.

Gilbert, Lord Talbot, KG, elder brother of Sir John Talbot, afterwards the great Earl of Shrewsbury, had been first married to Joan Plantagenet, one of the daughters and heirs of Eleanor de Bohun, wife of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, who died in 1400, and is buried at Walden in Essex. The date of his second marriage with Beatrice has not been ascertained; but on his death, in 1419, their only child, Angharad, was about three years old, so that it could not have been later than 1415. This Angharad is incorrectly stated by Sandford (Gen. Hist.) to have been the daughter of Gilbert, Lord Talbot by his first wife, Joan Plantagenet; but it is clear by the escheat of 1421, that she was the issue of Beatrice; and was, at the time of her death, about five years old; her father's brother, Sir John Talbot, being then found to be her heir. Before the year 1423, Lady Talbot married her second husband, Thomas Fettiplace, who had been appointed by Lord Talbot, on the 17th of September 1413, steward of the manor and hundred of Bampton; and seems to have obtained, in 1421, the grant of a house at Caen in Normandy. The date of his death has not yet been discovered; but it must have been subsequent to 1433, as in that year I find him as "Sir Thomas Fettiplace of Childrey," Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. His widow, as I have already stated, died on Christmas Day 1447; and the remains of both undoubtedly repose beneath the still beautiful, though dilapidated, example of the monumental sculpture of the fifteenth century in East Shefford Church. Unfortunately, however, nothing remains, in the way of heraldic decoration, to afford us any further clue to the family of the lady than we already possess in her seal, which I have just described. For, although twelve escutcheons are still extant on the tomb supported each by an angel, the arms with which they were no doubt originally charged have been completely effaced. On a similar monument, however, erected, it would seem probable, by Sir Gilbert Talbot to the memory of his mother, Angharad, at Whitchurch in Shropshire, where he himself was buried (and also in the east window of the chancel of the church there), the arms of Talbot and Strange, impaling Portugal ancient and the five crescents in saltire, are, or were, to be seen, exactly corresponding with those on the seal of Lady Beatrice. While, in the hall windows of the ancient manor house of East Shefford, in the kitchen window of the same edifice, in the south window of Childrey Church, in the hall windows of the manor house at Childrey, in a lower window on the south side of Marcham Church, and on several wooden shields nailed to the ceiling in the parlour of Compton House (Compton Beauchamp), there existed in the seventeenth century, and may still perhaps be found, the same arms variously displayed, and occasionally incorrectly painted, if we can rely on the copies of them preserved amongst the heraldic manuscripts ill the British Museum and the church notes of Ashmole appended to the Visitation of Berkshire in the College of Arms.

At Shefford, the five blue shields of Portugal, each charged with as many silver roundels or plates, as they are technically termed, are transformed into figures resembling dice, the colour being white or argent, and the field in which they the are displayed blue. (figs. 1 and 2). At Childrey, they are still in the form of dice; but, in the church window, they are white (fig. 3), and in the hall window blue (fig. 4), the colour of the field being reversed accordingly. At Compton House, they have resumed the form of shields, but the colours are still the exact reverse of the Royal Arms of Portugal (figs. 5 and 6); while, at Marcham, the lines of the cubes, or the escutcheons, have disappeared entirely, and five groups of five white or silver spots, arranged in saltire, are seen on an azure field, utterly destroying all similarity whatever to the coat they were intended to represent (Fig. 7). The same perplexing variety extends to the quartering with the crescents, which are in some instances or (gold), and in others argent (silver); and in the hall windows at Childrey, drawn with the points downwards, an evident blunder of the painter or the glazier (fig. 4); and to make "confusion worse confounded," the arms of Beatrice, in this and in two other instances, are incorrectly displayed on the dexter side of the impalement, and those of Fettiplace on the sinister. (Figs. 2, 4, and 7)

To return, therefore, to the seal of Beatrice, about which there can be no mistake as far as the form and disposition of the armorial bearings are concerned. We cannot doubt that the first and second quarters of her family coat exhibit the arms of Portugual as borne by some of the sovereigns of that country previous to the reign of King Alphonso Ill, 1248, viz., argent, five escutcheons in saltire azure, each charged with as many plates in saltire also. That monarch is reported to have surrounded them with a bordure gules charged with nine castles or; in commemoration, according to Portuguese heralds, of his acquisition of the Kingdom of the Algarves in 1267. His descendant, King John I, is said, upon the same authority, to have been the first to dispose the five escutcheons in cross in lieu of in saltire; and, at any rate, so we perceive them in the seal of his daughter, our other Beatrice, Countess of Arundel. Alphonso III died in 1279, and was succeeded by Dionysius or Denis, his eldest son by his second wife, Beatrice de Guzman, natural daughter of Alphonso, King of Castile; but he had also two illegitimate sons, Alphonso Denis and Martin Alonzo Chiccorro, the first of whom married Maria Perez de Ribeyra de Souza, daughter, and finally heir, of Constance Mendez de Souza, co-heiress of Mendez Garcia de Souza and his wife Theresa de Ribeyra, and became the progenitor of one branch of the great family of Souza, whose ancient arms were, gules five crescents in saltire argent derived, as the historian of that family tell us, from the Moorish standards taken by Gonsalo Mendez at the Siege of Seville in 1178. The second son married Agnes, the only daughter of the other co-heiress, Maria Mendez de Souza; and from them descended the branch of Souza, Chiccorro, who seem to have discarded their family crescents in favour of a lion rampant.

The particular combination occurring on the seal of Lady Talbot led, naturally, to the inference that she must have been born a Souza, although the colours and metals of the arms in the painted examples could not be completely reconciled with those of all of the many different coats of that family. The researches of Sir F. Madden and of Sir H. Nicolas, both here and in Portugal, were productive, however, of no proof of her descent, although they led to a suggestion that she was perhaps, of the family of Pinto, who also bore five crescents in saltire; but are certainly not the only house in Portugal displaying such a charge. It is rather too positively stated in the addenda to the first volume of the Collectanea, and repeated in Notes and Queries, Vol. 2 (see also Notes and Queries, Vol. 3).

From such information, as I have been able to obtain, and a careful study of the various pedigrees of the Souza family, both in print and in manuscript, together with a genealogical notice in Portuguese, with which I have been favoured by Mr. C. E. Long, I am in hopes of taking you a degree or two further in our voyage of discovery; and, if not actually to land you safely, at least point out the course we must continue to steer to arrive at the desired haven.

The issue of the marriage of Alphonso Denis and Maria do Souza appears to have been five sons, who all took the name of Souza. Garcia Mendez de Souza was Prior of Alcacona; Gonzalo Mendez de Souza, died without issue; Pedro Alphonzo de Souza was the ancestor of the Marquises of Guadalemar and other noble families in Spain, and seems to have borne party per saltire argent and the first char ??? with the five escutcheons of Portugal, and the second with a castle or, omitting altogether the family coat of Souza. Don Rodrigo Affonzo does not appear to have married, but left illegitimate issue, who became ancestors of several families, both in Spain and Portugal. The fifth brother, Diego Alphonzo de Souza, living 1344, married Yolande or Violante Lopez, daughter of Lope Fernandez Pacheco, by whom he had two sons, Alvaro Diaz de Souza and Lope Diaz de Souza. Now Imhoff, in his Genealogical History of the Kings of Gal, most provokingly furnishes us with the descent from Alvaro, but does not even condescend to name the wife of Lope Diaz. The Livro des Linhages de Portugal, by Antonio do Luna Pereria (Lansdown MS), is equally silent; but Pere Anselm, in his Histoire et Genealogique de la Maison de ??? says her name was Beatrice; and the proof is given by Antonio de Souza in the twelfth volume of his Historia Genealogica, where she is described as the wife of Lope Diaz do Souza in an instrument dated Lisbon 1369, in the reign of King Fernando: "Dom. Fernando, etc., Faco saber que Lope Diaz de Souza, Rico Homen meu vassallo et D. Brites" etc. Of what family site was, however, does not appear; and Pere Anselm states that Lope died in 1373, without issue by Beatrice his wife. But a Portuguese antiquary, who favoured Mr. Long with the genealogical notice I have referred to, assures us that the learned Francisco Antonio Roussado and Jose Faria de Monteiro had inspected certain muniments of the Souza family, which proved that Lope had by his wife, Beatrice, two sons and two daughters and suggests that one of the latter was in all probability the person we are in search of. The date of the death of Lope renders this, however, questionable; as, taking the latest year of his existence, or presuming her even to have been a posthumous child, would make Beatrice at least thirty, perhaps forty-two, at the time of her first marriage She might, however, have been his grandchild.

The arms on her seal, and in the other examples cited, do not correspond with those attributed to this particular branch of the Souza family. Souza are said by the Portuguese antiquary before-mentioned to have borne what may be termed Portugal modern, that is, the escutcheons in cross with the border of castles, quarterly, with a variation of the Coat of Souza viz., gules, four crescents in cross the points to the centre, (blazoned a ??? of crescents in Portuguese in which form it is still borne by the English descendants from the family of Souza de Aronches. (MS. College Arms). In the coloured examples of the arms of Lady Talbot, the field is sometimes azure, sometimes sable, and the, crescents in saltire sometimes argent, sometimes Or. Still, I do not think this circumstance alone would be fatal to the conjecture, as Don Lopez, the youngest son of five, may have so differenced his arms or some mistake may have been made in the colour of the field by the English painters, who have evidently been at issue also as to the metal of the charge. Indeed both Anselm and Imhoff blazon the field azure and not gules. Another hypothesis, to which I have already alluded, has been started by a Portuguese gentleman, the Chevalier de Moraes Tarmento, who became so much interested in the subject that he has actually wrote a novel, of which he has made Beatrice the heroine mid asserts that she was of the family of Da Plato, who bore five crescents in saltire gules. Here, again, the colour and metal are at variance with the suggestion. Another question, however, arises on it. Alphonso III had an illegitimate daughter, whom he names in his will, and who appears in the pedigrees as Leonora Alfonza. She married before 1271 Don Estefan Annez de Souza son of John Garcia de Souza, who was Senhor D'Achuna e Pinto. Upon his death, she married in 1273 Gonsalvo Garcia de Souza, uncle of her first husband. There is no mention of issue by either marriage ; but the fact of one branch of the Souzas being Lords of Achuna and Pinto may reconcile the conflicting assertions of our Portuguese colaborateurs, and account for the arms of Pinto being identical with one of the coats of Souza. Much speculation has been wasted on the circumstances under which Lord Talbot first became acquainted with his bride. Some, confounding him with his father Richard, Lord Talbot, who visited Portugal in the train of the Duke of Lancaster. At that time, however, Beatrice, if born, must have been an infant, and still of tender age in 1381, when Edmund, Duke of Cambridge led an English force to Portugal to assist King Ferdinand in his claim to the Crown of Castile; but I find that there was another occasion on which the chivalry of England made a conspicuous figure at Lisbon, and the date of it most happily corresponds with that which I have already given as the probable one for the marriage of Beatrice. In 1414, a tournament was held at Lisbon by King John I, to which he had invited some of the most illustrious Spanish, French and English knights. They again assembled in the same capital in 1415, and joined the King of Portugal and his nobles in that memorable expedition against the Moors which terminated in the taking of Ceuta. The latter year, as I have shown, is the latest in which the marriage could have taken place, the only issue of it, Angharad, being three years of age in 1419, and I am therefore strongly inclined to believe that Sir Gilbert Talbot was one of the English present at the tournament, if not also in the expedition. Supposing Beatrice then to have been between the ages of fifteen and twenty, it would give us the dates of 1395-1400 to choose between for her birth. According to the same calculation, she would have been from twenty to twenty-five at the time of her marriage with her second husband, and from with forty-seven to fifty-two at the period of her decease in 1447, when William Fettiplace, aged twenty-four, was found to be her heir, which places his birth in 1423.

The features of her effigy at East Shefford, corroborate in my opinion, this portion of my suggestions. They have no character of advanced age. Small and delicately chiselled, they convey to my mind the idea of a female of much personal beauty, and not exceeding the age of fifty. While those of her husband, Sir Thomas Fettiplace, are characteristic of a veteran soldier considerably her senior. We know that such memorials exhibit, as far as the skill of the artist could accomplish the task, faithful portraits of the individuals represented and accurate copies of the costume they wore; and the sculpture of this monument is a sufficient guarantee to us that no ordinary talent or labour has been employed to perpetuate the features of the deceased warrior and his, perhaps, Royally descended lady.

A few words on the costume of these effigies. The male one presents us with a fine example of the armour worn in the reign of King Henry VI, and certainly not much like that formerly displayed on the effigy of John of Gaunt, in St. Paul's Cathedral, as stated by Ashmole. The latter, according to the engraving in Dugdale and Sandford, being, as we should expect, the military equipment of the time of Richard II, when the hauberk of chain was covered by a jupon of silk, and the neck defended by a collar of mail. The effigy before us is in the complete plate of the fifteenth century. The hauberk and jupon had then been generally abandoned, and to the breast and backplates, steel skirts were appended, composed of six or seven overlapping horizontal pieces, to which again were attached, by straps and buckles, plates called tuiles, to protect the thighs. The fan-shaped ornaments of the knee and elbow-pieces are remarkably elegant, and highly characteristic of the period. Over the hips was still worn the military girdle which had previously encircled the jupon. The camail, or neck piece of chain, was now exchanged for a defence of plate called the hausse col ???. The bascinct of this effigy is surrounded by a fillet which not only embellished the head piece by its ornamental character, but served to steady the heaume, or tilting helmet, occasionally worn over it, and which, in the present example you perceive, with its crest, a ??? eagle's head and its mantling with escalloped edges and tassel, placed as usual under the head of the recumbent warrior.

The costume of the lady is in perfect accordance with the date of her death, the middle of the fifteenth century. It consists of tight under-dress closely fitting the bust and arms called the kirtle and, over it, the sideless garment (a sort of surcote) of which we have not, as yet, discovered the proper name; the skirt, exceedingly full, descending to the feet;' and over her shoulders a mantle of state, fastened with cord and tassels. Her headdress is of that description known amongst antiquaries as the mitre-shaped, a fashion much seen in monuments and illuminations of the reign of Henry VI and Edward IV.

The right arm of the effigy having been broken off has given rise, I am told, to a ridiculous story, still current amongst the peasantry, that lady Beatrice had but one arm.

I feel that I have added little to the stock of information respecting my subject already in the hands of antiquaries; but at the same time I consider it my duty to assist in the clearing away of the mass of confusion, error and unauthorised assertion with which an object of great local interest has been so long surrounded. If anything can be more extraordinary than the complacency with which our predecessors received assertions as facts, and then wasted all their time and learning in arguing on them, it is the vitality they have imparted to the erroneous conclusions necessarily arrived at. To root up such weeds in the path of progress is the first duty of the antiquary, but the task is an arduous one. A celebrated French author has truly said, "we must fight incessantly. No sooner have we destroyed an error, than someone is always found ready to resuscitate it." It has been for years as clear as noon day that Beatrice, Countess of Arundel, and Beatrice, Lady Talbot, were two distinct individuals, but intelligent writers still continue to confound them. It is positive that the former was the natural daughter of John I, King of Portugal. It is obvious, from the quartering of the crescents by the latter, that she could not have been the daughter of any king, though it is probable she was a collateral descendant of one. Yet the Royal Crown of Portugal and the Algarves stands at the head of the pedigrees of Fettiplace, and sheds a false glory round that of Talbot, which surely needs no fictitious lustre, and, although I do not despair, now that my attention has been seriously called to the subject, of eventually unravelling the mystery that still surrounds it, I am by no means sanguine in my expectation that any humble efforts of mine will prevent the fresh dissemination of an error which has been viewed as a truth for upwards of two centuries.

It is also worthy of notice, that Beatrice is said, in one or two early pedigrees, to be "the daughter of Alphonsus [not John], King of Portugal," which, though equally untrue, seems to indicate the existence of a tradition supporting the suggestion of a descent from one of the branches above mentioned.

Reproduced from the Journal of the Archaeological Association (1860)

From: Berkshire History


Linked toBeatrix de Pinto; Beatrix of Portugal

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