Monument of the Month

April 2015
 
An Effigy in the Porch of Beaumaris Church
 
  The iconic stone effigy in the porch of Beaumaris church has traditionally been understood to depict Siwan, wife of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, who died in 1237. Illegitimate daughter of King John of England, wife of one of the greatest rulers of north Wales, she is a key figure in both Welsh history and historical fiction. Perhaps regrettably, the fiction has focussed around her mid-life affair with the marcher lord William de Breos (the central episode in Saunders Lewis’s play Siwan, Ellis Peters’ novel The Green Branch and Sharon Kay Penman’s novel Here Be Dragons). This has unfortunately distracted attention from her importance as a political figure behind the scenes in a crucial period of the Welsh struggle for independence. The romantic story also helps to explain why the Beaumaris carving has become one of Wales’s most iconic pieces of medieval art. It appears on numerous websites and has been photographed and drawn for several academic publications. There are particularly good photographs on the castlewales web site; Colin Gresham  drew it as the first item in his discussion of medieval stone carving in Wales.
 According to local tradition (again), the effigy and the stone coffin on which it now stands came from the friary at Llanfaes, the friary which Llywelyn founded over Siwan’s tomb and in her memory.

It caused some consternation, therefore, when Brian and Moira Gittos pointed out (in a paper at the Church Monuments Society’s Welsh symposium in Cardiff in the summer of 2012, subsequently published in Archaeologia Cambrensis) that the style of the head-dress on the Beaumaris carving, with the wimple drawn under the chin to give a triangular shape to the face, cannot be found before the 1270s and could even be as late as the beginning of the fourteenth century. In a further paper at the Cambrian Archaeological Association conference in Llangollen in the spring of 2014 they developed this argument further. The biting wyvern, the style of the foliate decoration on the tomb, and particularly the stiff-leaf trefoils at the junction of the stems, are all characteristic of late thirteenth-century work in metal as well as stone.  Other features of the carving – the straight posture, the combination of coronet, veil, wimple and brooch – suggest a date in the 1270s or the 1280s.

The tradition that the carving depicts Siwan is widespread but cannot be traced beyond the beginning of the nineteenth century. It probably goes back to that well-known scenario described by Tummers: ‘The best known name of a certain person at a certain place and at a certain period is taken to be commemorated by an effigy which, without scientific basis, is considered to date from that period. And then the effigy is taken to be firmly dated, because it can be connected with a historical person.’

 
So who is it? The head-dress is badly damaged but seems to have been a crown or coronet. We are therefore looking for someone of royal status. Brian and Moira Gittos suggested that the effigy might commemorate Eleanor de Montfort, wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. She was the daughter of the aristocratic rebel Simon de Montfort and his wife Eleanor, youngest daughter of King John of England (and was thus Siwan’s niece). After several years as a hostage in England she married Llywelyn in 1278 but she died in childbirth on 19 June 1282, leaving a daughter, Gwenllian. She was buried at Llanfaes – but this does not prove that the effigy is hers. By the time she died, Llywelyn was fighting his final desperate campaign against the overwhelmingly greater forces of Edward I. Would he have spent time and money on a statement tomb?
 
There are other candidates. Of these, probably the most likely is Llywelyn’s mother Senana. One of the most shadowy figures of a sparsely-documented period, she married Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s older son Gruffydd, probably fairly soon after his release from English custody in 1215, and bore him four sons including the rivals Llywelyn and Dafydd. She seems to have been particularly close to her youngest son Dafydd, and she last appears in the record in 1252, when she was at Dafydd’s court in Llyn
 
It was therefore exciting to read, in Andy Abram’s chapter on monastic burial in Burton and Stober’s Monastic Wales, that Senana was buried at Llanfaes. Abram went on to suggest, on the basis that Senana as well as Siwan and Eleanor was buried there, that Llanfaes may have been deliberately designed by the rulers of Gwynedd as a mausoleum for the women of the royal house, but that it may also have been chosen by the royal women themselves as a burial place deliberately set apart from the male dynastic burial place at Aberconwy.
 
Abram referenced Gwenyth Richards’ Sydney Ph D thesis, ‘From footnotes to narrative: Welsh noblewomen in the thirteenth century’. The thesis added a date of 1263 for Senana’s death: but crucially the only evidence cited for either the death or the burial was a Gwynedd County Council tourist leaflet, ‘Princes of Gwynedd: The Môn Trail’, published in 1996.  The leaflet, it transpired, was based on a book, The Princes of Gwynedd: Courts, Castles and Churches: and the information about Senana’s death and burial actually came from Ellis Peters’ novel The Dragon at Noonday, part of the Brothers of Gwynedd series. The Princes of Gwynedd book makes the source clear, but it seems that whoever used the book as material for the production of tourist trail leaflets failed to realise that Edith Pargeter’s work was fiction.
 
It is still possible that Senana was buried at Llanfaes. The date of 1263 would still be rather early for the Beaumaris effigy, but it could be a retrospective memorial, commissioned by Llywelyn or even by Dafydd. Alternatively, although she vanishes from the record after the 1250s, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, especially in a period when women in general are so sparsely documented. It is possible that she lived on until the 1270s and was then buried at Llanfaes. However, this must remain pure conjecture.
 
The debate over the identity of the effigy has been sharpened by the latest development in the afterlife of the monument. Even when the effigy was thought to be Princess Siwan, it was of obvious interest to those involved in the commemoration of a key period in Welsh history. The Princess Gwenllian Society has raised funds to commission virtual replicas of the Beaumaris effigy and the coffin at Llanrwst traditionally said to be that of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth: the current plan is that these will be part of an installation in Bangor Cathedral but that they will also be accessible on the internet. The current evidence suggests that the effigy most probably commemorates Eleanor de Montfort, but that it could be Senana: that is what will appear on the interpretative material for the exhibition.
 
The process by which this provisional conclusion has been reached is an instructive one. It warns us that we need to look at historical artefacts carefully, that antiquarian literature can be illuminating but can also cloud the picture, and that the academic practice of recording, checking and verifying references is not pettifogging nitpicking but crucial to sound research. Above all, the Beaumaris effigy reminds us of the need to look and to think for ourselves.
 
(A fuller version of this account with references will appear in the forthcoming Transactions of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society)
 
Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Monument of the Month - Contributions Wanted!
This page is designed for the general reader and is intended to feature monuments of all types and all ages: those to the famous and to the unknown, those by famous sculptors and those by unknown local craftsmen, the artistically spendid and the simple but beautiful or curious. So far mostly members of the Council have contributed but contibutions are welcome from everybody - members or non-members of the Society. We would welcome a photograph or two and a short text telling us why the monument interests you: it may be of an ancestor, of someone you admire, something you have discovered or just something you just like or find interesting.
Please send the text as a word document and the photographs as separate jpg files ; please do not send the photographs embedded in the text as I cannot then edit the document. However, it is always useful - but not essential - if an embedded version could be sent as well, as then I can lay out the document as you intended. Please send contributions to churchmonuments@aol.com . We will feature the monument for a month and it will then be archived.

Some tips on the photographs:
1. It is always polite to ask the vicar or rector of the church for permission to take photographs, stressing they are not for profit or commercial purpose. It is important to confirm when the church is normally open. Don't forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.
2. Cathedrals and some other large churches have a visitors' desk and permission may often be obtained there on the day; sometimes there is a modest cost. Some of these churches do not normally allow photography although permission may be obtained if one writes before hand. To date the only place that I have been refused  is Durham Cathedral. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral also do not allow photography.
3. Try to carefully remove items that block the view of the monument if you are able. Especially don't leave your camera case in the way as I have on occasions! Or alter the angle of the photograph to minimise this problem.
4. Try to avoid excessive contrast in taking the photographs - dark shadows and bright sunlight. In other words, try to see what the camera sees, not your eyes! Flash can be difficult to use as it creates harsh shadows and burned out highlights; this is especially difficult when a photograph is taken of a subject of some depth when the foreground becomes too bright and the background too dark, because of the rapid falling off of the brightness of the flash with distance.
5. Please send photographs as jpg or gif attachments; do not embed them in the text where they cannot be edited and require a lot of memory space. If you wish I can scan printed photographs if they are sent to me; they will always be returned.
Click on the link below to see earlier Monuments of the Month
January 2010 Thomas Moore (d. 1586) & his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire) Sally Badham FSA
February 2010 The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument at Elford (Staffordshire) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
March 2010 William Shakespeare’s monument, HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Dr Adam White PhD
April 2010 The Lovell Tomb at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
May 2010 The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester 1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban Jane Kelsall
June 2010 Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire) Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee PhD
July 2010 Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland C B Newham
August 2010 Isabelle of Angoulême at Fontevraud Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2010 The Monument to Thomas Strode at Beaminster, Dorset Dr Clive J Easter PhD
October 2010 The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393) at  Laon (France) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA
November 2010 The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone in St Paul's Cathedral, London Dr Philip Cottrell
December 2010 Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) Sally Badham FSA
January 2011 Hungerford, Berkshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
February 2011 The Schaw Monument Dumfermline Abbey Church Dr Jenny Alexander
March 2011 Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg Jerome Bertram
April 2011  Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales Dr Rhianydd Biebrach Ph D
May 2011 Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex Jon Bayliss
June 2011  The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d.1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal  Joana Ramôa
Photographs by  José Custódio Vieira da Silva
July 2011 Today and not tomorrow’ Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip   St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton Joan and Robert Tucker
August 2011 The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex) Mark Duffy
September 2011 Two Monuments in Bedfordshire Cameron Newham
October 2011 Floor slab of Joost Corneliszoon van Lodensteyn, burgomaster of Delft (d. 31 April 1660), his wife Maria van Voorburch, and their descendants, Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft (Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 223 x 136 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
November 2011  Berengaria of Nevarre, Queen of Richard the Lionheart in L'Épau Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
December 2011  The Watton Monument at Addington, Kent Dr Clive Easter
January 2012  The monument of Lady Margaret  Grey (d. 1330) at Cogges  Oxfordshire Sally Badham
February 2012 The Effigy of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, at Inchmaholme Priory, Scotland Mark Downing FSA
March 2012  Thomas Walwyn (d. 1415) and his Wife  at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)   Sally Badham 
April 2012  Lady Barbara de Mauley, St Nicholas, Hatherop   Joan and Robert Tucker  
May 2012 The tomb of John Marshall in Llandaff Cathedral Dr Madeleine Gray PhD FRHistS
June 2012 The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537) in Vianen (Netherlands) Trudi Brink
July 2012 Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead
Norris, Berkshire
Dr Andrew Sargent
August 2012 Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2012 A Monument in Holy Trinity Church Hull Sally Badham FSA
October 2012 East Worldham (Hampshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2012 Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA and Kees Knulst BA
December 2012 An exercise in white marble and whitewashing: Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
January 2013 Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents
Heiligenkreuz, Rostock
Jerome Bertram
February 2013 The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679) in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife) Phoebe Armstrong
March 2013 The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).
Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?
Dr Jane Crease
April 2013 Zacharias Johannes Szolc, 1682, and Stanisław Bużenski, 1697 Frombork Cathedral, Poland Jerome Bertram
May 2013 The monument to Dr Thomas Turner, died 1714. Stowe-Nine-Churches, Northamptonshire  Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
June 2013 'Left for dead' Major Thomas Price Robert Tucker
July 2013 An unusual saint: Floor slab of Jacopmine Huyghendochter, wife of Foert Christiaenszoon (d. 1553), Sint-Maartenskerk, Wemeldinge (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 185 x 114 cm Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
August 2013 Thomas and Mary Acton, erected 1581, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire Jon Bayliss
September 2013 Cholmondeley Monument, St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London  Dr George Roberts
October 2013 Revd Theophilus Pickering (d. 1710) and John Dryden, Poet Laureate (d. 1700), Titchmarsh (Northamptonshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2013 Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1492 – 1543) Bottesford, St Mary (Leicestershire)   Edward Higgins MA BSc (Hons)
December 2013 Maria Rebekka Schlegel, 1736, Stadtmuseum, Meissen, Germany Jon Bayliss
January 2014
Lady Elizabeth Clinton (d. 11 September 1423) Haversham (Buckinghamshire)
 Sally Badham
February 2014 LUGENS MŒRENSQUE Moira Ackers
March 2014 A son’s delayed memorial to his dead mother: The tomb of Catharine of Bourbon, Duchess of Guelders (d. 1469), Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Sophie Oosterwijk and Trudi Brink
April 2014 Robert Crane (d. 1500), Chilton (Suffolk) Sally Badham
May 2014 A monument with a story
Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire).
Sophie Oosterwijk and Sally Badham
June 2014 A military effigy
St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon
John K Bromilow MInstP
July 2014 Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab Dr Maddy Gray PhD
August 2014 The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678: the Lady with the Lute Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
September 2014 Row On Row (1) Robert Tucker
October 2014 A Fool’s Monument?
The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany
Dr Martin Spies
November 2014 A Ledgerstone at Aldenham, Hertfordshire Dr Jean Wilson
December 2014 Heaven under our feet: the Laleston triple cross Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
January 2015 Llancarfan and Carisbrooke: some thoughts on a seventeenth-century cross slab in the Vale of Glamorgan Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
February 2015
A medieval miniature adult? An unidentified female miniature effigy at St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire)
Sophie Oosterwijk
March 2015 Monument to William Villiers died 1643 Dr Clive J Easter FSA
 


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