Cecily, Princess of York

There’s no denying the Woodville women were a fine-looking lot. Elizabeth Woodville was said to have used her beauty and maybe some feminine sorcery, to ensnare the king, Edward IV into an illicit marriage.

Richard Neville alias Warwick the Kingmaker was not happy. He was busy at the time negotiating a marriage for Edward with either Anne of France or Bona of Savoy in an attempt to strengthen ties with Louis XI of France, and any way what about Eleanor Talbot (Butler/Boteler) with whom there was supposedly a ‘contract of marriage’ or Elizabeth Lucy (Waite) his long standing mistress who also possessed a pre-contract. Ah well, these things happen.

Edward and Elizabeth’s union produced five daughters who survived to adulthood and two sons, the unfortunate Princes murdered in the Tower of London. The whole family is portrayed in stained-glass in the Royal Window in the northwest transept of Canterbury Cathedral. The original 1483-84 version was damaged during the 1640s, and the one on view today is a modern replica. The image of Cecily, kneeling between her sisters Elizabeth and Anne is now held by the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

Cecily was born on March 20, 1469 at the Palace of Westminster, the third of Edward and Elizabeth’s children. Before her second birthday Cecily was with her pregnant mother and sisters as they sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. In due course she would be stripped of her royal status and declared a bastard.

But as the crown bounced back and forth between the warring royal cousins, daughters were an important commodity during the turbulent times of the fifteenth century and Sir Thomas More pretty much summed up her life when he described Cecily as ‘not so fortunate as fair.’

By the time she was just five years old, Cecily had been betrothed to first James III’s son and heir and then to the Scottish king’s brother Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany. Neither of these betrothals came to fruition and in 1485 she was briefly married to Ralph Scrope of Upsall, a marriage arranged by her uncle Richard, who had by then declared himself king.

But later that same year the exiled Henry Tudor returned, seized the crown and married Cecily’s elder sister Elizabeth, so it was goodbye Ralph. The marriage was promptly annulled and Cecily was lined up for another dynastically advantageous marriage – and this is where the St John family link comes in.

During the winter of 1487/88 Cecily married John Welles, 1st Viscount Welles KG. John was the son of Margaret Beauchamp and her third husband Leo (Lionel) Welles, 6th Baron Welles. John was half-brother to Margaret Beaufort (and also to her St John half siblings) and therefore the King’s uncle of the half blood. John had received his returning uncle when he landed at Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire on August 7, 1485, and was knighted that same day. He went on to fight alongside Henry at the Battle of Bosworth, so his credentials were pretty sound.

Was this marriage a happy one? To be honest I don’t think happiness was a big consideration for a woman in Cecily’s position. Cecily was 18 at the time of her marriage and John approximately twenty years her senior. The couple had two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, both of whom died young.

Cecily made frequent appearances at court, as befitted the daughter of one king and the sister-in-law of another and one who had a dodgy claim to the throne, it has to be said. In 1486 she carried her baby nephew Arthur to his christening and the following year she was one of the attendants at her sister’s coronation as Queen Consort.

But then in 1499 John Welles died and following a short period of widowhood Cecily decided when she married again it would be to a man of her own choosing. The date of her marriage to Thomas Kyme is not accurately recorded, but is believed to have taken place between May 1502 and January 1504 and without Royal License and boy was Henry displeased when he found out. He promptly banished her from court and confiscated her land.

Margaret Beaufort, the King’s Mother, championed Cecily’s case and allowed the couple the use of her home, Collyweston Palace. The marriage was a short one. Cecily, Princess of York died on August 24, 1507. Yet despite her high status, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about Cecily’s life and death.

Some sources claim that Cecily went on to have two children with Thomas Kyme, but as their existence was not ‘discovered’ until the 17th century, this seems unlikely. Thomas Kyme (or Kymbe or perhaps Keme) is described as a Lincolnshire gentleman, but an estate on the Isle of Wight also figures in their story. In fact, there is a legend that Cecily died at East Standen on the Isle of Wight and was buried at Quarr Abbey. However, there is evidence that she most likely died at a property in Hatfield owned by Margaret Beaufort where she had been staying for several weeks before her death. Margaret’s household accounts indicate that she paid most of Cecily’s funeral expenses at “the friars,” – could this be King’s Langley, a Dominican priory in Hertfordshire with a family connection and where Edmund of Langley, Duke of York was buried in 1402?

You’d really think there would be more concrete evidence about the lives of these women. I suppose that’s why such characters are much loved by historical novelists as they can invent the unknown bits.

So, there we have it – Cecily, Princess of York and another connection to the fascinating St John family from Lydiard Park.

Royal window Canterbury Cathedral

The Royal Window – Canterbury Cathedral published courtesy of Casey and Sonja

Princess Cecily

Cecily, Princess of York

Margaret Beaufort's tomb

Margaret Beaufort’s tomb in Westminster Abbey


Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s Queen.


Lady Margaret Beauchamp published courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball


Lady Anne Clifford

Don’t you just love the St John women – intelligent, feisty, and brave? From Anne St John, Countess of Rochester who juggled her estates, protecting her family fortunes during the English Civil War, to Anne Douglas, Lady Dalkeith who laid her life on the line to protect baby Princess Henrietta Maria, the 17th century St John women showed their mettle.

And here is the story of another, earlier, Anne – Anne Clifford, whose ancestry can be traced back to two St John women on both the maternal and paternal sides of her family.

In 2013 a lost portrait of Anne was discovered in a private European collection and purchased by the National Portrait Gallery – but the story of Anne is far from lost and her name appears in scholarly works and books by eminent historians such as Professor R.T. Spence and Lady Antonia Fraser.

Anne Clifford

Anne Clifford

Anne was born on January 30, 1590 at Skipton Castle, Yorkshire, the Clifford family seat. As the third child and only daughter of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, and his wife the former Lady Margaret Russell, Anne’s future was pretty much mapped out for her.

However with the death of her two elder brothers Anne became heiress to the title Baroness Clifford suo jure and extensive land and property in the north of England – but claiming her inheritance would be far from plain sailing.

The death of their two sons coupled with the de rigueur bad behaviour of the 3rd Earl, saw Anne’s parents drift apart and for much of her childhood the couple lived separately. Anne grew up with her mother’s family at the great Russell owned mansions Chenies in Buckinghamshire and North Hall in Northaw and was at the very centre of court life. When the Queen died in 1603 thirteen year old Anne wrote in her diary:

‘When the corpse of Queen Elizabeth had continued at Whitehall as long as the Council had thought fit, it was carried from thence with great solemnity to Westminster, the Lords and Ladies going on foot to attend it, my mother and my aunt of Warwick being mourners, but I was not allowed to be one, because I was not high enough, which did not trouble me then, but yet I stood in the church at Westminster to see the solemnity performed.’

 Surrounded by her intellectual relatives and all the big names on the 17th century arts scene, Anne grew up well educated.Throughout her lifetime she was a great reader with Chaucer a particular favourite. Anne could also be found swotting up on Turkish history and there was nothing she enjoyed more than being read to.

But then in 1605 her father died and Anne’s long battle to secure her inheritance began.

In his will George Clifford left his daughter a useful £15,000 portion but the extensive estates in the north he bequeathed to his brother Francis.

Anne’s mother, Lady Margaret, rapidly took up the legal cudgels on behalf of her 15 year old daughter and secured occupancy of the Skipton properties, although Francis retained possession of these and the rest of the estates. It would take more than 40 years of litigation and the death of Francis and his son Henry, before Anne could claim her rightful inheritance.

Before that she weathered two pretty unhappy marriages. The first to Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset in 1609 who was dubbed ‘one of the 17th century’s most accomplished gamblers and wastrels.’ The couple had five children, three sons who died young and two daughters.

Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset

Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset

Dorset was openly unfaithful to his wife and even brought his mistress, Lady Penistone, to live at the family home of Knole House.

Even worse, Dorset involved himself in Anne’s inheritance battle, complicating the situation and winding up Anne at the same time. In 1615 the couple were told they could either have the Skipton and Westmorland estates or the £15,000 portion but not both. Dorset’s interference led to all the estates going to Francis and his male heirs while Anne received £17,000 in compensation which Dorset promptly snaffled.

Despite an injection of wealth on the death of Dorset in 1624 life didn’t get any easier.

The first thing Anne did was to buy from the crown the wardships of her two daughters Margaret and Isabella before securing her own future with a marriage to Charles I’s Lord Chamberlain, Philip Herbert, Earl of Mongomery and Pembroke in 1630.

Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Pembroke

Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Pembroke

Now in her forties Anne was not prepared to stand for any nonsense and as soon as he started with the ‘I want Skipton Castle …’ malarkey she left him to it. Taking her younger daughter Isabella with her, Anne divided her time between Pembroke’s Wiltshire homes until the outbreak of the Civil War, by which time he had moved across to the Parliamentarian side and needed her to guard his treasures at his London home, Baynard’s Castle.

Following Pembroke’s death in 1649 Anne spent her last years doing – well, exactly what she wanted to. She restored numerous castles on her estates between which she progressed with royal like splendour. She built properties and almshouses for her retainers and commissioned works of art and monuments. A generous friend she bought books in bulk, mainly of a devotional nature, to give as presents.

Lady Anne Clifford in later life

Lady Anne Clifford in later life

Anne died on March 22, 1676 in Brougham Castle aged 86 – one of the wealthiest noblewomen of her time – and was interred in St Lawrence Church, Appleby.

Anne Clifford's monument in St Lawrence Church, Appleby.

Anne Clifford’s monument in St Lawrence Church, Appleby.

The recently recovered portrait was painted by William Larkin in about 1616 when Anne was 26/28. Anne’s description of herself – ‘The colour of mine eyes was black like my father’s and the form and aspect of them was quicke and lively like my mother’s. The hair of my head was brown and very thick … with a peak of hair on my forehead and a dimple in my chin’ was one of the contributory factors when it came to identifying the portrait.

On her paternal side Anne’s 3x great grandmother was Anne St John, the daughter of Sir John St John and Alice Bradslaugh. Sir John was the elder son of Oliver St John and Margaret Beauchamp and headed the senior, Bletsoe branch of the St John family. He was half brother to Margaret Beaufort and therefore uncle to Henry VII.

On her maternal side Anne’s grandmother was Margaret St John, the daughter of Sir John St John and Margaret Waldegrave. This Sir John was the grandson of Sir John and Alice – I know, it’s tricky keeping tabs on everyone.


The Great Picture tells of Lady Anne’s family history and was commissioned by her in 1646. It hung in Appleby Castle for more than 300 years and today is on show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery.Visit the website to learn more about the picture.

In 1615 St John St John 1st Baronet of Lydiard House, Wiltshire commissioned something very similar to commemorate his family history. The polyptych in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze, will be open on the weekend of July 25 and 26 to celebrate its 400th anniversary.

St John polyptych

St John polyptych

For more about the history of Lydiard House see Status, Scandal and Subterfuge.

Margaret Neville, Countess of Oxford

Well, it’s all over – the hype, the excitement, the criticisms – as last Sunday evening saw the conclusion of The White Queen.


I’m still not quite sure what I thought about it all. I feared for everyone’s eyesight as they all stared into the eclipse of the sun, a portent of Henry’s imminent success, or was it Richard’s impending doom, but it all turned out alright in the end. And while Princess Pushy Pants and Lady Margaret tested the ground for their future rocky relationship, series producers whetted the viewers’ appetite for another round of royal doings!

Princess Elizabeth - future bride of Henry VII

Princess Elizabeth – future bride of Henry VII

By and large, I enjoyed it; although I’m none the wiser as to the fate of those young boys in the tower. So the writers and producers took a few liberties, but it was historical fiction when all is said and done.

So now we come to the last Neville sister, Margaret and I’m wondering what happened to her husband John de Vere in The White Queen production. Did I blink and miss any reference to him, or did he get lost in the Barnet melee, which saw the demise of Warwick?

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Margaret Neville was born in 1442 and unlike her sisters would apparently avoid the perilous marriage stakes until she was in her mid 20s. Her husband was loyal Lancastrian John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, who had already done time in the tower for his part in a red rose conspiracy. By the summer of 1469 he had been pardoned by Edward IV and upon his release from the tower, took off with his brother in law Warwick to stir up Robin of Redesdale’s northern rebellion.

Although it didn’t go quite according to plan and Oxford and Warwick had to escape to France, they were soon back. By October 1470 Henry VI was restored to the throne with Oxford taking a leading role in the ceremony at St. Paul’s. In 1471 Oxford and his men prevented Edward from landing off the Norfolk coast and in April of the same year Oxford commanded the right wing of the Lancastrian army at Barnet.

However, with a victorious Edward back in charge, Oxford takes refuge in Scotland and it is now we have the first real evidence of what life must have been like for Margaret.

He writes to ask her:-

‘Also ye shall send me in all haste all the ready money ye can make; and as many of my men as can come well horsed, and that they come in divers parcels.’

The Keep at Castle Hedingham - photo David Phillips

The Keep at Castle Hedingham – photo David Phillips

Presumably Margaret was still living at the family seat of Castle Hedingham in Essex with her only child George, but financial security would soon be a thing of the past. By April 1472 Margaret was living in St Martin’s sanctuary. Her status as the wife of a traitor rendered her vulnerable.

Meanwhile fearless de Vere continued his fight for the Lancastrian cause. He masterminded attacks on Calais, funded by a spot of piracy, and captured St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Following his eventual surrender in 1474 he spent the next ten years a prisoner at Hammes Castle.

For more than fourteen years Margaret lived a life of penury. It was said she relied upon the charity of others and what ‘she could earn by her needle.’ King Edward pardoned her but it was not until 1481 that he granted her £100 a year ‘on account of her poverty.’

In 1484 John was removed from the prison in Calais but while he was being transferred to England he managed to escape his gaolers. He quickly joined Henry Tudor and played a significant role in the contender’s victory.

Henry and Jasper Tudor

Henry and Jasper Tudor

Margaret and her husband were reinstated at Castle Hedingham but sadly their son had died sometime during his father’s imprisonment.

Margaret died in 1506. She was well into her 60s, a respectable age for a woman who had experienced the vicissitudes of the long years of war.

Castle Hedingham courtesy of www.balloonride.org.uk

Castle Hedingham courtesy of www.balloonride.org.uk

She was buried before the altar of the Lady Chapel of Colne Priory in Essex where her husband John joined her seven years later. Originally alabaster effigies of the couple lie side by said, she with her feet on a winged boar, he with his on a stag. These effigies were destroyed in the mid 18th century, but a drawing made in 1653 survives, the only known representation of Margaret.

The Kingmaker’s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the War of the Roses by David Baldwin

Pole Position

On this day in 1541 Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury was beheaded at the Tower of London. She was 67 years old and had already served two years imprisonment in the London fortress. She had arrived there another victim of Thomas Cromwell, but ironically he met his death before she faced hers.

Portrait of a woman said to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Portrait of a woman said to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Margaret was everything Henry VIII feared most. As the last Plantagenet she was more royal than he. She was cousin to his mother Elizabeth of York; she was wealthy, powerful and a staunch supporter of the Princess Mary, having served as a Lady in Waiting to Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Although all of these factors were troubling, Henry could probably have turned a blind eye, until Margaret’s son Cardinal Reginald Pole started mouthing off.

From the safety of Padua, Reginald spoke out against the annulment of the King’s first marriage, then he waded in criticising Henry’s policies to reform the church in England. At that point Henry could no longer ignore the Pole problem.

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell

Cromwell issued a Bill of Attainder against Margaret and despite a plea to her son to put a sock in it, she was whisked off to the Tower.

The poor lady’s execution was truly awful. Arranged in haste, the official executioner could not be found and an apprentice was called in to do the job. Lady Margaret continued to protest her innocence and unlawful imprisonment and some reports say she tried to run away. The stand-in executioner, no doubt unnerved by the whole affair, made a terrible botch of the job, landing eleven blows before he eventually managed to sever Lady Margaret’s head from her body.

So how was Lady Margaret Pole related to the St John family, I hear you ask? Well, in 1487 Margaret Plantagenet had become the second wife of Sir Richard Pole, who was the son of Geoffrey Pole Esquire and his first wife Edith St. John.

Geoffrey was a member of the Welsh supporters that followed Owen Tudor to England. With property in both England and Wales, Geoffrey was Constable of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, councillor of Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and brother of Edmund Tudor, Henry VII’s father, and he also served as Marshal of the great and petty sessions at Carmarthen and Cardigan, a position he held for life.

Margaret Beauchamp courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball

Margaret Beauchamp courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball

His wife Edith was the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp and her first husband Oliver St. John, and therefore half sister to Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of her mother’s second marriage to John Beaufort.

Margaret Beaufort was married off to Edmund Tudor at the tender age of 12 and a year later gave birth to a son who would become Henry VII. Geoffrey and Edith’s familial and royal connections were therefore close. Their son Sir Richard Pole, poor Margaret’s husband, was a cousin of the half blood to the new Tudor monarch.

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Lady Margaret Beaufort

The Pole family figure prominently during those terrifying Tudor times. And as if that’s not enough Pole family history Margaret Beaufort had been the ward of William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk following her father’s death. William, steward of the royal household, recognised a good marriage prospect when he saw one and married off the six year old Margaret to his seven year old son. But in 1453 Henry VI revoked the de la Pole wardship in favour of his two half brothers. He had the marriage between Margaret and John de la Pole dissolved, paving the way for a union with Margaret and his half brother Edmund Tudor.

Sadly and inevitably, little is know about Edith St John. She died in about 1459 and when Geoffrey made his will in October 1478 he requested that he be buried at Bisham Priory, Berkshire in the same grave as his first wife.

I have included in this post a portrait supposedly, but much disputed, of Margaret Pole. The painting is held by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 2607) and is titled Unknown woman formerly known as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury by Unknown artist.

In her biography of Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen Alison Weir writes about the execution of Margaret’s father, George, Duke of Clarence.

“Because the Duchess Cecily had protested against her son being executed in public, Clarence was put to death privately on 18 February 1478 in the Tower of London. It was said that, allowed to choose how he would die, he opted to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey (Madeira) wine. He left behind a three-year-old son, Edward, Earl of Warwick, who was barred by his father’s attainder from ever inheriting the throne or any of Clarence’s lands and titles; and a five-year-old daughter, Margaret, who would wear a tiny wooden wine butt on a bracelet all her life in commemoration of her father; it can be seen in her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London.” And there it is!

Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland

When the remains of Richard III were found beneath Greyfriars Car Park, Leicester in September 2012 many had great and perhaps unrealistic expectations.  Some hoped his skeleton would show a straight spine, quashing the Shakespearean caricature.  But sadly Richard did indeed suffer from scoliosis. And his remains were unable to redeem his character either, no matter how much members of the Richard III Society wished that they could, and there is still little doubt that he was responsible for the murder of his young nephews – the Princes in the Tower.

A reconstruction of his skull and facial features reveal a remarkable similarity to the 15th/16th century portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

And me, well I hit the genealogy trail in the anticipation that he would be connected to the extended St John family and I for one wasn’t disappointed.

Richard III’s niece Elizabeth of York married the man who defeated and succeeded him, Henry VII.  Henry Tudor was the grandson of Margaret Beauchamp whose first husband was Sir Oliver St John.  But I knew all this already – I was sure there must be another link, and of course there was.

Joan Beaufort was born in about 1379. The date and place of her birth remain up for debate, probably because she was one of several illegitimate children born to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford.

John of Gaunt

Katherine had initially been employed as governess to John’s daughters Phillippa and Elizabeth – and then … well you know how these things happen?

It is believed that Joan was probably born at Kettlethorpe Hall, Lincolnshire, a property owned by her mother’s first husband Sir Hugh Swynford. But then she might also have been born at Beaufort Castle on her father’s French estate.

When she was about ten years old Joan and her three brothers were declared legitimate by their cousin Richard II. John of Gaunt made sure there was no misunderstanding and got the seal of Parliamentary approval in 1397 as well. And then just to make jolly well sure, he married their mother in Lincoln Cathedral on January 13, 1396 with papal approval.

It is likely Joan spent her childhood in France where in 1391 she was married off to Baron Sir Robert Ferrers.  Joan was widowed with two daughters before she reached the age of 16.  On February 3rd 1397 she married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, who had also been married once before.

Joan had fourteen children by this second marriage. Four sons died young but the rest of the children made advantageous marriages. Daughter Lady Cecily Neville married Richard 3rd Duke of York and was the mother of two kings, Edward IV and the recently discovered Richard III.

Edward IV

The Beaufort descendants played a major role in the War of the Roses, a period of tumultuous upheaval in Britain.  With more contenders for the throne than you could shake a stick at, the warring cousins juggled the crown jewels between them during a thirty year period.

But this is only one thread in the St John genealogical tapestry.  Joan’s brother was John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and it was his son, John 1st Duke of Somerset, who married the widowed Margaret Beauchamp, Lady St. John.  Their daughter was the saintly Margaret Beaufort, who like her great aunt Joan was married off young. The son she bore when little more than a child herself, went on to become Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs and married his third cousin, Joan Beaufort’s great granddaughter.

Elizabeth of York, Joan Beaufort’s great granddaughter, married Henry VII

Joan died on November 13, 1440 at her Yorkshire home in Howden.  She was entombed next to her mother in the Katherine Swynford chantry close to the High Altar in Lincoln Cathedral.

The tombs of Katherine Swynford and Joan Beaufort courtesy of jenthelibrarian

Oh and by the way, more than 350 years later, on May 23, 1804 Lady Joan’s descendant, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, daughter of the 10th Earl Westmorland married the 5th Earl of Jersey, George Child Villiers, another St John descendant – more follows about this Good Gentlewoman.

File:Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (née Fane) (1785-1867), by Alfred Edward Chalon.jpg

Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, Countess of Jersey

Eleanor St John wife of Thomas Grey 2nd Marquess of Dorset

Sometimes the fleeting good gentlewoman passes almost without trace, leaving us to marvel at her wondrous ancestry and her influential husband.  If we are fortunate her progeny lead us down the centuries to engage with yet more talented and influential generations.

Only known image of the three St John sisters

Only known image of the three St John sisters

But sadly not so in the case of Eleanor St John who passes through the ether with barely a disturbance, her birthday unknown, her date of death unrecorded.

It is believed that Eleanor was born circa 1480, the daughter of Oliver St John and Elizabeth Scrope, at Lydiard Tregoze, the property conveyed to her father by his mother Margaret Beauchamp.

Feb 11th 2012 (42)

The War of the Roses between the rival Royal houses of Lancaster and York raged on and off for thirty years between 1455 – 1485.  Eleanor was still a young child when her cousin Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and seized the crown.  Henry promptly sealed the succession with his marriage to Elizabeth of York in 1486, aligning himself with the defeated Royal household.

Henry VII

Henry VII

Enter Thomas Grey, whose impressive CV would read Privy Councillor, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Lord Warden of the Scottish Marches, Justice of the Forest south of Trent and joint Constable of Warwick Castle to go with his title 2nd Marquess of Dorset, Lord Ferrers of Groby and Astley.

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset

Thomas was the grandson of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s Queen Consort, and her first husband Sir John Grey of Groby.  Following his stepfather’s death in 1483, Thomas’s fortunes rose and fell.  Imprisoned during the rebellion of Lambert Simnel in 1487, Thomas was made a knight of the Bath in 1494 and a knight of the garter in 1501 before ending up in the Tower of London in 1508, again under suspicion of conspiracy.

It is thought that Thomas married Eleanor in 1500.  Despite her equally close Royal connections she wasn’t even his first choice of bride as in 1483 he was contracted to marry wealthy heiress Anne St Leger, but this marriage never took place.

The marriage was a relatively short one.  The couple had no children and by 1509 Eleanor was dead and Thomas was remarrying.  His second wife was Margaret Wotton, the widow of William Medley.

Margaret Wotton

Margaret Wotton

The Grey family fortunes continued to ebb and flow and in 1533 Thomas’s son Henry married Lady Frances Brandon, Henry VII’s grand daughter.  However there was no happy ending here either as Henry was beheaded in 1554 shortly after his daughter Lady Jane Grey who had reigned as Queen for just nine days.

The execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche

The execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche

Thomas was one of the richest men in England when he died on October 10, 1530.  He was buried at the Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin, Astley, Warwickshire. Unfortunately the 14th century church was pretty much demolished and rebuilt by 1608. Out of nine alabaster effigies to the Grey family only three survived into the 1950s; that of Sir Edward Grey who died in 1457, Elizabeth Talbot d.c. 1483 and one believed to be Cecily Bonville, wife of Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset.


Of Eleanor there is no mention.  Unless this effigy might not be Cecily Bonville after all, but maybe that of the St John girl from Lydiard Tregoze.