Brass Rubbing: Alianore de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester


Photo of Brass Rubbing: Alianore de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester

Detailed Images

Basic Information

Artifact Identification Brass Rubbing: Alianore de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester   (1997.05.0009)
Communication Artifacts : Documentary Artifacts : Graphic Documents
Artist/Maker None
Geographic Location Europe, West, United Kingdom, Great Britain, London, Westminster Abbey
Period/Date 1399 CE
Culture N/A

Physical Analysis

Dimension 1 (Length) 279.4 cm
Dimension 2 (Width) 119.4 cm
Dimension 3 (N/A) N/A
Weight N/A
Measuring Remarks None
Materials Plant--Wood, Paper, Glass, Wax
Manufacturing Processes Rubbing
Munsell Color Information waived

Research Remarks

Published Description

From Horowitz. 2002. This lady, the Duchess of Gloucester and the only surviving royal brass in England today, is dressed in Widow's weeds, the traditional costume of mourning. It consists of the kirtle, the mantle covering her dress and drawn at the shoulders, a veiled headdress, a wimple covering her neck, and a plaited barbe or gorget worn above the chin by ladies of the highest rank, below the chin for the lesser estates. Her triple canopy, one of the finest in existence, contains clustered pinnacles, one of which is now missing. The corbels on either side of her head are small figures of a lion and a swan, the former a badge of the royal family, the latter of the Bohun family. (The swan was incorporated into the royal bestiary when Alianore's sister, Mary de Bohun, became the wife of the future king, Henry IV.) The six shields on the canopy, of which one is now missing, bear the arms of her husband and her family. Moving down from her upper-right side (dexter): Thomas of Woodstock (her husband); de Bohun; Miles, Earl of Gloucester (an early de Bohun marriage). From her upper-left side (sinister): Thomas of Woodstock impaling de Bohun and Hereford; the Earldom of Essex (a de Bohun title passing to Alianore's husband). The de Bohuns were one of the oldest families in England, beginning with Humphrey de Bohun, who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. The male line continued until the 11th de Bohun, Humphrey, Earl of Hereford, Essex, Northampton and Constable of England, died on 17 January 1373, leaving his daughters Alianore and Mary as sole heiresses. Mary became the wife of Henry of Lancaster. Alianore married King Edward III's youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock, Henry of Lancaster's uncle, and conveyed to him most of her lands and titles. Her husband was made Duke of Gloucester, and Alianore assumed the title Duchess of Gloucester. Her husband, Thomas, had a falling out with his nephew the king, Richard II, and on 21 September 1397, he was summoned before Parliament. Soon after, Thomas was seized by followers of the king and murdered in Calais at the age of 45; one story had it that he was smothered under a feather bed. On 6 October, Richard II seized his uncle's lands and, although a week later he allowed Alianore's request to have her husband buried at Westminster Abbey, the king soon changed his mind. Thomas was nonetheless buried in the Abbey in St. Edward's Chapel, and the elaborate brass covering his tomb is now completely missing. Alianore entered the convent of Barking after her husband's death, where she remained until her own death on 3 October 1399. In her will, she asked to be buried next to her husband, but as in life they were separated in death when his tomb was removed to another chapel. She and Thomas had one son and four daughters. The descendants of two daughters became the Dukes of Buckingham and the House of Devereux, the most famous being the Earl of Essex, one of Queen Elixabeth I's favorites. Alianore, portrayed in a widow's costume, probably did not easily forget the treachery of her husband's murder. Shakespeare portrayed her as a woman bent on revenge yet helpless to act. After finding little solace from her husband's brother, John of Gaunt, she tell him of her final destiny: "Farewell, old Gaunt: thy sometimes brother's wife With her companion grief must end her life." (Richard II, I.ii)

Description N/A
Comparanda N/A

Horowitz, Mark R. The Monumental Brasses of England: The Horrowitz Collection. Morton Grove, IL: Portcullis Productions, 1980 (1979). p. 13-14. Horowitz, Mark R. The Monumental Brasses of England. The Horowitz Collection. New Edition, 2002. p.24-26.

Artifact History

Archaeological Data N/A
Credit Line/Dedication The Horowitz Collection
Reproduction Yes
Reproduction Information N/A

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