Church Monuments Society


John Evans, Park-keeper of Coldridge

By CMS in Heritage, Uncategorised

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Following the triumph of the discovery of Richard III’s remains in a Leicester car park, Phillipa Langley has turned her attention to the two young princes who Richard was accused of killing. As reported in the Times and Telegraph and most fully here in the Daily Mail, she has found evidence suggesting that the older of the two princes, Edward, may have lived out his life in obscurity on the estates of his half-brother Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. The argument rests mainly on the effigy of one John Evans, who first appears in the record in 1484, sometimes described as lord of the manor of Coldridge and sometimes as the marquis’s park-keeper there. The effigy is said to be looking at the medieval stained glass in the church, some of which depicts a young Prince Edward.

There do seem to be some weaknesses in the evidence. The crucial ‘scar’ on the effigy’s chin could be later damage, and the stained glass is clearly an assemblage of fragments, not necessarily in its original location. The name on the effigy is spelled JOHN EVAS but there is a suggestion of an abbreviation mark over it for the missing N. And the decoration on the crown over the young prince’s head is of course ermine, not deer.

Meanwhile, back in 2015, Norman Hammond summarised for the Times archaeological evidence suggesting that the bones found and reburied in Westminster Abbey in 1674 were really those of the two princes and that they had most probably died in 1484 when only Richard could have been responsible.

So what are we to make of the latest claims? Norman Hammond’s photos of the church are below: what do you think?



Comments (1)

  1. It has been suggested that the figure in the window isn’t Edward V. Looking at details of the window: the ermine on the large crown isn’t painted in the same way as the fur on the main figure’s garments, supporting the idea that this crown doesn’t belong closely with the figure. The figure seems mostly complete, although there could be a missing section below the hand with the book.
    The first word of the text is quite convincing as ‘prenys’ (as others have said) – not ‘king’, at any rate. The figure’s crown is similar to that worn by Prince Arthur Tudor in the Great Malvern Magnificat window, roughly contemporary with Coldridge. A similar sceptre or baton lies on an open book on Arthur’s prie-dieu, at which he kneels. Thus, the crown and sceptre do not mean the Coldridge figure has to be that of a king.
    The figure is depicted standing on a diaper tiled floor. If he were on a plinth, an identification as a recognized saint might be more secure, but plinths aren’t conclusive. On a painted panel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, commissioned by Oliver King in the mid 1490s, Prince Edward of Westminster, Edward IV, Edward V and Henry VII are depicted on plinths adorned with their heraldic beasts – King had served all of them as Secretary. (Henry VII was still living, of course.) Edward V’s crown is suspended above his head.
    Can the final word at Coldridge be interpreted as ‘seynte’, assuming that maybe an illiterate painter failed to follow his copy accurately? The book held by the figure could be an emblem of a saint, although it’s closed. Iconographically, martyrs’ books are regularly open, though not invariably, while confessor saints’ are closed. Both modes symbolize their witness to the Gospel. Otherwise, it might be a book of hours, to indicate piety and/or literacy.
    Edward V could be an example of the tradition of murdered royal personages being regarded as saints, sometimes by local veneration rather than after papal canonization. Because ‘prince’ can be used generically for a member of the royal family, ‘prenys’ just might be extended to sainted kings. There are several examples of murdered, sainted kings and princes in the Anglo-Saxon period; Edward King and Martyr’s 10th C assassination, at Corfe in the south-west, is reminiscent of Edward V’s – killed in his teens on the orders of a family member to gain power. He might not be particularly well known to laymen around 1500, however.
    Post-Conquest, the idea continued: Richard II tried unsuccessfully to have Edward II canonized; Henry VI was apparently venerated in a number of places as a saint, although Henry VII failed to make this status official; post-Reformation, Charles I is regarded as a martyr by some parts of the Church.
    Another kingly candidate for Coldridge is Edward the Confessor; officially canonized, he’s normally represented as a bearded older man carrying the ring that features in an episode of his legend. There’s a hint or two of veneration at the tomb of Edward of Westminster, Henry VI’s son, killed at Tewkesbury in 1471 – another teenage prince chewed up by power struggles. This apparently didn’t gain traction, however, and as a Lancastrian, he seems an unlikely candidate for Coldridge.
    John Evans was clearly a trusted employee of Dorset, Edward’s half-brother, and if Evans or his family depicted Edward in a window, it would express loyalty to Dorset as well as to Edward himself. Evans probably owed his prosperity largely to Dorset – the armour on his effigy would indicate his gentry status. After 1483, Dorset’s allegiance to Richard III was short-lived, and he defected to Henry Tudor, who later married Dorset’s half-sister Elizabeth of York, Edward’s sister.
    Edward V seems a perfectly good and perhaps the most likely subject for dedication from someone whose sympathies one might expect to remain basically Yorkist, and whom the originator of the window might regard as a saint in the medieval way of thinking? The idea that Evans was Edward V is high fantastical, but that doesn’t mean the figure in the window isn’t Edward V?

    C A Buckley

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