Church Monuments Society


An update on the Coldridge effigy and stained glass

By CMS in Heritage

Updates to our post at .

There has been considerable criticism of the Edward V hypothesis, in the Press and on social media. In a letter to the Times, Nicholas Orme pointed out that it was the belief of the political class in England by the autumn of 1483 that Richard III had killed Edward and his brother. The boys were both in his keeping and he had the only motive for killing them. That prompted private outrage followed by rebellions, the secession of a stream of important men to Henry Tudor in Brittany, and Richard’s  overthrow two years later. Orme suggested that there was no conceivable way that Richard could have allowed Edward to live in obscurity, or that Edward’s supporters would have done so either.

Meanwhile, there have been several alternative readings of the text under the crowned figure in the stained glass. The first word is probably ‘Prenys’ (for Prince) then ‘Edward the’ – but is the next word ‘feyte’ (for fifth), ‘sexte’ (for sixth) or something else? In another letter to the Times, our Vice-president Sally Badham has suggested another alternative:

Sir, The attempt to link Edward V with monuments and imagery in Coldridge church (report, Dec 29; letters 30-31) is misguided. The argument that window glass in the chantry chapel showing a crowned figure holding a sceptre represents Edward V overlooks the accompanying inscription, notably the phrase “Edward the seynt”, a description never applied to Edward IV’s son Edward. Nor would the crown and sceptre be thought appropriate to one who had not taken coronation oaths. Could this figure instead represent Edward the Confessor, who was a saint?

What glass remains is fragmentary, probably the reset remnants of an elaborate scheme with a royal/Yorkist theme. It was chosen by “John Evans” in 1511, shortly after Henry VIII ascended to the throne and overt Yorkist allegiance was finally no longer dangerous. Evans was surely exactly who he said he was; indeed he might have been a loyal Yorkist retainer who had to adopt a low profile after Bosworth.

There are inevitably some caveats about this one as well. Edward the Confessor is usually depicted (as in the Wilton Diptych) as an older man. The figure in the Coldridge stained glass is clearly very young. Could it conceivably be an earlier St Edward, King and Martyr? His cult was much more unusual. He was venerated in Dorset – but did his popularity reach further west? or was he part of a sequence of holy kings, a Yorkist riposte to the Lancastrian cult of Henry VI? Ed K&M’s story isn’t dissimilar to Edward V’s, bumped off in his teens by a family member to achieve power. It was well enough known at the time for him to be on Prince Arthur’s chantry reredos (sometime between 1502 and 1516). He seems to have been chosen as a companion for Edmund, supplying name saints for Arthur’s two grandfathers, rather than Ed Conf (who is on the chantry exterior, an old man with the customary ring).

However …

The first word of the inscription is quite convincing as ‘prenys’. It’s not ‘king’, anyway. But it has been suggested that the figure doesn’t have to be a crowned king, by analogy with Prince Arthur in the Great Malvern window, who has a crown and sceptre pretty similar to the Coldridge figure. Great Malvern has to be before 1502, so roughly contemporary with Coldridge. The figure is definitely young.

John Evans was clearly a trusted employee of Dorset, Edward’s half-brother, and if Evans or his family put Edward into a window, it would express loyalty to Dorset as well as to Edward himself. Evans owed his prosperity, I’d guess, largely to Dorset. (He might even have met Edward as a child.) 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. With rather bad planning, though, Dorset switched back to Richard just before Bosworth because he believed Elizabeth Woodville had come to some arrangement with Richard. He found himself stuck in France as surety for French loans made to Henry, until Henry’s position was secure. Although Henry reversed the attainder, during Simnel’s rising, Henry put Dorset in the Tower, just to make sure he didn’t switch sides again. He wasn’t released until after Stoke Heath, so Evans couldn’t have accompanied Dorset into battle.

On the other hand, Dorset’s forced absences would have made him dependent on his administrators for the smooth running of the estates that remained to him.

Back to the iconography of the stained glass: the book could be an emblem of Edward as a saint, although it’s closed. Arthur is shown at Great Malvern kneeling at a prie-dieu with an open book on it – so the closed book might just be simply for piety, a book of hours, although more generally the book = Christian witness to the Gospel, as confessor or martyr. Martyrs’ books are regularly open in iconography, though not invariably.

The closed book might encourage the identification of the figure as Edward the Confessor. However, he didn’t become king until he was 42, and there don’t seem to be any legendary motifs relating to his earlier years. Iconographically, he’s normally bearded older man carrying the ring that features in an episode of his legend.

One might expect the Anglo-Saxon Edward King and Martyr not to be particularly well known to laymen, and he was crowned (so ‘prenys’ isn’t quite right). But he’s another example of the tradition of murdered royal personages being regarded as saints, sometimes by local veneration rather than after canonization by a pope. This goes back into the Anglo-Saxon period, with several examples of sainted kings and princes; Richard II tried unsuccessfully to have Edward II canonized; Henry VI appears in a number of places apparently 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.

The fragmentary nature of the glass is part of the problem: we really need to know when it was resited in its present location, and by whom.

Another critical comment from a local angle, and another alternative reading of the text in the stained glass at

part of the problem is the reading of that crucial text, and one wonders whether the glass painter was literate.

The argument will doubtless continue …

Comments (5)

  1. Thank heavens for a measured and informed view of this matter.
    Personally I think that people are clutching at straws and that their theory is deeply flawed.
    I first visited this church some 30 years ago and my opinion then was that the head was that of Edward V1. That it is actually Edward the Confessor is far more plausible.
    Many thanks.
    Jean Townsend

    Jean Townsend

  2. It’s impossible to imagine Elizabeth Woodville coming to an arrangement (as she clearly did) with Richard if he murdered her sons. Which doesn’t mean that this Evans was actually Edward. It seems possible that the boys died of disease and Richard, fearing he would be blamed for poisoning them, kept it quiet. This would at least make Elizabeth’s actions sensible.


  3. Additionally in 1484 when this “mysterious” John Evans turned up and became the Lord of the Manor, Edward V would only have been 13 years old whereas it sounds like Evans was a grown man brought in to manage the estate. It seems much more likely as suggested here that he was one of Dorset’s trusted men, and not really that surprising that nothing much is known about him. As for the boys in the tower, undoubtedly they were never seen after the summer of 1483 and the conclusion is very clear as to their fate.

    Prabal Ray

  4. The crown of Prince Edward looks similar to King Richard 111’s crown. Could this glass at Coldridge depict Prince Edward, the son of Richard 111?

    As a side note:
    Perkyn A Legh was closely aligned with the family of King Richard 111.

    It is an unusual name Perkyn Warbeck.

    Potentially, Perkyn Warbeck was also was the son of Richard 111. This is what his supporters first stated, but this was somehow changed along the way to imply he was one of the Princes in the tower.

    King Richard 111 set up a court in Flanders, this may well have been for his son and the Mother of his child, Kathryn of Faro, ? Kathryn, the daughter of Perkyn A Legh? The Welsh poem about this from that time is likely referring to King Richard 111, not King Richard 11.

    King Richard knighted his natural son, Richard during his second coronation parade. This is in the book of knights. This is potentially who Perkyn Warbeck actually was.

    John Evans however, may be John of Gloucester?


  5. I think you all need to read Phillipa Langleys book! We now know neither prince was murdered by Richard III and that he was probably not the evil man portrayed by the Tudors and Shakespeare. Don’t forget, Henry replaced a whole family one by one and had no real claim to the throne, unlike Richard.

    Everyone is so knowledgable about this – but you have to follow the evidence.

    If you read about Henry VII you can see he thought the princes were alive and spent vast amounts of money looking for them.
    If you read about Elizabeth Woodville, she knew they weren’t dead from her demeanour and actions..
    If you read about Elizabeth of York (their sister), she fell ill and retired from sight after the failed Yorkist uprising at Stoke Field in 1487 (where Edward may have died) and again when ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was executed.

    I don’t know about this Evans chap, but it is worth further investigation – if Edward did survive the battle It is perfectly plausible he was hidden in Devon, possibly with a bad injury. The area belonged to a relative after all.

    Main message – we don’t know what happened exactly yet, so all this certainty from commenters is misplaced.

    Alice E dennis

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