Church Monuments Society


Follow-up on the lecture on Gwladus Ddu’s tomb

By CMS in Heritage

Update: the article from the Monmouthshire Antiquary is now available at

I’ve updated this post after a Twitter discussion with @DrAdamChapman and @AndrewAyton.

Some background reading: the best study of the later medieval tombs is

Rhianydd Biebrach, ‘Commemoration and Culture: the monuments of Abergavenny Priory in context’ in G. Nash, ed., An Anatomy of a Priory Church: the archaeology, history and conservation of St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2015).

Nash’s book also has good chapters on the conservation of the monuments.

See also: Phillip Lindley, Tomb Destruction and Scholarship (Donington, Shaun Tyas, 2007): this transcribes much of the antiquarian literature including Symonds.

Symonds is worth a read for other churches as well: I used the recent reprint, Ian Roy and C. E. Long, Richard Symonds’ Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army (Cambridge University Press, 1997, a reprint of the Camden Society original.)

Gwladus Ddu’s elegy is in (scroll down to download the whole thesis).

My article on the post-Reformation cross slabs is at – scroll down to download the final draft as printed. If Cóilín Ó Drisceoil picks up on this, many thanks, yes, I think they are similar to the ones in Ireland – but the difference is that I think the Irish ones are actually Catholic. We can identify a couple of the Welsh ones as recusant but as far as we can see, they are almost all commemorating people who accepted the established church. It does throw some light on the Welsh response to the Reformation. There was no desire for change before the 1530s but very little open resistance either – what seems to have happened is that in Wales we continued with a lot of traditional practices but somehow we got away with it because of our conspicuous loyalism to the Tudors. (A bit more about this at

We did debate several times at Reformation Studies conferences in 2017 the difference between Welsh and Irish responses and honestly, the conclusion we came to was that Wales has a border with England and Ireland has a coastline.


Someone asked for the URL of my web site. The web site is at and my personal blog is at but I also blog about tomb carvings, mainly in Wales, at


Some interesting questions which we didn’t have time to deal with, or didn’t deal with fully.

The link between Henry VII and the Herberts is complex. It was Sir William’s son, the first Herbert earl of Pembroke, who captured and imprisoned Henry’s father Edmund Tudor at Carmarthen and was arguably partly responsible for his death. When Herbert captured Pembroke Castle in 1461 he got custody of young Henry, and the boy was brought up for some years at Raglan. So you maybe have a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in the relationship – given that Edmund died before Henry was born, Henry could still have looked on William as a sort of father figure.

Someone asked whether, bearing in mind that men like William Marshall (albeit in an earlier age) were still fighting in their early 70s, do we know that William ap Thomas was too old to fight or is that just an assumption from his age?

And the answer is that yes, I was assuming it. Armour isn’t my field so I’m relying on Toby Capwell. He has said that he has examples of people in out-of-date armour and has assumed it was the armour they wore when they were involved in fighting, and that he has come across people being described as ‘broken down’ by their armour. Chain mail is heavy but plate armour is I think even heavier. There’s also the fact that his work on the detail of C15 armour suggests that even men of William ap Thomas’s class actually fought on foot, which would have made it even more physically demanding.

However, a discussion in Twitter (yes, we do have serious academic discussions on Twitter – it’s not just for silly political name-calling, it’s incredibly useful and there is a huge amount of specialist expertise out there) with @DrAdamChapman and @AndrewAyton suggests there is more to it than that. Adam mentioned Sir Matthew Gurney (d. 1406) apparently in his 90s – who was certainly in the Calais garrison in the 1380s. Being in a garrison was arguably a bit different from fighting in the field – but Andrew then referred to Guy, Lord Brian (d. 1390), who must have been about 70 when he led a retinue in a naval expedition in 1378.

So what is the significance of Sir William’s very up-to-date armour? Was he keeping kitted up in case he was needed? or was it just what the Nottinghamshire alabastermen had on hand? Toby Capwell does say there are some difficulties with the armour on a group of effigies of which this is one (specifically the carvers seem to have had difficulties with how the helmets worked). More thought needed!

Ann Adams asked about the inscription and the heraldry on Richard Herbert of Ewyas’s tomb – was there anything to indicate illegitimacy?

The inscription on Richard Herbert’s tomb has been damaged and restored – but we do have the invaluable Symonds who recorded it as ‘Hic jacet Richardus Herbert armiger qui obiit xij die Septemb. a. D’ni MCCCCCXo et a’o regni regis Henrici Octavi 2o: cujus a’i’e p’ d’ a’ ‘ . I can’t see anything in the heraldry that would indicate illegitimacy, though there may have been something on the shields on the tomb chest.
Regarding illegitimacy, though, this may be affected by the fact that the law of the March was basically Welsh law, certainly as far as land law was concerned, and Welsh law has no concept of illegitimacy. What counts is acknowledgement of paternity – so if William acknowledged Richard as his son, that was pretty much that.

Meanwhile … we went back for another look at Abergavenny, but that will need another blog post.

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