Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Cardinal Henry Beaufort

Today is the 565th anniversary of the death in 1447 at his episcopal palace at Wolvesey Castle in Winchester of Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, and previously of Lincoln, and one of the legitimised children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swinford. For virtually half a century he had been at the centre of English political, diplomatic and ecclesiastical life.

The Oxford DNB life of him by Gerald Harriss, who has written the standard modern biography, can be read here.

My research on Richard Fleming, himself Bishop of Lincoln from 1420, suggests continuing contact between the two men from their time in Oxford about 1403-4 until Fleming's death in 1431 and that he can be interpreted as belonging to Beaufort's circle.

The tomb effigy in Winchester cathedral of the Cardinal is a seventeenth century restoration, and in addition to other carvings, such as that from Bishop's Waltham illustrated in the Oxford DNB article there is the theory that this portrait, by Jan van Eyck, usually said to be of the Carthusian Cardinal Niccolò Albergati is in fact one of Beaufort and dated to about 1431. It is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the original drawing in Dresden.

The probable portrait of Cardinal Beaufort by Jan van Eyck

Image: Wikipedia

There is more about the portrait here , where it is still described as being of Albergati. It is however very different from the other, more ascetic, images of the Carthusian Cardinal that survive.

In the St Cuthbert Window in York Minster is another depiction of the Cardinal which I have reproduced before. It shows him with the Cardinal's hat for which he had to wait so long:


Cardinal Beaufort of Winchester
York Minster, St Cuthert Window
sVII, 1b-2b

Image: Gordon Plumb on Flickr

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