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.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

A probable portrait of King Edward II from Shaftesbury Abbey

Given that one of the books I am currently reading is about the life of King Edward II it seemed an appropriate coincidence that I saw on the MailOnline website that recent excavations at Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset have found a carved head which appears to be from a statue of the King. 

The nearly life size crowned head is somewhat damaged but sufficiently similar to the tomb effigy at Gloucester and, I would add, the corbel at St Albans, to be reasonably proposed as meant to be King Edward. The suggested date is from the 1340s. 

It has, it my memory serves me aright, some similarities to the effigy of King Athelstan which  survives at Malmesbury Abbey. Both were Benedictine houses and in the same diocese of Salisbury.

As it is virtually life size the archaeologists suggest it may have been from a statue on a choir or pulpitum screen similar to those which survive at Canterbury and York with standing figures of monarchs, that now shorn of its statues at Lincoln or known from the historical record at Durham and Old St Paul’s. Given Shaftesbury’s status as a royal shrine, with the shrine of St Edward the Martyr, and being under royal patronage, as well as its very considerable wealth to be able to afford such a feature, that seems an eminently sensible deduction. 

The article points to the scale of destruction of the monastic complex at Shaftesbury - it is such that when I visited many years ago my ability to detect such sites which, according to my mother, was or is like a sniffer dog trained to locate drugs or explosives, failed for a while as we walked past the small gateway that leads into the site twice before we found it and gained admission. 

The illustrated article, which includes a good cutaway reconstruction of the abbey church, can be seen at 700-year-old stone head likely of King Edward II unearthed in Dorset

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