Stukeley, W. (1743). Palaeographia Britannica: or, Discourses on Antiquities in Britain. Number I.
William Stukeley (1687 - 1765) was a famous historian and antiquarian. Often described as the father of modern field archeology, he pioneered investigations of sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury. In October 1742, two months after its discovery, Stukeley visited Royston Cave. He conducted a study of the cave, drew some of the first recorded sketches of the carvings and published his research in a book the following year. He believed the cave was the private chapel of local noblewoman, Lady Roisia.
The following transcript was taken from the first edition of that book, published in 1743.
Please note. Every effort has been made to transcribe Stukeley’s publication as accurately as possible, but errors may still occur. Some words have been updated to their modern spelling to make it easier for you to read.
OR, DISCOURSES ON ANTIQUITIES IN BRITAIN. NUMBER I.
Origines Roystonianae, or, an account of the Oratory of Lady ROISIA Foundress of Royston, discovered at Royston, in august 1742.
By WILLIAM STUKELEY, Rector of All-saints in Stamford.
Superasque evader ad auras, Hic labor, hoc opus est. Virgil.
LONDON: Printed for R. MANBY, on Ludgate-Hill, over-against the Old-Bailey. MDCCXLIII
TO the RIGHT HONOURABLE
The Lord HARDWICK,
Lord High-Chancellor of Great-Britain, &c. &c.
BE pleased, My Lord, to accept of this public testimony of my grateful sentiment, for a favor you once offered me, when not personally known to me. Give me leave to beg your protection for the memory of a noble lady, of the most ancient and illustrious house of the earls of Oxford, lately restored to light, in the neighborhood of your Lordship’s fine seat of Wimpole. I with this account of it might be some entertainment, to part of a less important hour (if any hour of yours can be less important) when, for the good of the public, you seek a relaxation, in that delightful retreat.
From this monument, which I have here treated on, we have proofs of some material events in English history; in one of which, the administration of the laws of our country, is concerned: the supreme seat of which, your Lordship most worthily fills and adorns.
Time, that diminishes most things, may possibly add to the bulk of this work, to render it a volume; and worthy of your Lordship’s patronage.
As my desire in printing this discourse, is to please the public, I am sure, I shall serve them, in detaining your Lordship no longer with this address.
Your Lordship’s most devoted,
OR, Discourses on ANTIQUITIES in BRITAIN.
19 Octob. 1742
THE country about Royston is part of that great chalk-down, which extends itself across the kingdom, from Dorsetshire to Norfolk. It has a fine turf, and abounds with British barrows, and other antiquities, as usual to this kind of country. For the Britons delighting to exceedingly in horses and chariots, (a manner which they brought with them from the eastern countries of Egypt and Phœnicia) they frequented these agreeable downs; and their great men were buried in these barrows or tumuli. At Royston was one of these great panegyrics or public places of meeting; to celebrate a religious annual festival, and to sacrifice. But of this I shall take another occasion, to speak more particularly.
The magnanimous Romans, when they became masters of the island, with a public spirit never enough to be commended, drew many roads in a straight line across the island, in several directions. Two of these great roads meet at Royston, and cross one another. The one comes from the seaside of Sussex by Newhaven, passes through London, Hertford, Royston and so proceeds by Stamford to Scotland. ’Tis called Hermenstreet; a word in Saxon, equivalent to via militaris. The other road begins at the seaside in Dorsetshire about Weymouth, proceeds north-eastward along this track of the chalky country, by Dunstable, Royston, and terminates on the Norfolk coast near Yarmouth. It is called the Ikenil, or Ikening-street, in Latin Via Iceniana, because it goes to the country of the Icenians.
As these two great roads cross each other at Royston, ’tis not doubtful, that there was a Roman town here originally; Roman coins are often found. Mr Lettis, a gentleman of candor, gave me one lately taken up, of brass plated over with silver; the heads of Nero and Agrippina, face to face, AGRIPP. AVG. DIVI. CLAVD. NERONIS. CAES. MATER. reverse in a civic garland, EX S. C. around it, NERONI CLAVD. DIVI. F. CAES. AUG. GERM. IMP. TR. P. It has the same obverse and inscription on both side, as the gold one at Malden in Essex, another of the same in silver lately found at Colchester. Salmon’s Essex, p.425. This Roman town was quite demolished wither by the Scots and Picts, when they invaded the South after the Roman arms were withdrawn, or when our Saxon ancestors ravaged the Country in order to subdue it; or after them the Danes.
In the time of the conquest it was an open uninhabited country; concerning which, ’tis fit we should repeat what our great Camden says concerning it. “Upon the edge of the country of Hertford to the North, where it toucheth upon Cambridgeshire, standeth Royston, a town of much note, but not ancient; as having risen since the Norman conquest. For in those days there was a famous Lady named Roysia, (by some supposed to have been countess of Norfolk) who erected a cross upon the road side in this place; from thence for many years called Royses Cross; ‘till such time as Eustace de Marc founded just by it a small monastery, to the honour of St. Thomas. Upon this occasion inns began to be built, and by degrees it came to be a town; which instead of Royses Cross, took the name of Royses town, contracted into Royston. Richard the first granted it a fair to be kept at a set time, as also a market; which in our days is very famous, and much frequented on account of the mal-trade. For it is almost incredible what a multitude of corn merchants, malsters, and the like dealers in grain, do weekly resort to this market; and what a vast number of hordes laden with corn, do on those days fill all the road about it.”
Thus far Mr. Camden. This town is not mentioned in Domesday, as then not in being. In my Itinerarium Curiosum, pag. 76, I took notice of the remnant or foundation stone or Roisia’s-Cross here erected still remaining; where two Roman roads cross each other. ’Tis a flattish stone of a very great bulk with a square hole or mortaise in the centre, wherein was let the foot of the upright stone or tenon of that which was properly the cross. This was a large and high stone; and had another carved one on top of it like a crown-work or capital, upon which was the cross properly, or crucifix carved. In the Saxon times and after, it was a very usual thing for religious people to set up these monuments called crosses by highway sides, and especially where roads met. A like one called High-Cross in Northhamptonshire, where two Roman roads cross each other, the Foss and the Watling-Street. It seems to me, to have been a custom deduced from Druid times, and somewhat in imitation of their main amber stones: and that taken from the Arabians, Egyptians, and other most ancient and oriental nations; who set up such stones for religious purposes. The Turks descended from the Arabians, still practice the method, or what is of the like use, and call it a Kebla, or place whereto they turn their faces in their devotions. The Egyptian obelisks are to be referred to this same intent. Of which fort too, was Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, in scripture.
These crosses thus set by roads sides, served two good purposes; to put people in mind of saying their prayers; and of directing them in the road they wanted to go. A lettered direction there were few at that time of day could read, therefore usually some person resided at that place, on purpose to direct them. And many religious people in those times built themselves cells, and spent their whole life there, that they might be useful in directing travellers, and in praying for them, as an act of charity and benevolence. And ever since the beginning of christianity to this time, it has been a frequent custom for persons of a serious and religious disposition, to sequester themselves from the world, and make them cells and grotto’s in rocks and caverns, and by highway sides. It is an usage still continued in popish countries. Thus I suppose Lady ROISIA chose to devote herself in this very place, where she built the cross.
This Lady was of most noble blood, descended from the Earls of Oxford. The ground was her possession. And she probably built a cell, where the mercat cross of Royston now stands, or a little more to the south-east of it, where the houses stand, on the south-side of the Ikenil-street, opposite to the cross. Here she lived at least occasionally, and spent her latter time in meditation, reading, works of charity and prayer: and either dug herself, or caused to be dug, in the solid chalk, the cavity lately discovered, as an adytum or inner chapel. And in imitation of her grandfather Vere, her brother Nigel de Albany, and many more, about that time, she here abandoned the grandeur of her house for a cell, and probably designed this crypt to be the place of her sepulture.
In the month of August this year, 1742. they had occasion to set down a post in the mercat-house, to nail a bench on, for the use of the mercat-women. In digging, they struck trough the eye, or central hole of a millstone, laid underground; and found a cavity about sixteen foot deep: as appeared by letting down a plumbline. They took up the millstone, and saw a well-like descent, of about two foot diameter, with holes cut in the chalk, at equal distances, and opposite to each other, like the steps of ladder, for descent. It was accurately circular and perpendicular. They let a boy down, and from his report of its passing into another cavity, a slender man with a lighted candle, who confirmed the report; that the other cavity was filled with loose earth, yet not quite touching the wall, which he saw, on the right and left.
The people now entertained a notion of great treasure, hid in this place: and some workmen enlarged the descent. Then with buckets and a well-kirb, they set to work in earnest, to draw away the earth and rubbish that filled it. When they came to the level of this descent, they run along spit downwards and found the earth still loose. The vast concourse of people becoming now very troublesome, they were obliged to work by night. By unwearied diligence they came to discover some images cut on the wall. At length they quite exhausted it, and drew out the quantity of two hundred loads of earth, and rubbish, with which the whole cavity was filled. Mr. George Lettis, and William Lilley, taylor and salesman, who lives in the house over it, were the chief movers. In opening and emptying the place.
Then fully appeared this agreeable, subterraneous recess, hewn out of pure chalk: of about thirty foot high, and nearly twenty foot diameter. ’Tis of an elegant bell-like, or rather mitral form; well turned, and exactly circular. The effect of it is very pleasing. The light of the candles scarce reaches the top, and that gloominess over head increases the solemnity of the place. All around the sides, it is adorned with imagery in basso relievo, of crucifixes, saints, martyrs, and historical pieces, which the pious lady had cut for her entertainment, and to administer a help to her devotions. They are cut with a design and rudeness suitable to the time and manner wherein she lived, which was soon after the conquest. I have given a plate* which is a section of this grot, together with the manner of the descent. The cut is supposed to be made on the meridian line, and presents the eastern half of the place. A kind of broad bench goes quite round the floor, next the wall; broader, than a step, and not so high as a seat. This was designed for her kneeling upon, rather for prostration, in her particular acts of devotion. This bench is cut off in the eastern point, by what I call the grave, which is dug deeper into the chalk.
I have seen many of like works as this, in my travels in England. They are called commonly, hermitages. They abound in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, all along the side of the river Severn: and wherever a rock above ground favors the purpose. In this country our devout lady made use of the native chalk, a more elegant kind of materials.
In the plate of the section, we may observe toward the top, a piece of masonry. They that viewed it near, say it is made of brick, tile and stone, laid with very good mortar. Some think this was done, to mend a defective part in the chalky cliff. Perhaps it was the original descent of ROISIA, out of her cell. From this she went down by a ladder. But after she was buried here, directly underneath, in this eastern point of the cell: or perhaps, as it was designed, she should be; they made the present passage upward, and walled up the other.
This was, in my opinion, the oratory of the lady ROISIA. Hither she retired, still further from the world, for particular devotions, for a meditation on death, to anticipate (as it were) her state of dissolution: this was occasionally the place her living death, and designed for her final sepulture. Her skull and bones were found in the earth toward the bottom, as they emptied the place. They said, the bones were very much decayed, and for the most part carried away with the rubbish. Her skull is still kept in the place, but broken into several pieces. Her teeth were firm and white, and taken away by the towns-people, and some of her bones too; though they were not acquainted with her name and circumstance. I attentively viewed and considered her skull. Anatomists know very well, to distinguish a man’s from a women’s . By all the skill I can pretend to in that science, I dare pronounce it to be female: and we have no reason to doubt, that it was the head of our famous recluse.
I made two sketches of the imagery, with accuracy enough: The work is done with little art; but in the taste of that age. The two plates take in nearly, the whole circumference of this curious crypt.
For the entertainment of the inquisitive reader, on occasion of this discovery, and in honor to the memory of the founders of the good town of Royston, I shall give I. a succinct account of this lady and her family. II. endeavour to explain the imager on the wall of this chapel.
Our lady Rohesia, ROISIA, or plain english, Rose, was daughter to the great Alberic or Aubury de Vere, the second of that name, eldest son of Alberic de Vere, earl of Guisnes; who came into England with William the conqueror. He had a younger brother who died young and unmarried, Geffery: who gave to the abby of Abingdon, the church of Kensington. Hern’s Benedict abbot of Peterburgh in the preface. Our Alberic de Vere, father of ROISIA, was a man of consummate wisdom and eloquence. He succeeded to his father’s inheritance in the second year of William Rufus, 1088. he was admitted to the intimate counsels of king Henry I. and of great authority under him in the commonwealth. He was made chief justice of England, and portgreve of sheriff of London and Middlesex. An office, in those days, before the city was privileged to choose her own magistrates, of principal authority: and conferred only on men of noble birth and approved loyalty. Further, to the increase of his honor, the king bestowed on him the office of lord high-chamberlain of England, to hold in fee, and inheritance. From him is hereditarily descended to the dukes of Ancaster. He had a vast estate both in England and beyond sea. He lived in his castle of Heveningham in Essex, and Castle-Camps in Cambridgeshire.
He married Adeliza, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, lord of Tonbridg, surnamed Crispin, earl of Brien in Normandy. His father’s name was Geffery, who came over with the conqueror. His first feat was at Benefield in Northamptonshire, then at Tonbridg. Gilbert de Clare married Adeliza, daughter to the earl of Clermont.
Alberic de Vere, father of ROISIA, lived 52 years after his father, in much honor and favor with his prince, but died in the troublesome time of king Stephen, whose party he did not favor. So that the king seized him and his son-in-law, Geffery de Magnavile earl of Essex, who married his daughter ROISIA, and confined them in his court at St. Alban’s. till he compelled them to part with some of their castles. Aubry de Vere surrendered his castle of Canfield magna in Essex. Geffrey de Magnavile, was obliged to surrender the tower of London, Walden-castle, and that of Plessis. This was in 1142. says Hoveden, Henry Hunt, annals Dunstaple, &c. It is wrote in a MS. Math. Paris in the king’s library, that sir Geffery de Magnavile had a very sharp skirmish with the king’s party, before they could lay hold of him. Albery de Vere died 1143. his wife lived his widow 20 years, and died 1163.
1. Albery de Vere, the third of that name, first Earl of Oxford, he died 1194.
2. Geffery de Vere a baron, died before his father.
3. William de Vere, made Bishop of Hereford 1186, a great builder.
4. Gilbert de Vere, Lord of Raynham in Essex: buried in St. John of Jerusalem’s, London.
5. A son professed in religion, canon of St. Osith’s at Chich. He wrote the life of St. Osith, the daughter of Edelsrith king of Northumberland, who died A.D. 617. She, after marriage, devoted herself to a religious life, and built a noble monastery called by her name, near the seaside in Essex. Her obit is celebrated 7 Octob. Aubery de Vere the second Earl of Oxford, was a benefactor to that house: and others of this family.
6. A daughter, our ROISIA.
7. Another daughter Alice married to Suene de Essex, who had a son Robert Fitz-Suene, founder of the Priory of Prittlewell.
The descent of our foundress’s father, which was most honourable and illustrious, to avoid tediousness, I have given in an heraldical method. From him, scarce any noble family in England, but have enriched their blood. Her grandmother was sister to the conqueror, the daughter of Herlwin de Burgo, from whom the whole race of the earls of Albemarle are descended.
Aubrey de Vere the third of that name, brother of our ROISIA, was the first earl of Oxford by the gift of Maud the empress, contending with king Stephen. He took part with her, mindful of the royal favors bestowed on his family by king Henry I. her father. In his youth, he served in the wars of the holy land, and behaved with great honor. This humor began in 1096. revived again in 1147. when Aubrey de Vere went. They bore crosses, that went on the pious expedition, which was a great occasion of coats armorial. Now he divided his coat by a cross. He enjoyed the earldom 54 years, and died 1194.
He married first Eusemia, daughter of Sir Wiliam Cantelupe knight, founder of the nunnery of Iklington in Cambridgeshire. Whose wife Lucia was the first prioress there. No issue.
2. He married Adeliza, daughter of Henry of Essex, constable and baron Raleigh: they had issue.
Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford: without issue
Robert de Vere earl of Oxford, after his brother.
Henry de Vere, from whom the Lord Mordaunts are descended. He was Constable of Gysors.
Sarah, wife of Richard Engayn of Blatherwic.
3. He married Adeliza, daughter of Robert Consul, Earl of Gloucester.
To return, Dame ROISIA de Vere was married to Sir Geffrey de Magnavile the first earl of Essex, so named from the village in Normandy, which was his possession: often called Mandevile. He was son of William de Magnavile by Margaret, daughter and heiress of the great Eudo Dapper (the sewer) founder of the magnificent monastery of St John’s at Colchester: whose gatehouse still remains: who was buried there, likewise Rohesia his wife, daughter of Walter Giffard earl of Buckingham. This Eudo died Feb. 28. 1120. He built, at least repaired the castle of Colchester: his sister Albreda married Peter de Valoines. She founded the priory of Binham in Norfolk. His wife Roisia repaired the monastery of St. Neots, in the time of Hen. I, and gave her town of Eynesbury to it. Sir Geffrey’s grandfather was Geffrey de Magnavile, who came into England with William the conqueror: a most valiant soldier, and behaved very courageously at the famous battle of Hastings. He had a very great estate given him by the conqueror, in many counties, as appears in Domesday book. He founded the abby of Hurley in Barkshire.
Our Sir Geffrey was heir both to his father and mother, so that he had an immense estate, in England and Normandy. He was the first Earl of Essex, created by charter of Maud the Empress, which original charter is now in the Cotton library. It was confirmed by king Stephen. He gave to the monastery of Hurley of his grandfather’s founding, one hundred shillings yearly rent. He founded the great abby of Walden, where Audleyinn house now stands, consecrated by Robert bishop of London, Nigel bishop of Ely, and William bishop of Norwich 1136. himself and ROISIA his wife present, and all his principal tenants. He endowed it largely. He was moreover of a warlike and magnanimous disposition; and so much resented king Stephen’s usage of him and his father-in-law Aubrey de Vere, at St. Albans, as afore-mentioned, that he broke into open war against him. But the king dispossessed him of all his inheritance, his sewership, the stewardship of Normandy, the sheriffalty of Middlesex, Essex, and Hertfordshire, the constableship of the tower of London, of Walden where he built the castle, as the head of his honor; and in a word, of all his great possessions both in England and Normandy. Our earl kept Ramsey-Abby as a castle, and lived upon spoiling king Stephen’s demesnes and friends. He married his sister Beatrix to William de Say, a warlike man, whom he took of his party, with many soldiers; and did the king great damage. At length he received a wound in his head at the castle of Burwell in Cambridgeshire, which, out of his heroic disposition, he neglected and died of it, the sixteenth of the calends of October 1144. they durst not bury him in his abby of Walden which he founded, because he was excommunicated, for turning the monks out of Ramsey-Abby. But he died with great contrition for his sins, and making what satisfaction he could. So that some knights Templars put upon his body the habit of their order, with a red cross, and carried it to the temple in London, enclosed it in lead and laid it a crooked tree in the garden. Hen. Huntingdon the old edit. p. 235. Camden’s Essex, Salmon’s Hertford, pag. 99. At length, after some, William, prior of his abby of Walden, out of regard to the dead hero, and in order to get his body buried in his abby, by great expense obtained a pardon for him, and absolution, of pope Alexander the third; so that the body was received among christians, and divine offices celebrated for him: and he was buried in the porch, before the west door of the present temple church.
Geffery de Magnavile had issue by a former wife Alice, married to John de Lacy, constable of Chester, and lord of Halton.
When Geffrey de Magnavile was made earl, he added an escarbuncle of gold to his arms, which was quarterly before.
The issue of Geffrey de Magnavile, earl of Essex, and of ROISIA de Vere.
1. Arnold de Magnavile, who persisting in his father’s rebellion against King Stephen, was banished the land, and died without issue.
2. Geffrey de Magnavile, earl of Essex. Through the favor of king Henry II. he was restored to the earldom of Essex, with the third penny of all pleas within the country, together with all the lands and honors held by his father, grandfather and great grandfather, as well in England as in Normandy: especially Walden, Sabridgeworth and Waltham. Also the fee which king Henry his grandfather had out of the said three manors: for ever quit claimed to him and his heirs: to hold the said country of Essex as fully and freely as any earl in England or Normandy held their earldom. Witnesses to the charter, Reginald, earl of Conrwall, Robert, earl of Leicester, Roger, earl of Clare, Henry of Essex, constable, Richard de Humet, constable, Richard de Luci and many bishops. Done at Canterbury. It is now in the Cotton Library. With William and Robert his brothers, he confirmed to the religious of Chicksand of countess ROISIA’s foundation, their mother, the site of a grange and lordship in Chippenham, which she gave them. He married Eustachia, kinswoman to the king, but divorcing her, so incensed the king that he took away the lordships of Walden and Waltham. He died without issue, the twelfth of the calends of November 1167. in an expedition against the Welsh, whereon he was sent by king Henry II. and was buried with great pomp in the midst of the choir at Walden. He was a man eloquent of speech, of great ability in civil affairs, as well as military.
3. William de Magnavile son of Geffrey de Magnavile and lady ROISIA de Vere, was earl of Essex after the decease if his brother Geffrey. A man who inherited all his father’s and brother’s spirit and heroic ardor. King Henry II. took him into great favor. He was constantly in his court. Her partook with him all his French, Welsh, Scotch, and Irish wars. The king gave him leave to fortify his castle of Plessy, in Essex.
First. He was next married to Christian, the daughter of Robert Fitxwalter, Lord of Woodham Walter in Essex; without issue.
Secondly, He married Avis, the daughter and heiress of William le Gros, Earl of Albermarle; with whom he had likewise that Earldom, as also the lordship of Holderness in Yorkshire. The marriage was solemnised with great pomp at Plessy, the ninth of the kalends of February 1179, William earl of Albermarle died that year and was buried at Thornton-abby, Lincolnshire, which he founded. In 1173. William de Magnavile was with the king in Normandy, at Vernoul. Benedict. abbot, p. 43, 58. In 1175. he was a witness to the agreement made at Windsor, between king Henry and Roderic king of Conaught. He was witness likewise to a charter of Henry II. To S. Paul’s church Bedford. Dugd. Mon. II. p. 239. In 1176. he went to Jerusalem with Philip, earl of Flanders. Benedict. p. 160. In 1181. he attended king Henry into France, being one of the generals of his army there. In 1182. he was sent ambassador to the empreror Frederick II. to pacify his wrath against Henry duke of Saxony.
Our William de Magnavile, Earl of Essex, in 1184. at Westminster, in presence of the king gave to the monastery of S. John at Clerkenwell ten deer yearly, out of his chafe at Enfield. He gave them too a manor at Chippenham, except the church and the lands belonging to Chikesand nunnery. Dugd. Mon. II p. 544. In 1186. he was sent by the king to make a truce with the king of France. Hoveden, p. 361. In 1188. he fought the king of France who burnt his castle of Albermarle, ibidem, p. 367. He fought valiantly with William de Barry, Dreu de Merlon and others, Dugdale’s Baron. then he destroyed the french king’s garden, burnt the town of S. Clere. At the coronation of king Richard I. he carried the crown imperial of gold, adorned with precious stones of great value. He did many feats of arms, and died at Roan 18 calends, December 1190. without issue. His body was interred in the chapter-house of the abby of Mortimer in Normandy: his heart in his abby of Walden, in the chapter house there. He founded the monastery of Stonely com. Huntendon, and did many other acts of piety, as may be read in Dugdale’s Baronage, at large. His aunt Beatrix was his heir, who married to William lord Say, and in her right, earl of Essex: who had issue that took the name of Magnavile. She gave the church of Elsenham in Essex to the monastery of Walden founded by her nephew.
Avis le Gros, the widow of William de Magnavile, countess of Albermarle, was again married to Baldwin de Bethune, Earl of Lisle. And thirdly to William de Fortibus, who had a son William, who was earl of Albemarle.
4. There was another son, Robert de Magnavile, of Sir Geffrey, and lady ROISIA, who, I suppose, died without issue, before the last William earl of Essex.
Lady ROISIA de Vere, was secondly married to Paganus or Payn de Beachamp, the third baron of Bedford, created by William Rufus. He was second son to Hugh Beauchamp, who came into England with William the Conqueror, for which he had a vast estate given him in Bedfordshire, Bucks, Hertfordshire, and elsewhere, as appears in the Domesday-book. He gave to the abby of Thorney lands in Elbodesey. Mon. Angl. He had three sons, Simon, Payn and Milo. This Hugh was created by the conqueror, baron of Bedford, whose eldest son Simon died without issue, being steward to king Stephen. His brother William, who likewise came into England in aid of the conquerorr, had issue three daughters; Maud married to Robert Mowbray; Beatrice to William lord Latymer; and Ella to Nicholas Pigot, from whom is descended the Gascoynes of Bedfordshire.
This Hugh de Beauchamp, father to lady ROISIA’s second husband, had another brother Walter de Beauchamp, who likewise came to the aid of the conqueror, and by him was created baron of Elmesley, Worcestershire. From him is descended Beauchamp earl of Worcester: Beauchamp baron de Powick: Beauchamp baron de Holt: Beauchamp baron de Abergavenny: and Beauchamp Lord of S. Amand.
The Bedfordshire branch to which our ROISIA belongs, lived in the castle of Bedford, which her husband built; and at the Hoff in Bletneshoe, or Bletsoe, near Bedford: where the lord St. John now dwells, who is descended fro them: as well as the Seymours, Beauchamps and Piercys of the duke of Somerset’s family. Hoff is an old saxon word, for seat or dwelling belonging to a great personage.
Near Bedford, where lady ROISIA lived with her second husband, are two very ancient religious houses, built about the same time: Ellenstow noe Elstow a nunnery, by Judith, niece to the conqueror, countess of Northumberland and Huntingdon, wife of the great earl Waltheof. She dedicated it to the empress Helena, a british lady, mother to Constantin the great. The other a priory of canons regular at Newenham, was built by our ROISIA, to which she translated the religious, from the church of S. Paul in Bedford, as Mr. Camden writes. Further she and her husband Payn de Beauchamp, founded a nunnery at Chikesand, by Shelford in Bedfordshire: where they were both buried: as some writers say.
Payn de Beauchamp and his countess ROISIA gave lands to Thorney-abby: it was part of her jointure. Dugdale’s Mon. tom. I. p. 245. Baronage, Bedf. p. 223.
Milo, younger brother to Payn de Beachamp, died without issue, he made Payn his heir, and with his consent gave to the monks of Bermondsey in Southwark, a mill, 27 H. II.
To Payn de Beauchmap and lady ROISIA were born one son and three daughters.
1. Simon de Beauchamp, baron of Bedford, he gave to the abby of Chikesand of his mother’s founding, the churches of Chikesand and Hagenes, with the grange of Hagenes, the churches of Lyncelad, Cogepole, Caisho, Stotfold, and the chapel of Estwick. He confirmed the giants to Newenham, which the countess his mother made, whence sometime called the founder. He left issues son William, who lived in the castle at Bedford, the head of his honor. He was buried in Newnham priory abovesaid, of his mother’s founding, as one author says. Milles catalogue of honour. Leland writes, he was buried before the high-altar in St. Pauls’ Bedfordshire, under the flat marble, with this epitaph.
De Bello campo jacet hic sub marmore Simon
Fundator de Neweham.
In 9th ofkKing John 1206. he gave the chapel of Eastwick to it. Chauncy’s Hertf. P. 192.
2. A daughter married to Roger Mowbray, son of Nigel de Albany a Normon, bow-bearer to king Hen. I. by whose command he took the name, estate, and honours of Mowbray, baron Mowbray: which belonged to Robert earl of Northumberland attainted: no less than one hundred and twenty knights fees in the dukedom of Normandy; two hundred and forty knights fees in England. From this man is descended the Howards and Berkleys, and the noble and ancient families. This Nigel de Albany at last professed a religious life.
3. A daughter, married into the ancient family of the Wakes, whose blood and estate came into the royal family.
4. A daughter married to — Fitzothes. By these who were coheiresses general to the a house, ROISIA became the ancestor of very many noble english families. And a she derived her blood from some of the saxon kings before the conquest, so some of the kings of England are descended from her.
Beyond controversy, no person was more honorably born, or more nobly allied, that our ROISIA. By reviewing the genealogy, we may see the occasions of mistakes concerning her authors. Her mother Adeliza was sister to Richard de Clare, earl of Clarence and Hertford; whence we find it written in the margin of Mr. Camden, speaking of her at Royston, (others say, she was the wife of Richard de Clare) they mean Roisia the widow of Richard Fitzfgilbert de Clare, afterward married to Eudo Dapifer: but she was not the foundress of Royston, though grandmother to our lady’s first husband Sir Geffrey de Magnavile.
Again, Richard de Clare, the second of that name, earl of Glocester and Hertford, had a daughter called Rose or Roisia, who was married to Roger the third baron Mowbray of Axholm in Lincolnshire. This occasioned that paragraph in Camden, in relation to our ROISIA (by some supposed to have been countess of Norfolk) probably she had her name from our ROISIA.
ROISIA’s great grandfather Alphonsus de Vere, married Catharine, daughter of Arnold the second earl of Flanders, by Rose his wife, daughter to Berengar king of Lombardy, from hence perhaps our ROISIA had her name.
Her family the Veres, as they were most potent and well allied, were ever much courted by the english monarchs, and most noted by their steady loyalty. The first Alberic de Vere, earl of Guisnes her grandfather, who came into England in aid of the conqueror, was not his subject. From the king he received very large possessions in Essex and Suffolk: particularly the towns of Colne, Canfield, Heveningham, Belchamp, Bumsted, Radwinter, Bentley, Thundersley, Belsted, Burgate, Lavenham, Waldingfield and others. At Colne he built his seat and a priory: where, in his old age, he consecrated himself to devotion, ended his life in religious habit, and was buried A.D. 1088. and it became the burying place of his family.
II. Having given this short account of her noble pedigree, marriages and issue, I propose in the second place, to speak of the oratory found in Royston. The neighboring manor of Nusells to the south-eastward, in Barkway parish, belonged to Eudo Dapifer above-mentioned, as recounted in Domesday. In the same, Barkway is said to belong to Geffrey de Mandevile. But Newsells descended with all the great possessions of Eudo to that Sir Geffrey de Magnvilla first husband to our ROISIA, and most likely became part of her jointure or dower; which occasioned her setting up the cross here: for it is in that parish. In 6. Edward I. the jury found, that the priory of the cross of Rohesia was founded on the fee of Newsels. Chauncey’s Hertfordshire, p. 99. In the time of Henry VII by the revolution of things, Nusels manor developed again into her own family of the Veres, earls of Oxford. Chauncy, p. 101. At the latter end of the year 1167. ee find ROISIA residing with her nuns at Chikesand. Dugdale’s bar. p. 204. this was at the death of her son Geffrey Magnavile earl of Essex. My opinion founded on this and many other circumstances, concerning the chapel underground, which occasion this discourse, is, that the latter part of her life, somewhat in imitation of her grandfather and some other near relations of hers, and many more at that time of day, she here built a cell by the cross, and took upon herself an ascetic life. She caused this oratory to be dug under her cell, for an inner room, chapel, or more tied place of devotion; and which she probably deigned for her place of sepulture. For her amusement, to be an occasion of and assistant to her devotions, she cut the imagery on the wall, from time to time, as fancy dictated, and particular events in the history of that time; wherein her own family had a considerable share. This I gather from view and consideration of the cell and imagery, and all circumstances, which I shall explain.
The grand compartment, what we may call the upper end or high-altar, in this sacellum, is directly to the west, opposite to the couch or grave, cut down below the surface, which is in the east, this grand compartment is a large crucifix formed in the chalk, in basso relievo, in a kind of square tablet: and not ill done, for that time of day. Our saviour extended on the cross, two figures standing on each side, with their hands upon their breasts, in posture of praying. Of these two figures, though both in long garments, yet by the head-dress we discern manifestly, one to be male, the other female. They are St. John and the blessed Virgin. We are to remark, that all our saints here have a cross cut in the lower part of their garments. At the bottom of the cross of the great crucifix is cut, what we call a saltire of St. Andrew’s cross. Upon the ground of field of this great crucifix, is a heart and hand, together with a heart marked by double lines, between the figures alternately; as in the plate.
We may move a question here, how it comes about that our pious lady set compartment to the west? In answer to which, we are to remark, that it may, perhaps, regard to the cross, which she erected above. Whether the cross stood originally, where the bottom stone or foot-stool of it now remains; or on the contrary side of the Hermenstreet, where the mercat-cross now is, (as some affirm) still the chief crucifix in our oratory regards it directly. And these crosses, as I observed before, were really kebla’s; and they that said their prayers here, kneeled indifferently round them in any part, as their journey brought them. So that our chief crucifix in the oratory was nearly perpendicularly underneath the cross, if it stood on the east side of the road, which was ROISIA’s own demesnes.
I have observed the same position of a crucifix, in a chapel of a hermitage cut in the rock in Derbyshire, though at the east-end was an altar properly, cut in the same rock.
To the end of the oratory, lady ROISIA prostrated herself, in the ordinary acts of devotion. I apprehend, she commenced this way of life about that remarkable year 1170. when peace was made abroad, between the king then reigning Henry II. And Thomas a Becket. We may suppose this chapel and this crucifix to be cut about that time. The year after, Becket was murdered.
In explaining the rest of the imagery, I shall do it in chronological order, having some foundation in the history of those times for so doing.
A. D. MCLXXIII.
On the right-hand of the principal crucifix, is the figure of S. Laurence the Roman archdeacon, with the gridiron, the instrument of his passion, in his hand. He is in long garments besuiting his office, marked with a cross towards the bottom. He suffered martyrdom in the IXth. persecution, in the reign of Gallienus, at Rome. It is celebrated by the church on August the tenth.
Underneath him is the picture of a king, with a crown on, his hair dressed in the fashion of the times we are upon, the reign of Henry II. He lifts up both his hands, as in sign of great fear and astonishment. These two figures were cut, as I apprehend, in the year 1173. and regard a memorable action that happened on St. Laurence’s day, relating to our king Henry II. and Lewis the then king of France. The history is thus.
ROISIA’s son William de Magnavile, earl of Essex, was now with the king in Normandy, one of his chief counsellors and generals. He was the first among the english nobles sworn on the part of the king, to the marriage contract, betwixt his son John and the daughter of the earl of Maurien. Hern’s Benedict abb. Petrob. p. 43. this son John, by the instigation of the french king, rebelled against his father. The French king immediately came to his aid with all his power, to ravage the dominions of the king of England on the continent, in Normandy, Aquitaine, Anjou, and Brittany. The castle of Albemarle was first taken. Then the french king besieged Vernoul with a vast army, and great apparatus of military engines and machines: where Hugh de Lacy and Hugh de Beauchamp, her brother-in-law or cousin were constables, who defended it with great constancy, for a whole month. The burghers then having spent all their provision, came to a three days truce with the french king; stipulating that they should have liberty of going to the king of England, and requiring succour; which if it was not afforded them on the third day, the festival of St. Laurence, they would give the french king; and he swore to them solemnly, that if on that day they delivered up the town, he would restore the hostages.
The King of England mustered his forces immediately; under him earl William de Magnavile ROISIA’s son had a most eminent command. When they were in sight of Vernoul, eager to revenge the cause of their monarch, the french king treacherously sent an embassy to king Henry, desiring to have a parly with him the next day, at a certain place, by nine o’clock: which was agreed upon. But in the morning, neither the french king, nor any from him came to the place appointed. This was on St. Laurence’s day. King Henry from thence beheld the town of Vernoul in flames. For the french king having thus deceived him, had the town delivered up to him by the burghers, according to the agreement. Nevertheless Lewis on his part, not regarding his oath, set fire to the town, carried away the burghers, the cattle and hostages, and fled with great precipitation. He was forced to leave his tents, baggage, military engines and all his stores behind, fearing the vengeance of brave king Henry.
The King perceiving this, pursued him with the edge of the sword, and made very great slaughter among the french, and took an innumerable company of prisoners: and continued the war all that campaign, with very great effect. Thus Benedict the abbot of Peterborough writes. “ Let it be had in memory, and be it known, that this flight of the french king was on Thursday the 5th of the ides of August, on the vigil of St. Laurence, to the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by punishing the wickedness of perjury, so soon revenged the injury offered to his martyr.” Roger Hoveden, who was Henry’s chaplain, has the same words, p 306.
This flight of the perfidious french king is commemorated and carved by our Lady ROISIA on the wall of her chapel. And doubtless on the anniversary of this day she performed here her religious offices, to thank the Almighty, for thus vindicating the honor of the king and preserving her son. The figure of the king is Lewis VII. of France.
This event made a great noise all over Europe. Polydore Virgil seems to confound it, with king Lewis’ besieging Roan the year following. For he writes, the french king used to keep St. Laurence’s day very religiously. He ceased the siege and gave the inhabitants a formal truce. Nevertheless some of his men making a secret attack upon the town, were discovered by our men, who invoking St. Laurence, revenged the perfidy of Lewis with a great slaughter.
St Laurence’s day is 10th August. Upminster church in Essex, where Geffrey de Magnavile her first husband had an estate, is dedicated to St. Laurence. In Walsingham’s hypodigma Neustriae, p. 449. edit. Francof. a like instance of the notion of St.James’ punishing the perfidy of Matthew earl of Boloign, this fame year 1173. This year likewise her son William de Magnavile took prisoner in battle Ingeram de Trie, a great man.
A. D. MCLXXVI
On the left-hand of St. Laurence and the french king, are three figures, of a man, a woman and a child, all in long garments, and marked toward the bottom with a cross. The woman lays her arm upon the child’s neck. I take them to be Joseph, the virgin, and our Saviour as an infant. Underneath them i the figure of a horse, a man, his sword and shield, all as thrown down. This, no doubt, means the conversion of St. Paul. Our pious lady, as I apprehend, cut these figures, on account of a very remarkable circumstance happening in the year 1176. which we find recited in Benedict abbas, p. 130.
In that year, king Henry II. and the king his son along with him, field their court at Windsor upon the Christmas holy-days. And cardinal Hughesun sent from the court of Rome, was at the same time at York with the archbishop. Before the purification of the Virgin, and about the feast of the conversion of S. Paul, the king came to Northampton, and held a great parliament there of the hierarchy, the nobility and commons, and enacted the Assize of the realm, by their joint authority. i.e. they divided the realm of England into six circuits, and appointed three justiciaries to each circuit, much in the manner that had been observed ever since, to this day, for the public administration of justice. The whole affair may be seen in the above citied author; who adds, it was done at Clarendon, and after recorded at Northampton. It is a matter of consequence which our lady ROISIA would be more induced to take notice of, on account of her father having been lord chief justice of England.
At the same parliament, at Northampton, upon the summons of the king, William king of Scotland appeared, itht he bishops of Scotland, to acknowledge subjection to the church of England.
These events, I take to be the occasion of lady ROISIA cutting these figures on the wall of her chapel. There might be some particular incidents therein beside, relating to her family, which we know not. This year 1176, was a year highly glorious to our english monarch. Walsingham tells us , here were in the court at once, ambassadors from Alfonsus king of Castile, Sanctius king of Navarr, Emanuel the emperor of Constantinople, Frederick the Roman emperor, William archbishop of Rhemes, Henry duke of Saxony, and Philip earl of Flanders.
A. D. MCLXXVII.
On the left of the last mentioned sculptures, and toward the chief crucifix, which is, as it were, the high-altar of our chapel, is cut the figure of St. Katharin of Alexandria, with a wheel, the instrument of her passion, in her hand. She has a crown on her head, as being of the blood royal of Egypt. We are told, in the legends of her life, that this eminent virgin and martyr was imprisoned for twelve days, no person permitted to come near her, even to bring her all necessaries. This is cut on the left side of the tablet of the crucifix. There is a cavity sunk into the wall, which is to represent a prison. In one end of it, the virgin sits in a disconsolate posture. In the other end, she is represented as lying, with a cross marked on her garment. Underneath her, is a hand stretched out and a heart, meaning her zeal for religion, and the protection of providence, shown toward her. The like above; and the dove hovering over her, as mentioned in the legends. Underneath this prison, are two nich-like cavities cut in the wall, which were made to set a lamp in, as we may well suppose, on her anniversary November 25.
There is very interesting reason, why lady ROISIA cut these figures of St. Katharin here, which belongs to the year 1177. the story is thus told, in Benedict Abbas, p. 160. Philip earl of Flanders, and William de Magnavile earl of Essex her son, took upon themselves the crosses of the Jerusalem pilgrimage, in 1176. the year following , after Easter, they with many barons and knights went on the pilgrimage. When they came to Jerusalem, associating to themselves the brethren of the temple and knights hospitallers, and Raymond prince of Antioch, and in a manner the whole militia of th holy-land, they besieged a certain castle belonging to the Pagans, which was called Harangh. When this was told to Saladin the Saltan of Babylon, he gathering together the kings, princes under him, and more than 500,000 horse and foot, entered upon the territory of the christians: and fixed his tents, not far from the holy city of Jerusalem. The knights templars and hospitallers and soldiery of the king of Jerusalem, who stayed there to guard the city, advanced against the Pagans, the bishop of Bethlehem carrying the holy cross before them. The christens were not above 20,0000 fighting men, yet by the power of the Almighty, they obtained the victory. This happened 1177. in the plains of Ramah, on the day of St. Katharin, virgin and martyr, 25. November.
The said Benedict abbot writes, p. 203. that the king sent 1000 marks of silver by the earl of Essex, ROISIA’s son, for the support of the holy-land. This year, our author Benedict was made abbot of Peterborough.
A. D. MCLXXXV.
On the left-hand of the last mentioned figures of St. Katharin in prison, is St. Christopher, almost under the descent. As usual, he is represented with our Saviour an infant, on his shoulder, and a great staff in his hand. He is reported in the legends of his life, to be a huge bulk of body, and strength, and her carved larger than the other figures. The cross is cut on the lowest part of his garment, which is but short. It is said, in the history of his life, that considering his great stature and strength, and how he might best serve God, and be useful to mankind: he built himself a cell by the river side, where was neither bridge nor boat: and there employed himself, in carrying over tall passengers. Further, this saint was thought to have a special privilege, in preventing tempests and earthquakes. For which reason we see him so often painted in churches of old. So in Canewdon church Essex: taken notice of in Salmon’s Essex, p. 387. here the Veres had an estate.
Whether or not lady ROISIA paid this regard to St. Christopher on account of his manner of life, somewhat resembling that she had devoted herself to; we cannot affirm: but the main reason why she formed his picture here, I ascribe to that event which our historian's recite in the year 1185. for then happened a most terrible and remarkable earthquake in all England, in the month of March: such a one, as never was known before. Many houses thrown down, even such as were built of stone: a thing not very common, then. Lincoln cathedral split form top to bottom. The first of May following , an eclipse of the sun, soon after, great thundering, lightning and tempests: many men and cattle destroyed, many houses burnt. Benedict abbot, p. 436. Annals Dunstable, &c.
Sir Jospeh Ayloffe baronet was pleased to give me an extract of an old record, in the court of Liveries, 32 Henry III. m. 7. to this effect, in english.
The king to the sheriff of Hamshire, greeting. We command you, that out of the rents issuing from your county, you cause to be a painted in the queen's chapel at Winchester, upon the gable toward the west, the image of St. Christopher: who holds in his arm, as usual, or blessed Saviour. And the cost which you lay out on this work, shall be accounted for in our exchequer. Witness the king at Windlefor, 7 day of May.
I have observed a like picture of St. Christopher in a huge proportion, painted on the wall in Westminster-abby, between the monuments of Shakespeare and Gay; probably done at the same time as the aforementioned: as a preservative against earthquakes and tempests.
St. Christopher was a Canaanite or Syrian by birth. The knowledge of him was brought from the holy-land, in these days we are writing on: and ROISIA’s family had some particular regard for him. In the manor of Willingale d'ou in Essex, of the honour of Magnavile, the church is dedicate to St. Christopher. The arms of Vere are painted in the windows.
St. Christopher went into Lycia in Asia minor, to preach the gospel. Once on a time, before a great assembly of people there, he stuck his staff into the ground. It took root immediately, produced leaves, flowers and fruit, in token of the truth of his doctrine: which much furthered their conversion. On the right-hand of the afore-mentioned figure of St. Katharin, in our oratory, we see this cross-like staff of St. Chritopher’s, cut by lady ROISIA, thus amusing herself on his anniversary 25 July.: when reading the legends of his life. Above St. Christopher in TAB. II. is the aperture of the descent into our catacomb; but larger and higher than in our plate. It was originally about four foot high.
A. D. MCLXXXVII.
Let us turn our eyes to the south-side of ROISIA’s oratory, which I have drawn in TAB. II. There we have a large piece of history, which I apprehend, was cut by her, in the year 1187. Our king Henry stands in compleat armor, his shield laid by him, he holds his sword upright in his right-hand. Before him stand two persons in long, religious robes. The one has a miter on, a pallium and an archiepiscopal crosier in his hand: the other figure has been somewhat injured, but he holds a great crucifix in his hand. There are two other figures standing by, in long robes: one has a nobleman’s coronet on. Above the king are two armies, an interval between them.
This piece of history, I take to be thus explained in Benedict abbot, p. 464. In the year 1187. the 33, of Henry II. the king celebrated the festival of Christmas, with great solemnity at Bedford. No doubt, at Bedford-castle, which was in lady ROISIA’s neighbourhood, and belonging to her son Simon de Beauchamp. Prpbably, she herself was there present. The historian takes notice of the many noble personages then with the king: his son John, the archibship of Dublin, David earl of Huntingdon, brother to the king of Scots, and many more. There the earls of Leicester and Arundel, and Roger Bigot, served at the king’s table, in their respective services, as at a king’s coronation.
At this time, the king had notice, that at Dover were just arrived from pope Urban, Octavian cardinal archdeacon, a legate de latere, and Hugh de Nunant, clerk, domestic chaplain to the king, whom he had sent to Rome, desiring his Holiness to send over a cardinal, to crown his son Joh king of Ireland. The king went directly to London to meet them. They by the authority of the pope took great state upon themselves, made a grand entry into Westminster-Abby, on the day of the circumcision, had a miter on, and crosses before them, wherever they went, and wore red garments.
The king carried them over with him directly, by the advice of his council, to Normandy, to make peace between him and the french king. He went to Albermarle, where ROISIA’s son William de Magnavile, earl of Albermarle, met him, and very many of the hierarchy, nobility, knights, both of the continent and of England. Just before the festival of the annunciation, the two monarchs of England and France met. William de Magnavile was then a great commander on the king’s army. At first, through the intolerable demands of the french king, they could not agree, but prepared to fight, and brought their armies into the field. At length, the legates and the other archbishops, bishops and nobility of both nations interposing, a peace was concluded between them.
This I take to be the meaning of the picture before us, nor do I think it to every ill designed. The mitreed person is the cardinal Octavinan, the other carrying the crucifix is Hugh de Nunant. Assuredly these are evident confirmations of the histories of these times, as recorded in our authors.
William Lilly, who lives in the house just over the oratory, and was very assistant in drawing out the earth, says these figures at first appeared painted over of a red colour, and I myself saw the remains of it. There are two little niches or cavities cut in the wall, to put lamps in, and another at bottom, under the cardinal.
To the right of St. Laurence and the french king, is a defaced figure seeming to have been a crucifix: underneath it a female figure perfect. I take this to have been a reperestation of the cross above ground. Perhaps the female figure underneath it, is lady ROISIA. Just underneath this, upon the circular bench or podium encompassing the floor of the crypt, is a little picture cut in the chalk, as it were, two sepulchral-stones, with figures cut on them, as lying on the floors of chapels. This perhaps our pious lady cut, as a memorandum of the monument of her father and mother: which afforded matter for her contemplation, on the days of their obit.
What remains for our consideration , is the lower tablet of the crucifix, under the chief crucifix of our oratory. On the right of which, under St. Katherine, is the image of a king and queen: on the left, a great number of figures male and female, extending themselves all along the north-side of the oratory, under St. Christopher, quite to the bed or grave, in the east part there-of, which I have marked with numerals underneath.
There can be no manner of doubt, that the king and queen presents us with the effigies of Henry II. and his queen Eleanor. These figures seem to be cut with somewhat more delicacy than the rest. The queen’s dress over her neck, is more nicely designed: and the king has manifestly a great collar round his neck, with a great jewel hanging before, upon his breath. He leans his right hand upon a shield, indicating his war-like disposition. These royal pictures she made, as well on account of the personal qualities of that prince, of great wisdom, justice, piety; magnificent, valorous: as that he and his mother the empress Maud, and grandfather Henry I. and great grandfather the conqueror, had been patrons and benefactors to her fathers, and to both her husband’s families. Likewise her son Magnavile and cousin Hugh de Beauchamp were all at this time employed in his wars.
The lesser crucifix means an altar. The figures of St. John and the Virgin, as before. Underneath a cross. A hand with a heart upon it, a single heart and a double heart. All this seems to mean the humor at this time prevailing, of taking the cross (as they termed it) that is, vowing an expedition into the holy-land. The king had resolved upon it several times, but was hindered by his wars on the continent, and the rebellion of his sons, instigated by the french king.
1. Next to the lesser crucifix is manifestly a shield, or coat armorial. The fess upon it is very plain, high raised, and the other marks or sketches so like to cross croslets, that we cannot help supposing it to mean the arms of the Beauchamps: gules a fess between six cross croslets, or. It was at this very time of day, that taking up coat of arms began, and the crosses particularly had respect to those Jerusalem peregrinations. There may have been some special history in Lady ROISIA’s mind, when she cut these figures, which we cannot possibly reocunt: but it seems, that she means by this figure bearing this shield, Hugh de Beauchamp aforementioned, the father of her husband Payn de Beauchmap. The figure is imperfect, having been injured by some accident, but the head remains. He was progenitor of the most numerous race, of our english nobility. He had vast estate given him by the conqueror for his services, as appears in the Domesday-book. He was possessed of Belingoo in Hertfordshire, Lincelade, Soleberry, and Lateberry in Bucks, and of forty three lordships in Bedfordshire. This I have marked in the plate numb. I.
2. Is an imperfect figure, the chalk having been rubbed away. The head plain, with a helmet on. It is not unlikely, this should mean William de Magnavile, father of her first husband, whose lady was Margaret, daughter and heiress of the great Eudo Dapifer.
3. Is an imperfect figure, and in my notion, means lady ROISIA’s eldest son Arnulph de Magnavile, whom king Stephen deprived of all his father's honors and estates, and banished the land.
4. All the succeeding figures are perfect and complete. This means Geffrey de Magnavile, ROISIA”s second son, the second earl of Essex, restored by king Hen. II.
5. Means her third son William de Magnavile the great warrior, the third earl of Essex and earl of Albermale.
6. Is a female figure, and if the foregoing positions be right, this exhibits his wife, Hawisia le Gros, daughter and heiress of the house of Albermarle.
7. Another female figure. This I suppose to be lady ROISIA’s siste-in-law Beatrix Magnavile, who married William de Say.
8. The two next figures ar men, and distinguished above the rest by hearts cut on their breasts. It is natural to judge from hence, that they mean ROISIA’s two husbands, this being Sir Geffery de Magnavile, the first earl of Essex, her first husband.
9. Paganus de Beauchamp, baron of Bedford, second husband to Lady ROISIA de Vere.
10. Simon de Beauchamp, baron of Bedford, son to Payn de Beauchamp and lady ROISIA.
11. Lady ROISIA’s daughter married to Mowbray. She is distinguished from the others, by a cross on her breast, which many be some family jewel; or may import a more than ordinary religious disposition of mind.
12. Lady ROISIA’s daughter married to Wake.
13. Lady ROISIA’s daughter married to Fitzothes.
This explication of these figures, being the family picture of our lady ROISIA seems easy and natural enough. They were placed here in her oratory, as objects of her prayers, ad more retired devotion, on the particular days relating to their life or death: and as the rest, administered occasion to her contemplation and prayers. The like of those other days already mentioned in this discourse.
For here in my opinion, debasing herself from the honors of her illustrious house, and the sumptuous way of living she had been accustomed to, she often changed worldly splendor for an humble cell, and this gloomy cave.
I cannot but think she deigned it at least for her burial place. Leland says, she was buried in the chapter-house of her nunnery of Chikesand. Perhaps such was the will of her friends and relations. And the religious of that house would not fail, using their endeavour to procure that honor to their chapel. There was at this time of day, more than ordinary strife in the monasteries, to obtain the bodies of founders and persons of quality, which they thought a great security to their houses: and often was the occasion of procuring them interest and great benefactions. A remarkable instance of this nature may be seen in this lady’s family, at the death of her son Geffery. As may be read in Dugdale's baron. pa. 204. and hence it is , as I apprehend, we often meet with such dissonant accounts of the interment of the great persons about this time. We observed this of Simon de Beauchamp son to lady ROISIA pa. 22. so of her ancestor Rosia, wide to Eudo Dapifer; said in Monast. Angl. tom I. to have been buried in the monastery at Colchester, but in tom. II. p. 892. which gives a more particular account of her, she is said to have been buried at the abby of Bec in Normandy. Which by the circumstances there related, seems to be truest; as Mr. Roger Gale observes in a letter to me, on this subject.
From all circumstances considered, it appears to me, that we may all assign the time when lady ROISIA entered on this ascetic life, to about 1170. and when she caused the catacomb to be made. What year she died, we find not: but conclude the monastery was built immediately after her death, and on account of her living here. I apprehend, her death and the founding of the monastery must fall about the time of king Henry’s deaths, which was in 1189. It was a compliment to the king, to dedicate the monastery to Thomas a Becket, as the king himself had done by Waltham-abby, according to a vow he made. Benedict abb. p . 16. The day the king made his first pilgrimage to his sepulchre, his generals beat the Scots, and took their king William prisoner, and kept him in Richmond-castle: which king Henry attributed to his thus honoring the martyr: in 1172. in the first year of Richard I. son and successor to Henry II. a fair was granted to the canons of the monastery of Royston. Whence we may conclude, it was founded, at least, in the end of king Henry’s reign: and either in lady ROISIA’s life time, or exceeding near it. However that be, I believe the bones they took up, belonged to that lady, who was buried here in the time we are writing of. They that emptied this place of the earth, all agree that it was filled with pure garden mold, quite above the sculptures, and there the body was found, not much lower than the opening of the descent into the place. So that all this was done with design; and before any houses were built near the place: this garden mold being the turf shaved off the surface of the chalky-down, around the cross. The upper part was filled with rubbish, and might be done a good while after: when the memorial of the place was well nigh forgot.
As tho that bed or grave on the east-side of the oratory, there was brickwork found there; or a very fine red fort: brought from some distance. People took away pieces of it, as a curiosity. Whether it was an altar-table, or sepulchre, I cannot affirm, and there is little satisfaction in multiplying conjectures without a tolerable foundation. I relate the whole affair as it appeared to me, and leave the reader to form his own judgement concerning it.
To sum up the evidence. Our lady ROISIA built the cross here, upon her own estate. From her being concerned in founding many religious houses, we may concluded her to have be of a serious and pious disposition. Here grandfather Vere, her brother-in-law Nigel de Albany, both devoted themselves to a religious retirement: her own brother was canon of St. Osiths, her sister-in-law Lucia de Cantelupe became a prioress to the nunnery at Ikleton. These instances in her own family might dispose her to follow their examples, but in a better manner. In the end of 1167. she lived with her sister Essex, among her nuns at Chikesand. Her second husband Payn Beauchamp at that time was dead. So that it is likely about that time she retreated to her manor-house of Newsels, and delighted herrslef in walking over the beautiful turf of this chalk-lcountry, and erected the cross at Royston. By degrees she caused her cell or little house to be built there, and the catacomb to be dug, in the pure chalk. It appears plainly that the figures cut there, relate to the history of that time, and to her family in particular. And likewise that she frequented the place for twenty years. So that it is very natural to conceive she took so great a liking to it, as very often to go thither on particular days, for her mediation, and devotion. And then formed the resolution of being buried there: in a place she had so long consecrated, by acts of religion. The grave dug there was designed for that purpose. But at the time of her death, a contention probably arose, between her nuns of Chikesand and her executors, for the body: as then was often the case. So she was buried somewhat tumultuously, and secretly, in her chapel here, by her most intimate friends: according to her own request. This is my opinion on the matter, and best solves all appearances concerning it. But I think from what has been said, we may draw some reflections as follow.
1. We observe the spirit among these great families, about this time, of founding religious houses: divesting themselves of large estates for that purpose. There was certainly a good intention; and some good purposes at first answered thereby: but at length defeated and perverted. Still though these places are now demolished, we find their good works have followed them. The memories and families of these great personages, who founded these houses, and thereby contributed to the propagation of religion, are by that mans preserved, through many ages; and beyond that of many, to whom the etstaes were given, at dissolution.
2. We may reflect on the humor very prevalent, about this time, as it had been, ever since christinatiy, of religious retirement. Some delicate genius’ very early in life, found out the insignificancy of worldly bustle and splendour: others later. Some put their deign in execution, by founding or entering tiny religious houses: some by retreat to grotto’s and hermitages: where they might still more securely taste the sweets of religious contemplation. Some made this kind of retirement more useful to the public, by fixing their station at these crosses in uninhabited places: where they might direct passengers in their several roads, assist them in their prayers, occasionally suggest good thoughts to them, and pray for them. And hither lady ROISIA walked o're the agreeable chalk-down from Nusels manor, at least occasionally, and on the particular days above-mentioned, for such purposes: where these two great roads met.
3. We may observe a national charcter, inherent and permeant through all ages. From innumerable instances in the history of these times, more than I had occasion to recite, we see faithless, inconstant, and persidious disposition of the french, and their behaviour toward us. We see then, as now, the genius of the english, brave, generous, honest, and true. We may learn hence, never to trust the bonne foy of that nation, but expect they will be still the same, as for the beginning.
4. We observe the consequences of religion, in regards to the public. We may well move a question, how a woman of lady ROISIA’s quality, having probably things of value about her, could live here, or frequent this place with safety, in an open and uninhabited country? I answer, it was owing to the influence of religion, to good government and the piece of the world. Religion, at that time, we find, was highly countenanced by those of highest rank and fortune. The nobility were the lights of it: both in public devotion, and private example. The history of these times sufficiently shew it, and the subject of this discourse.
The main of religion, necessary to keep the world in order, is plain and simple, needs no lofty speculations. In true religion are but very few mysteries or sacraments, as properly called. And those absolutely necessary, to make us taste the joys of religion here, or be capable of relishing those superior ones hereafter. But religion must be encouraged by the upper class of mankind; whose example I readily followed, by all their subordinates. And especially they must be careful in the observance of the sabbath, which is the only source of the practise of religion.
Some will pronounce all this to be had from due administration of the laws. I acknowledge the fear of punishment does somewhat, but not all. The iron hands of justice can reach but few: but the influence of religion, which all wise governments encourage, and conducted in the manner we require, is universal, and reaches the hearts; cutting off the tendencies and first motions toward evil. To this is must be owing, that we read of these tines in many authors; “now a days, a maid might have passed throughout the whole realm, with a bag full of gold: and not have met any, that would offer to have taken it from her.”
5. If what we have advanced in this discourse, be near the truth: it is a lesson for us to set a proper value only, on rank and quality; on the splendors and gaudy appearances of life. Our religious lady seems judiciously to have mixt public and retired life. I suppose, she frequented this place, but at certain times; residing chiefly at her seat of Newsels. She considered, that life was a stewardship; and that though the business of a steward be of a public nature: yet he must have his times of tranquility, and retirement; that his mind may be perfectly serene, to consider well, and to draw up his accounts very fairly, against the great day of his master’s audit.
Lady ROISIA’s piety at this place, did not end with her life, but immediately after, her successors in Newsel's manor, Sir Eustace de Merk, Knight, and Rafe de Roucester, founded the priory, close to her cell, and cross. It had canons regular, and was dedicate to Thomas a Becket, as then was the fashion. For king Henry II. very much encouraged it. He changed the old foundation of Waltham-abbey fro canons regular, and re-dedicated it to a Thomas a Becket, as we hinted before. He paid great devotion to his tomb, as may read very often in Benedict abbot above quoted.
This monastery at Royston received good additions to the first endowment, and flourished. At the dissolution it was valued at l. 89.16.00 per annum. Weaver’s Monuments. Monast. Angl. Vol. I. p. 1041. The whole precincts of it still remain, and some of the old building; a noble kitchen of brickwork.
Immediately upon erecting this priory, the town arose, and was called Roises-cross. The celebrity of the cross became very great, owing to the regard paid to so great a lady as ROISIA, and to so remarkable an instance of her piety. So that when the priory was founded, it wad called the priory of the cross of ROHESIA. Chauncy’s Hertf. p. 99. and a jury in 6 Edw. I. found, that it was a situate in the fee of the manor of Newsels. And in 4 Edw. II. Gilbert de Clare, earl of Glocester and Hertford, with Joanna his wide, held a weeks court, at Roises-cross, Chauncy, p. 90.
There was likewise an hospital dedicate to St. John, and St. James the apostles. For the most part, it remains, situate on the south-side of the Ikning-street, a little westward of the cross. It was a long building, upon arches, like Pythagoras’ school at Cambridge. Above was the chapel. Beneath, the cells of the poor people there maintained. There were kitchen and lodgings for the warden. The new house at the east end of it, was part of the same building. But to enter upon these matter, is beyond my purpose. They are the consequents of the spirit of religion, which ROISIA excited in the place.